Barcelona, the Catalan capital and second most populous city in Spain, is perfect for a quick visit. The flight is only a little over two hours from Birmingham and fares are pretty reasonable outside of the summer months, or if booked far enough in advance.
The city itself is easy to get around thanks to the metro system and hop-on hop-off tourist buses. There are also plenty of affordable hostels, hotels, and restaurants. Many attractions are free or discounted for students.
So, once you are there, what should you be doing?
I would highly recommend seeing some of Antoni Gaudí’s architectural work around Barcelona. My personal highlight is the Basílica de la Sagrada Familia. Book tickets in advance to beat the queues, which can be incredibly long, and don’t miss your chance to go up one of the towers for stunning views all over the city. I would try to get here early to avoid crowds and enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere. The stained glass windows, towers, and facades render this building a masterpiece of modernisme architecture. It is frankly incredible, even if you aren’t usually a cathedral fan.
Next, hop on the metro to Plaça Catalunya (the metro stop at the top of Las Ramblas, one of the main streets in Barcelona), and take time to stroll down towards the sea. This street is famous for its ‘human statues’, street artists, shopping, and restaurants. It is vibrant, lively, and an attraction in its own right.
Visiting the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, just off Las Ramblas, is also highly recommended. A huge array of food and drink is on offer, including tapas dishes, sea food, smoothies, cheese, meats, and vegetables. If you want a street food lunch whilst on the move, this is a good option. At the end, I would highly recommend trying delicious churros con chocolate, a fried dough snack dipped in chocolate.
The Gothic Quarter nearby is perfect for a relaxing walk after consuming your body weight in Iberian ham, gazpacho, patatas bravas, and calamares.
If you are a football fan, Camp Nou is worth a visit. It is the largest stadium in Europe (measured by capacity), and the second largest in the world. The tour was pretty interesting, and I’m sure it would be even more so, if you knew anything about Barcelona FC.
If that’s not really your thing, I would recommend a bit of a maverick option – Tibidabo. Tibidabo is a mountain overlooking Barcelona, and requires both an old blue tram and a funicular railway to get to the summit. At the top there is an antique theme park and a beautiful church. The contrast is a little weird, but the views are just incredible. Also, who doesn’t like a bit of candy floss and popcorn whilst watching a nice sunset? It is often somewhat neglected in Barcelona guide books but worth a visit. Even the journey there is part of the childish fun.
The stadium and the bottom of Tibidabo are not hard to get to. They are both stops on the blue tourist bus route, which can be caught from Plaça Catalunya, amongst other places.
Finish your day by seeing the ‘Magic Fountain of Monjuïc’ near the Espanya metro stop. You might see a free light, music, and water show, which is ‘performed’ by this fountain several times a week, usually around 9 pm. Sounds cheesy, but again, it is really entertaining and definitely worth a visit!
So there you have it, Barcelona in under 24 hours: complete!