Two days in Barcelona — it’s time! I’m so pumped to jump into the travel guides from our Spain and France trip, and Barcelona was our first destination and, fittingly, is the first travel guide I’m tackling.
I had an interesting relationship with Barcelona. I was terribly jet lagged, didn’t have easy access to change into my clothes that were appropriate for the weather (warm), and felt absolutely disgusting. Perhaps my ultra hydration routine on the plane actually ended up making me a little too greasy…
We went to drop our stuff at the hotel and the concierge made the mistake of saying our room might be ready. My hopes were up and, yet, we didn’t get in until 7 hours later. I was frustrated to say the least and having a hard time not letting that color my first day. Thankfully, some manchego and iberico ham were able to turn things around and, that evening, with its paella and lively nightlife scene, Barcelona won me over.
Two Days in Barcelona
Here’s the other thing about our two days in Barcelona. I never had dreams of visiting Barcelona. Honestly, Spain wasn’t on my list. I knew we had to go to Nice in the fall to visit a friend who was living there for a month, but I planned to fly there and fly back.
Then, one evening, we were out with friends who were in DC for the weekend, and they mentioned an upcoming trip to Barcelona. They said we should tag along and, if there’s one thing you should know about me and Adam, don’t ever give us an invite unless you fully expect us to show up.
We got home that evening and sent them a screenshot of our booked flights, “We’re coming to Barcelona!” It turns out, Nice is close enough to Barcelona, and it made sense to do the two on the same trip, though I’ll get more into that later.
The Logistics of Two Days in Barcelona
How to Get to Barcelona from DC
We got a deal on our flights — I believe the equivalent of $450 each — and were able to book them with points we’d been sitting on. We flew direct from Dulles on United. Super easy.
When to Go to Barcelona
I’ve been to Europe twice now in late September and I firmly believe there’s no better time to go. You miss the summer crowds (spoiler: don’t ever go in August!) and, depending on where you are, the temperatures are are typically comfortable. Barcelona was warm during the day, and mild in the evening. It was absolutely perfect weather for being outside, taking in all the sights.
Where to Stay for Two Days in Barcelona
We stayed at the Hotel Claris, which is in the Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona. The neighborhood was lively, with lots of cafes and shopping, and was super central to almost everything we did. We walked everywhere — albeit sometimes a longer distance than some might be comfortable with.
The hotel itself had a nice, comfortable room, which felt modern, though perhaps I would have liked something that felt a bit more European or historic. I can 100% recommend it, however, based solely on the rooftop pool. I’m not normally a pool person, but with warm — but not hot — temperatures, it was the perfect place to relax with a sangria for an hour or two between exploring during the day and going out at night.
Day One in Barcelona
Breakfast at Galeria Cosmo
First things first, we needed to find food, and, as soon as the plane landed, I frantically began looking up cafes near our hotel. We ended up at Galeria Cosmo, a cafe and art gallery that had a decidedly light, bright, and funky look. With outdoor seating and delicious pastries and breakfast sandwiches, this was a perfect stop to take a break for a minute, sit down, and watch the world pass by, all while reveling in the fact we’d finally arrived in Spain.
Stroll through the El Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria
The expansive El Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria was a highlight in Barcelona. I could have made every meal out of strolling the various stalls of meats, cheese, seafood, fruit, and more. And it’s quite literally what saved me as jet lag was taking hold. As I walked around the market, I noticed cones of ham, sausages, and cheese — a cute little presentation of some of my favorite foods. I snagged one filled with iberico ham and manchego, along with a fresh pineapple and coconut juice, and, instantly, I was a happy camper.
Stroll along La Rambla
La Rambla is a large pedestrian street that’s worth strolling down just to get a feel for the vibrancy and energy of the city. It’s filled with tourists, street vendors, and historic buildings flanking either side of the busy boulevard. Attractions include the Virreina Palace and the Centre d’Art Santa Mònica.
Refuel with a coffee
In the Eixample neighborhood, where we spent our two days in Barcelona, there were coffee shops and cafes on almost every corner, all with incredible prices and deals on a coffee and a croissant. Plus, as someone who’s an espresso drinker rather than a drip coffee drinker, I was in heaven. Josephine is worth spending a bit of time in, with its sexy vibe, and 365 cafe seems to be all over the city and is reliable for a quick stop.
