Most of us know what Barcelona has to offer, but the city is also full of surprises at every turn. From the beaches and the flavoursome cuisine to the Catalan towers made from people, the city is full of wonders. Here we pick out some of the top and lesser-known attractions and things to do during two days in Barcelona.
At the top of your list will of course be the stunning Gaudí architecture. You can look agape with other tourists at the wavy exterior of La Pedrera or discover the magical interior of the Casa Batllo, with its colourful mosaics. If it’s your first visit to Barcelona, you’ll also want to visit Park Guell and stroll around the magical grounds with fairytale Gaudí houses to match.
The ongoing development of Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia is fascinating to see from time to time. Not only is the outside changing rapidly, but the interior is mesmerising with its arched and stained glass windows’ painting coloured lights onto organic structures.
If you are looking for a newer, lesser-known attraction to see in your two days in Barcelona, you can try the Hospital de Sant Pau, a feat of glorious Catalan Modernism, from architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner. Making your way up Avenida Gaudí, passing boutique shops and chocolaterias, from the Sagrada Familia, you will find yourself faced with an awe-inspiring view of this magnificent piece of Catalan architecture. This building, previously used as a hospital, has been restored and converted into a museum.
The fascinating building has everything you would expect from a Modernista marvel, including colourful mosaic patterns, domes, elaborate chimney caps and stained glass windows. The view from outside gives a sense of overwhelming magnificence.
Another spectacular building in Barcelona is the Palau de La Música, also designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. From the outside, you can see sculptures of classical composers, and inside is just as magnificent. Book a ticket for a performance and imagine sitting on your personal balcony, taking in the splendour of the building around you.
Spain is famous for its tapas and paella, but Catalonia has its own variation of cuisine. In place of paella, try fideaua, which replaces rice with short fine noodles and black squid ink. These can both be found in Xativa L’Arrosseria, with two venues, one in Grácia barrio and the other in Les Cortes.
For tapas, try Bormuth in the El Borne area, this hip bar/restaurant is great due to the selection of flavoursome foods from all over Spain. Try the Patatas Mojo Picon (Spicy potatoes from the Canary Islands), or the Cazón Adobo marinade (marinated dogfish) and wash it down with a vermouth or local craft beer.
Due to Barcelona’s cultural heritage there are artists’ hangouts to be found all across the city. One of these is the Quatre Gats (Four Cats), where Hemingway and Picasso used to hangout, so it’s worth a peek.
The Catalan restaurant El 300 del Born, serves a variety of traditional and alternative cuisine. Such as the Tomato bread with Catalan pork sausage or from their ‘Historic Sandwich’ range, The Councillor’s toast (pig’s trotters with aioli). The El 300 del Born is owned by the beer company Moritz and is housed in the architecturally inspiring El Born Centre Cultural.
For quick bites, you are spoilt for choice, although some options stand out, like the Italian Piadina’s that come with a variety of fillings or the pizzas or empanadas from the friendly La Pizza Del Born which are reasonably priced, but very tasty.
Views around the city
There are countless views to be enjoyed in Barcelona, from the top of Plaza España, looking over the fountains and the bullring, to the views from the Christ statue on top of Mount Tibidabo. If you make your way up to the top of Montjuic and its castle, you will find another view over the whole of the city from the castle walls.
The northern entrance to the Parc de la Ciutadella is headed by the Arc de Triomf, a present from the French during the 1888 Universal Exhibition in Barcelona. You can really get a feel of how it would feel to arrive in Barcelona at the Estacion Nord during the universal exhibition and make your way down the Passeig de Lluís Companys with the palm trees and original ornate lighting features that still line the avenue. The Parc de la Ciutadella itself can be experienced to the soundtrack of African drums, which frequently create a beat in the park. The majestic fountain and the lake are great views and a gently paddle on the boats is an experience not to miss.
If you are in Barcelona for the summer months, you’ll want to check out the great beaches. Barceloneta is the ‘go to’ beach for many tourists as it’s easily accessible by metro. Barceloneta residents, however have recently been complaining about the amount and behaviour of tourists that visit the area. If you don’t want to add to this, there are many other beaches around Barcelona, which are just a short train ride away.
To the north there are kilometres of beach such as that of Badalona and to the south, you have the likes of Castelldefels and Sitges – a popular seaside town.
If you’re looking for designer clothes and brands, head to Passeig de Gracia, which runs up from Plaza Catalunya. If however, you would prefer to find crafts and individual shops, then head to El Borne. This barrio, or area of Barcelona, has many galleries and boutiques hidden in its narrow streets.
You can also pass by the local Santa Caterina market with its colourful undulating roof to try some of the local tapas, fruits, fish and meats. The most famous market in Barcelona is La Boqueria, which offers quick bites just off La Rambla and is well trodden by tourists.
We hope you enjoyed you enjoy our suggestions for what to do during two days in Barcelona.