Weekend in Barcelona? Yes, please. Barcelona has to be our favourite European city for a weekend getaway. When we lived in the Middle East we used to make a beeline for the Catalan capital the first chance we had. Oh how I wish we lived that close again!
Now with the proliferation of low cost airlines, it’s increasingly easy to escape for a weekend in Barcelona, the funky foodie capital of the Catalan region of Spain for a few days.
Here are our tips for a weekend in Barcelona aimed at experiencing the best of the Mediterranean city in two days and two nights.
Weekend in Barcelona Itinerary for Food and Wine Lovers
For a weekend in Barcelona we highly recommend checking into one of Barcelona’s cool boutique hotels but if it’s a long weekend in Barcelona, for stays of longer than three days, we reckon apartments are the way to go in Barcelona because we love to shop the markets, cook breakfast, or at the very least buy some jamon, queso and vino to snack on in the evenings before we head out. We loved this Gracia apartment we stayed in for two weeks when we did our yearlong global grand tour in 2010.
If you’re going to rent apartments in Barcelona, however, we’d encourage you to stay out of the Gothic Quarter and medieval centre of El Born, both of which have been suffering from overtourism and have been ruined due to the ‘Airbnb phenomenon’. Instead settle into local neighbourhoods such as elegant Eixample, hip Gracia and laidback Poble Sec, famed for its fantastic tapas bars and fast becoming a food destination. And please do see these sustainable travel tips on how you can help avoid contributing to overtourism from our friends at Slow Barcelona.
There’s no better way to kickstart a weekend in Barcelona than with a tapas bar crawl, whether you’re doing it independently or on a foodie tour. If it’s your first time in the city and you’re going alone see our post on tapas in Barcelona – if you only visit one tapas spot, we love Quimet i Quimet, but Cuines de Santa Caterina is also a buzzy spot that’s fun anytime, while we love Flash Flash Tortilleria for lunch. If you’re considering a tour, we recommend this feast on the streets with Aborigens.
Don’t even think about going anywhere on the first morning of your weekend in Barcelona other than to one of Barcelona’s local markets. La Boqueria should be your first stop. Yes, it’s packed with tourists, but with good reason – the breathtaking display of beautiful produce for starters. It’s also home to some of the most serious and passionate stallholders, from butchers to fishmongers (take a look at the faces of the women above), so you know you’re getting great quality produce here. Don’t want to be part of the camera-snapping selfie-stick set who annoy the heck out of the locals? Even more reason to rent an apartment and take a basket and buy some delicious Catalan specialties to cook at ‘home’. Context offers a brilliant guided walk of the market: ‘Farm to Fork: the Boqueria and Beyond’.
Spend the afternoon strolling through the oldest parts of Barcelona, starting with the Gothic Quarter before making your way over to nearby Ribera-El Born. While the main square of this atmospheric neighbourhood are undeniably touristy, the backstreets and alleyways are as local as they come, with graffiti art decorating garage doors and shop shutters and washing hanging from the lines above the lanes. The barrio is also home to the brilliant Picasso Museum.
You did a tapas bar hop last night so tonight you need to eat somewhere special but you’ll need to book in advance. For creative contemporary Catalan cuisine in fine dining surroundings, then Cinc Sentits, Enoteca, and Roca Moo are all superb, but you need to reserve ahead.
Stroll down to the seafront and amble along the beach at Barceloneta, one of our favourite Barcelona neighbourhoods. Wander through the warren of narrow streets to the waterfront promenade where you can join the Sunday morning joggers or dog walkers or simply sip a coffee or loll about the sand.
Stick to the seaside on the second day of your weekend in Barcelona. There are plenty of fantastic seafood restaurants down by the beach in Barceloneta and there are few things more sublime on a sunny Sunday than eating fish and sipping white wine in the sun.
Be a tourist for a bit and make your way up to Gaudi’s Parc Guel to linger on the mosaic-tiled benches to absorb the breathtaking views of Barcelona and listen to the musicians playing below. You can do it yourself or do a tour, but either way, make sure you have some time alone to just sit and take in the atmosphere of the setting. There are few finer places to be a tourist in Europe.
You did tapas the first night, fine dining the next, so how about opting for something in between? We love all the Albert Adria eateries, starting off with Bodega 1900, for something quintessentially Catalan, although Nino Viejo is hard to resist if you have a craving for authentic Mexican street food. Go with an empty stomach and try everything – prices are ridiculously reasonable for food of such outstanding quality and the buzzy atmosphere makes for a very memorable final night to your weekend in Barcelona.
Have you been to Barcelona or are you a local resident? What do you think of our weekend in Barcelona itinerary for food and wine lovers? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to leave tips in the comments below.