Welcome to Barcelona! The palm trees are swaying in the wind, some cool surfers are passing us by on the way to the beach, and there are several plates of Tapas (or, as the locals say, Pintxos) waiting for us to devour them. Barcelona is Spain’s second biggest city, and it’s the capital of the autonomous community of Catalonia, as the cities’ residents will immediately point out to you should you accidentally call them “Spaniards”.
That’s not to say people here aren’t friendly. On the contrary! Barcelonans are a loving bunch, always ready to help you out and extremely welcoming to strangers. The city seems to attract creative people who open up shop left and right. Look forward to some beautiful cafés, great museums and an eclectic mix of old and new. As always on our website, we’ll leave most of the tourist spots out of our guide. Instead, we’ll once again focus on some great spots for food and design, and on some hidden treasures you might otherwise miss out on.
Still, you might wonder about a few locations missing here. Why does it have to be Tapas for dinner? What about the great museums in the city center? And, seriously, how could they visit Barcelona and not go to the beach? Well, we didn’t forget these things. They are up for another 12Hrs guide for another time. But for now, let’s focus on today. We have a lot to do, a lot of great coffees to drink and quite a few meters to walk ahead of us. So put on your sandals and don’t forget the sunscreen, let’s spend 12hrs in Barcelona!
10AM : FEDERAL CAFE
Let’s start at the beginning, with a good breakfast. Barcelona has some great cafés, and it seems like new ones pop up every month. You can get excellent coffee in lots of them, and some delicious cakes and snacks on top. But the one coffee place that stole our hearts more than any other was Federal Cafe. Owned by two Australians and named after a small town down under, Federal has everything we are looking for in a cafe. The staff is friendly, the drinks are amazing, and the space is extremely stylish while still being inviting. It’s located in the up-and-coming district of Sant Antoni. Right around the corner are two other nice cafés, Cafe Cometa and Tarrana. So should all the seats be taken at Federal (did you look upstairs?), you can just head down the street.
Location: Federal Cafe, Carrer del Parlament 39
Timings: Mon-Thu 8am-11pm, Fri 8am-1am, Sat 9am-1pm, Sun 9am-5.30pm
11AM : CARRER DE LA RIERA BAIXA
After breakfast, let’s start exploring. Walk in the direction of the city center, and you’ll soon enter El Raval, a part of the old town known for its diverse population and vivid nightlife. Since it’s a bit too early in the day to start bar hopping, let’s focus on some of the shops around here.
Barcelona is a great city for vintage shopping. And Carrer de la Riera Baixa is one of the best streets to do that. Tucked away in Raval, you can find treasures here that would sell for considerably more elsewhere in the world. Several second hand and vintage stores sell their goods on this street, each one of them with a carefully curated selection of used items, some quirkier than others.
11.15AM : SATAN’S COFFEE CORNER
Although we just had breakfast, we’d be amiss if we didn’t point out two favorites for coffee in this neighborhood. Maybe you can use a second dose of caffeine, maybe you want to save the tips for later, but definitely don’t miss our next two locations.
Pardon the pun, but: don’t get fooled by the name. Satan’s Coffee Corner serves heavenly brew. In fact its owner promises you “the best coffee in town” and we might even agree with him. The tiny shop was founded by Marcos Bartolomé, a barista at Federal Cafe.Satan’s Coffee Corner started out as a little window shop in a gift and stationary shop. By now, it has moved a few houses down into a bicycle shop called Bicious. Bartolomé creates his own blends and names them after rock stars.
Location: Satan’s Coffee Corner, inside Bicious Bicycle Shop, Carrer de la Lluna 3
Timings: Tue-Sat 10.30am-6pm
11.30AM : CARAVELLE
Caravelle, a short walk in the direction of the city center from Satan and his coffee, is another favorite. This is a great place to sit and meet up with friends or work. We loved the look of the place and thoroughly enjoyed it here. This is another cafe that makes great coffee, and the kitchen staff churns out some solid lunch options made from fresh ingredients. But today, we’ll have our lunch somewhere else, so let’s continue exploring.
Location: Caravelle, Carrer del Pintor Fortuny 31
Timings: Mon 7.30am-5pm, Tue-Sun 7.30am-11pm
12PM : CHÖK
Walk all the way across the old town towards La Rambla. This boulevard is one of Barcelona’s main attractions, but we much preferred the smaller streets around it than the crowded and often quite tacky stores on this main street. So instead of tourist masses, we’ll focus on something far more pleasing: Chocolate! Just like us, the owners of Chök can’t get enough of it, so they aptly gave their store the subtitle “the chocolate kitchen” and try to incorporate the sweet stuff in as many gastronomical creations as they can.
When entering the small shop, you’ll immediately be amazed by the donut display. There are pegs coming out of the wall with donuts neatly arranged on them right behind the counter. Chök offers more than just donuts, of course. We had our very first European Cronut here
Location: Chök, Carrer del Carme 3
Timings: Mon-Sun 9.30am-8.30pm
12.30PM : EL BORN CENTRE CULTURAL
Cross La Rambla and walk to our next destination. You are passing through one of Barcelona’s most beautiful areas now, Barri Gòtic (the Gothic Quarter). This is the center of the old town, and most of the houses here date back as far as the Middle Ages or even the time of the Romans. The mood on the streets here is so much friendlier than on the crazy busy Rambla. Take your time to explore a bit, then continue to the area called El Born.
Here, you’ll find some of the more upscale shops and restaurants. But first, some culture. From the outside, you could easily mistake the Born Centre Cultural for yet another of Barcelona’s many beautiful food markets. But step inside, and you’ll be surprised. It’s an excavation site and a museum, showcasing centuries of Catalan history and giving you a glimpse in the storied history of the region.
Location: El Born Centre Cultural, Plaça Comercial 12
Timings: Tue-Sun 10am-8pm
1.15PM : DOMÉSTICO SHOP
Back outside, take a peek into Gidlööf, a shop that sells upscale Scandinavian vintage furniture. Then, let’s go to our last stop in the area.
Doméstico Shop sells furniture and design objects, and we just loved their selection. They sell the classics from Vitra as well as very contemporary designs, mostly by Scandinavian producers and brands. Even if you’re traveling and obviously won’t be buying any large items for your home, don’t miss out on this one. We promise you you’ll find something you’ll love!
Location: Doméstico Shop, Pl. St. Augustí Vell
Timings: Tue-Fri 10.30am-2.30pm & 4.30pm-8.30pm, Sat 11.30am-3pm, Sun 4pm-8.30pm
2PM : SPLASH
Time to grab some lunch! Take the L1 subway train from the nearest station, Urquinaora, two stops to Universidad. While you are walking to lunch, make sure to pass the Carrer Diputació and have a look inside house number 199. You’ll find Splash, the most beautiful Laundromat we have ever seen. It looks more like a nightclub, actually. And while we don’t propose that you wash your clothes now, you’d be missing out if you wouldn’t see this shop. But now: food!
Splash: Carrer Diputació 199
Timings: Mon-Sun 8am-10pm
2.10PM : OVAL
Fancy burger restaurants are all the rage right now, we know, but hear us out. Because hands down, Oval serves the best burgers in Barcelona. And this is not your typical burger shack. Instead, it’s a beautifully designed restaurant with a great selection of local wines that just happens to serve meat on buns. But what you put on them, and how it will be served to you is completely up to you. You have the choice between beef, chicken or veggie patties, you pick the bread you prefer (or choose your burger “naked” without any) and then you accessorize your meal until it meets (and exceeds) your expectations. Put fancy Iberico ham on it, or goat cheese, or garnish it with mushrooms and avocado. There are plenty of fresh, homemade sauces to choose from. Once your order arrives, you will have forgotten about all the other burgers you had recently. And do yourself a favor and order the sweet potato fries. You will thank us!
Location: Oval, Carrer de València 199
Timings: Sun-Wed 10am-12.30am, Thu-Sat 10am-2am
3.15PM : LOKAVORE
Before we continue our sightseeing tour, pay a quick visit to Lokavore not far from here. As the name implies, this grocery shop only sells local produce and items from the area around Barcelona. Even though you’re probably far from hungry after your big lunch, it’s a joy to look what’s on the shelves here. There are some amazing wines for very little Euros, oils, sweets, fresh vegetablas and the obligatory canned fish that is so typical for this region. Maybe do some souvenir shopping here?
If you prefer some more traditional sightseeing, head around the corner to have a quick look at Casa Batlló, the most famous of several apartment buildings by Antoni Gaudí. The lines outside are always long and the entrance fee quite steep, so we’ll skip this one and instead will have a look at some other building by the famous architect next.
Location: Lokavore, Carrer Mallorca 241
Timings: Mon 4pm-9pm, Tue-Sat 10am-9pm
4.15PM : PARK GÜELL
Take the L3 train from Diagonal to Lesseps to get to Park Güell. Once you step out of the train, don’t only follow the signs up to the park. Instead, turn left before they tell you to in order to avoid the big and noisy main street. Your general direction is up, and almost all the roads that lead up the hill will get you there. This area is called Gràcia and used to be a village before it was swallowed up by the big city. Lots of its charm is still intact, though, so enjoy your walk and take in the sights.
The streets are getting steeper and steeper as you climb up the hill and eventually join the designated tourist route again. Luckily, there are escalators to help you with the ascend. You’ll be happy to see them.
Barcelona’s most famous son is probably Antoni Gaudí. The artist and architect left his mark all over the city and is responsible for some of the city’s most popular sights. Park Güell is one of them. Sitting on top of the hill El Carmell, this giant garden complex is not your average park. Scattered throughout it are colorful little houses, terraces and statues in the shapes of animals. The whole place looks like a real-world Disneyland for kids and art lovers alike. There is tons to explore here and the park offers magnificent views over the city. If you do want to explore Park Güell, buy your tickets online prior to your visit to save time and money.
Location: Park Güell, Carrer d’Olot
Timings: March 24th-April 30th 8am-8pm, May 1st-October 26th 8am-9.30pm, October 27th-March 23rd 8.30am-6pm
5.30PM : LA SAGRADA FAMÍLIA
A bit of a walk away, but still quite close lies Barcelona’s most famous sight and arguably Gaudí’s biggest achievement, the Sagrada Família. This world-famous basilica is really worth seeing, even if you usually show no interest in visiting churches.
Even though he wasn’t even the one that was originally tasked with its construction, Antoní Gaudi soon took over the project and made it his own. Built in the styles of Gothic Revival and Modernism, the Sagrada Família took over 100 years to be built, and it is still far from being finished. Once the building is completed, though, it will have 18 towers and will stand even taller. Don’t worry about the construction cranes, this is still one of he most impressive buildings in the whole of Spain (and possibly the world). The entrance fee is 14.80 Euro (without access to the towers), but it’s definitely worth it. If you just pay to see one monument in Barcelona, make it this one! Again, purchase your tickets online if you can, that way you can avoid the long lines. Inside, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking interior. Colorful windows, delicate facades and intricate stone carvings. Don’t forget to look up! The ceiling is stunning.
Location: La Sagrada Família, Carrer de Mallorca 401
6.30PM : ENCANTS BARCELONA
One last stop before we take a much needed break. You can walk here (that’s what we did) or take a bus, but don’t miss out on the Market del Encants. It’s one of Europe’s oldest markets and Barcelona’s biggest. Vendors have been selling their goods here since the 14th century, and to this day it gets very busy here during market days. This area of town has seen a lot of new development with impressive new architecture. Luckily, the city planners have dedicated lots of space to Encants and its more than 500 vendors and built a shiny new home for it. Housed under an impressive, mirrored roof that covers the stalls in waves, you find everything you might ever need – from Paella pans big enough to feed a whole village to vintage furniture and clothes.
Location: Encants Barcelona, Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes
Timings: Mon & Wed & Fri & Sat 9am-8pm
8PM : HOTEL VUELING BCN BY HC
From here, you can take the metro L1 right to Urgell. Let’s head to the hotel to take a break from all the exploring. There is a reason this place is called like an airline: it’s part of one. Hotel Vueling BCN by HC is operated by Hotels Catalonia (hence the “by HC” byline) but it’s part of the Vueling family. And in Barcelona, they opened their first hotel.
Its location is great for exploring, and we loved to stay here. Each room represents a different holiday destination, although except for the big photo over the bed, nothing changes from Paris to Porto. The airline theme continues all the way through the building. The reception is a check-in counter, the restaurant has little fake airplane windows and breakfast is served in “La Terminal”.
Come back here to unload the souvenirs you might have bought today, maybe take a dip in the pool and relax a bit before dinner. No need to hurry, Spaniards eat late.
Location: Hotel Vueling BCN by HC, Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 550
9.30PM : LOLITA TAPERÍA
No visit to Barcelona is complete without eating lots and lots of Tapas. The little Spanish dishes come in many shapes and forms, and countless restaurants around town serve them every night. So let’s have some! Our favorite Tapas restaurant by a mile is Lolita Tapería. The place is a bar, a vermouthery, a restaurant and a bistro all in once and serves a big selection of small plates. We tried to sample as many items from the menu as we could manage, and each one of them was delicious! Some of our favorites were the Iberic croquettes, tuna loin in Ponsu and the small burger of the day with Kimchi. Make sure to ask for the daily specials!
If you haven’t done so yet: Now is the time to order a glass of Cava or two and have a toast. You just spend 12hrs in Barcelona! Salut!
Location: Lolita Tapería, Carrer de Tamarit 104
Timings: Tue-Thu 7pm-12am, Fri & Sat 1pm-4pm & 7pm-2am