How to make the most of a few days in Barcelona

mosaic lizard at park guell

If, by some stroke of luck, you’ve managed to successfully avoid following me on Instagram, you probably missed that I took a trip to Barcelona about a month ago. Despite taking on the role of organising a group holiday and the near-impossible task of coordinating a gang of ten unruly millennials, I truly had the most incredible time.

Even though we only went for 5 days, our schedules were packed, and we managed to see and do so much! From trips to the beach to chilling in the pool on our roof terrace and exploring the streets, our getaway had a bit of everything. It even included a visit to an erotic museum!

Barcelona is a place that everyone can enjoy, so book your flights, settle down with a cup of tea and read my tips on how to make the most of your city break to the Catalonian capital.

me stood in front of the magic fountain, barcelona
group of tourists at park guell, barcelona

Know what you like before you go

Barcelona is a city of plenty, and choosing what you want to do when you get there can be super overwhelming. Okay, so you don’t have to draw up a 12 page Google doc itinerary (that all your friends will definitely ignore), but at least know what kind of holiday you’re looking for. Love shopping? Head to one of the large shopping centres, take a visit to the area around Las Ramblas, or find a local market to browse. Looking for a banging night out? There is no shortage of alcohol or dancing in this place, so choose from a deluge of bars, clubs and drinking spots to have you partying until sunrise. Interested in seeing the sights? Well you’ve come to the right place – go and watch the sunset from one of the city’s many vantage points, and if you happen to stumble upon a jug of sangria along the way, even better…

My point is, it’s hard to make these decisions once you’re there, and you don’t want to miss out on a great experience because you didn’t quite know what you wanted before you came. So make a list of the things you absolutely don’t want to miss, and take it from there.

la sagrada familia, barcelona

Book things in advance

We made this mistake twice on the same day, venturing over to Park Guell expecting to just walk in after paying (you have to book a slot, and they fill up quickly) – and then again when we decided to visit the Sagrada Familia while waiting for our Park Guell slot. Luckily, the Sagrada Familia is stunning enough from the outside for us to be happy just admiring it from afar, but if you simply cannot miss it, make sure you book your tickets well in advance to avoid disappointment.

park guell, barcelona
view from the platform at park guell, barcelona

Try at least one nicer restaurant

There’s food everywhere you look in Barcelona. All you have to do is walk for a few minutes in any direction and you’re guaranteed to be greeted with a range of eateries to choose from. However, not all of it is good. We had a lot of bland sandwiches and deep fried cheap ‘tapas’ just because the streets are filled with places selling these things.

padron peppers, vinitus restaurant barcelona

My advice would be to look for food in the places you find people, and try and find somewhere that has at least something that resembles a vegetable on the menu, which is difficult at these little corner cafes. One of the nights we ventured a little further out to go and watch the football, and ended up at Vinitus, which was phenomenal. From our escalivada (a dish of caramelised goat’s cheese and Mediterranean vegetables) to the honey-coated salt cod (bacalao), every mouthful of our meal there was delicious. And completely reasonable when it came to prices, too – a bottle of white wine was €14! After so many bland budget meals, it was incredibly refreshing to eat somewhere so lovely, I’d definitely recommend it!

food at vinitus restaurant, barcelona
food at vinitus restaurant, barcelona
escalivada at vinitus restaurant, barcelona

Keep an eye on websites to see what’s going on in the vicinity

Barcelona is a hub of cultural activity, and there’s always bound to be something going on somewhere in the city. The day after we arrived we happened to stumble upon a gay pride event just a block away from our apartment, and that evening attended one of the biggest nights of the year – the festival of Sant Joan, which involved lots of unregulated fireworks and buying cans of beer from strangers on the beach until sunrise. It was great.

sunrise at port olimpic beach, barcelona

The best thing to do is look on local tourist websites and see what’s on for the time you’re going – keep an eye out for plays, gigs, and festivals of all kinds and you’re sure to discover something you’ll fall in love with.

food stall at la boqueria, barcelona

Take a day trip

Okay, so you’re only in one of the best cities in the world for a few days. It seems totally counterintuitive to go and leave that city for a whole day, but trust me, it’s worth it. Barcelona is perfectly located – near mountains, coastlines and nature parks. If you’re a big kid at heart, like me, you might want to visit the PortAventura waterpark or theme park. Looking for a breathtaking experience in the mountains? Check out the Monserrat monastery nestled among the peaks. Feel like getting your Brokeback on? Go horse riding through a nature park. From seaside towns to nearby vineyards, there is so much to explore – and something for everyone. Take a break from the bustle and head away from Barcelona to truly make the most of your time spent within it.

group photo at PortAventura costa caribe aquatic park
group of people on a train

I really love Barcelona, and I feel like it’s the kind of place that you can return to again and again, having a totally different experience each time. It’s the perfect place for history buffs, partygoers and foodies alike, and if you haven’t been yet – make sure your next trip away will be landing in the heart of Catalonia. Whatever you do, just don’t fly with Ryanair.

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