This trip is my 3rd time in Barcelona, and despite being short, it’s the one that made me fall in love with Barcelona and wish to return to it again. The combination of a great hotel in the gothic quarter, local food tour and meeting a couple of friends who live there made me see Barcelona in a different, better light. Since this time, we were short on time, we didn’t get to do all the must-do activities, so you may find further recommendations in this post of ten things you mustn’t miss in Barcelona.
Our trip began in Barcelona and continued to Costa Brava. In fact, we’ve done this trip due to a tourism convention in Berlin, during which we were invited to stay at hotels in Barcelona and Costa Brava.
Time of trip
The beginning of September
What did we do for 48 hours in Barcelona?
Santa Caterina market, la Boqueria market, Rambles avenue, Robata – high class Japanese restaurant, riding a tour bus between different sites, Sagrada Familia, Güell park, science museum, food tour, tour of the gothic quarter, hotel pool.
Renting a vehicle
Generally, a car isn’t required in Barcelona and I might even advise against it give the heavy traffic and difficulty of finding parking. However, since we were planning to move on to Costa Brava afterwards, we ended up renting a car. We picked it up from the airport, from the Avis company, having preordered it from the Rentalcars website. The hotel we stayed at had free parking for hotel guests.
Flights to Barcelona
We booked our flights with Vueling through the Skyscanner website. Since there aren’t low-cost flights to Barcelona, the flights are kind of expensive. If you want to find a cheap flight, you should book it a long time in advance, during the off-season and go for an indirect flight. We also got flight cancelation insurance for any reason, since the price was quite high.
Hotel in Barcelona
We stayed at the boutique Catedral hotel, which we were invited to. It’s a 4-star boutique hotel in an excellent location within the gothic quarter. It’s a 5-minute walk away from Rambles avenue and 20 minutes from the sea. It’s adjacent to public transport. It has a rooftop pool and a restaurant-bar. It offers cheese tastings with a free glass of wine for hotel guests, as well as two tours of the city on Sundays and Wednesdays. Here’s an extended post I’ve written regarding the hotel.
Transportation in the city
Barcelona offers very comfortable public transport. Since we were on a tight schedule, without much time to explore the city, we decided to go on the tourist bus which visits key locations in the city. It’s the first time we rode such a bus and honestly, the experience was more positive then I had expected. Barcelona’s tourism office was lovely and gave us a press ticket, one of the benefits of which is riding the tourist bus.
For those without a press ticket :), it is possible to buy a regular bus ticket before boarding and there are also daily/48-hour tickets. On the bus, you’re given headphones which you can connect to the bus’s audio and listen to explanations about the city in 16 different languages, one of which was Hebrew. There are three routes of busses (A blue, red and green route) and stops where the colors intersect, so as to allow you to board a different route.
The explanations on the bus were nice and we felt as if a tour guide was there with us. We sat on the top floor, so there was a pleasant breeze, as well.
When’s the time to visit Barcelona?
Beaches and parties – The best time is between late May and September. Visiting Interesting sites – The beginning of March or May, and the middle of September through October, are the best time to visit the city. There are less crowds, less lines into famous attractions and it’s not as hot. Visiting on a Tuesday or Wednesday may also help with avoiding the crowds.
Shopping in Barcelona – There are two major sales that are worth visiting Barcelona for. The winter sale starts during the 2nd week of January and lasts until the end of February. The summer sales start during the 1st week of July and last to the end of August.
Day 1 – Landing in Barcelona, arrival at the hotel, a round of the markets and an amazing Japanese restaurant
We landed in Barcelona at around 12pm, collected our rented car from the airport and drove on to the Catedral hotel. We were then given our room and went out for lunch.
We went to the Santa Caterina market – A market in the famous style of la Boqueria, only much smaller. The market is a few minutes away from the hotel by foot. We toured the market a bit, then sat down in a restaurant by the entrance to the market. This restaurant was very nice, and there’s seating outside, inside or at the bar, as well as a sitting area with tables.
On the menu you’ll find a large variety of dishes sorted by style, Tapas, seafood, meat, pastas and more. We ordered a dish of Calamari on the grill with asparagus (I think this is one of the place’s flagship dishes, as we’ve seen many people order it), pasta with shrimps and a salmon tapas, and of course – Sangrias. The prices there aren’t cheap. The meal cost us 40 euros. The pasta was nice, but the Calamari dish was amazing, you should definitely visit just to have it.
You can’t visit Barcelona and not go for a walk on Rambles avenue. It doesn’t matter when you visit, as it will always be crowded, but that’s just part of the experience. There are many stalls along the avenue, as well as many restaurants and bars on both sides of it. We strolled the avenue and took photos.
La Boqueria market
While you’re on Rambles avenue, you have to visit la Boqueria market. It’s a giant market where you can find absolutely anything, cheeses, hams, sweets, chocolates, fruits, vegetables, fish, meats and more.
There are many little bars you can visit and order food and drinks at. The prices at the bars and the restaurants in the market aren’t cheap, but the food is made of the freshest ingredients and everything is of a high quality. At the stalls themselves you can buy many fun snacks at low costs, take them with you and have a picnic around town (There are beautiful parks in town that are worth taking the time to have a picnic at).
