Ultimate Barcelona itinerary (2 days from €44 per day) for first-time visitors and weekenders.
I know what you are thinking. How can you see all the highlights of Barcelona in 2 days? That can’t possibly be enough to see and do everything in this amazing place. And you’d be right! However, we don’t always get the luxury of spending as much time as we would like in a city. Unfortunately with work, family and other commitments, sometimes all we get is two days to pack in as much as we can.
In fact, when I planned this trip to Barcelona it was to meet up with an old friend from Australia, Tamara. She was flying in from London and only had the weekend free. This was her first time in Barcelona (the third for me) and I was excited to show her around one of my all-time favorite European cities.
So here is what to do in Barcelona for two days with a budget itinerary perfect for first-time visits or weekend trips.
Barcelona itinerary 2 days
Plaça de Catalunya, Centric and Port Barcelona
Tamara and I met at the airport on Friday evening, before traveling in together. Another girl approached us to ask if we would like to split a cab and we agreed. The ride was actually really fun with all of us chatting with the cab driver and hearing about his life in Barcelona (and the many languages that he speaks!). If you are arriving with two or fewer people, then it is definitely more economical to take the Aerobús. This goes from terminals one and two to the city center for just under €6 a ticket.
The Aerobus terminates in Plaça de Catalunya, which is right near our hostel of choice, St Christopher’s Inn. We arrived with our bags and were greeted at reception by Adrian, who would become our new friend and comic entertainment during the stay.
After checking in, we decided to start our night with some tapas and wine. We asked the other hostel receptionist for a recommendation and were pointed towards Centric, a bar across the square. For dinner, we enjoyed patatas bravas (spicy potatoes), artichokes and a squid slider over a bottle of Spanish red wine. I can’t imagine a better way to start a weekend in Barcelona!
Then we took a stroll down the colorful and energetic La Rambla to Port Barcelona for cocktails by the sea. Every time I have gone drinking at a bar in this area, the bartenders have always given out free shots. Talk about a warm welcome to the city.
Day 1 in Barcelona
Park Güell and Gaudi House Museum
Park Güell is a wonderland of Gaudi creations. Originally a private estate, owned by Eusebi Güell, the park was made public in 1926. A large portion of the park is free to enter, wander around and marvel at the magnificence of Gaudi.
To access the Monumental Zone and Gaudí House Museum, you can purchase your tickets online or at the gates. Tamara purchased her double pass to Gaudí House Museum + La Sagrada Familia for €24. If you would prefer to have a live guide, there is a 2-hour tour of Park Güell or a private tour including both as well as Plaza España, the National Palace, and more.
There is definitely something magical about Park Güell. Imagine strolling along the pathways looking at the Gaudi constructions, inspired by nature. Buskers are found around every corner, adding to the ambiance with soothing sounds. And did I mention the views? Make sure to take your camera.
While visiting Barcelona, you are going to see a range of street art from political statements, amusing caricatures, and mind-blowing murals. We had a lot of fun getting lost down back streets and alleys to be surprised by new works of art.
Lunch at Belushi’s bar
After a big morning of exploring, we needed to recharge so we headed back to our hostel, St Christopher’s Inn. Attached to the hostel, is Belushi’s bar. Every morning they serve a continental-style buffet breakfast, complimentary to hostel guests. During the day and nights, guests also receive a 25% discount on food purchases as well as a number of drink specials.
Tamara and I ordered the patatas bravas (the portion was huge!) and two coffees. While enjoying our meal, we began chatting with another guest and decided to all go to the Gothic Quarter together.
La Rambla and Gothic Quarter
La Rambla is great to see by day and night. There is just so much happening that it is hard to know where to look. For me, it really does seem to be the heart of Barcelona, that connects everything, including the Gothic Quarter.
Step off La Rambla and you will immediately find yourself in a different world on winding alleys and quiet plazas. The Gothic Quarter is one of these areas with buildings dating back to medieval times. The architecture is break-taking and will keep you amused for hours, even if you aren’t a history buff.
Lucky for us, Tamara has an interest in art and history and shared all her new found knowledge. If you want all the history, without the effort then you may want to take a guided walking tour of the Gothic Quarter.
Tablao Flamenco de Carmen at Poble Espanyol
The stand out activity of our trip was Tablao Flamenco de Carmen at Poble Espanyol. Located just a short walk from the Montjuïc Magic Fountain, Poble Espanyol is an attraction of Spanish arts, architecture, food, and history, enclosed within tower walls. We arrived thirty minutes before the beginning of the flamenco show and visited some of the artisan shops sampling sangria, cheese, olive oil, and honey from around the country.
