Barcelona is a go-to destination for short trips or long weekends when you are craving both a metropolitan atmosphere and a sun-drenched Spanish escape. As a perfect compromise of city and salty seaside, you can get a fill of architecture, art and culture in the morning, catch the afternoon rays (or Sangria) on the beach with the locals, pop some bottles of cava in the evening and feast on tapas through the night. Barcelona isn't short of a tourist, but we uncovered some of the best local spots to eat, relax and sweat whilst you're there.
Fly direct from London approx. 2 hours
To reach the city, either:
Jump on the airport bus which drops you straight into the city centre at Placa de Catalunya - takes roughly 35 mins.
Or opt for a taxi which is roughly €30-40 from the airport to the city centre.
Where to stay
If you only have a few days or a weekend in Barcelona, staying central is key so you can maximise your time and enjoy just walking around the city, rather than chasing time with public transport/taxis.
Both times I’ve visited the city on short trips I have stayed close by to Placa de Catalunya and Las Ramblas for convenience. From this location, most sights (except Parc Guell- that requires a little extra planning for journey times) are within a 30 minute walk and you get a great feel of the vibe of the historical city around the surrounding neighbourhoods of Eixample, Placa de Catalunya, the Gothic Quarter, El Raval and El Born.
Where we stayed
The H10 brand has a selection of boutique hotels across Barcelona and the Metropolitan (just above Placa De Catalunya) perfectly encapsulated the modern take of the Spanish city. With a beautifully thought out design which moves you from the lobby, complete with welcoming drinks, through sumptuous lounges housing little touches of lolly jars and endless coffee, out to a poolside cocktail bar. With the temperatures soaring in summer, having not one, but two pools – including a rooftop plunge pool- allows all guests ample access during siesta time. The hotel oozes understated elegance with dark, gleaming polished wood interiors, modern art displays and a graphic tiled interior courtyard (perfect for #FWIS snaps). As for the wellness/fitness squad there is a, albeit small, gym and fitness deck overlooking the rambling boulevards and city streets. My favourite feature? The street side balcony which means you can emerge in the mornings wrapped in a dressing gown with coffee to do the oh-so-European morning balcony scene admiring the city waking up around you.
In peak summer you will want to book a hotel with a pool – the beach at Barceloneta is a fun day out but when it’s steamy in the city nothing is better than a quick dip to cool off.
Flax & Kale
Proving just how popular healthy food options have become, this cavernous café is constantly buzzing throughout the day with locals & toursits alike searching for clean yet delicious options in the city. Self-titled as a “Flexitarian Restaurant” this place lives, breathes and well, eats, by the motto Eat Better>Be Happier> Live Longer and all day long you can find all the paleo, vegan, gluten free, sugar free, dairy free meals you could possibly ever desire. For lunch I opted for the gluten free paccheri pasta with homemade fresh tomato ragu and vegan mozzarella and my word, it was outstanding.
El Magnifico Coffee
For "proper" coffee head to this little roast-on-site cafe. The guys here know their stuff when it comes to coffee - as you would expect from a specialist store - and it's guaranteed that you won't have a watery, weak experience here!
If you’ve ever travelled through Europe you would know breakfast, as Aussie’s know it, isn’t really a thing. Coffee and a croissant may satisfy the locals, but this girl will get seriously grumpy without some proteins and good fats first thing after dawn. Luckily, I managed to sniff out this great little spot, where you can have all the scrambled eggs with avo on sourdough your heart desires, with some top coffee while you’re at it. Disclaimer: okay it does happen to be Australian owned – but I suppose, we do just do it best….
Brunch & Cake
Brunch & Cake is another one of the openings to introduce brunch culture into the town and by it’s popularity – I’m not alone in searching for more than pastries to break the fast. This place is always recommended and listed on numerous travel blogs/sites and I probably wouldn't rave about it as much as the two cafes above, but it's a fun spot! They have two locations and the lines outside both get pretty long around peak hunger times, so be prepared to settle in for a wait. The menu is slightly ecletric and possibly a bit more jazzy than I need at breakfast - we’re talking pink dyed eggs here – but they have a delicious range of bowls and acai on offer, so pretty sold!
