48 Hours in Barcelona: Solo Travel Guide
48 Hours in Barcelona as a solo traveller
Travelling solo conjures different feelings. The ability to wander a location at your own pace, determination without compromising to the want of others. Do you want to sleep in, get up early, eat breakfast in the hotel or explore the local markets? Solo travel is self-indulgence defined that allows you to plan as you want but affords the flexibility for spontaneity.
City breaks over weekends are a good introduction to solo travel. Barcelona is an iconic city big enough to fill a long weekend but small and accessible enough. This isn’t just a sweeping statement. Over 9 million people visit Barcelona annually with a city population of less than 2 million! making it the most visited city in Spain and one of the most visited places on Earth.
With so much to do, we wanted to provide you with our guide from the perspective of a solo male and female traveller. This guide blends options that you won’t find in your usual airport guide together with some classic, timeless favourites. Read below to find out what you need to know before you go and while you’re there.
Iconic city and the perfect city break for solo travel. Also a good launchpad to the wider surrounding area of Spain.
Highly-connected to other European and global cities
Foodie heaven city with great tapas, 22 Michelin starred & 4 Worlds Best restaurants
Beach city with great tour options
Pick-pocketing can be a problem
Accommodation can be pricey but multiple value points exist
Too touristy for intrepid travellers
What You Need To Know BEFORE You Go to Barcelona
You should always check out the safety of anywhere in which you plan to travel especially as a solo traveller. Travelling solo is liberating but you do not have ‘safety in numbers’ working in your favour when riding solo. Safety is also one of those places where men and women can feel differently.
She Said:I did not feel like I was in danger at any time while in Barcelona. On the surface, it is not obvious that Barcelona is a keen pick-pocket city. I hardly made it into the city when my taxi driver from the airport warned me about the pick-pocket risk. Being a woman I carry a bag with me most of the time. In busy market areas like La Rambla, I kept my bag and wallet super close to me. Popular tourist spots are also popular with pickpockets.
I did not expect to be offered drugs on the street daily. It was not aggressive and it was pretty obvious as you walked towards them what they were doing there. There was a clear request to buy weed from pushers on the street. It was not intimidating; it was just unwelcomed.
He Said: Barca is a notorious pickpocket city which means you need to have your wits about you. I usually travel with a camera bag packed with equipment when I solo travel. I am self-conscious about this in more dangerous cities like Rio de Janeiro. In Barcelona, I usually leave some cards and cash in my hotel room just in case my wallet is involuntarily lifted from my person.
I never felt like I was in danger but I agree with Laura that the drug pushers are obvious in the Passeig de Gràcia area and La Rambla. I am not phased by drug pushers coming from the West Indies and these guys remind me of similar visits to Lisbon, Portugal.
You may want to be more careful about travelling around or on routes to Camp Nou, the world-famous Barcelona FC stadium and grounds just west of the main city.
Uber: The Situation
She said: Uber is suspended in Barcelona at the time of writing this article. Instead, there is an app called Taxi Ecológic which you can use as a smartphone-based solution. Taxi prices from the airport are about €30 to/from the city.
Bring or Buy?
Sometimes we do not buy everything we need before a trip because we run out of time or we think the things we need will be cheap and accessible at our destination. How does this stake up for Barcelona?
She said: Sephora is stupid expensive but it has a slide fro the entrance down into the store so there’s that! My firm advice to the ladies is to bring your toiletries. Tampons are crazy expensive in comparison to England as a benchmark. Tampons were €5 for 12 and even €7 in some places. By comparison, the same brand and size if £2 vs 12 in the UK. Also, shampoos, conditioners, shower gel etc is all ridiculously expensive etc. Everything is just more expensive in Barcelona vs the price I would pay for it at home. I would bring whatever I need for a trip the next time I come to Barcelona.
