Welcome to your weekend in Barcelona! After you check in and have a little siesta if you need to, remember that you've only got a weekend in a city chock-full of culture, great food, architecture, streets to explore, stellar squares where you can take a little break with a refreshing drink, clothes, shoes, and designs made locally, and a nightlife that goes on till the wee hours. Take a moment to get an overview of Barcelona, and then get out there and see for yourself. One of the best things to do is wander around the streets and just take it all in, but if you want a bit of guidance to keep yourself from ending up at the same spot at every turn, we've got you covered.
Friday: The Born and Barceloneta
Head down to the Born district, and be sure to stop by the Born Centre Cultural, an iron and glass structure built in 1876 as a market. From there you can stop in to the spectacular Santa Maria del Mar church, a local favourite and setting for many a wedding. Just next to that is the Fossar de les Moreres, a square that might not be much to look at, but which has great significance to the people of Barcelona; it was built over a cemetery where those who died fighting to defend the city in the Siege of Barcelona in 1714 were buried. The square features an eternal flame to honour the memory of the fallen.
Explore the outdoors, see art, do a bit of shopping
Stop for a break in one of the Born's lesser-known squares, such as Sant Pere de les Puel.les or Sant Agusti Vell, which you could pass right by without seeing, and you'll be glad you didn't. If it's great art you're looking for, you're in luck, as you're meandering the streets near the Picasso Museum, home to a record of the vital formative years that the young Picasso spent nearby at La Llotja art school.
The Born is an area that's packed with boutiques where you can pick up some designer shoes or one-of-a-kind gifts to bring home. As you're strolling through the streets, keep your eye out for Ivori, an exquisite shop with local designs, On Land, where men and women both can find new threads, and Studiostore, with everything from clothes and eyewear to original cushions.
Carry on down the road a ways till you get to the Parc de la Ciutadella, where you can breathe some fresh air and get a feel for how the locals use their green spaces: sports, picnics, games, playing music, and relaxing near the lake with a good book.
Eating and drinking
For dinner, try the 'Asian tapas' at Mosquito - they'll melt in your mouth. Always a sure thing is eating in one of the city's fresh markets, such as the Santa Caterina market with its attention-drawing rooftop, or the Mercat Princesa, where you don't have to limit your choice to just one restaurant but can graze from a buffet of 16.
When you're ready for a drink, head to Collage or Coppelia before calling it a night. Or if a nice wine is more your way to wind down on your first night in town, try out some wine bars like La Vinya del Senyor, back next to the Santa Maria del Mar, or the lesser-known Disset 17 Graus, just a stone's thow away.
But if you're in the mood for more of a walk after leaving the Parc de la Ciutadella, keep going down to Passeig de Joan Borbo, lined with seafood restaurants drawing in more tourists than locals, and amble through the gridded streets of the Barceloneta neighbourhood and down to see the Mediterranean. And if you still haven't had dinner or are feeling it's time for another bite, there are plenty of restaurants in Barceloneta, most of them specialising in seafood, taking advantage of their proximity to the sea. Also thanks to the prime real estate, some of the better spots aren't cheap, but if you're feeling flush, they're well worth it. Try Can Solé, La Mar Salada or El Suquet de l'Almirall. A great place for the more budget-conscious, with a huge terrace and fresh, scrummy dishes to go with their relaxed vibe is Santa Marta. To top off the night, have a drink in Absenta and you're sure to get a good night's sleep, the more upscale Zahara Cocktail Club, or Café de los Angelitos.
Saturday: Modernisme, Gràcia, the Raval, and time for a boogie
Try not to have too much of a lie-in, as it's your one full day in Barcelona, and you'll want to explore as much as you can, while saving some energy for a night out. Even if you can't fit it all in, pick and choose from our suggestions of how you can spend the day and ease into the night to get the most out of your city break.