Tapas is the cuisine d’jour here, obviously, but finding a tapas restaurant which has authentic roots AND that you can also enjoy a full dinner service is a little trickier. Enter Sensi – a modern take on tapas which grounds itself in tradition but prides itself on throwing in alternative ingredients and methods. The result – a culinary sensation of scrumptious tapas that will have you re-ordering. Booking is generally essential, but we managed to nab some seats at the bar early on in the evening and enjoyed chatting to the bar manager, who was brilliant in talking us through the menu and offering recommendations. There are various locations and all have slightly different offerings.
Rebutting the strong-held belief that anything near a beach or town square will be a tourist trap for quality food, in Barcelona you can find the best paella at any of the restuarants running along Barcenoleta beach. Based upon reccomendationds we landed at Kaiku for lunch and experienced the land & sea paella – which features a pork both based paella topped with mixed shellfish and seafood. Don’t miss out!
Close to the seaside this long established cava bar sells super cheap bottles of delicious cava and tapas. It is absolutely tiny and due to it’s immense popularity expect it to be absolutely rammed from mid-afternoon onwards. Many repute its charm due to the fact you end up armpit to armpit with the stanger next to you as you try to reach the bar…I recommend dropping by for a drink and moving on if you’re serious about getting some food!
Another one of the more well-known and reputable tapas bars, this tiny spot has some very grumpy, yet knowledge bar staff who will load you up with delicious local fare. Grab a spot where you can and test out the delicacies.
After a few nights of hitting the sangria and cava, chased down with some tapas, if you are anything like me, your body will be screaming out for some extra nutrients – enter Teresa's juciery. More of a health shot dispensary, this local fave can be found in it’s stand alone juice stores or within Flax & Kale and has a HUGE range of cold-pressed juices with helpful categorisation and descriptions so you can make an educated decision before sipping. From digestive to immune support, energy boosters to green juices, you’ll be able to find exactly what you need here. Go on, give your body some recovery..
One of the most beautiful locations in Barcelona, this heritage building houses an array of restaurants and bars within a luxurious, light and plant filled atrium. Glistening cocktail bars and brass bars offer a welcome respite from the crowded cava bars nestled into the streets outside. Being slightly more upmarket, the food is on the pricey side, making it a perfect spot to enjoy some cocktails with a side of people watching.
La Boqueria Market
Possibly one of the most famous sight-seeing spots in Barcelona, this food market sits just off Las Ramblas and offers fresh, local delicacies from a huge range of vendors. A great spot to either load up on fresh fruit, juice and some snacks – you’ve be warned about the yummy nuts that may cost you dearly- or grab a bar stool and snack on some tapas!
Head along the beach at Barceloneta and you will stumble upon a fitness rig loaded with bars primed for bodyweight and calisthentics training. If you can beat your way through all the gym bros competing over who has the best pull up variation, there is plently of equipment to get a good sweat session in – with one helluva view!
Otherwise, don’t feel bad about chilling on the sidelines and observing the natural selection process of peacocking occurring – everyone needs a rest day now and then…
Run along coastline
An exploration run is always one of my favourite ways to sweat in a new city and Barcelona is the perfect place to lace up early and get out with wide open eyes to soak in all the beautiful architectural sights and coastline. Weave through the streets or along Las Ramblas and you will reach the beach boardwalk where you can run to your hearts content!
For a west coast girl, there is nothing I love more than seeing the sun set over the ocean. Barcelona offers a pretty amazing show as the sun goes down so don’t miss out on seeing the stunning sunset over the coastline.
The big touristy things
Barcelona is packed full of history, architectural sights and art, being the home of Gaudi and many of his greatest accomplishments. The absolute beauty of this city is that these significant pieces are squeezed within the newer, modern buildings and infrastructure, so you tend to stumble upon momentus works of art as you explore. Be in amazement at the light and beauty of La Sagrada Familia, enjoy a passeggiata stroll down Las Ramblas, get your glute activation and cardio training in walking up the hill to Parc Guell, before having your mind blown at the eceltic design and end the night cooling off in wonder at The Magic Fountains.
As a city escape, Barcelona has it all, and the best part? You'll even come back with a hint of a glowing tan from all that Spanish sun!