I only managed to scratch the surface of Barcelona on my two day stop over, but what I can do is show you what you can see, do and eat in such a limited time.
Barcelona is so rich in culture that it's impossible to absorb it all in just two days. I had made a hit list that I wanted to tick off a few arty things such as seeing some of Gaudi's famous architecture, view some Picasso pieces and try as much food as I could.
I'm happy to say that I did manage to successfully see all of these things, but I have to stress that if you want to fully immerse yourself in all things Barcelona then you need at least four/five days here.
The city has something for everyone - art and architecture - yes, but also cool hipster bars, independent shops hidden in the old town, endless street art and a long stretch of sandy beach. Barcelona is easily explored on foot and that's what I liked the most about it, you can stumble across things you might miss if you were riding the metro.
I spent two nights at The Loft Hostel in the city and the location of this place was perfect. Situated right in the city centre and within walking distance to Sagrada Familia and other Gaudi architectural spots such as Casa Mila were at the end of the street.
The hostel was clean, modern and offered free WiFi and the lounge area was filled with vintage copies of National Geographics - a travellers dream.
Gaudi, Gaudi, Gaudi.
Antoni Gaudi is woven into Barcelona's history and architecture and there is no escaping from it. Even if you don't know much about this architect you can quickly identify his work. All over the city there are parks, cathedrals, palaces, sculptures and even street lights designed by this man.
I started my first morning exploring my neighbourhood and gazing up at my first Gaudi buildings. The Casa Mila and Casa Batllo are very close to each other and you can visit inside them both.
The Casa Batllo is very popular and I'd recommend booking your tickets online before your visit, if you wait until the day tickets may be sold out. Allow 1 hour to see inside this unique building and there is the option of having an interactive audio guide to help you understand the creations a bit more.
Casa Mila is a bit less understated from the outside street view, but once you go inside and look up at the courtyard and see the staircase you can begin to appreciate why Gaudi was so highly praised.
I didn't pay for entrance into Casa Mila but you can see some aspects of it if you enter into the gift shop and at the front entrance. The entrance fee into anything with Gaudi's name on it isn't cheap. Choose wisely which ones you want to go inside of if you are on a budget.
Another central Gaudi hot spot is probably the most famous building in all of Barcelona - Sagrada Familia I made it over here on my second morning and the first sighting is always exciting and in a way it reminds me of when you first glimpse the Eiffel Tower.
You'll know you are getting close to it as the vast amount of people, tour buses and tat sellers soon give it away. It is a UNESCO world heritage site after all...
Sagrada Familia is a masterpiece and you can stare at the exterior for quite some time. Walk all the way around and see the 18 towers that Gaudi planned, each one different. The gardens all around offer a chance to sit down and take in this sight.
The most fascinating thing is that this church is still unfinished, construction began in 1882 and Gaudi died before he would ever see his creation completed. Over 4 million people visit this site annually and I feel that you cannot visit Barcelona without seeing it.
However, the cost is not cheap, basic standard tickets start from £15.00 and that does not include a guide, or entrance into one of the towers. To see interiors of the towers then expect to pay upwards of £30.
If you want a view of the Barcelona skyline then save your money here and visit another Gaudi masterpiece - Park Guell.
Park Guell is a public park filled with beautiful well manicured gardens, and Gaudi designed features. The park is perched high up on Carmel Hill which offers great views across the city and to the coast. I took the metro to this area, which again has elements of art in the metro stations. The climb up the hill is quite steep but it's worth it for the view at the top. Once you've caught your breath look out for the rock pillar walkway designed to look like tree trunks, and the detailed mosaic sculptures all around the park. The Greek theatre area is an intricately decorated outdoor theatre with breathtaking views (Also a perfect lunch spot I may add).
Entrance to the park is free but there are some aspects you have to pay for such as Casa Museo Gaudi (Museum house) which was where he lived for 20+ years. The Monumental Core hosts the famous pavilions, iron gates shaped into palm trees and the Dragon themed stairway. Tickets are available at the gate, but you are better pre booking online and skipping the queue. Prices start from £7.50.
My first taste of the Barcelona food scene did not disappoint.
Across the street from the hostel there was one of the best bakeries I'd ever tried. Seriously. My partner who was with me is a big bread fiend and he adored this place too.
Baluard Barceloneta offered sweet pastries, rich chocolate croissants and Mediterranean salt crusted breads which were baked in a wood fired oven. I just couldn't get enough. I'd go back to Barcelona just for this bakery alone.
