I really enjoyed my 5 days in Barcelona. This city has a little bit of everything, and I think that’s where its charm lies. It’s got beaches, history, art & architecture, culture, great food and a fun, lively atmosphere. You could seriously spend days there and still not be able to get over all the history and art that’s just everywhere you look around the city.
I stayed at Hotel Casa Bonay, and while I absolutely loved the minimalist, chic vibe, I have to admit that the room was much smaller than what I expected (but then that’s true for many hotels in Europe). Also, the lack of closet space was bit of a bummer – I hate having to hang my clothes out in the open. But what the room lacked in terms of space, it made up in comfort, and the tiny little balcony was a wonderful added bonus.
The other hotels I looked at were a couple of Praktik hotels, but they were sold out for the days that I was visiting.
In terms of neighbourhood, I would highly recommend staying in either the El Born or Eixample barrios, especially if it’s your first time in the city.
Things to Do & See
Out of the 5 days, I actually spent a full day in Figueres and Cadaques – I’ll talk about that in detail in a later post. So in all, I spent about 4 days in Barcelona, which I think is a decent amount of time to explore the city.
The first thing I did in the city was a walking tour with Sandemans. It was about two and a half hours long, mostly around the Gothic Quarter and El Born, and served as the perfect introduction to Barcelona’s rich culture and history.
You cannot go to Barcelona and not see La Sagrada Familia. In fact, the massive structure can be seen from almost all over the city. It’s history is so fascinating and I just have mad respect for Gaudi and his vision. The basilica will reportedly be completed by 2026, with some additional work expected to continue to 2030. Obviously it’s a super popular attraction, so I’d really advise you to book your tickets online beforehand. And you should totally get the audio guide – it’s super informative and well done.
Get lost around the streets of El Born. The neighbourhood has such an old-world charm, that it’s difficult to not fall in love with the area. There are plenty of artisan and indie shops for knick-knacks and keepsakes.
Take a day trip. No, seriously. If you’ve got 5 days in Barcelona, I think you could certainly do a day trip on one of the days. There are so many options close to Barcelona. Montserrat, Girona, Figueres & Cadaques were the ones that I evaluated, and finally ended up spending a fabulous day in Figueres and Cadaques learning more about Dali.
Apart from Dali’s museum at Figueres, the two museums I had on my list were MNAC and the Picasso Museum. Unfortunately, by the time I reached MNAC, it was almost time for it to close. Instead, I sat outside the museum and indulged in some people watching. The cascading waterfall makes for some beautiful views as you walk down the stairs from MNAC. The Picasso Museum has a small-ish but great collection of his works. I think one of the biggest takeaways for me from my visit to the Picasso Museum was seeing the progression in his art over the years. He was obviously a gifted artist, but it was years and years of building a body of work that made him into a legend (note to self – DO THE WORK!).
Walk around Montjuic Castle. I know, I said walk around. Thing is, this was a last minute decision for me, and being my very last day in Barcelona, I was tired of all the crowds. So instead of going inside the Castle, I took a walk along the track that goes all around it, and loved that little slice of quiet and greenery. There were not many people along the walking track and I was blessed with all around gorgeous views of Barcelona.
If you’ve got some time to spare when you’re in the Montjuic area, I would highly recommend the cactus garden (Jardins de Mossèn Costa i Llobera) for a quick stop and a fun change in landscape.
Shop at COS and & Other Stories (I’m a sucker for these brands), Urban Outfitters (don’t judge me – I don’t get these stores in India), Purificacion Garcia (for stylish bags that won’t break the bank), Nuovum (a design concept store), Natura (Anthropologie-ish), Oysho (for lingerie & sleepwear) and Iriarte Iriarte (for good quality leather bags).
Food & Drinks
The cafe inside Biblioteca Nacional de Catalunya was a chance find, but I am so glad I did. The setting is absolutely beautiful, and the food is great too.
La Pepita – this was recommended by my cousin, and they served some seriously amazing food. The wait for almost thirty minutes was well worth it.
Picnic – probably my favourite meal during my trip. Highly, highly recommend it.
Faborit Cafe – give me all of the salads and the chocolate. So this cafe is within Casa Amatller, and they obviously stock Chocolate Amatller, which I think is pretty damn mindblowing. The dark chocolate options are so fantastic. Be sure to stock up on some during your visit.
Pez Vela – for yummy paella. It’s right on Barceloneta beach, and the vibe is relaxed and warm.
La Boqueria – so, so, so many options here. A lot of fresh fruits, freshly baked breads, tapas options, and what not. That image above is from the market.
Ciudad Condal – super busy with long waiting lines (usually), but the tapas selection is extensive and really delicious.
Bubo – for some mindblowing award-winning desserts in the El Born area.
Espoi Joliu – slightly off the way, simple delicious breakfast options + it’s a plant concept store
Just a random observation – I bought muffins at a few cafes during my walks around the city, and heart leaped every time I found the gooey centres in these muffins. Is this a Barcelona thing? Gooey chocolate centred muffins? Barcelona thing or not, my heart sure was happy. :)
Some more pictures, if you’d like to see more of Barcelona…
These sandals were made for walking…
Gorgeous architecture everywhere
More food at La Boqueria Market
Walking track along Montjuic Castle
View from MNAC
A world of peace at Biblioteca Nacional de Catalunya
Cake at Bubo
Gorgeous waterfall at Parc de la Ciutadella
The minimalist beauty that is the Barcelona Pavillion
All of the gorgeous cacti at Espou Joliu
Graffiti around Poblenou
Outside Hotel Mirador
Bougainvillea everywhere in Cadaques (this town was mindblowingly beautiful – can’t wait to share more pictures with you)
Walks along Barceloneta Beach
Couldn’t get enough of these buildings and alleyways
Gelato indulgences along La Rambla
In case you’re curious about the exact itinerary, well, here goes:
Day 1 – Reached Barcelona, grabbed a quick bite at Navarra Restaurant, walking tour around the Gothic Quarter and El Born in the afternoon, explored the shops along Passieg de Gracia (it was walking distance from my hotel), dinner at a cute tapas restaurant around PdG
Day 2 – Walked up to Arc de Triomf, had breakfast on the go at La Bouqueria, wandered along La Rambla and the streets around it, had gelato at Giovanni Gelateria, late lunch at the cafe inside Biblioteca Nacional de Catalunya, visited Palau Guell, took a taxi to Jardines Mossen Costa i Llobera (the cactus garden), people watching outside MNAC, spent a quiet moment at Barcelona Pavillion* (Fundacio Mies van der Rohe), Picasso Museum, dinner at Picnic restaurant
Day 3 – Day trip to Figueres and Cadaques to explore Dali’s museum and house
Day 4 – La Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera, Casa Batllo, grabbed a quick bite at Faborit Cafe inside Casa Amatller, some shopping along PdG, dinner at Ciudad Condal
Day 5 – Breakfast at Espoi Joliu, took the cable car up to Montjuic Castle**, lunch at the beach, walked around Barceloneta neighbourhood, wandered back to El Born, visited Park Guell in the late afternoon, last meal in Barcelona at La Pepita
* Wouldn’t call this a must do, but if you have time to spare, this exhibition space makes for some amazing contemplative viewing.
** This was pretty much a last minute decision. If I’d planned to do this well in advance, I would have definitely clubbed it along with the visit to the Cactus Garden and MNAC.
Have you ever been to Barcelona? What did you think about it? I’d love to know your stories in the comments!