As with most of our journeys, this one began well before sunrise so as soon as I buckled my seat belt on the plane I popped on an eye mask and dropped off to sleep. Seemingly moments later G was gently nudging me awake to say that we were coming in for landing.
Flying in over Barcelona we snuck a peek out the window and even got a glimpse of our hotel.
Can you spot it? We stayed at the W Barcelona which is right on the water and rather distinctive in its design.
After checking in and dropping off our bags we raced out to head inland along the beach, eager to get the sightseeing started.
It was a lot cooler than we had thought it would be but we decided to take advantage of the sun being out to get an overview of everything Barcelona has to offer via one of the on/off buses.
I know they’re pretty much the most touristy thing to do but I find them so beneficial! They allow you to get the (literal) lay of the land right at the start of your trip, helping you to see what and where you want to spend your limited time.
I also love that they give you a taste of the local culture with historical facts and music.
We spent the morning hopping on and off the bus, fighting through the crowds at every turn. Just look at this commuter traffic!
We had thought we’d go to Sagrada Familia on the first day but when the bus stopped and we saw that the line wrapped all the way around the cathedral we realised it wasn’t the best idea. Thankfully, we were able to book tickets for the next day once we got back to the hotel.
Important Tip: BUY YOUR SAGRADA TICKETS ONLINE IN ADVANCE HERE. The people we saw in line had to wait up to four HOURS to get in. With our pre-bought tickets we walked up to the gate and went in immediately. With a short trip there’s just no time to waste!
As we emerged from lunch the skies opened up (I’m talking torrential downpour that will soak you to the bone in less than 30 seconds) so we headed Casa Batlló.
Designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, Casa Batlló was built between 1904 and 1906 in the heart of Barcelona and is the most emblematic work of the architect.
The website calls the building ‘a universe of symbolism, a canvas of marine inspiration, a dream world, which evokes nature with its organic elements and is suggestive of fantasy’.
We spent ages happily wandering through the rooms while the rain bucketed down outside.
Emerging into the ‘real’ world we took one last (long) look at the facade before continuing on to wander up and down Barcelona’s streets. The weather got increasingly colder though so we had to concede defeat and head back to the hotel to get warmer clothes.
Emerging bundled up and hungry we grabbed dinner in town before walking along to see Barcelona lit up in the dark.
Eventually our early start caught up to us and we headed back to the hotel where I had the BEST sleep ever in the world’s most comfortable bed, in a room hidden behind cinema-worthy hallways and doors.
With our tickets for Sagrada Familia booked we were up early again to explore the iconic landmark.
Construction of Sagrada Familia began in 1866 and continues to this day, with estimates that it will finally be completed in 2026. It’s unlike any church or cathedral I’ve been to before not just because of it’s truly unique design but also because the church constantly buzzes with the sounds of stone masons and sculptors busily working away.
We entered through the ‘Passion Facade’ which was designed by Josep Subirachs and built between 1978 and 2002. The gothic feel of the facade – which represents the pain and sacrifice of Jesus – is vastly different from the intricacy of Gaudi’s original work.
The views from the bell towers over Barcelona were fantastic.
But the absolute best part of the cathedral is the Nave.
This central body of the temple is made of leaning, tree-like columns whose branches spread across the vast ceiling creating a stone forest. It’s the very definition of ethereal and quickly became one of my favourite places I’ve ever been.
I won’t lie – we spend HOURS here marvelling at the vast size and scale of Sagrada Familia.
We also had fun playing with apps on our phones to get truly one-of-a-kind shots. This cartoon-ised forest is one of my favourites.
Finally dragging ourselves away we headed outside to see the Nativity Facade which has almost 100 different plan and animal species sculpted into the stone.
It was a quick trip to Barcelona but not one we’ll soon forget – if only for the weather! I heartily advise bringing lots and lots of layers and an umbrella if you’re travelling in the fall like we did as you can lose precious time running around trying to buy warmer things.
Sagrada Familia was the clear highlight for me (don’t forget to buy tickets in advance!) but I also really loved wandering along La Rambla (the pedestrian thoroughfare which cuts through the old town) and getting an overview of all the top sites via the open-top bus tour. With so much to see and do it’s impossible to see it all so pick your favourites and don’t rush through them – it is vacation, after all!