4 days in Barcelona for us on this occassion was packed with fun, cultural gems, chill out by best rooftop pools, gorgeous architecture, great cuisine, fantastic clubs and nightlife. About my 10th time over the last 20 years – this is a city that I got to know and love through great Spanish and Catalan friends. So after so many years, trips and local knowledge, I wrap up in here my top 17 things to see and do in Barcelona.
1. Get in the mood for Barcelona: Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona movie – it’s brilliant, puzzling and features an all star distribution including Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Scarlet Johnson. In case you’re younger or simply nostalgic of Uni days – L’auberge espagnole is fun and features gorgeous Barcelona landmarks. If you’d rather read – my favourite is the witty and completely unreliable Secret life of Salvador Dali – this is afterall one of my favourite artists, mad, visionary and completely controversial even for Catalans after he left most of his art to the Spanish ! Alternatively Carlos Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind sets you also in a wonderful mood. Download it on ipad for the flight in and eventually finish it by rooftop pool Barcelona overlooking Barrio Gotico.
2. Embrace the Mediteranean lifestyle. From rooftop pools to lounge bars by the beach, very late dinners and cava flowing from breakfast to the wee hours of the morning, Barcelona is one vibrant happy place. Make sure you soak in those healthy vibes and you do not overdo the touristy spots.
3. Get lost in Barrio Gotico, immerse into superb arhitecture, stand by Cathedrals and listen into live street music.
4. Eat your way around tapas bars – pintxos, Catalan gorgeous cuisine and Spanish dishes. Condessa has been historically a favourite, on this occassion we also tested Oriol by the market and Can Pintxos on the busy sea front. Our must order include croquetas (jamon, mushroom, squid or prawn), olives, pan con tomate, alioli, gambas al allio (garlic prawns).
5. Gaudi is Barcelona’s iconic and visonary architect. Sagrada Familia is his master piece and we have seen it built over the years. Casa Batllo and Park Guell are amidst many others state of art landmarks with Park Guell ideal for a relaxing stroll .
6.Shop your way around the small boutiques and cobbled streets – Dessigual is Barcelona’s iconic colourful happy brand but there’s so much more! Artisan jewelry and hand made shoes, funky dresses and swimwear.
7.Pick a rooftop pool Barcelona and chill. We chose Ohla hotel on this recent occassion, in the past we super indulged at Grand Central – same via Laietana, just few hundred meters away, perfect pied a terre for 3 / 4 days in Barcelona.
9. Indulge in good cava and gorgeous Spanish wines, with jamon iberico/ pata negra and manchego. This is the city that taught us to have cava at breakfast years ago – Grand Hotel bar set the standard very high and since then there has been no going back. Of course Ohla hotel on Via Laietana had also very good cava in the morning. I’d usually wrap up a very late breakfast chilling by the rooftop pool with a glass or two to start the day.
10.Explore the chaos and colourful Ramblas – just be mindful of your bag/ purse. Take a moment to reflect on the explorers in the old days – Christopher Columbus marks where the Ramblas meet the seafront. Nothing like wanderings and the adventures on the sea disvovering new lands!
11. Engage with the locals. I have great Spanish and Catalan friends for over 20 years – they are warm, curious and lovely. As a teen I got to spend weekends at their holiday homes in the Catalan countryside – a beautiful old farm renovated as a gorgeous villa with swimming pool, horses and animals. And then over the years I visited regularly and got to spend time with lovely Barcelona people.
On this occassion – a 7 girls getaway week-end and hen party, as one might suspect, we had plenty of attention and friendly chats. From Ohla hotel lovely personnel, to talkative taxi drivers, staff in restaurants and felow clubbers. Catalans get very excited about London and London peeps – so we got to hear so many complimentary remarks and got to talk about restaurants, clubs and even latest Catalan – Spanish developments.
12.Learn about Catalan history through architecture and museums. Palacio de Musica Catalana is a fine example – few meters away from Ohla hotel and an architectural jewel of Catalan Art Nouveau, the only concert venue in this style to be listed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO. By the seafront after Las Ramblas there’s also the Museum of Catalan History.
13. Enjoy the vibrant nightlife and get advice from locals on the latest non-touristy places to hang out. Over the years we partied at Omm hotel, went for dinner and clubbing at Shoko by the beach front, and had drinks at Pulitzer hotel and Cdlc. 2018 best clubbing voted the best on this occassion was Bling Bling, Gatsby and Sutton. Get a table and share champagne to skip the entrance fee and get a bit more space to dance, a comfy couch to seat and observe ocassionally, strawberries in chocolate and complimentary water. The parties were brilliant – we struggled to leave around 4am both mornings and the crowd was still going strong!
14.Tibidado for wonderful views from up high and in the summer for more clubbing.
15.Beach bars by the sea. Historically Sunday brunch was always on CDLC or Opium. They are chilled and very refreshing especially after a big night out. Alternatively, W hotel pool overlooks the Mediteranean and Barcelona from the 26th floor.
16. Indulge sophisticated fusion cuisine. We spoilt ourselves at Ohla – both Plassohla and rooftop with salmon tartar, croquetas, foie mid cuit. The chef in residence – Martin Rodriguez – also has a 1 star Michelin restaurant – Caelis – just abova La Plassohla.
17. More food for thought after visiting this gorgeous vibrant city? Watch Biautiful movie with Javier Bardem – drugs, nightlife, modern slavery. It’s fast paced, crazy, fun at occassions and merciless for the vulnerable.
Please bear in mind this is not necesarily a suggested itinerary for 4 days in Barcelona, but rather highlights over the years as well as my favourite fun things to do in Barcelona. For Barcelona with baby / toddler in tow, head to our friends post in here.
Barcelona weather April is typically a great combination of blue sunny skies and mild temperatures – an average 20-22 degrees mid to end of April. We tested Barcelona weather April on few occassion and always reached the same conclusion: perfect time to visit, sightsee, club, enjoy the pool and gorgeous rooftops without summer opressive temperatures mid 30s or even more.
Have you been and what are your favourite things to see and do in Barcelona?