He said: Barcelona is too close to the airport to allow you to lawfully fly drones in the city. All of Barcelona is a no-fly zone. This is terrible given the potential amazing shots available of the Gothic District, Gaudi architecture, beaches and more! Some drone photographers do take the risk. I was well advised by local drone photographers not to take a chance especially as my drone is noticeable. Also, I was advised that locals are sensitive to drones and would likely complain to Police nearby. Local drone photographers told me that the Police do fine people and the fines are STEEP. You can see my views about which drone is right for you here.
Being Plus-Sized & Being in Barcelona
She said: I never felt uncomfortable during my time in Barcelona being plus-sized walking around. Yet, there were outfits that I packed for my extended weekend stay that never left my suitcase. Occasionally some looks felt judgmental from local women. I am not being paranoid. You can tell when someone looks at you admirably, with curiosity or negatively. These looks were negative and judgmental. This was not my experience across all of Barcelona and you could say this is true of many cities. I am saying that I sensed it from some women.
I did not feel comfortable wearing a crop top and jeans. I planned to wear short skirts for evening out but I never wore them. I also took shorts prepared for warm weather but it turns out it was not that warm during the first week of March!
I brought a bikini to wear by the hotel pool with shorts and some cover-ups. There were a few people around by the pool the day I went so I just returned to my room. I am not a shy person. I regularly advocate for beauty diversity and inclusion, especially for plus-sized women. For 2020 International Women’s Day, I stood on Tower Bridge in London in a bikini receiving car honks and admiration from women for being me.
My feeling is there is something about Barcelona that just did not feel inclusive to plus-sized women.
Travel & Flights
He said: I live in Dubai so Emirates is my preferred carrier whenever possible. Luckily, there are two direct flights a day from Dubai to Barcelona! The flight time is between 6.5 to 7.5 hours so I fly economy and book that extra legroom in the bulkhead or the exit row. Mrs EatGoSee hates these seats because you cannot keep your handbag with you for take-off and landing. I love these seats because of the additional legroom. The TV screen is a lot smaller. I recommend the second flight because, at the time of writing, this is an Airbus whereas the early morning flight is a 777. This means the Airbus has more modern features too like a better TV screen, USB charger and an international electric socket. Click here to see more SeatGuru.com.
She said: I took two different airlines to return from London Gatwick but there are multiple flights from almost every London airport to Barcelona. It is an easy 2.5 hours between the cities making it an ideal city break for Londoners.
EasyJet flies directly several times a day to Barcelona from London. I felt the seats were unusually narrow. Some online research shows that the EasyJet Airbus A320 is a narrow seat of 18 inches width in order to fit more seats on the plane. WHO IS 18 INCHES WIDE?! I am a plus-sized curvy girl but not super plus-sized. The point is that curvier or more fuller figured women may not enjoy squeezing their assets into an 18-inch seat. Now I have 52 inches hips and bust with “all that back” to match. This means the seat belt was tight and I squeezed into the seat. I did not need a seat belt extender but there was a moment when I was seriously concerned that I would need one!
I returned to London on Vueling airlines which were considerably more comfortable! This is another budget airline but not obviously so. The seat belt was fine with plenty of room. The legroom was great! It reminded me of flying Virgin Atlantic or British Airways. The service was great despite seriously concerning online reviews about the airline. I would fly Vueling again especially over EasyJet if given the choice.
Staying in Barcelona
Iberostar Selection Paseo de Gràcia is located within Passeig de Gracia with superb service and modern spacious rooms. The hotel pool has views in the city. It is a great stay and I would come back here again.
Location – Passeig de Gracia
In many ways this is the centre of the universe for short Barcelona stays. Some of the best sites, bars, hotels and restaurants are within moments of this location. There are great transport routes too and, of course, a giant Apple Store which, for me, is always a plus!