Do a little shopping
I actually didn’t plan on doing any shopping but while waiting for the rest of our group to grab snacks, I popped in Ese o Ese. I picked up a sweatshirt that I’ve now worn weekly (and several more times over the course of this trip) and realized that Barcelona clothing prices > US clothing prices, and with better quality.
Relax with a seaside dinner at Camping Mar
Our #1 food mission in Barcelona was to find paella, and we stumbled upon a recommendation for a waterfront restaurant on the marina, Camping Mar. Since we had no other plans to end up by the water, this knocked out two birds with one stone.
I had somehow found a second wind, even without a nap, and, despite being away for roughly 36 hours at this point, I enjoyed a lovely evening outside with aperol spritzes and lobster paella.
Enjoy late night cocktails at Dr. Stravinsky
We had to make a stop by Dr. Stravinsky, which has been ranked one of the world’s best cocktail bars. There was a short line, but it was 100% worth the wait. We grabbed a corner table upstairs in this hipster-filled spot and tried to navigate their map of cocktail characteristics that guide you towards your ideal drink. You choose, for example, that you like milky and smoky, and, voila, you’re given a personalized suggestion.
The dimly lit ambiance, quiet corners, and artisanal cocktails were totally up my alley — we stayed for two drinks, but I could have tried the whole menu.
Experience the Sagrada Família
Barcelona is Gaudí. Gaudí is Barcelona. That’s one of the first lessons you’ll learn in Barcelona. The architect was the king of Catalan Modernism and his fingerprints are all over buildings in Barcelona, or, if not his, those who studied him.
And his life’s work was the Sagrada Família, a Catholic church that has been under construction since 1983. The façade resembles an organic work of art more than a building, and it’s vaguely reminiscent of those drippy sand sculptures you may have made as a child at the beach. The vibrant colors inside bring in visions of night, day, stars, and sun. There are burning reds and freezing blues. It truly is spectacular, particularly when you think about the artistic genius that designed it, and never got to see it finished (because it still isn’t…and Gaudí died nearly 100 years ago).
Take the long way home
If I’d had longer than two days in Barcelona, I would have simply walked around more, and gotten a feeling for the city. Thankfully, we did walk back to the hotel from Sagrada Família, which gave me time to take in the architecture, the energy, and the sights.
Relax by the pool for a bit
Still staving off a bit of jet lag, I welcomed an afternoon spent relaxing by the pool. We drank a sangria or two and admired the city from above, while chatting with the entertaining bartender, who was delighted to meet someone from Texas, and the friendliest mom from Ireland, in town for work and savoring her weekend of quiet. 10/10 afternoon.
Stop by Quimet y Quimet for tapas and wine
Here’s a warning: you’ll wait at Quimet y Quimet. This tiny bar holds only 20 people and it’s held only 20 people since it opened in 1914. It’s also one of the most popular and acclaimed spots for wine and tapas. We were fortunate to snag spots right at the bar, where we indulged in a crisp white wine and a variety of small plates, my favorite being a foie gras that I’m still dreaming about. But don’t linger — this is one European spot where they like you in and out in an hour. And, trust me, that’s all you’ll need to devour dozens of dishes.
Grab a late night dinner at Cañete
When I asked the bartender at Quimet Quimet where we should go for dinner, he answered Cañete. That’s the same recommendation I’d heard from a few well traveled friends. Aware there could be a wait, I asked him, “and for a backup?”
He answered, “There is no backup. Only Cañete.”
And he was right. We walked up around 9ish, and, by some stroke of luck, they told us they’d have a table soon. With eagle eyes, we stood our ground in the front of the restaurant, ready to pounce the minute they were ready for us.
The bustling space feels full of regulars, and the street style inspiration was almost as good as the food itself. I’ll be honest, I can’t tell you what we ordered, but I know there were likely lobster croquettes, steak tartare, and anchovies all involved. And it was the perfect end to our two days in Barcelona.
What Would I Do Differently Next Time in Barcelona?
Honestly, I’d only make two major changes: spend more time than just two days in Barcelona and do an architecture tour! I feel like I didn’t dig in enough (or at all) with the arts and culture, and I needed at least a few more days to do so. Looks like a tour de Spain is in my future!