Barcelona City Trip – 2022

I was fortunate to be able to visit Barcelona in April. This city, famous for its architecture, has been on my “to do” list for a while, especially as the famous basilica is reaching its completion.

Getting There and Around

We flew into Barcelona, and took the Aerobus shuttle from the airport to the centre of town. You can find these busses at both Terminals, and get a return ticket at a ticket machine for just over 10 Euro. These busses go every 10 (?) minutes, and take around 30 minutes to get your into town. A very efficient and low cost way.

To get around Barcelona I recommend to buy a ticket with 10 trips on the metro (T-Casual 1 Zona 10 Visages Integrats). Again, great value and a quick and efficient way to get around.

Where to Stay

We stayed in the centre of Barcelona, in a boutique hotel in the middle of the ancient Gothic district at “The Moods Catedral” hotel. That should have been a warning. Luckily I always travel with earplugs, but my sister, my travel companion for the occasion, enjoyed the chimes every quarter (one at quarter past the hour, two at half, three at quarter to, and the full set at the full hour).

The hotel is ideally located, modern and clean, and although the rooms are not very big, they are very nice with modern bathroom facilities, and there is a common area with a kettle, microwave and crockery, etc. Like many places in old Barcelona, it is officially on the second floor, which is above the mezzanine, and the intermediate floor, first floor etc. It was apparently THE way to get around the building height restrictions!

What to do

Before you head to Barcelona, make sure you book your tickets online for the key sights you want to see. The number of visitors is increasing and lines are visible at all venues. We had rebooked the Sagrada Familia, the tour to Montserrat and the Palau de Musica performance.

Hereby are my personal recommendations, in no particular order. Do make sure you don’t overplan the trip, but include enough time to enjoy the tapas, wines and breathing in the atmosphere. Time to sit on the steps of the buildings and listen to the buskers. I normally book one event a day, and enjoy walking around, getting a bite to eat, and just enjoy being there!

1. Sagrada Familia

THE number one place to visit, architect Anthoni Gaudí’s famous unfinished masterpiece, which started with groundbreaking in 1882 and is finally approaching completion. Covid has delayed this completion to “after 2026”.

Take your time, and don’t forget to take the obligatory shot from the nativity facade side from across the pond in the little park.

The classic shot, on the nativity entrance side

It is worth to take a guided tour to get your eye in looking for the details. If possible, go a second time, to admire the place, sit down and enjoy the serenity of this amazing building. The basilica is so spacious and filled with light on the inside thanks to the innovative design of the columns that hold up the roof.

The Passion facade on the opposite of the building shows a very different side of Gaudi’s designs. Where the nativity facade is nearly whimsical, in its inclusion of flora and fauna, the passion facade is raw and serious. Look for the Jesus figure sitting on a beam between the two middle spires.

Pasion facade Sagrada Familia

So take your time, allow for at least a half day, and if possible, go see it in midday and then again in late afternoon.

2. Parc Güell

Another of Gaudí’s famous designs, a city park which contains a number of smaller buildings and viaducts. Go early in the morning to be ahead of the crowds, and give yourself enough time to stroll through the entire park. I personally would recommend a full morning, before heading back into town for lunch!

Amazing city views and still a peaceful spot at 9:30 am

This park is located at the top of a hill, so be prepared for a hike up if you take public transport (metro). I suggest you take the blue line and get out at metro stop Vallcarca, a number of escalators will help you to ascend the hillside. You can then stroll back down the hill from the entrance to the Lesseps metro station.

Bewarned, a shot of the crowds around 11 am!

3. Casa Milà and Casa Batlló

Two houses, designed by Gaudi, located just across from one another on the Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona’s Champs Élysées.

If you want to go inside, make sure you buy your tickets online well before you go, or you will be spending a long time queuing. These are both apartment complexes, designed for living inside. A tour will provide you with a walk through a small part, and the highlight, an opportunity to visit the roof.

The outside of the buildings are definitely worth a walk past, and if you are fortunate to visit on St George’s Day (Sant Jordi), you will find Casa Battló decorated with large roses.

Alternatively, enjoy a bit of Casa Milà by having a coffee and pastry in the Cafe La Pedrera, and enjoy the view of the outside of the buildings (which we did, we only had four days in Barcelona!).

Note: both Casa Milà and the Sagrada Familia feature in Dan Brown’s book Origin!

4. Stroll through the Gothic quarter (Barri Gòtic)

We were lucky enough to stay in the middle of this area. Strolling and getting lost in the warren of narrow medieval streets and alleys is a great way to enjoy Barcelona. Definitely best seen on foot, this is the oldest part of the city, and parts of the old city walls still remain.

There are plenty of shops, places to eat and drink, and artisans selling quality products like shoes, hats and fans, next to cheap and cheerful souvenir shops.

