48 Hours In: Barcelona, Spain

The weather is already hotting up in the vibrant Catalan capital, which is crammed full of amazing architecture and the finest tapas, says Mary Novakovich



Click here for the print version

WHY GO NOW?

Spring comes early to this part of the Mediterranean, where the temperatures are already nudging 20C. In the absence of summer crowds and searing heat, the extraordinary architectural creations of Antoní Gaudí, Lluis Domènech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch can be enjoyed at a more leisurely and enjoyable pace.

TOUCH DOWN

British Airways and Iberia fly from Heathrow, Gatwick and Birmingham; easyJet flies from Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Newcastle, Liverpool and Bristol; Jet2 flies from Manchester, Leeds-Bradford and Belfast. From London, fares of £105 return are available through www.opodo.co.uk.

Barcelona's El Prat airport is 13km south-west of the city, and a 15-minute taxi ride to the centre costs €20-€30 (£13.50-£20). Trains leave every 30 minutes; the 25-minute journey to Plaça de Catalunya (1) in the centre costs €2.20 (£1.50). The airport bus goes to the same place every 12-13 minutes and costs €3.45 (£2.30).

The main tourist office is underground at Plaça Catalunya on the Corte Inglés side of the square (open 9am-8pm daily, 00 34 93 285 38 34; www.barcelonaturisme.com).

GET YOUR BEARINGS

From Plaça de Catalunya (1) La Rambla runs towards the sea. The tree-shaded boulevard bisects the lower half of the city, separating the medieval Barri Gòtic from the rougher but fascinating Raval quarter. La Rambla comes to an end at the monument to Columbus (2) beyond which is the old port, Port Vell, next to which you will find Barcelona's main beach at Barceloneta. North of Plaça de Catalunya (1) is the Eixample, a 19th-century extension created in an innovative grid system to relieve some of the squalid overcrowding of the lower town. This is where you will find many of the audacious structures concocted by the Modernistas, including Gaudí's La Pedrera (3) (also known as Casa Milà), his Casa Batlló (4), Domènech i Montaner's Casa Lleó Morera (5) and Puig i Cadafalch's Casa Amatller (6).

CHECK IN

The Hotel Casa Fuster (7) at Passeig de Gràcia 132 (00 34 932 553 000; www.hotelcasafuster.com) in the leafy Gràcia area just above the Eixample is a superb example of Domènech i Montaner's Modernisme style. Built in 1908, it was originally the home for the rich Fuster family, then a cinema and, since 2004, a luxury five-star hotel. It has a Gaudi-like bar, rooftop pool and its elegant rooms start at €250 (£168) per night, excluding breakfast.

The cosy Hotel Mesón Castilla (8) at Carrer Valldonzella 5 in Raval (00 34 93 318 2182; www.mesoncastilla.com), is just around the corner from Macba, Barcelona's museum of contemporary art. It's quite ornate for a two-star (reflected in the price), and some rooms come with a terrace. Doubles start at €135 (£91) including breakfast.

A modern, stylish three-star that often has lower prices is NH Les Corts (9) at Travessera de les Corts 292 (00 34 93 322 0811; www.nh-world.com), which has doubles starting at €86 (£61) excluding breakfast.

TAKE A VIEW

Find the most sweeping view of Barcelona high above the city on Tibidabo mountain, where Norman Foster's communications tower, the Torre de Collserola (10), sits. The glass lift zooms up 288m in less than two minutes to a360-degree viewing platform. Open Wed-Sun 11am-2.30pm and 3.30-7pm, entry €5 (£3.60). Take the metro from Plaça de Catalunya (1) to Vallvidrera Funicular via Peu del Funicular, then take the 211 bus.

TAKE A RIDE

Catch a lift on the cable car that crosses the harbour from Sant Sebastià (11) tower via Torre Jaume I (12) to Montjuïc (13). It opens noon-5.30pm and 10.30am-8pm from next month. One-way tickets cost €9 (£6), return €12.50 (£8.40).