The big thing in Spanish food culture is tapas. Small plates of food designed to be shared. They can vary from region to region and I was eager to see what Barcelona was offering. If you are unsure of what to order, just explain to your waiter how much you are willing to spend and they will deliver a host of small dishes for you to try. I indulged in the classics such as "Bombas"- ball shaped croquette served with garlic allioli and a rich spicy sauce. Also some "Pa amb all i oil" - simple baguette slices smothered in an intense garlic mayonnaise. "Albondiagas" which are essentially small Spanish meatballs made with pork and beef in a tomato sauce. I also could not resist the "Chorizo al vino" mini chorizo sausages slow cooked in red wine.
I also ordered some "Jamon Iberico" - some thinly sliced, high quality cured ham and "Machego" Spanish sheeps cheese. A classic combo!
I can't remember the particular restaurant that I had this tapas set, however the city has literally hundred of places to choose from. If you want to try the fresh seafood on offer then head down near the beach front. Fresh king prawns, "Chipirones" small fried squid and black cod seemed to be a popular choice. I stopped off for an afternoon snack in the Gothic quarter where I tried the well known "Patatas Bravas" which are potatoes fried in olive oil and served with a paprika and chilli sauce. Simple, but really great with a cooling cocktail.
That's another thing Barcelona gets right is the bar scene. If you are a cocktail lover, wine drinker or just after a refreshing beer, the city offers outdoor seating where you can sit, relax and watch the world go by. The best mojito's we had were randomly found in a Vietnamese restaurant in the Gracia district.
The Gothic Quarter
My first evening was spent wandering the winding streets of the Gothic Quarter "Barric Gotic" which is quite a labyrinth of small alleyways, churches and squares. Barcelona Cathedral is also in this area, and was built way back in the 13th century. The area is also good if you want to do some retail therapy, of course there are the large chain shops such as H&M, Zara and Nike but the Gothic quarter offers a range of independent shops and small boutiques which sell handmade items such as jewellery and art. There are many florists and plant shops abundant with cactus and succulents in this area too.
Our plans centred around visiting the Pablo Picasso museum and to my delight the museum is free on a Thursday evening from 6.00pm - 9:30pm. You have to book a space online, but the entrance is free.
I'm not the biggest Picasso fan, and in all honesty some of his pieces are just ...EH?
However, Picasso did spend several years living in Barcelona and the collection and path through the museum is chronological. We all associate Picasso's work with the abstract paintings and Cubism but early on in his career you will see a difference in his work. The museum is situated inside the Old Town's city walls and is set in the Gothic style "Palace Aguilar" which has small inner courtyards and staircases all over the museum.
I have to admit, prior to our evening visit my partner and I had indulged in a few mojitos and once we'd stepped inside we were quite giddy. Some pieces of his art really made me chuckle, especially the portraits he made of his lovers (some really unflattering ones). Nonetheless the museum is worth a visit to see where Picasso started and where his talent took him. Also the gift shop at the end was quite interesting with some unique finds.
As you may well know I run an Instagram account based around street art and urban photography @streetartography so I wanted to seek out the best of Barcelona's street art and found through research that the best area was in Gracia. I loved this neighbourhood, it was very bohemian and the streets were different to anywhere else in the city. This area was kept separate from the city of Barcelona until 1897 and you can feel that it has it's own character.
Catalan flags adorn the balconies and windows and you feel the pro-independence vibes loud and clear. The street art did not disappoint, from the typical urban graffiti and stencils to the colourful murals and tiles in the traditional Spanish style. One artist who I kept finding in the alleyways was "Axe Colours" who paints bright pop art style.
During my trip to the city I felt it necessary to walk down the Las Ramblas, the street is quite touristy but I wanted to see what the fuss was about. The street is filled with street performers, human statues and street vendors selling a variety of items from fake football shifts and designer handbags. The top end of the La Ramblas has a beautiful fountain and is the perfect place to sit and listen to the live music playing in the background. The street is lined with cafes, shops and food markets (La Boqueria Market). You can walk the length of the street right to the bottom where you will find a statue of Christopher Columbus and arrive at the Port of Barcelona and the seafront.
Time your visit for around sunset and you'll catch a really nice glow over the sea. The beach area is busy, but is a nice way to end your day.
I hope I gave you a brief insight into what Barcelona has to offer and as I said I feel that I only managed to see a little taster.