A Short Stay in Barcelona
Barcelona was one of my favorite cities I visited in Europe while studying abroad in Prague. I remember admiring the beautiful Gaudi architecture, eating endless paella, staying up late drinking wine with friends, and just wandering the streets of the old Gothic Quarter in the sunshine.
When Dan and I started planning our trip to Morocco, we realized that most flights routed through Spain on the way. We took advantage of our stopover by spending two nights in Barcelona. Truthfully, the main reason was because I missed visiting La Sagrada Familia the last time I was in the city. Dan was dumbfounded that I chose to skip it because it’s one of his favorites and the number one attraction in Barcelona. Alas, we booked the flights and our tickets to visit the spectacular church.
We chose to stay in an area just out of the heart of the city called Poble-sec. With great bars and restaurants, it was the perfect location to experience a more local neighborhood. In this post, I’m going to share the three major sites we visited, our fabulous stay at Hotel Brummell, and a couple great restaurants in Poble-sec. I’ll also include a list at the bottom of other top sites to check out if you have more than a full day in Barcelona (you better!).
3 Stops Not to Miss
1. Park Güell
The iconic park with amazing views of the city. The park was commissioned by entrepreneur Eusebi Güell in the early 1900s and designed by Antoni Gaudí. Take the metro to Lesseps on the L3 Line and follow signs up the hill to the park. Make sure to buy your ticket online in advance to avoid the queues. You must purchase a ticket to enter the Monumental Zone (the main attractions). You have a 30-minute window to enter, but can stay as long as you like. There are four entrances into the zone, so take your pick. Take your time following the route on the map provided and don’t forget to explore the free areas as well.
Perhaps the most famous attraction in Barcelona. The Roman Catholic church’s construction began in 1882 and is still ongoing. The church is anticipated to be completed in 2026. I am honestly at a loss for words to describe the gorgeous building. The enormous Gothic structure is quite imposing from the outside with its sheer size and intricate carvings.
I highly recommend purchasing the audio guide, so you can learn about all the different facets of the church. Plus, the beautiful music that you’ll hear as you enter the church with the light pouring through the colorful stained glass windows is quite moving and truly brought me to tears. You’ll have to see and experience for yourself.
You MUST purchase tickets online in advance because it often sells out. We purchased the “Top Views” package, so we could also go up one of the towers. We chose the Passion Tower and highly recommend for the views as well as to see the amazing detail of the roof and the towers. They offer a number of discounted tickets, such as “Under 30”. Don’t miss the chance to go below the church and check out some of the designs in the museum.
The audio guide tour takes about 45 minutes and the tower visit about 15. You select a time to enter the church (a 15 minute window) as well as the tower. If you don’t get through the full 45 minutes of the audio guide before your tower visit, don’t worry about it because you can pick back up where you left off once you come down from the tower. We selected a 3pm entrance time and 3:30pm tower visit and it worked out perfectly. Try to time your visit around sunset for that golden hour glow and witness the magic of the stained glass windows.
You know I love a good market! Don’t miss this one. It’s organized by section: meat, veggies, fish, sweets, etc.. Wander amongst the stalls and then find a seat for lunch at El Quim. Make sure to get the artichokes, tortilla española, and any fresh fish.
Staying and Dining in Poble-sec
El Poble-sec is an up and coming neighborhood about a 10 minute metro ride from the center of the city. According to Hotel Brummell, a hip boutique hotel in the area, it’s “so close to the center but still very authentic and right next to our city’s greenest wonder: Montjuïc.” If you’re looking for a more local experience, consider staying in this great area filled with hot tapas bars and amazing restaurants.
Where to Stay: Hotel Brummell
The perfect city boutique hotel with personalized service, clean and functionally designed rooms, and who could forget the amazing Malin+Goetz bathroom products. Plus, they offer free yoga classes, a relaxing sauna, and have an amazing roof deck swimming pool for those warm summer days. The perfect city getaway or home base for exploring Barcelona.
Where to Eat
La Platilleria - excellent tapas and delicious Catalan wines. Plus, the friendliest staff. Make sure to get the bread and tomato and let them teach you how to make your own! Choose from any of the great options on the chalkboard updated daily with specials. Their patatas bravas was unreal.
Palo Cortao - AMAZING. Great vibes and excellent food. Definitely try the specials. The eggplant with honey and miso was out of this world. Dan says to splurge on the hand-sliced jamón ibérico (ham).
D Picos Pardos- for tapas on Carrer de Blesa. A great pre-dinner spot to avoid getting hangry.
Dino Gelato Italiano - amazing ice cream sandwiches. Try the cookies ice cream in between chocolate chip cookies.
Anything on Carrer de Blesa
- El Raval
- Gothic Quarter
- El Born
TBP Insider Tips
> The metro system is excellent in Barcelona. They have some great multi-day transportation options. Here’s a good guide of what’s available. Just make sure if you’d like to use the metro to/from the airport that it’s included in your option.
> Book tickets to the Picasso Museum and Gaudi sites before you go. If you're looking for something extra at La Sagrada Familia, make sure to book a tower visit ahead of time. We went to the Passion Tower for amazing views.
> As always, make sure to understand your cab fare by reading the sticker inside the vehicle. Our driver tried to scam us and the wonderful staff at Hotel Brummell saved the day.
> It’s always a good idea to make reservations for dinner. They eat quite late in Barcelona, as in all of Spain, so head to a smaller tapas bar on Carrer de Blesa if you need a pre-dinner pick-me-up.
> When eating tapas, it’s a great idea to share, so you can try multiple things. When you walk into a tapas bar, you’ll see cold plates on display. They are often all the same price, think cheeses or sandwiches. You can sometimes just serve yourself. You’ll also have the option to order hot plates.