A weekend in beautiful Barcelona
A weekend or even a few days in Barcelona is not enough to see it all. But it is a good start to exploring this amazing city in Spain, which is a short nonstop flight from airports across Europe and a perfect winter getaway.
A robust train, bus and metro system offers the opportunity to see Barcelona’s major attractions. A 10-trip metro card (T10 metro card) is 12 euros and can also be used for buses. The Barcelona Card, 20 euros for a two-day pass, gives unlimited travel, discounts on souvenirs, and entrance to many museums and other attractions.
I found the T10 to be more useful since I preferred to walk the city and spent little time in the museums.
A detailed metro map is available at hotels and can be saved as PDF on mobile devices. The Barcelona Map and Walk and Barcelona Travel Guide apps provide constant real-time orientation.
You’ll be surprised when your Spanish seems like a foreign language in Barcelona; Catalan is the preferred tongue here. Spoken in Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, Catalan sounds
like a mix of French and Spanish.
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia. The Catalans possess a fierce spirit of independence, which they overtly display. At times, I was convinced I was in another country as a curiously designed flag resembling the Cuban and Spanish flags was flown from windows, tops of buildings and potted plants. Rarely, have I seen such a striking display of solidarity.
Barcelona was founded by Hamilcar Barca, a Carthaginian general who displayed master guerilla tactics against the Romans in the First Punic War. He also commanded the expedition to modern-day Spain, where he continued to battle the Romans.
What to see
There is plenty to see in Barcelona, much of which is family-friendly. If your kids love soccer, a tour of Barcelona Football Club’s Camp Nou Stadium should certainly make the list. If they prefer architecture, anything by Gaudí should inspire them. Barcelona has long swaths of beach and green space to keep them occupied. The wide paved beachfronts are lined with shops, cafés, restaurants and casinos to keep your attention and empty your wallet.
Camp Nou’s Stadium is easily accessible by the public metro system. Along with the stadium, you’ll find a museum, multimedia center and pro shop that sells every type of fan gear you can dream up. Camp Nou attracts football fans around the world. For 24 euros, you’ll get access to one of the largest stadiums in the world and enjoy a panoramic view of the playing field. The tour is self-guided and includes a visit to the dressing rooms, chapel, player’s tunnel and commentary boxes. If you aren’t a fan of FC Barcelona, you will be by the time you leave.
Getting to the beaches is also easy by public transportation. The two main beaches, Icària and Barceloneta, are 5 kilometers of golden sand separated by unique local artwork. Water sports are popular, but so is reading a book or doing nothing. You can also enjoy a refreshing drink from one of the many beach huts, shop, or rent a bike, hover board or rollerblades.
One of the best views of Barcelona is from the mountaintop Tibidabo Amusement Park, a 20-minute metro ride from the city center. Once you exit the metro, you’ll find a charming little blue train to take you to the park. The park was created in 1889, and not much has changed. There are a few snack vendors and rides for young children. The view is the main reason to make this journey.
Near the amusement park is the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor, a Neo-Gothic church built in 1902. Take an elevator to the top of the church to see Barcelona from 575 meters above sea level.
When the lights go down, Barcelona night life awakens, and the large Torre Agbar skyscraper lights up in red and blue hues. On Friday and Saturday nights, see the illumination of the Montjuïc Magic Fountain, where lighting and water jets are timed with music.
Other sites include the Picasso Museum, numerous plazas with fountains, large shopping areas and the buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí.
Barceloneta Beach, © Will H.