Exe Catalyuna: this is a decent budget option for people who want a great location but they are prepared to compromise on luxuries in order to find a decent price point. The rooms are a little utilitarian but the showers are roomy, wifi is fast and reliable and the reception is helpful. If you will sightsee most of the day and you just want to drop your bags somewhere, this is a strong option for people.
Location – Olympic Area / Beach SeekersHotel Arts Barcelona is a popular luxury hotel within an enviable location overlooking La Barceloneta Beach and some of the city centre. You will want to get a panoramic view room or a deluxe sea view room.
Being a solo traveller means that tours help you meet other people and often like-minded people if you pick a niche tour like food or photography.
Here are some of the cooler tours you can do in Barcelona!
Vintage sidecar tour: you join a guide that tours you around this remarkable city inside a vintage motorcycle with a sidecar. Sure it leads to some conversations about who gets the sidecar and who rides on the motorbike. You can just swap between stop-offs. There is a cool factor about this tour which stood out as a great option as you get to see the city efficiency with someone who knows it. Oh, and those photos of you near iconic buildings with a vintage motorbike doesn’t hurt either right?
GoCar Tours: this is a self-driving option where you cruise around Barcelona in a low-rise lemon coloured vehicle. GoCar Barcelona offers multiple tour types including a full-day tour to more specialist options focusing on a Gaudi tour. This would be great if you like driving around a city, you want to stop off at your own leisure to take photos or even if you are travelling as a couple. Tours are as short as one hour to nine hours.
Hop On Hop Off Bus Sightseeing: this is not something I would typically recommend to people but the tours do have some value especially for short trips. This is a “tour on a budget” as the tickets last for 24 hours. This means if you buy a ticket at 2 pm on Monday, it expires at 2 pm on Tuesday. You get double value with these tours because it is a tour around Barcelona in 16 languages but, also, a transport pass around the centre of the city with the benefit of being in bus lanes. It is a cost-efficient use of time!
With Locals: the site offers nearly 100 different tour options within Barcelona including a top-five most popular tours with local people at a range of different prices.
Things to Do
Walk From Passeig de Gracia Down La Rambla: this is the simplest option to amble down the cobbled streets while taking photos of the architecture and dipping in for cortados.
Wandering El Raval: the narrow cobbled lanes in El Raval is part of the charm of this busy neighbourhood. There is lots of shopping options here including multiple department stores.
Sky Bar, Iberostar: Barcelona is spoiled for bars! This roof and pool bar overlooks the Passeig de Gràcia with views overlooking the city especially the Gothic Quarter. This is ideal at night to order their suspiciously strong cocktails and admiring views of the dimly lit, atmospheric cobblestoned district of Barcelona. The cocktails are lethal around €10 – €14 each.
Jamboree: this jazz bar opened in the 1960s but these days plays mixed sets of jazz, r&b, hip hop all together on stage. It is a popular spot in Barcelona, especially for its WTF! nights.
Mercat de La Boqueria: This is a must-visit in Barcelona even if you are not a foodie traveller like me. Walk down La Rambla like Laura suggested and stop off at what the locals call La Boqueria. It celebrates 160 years of trading. La Boqueria offers everything from bars to artisanal food sellers offering delicious slivers of Iberico ham or plump Spanish olives washed down with sherry or Rioja available under the same roof. If you are a photographer there are stunning scenes of goat heads stacked like cards or alcachofas (artichokes) the size of softballs. Scenes of people milling around getting on with their daily lives. Tourists should start here if they want to immerse themselves in Spanish food culture. Casual lunch grazers looking for cheap eats should come here too if they are on a budget. What is the trick? Just give in, walk slowly, taste, smell, talk to people and let the minutes go by.
Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter): Laura mentioned this above. This is the heart of historical old Barcelona with Roman and Medieval influences. It is easy to come to Barcelona to fall in love with its beaches, tapas bars and Gaudi architecture and simply overlook Barri Gotic. I did not come here the first time I came to Barcelona but I got there eventually. This is perfect for travellers and photographers that want that authentic old European city feels with its cobbled streets, architecture and narrow weaving lanes. There is lots to do and see here especially if you are a solo traveller who can invest the time to step into a shop, look around then move onto the next.