Head up to Gaudí's natural wonder, Park Güell (it's best to book in advance to ensure you get in to the 'monumental' zone and save a euro at the same time). If you skipped breakfast to get out and get going, grab a bite down the hill in Gràcia, at the woodsy and spacious Café Salambó, La Pepita, which is open early, or at La Pubilla, specialising in old-school local food - and if the weather's nice, in a square such as Plaça del Diamant or Plaça de la Virreina. While you're in the barrio, have a look around for some wearable, one-of-a-kind souvenirs in the shop-lined streets. It's not all clothes and shoes, though, and you're sure to find just the thing for your home in Magnesia or Mueblé, or even the perfect ingredients for your home brew at Family Beer.
Before you head down toward the centre, you might want to pop by one of Gaudí's lesser-known buildings, Casa Vicens, tucked away in C/Carolines. From there if you're itching for more Gaudí, you could head over to be wowed by his life's work, the Sagrada Família and then over to Av Diagonal to keep the Modernisme theme going by stopping at Casa de les Punxes, Casa Àsia and Casa Planells. Alternatively, you can take the metro from the Sagrada Família down to Diagonal and walk down Passeig de Gràcia to just hit the Modernisme biggies: La Pedrera, Casa Amatller and Casa Batlló. Just around the corner is a must-see museum - the Fundació Antoni Tàpies. The museum was founded by Barcelona's most celebrated living artist, and the building itself is one of the earliest examples of Modernisme to combine exposed brick and iron.
Give yourself a break while you're in the Eixample area, with lunch at Chicoa for some typical Catalan cuisine, or at Brunch & Cake, where they do sandwiches and lighter fare in addition to their sweet treats. You will not want for options in the sprawling Eixample where you can take a load off and refuel.
Art, history, and natural beauty
Now that you've recharged your batteries, get your feet a-movin' once again and head into the Barri Gòtic. Walk through the Call (Barcelona's Jewish Quarter), bordered by the Cathedral, Plaça Sant Jaume and Plaça del Pi; see the hidden-away Roman columns of the Temple Romà d'August; and visit a couple of squares in the neighbourhood, such as the Plaça de Sant Felip Neri, with its Baroque church that betrays evidence of Civil War bombings, and the Placa del Rei, surrounded by ruins and where you'll often find buskers or other live music performances. If you're drawn to the ruins, don't miss a stop into the Barcelona History Museum, featuring some 4,000sq m (43,000sq ft) of subterranean Roman excavations - streets, villas and storage vats for oil and wine, all discovered by accident in the late 1920s.
Wine, dine and dance the night away
By now you may be in need of a bit of a rest, to get yourself fed, freshened up and ready for a night out. If you're ready early, head to the Raval before dinner and have a look at the architecture and exhibitions in the city's Contemporary Cultural Centre (aka the CCCB) and Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA), conveniently located near each other. When you're starting to feel peckish, try the out-of-this-world double terrace of Invisible-Pizza Ravalo, Teresa Carles for a healthy vegetarian option, or the Mediterranean banquet that is Lo de Flor. After lining your stomach, get a couple of drinks in Negroni or Tahiti, both in the bar-laden C/Joaquín Costa, before easing on down to the dance floors at Apolo, Marula or other area clubs.
Sunday: Gardens and museums on Montjuïc, vermouth and paella
Factor in what time you head out on Sunday, and of course the weather, but a great way to spend a Sunday morning is walking around the mountain of Montjuïc. Depending on what you're in the mood for, you can visit the Joan Miró museum, or the National Museum of Contemporary Art (MNAC), or walk around the plentiful gardens, including the Jardins del Teatre Grec, the Jardins Laribal and the Colla de l'Arròs rose gardens, which are at their most picturesque in late spring. Take the Telefèric from Montjuïc to Barceloneta, where you can relax with a vermouth and a paella before you have to bid adéu to the city, until the next time.
Getting around Barcelona
Want a great way to get to know the city? Rent a bike! Don't think your only options for getting around Barcelona are by a crowded tour bus, an expensive private tour or even public transport. Get outside, see the sights in your own time, and get to know the city close-up. (more info)