At 8:45 pm, we returned to the entrance and were swiftly seated at our stage-side table. We had chosen the ticket options which included a dinner of five tapas, the main course, dessert, coffee, and a choice between sangria or wine. The food was incredibly delicious and plentiful. The tapas included a nice range of cheeses, ham, and seafood, showing off the best that Spain has to offer.
With much excitement and anticipation, the flamenco show soon began. Tablao Flamenco de Carmen is a tribute to the Barcelona-born dancer, Carmen Amaya. The performance is multi-faceted with talented vocalists, musicians, and dancers. In total there were four flamenco dancers, two males, and two females, each with their incredible and individual styles. Tamara and I were both in awe during the performance. It was really very moving and an experience that I won’t forget.
Day 2 in Barcelona
La Sagrada Familia
You can’t come to Barcelona and not see Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia (the sacred family). As this was my third time in the city, I had already been to the church twice. However, this was Tamara’s first and top of her list of things to do. I went along with her and while she explored inside, I walked around taking photos from the park across the street.
There are different price options available, including a fast track entrance ticket (without a guide) or professionally led tour. If you are on a budget and can’t afford an entrance ticket, you can still go and enjoy these incredible views from outside.
Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona
We’ve all heard of Arc de Triomphe in Paris, well, meet the Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona. This was built for the 1888 Universal Exhibition and leads right up to the spectacular Parc de la Ciutadella. Stroll along the paved walkway to take great shots of both the arch and park from either end.
Parque de la Ciudadela and Picasso museum
Parque de la Ciudadela completely surprised me. It is a huge sprawling park, buzzing with activity and merriment. I spent an hour here while Tamara visited the nearby Picasso Museum (€12 entrance or free tickets available for Thursday evenings or the first Sunday of each month. Free tickets must be booked online to avoid missing out). There is plenty to see and do with a grand fountain, public table tennis sets, and lush gardens.
Where to stay in Barcelona: St Christopher’s Inn
Location: Carrer de Bergara, 3, Barcelona, Spain, 08002
We wouldn’t have been able to fit in as many activities as we did if it wasn’t for staying in a central location. One of the reasons that we chose to stay at St Christopher’s Inn is the fact that they are right near Plaça de Catalunya and La Rambla.
There are so many reasons to love St Christopher’s, that it is hard to know where to start! I definitely felt at home here, easily making friends with the reception staff and other guests. The whole vibe of the hostel, bar, and restaurant are very relaxed, fun and social. There is also a “chill out” room where you can go hang out with your new mates or relax while surfing online using the free WiFi.
We stayed in both a private twin room and 8 person dorm (on different nights). The private room came with its own bathroom, terrace, and access to a separate “chill out” room on the 7th floor. The dorm rooms are fitted out with “pod” beds that have their own curtain, lamp and draw to lock up your bags. In both rooms, the beds very comfortable, clean and modern.
St Christopher’s Inn has a variety of rooms available for groups of all types and sizes from mixed dorms, female-only dorms, twin en-suites, as well as 4, 6 and 8-bed private rooms (see current prices for accommodation).
My friend and I were complimentary guests of St Christopher’s Barcelona and Barcelona Tourism, however, my opinion is my own and will always remain unbiased in order to provide the best recommendations to my readers.
Barcelona daily budget (2020 update)
All costs are quoted for one person.
All costs are quoted for two people and in the local currency (EUR). See below for the average daily spend per person including currency conversion to USD and AUD. I always try to find and negotiate the best prices to share with my readers. If you know of a better deal, tell me about it in the comments below.
Food: St Christopher’s Barcelona provides a continental-style buffet breakfast to all their guests. The attached bar and restaurant, Belushi’s, provides a 25% guest discount on food and other drink specials.
Arrival – Tapas and a bottle of wine at Centric (€34), cocktails at Port Barcelona (€48).
Day 1 – Lunch of Patatas Bravas and coffee at Belushi’s bar (€7).
Day 2 – Coffee at the Costa Coffee near La Sagrada Familia (€7), lunch of tapas and wine near Ciudadela Park (€38.45), nachos and 2 jugs of beer at Belushi’s bar (€26.50).
Activities: Although my friend visited the Gaudi House Museum, La Sagrada Familia, and Picasso Museum, I choose to wander around the nearby streets and parks instead.
Transport: Taxi from Airport to Plaça Catalunya (€20), Metro pass x10 rides (€10), Airport bus (€12).
Average daily spend: €44.10 each* ($46.77 USD and $63.37 AUD as of 19 November 2016) excluding accommodation and the Flamenco Show.
*This daily amount could be reduced by purchasing food from supermarkets or local bakeries.
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