Dinner at Japanese restaurant
For dinner we met a couple of friends who moved to Barcelona. They took us to their favorite restaurant, the Japanese grill restaurant Robata and I can tell you straight away that if you’re looking for a luxurious restaurant with incredible food – this is the place to visit. Every dish we ordered was fantastic. Some of the dishes were grilled, which have them an excellent crunch, such as the Gyoza and the Edamame.
The sushi was great and the Sangria there is a bubbly Sangria, and one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of drinking. We ordered a lot of different dishes, since we shared everything and wanted to try as many as possible. By the end of dinner, I was stuffed, but our friends convinced me to try the cheese cake. It was one of the best I’ve ever had. Shortly put, the restaurant is excellent. The meal there isn’t cheap, but definitely worth the price if you’re looking for delicious, high quality food.
Day 2 – Extensive tour of the city by tourist bus and tasty, intoxicating food tour
We started our morning with breakfast at the Catedral hotel.
After breakfast, we went to plaza Catalonia square, where we boarded the tourist bus (Map).
The first stop we got off at was Sagrada Familia.
It is one of the most famous churches in the world (Map), designed by Gaudí and still under construction. We didn’t go into the church itself. It’s recommended to buy tickets ahead of time with the option of skipping the line, as the line there is very long. We walked around the church (On our last visit to Barcelona, we went on a tour following Gaudí where we learned a lot about the church). From there we went back to the bus, which comes by every five minutes and so is very comfortable. In fact, if a bus is too crowded, you can simply went for the next one to come by.
Our second stop was at Guell park
The bus stops about 10 minutes away from the main entrance. Map from the stop to the park. If you go through the main entrance, it costs about 7.5 euros per adult. You may also arrive from the other side and go up a rather long climb to where the entrance s free. Our last time in Barcelona we took the stairs, but this time decided to use the main entrance. Despite already visiting the park once, I was excited to go there once more, as it’s one of the most unique parks I’ve ever seen. While it’s a bit busy there, it’s a must see when visiting Barcelona. We then went back to the bus.
Our third stop was at the science museum
We honestly hadn’t planned to stop there, but while on the bus, we heard it was one of the most impressive science museums in the world. Since we’ve never visited it before, we decided it was as good a chance as any. The CosmoCaixa Barcelona museum (Map).
About the museum
It is a massive museum where you could spend an entire day. It has a replica of the amazon rainforest and a ton of cool super cool things from the world of physics. It also has robots and mirages, there’s no one who could stay indifferent to it, adults and kids alike. It has a replica of the ecological system of the amazon rainforest, including alligators and other animal species and plants native to the area. There’s the “Geologic wall”, which includes seven parts of stunning rocks, showing the different geologic structures of the world.
There’s also the “Room of interest”, an intriguing journey through the evolution of matter and lifeo n our planet, complete with experiments, real chunks and life forms. To top it all off, the “planetarium” invites you to go on a journey of time and space, and more.
It’s an excellent activity for the whole family (There were many families present), especially on rainy or hot days, when looking for unique activities. Even if you aren’t museum enthusiasts, I’m sure this one will impress you. We only spent two and a half hours there due to a tight schedule and wished we could have stayed and explored the museum some more.
There’s a cafeteria in the museum, so you could have lunch there, or get coffee and a snack. You must pay to enter. The museum also has different workshops for kids.
From the museum we went back to the hotel.
Tapas and drinks tour
We were exhausted from exploring the city, but didn’t have time to rest, as we had to be at the meeting point for a tapas tour we’d booked in advance at 17:00. We hurried to the meeting point, where we met Adrian, the tour guide, and 6 other fellows who joined us on the tour and went on a nearly 4-hour tour of the most local and delicious places there are. Here’s an extended post on the tapas tour.
Day 3 – Tour of the gothic quarter, time in the pool
We had breakfast at the hotel, then joined a free tour of the gothic quarter offered by the hotel.
Tour of the gothic quarter
There’s the option of going on a free tour of the gothic quarter for those not staying at the Catedral hotel. There are many companies offering free tours of the city. The last time we visited Barcelona, we went on a tour with the Runners company following Gaudí, and they also offer a tour of the gothic quarter (Link to website).
The tour itself is really interesting, and I personally like free tours, as they are an excellent way to learn the history of your destination while discovering places you may want to return to later on your own. The guides always have recommendations for less known local locations as well as helpful tips. So, I always recommend trying at least one free tour (Tip based) at your destination.
Pool time at the hotel
Since the sun came out on our third day, and it was really sunny and warm, we decided it would be a good time to enjoy the hotel’s pool. If you’re staying at a hotel or an apartment without a pool, a sunny day may be the perfect opportunity to visit Barcelona’s beaches. Yes, Barcelona also has beaches that are worth visiting. And in case you’re looking for a few days of beach vacation, there’s also the Costa Brava area, only an hour and half away from Barcelona by car.
Places that are worth a visit if you’re staying in Barcelona for a longer while, which I’ve also dedicated another post to are: Ciutadella park, The singing fountains, Montjuic (Ascent by cable car) and Barcelona harbor.
Drive to Costa Brava.