Experiencing everything Barcelona has to offer in just two days is impossible. However, you can absorb the vibe of this hip, vibrant city with careful planning paired with wild abandon! How to spend 48 hours in Barcelona offers itinerary suggestions for your short visit.
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Barcelona has two tour bus companies, the Big Red Bus City Tours and the Bus Turistic. Both companies offer great service covering all the hotspots in Barcelona. We chose the Big Red City Tours Bus because we observed two Big Red Buses for every one Bus Turistic, which meant less waiting time between pickups. We booked our tickets through Viator, that way they were in my email and ready to go when we arrived. With a two day ticket, we were able to traverse the city, have a guided audio tour, and take in the adventures that struck our fancy.
Tour LA Sagrada Familia
Get off at stop number 11 on the green line of the City Bus to visit Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Famillia. Construction of the Basilia began on March 19, 1882, and is scheduled to be completed in 2026. Whether the building will be finished then is up for debate and many Spaniards are sceptical about this timeline.
Interestingly, the Basillica does not tower over the city; her decorative towers take you by surprise as you ascend up Avenue Diagonal to Mallorca Street. The towers rise seemingly from nowhere, and the tallest towers are still unfinished. They will most certainly change the shape of the Barcelona skyline when completed. The middle and tallest towers represents Jesus Christ, there is one for each apostle – 12 in all, one is for the Virgin Mary, and four represent the evangelists. The largest, central towers are under construction and the ever present construction cranes detract from the wildly artistic facade.
In 2019, Barcelona finally granted the building permit for Sagrada Familia that was submitted in 1885. To tour this magnificently eclectic church, it is best to purchase tickets in advance. I ordered our tour tickets through Viator, they have lots of options. You should consider a skip the line tour, as the lines can be very long. You can wander around the church on your own,;but to have a true grasp of the magnitude, symbolism, and history, a guided tour is best.
La Rambla, the heart of the city center, is a wide boulevard filled with shops, restaurants, and hotels. It stretches from Port Vell, near the cruise terminal, to Placa de Catalunya. At night the area comes alive with hawkers, lots of tourists, and pickpockets (be attentive). A must do is to grab an outside table at a touristy bar and sip on sangria; it’s a fun place to people watch.
The beach in Barceloneta is a wide swath of crystal sand. Retirees playing cards and dominos camp out all day in private clubs that line the beach, while the younger set hits the beach to surf, play volleyball, and soak up the soul warming Meditarranean sunshine. Stop for a glass of Cava and a few plates of tapas at one of the many restaurants planted at the beach’s edge.
Football (soccer) fans can enjoy a tour of the home stadium for FC Barcelona, Camp Nou. Stop number 14 on the red line of the City Bus, Camp Nou is smack dab in the middle of the city. The tour, complete with VR glasses and audio guide will have you right in the middle of the action.
Gaudi’s work dots many of Barcelona’s neighborhoods. Casa Batillo on Passeig de Gracia is one of his most famous homes. If you want the perfect tour, book the 8:30 preview where you can visit before the throngs of tourists arrive. Casa Batillo can be reached by either the red or green line, stops 19 and 16 respectively. You can view the facade restoration in this video from the Casa Batllo website, the colors, design, and craftsmanship are fascinating.
Port Cable Car
Want to experience the best views in Barcelona? Take a ride on the Port Cable Car. For about $20 you can take a round trip cable car ride from the port to the five star Miramar Hotel on Montjuic. At the top, you can sip a drink at the bar perched on the side of Montjuic, visit the Miramar hotel, wander the gardens taking in more spectaular views, or hike further up the mountain. You can take the red line bus (stop 6) to enjoy this vantage point if you are a little cable car timid.
When choosing a restaurant, avoid the establishments that have pictures of the food pasted on the windows or on a kiosk. In general, they are tourist traps. Look for authentic Catalonian cuisine a block or two off the main drag.
For a fun night out, try The Paella Club. Here you will join a dozen other couples to create several different types of paella paired with bottomless glasses of Cava, Spanish sparkling wine. After the cooking lesson, join your new friends for a family style dinner to taste your creations along with dishes crafted by Chef Alex.
If you are in the Gothic Quarter, the Firebug Bistro is a local hangout with good food and a causal vibe. Try the “Sexy Bravas” and the “Civiche Pow! Pow!” for a Spanish flavor bomb!
We Bistrot is a classic tapas spot with sidewalk tables, a pass-through kitchen, and a well stocked bar. It’s a great spot to enjoy a slow, relaxing meal. The potato salad with tuna was the hit of the night. We tasted most of the menu and loved everything.
Where To Stay
We stayed at this Airbnb in the Gothic Quarter, El Gotic. It was in a old classic building with beautiful, traditional tile work; marble floors; and dark, imposing woodwork. We could walk to great restaurants, Placa de Catalunya, the Zoo, La Sagrada Familia, and more. Airbnb is a great resourse for Barcelona.
Of course, there are lots of great hotels too. Check out the Hotel Barcelona Universal, a four star hotel in the Gothic Quarter.
No matter where you stay, or what you see, I know you will enjoy your 48 hours in Barcelona.
Lost in the journey,