48 Hours In: Barcelona

The Catalan capital offers a glut of galleries, Gaudí’s fairy-tale flights of fancy, stylish independent shops – and a chance of late summer sun, says Sarah Gordon

Click here for 48 Hours In... Barcelona map

Travel essentials

Why go now?

The Catalan capital's beach-side location makes it perfect for soaking up the last of summer's rays. In September, temperatures reach 26C and in October the weather is still mild, reaching 21C on a warm day.

As autumn sets in, the city is preparing for a new season of exhibitions and events. The Fundació Joan Miró (1) (00 34 934 43 94 70; fundaciomiro-bcn.org; €10) presents Explosion! The Legacy of Jackson Pollock, from 24 October. And the Barcelona Jazz Festival (www.barcelonajazzfestival.com) kicks off on 30 October, with the Palau de la Música (2) – famed for its Art Nouveau architecture – as one of the venues.

Touch down

I flew with easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyjet.com), the airline with the widest range of flights from the UK: from Belfast, Bristol, Liverpool, Gatwick, Luton, Southend, Stansted and Newcastle. Other carriers to Barcelona include Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com), British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com), Monarch (0871 940 5040; monarch.co.uk), Jet2 (0871 226 1737; jet2.com) and Vueling (0906 754 7541; vueling.com).

Barcelona's El Prat Airport is 13km south-west of the city with good bus connections. The A1 and A2 serve Terminals 1 and 2 respectively, departing every 10 to 15 minutes between 5.30am and 1am. The journey to Plaça de Catalunya (3) takes 30 minutes, for a fare of €5.65.

Trains also depart from Aeropuerto station (a 10-minute walk from Terminal 2 to Sants station (4) and Passeig de Gràcia (5) every half-hour from 6am to 11pm. Tickets cost from €3 and the journey takes 18 minutes. Taxis cost between €30-35.

Get your bearings

Barcelona sits on a plain, lapped by the Mediterranean sea to the east and hemmed in by the Serra de Collserola mountain range to the west and Montjuïc hill to the south.

The principal tourist area fans out from the Ramblas (6), the boulevard which leads from Plaça de Catalunya (3) to the seafront, where you'll find the beaches of Barceloneta and Port Olímpic, venue for the 1992 sailing events. To the east is the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter), while to the west is the once run-down port district of El Raval. North of the Plaça de Catalunya (3) is Eixample, dotted with fairy-tale buildings designed by Barcelona's artistic son, Antoni Gaudí.

The main tourist office can be found on Plaça de Catalunya (3) (00 34 93 285 3834; barcelonaturisme.com; 8.30am to 8.30pm daily).

Check in

A decade after El Raval underwent an image makeover, the five-star Barceló Raval (7) opened on Rambla del Raval 17-21 (00 34 93 320 1490; barcelo.com). A metallic, oval building, its rooms are slick, with iPod docks and Nespresso machines. Doubles start at €125, room only.

The four-star Hotel Villa Emilia (8) in Carrer de Càlabria 115‑117 (00 34 93 252 52 85; hotelvillaemilia.com) is a stylish offering in Eixample, with modern rooms and a rooftop terrace where live music is played at weekends. Doubles start at €110, without breakfast.

You don't have to sleep in a dormitory at Be hostels (00 34 93 442 3669; behostels.com). A double en-suite room at Be Ramblas (9), at Carrer Nou de la Rambla 50, costs €40, including breakfast.

Day one

Take a hike

Start in Plaça de Catalunya (3) and stroll down the central, pedestrianised boulevard of the Ramblas (6), packed with stalls selling tourist tat, flowers and even pets. (Watch your valuables.) The Continental Hotel (10) on your left at number 138 is where George Orwell stayed during the Spanish Civil War. At Plaça Boquería (11) you'll see a Joan Miró mural tiled on to the floor. Turn left, cross the road and head along Carrer del Cardenal Casañas to plunge into the Barri Gótic.

Pass the Gothic Església de Santa Maria del Pi (12) at Carrer del Cardenal Casañas 16 (00 34 93 318 4743; €3), which was damaged in a fire set by anarchists in 1936. Head across the Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol, which holds an art market at weekends. Walk down Carrer de la Palla and into Plaça Nou, where you'll see a Picasso design decorating the walls of the College of Architects and the city's 15th-century cathedral (13) (00 34 933 15 15 54; catedralbcn.org; open daily; admission €5).

