Barcelona Holidays & City Breaks

Barcelona Holidays & City Breaks

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Barcelona holidays offer the best of both worlds: lazy days on the beach and the buzz of a city alive with energy. Nestled on Spain's northeastern coast, the city boasts a warm Mediterranean climate, making it ideal for sightseeing amidst sunny days or unwinding on its golden beaches. Barcelona is steeped in history, so in between marvelling at Gaudi's architectural wonders, you can wander the charming, medieval streets of the Gothic Quarter. Add to that the delicious flavours, one of the most iconic football stadiums in the world, and beautiful parks, Barcelona city breaks have something to offer everyone.

Catalan roots

Barcelona's soul is undeniably Catalan. Its unique culture can be seen in everything from its distinct language and culture to its mouthwatering cuisine. You can immerse yourself in the vibrant local scene by attending one of the city's many festivals. Alternatively, embark on a culinary adventure and savour the essence of Catalonia on your plate. Sample traditional dishes like escalivada (roasted vegetables) or butifarra (spiced sausage) for an authentic taste of the region.

Best things to do in Barcelona

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. Stroll along pedestrian friendly streets where trendy shops mingle with Gaudi's architectural wonders and ancient churches. The best part? Beach time! The Mediterranean is on the doorstep, so you can conquer Barcelona's must-sees in the morning and be lounging on the sand by afternoon.  

From medieval to modernist, the city is the perfect blend of old and new. Barcelona, the city of Gaudi is home to his unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia, scheduled for completion in the next few years. Fans shouldn't miss a chance to see the skeleton balconies of Casa Batlló and Casa Mila. But the hillside Park Güell is like stepping inside the artist’s weird but wonderful imagination. For more creative masterpieces make sure you squeeze in a trip to the Contemporary Art and Picasso Museum.

Over in Ciutat Vella (the 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 the Mercat de la Boqueria food market, or watching a FC Barcelona home game at the Camp Nou Stadium.

La Barceloneta is the city’s answer to Miami’s South Beach. There’s always something going on along this 4km long stretch. Craving fresh seafood after a day of sun?  Waterfront restaurants line the coast, ready to tantalise your taste buds with Catalan specialties. Once your batteries are recharged, wind down with a drink on La Rambla or in the Gothic Quarter.

Hotels in Barcelona

Whether you’re looking for a cheap hotel in Barcelona, or looking to book Hilton Barcelona, we have a wide selection of hotels in Barcelona for you to choose from.

Map of Barcelona

10-24 ℃

Barcelona's Mediterranean climate allows for year-round Barcelona holidays.

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2 hours

Barcelona Airport, also known as El Prat (BCN) is 15km 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 hotels, cafes and restaurants. 

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

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

Fly to: Barcelona Airport, also known as El Prat (BCN) is 15km southwest of the city centre. Note the airport has two terminals that are 4km apart. If you're catching the bus from the city centre to the airport take the A1 bus for terminal 1 and the A2 for terminal 2. There’s also a rail service to and from Barcelona Sants station, which connects with the L3 and L5 Metro lines.

Flight time from UK: 2.25 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 in its compact Old City.

By tourist bus: The Barcelona Bus Turistic has two hop-on/hop-off routes that stop at  the main tourist sites.

By metro: The extensive metro system is efficient, affordable and air-conditioned. It’s also one of the quickest ways to move between the city's many districts. Download the handy app to plan your routes. It works offline too - perfect if you don’t have roaming included in your mobile plan.

By cable car: To get to the hilltop Montjuïc Castle ascend one of the two cable car systems. You’ll also benefit from magnificent views across the city and beyond. 

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.

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 go on sale in September, but don’t normally sell out until much closer to the time.

La Mercè: 21-24 September is when Barcelona honours its patron saint with live music concerts in its plazas, Catalan folk dancing, a parade, daring human towers and a firework display.

Nadal (Christmas): December’s festivities include the Fira de Santa Lucia, a large open-air market. Taking place around Barcelona 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: 15 - 30°C
Barcelona's Mediterranean climate allows for year-round Barcelona holidays. Summer offers perfect conditions for beach enthusiasts, with highs soaring to 30°C. Enjoy ample sunshine even as October approaches, though you may need a jacket at night as autumn settles in. March and April offer mild temperatures, plus a chance to escape the crowds.

Best hotels in Barcelona

Places similar to Barcelona to visit

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 €6.75 for a single ticket and €11.65 return (2023 prices). When travelling back to the airport, catch the A1 bus for terminal 1 or the A2 bus for terminal 2.

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! 

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 pincho de tortilla (Spanish omelette) and a Spanish sandwich (bocadillo) are typical options. Usually served between 11am and 12:30pm.

Lunch: Follow your morning snack, fill 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.