An Alternative 48 Hours in Barcelona

Claire, eDreams’ guest blogger, has lived in Barcelona for nearly 3 years, after returning to this city she fell in love with while studying as an ERASMUS student.  Using her passion for food, travel and Barcelona, Claire created Tales of Barcelona, her personal blog about life in Barcelona and beyond. Find out what her insider tips are for enjoying Barcelona the way the locals do, and read on! 

Barcelona, off the beaten path

Your flight lands, you step off the plane and breathe your first lungful of Barcelona air!  Ahhhhhhh, holidays!  A weekend doesn’t last long here, so we’re here to show you the best of the city away from the usual tourist trail in our alternative 48 hours in Barcelona!

Barceloneta – Poble Nou

First stop is lunch.  It may be tempting to head to the nearest terrace on La Rambla, but how about heading down to Barceloneta to get some real tapas?  There are some hidden gems in this neighbourhood, and this one doesn’t even have a name above the door.  Affectionately known as La Xampaneria, Can Paixano is always stuffed to the brim with locals and tourists alike.  If you like it cosy (read: jam-packed) and don’t mind standing up to drink or being trampled on a bit, then the delicious cava and tapas really are worth the scrum. All the tapas are served in generous portions, and a meal works out at around 10 euros for a bottle of cava and 2 tapas.

If that all sounds too much, then try La Bombeta or Bar Jai-Ca which are probably equally busy, if a little less raucous. At least they have seating, although you may have to wait for a table.

Once you’ve had your fill of tapas and cava, it’s time to get out into the sunshine.  The beaches around Barcelona get very crowded – if you have to spend time on the sand then hire a bike and head along the coast along to Poble Nou and beyond to find cleaner and quieter beaches where the locals hang out.  But if you prefer to keep the sand out of your toes, a stroll along the beach front is still pleasant, although busy – until you make it to Villa Olimpica and the Mapfre Towers.  Here, head along the restaurant lined Moll de Gregal to the wave break at the end (the Escullera de Poblenou) where there is nothing before you but sea.  It offers a welcome oasis of calm, with great views of Barceloneta, Montjuic and even up to Tibidabo where the basilica watches over the city.

barceloneta

When it’s time to head back, stroll back towards town.  But this time, take a detour from the sea front, to go through Ciutadella Park.  Take a boat out on to the lake or catch a few rays on the grass – or even enjoy a siesta under the shade of a tree!

Born – Sant Pere

After the park, the Born is a great area to explore, from the tree-lined Passeig del Born, to the narrow streets, independent boutiques and beautiful Santa Maria del Mar church, where you can take a tour up to the roof for unique views of the old town.  Check out the Born Cultural Centre; once an old Market, it now displays the 18th Century streets below, which were discovered during the restoration of the market.  Then head into the Sant Pere district, which has more narrow streets and restaurants & bars to discover, such as Ale & Hop, which boasts an impressive selection of beers and vegetarian tapas.

For dinner, try La Viñateria del Call.  Hidden in the streets of the old Jewish quarter, this charming restaurant has a menu of traditional tapas, cured meats, cheeses and heavenly desserts – all with an exceptional wine selection.  Order (generous) half portions of the dishes to give you chance to sample more of the menu!

After dinner, head over to Rubi Bar in the Born for awesome mojitos and home made gins.  If you yearn for yet more action after that, then it’s back over to the Gothic Quarter to Calle Mercé.  This street is full of bars – whether it’s camp, kitsch awesomeness in Sor Rita; a laid back Venezualan vibe in Rabipelao; or Colombian Salsa in Bombón there is something for everyone here.

Gothic Quarter

If you can manage an early start after last night’s exploits, early morning is the best time to walk around the Gothic Quarter and La Rambla.  8 – 9am is beautifully peaceful around here and perfect for taking those all-important holiday snaps.

Explore-the-Gothic-Quarter

The Boquería Market is always worth a visit, but head there early to beat the crowds.  For breakfast in the market try El Quim de la Boquería if you can find a space at the bar, or grab something fresh from the stalls to take away.  Don’t just stick to the first row of stalls, there is much more to be found all around the market.  If you would like to take photographs, it’s polite to ask – or even better to buy something from the stall first!

Raval – Sant Antoni – Sants MontjuïcBoqueria

From the Market, take a stroll through the Raval neighbourhood; a multi-cultural, sometimes seedy, sometimes beautiful, hotch potch of cools shops & bars, trendy hotels and prostitutes.  Don’t be afraid to walk through the area, it has a reputation for pickpockets, but no more than la Rambla itself.  El Raval then becomes Sant Antoni, and beyond that you can take a walk up to Montjuic to admire views of the old port, or to Las Arenas shopping centre.  It may not sound exciting, but this old bull fighting ring boasts fine views of Montjuic and the Palau Nacional which houses the MNAC art museum.  Pay a small fee to go up in the lift, or go up the escalators inside the shopping centre to admire the views.

Lunch has to be la Paradeta, with fresh fish and seafood laid out as if it were a market stall.  Get there early or be prepared to queue.  Test your Spanish (or Catalan!) or just point at what you want; mussels, calamari, juicy prawns, or tuna steak to die for.  Instead of table service they shout out your table number when each dish is ready to collect at the counter.

Collserola

After lunch (and maybe another siesta) it is time to walk off some of those calories.  For the best views in Barcelona head up the hill to Collserolla where you can take walks around the parkland, admire the views and go up the telecommunications tower for panoramic views of the city.  From there you can walk over to the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on top of Tibidabo to get another bird’s eye view of Barcelona.

Views-from-Collserolla-&-Tibidabo

Poble Sec

After all that fresh air, don’t forget that Saturday night is party night!  To kick off the evening head to Carrer Blai to battle it out with the locals for a spot in their favourite pintxo place. Slices of bread are topped with everything you can imagine; from simple croquetas to elaborate towers of cheese and roast vegetables, chorizos, seafood and more.  Held together with a large toothpick, the staff provide plates so you can choose what you like from the bar, provided you keep the sticks to add up for the bill later.  With most places offering pintxos from 1 euro you can eat well and cheaply, while doing a bar crawl at the same time!  Top spots include La Tasqueta de Blai and Blai Tonight.

After dinner, cross over Parallel to Ultramarinos and La Confiteria – two awesome bars next door to each other.  For Modernist chic mixed with hipster touches (think mojitos served in jam jars) then try La Confiteria.  For a mind-bending selection of gin & tonics head next door to Ultramarinos for tipples like apple & basil, or lemon & ginger!

On your last morning you deserve a lie-in if your hotel permits it. Once you’ve dragged yourself out of bed, try Marmalade in the Raval for a hangover-busting brunch and a Bloody Mary to sort you right out. Or for something more traditional, Granja Palaresa in Calle Petrixol offers splendid pastries, churros and hot chocolate to give you a sweet send off.

48 hours after you’ve arrived, you’ll see that sadly, it is time to leave.  The weekend flew by in Barcelona, and now it’s time for you to fly, too. I hope you enjoyed these tips on how to spend a unique 48 hours in Barcelona!