Lunch on the run

Lose yourself in the hectic La Boquería market (14) on Ramblas 85-89, packed with fresh fish, fruit, vegetables and butchers' stalls. Just beyond the entrance, on the right is local favourite Pinotxo Bar (00 34 93 317 1731; pinotxobar.com) run by the dapper, bowtie-wearing Juanito. It serves up fresh, Catalan tapas, such as capipota (veal stew) and butifarra (white sausage with chickpeas).

Window shopping

El Born is the medieval guild district bordering the Parc de la Ciutadella. In recent years, young artists have moved in, setting up workshops, galleries and independent stores. For quirky jewellery, call into Fet Amb Love (15) at Passeig de Born 2 (00 34 93 319 6642). Men can browse the rails at Jack Born (16) at Santa Maria 6 (00 34 93 310 18 79), or head to Itinerarium (17) at Placeta de Montcada 12 (00 34 93 310 36 73), for women's fashion.

An aperitif

Head to the new Disseny Hub (18) at Montcada 12 (00 34 93 256 2300; dhub-bcn.cat/en), a museum dedicated entirely to design. It has a bar-café in the pretty courtyard area, just opposite the Picasso Museum (19), where a glass of cava or wine costs from €3.

Or, follow in Picasso's footsteps and head to Els Quatre Gats (20) at Carrer de Montsió 3 (00 34 93 302 4 140; 4gats.com) in the Barri Gótic. The artist held his first solo exhibition in this modernist café-restaurant. A glass of wine costs from €3.50.

Dining with the locals

Imprevist (21), at Carrer Ferlandina 34, in El Raval (00 34 93 342 5859; imprevist.cat), is run by artist Josep Bofill and sommelier Pablo Martínez. Try the octopus terrine with potatoes, paprika and olive oil (€7.60).

Romero (22) at Carrer de Bailé* 115 (00 34 93 457 0640; romerobcn.com), in Eixample, serves seasonal produce from local co-operatives. Vegetarians rave about the vegetable parmesan risotto. Dishes cost about €11.

Day two

Sunday morning: go to church

The Sagrada Familía (23) at Carrer de Mallorca 401 (00 34 932 07 30 31; sagradafamilia.cat) was Gaudí's masterpiece – 130 years in the making and still unfinished. It became the architect's obsession until he died in 1926. The towers are decorated with colourful Venetian mosaics and the building's stonework is carved with representations of the Nativity and the Passion. Inside, see the fantastical stone columns that look like soaring trees and rich stained-glass windows of geometric patterns. It opens from 9am-8pm daily until the end of September (to 6pm October-March), admission €13.

Cultural morning

For more Gaudí, head across to the modernist Casa Batlló (24) at Passeig de Gràcia 43 (00 34 932 160 306; www.casabatllo.es/en). It is covered in tiny mosaic tiles and mask-shaped balconies and topped with a shimmering roof of lizard-like scales (9am-9pm daily; €20.35).

Out to brunch

For food with a view, try the Restaurant 1881 (25) on the fourth floor of the Museum of Catalan History on Plaça de Pau Vila 3. Fish and meat dishes are Basque influenced with vegetable pintxos (tapas) accompanied by Txakoli Basque wine. Dishes from €12.

Afterwards, make a quick visit to the museum downstairs (it shuts at 2.30pm on Sundays), which guides visitors through Catalonia's history from its formation to the Spanish Civil War and beyond (00 34 93 225 4700; mhcat.cat; closed Mondays; €4) .

Take a ride

From the end of beach-side Barceloneta, the Montjuïc cable car (00 34 93 430 4716; tmb.cat/en/teleferic-de-montjuic) crosses the port from Torre Sant Sebastià (26) to Parc de Montjuïc between 10am and 7pm, affording views across the city (€15 return).

A walk in the park

The Parc de Montjuïc – actually a flat-topped hill historically used for farming by residents of the Ciutat Vella (Old City) – is home to the 17th-century Castell de Montjuïc (27) where Catalan compatriots were shot after the civil war (00 34 932 564 445; bcn.cat; 9am-7pm daily except Saturday; free). And, more recently, the Olympic Stadium (28), built in 1929 and renovated for the 1992 Games (00 34 934 262 089; barcelonaturisme.cat; 10am-6pm; free).

Icing on the cake

Explore the city's 4.5km of coastline by bike and find a patch of sand beyond busy Barceloneta beach. Un Cotxe Menys (29), at Carrer Esparteria 3 (00 34 932 68 21 05; bicicletabarcelona.com) offers hire for €15 per day.

News
US comedian Bill Mahr
people
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Sport
football
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Life and Style
Models – and musicians – on the catwalk in Dior Homme for the men’s 2015/16 fashion show in Paris
fashionAt this season's Paris shows, various labels played with the city boys' favourite
News
i100
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - York

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - Y...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us