Barcelona is a wonderland for travellers. The city is a cultural haven, with world-class art, architecture, history, and of course, food, squarely placed where the mountains meet the sea. In two days, Barcelona will overwhelm you with its energy, variety, and beauty, surely leaving you wanting more. Let this be your guide to spending a jam-packed 48 hours in Barcelona.
Day 1: Morning
Tip number one for visiting Barcelona? Get a head start. Especially in the high summer season, crowds can get intense, but an easy way to beat them is by getting an early start. And where better to begin than Barcelona’s most famous and most impressive sight, the Sagrada Família. This is a great introduction to the man responsible for Barcelona’s look, modernist architect Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí’s colorful and dynamic structures are on full display at the unfinished basilica, almost 140 years in the making. Take some time to explore the rainbow-lit interior, and head up the tower for your first view of the city. Be sure to reserve tickets in advance, as lines can be intense.
Afterwards, stop for lunch. Just north, La Panada has excellent empanadas for a savory Spanish treat, or stop at Parking Pizza at Plaça de Tetuan for some great pies at a local hole-in-the-wall. For the rest of the morning, walk around the Eixample District for some more Modernist gems, like Gaudì’s Casa Batllo and Casa Mila.
Day 1: Afternoon
Take the afternoon to explore the Gothic Quarter. First, check out the Museu Picasso. Showcasing the entire life’s work of its eponymous artist, it’s one of the best museums in Barcelona. Walking through the galleries’ over 3,500 works will certainly leave you inspired. After the museum, head to the striking Barcelona Cathedral. This Gothic masterpiece towers over the neighborhood, and its high vaulted ceilings and warm light offer a different perspective on this multi-faceted city. Take the elevator up to the roof, for another angle on this magical city.
Day 1: Evening
Take the evening for a culinary adventure. 48 hours in Barcelona is certainly not complete without trying some of the city’s signature tapas. Some great spots right in the Gothic Quarter include La Alcoba Azul, a medieval setting with killer cocktails, or Els Quatre Gats, once frequented by Gaudí and Picasso. You can also check out Rasoterra for some traditional classics, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free alternatives. If you can’t decide, don’t sweat it. Join the locals in bar-hopping for the entire evening. After you’ve had your fill, walk it off by heading to Barceloneta Beach. This relaxed stretch of sand is the perfect place to cap off your first day in Barcelona.
Day 2: Morning/Afternoon
On your second day, get another early start and head north, to Gaudí’s Parc Güell. The park’s colorful buildings and unique landscaping make it the perfect place to wander and explore. Get there in the morning before the afternoon heat takes hold. After exploring the park grounds, walk past the trails, and head up the hill to the Bunkers of Carmel. The incline and stairs are a hike, but the impeccable view is more than rewarding. At the top, you can see the entire city and surrounds, and the Mediterranean stretches for miles. Small vendors sell beer and snacks at the top, but consider bringing your own picnic. Stop at a nearby bakery or grocery store when you leave your hotel, for a great meal with an unforgettable view.
Day 2: Evening
In the late afternoon, head across town to Montjuïc. If time allows, visit the National Museum of Catalonia, housed in the former royal residence. The collection includes a vast array of Medieval art, and a growing selection of modern works. You can also head further up the mountain to the Joan Mirò Foundation, a small museum highlighted this homegrown artist. If you’re too beat from your hike this morning, you can also a funicular to the top. For dinner, there’s plenty of options. Try some traditional Catalan fare at La Font de Prades, just next to the museum, or head out to Plaça d’Espanya to La Gastronómica for some impeccably-crafted local dishes. After dinner, stick around for a light show at the Magic Fountain, just at the foot of the museum.
This is just a sample of what Barcelona has to offer. There’s countless more museums, Modernista constructions, neighborhoods, and day trips further afield to explore. These 48 hours in Barcelona will surely have you planning a second visit, if you haven’t extended your stay already.
Sarah is a college student and avid traveller, who’s cracked the budget travel formula and backpacked solo across 15 European countries