The Gothic and Modernist architecture, the paella and tapas, the DJ and electro music scene – there’s so much of Barcelona’s vibrant culture to see. With just a few days to navigate the city, it may seem like an impossible task, but don’t be deterred. A little careful planning and a local insider’s knowledge will enable you to get a glimpse of life in the bustling Catalan capital in no time at all.
Start your day with a snack (such as churros con chocolate) before exploring the Gothic Quarter. This area is the oldest part of the city and is home to several buildings that date back to the early Middle Ages. Its winding streets and enchanting squares are the perfect places to get lost and soak up the majestic feel of this ancient neighbourhood.
When it comes to lunchtime, one of the most economical and authentic ways to eat is to search out a good menú del día during the week – an affordable worker’s lunchtime menu generally ranging between €10 and €15 (£8.60-£12.90). The Nou Celler in El Born is a great option for traditional Catalan cuisine, while La Esquina by Plaça de Catalunya offers a more modern menu.
After lunch, wander through El Born, the bohemian part of the Old Town located between Via Laietana and the Parc de la Ciutadella. It is the best place to peruse the independent boutiques and artisan stores that give it its character, and you’ll be able to find original pieces by local designers as well as handmade leather items, ceramics and more.
During the evening, the city takes on a whole new character, and Barcelona’s bustling nightlife will be beckoning. For busy bars, head to El Raval where you can find rooftop DJ parties, such as those at Hotel Pulitzer. Dine at one of the area’s many fantastic tapas spots to power up your night.
Alternatively, over in Poble Sec, there is a veritable culinary revival in the area, and a number of upmarket restaurants serve top-notch food to a mostly local crowd. Finish the night with a cocktail at Bitter, or head to the heart of El Raval for some live jazz or flamenco at Robadors 23.
Visit one of Barcelona’s world-famous, fresh food markets for a glimpse of how the city’s residents like to shop. For quality produce and loads of charm, but with half the tourists of La Boqueria, head to the Mercat de Santa Caterina or the Mercat de Sant Antoni.
In recent years, the tourist trade has put pressure on vendors to sell fresh fruit salads and juices for tourists to eat on the go. Support the local commerce by buying something to take back with you as a souvenir – tinned seafood is a delicacy here, and most of the cured meats are sold vacuum-packed for ease of transport.
It’s time to get serious about the city’s architecture. Depending on the weather and how much you enjoy walking, opt to visit either the Sagrada Família or Park Güell – the masterpieces of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. Be sure to book your tickets online to save time in the queues!
Head to the Palau de la Música Catalana – another of Barcelona’s architectural wonders – for a live performance. Designed by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, this concert hall regularly hosts live performances of opera, classical dance and flamenco, and is without a doubt one of the best music venues in the city.
Start your day with a refreshing walk through the gardens of Montjuïc, paying special attention to the Jardines de Laribal and the Escaleras del Generalife.
Slowly make your way to the Fundació Joan Miró, the premier museum dedicated to the work of Catalan artist Joan Miró. The Espai 13 located inside the museum is at the cutting edge of contemporary European art.
After lunch, take the cable car across to the Barceloneta, and finish your day with a long stroll by the waterfront. Soak up the sea breeze and the sound of the waves either with a quick nibble at Steet Tacos or with a cocktail or glass of cava at a bar by the W Barcelona hotel.
Swing by the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) to take in an hour or two of cutting-edge art, and finish with a final dinner conveniently situated in the museum’s MACBA CAFÈ Chichalimoná. This gastro-bar is open until midnight and offers a quick way to grab the last bit of regional flavour (local produce, tapas, wine and vermouth) before departing the city.
On your way out, you may be able to peep the numerous skateboarders in the square doing impressive stunts against the backdrop of Barcelona’s Medieval architecture.