One of our favourite spots was Tostaderos Bon Mercat on the corner of Baixada de la Llibreteria and Carrer de la Freneria. I normally prefer an espresso with a small amount of milk (Piccolo or Macchiato), a cafe kortado is the Spanish equivalent.

5. Visit Barcelona Cathedral

The Sagrada Familia is a Basilica, not a cathedral (seat of the bishop). The Barcelona Cathedral is in the Gothic quarter and is definitely worth a visit. Much less touristy, it has a fixed entrance fee (note, a lot of guides still say it is free during certain parts of the day but this is no longer the case!). The good news is that you don’t need to book ahead.

When visiting, there are a number of things to see; walk around the oldest part of the cathedral (constructed from 13th to 15th century), admire the crypt of Saint Eulalia under the altar, admire the choir area, and take the opportunity to take the lift up to the roof to have a look at Barcelona from the top of the cathedral.

Make sure you also walk through to the connected cloister, which has a flock of 13 geese, reflecting the story that Saint Eulalia was only 13 when she was martyred.

6. Walk through Barceloneta and check out the beach

Take the metro to the Barcelona station and stroll through this old fishing village towards Sant Sebastià Beach. Again, make your way a couple of blocks away from the marina that is filled with glitzy yachts, and admire the rows of pastel coloured houses with their washing hanging outside, enjoy drinks, tapas and seafood in one of the restaurants fronting the small local squares.

If you love beaches or want to dip your toe in the azure blue Mediterranean Sea, this is your chance! The beach was made for the Olympics and has been a hot favourite ever since.

7. Go to a performance in the Palau de la Música Catalana

We booked in advance to see the Gran Gala Flamenco performance, at the Palau de la Música Catalana. We thoroughly enjoyed the show demonstrating a range of different flamenco rhythms, taking you on a journey through the hart of the flamenco with live music, two singers and three dancers. It makes you want to clap your hands along with them!

As the performance is usually at 10 pm, it gives you the easy opportunity to add to one of your evenings in Barcelona, get dressed up, go out for tapas and drinks, and then head to the flamenco!

Palau de la Musica Catalana

In this amazing theatre every performance will be a joy to watch though. Opened in 1908, it was declared as a Unesco heritage site in 1997 and is definitely worth a visit!

8. Leave town and visit Montserrat

If you have time for a trip outside town, this is the place to go. This area is unique in Catalan with its serrated mountains, and has had religious significance since Pre-Christian times, when the Roman’s build a temple to honour the goddess Venus here.

Montserrat is a Benedictine monastery and abbey that was built close to the site where a small group of local children had heavenly visions (light, angelic singing) in the 9th century. At the location an image of the virgin Mary was found in a cave. From that moment on the cave became a sanctuary for pilgrims. The abbey itself houses a small statue of the virgin, called the “Black Madonna” and there is a seperate line if you want to go and touch it for its special powers.

It is really a great area for shorter and longer walks, and to see the city of Barcelona in the distance. A great day trip, note that even a so called “half day trip” quickly goes from 10 to 5, including tapas and wine tasting, so plan for it to be a day away.

You can get here via the train, but given the complexity of getting here (which station to get off, what connections to take), we decided to take one of the many “Montserrat and wine tasting” tours. We went with Castlexperience, booked ahead via Viator, and a large bus ferried us and a number of other smaller groups to Montserrat.

The journey from Barcelona to Montserrat takes around an hour and one of the guides provides an overview of the history of Barcelona during that trip. You can take a cable car or train up the mountain, but we preferred the straight bus trip to actually have more time on Montserrat.

Montserrat monastery and abbey

Our guide Merak took us around the monastery and provided an introduction the Abbey. Alas, the famous boys choir was not in attendance as it was school holidays.

We then got a free hour in which we bought some excellent locally made olive oil and sea salt chocolate bars and walked to St Michael’s cross for a great view over the coast, Barcelona and Montserrat itself.

It is a relative easy walk with some steeper sections. The path is wide enough, but trainers are recommended as it’s surface is quite uneven.

Easy 20 minute stroll to St Miguel Cross

We were then bussed to a local vineyard, Oller Dl Mas at Manresa, where we were provided with a tapas lunch and three rather large tasting glasses of the local wine. Again, there was enough free time here to have a casual stroll around and enjoy the views.

Oller Dl Mas vineyard


One of the best local paella’s, serving both the traditional seafood and the Valenciana “meat” paella’s is at “La Cuidadela Parc” on Passeig de Lluis Companys. This is close to the Arc de Triumph. They also do a nice creme Catalan, the Catalan version of creme brûlée.

You also have to try out the tapas, which are a great way to have lunch (usually taken between 1:30 and 3 pm), or an early dinner (between 7 and 10 pm).

Don’t forget the local specialities Pa amp tomàquet (bread with tomatoes, olive oil and garlic) and Albondigas (meatballs in a tomato sauce). We really enjoyed the tapas from Can Ganassa, on the Plaça de la Barceloneta.

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