Barcelona Express: Two Day Itinerary
January 1, 1970
by Judith Gómez Ibarra
Welcome to the hidden magic of Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain). As Saint Augustine recalled, if the world is a book, those who do not travel stop at the first page. So, we have just 2 days. Don’t panic. As a Tourist Information Office Assistant in Barcelona, it is a great pleasure for me to present to you this stunning city and to help you by showing you how to achieve the perfect itinerary for time-sensitive passengers.
First and foremost, transport. The city has a complicated public transport service. There are too many buses and subway lines, so understanding everything takes time, time that we don’t have. Therefore, I strongly recommend the Barcelona Bus Turistic although I personally am not a tour bus fan. The Barcelona Tour bus will take you to the main places without the necessity of figuring out how to get there, and also it will allow you to avoid the stress generated in Barcelona’s Subway by its citizens and visitors.
Once in Barcelona the first thing you need to do is… get a map! You can find them for free at any tourist info point. There, you can also get the ticket for Barcelona Tour Bus as well. With the price of only one ticket (39€ two days adults, 20€ two days children from 3 to 12), you can use all the Barcelona Tour Bus routes during the whole day. Moreover, you can hop on and off as many times as you want, and every 10-15 min there is a new bus coming from 9am until 7pm winter season or until 9pm summer season. Be careful, until 7pm or 9pm means that the last bus departure will be 2 hours before the end of the service. To sum up, on board the bus you will find free Wi-Fi, audio guide, and one discount booklet. For more information, please visit http://www.barcelonabusturistic.cat
Let’s start. On the first day, it’s a good idea to get lost in the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quartier), where you can find walls that whisper history such as the Plaça Sant Felip Neri (Sant Felip Neri Square) -a charming square surrounded by the scars of the brutal civil war-, Plaça Nova -where The Cathedral is located-, and the civic and government buildings in the Plaça Sant Jaume. You can also have fun enjoying the famous chocolate shops on Carrer Petritxol, and following the remnants of ancient Roman Walls. From here you’re just stone’s throw away from Portal de l’Àngel, a pedestrian street lined with the main shopping area. At the end of this street you’ll find Plaça Catalunya, the heart of the city. From there you can walk through Las Ramblas, and have a break eating at Boqueria Market trying out our culinary culture inside one of the oldest landmark establishment. It would also be interesting to go to the restaurant Flax & Kale , situated on a well-known street called Carrer Tallers -on the right hand side of Las Ramblas-. It is ideal place for all those persons who like to continue eating healthy food while traveling as well.
After lunch, I invite you to recharge your batteries on board the bus relaxing in your seat, visiting emblematic buildings like the Futbol Club Barcelona Stadium and Pedralbes Monastery, the north of Barcelona, or ultimately, getting off wherever you want.
At the end of the day, you have a rendezvouz with the Mediterranean sea breezes, having dinner in Port Vell.”Vell” which in catalan means old, so you will be in the old harbour and inside you’ll find Maremàgnum shopping centre opened every day of the year, which has wonderful views of the port, locals, and lots of fun activities.
Barcelona is the modernist city par excellence. Now that you know it’s past, you haven’t really visited Barcelona until you soak up its modernism. Take the bus to Sagrada Familia, the masterpiece of Antoni Gaudi -the greatest exponent of Catalan modernist architecture-, due to its rich symbolic meaning. If you’d like to go in, it’s advisable to get the tickets online and in advanced through its website: http://www.sagradafamilia.org. It is not necessary to print them, just show your ticket on your mobile phone and your credit card and that’s all. This is the easiest and cheapest way to acquire the tickets unless you want to pay commissions or spend more than 3 hours queuing up. It’s the same with our next stop: El Park Güell, because it’s given limited access per hour. You can find their tickets online, in the central tourist information Oficina Central de Turisme de Barcelona, located in “Plaça Catalunya 17 subterrani”, or Vallcarca and Lesseps metro stations. But, I insist, get them online!
At lunchtime, Gràcia neighbourhood, due to its proximity and because it’s absolutely another “must see” of the city. It’s a way to see the real life of Barcelona in a typical neighbourhood, something that you can’t miss on a trip. You’ll find a wide variety of typical food and classical restaurants, and a lot of craft and design shops.
Once the break is over, let’s keep the modernist day going. You can lose yourself in the open-air modernist museum: Passeig de Gràcia and El Quadrat d’Or. Besides being a shopping street, you can also see more of Gaudi’s buildings such as La Pedrera or La casa Batllò, full of natural forms, “trencadis” and “ferro forjat”. Moreover, other landmarks by other architectures such as Domènech i Montaner and Puig i Cadafalch. Culminate this amazing afternoon by enjoying the new generation of coffee shop called Pudding Bar. Nowadays, it is not widely known but it will be in the near future, so I want to thank the friend who took me there, it was such a great experience. You might feel tired by the end, but it will be perfect.
Before saying bye-bye to the modernist day, at night we are moving to El Born neighbourhood, where the latest dinner happens. You’ll find the hippest restaurants and medieval charm around Santa Maria del Mar, beholding it at night is wonderful. Especially, Mercat de la Princesa is delicious and you will not miss the typical tapas. El Born, together with Ciutat Vella -mentioned earlier-, is without doubt, one of the best areas to eat in Barcelona.
In order to finish the itinerary, I’d like to give you some useful information before your trip. It’s advisable to come during the week, because on Sundays almost everything is closed -shops, shopping malls, supermarkets…- and also you can find shops closed from 14:00 to 17:00 approximately. What’s more, 24 hour public transport tickets don’t exist neither.
About restaurants, as I said before, avoid eating at any restaurant on Las Ramblas. I suggest you go to La Barceloneta to enjoy the best ‘paellas’ and seafood or tapas bar like La Bombeta, Santa Maria del Mar zone with the best prices for everybody, beautiful views and menus with real food. Last of all, and a little bit more centric, La Rambla and Paseo de Grácia, where you will find a great variety, from the cheapest to the most expensive types of food. Traditionally, university students go to Los 100 Montaditos, located in Rambla Catalunya, where they can meet and talk about something more than studies during the week. There you will find one of my favourites –Konig-, with hamburgers, cannelloni and great tapas. Then, I also love La Txapela, located on both streets, and it’s a tapas bar too, but more elegant than Los 100 montaditos. The tapa named Txapela never fails; it’s always superb!
Lastly, what about nightlife?! If you want to go out at night, to have a drink and dance, I extremely suggest Tusset and Aribau streets, where there are the coolest discos. You can also go to Ciutadella Vila Olímpica; here you will find clubs like Opium. Really important: do not go to bars in Port Olímpic, also known as ‘La Vila’; you will just see conflicts and tourists that were never advised.
And that’s all; my city waits for you, and welcomes your visit as many times as you would like. Fall in love with Catalan people and their land, they will not disappoint you.