Barcelona City Breaks
The City of Counts makes for a perfect weekend away
By Duncan Rhodes
We offer some advice on planning a weekend break in Barcelona.
It goes without saying that Barcelona is one of the world’s best city break destinations – but we’re going to say it anyway! The cosmopolitan capital of Catalonia has got everything you want for a weekend break away from home, be it culture, fine-dining, all-night partying or simply laying on the beach that you’re after. In fact the best thing about this spirited city is that you can combine almost every pleasure under the sun in one short holiday!
Culture-wise it’s hard to look beyond the sacred spires of Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia, or his beautiful landscaped garden Park Guell (the very same that featured in Vicki Cristina Barcelona and other famous films), but in fact with the Museum of Catalan Art, Joan Miro Foundation and Picasso Museum all to choose from you won’t be bored.
There’s even a few rogue surprises like the Labyrinth Park or the Chocolate Museum! Whereas wandering around the medieval streets of the Gothic Quarter reveals a million secrets (at least with the right tour guide) from Roman remains to the last lingering scars of the Spanish Civil War.
For eating and drinking we could write whole encyclopaediae of great restaurants, bars and nightclubs and no trip to Barcelona will be complete without tasting some Spanish tapas, or heading to one of the city’s upmarket Catalan restaurants for some high class regional cuisine. After dinner Barcelona is famous as one of Spain’s best places to party (and we don’t say that lightly!) so be prepared for clubs that don’t even get going until 2 or 3am!
The 1992 Olympic Games reshaped Barcelona’s destiny by reshaping the city’s coastline, and where once lay a dirty patch of wasteland now you’ll find a string of beaches skirting the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean: prime recreation space for strolling, swimming, sunbathing, sailing, surfing, kitesurfing and even a bit of beach volleyball. The city beaches are a riot of action and activity (although day trips further afield, to picturesque coastal resorts such as Sitges, will transport you to quieter sands if you prefer!).
If you can find the time during your holiday in Barcelona, it’s worth remembering that the city is no jewel in isolation. Around the countryside of Catalonia are all manner of national parks, cultural sights and historical treasures… the monastery of Montserrat is a breathtaking pilgrimage that few want to miss, whilst the vineyards of the Penedes region nearby (we’re right in the heart of Spain’s Cava country!) make for a more than pleasant stopping point to sample some sparkling wines!
Barcelona City Breaks Operators
An alternative to independent travel (see below), booking your holiday via a specialist travel agent enables you to take some of the stress and hassle out of the boring bit of travelling – ie. actually organising your break! There are many operators who will do the leg work for you, starting with finding hotels in central locations in the city, to providing the travel information that will ensure you get the most of your weekend (or hopefully longer!) away – plus of course your flights to and from Barcelona.
Apart from saving yourself a bit of time, more often than not the packages and holiday deals a tour operator can offer turn out to be much cheaper than doing it yourself, as they are often privy to some great deals! You could try searching online for package operators, although we intend to come back and update this page soon with some providers we think you’ll like.
The alternative to a ready-made package break is to go it alone, which means greater flexibility, but it also means doing some research on everything from cost of accommodation to flights yourself. However the good news is that there are plenty of deals out there, especially if you book in advance – and securing the lowest price for a hotel or plane ticket will also ensure you’ve got some money left for exploring the city! For rooms, a good place to search is naturally our A-Z of some of the best hotels and apartment operators in the city. Meanwhile, as mentioned above, you can head over to our article on buying cheap flights to BCN for more advice on snapping up your air tickets. Hint: Ryanair also fly to Reus and Girona, but be sure to factor in the cost of the bus transfer if you book with the Irish low cost carrier!
Naturally the wise man (or indeed woman) doesn’t set off from home without the peace of mind of the appropriate travel insurance documents in their back pocket/inbox. To cover your trip to Barcelona we recommend you book holiday insurance with a top provider before you go. Even though you hopefully won’t need it, if you do fall victim to a pickpocket (sadly a common problem in these parts, so do keep a firm eye on your belongings at all times!) or a Spanish air traffic controller’s strike at least you’ll get your money back!
Europeans who want to risk travelling without insurance, should at the very least apply for their European Health Insurance Card (if you haven’t already. If you have check it hasn’t expired!), which covers you for medical care in case of emergencies. For more advice on health issues when travelling to Barcelona click here.
If you enjoyed this guide to short stays and are feeling inspired to come over to BCN with your partner, then you might want to check out our article on romantic breaks in Barcelona. If however the romance has already happened and produced a couple of sprogs, then we suggest you read up on visiting Barcelona with children. Finally business folk might want to bear in mind that the Catalan capital is also a fantastic destination for conferences and corporate events, with hosts of corporate hospitality providers and team building events organisers.