Day 1 - Get to know the place
Get to your accommodation, drop your bags, get out and go for a walk around the city. Barcelona has many memorable landmarks and buildings. This is thanks to world famous architect Antoni Gaudi. Born in 1852 to a coppersmith, the Catalan designer is responsible for so much of what you will remember about the city. He was first commissioned to build Casa Vicens in 1883, a building dominated by its straight lines. Along with many of the city’s structures, he was also responsible for some of the city’s parks, one of the highlights being Park Güell.
Once you begin walking around the city, admiring some of Gaudi’s work, you will find it hard to stop. The Cathedral of the Sagrada Family (La Sagrada Familia) is possibly the city’s highlight, and was Gaudi’s favourite project. Even his most rushed projects, like the Sagrada Familia Parish School are fascinating to look at.
Full with bars, restaurants, clubs and, of course, tourists, is Maremagnum. It's a product of the 1992 Olympics which were held in Barcelona and even though there aren’t too many locals to mix with in the area, there is a still an unmistakable ‘buzz’ about the place. And thanks to its location down on the waterfront, a visit is an enjoyable way to spend an evening.
Day 2 - Begin sitting, progress to cycling, end up standing (hopefully)
There are so many squares, or ‘Plaças’, in Barcelona with so much going on in them that every time you get to one you find yourself stopping to stare. Plaça Reial, designed by Gaudi, is notable for its fountains and iron lampposts. There are numerous tapas bars and cafés here to sip coffee and watch Barcelona life go by. Another café worth a visit is Els Quatre Gats in the old Barceloneta area of the city. In the past Pablo Picasso used to frequent it while contemplating his next project.
If you feel the need to get a little more energetic after sitting in the sun (hopefully) for so long, a good way to get to see the city, while also getting some exercise is to go on a cycling tour of Barcelona. It isn’t a hilly city, so you don’t need to be super fit to pedal around for an afternoon. Passing through the city’s parks and going down by the seafront, cycling around the city is a refreshingly alternative way to see it.
When out in a foreign city it is nice to meet locals, while still intermingling with other tourists. Poble Espanol is the just the place to do this. Located at the foot of Mount Montjuïc (which overlooks the city), the area consists of monuments, streets and squares and guarantees a good night out. If you are going out in Poble Espanol make sure and start your night at Plaça de Espanya. The fountains here are lit up at night and the show put on is a spectacle not to be missed.
Day 3 - Cable cars to cavorting with the locals
If you follow this guide, and you go out in Poble Espanol, you will be wondering why you haven’t been up Mount Juïc yet. Well, after seeing the city from ground level, you should now get a cable car up to the south west mountain for some breathtaking views of the city. The Jewish mountain has been a key character in different events over the years and, along with the view over the city, there are also different things to learn about the city and the area.
You probably will have strolled along Las Ramblas by this stage, but you should take out some time to mosey down the tree lined street one more time to get a true feel of the city. Starting at Plaça de Catalunya and meandering down to Mirador de Colón, it is divided into five different ramblas (promenades). Lined along them are flower (and animal) stalls, artists, street performers and fortune tellers.
After partying around two of Barcelona’s best quarters for socialising, a somewhat different way to spend the night is by visiting a Flamenco Show. This traditional Spanish dance is steeped in culture and by visiting one you may find yourself experiencing more local culture than previously expected. Organised tours operate in the city which bring you to a local show with a drink included.
Day 4 - Basking in the Barcelona sun
Going to beautiful cities means a lot of walking, sightseeing and standing. But it doesn’t always have to be hard work. While Barcelona does have a beach in the city centre, there are two on the outskirts of the city. If you are visiting during the summer they are the perfect places to go to get out of the city.
40 kilometres south of Barcelona is Sitges. Especially popular with the gay community from all over Europe, it takes approximately 40 minutes on a train to get there from the city centre. When stretching out in the sun becomes a bit too tedious, a promenade runs along the top of the beach perfect for some rollerblading.
Travel 40 kilometres north of Barcelona and you will find yourself in Tossa de Mar. This town makes for a particularly good day trip as, along with the beach with the ancient walls bordering it, the town itself has numerous medieval ruins to discover.
If you are in Barcelona and want to go on an excursion for the day, but you don’t happen to be there during the summer months, the beach isn’t going to be of much use to you. Instead, you should try and make your way to Montserrat which is 60 kilometres northwest of the city. This town which is frequented by monks, boasts majestic views thanks to the mountain range. The cable car ride which you can take is particularly enjoyable.
Upon returning to Barcelona, Barri Gotic is another of the more lively areas of Barcelona. There is a mix of all different types of bars and restaurants around here. Along with the usual run of the mill Irish and German bars which can be found everywhere, you will also find some more local-type establishments.
Day 5 - Picasso, to the park to Plaça Reial
While Gaudi is the most famous artist known in Barcelona, other artists have also made their mark on the city. One of the city’s best museums is dedicated to Pablo Picasso. Museu Picasso doesn’t have the Spanish artist’s most famous work, although it does have arguably the best collection of his early drawings, enscriptions and paintings. Housed in three amazing stone mansions, the buildings in their own right are beautiful to look at. It is best to visit this museum early in the morning as it can get quite busy by the afternoon which means dealing with queues.
Just north from the museum is Parc de la Ciutadella. This is the city centre’s main park and is the best place to sit down and relax for a while in the centre. Apart from the grounds to walk around or lie down in for a few hours, also in the park are a zoo, a fountain which makes for the perfect photo opportunity, and the Palau de la Ciutadella (the Citadel Palace). If you haven’t had enough art for one day, inside the palace is the Museum of Modern Art. Here you will have the chance to see work of some of the lesser known Catalan artists.
After five days in Barcelona possibly the best part of the city to finish your trip is at Plaça Reial. All around this square and area is an abundance of bars and clubs, packed with both tourists and locals. These range from bars playing jazz and chill out music, to the more lively venues catering for those who prefer listening to hip-hop and dance music. There is something here to suit everyone’s taste.