TAKE A HIKE

A stroll is more in keeping with the atmosphere of the Barri Gòtic, the oldest part of the city where the Romans settled around 27BC. From Plaça de Catalunya (1) head south on Avinguda Portal de l'Angel through the narrow streets and remnants of Roman walls. Soon you come to Barcelona's cathedral (14). On Sunday mornings Catalans slip on their espadrilles to dance their national sardana.

LUNCH ON THE RUN

Superior seafood tapas are served in the most unprepossessing setting at El Mundial (15) in Plaça Sant Agustí Vell (00 34 933 199056) in La Ribera, where octopus, squid and razor clams can be had for less than €15 (£10) per head.

WINDOW SHOPPING

Drop into La Boqueria (16), the city's main market on La Rambla Sant Josep 89, or pick up some delicious Iberian ham at La Botifarreria de Santa Maria (17) at Carrer Santa Maria 4 in La Ribera.

AN APERITIF

There's a distinctively Basque flavour to Golfo de Bizkaia (18) at Carrer Vidreria 12 in El Born (00 34 93 319 2431; www.golfodebizkaia.com), where the hot and cold tapas (or pintxos as they are known, because of the accompanying pintxo or toothpick) hail from the north. Nibbles range from €1.35 (90p) to €2.20 (£1.50), and just tot up the number of toothpicks to pay the bill.

DINING WITH THE LOCALS

Away from the tourists in the Gràcia area, Sureny (19) in Plaça Revolució de Setembre de 1868 17 (00 34 932 137 556) does wonderful things to tapas including goat's cheese, suckling pig, tuna and ravioli with mushroom and gambas.

SUNDAY MORNING: GO TO CHURCH

You can join the hordes and coach parties at Gaudí's famously unfinished Sagrada Familia (20) ( www.sagradafamilia.org; open daily 9am-6pm and until 8pm between April-September; €8/£5.70), or you can find peace at the splendid gothic Basilica de Maria del Mar (21) in Carrer Montcada in the Born area. It's Barcelona's only church entirely in the Catalan gothic style - not surprising, as it took only 55 years to build. Open daily 9am-noon and 4.30-8.15pm.

OUT TO BRUNCH

Join the hungover musicians at Dos Trece (22), a lively restaurant at Carrer Carme 40 in Raval (00 34 93 301 7306) where brunch includes pancakes, French toast, omelettes to order or even a fry-up. Main courses from €8 (£5.40).

A WALK IN THE PARK

It's not hard to think that Gaudí went a little mad when he created Park Güell (23) for his patron Eusebi Güell in 1914. It was inspired by English garden cities, but few such places will contain two houses straight out of Hansel and Gretel, a sinuous mosaic bench that slithers along dragon-like for 152m and 100 palm-shaped pillars that form a roof.

CULTURAL AFTERNOON

Two of the city's famous sons, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró, have their own museums. But for a knock-out experience, visit the Palau de la Música Catalana (24) at Carrer de Sant Francesc de Paula 2 (00 34 93 295 7 200; www.palaumusica.org). Europe's only concert hall lit by natural light, it's a marvel of stained glass, tilework and sculpture created by Domènech i Montaner in 1908. Guided visits are held daily from 10am to 3.30pm, cost €9 (£6).

WRITE A POSTCARD

Just east of the old city is Parc de la Ciutadella (25), home to the zoo, Natural History Museum, an enormous statue of a mammoth and an enchanting ornamental fountain called the Cascade. Grab a drink from the little café between the Cascade and the boating lake and enjoy a surprisingly relaxing part of the city.

THE ICING ON THE CAKE

If you've had your fill of Catalan architecture, broaden your horizons at Poble Espanyol (26) in Montjuïc (13) (Avinguda Marquès de Comillas 13, 00 34 93 508 6300; www.poble-espanyol.com). This open-air museum, built for the 1929 Exhibition, has examples of architecture from every region in Spain, as well as shops and restaurants. It's very touristy and a bit surreal, but it's beautifully done. Open daily from 9am, adults €7.50 (£5.40).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
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

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell