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How To Spend 48 Hours in Barcelona According to 4 Locals

June 22, 2023
48 Hours in Barcelona

Barcelona, the vibrant capital of Catalonia, is a city that effortlessly blends history, culture, and stunning architecture. With its beaches, landmarks, and delicious cuisine, it’s no wonder Barcelona attracts millions of visitors every year. 

But with so much to see, sometimes it can be overwhelming knowing what to prioritize. If you find yourself with just 48 hours to explore this enchanting city, fear not! This helpful itinerary will help you make the most of your limited time. I’ll highlight the must-visit attractions, top experiences, tours, and restaurants you have to see while you’re here. I’ve also tapped a few other locals to share tips on what to do. Each recommendation comes from an on-the-ground guide (including yours truly) with ExperienceFirst here in Barcelona.

We know this city like a pro, and we’re excited to share it with you. Have only two days in Barcelona? This is what you should see and do.

Day 1: Thursday in Barcelona

You might start your 48 hours on any day of the week. For this itinerary, we’ll begin on Thursday, but feel free to move things around as fits your schedule.

Breakfast Mediterranean-style

Breakfast Mediterranean-style

First off, start your morning late in true Mediterranean fashion with a light breakfast of croissant and coffee. I recommend the renowned Brunell’s on Carrer de Princesa. 

Since 1852, they’ve been serving the people of Barcelona with fresh pastries daily, and their award-winning croissants come in a range of seasonal flavors to match the freshest produce. 

Follow in Picasso’s footsteps

Picasso Museum
Photo by Cristina Carrisi

Well-caffeinated and figuring out how many pistachio croissants you can stuff in your suitcase without TSA getting suspicious, you make your way over to Porta del Àngel to rendezvous with your guide for our Picasso in Barcelona Walking Tour

This tour recommendation comes from Carlos Carrillo, who’s been living in Barcelona for 10 years and a tour guide for most of that time. It’s one of his favorite experiences to share with travelers. Here’s why.

There are few tours I’ve run that give such a cohesive insight into an artist. You learn about the stories and traumas that inspired his stylistic fluidity. Then when you get inside the museum, you really get an extra layer of understanding.”

Get to know this groundbreaking artist from the perspective of the sites he haunted during his time living here in the Catalan capital. For an hour, your guide will lead you through the Gothic and Born quarters before dropping you off at the Picasso Museum where you get to explore one of the best collections of his works in the world.

Lunch and cava

By the time you’re out, it’s early afternoon. A barrage of smells wafting from lunchtime eateries invade your nostrils, and you wonder where best to grab a bite. 

Callum Sellins, who moved here in 2019 and has been guiding with us for a year now, recommends lunch at the family-run El Xampanyet. 

“I think there’s not been a single time I’ve had someone visiting and not brought them here — it’s amazing. They’re known for the best anchovies in town. Just make sure you’re washing down your meal with their in-house cava. My God is it good!”

In spite of its central touristy location, El Xampanyet stays true to tradition with its tiled interiors and selection of tapas. 

The afternoon is by far the best time to check it out, as the evening is jam-packed with folks jostling for space, and with it located right across from the Picasso Museum entrance, you’ve not far to go at all. 

An afternoon of architecture

Gaudi Casa Batllo Barcelona

Afterward, it’s time to explore some of Barcelona’s famous architecture. A guide can help you make the most of your time by hitting all the best spots.

Take the metro over to the Sant Pau Recinte Modernista. This former hospital is stunning even from the outside. You’ll want to take lots of photos, trust me. It’s also the meeting point for our Barcelona Architecture Walking Tour.

With your guide, you’ll discover the secrets hidden in the façades of the monumental Sagrada Família and stroll down the Passeig de Gràcia, known for its collection of stunning modernist buildings. The tour itself is one of the most comprehensive on the market and gets your dose of Gaudí, as well as his cohorts and rivals.

It wraps up within two hours so you still have the evening to wind down.

A soirée at the Plaça Reial

Plaça Reial
Photo by Cristina Carrisi

By now, you’re starting to think about dinner and a fresh glass of cava (again). It’s a good time to relax while also getting to experience some of the city. 

Not to worry, just a leisurely 20-minute stroll down the famous Las Ramblas is the Plaça Reial. Here you can kick back at any of the legendary terraces to people-watch while you nibble. Glaciar, Bar Tomate, or Ocaña come to mind as fantastic options for both food and drinks. 

From within the square itself, you have a host of options on how to continue your night. 

For those of you looking to socialize, Sidecar and Jamboree in the square are two popular bars that offer a little dancing and mingling for travelers and locals alike. 

Or maybe you’re ready to hit your hotel. You’re also close to two major metro lines, buses, and taxi rinks that can bring you towards your bed so you can be fresh for the day ahead.

Day 2: Friday

This is your last day in the city before you head home or to your next destination. Let’s make it count! Here’s what we recommend for your final 24 hours in Barcelona.

A breakfast of Catalan champions

A breakfast of Catalan champions

Wakey-wakey, rise and shine! It’s another glorious day in Barcelona.

You’ve got to check out the Barcelona markets while you’re here, so you head to La Boqueria market for breakfast to beat the crowds. Pick up a bite to eat, maybe the typical Barcelona on-the-go breakfast, an entrepan with Iberian ham and brie, or for a sweet tooth, a chocolate neapolitan or pistachio eclair. 

This is also a good spot to pick up a culinary souvenir with institutions like Olives Francesc, who with his wife run one of the most important suppliers of olives in the Old Town. Their vacuum packed options and array of locally produced oils make the perfect gift and travel well even across a long haul. 

Barcelona Wax Museum

picture with the Beatles

Now it’s time to hang with the legends of Barcelona throughout history. You’ll find them all at the Barcelona Wax Museum. The museum opens at 10:30 a.m. daily, so I recommend going first thing.

For an exclusive experience, try our Behind the Scenes: Barcelona Wax Museum VIP Tour. It’s at the same Liceu metro as La Boqueria, which is nice and convenient.

The museum covers several centuries of history, and the space itself is full of unique characters that have their own tales to tell about the nature of Catalan people, culture, and identity.

A lot of tourists miss out on learning about the nature of Catalan identity and how it helps to make Barcelona such a distinct experience to those visiting Spain. This tour sheds some light on the most culturally relevant characters from throughout Catalan history, so it’s a great opportunity to get to know what Catalonia is really about. 

There are a few other famous folks, too, and plenty of fun photo ops. You’ll brush noses with everyone from Wilfred the Hairy and Chewbacca to Barack Obama and Brad Pitt.

After becoming acquainted with the museum’s residents, you and your guide will go toast them at the Bosc de les Fades, the iconic bar hidden between the Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter with a forest growing inside it. 

Monumento Colón
Photo by Carlos Carrillo

If you want to, you can even get the add-on a visit to the Columbus Monument. This includes a ride up the elevator inside the tower, the oldest in Barcelona, offering amazing views of both sea and city.

An afternoon of curiosities

plaça sant iu
Photo by Eoghan Ó Rónáin

It’s time to move on and grab a bite to eat. 

Cristina Carrisi has a great recommendation for you to fill up the fuel tanks. She’s been here for over two years now, has worked all around the city as a guide, and now also runs operations over at our Barcelona headquarters. In short, she knows this city pretty well.

Here’s where she suggests to go for lunch.

Near the Wax Museum, there’s this square called Plaça de George Orwell, and it’s famous in the Gothic Quarter as a spot to grab a drink in the sun. The energy in this square is amazing. The range of options is endless, and restaurants here are always being updated with fresh and seasonal produce. Me and my friends love to grab a spot out on the terraces and order a few tapas to go with our drinks.”

Palosanto is Cristina’s top recommendation. She says the aubergine in honey and balsamic is delicious, and their pa amb tomaquet is the best in the neighborhood. If you can’t get a seat there, then don’t be afraid to swing ’round to Oviso. They have a terrace right next door. Both places are chock-full of mouth-watering delights.

Once fed and watered, head over to another square, the Plaça de Sant Miquel. This is located by the political heart of the city and is a good place to explore a little deeper. Wander on your own, or follow a guide to see the best spots in two of Barcelona’s most distinctive neighborhoods: El Born and the Gothic Quarter.

casa dels entremesos
Photo by Carlos Carrillo

Our Catalan Traditions Walking Tour lets you dive into Barcelona’s peculiar world of festivals and traditions. Discover how they celebrate throughout the year, meet a few giants, and make a wish under a bridge decked with gargoyles.

Both the Gothic Quarter (or Barri Gòtic) and El Born will give you a taste of local culture, so they’re a great way to wind down your second day in Barcelona. 

But you still have a fun evening ahead of you enjoy a classic Spanish experience — tapas!

Seaside dining at Little Barcelona

Seaside dining at Little Barcelona
Photo by Carlos Carrillo

It’s not the start of the evening. You follow the Via Laietana and make your way across to the portside of the city. It’s time for tapas!

There are loads of places to have tapas in town. We visit some of the best on the Barceloneta Tapas Food Tour. As a bonus, this tour also offers a special look at the neighborhood of Barceloneta. The district is a man-made island meets fishing village with a distinct character. 

Share what you’ve learned from your time in Barcelona, and create new memories as you take in the salty air at seaside eateries. Learn about each unique restaurant and discover the secret of el tapeo, the art of eating tapas.

Personally, this is one of my favorite experiences in the city because not only do you get to discover the world of food with someone who knows how to order (as a local would) but also because of the friends made and stories shared. There are few experiences truly as intimate and engaging as this tour. It really is a glimpse into life as a local inside a quintessentially Catalan neighborhood.

Good night, Barcelona

Good night, Barcelona

Now it’s 10 p.m. The heat of the day has given way to the warm, humid winds of the coastline. 

You have a choice to make. Maybe go back and get some rest. You have to be up early to catch that flight.

Or stay out a while longer and wander further around the enchanting paths this city has carved out for those willing to explore.

You can probably guess which I’d choose.

We look forward to welcoming you to Barcelona!