Barcelona is truly one of Europes most popular destinations for travelers. It is a romantic, gastronomic Mecca. We did a 48 hour trip to this truly beautiful city and couldn't bring ourselves to leave so we added another 24 hours onto the trip and boy was it worth it.
Where to stay
We chose to stay at the Duquesa Suites because of its location across from the port and in the famed Gothic Quarter. It also has a great viewing balcony with a pool and bar.
But if you're going upmarket beach accommodation the the W Hotel is where it is at. There are also many smaller boutique hotels including the Wittmore Hotel which offers amazing views to the vertical garden and the patio, The Wittmore -however is adults only and is located in the heart of the Gothic Quarter, 400 metres from Picasso Museum.
The Festival of Lights
By sheer coincidence the city's Festival of Lights was occurring on the night that we had originally planned to leave, so we hastily changed flights and found another hotel.. and boy was it worth it!. The festival sees the city lit up by a trail of lights that guide the lucky punters around the city as they discover magical light shows in every nook and cranny. Some of the light shows were in 3D which just blew my mind! Designed by famous international artists you will not encounter a more magical experience anywhere. The festival takes place in February every year.
Where to eat
Barcelona is divided up into 10 districts and those districts have their own areas of interest. As well as the architecturally incredible Gothic quarter which is the oldest part of the city which really lives up to its name with narrow streets and eerie facades throughout there are several eateries that are worth a mention.
Just 2 min walk from the Cathedral is Brugarol Barcelona. An extraordinary restaurant that everyone raves about and it is not even that expensive. Just ask the chef for his recommendations if you're unsure of what to order, its what I always do. We also went for a drink in the Bollocks Bar (think Hard Rock Cafe vibe), which if you're Irish you will find hard to suppress a smile as they advertise the bollocks burger on the menu... ehhh no thanks!
We is also in terms of gastronomy the Eixample district is the most creative part of Barcelona’s culinary landscape. You’ll discover a colorful mix of traditional, modern, or even experimental cuisine. Just wander and you will find where you should be!
You can’t go to Barcelona without visiting Gaudi’s masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia. It’s an absolute must-see — and with good reason. Marvel at the organic, free-flowing architecture and distinctive aesthetic. Pro tip: beat the crowds and chaos by booking a fast-track entrance ticket ahead of time. This way, you’ll get straight in to see the iconic stained-glass interior. For travelers who want to see it all, you can also upgrade your ticket to get access to climb the Nativity Tower for an amazing panoramic view of the city. I will admit I knew little of Gaudi before our trip but his style is just wonderful to behold, like something out of a fairytale.
I had not done a city bus tour ever before this trip. It was recommended by our hotel and until this point I always thought of the episode of Friends when Joey and Chandler go to London and look like the stereotypical tourists, lost and loud! However I have since changed my mind and we did it again in Paris. It is a really great way to get a speeded up sense of the city and a great view from the top deck. Having the option to hop on and hop off really helps to make your trip feel more bespoke. We stopped off at the famous pedestrian shopping street of Las Ramblas where we just soaked up the atmosphere and picked up a fantastic local painting of the city. We also got to see the famous Barcelona FC stadium and John bought himself an official Barcelona FC jersey which he really advises you do rather than but the fake ones that dot the city as apparently the standard doesn't compare and is easily visible after one wash.
We also had to visit the Oceanarium which is one of the best in Europe. Walking through glass tubes as 10 foot long sharks swim overhead is about as close to these fish as I ever want to get , but it was another fantastic experience. John is now pushing to add cage diving with great whites to our bucket list... no chance!
There really is more to see than possible in 48 (or 72) hours including the cable car, wine tours, the Picasso Museum and much more... but we did the best t we could and left so much more for our next trip.