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.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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
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

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice