Barcelona Holidays & City Breaks

Barcelona holidays are a fusion of laid-back beach days and vibrant city life. Set on Spain’s northeast coast with a balmy Mediterranean climate, you're guaranteed sunshine too, making it the perfect setting for sightseeing or relaxing on its golden sands. It’s also home to centuries of history, so when you’re not exploring Gaudi’s modernist spectacles you could be getting lost in the medieval streets of the Gothic Quarter. Now throw in tasty Catalan dishes, one of the world’s most famous football stadiums and amazing green spaces, and you’ve got a city that ticks all the boxes.

6 reasons to visit Barcelona

  • Food glorious food: Start your day with freshly baked bread drizzled in olive oil and smeared with tomatoes (pantumaca), before digging into vegetable stew (escudella) for lunch. As for dinner, it has to be coca! Resembling a mini pizza, this flatbread is usually topped with roasted vegetables and sausage. 
  • The perfect beach & city combo: If you want the best of both worlds, Barcelona holidays won’t disappoint. Think cutting-edge architecture, trendy fashion stores and narrow cobbled streets fronted by three miles of sun-soaked coastline. 
  • Awe-inspiring Gaudi architecture: No trip to Barcelona is complete without admiring the world-renowned Sagrada Familia (let’s face it, you can’t miss it!), quirky Casa Battlo and Park Guell, just some of Antoni Gaudi’s stand-out creations. 
  • Historic city centre: It’s easy to lose yourself in Barcelona’s Gothic quarter, and trust us, you want to! These maze-like streets hide some of the city’s oldest restaurants such as Can Culleretes, as well as cocktail lounges, a jaw-dropping 13th-century cathedral and one of Gaudi’s first projects (the street lamps decorating Plaça Reial, one of Spain’s grandest squares). 
  • An epic art scene: Whether you’re searching for Picasso masterpieces, murals by Miro or contemporary pieces by independent artists, you’re not short of exhibits to visit. From the Centre of Contemporary Culture to the National Art Museum of Catalonia.
  • Football famous: The largest stadium in Europe with a capacity of 100,000, the atmosphere at Camp Nou is electrifying. Catch FC Barcelona in action or bag yourself an exclusive tour. But for trophies, memorabilia and football shirts worn by sports legends, be sure to make a pitstop at its museum. 
     

Last minute Barcelona breaks

Desperate for a dose of Spanish sunshine? Our last minute Barcelona city breaks combine architectural marvels with sunbathing stints. 

The airport is just a short drive to the centre which means you can start exploring as soon as you land. Spontaneous couples will love jetting off at short notice, while families waiting to whisk the whole clan away can take full advantage of our amazing late deals. 

Weekend breaks to Barcelona

Barcelona has everything you need for a short break. Just over two hours’ flight time from London, you can be in this Spanish hotspot on Friday evening and back home by Monday morning.

Barcelona weekend breaks should give you enough time to see the best of what the city has to offer, whether you’ve come here to shop in its high street boutiques, tick off its must-see architecture, or top up your tan onits sprawling sands. And if you’re holidaying as a family, you’re just a short train journey from PortAventura, one of Europe’s biggest theme parks. 

Things to do

Barcelona is the ultimate city break destination, surrounded by mountains on one side and the sea on the other. And there are more than enough attractions to fill a long weekend. Walk streets perfect for shoppers and sightseers, where trendy boutiques sit close to Gaudi’s modernist masterpieces and centuries-old churches. It’s right by the Med too, so you can tick off the capital’s biggest sights in the morning and hit the beach in the afternoon. Then, when you’ve had enough sun for one day, there are plenty of waterside restaurants serving tasty Catalan seafood. Whatever it is you want from your next city break, Barcelona has it by the bucketload.

A vibrant beach scene

Cool off in the sea atone of Barcelona’s stunning beaches, which you can enjoy from March to November. La Barceloneta is the city’s answer to Miami’s South Beach. There’s always something going on along this four-kilometre-long stretch and its buzzing boardwalk is the perfect place to take it all in with restaurants, cafes and chiringuitos (beach bars) overlooking its sands. 

If you want to try some watersports on your Barcelona city break, look no further than Nova Icària. Windsurfing is a must on breezy Med days, while a SUP adventure is a great way to take in the city’s skyline from the water. Prefer your beach days a little bit more peaceful?  Then, hop on the metro to Bogatell. This Blue Flag beauty is great for relaxing dips and games of volleyball. Once your batteries are recharged, wind down with a drink in La Rambla or the Gothic Quarter.

Cultural treasures

Barcelona’s culture starts with its architecture. From medieval to modernist, the city is the perfect blend of old and new. Fans of Gaudi shouldn't miss a chance to see the skeleton balconies of Casa Batlló and his unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia. But the hillside Park Güell is like stepping inside the artist’s weird but wonderful imagination. From a dragon fountain to an elephant cave and his former home, this iconic green space is one of a kind. For more art-filled attractions, make sure you squeeze in a trip to the Contemporary Art and Picasso Museum.

Over in Ciutat Vella (Old City) you’ll find some of Europe’s best-preserved landmarks. Standing high above the ancient streets, you can’t miss Barcelona Cathedral - the centrepiece of the Gothic Quarter. Besides its well-known buildings, there’s no better way to see the city like a local than a shopping trip at at the Mercat de la Boqueria food market, or watching a home game at the 100,000-seater Camp Nou Stadium.

Catalan roots

Barcelona’s Catalonian origins are an important part of the city. From its own history, language and cuisine, there are so many ways to absorb this unique culture. Festivals are big here, with celebrations across just about every neighbourhood. Plan your Barcelona holidays in autumn and attend two of its biggest events: National Day of Catalonia (11th September) and La Mercè (24th September). Alternatively, food is another great way to get a taste of the city’s Catalan traditions. Look out for popular dishes like escalivada (roasted red peppers, aubergineand onions) or butifarra (a spiced sausage) for the most authentic dining experience.

More travel guides

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Map of Barcelona

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10-24 ℃

Barcelona is a year-round destination with warm summers, cooler winters and no weather extremes.

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Barcelona-El Prat Airport (BCN) is 13km southwest of the city centre.

Barcelona is best for...

Football fans: Home of the mighty Barcelona FC, there’s nothing quite like watching a game at Camp Nou. Even if you’re not a fan, the post-match atmosphere is amazing. While those who don’t manage to get tickets will be just as happy walking in the steps of icons like Messi with an all-access tour of this spectacular stadium.

Night owls: Barcelona city breaks have it all when it comes to nightlife, with each neighbourhood tailored to a different party scene. Soak up the sun from portside beach bars, take in the skyline from rooftop terraces, or hunt down those tucked-away cocktail bars. All before hitting the legendary clubs of course.

Art enthusiasts:  Whether you’re exploring its streets or touring its galleries, Barcelona is bursting with art. See works from one of the most influential artists of the 20th century at the Picasso Museum, or appreciate art through the ages at The National Art Museum of Catalonia, whose displays showcase everything from medieval to avant-garde pieces.

Fast facts for Barcelona

Language: The languages spoken in Barcelona are Catalan and Spanish.  Most people can speak both and will also have a basic understanding of English, particularly those who work in the tourist industry. But the locals will always appreciate any attempts at speaking Spanish, even if it’s just the basics.

Currency: The currency used in Barcelona is the Euro (€)

Local time: Barcelona is 1 hour ahead of GMT/UK time

Fly to: Barcelona-El Prat Airport (BCN), 13km southwest of the city centre

Flight time from UK: 2 hours

Tourist information: Further tourist information can be found at the official website for tourism in Barcelona.

Visa / Health: Before you travel, check the latest advice from The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

 

Getting around Barcelona

By foot: Like a giant open-air museum, there’s no better way to get a feel for the city than by foot, especially for those staying in its compact Old City.

By tourist bus: The Barcelona Bus Turistic has three hop-on/hop-off routes that stop at all its major tourist sites.

By metro: The extensive metro system is efficient, affordable and air-conditioned. It’s also one of the quickest ways to move from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.

By bicycle: You’ll find a number of cycle hire companies dotted around the city, with the option to explore at your own pace or book a tour.

By scooter:  Zip between sights on a scooter, Vespa or even a Segway.

By Uber: Much like at home, Uber operates just the same in Barcelona! Download the app and reserve your ride by simply popping in your location details and desired destination. And if you’re super organised, you can book 30 days in advance. Yep, that’s another option for your airport transfers. 
 

Events in Barcelona

Sónar: Held across three days (and three nights!) in June, Barcelona hosts one of the world’s best dance music festivals. Tickets must be purchased well in advance.

Saintly celebrations: On 24 September, Barcelona honours its patron saint with live music concerts in its plazas, Catalan folk dancing, a parade and a firework display.

Nadal (Christmas): December’s festivities include the Fira de Santa Lucia, a large open-air market. Taking place around the main cathedral, this is a great opportunity to shop for handmade crafts and local decorations including traditional nativity figurines.

 

Barcelona safety and security

For up-to-date advice on travelling to Barcelona, please visit the FCDO website.

Barcelona weather

Temperature: 6 - 29°C

Barcelona’s Mediterranean climate means you can visit most of the year. Heating up in March and typically reaching the mid-teens by the end of the season, spring days are pleasantly warm when the sun is shining. If you’ve booked your Barcelona city break to take advantage of the beach, summer is your best bet with highs often peaking at 29°C and little chance of rain. Culture-seekers may prefer autumn when the city comes alive with music and food festivals. There’s still plenty of sunshine late in the year, but it may start to cool down as winter approaches. Want to avoid the crowds altogether? Book your break in the winter. With average highs of 11°C, make sure you pack for the weather.

 

Best hotels in Barcelona

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FAQs
FAQs
How do you get to and from Barcelona airport?

You can get between Barcelona airport and the city centre in around 20 to 30 minutes depending on your mode of transportation. Here’s the low-down on the most cost-efficient* and quickest routes.   

By taxi: In a hurry? Then you’re in luck. You’ll find black and yellow official taxis just outside the main terminal exits. These run 24 hours a day, so regardless of your flight time you’ll be able to hop in a cab to your hotel. Depending on your desired destination, it’s roughly around €35 (one way) to the city centre. And it’s one of the quickest ways to and from the airport taking around 20 minutes.

By bus: Outside both terminal 1 and terminal 2, you’ll find the Aerobus service, an express option costing around €5.90 for a single ticket and €10.20 return (return tickets are valid for 90 days). This runs every five to 10 minutes.

By train: Operating every 30 minutes, the RENFE train service takes you to the city centre in approx. 25 minutes. Tickets cost €4.60 for a single, or if you’ve got a Barcelona Card you can travel for free. Alternatively, for €5.15 (single) you can hop on the L9 metro link.

By hire car: A hire car is a great option for complete freedom to come and go as you please. And it’s not just the airport journey that will seem convenient. For just over €100 (price based on seven days) you could take on the streets of Barcelona yourself for the entire duration of your holiday! 

*Prices are correct at the time of posting.

What are the top 5 must-sees in Barcelona?

1. La Sagrada Familia: Dominating the skyline of the Catalan capital, this Gaudi creation is one for the bucket list. Despite being unfinished and under construction for nearly 140 years, it’s set to be the world’s biggest church (estimated to be finished in 2026).

2. La Rambla: Undoubtedly one of the most famous streets in Barcelona, stretching from Port Vell to Plaça de Catalunya in the centre. Discover the Liceu Opera House, Canalets Fountain and Boqueria Market, alongside a wide range of shops, flower stands and artwork.

3. Bogatell Beach: This laid-back sand spot sits adjacent to the trendy Poblenou neighbourhood and is backed by tasty tapas bars and chic cocktail venues - do we need to say more? It’s a hit with families too, thanks to its playground and paddle-friendly waters.

4. Picasso Museum: If the name doesn’t state the obvious, this museum was created by Picasso and houses nearly 4,000 of his creations, plus an array of temporary collections. Keep your eyes peeled for free admission days (usually the first Sunday of the month).

5 Mount Tibidabo: For the best views of the city, the highest mountain of the Serra de Collserola range will provide the ultimate panoramas. And for more thrill-seeking (other than the whopping 512 metres), there’s an amusement park dating back to 1899 with over 25 rides!  

What are the top 5 hidden gems in Barcelona?

1. Hospital de Sant Pau: You’re probably wondering why an old hospital would be on any must-visit list, but trust us, once you set your eyes on its beautiful Art Nouveau architecture and decoration, you’ll see exactly why it’s admired. We’re talking tiled domes, stained glass windows, stone carvings and mosaic vaulted ceilings. That’s before we get onto the history!

2. Carmel Bunkers: Go off the beaten track to the top of Turo de la Rovira, which use to be the base for anti-aircraft defences during the Spanish civil war. Now it’s one of the best viewpoints in Barcelona (especially at sunset) with sweeping 360 degree vistas covering everything from the coastline to the Sagrada Familia. And best of all, it’s completely free to visit!

3. Green Spa: All that sightseeing can take quite the toll, so what other excuse do you need for head-to-toe pampering? Eliminate tensions and restore mental and physical balance with a massage, a bio peel facial or green tea body scrub.

4. Casa Vicens: Gaudi’s exquisite work goes beyond the big-name structures. In fact, Casa Vicens was one of his first major projects, a UNESCO-listed site and his private residence. Situated in the neighbourhood of Gracia, you’ll stumble across this Moorish-influenced property dating back to the 18th century. But be sure to step inside to admire its elaborate papier-mache ceiling, a design feature that only Gaudi himself could pull off.

5. Bosc de les Fades (AKA Forest of the Fairies Bar): Transporting you into a fairy tale wonderland complete with woodland creatures, waterfalls, tree branches and most importantly, fairies - it’s definitely a must-visit from the IG feed. And the cocktails get top marks too! 

What day trips can I take from Barcelona?

If you’re planning a holiday to Barcelona, consider adding a few extra days on your trip to explore around the city. Wander just a few hours away and you’ll stumble across a breathtaking mix of cultural and natural wonders, golden beaches, archaeological museums and medieval castles. 

Start off with a Dali-inspired trip to Figueres nestled in the foothills of the mountains. Art fanatics will go wild for the funky creations housed in the iconic Dali Theatre-Museum, while history buffs admire one of the best-preserved 18th-century forts in Europe, Sant Ferran Castle. 

In the countryside, the historic towns of Vic and Manresa inspire visitors with majestic churches, while the quaint village of Sant Cugat del Vallès offers pastoral charm and splendid Romanesque architecture.

Further north, you’ll find the majestic mountain peaks of the Pyrenees and the tiny principality of Andorra, one of the best places to visit in Europe for skiing and hiking. And Tossa de Mar lies only two hours away with its duo breathtaking sand spots, Roman villa remains and fortified Old Town.

What are the mealtimes in Barcelona?

It’s important to recognise the mealtimes in Barcelona, especially if you want to dine like the locals. So here’s everything you need to know about serving times in the city. 

Breakfast: This is usually between 8am and 10:30am, consisting of a coffee and a pasty. And what better way to start your morning than with a sugary churro dipped in chocolate?

Mid-morning snack (Almuerzo): If you’ve had a light breakfast, a small bite to eat such as pintcho de tortilla (a tortilla filled with omelette) and a Spanish sandwich (bocadillo) are typical options. Usually served between 11am and 12:30pm.

Lunch: Follow your morning snack up with some traditional tapas and drinks. Made up of meats, cheese, olives, vegetables and bread, these nibbly bits are often dished out between 1:30pm and 3:30pm.

Late-afternoon snack (Merienda): With dinner being so late, you’ll be feeling peckish around 5pm to 6:30pm. This is the perfect opportunity to sample some local tomato bread or ham croquettes. A coffee and pastry, specifically a palmeras, also goes down a treat in Barcelona!

Dinner: Between 9:30pm and 11:30pm dinner is usually served, so it makes sense to keep it light on the stomach. Menus range from esqueixada, a shredded salt cod salad to roasted veggies aka escalibada.   

Where should I stay in Barcelona?

Whether you find yourself next door to the Gothic Quarter among 14th-century sites, nestled among medieval marvels in Sant Pere or along the bustling street of La Rambla lined with cafes, restaurants and shops, you’re never far from all the action. And if you need help narrowing down your search, here are some of our favourite hotels in Barcelona… 

Best for luxury - Grand Hotel Central: Flaunting 5 stars, a rooftop infinity pool and a trendy sky bar, this boutique hotspot should be on your radar!

Best value for money - Salles Hotel Pere IV: Looking for an ultra-modern stay in the heart of the city without the hefty price tag? Look no further than this 4 star oasis. Take advantage of a spa with sensation showers and sauna, a scrumptious a la carte restaurant and spacious deluxe rooms.

Best for location - Colon: You only have to look outside your window to be greeted by awe-inspiring views of Barcelona Cathedral. With over 70 years of history, this luxurious base has housed big names such as Hemingway and Joan Miro, do we need to say more?

What are the dos and don’ts in Barcelona?

DO… try to adhere to local customs. Remember that locals eat late and some shops will be closed midday for lunch as well as on Sundays.

DON’T… order paella for dinner. You may struggle to find it on the menu in the evening, because it’s considered too heavy for a late meal. It does, however, make the perfect lunch dish!

DO… try to speak some Catalan. You don’t have to be fluent, but knowing a few phrases such as si us plau (please) and gràcies (thank you) will go a long way with the locals.

DON’T… eat and drink on La Rambla. It can cost double if not more, to eat on this tourist-heavy street than to have a meal down one of its neighbouring alleyways.

DO… get lost in the Gothic Quarter. Made up of maze-like streets hiding away cosy cocktail spots and beautiful boutiques, you’ll stumble across some of Barcelona’s most secret gems.

DON’T… go clubbing before 2am. I know, that’s bedtime, right? If you’re looking to party from dusk till dawn, it’s good to know most venues don’t open until midnight, and even then they’re pretty dead until 2am.