La Sagrada Familia: this endless project is finally due for completion in 2026 (let’s see…). In fact, La Sagrada Familia only just received its construction permit after waiting 137 years! This tourist stalwart is still a must-visit for tourists. I recommend you download Tiqets which is an app that allows for Skip the Line options so you get straight into the building. This tip will save you a lot of time. You should save as much time as you can to tour Barcelona even if you are travelling on your own. Use your time wisely!
Tiqets: come to think of it, this app has over 80 attractions listed in Barcelona to inspire you to look around the city all from the convenience of storing your tickets inside your mobile phone.
Do Something Special!
Travelling solo does not mean travelling boring. For the extroverts among you, we put together a list of options that may appeal to this social solo traveller.
Book a City Photo Shoot! Welcome to the Age of Instagram whether we like it or not. Solo travel is liberating but those selfies are suboptimal when you want gorgeous photos with iconic scenes in the background. Why not book a photo session with a professional photographer to not just take photos of you but show you places and angles in this city that you may not have found on your own! Capture some beautiful memories.
Book a Cooking Course! There are many options available including tapas and more. But few things say Barcelona like a fresh well-made paella and a chilled jug of sangria made from regional Rioja Tempranillo grape. Book a course with a professional chef in a small group to show you how to prepare both and then impress friends and family when you return home! It is a great way to also meet new people and locals to find out what is the popular or hot thing to do in the city that weekend.
Stretch Out With Yoga on the Beach: Barcelona is one of those few European beach cities. You can book an early yoga session to work out some of those flight tensions and city wandering with this yoga session on the beach.
Where to Eat
Barcelona is to food like sand is to the desert. People make pilgrimages to Barcelona to sample both its traditional Spanish food and its boundary-pushing gastronomic highlights. Spain has 213 Michelin starred restaurants. Roughly speaking, over 1 in every 10 Michelin star restaurants is in Spain. It boasts 7 out of the World’s 50 Best restaurants. 22 of this Michelin starred destinations twinkle in Barcelona with four of the World’s Best in Barcelona.
It is next to impossible to write a complete where to eat guide in Barcelona. Instead, here are some recommendations based on what we have tried across a number of price points.
What to Eat: No trip to Barcelona is complete without eating tapas, paella and sinking sangria. Consider these to be the Barcelona Holy Trinity. You should also try Pintxos which are like tapas but they sit on a toast bed with a long toothpick or spike. Pintxos are a Spanish word for spike or thorn. These are delicious, filling and often cheaper than some tapas. Usually, restaurants will charge you by the number of spikes left on your plate.
She said:El Nacional is located in the heart of Passeig de Gracia as Spain’s first food hall experience with a sophisticated twist. You can order a number of different dishes but their calamari and patatas bravas are a must-order. The service here can be painfully slow so do not expect to come here for a quick bite or drink – you come here to take your time and enjoy the decor.
La Rambla Market: Liam covered a lot of this in his Things to Do section but there are a lot of things to grab here on the go for cheap!
McDonalds: Hear me out! It is always interesting to see what locals want from their local Maccas. You can get a bucket of wings and chicken nuggets combined, fries with bacon and cheese. McCafé Barcelona also serves beer and macaroons!
Tapas, 24: this is one of Barcelona’s most popular tapas bars and for good reason. You will find it mentioned in most tourist guides so persevere with the crowds and get stuck into chicken croquettes, huevos estrellados or their truffle ham and cheese toastie.
Tickets: I am recommending this but I have not been able to get a booking here myself. This is the second chapter for renowned chef Albert Adriá, one of the founders of El Bulli. Tickets is Michelin starred and top ten in World’s Best List 2020. You need to book months ahead to get a ticket.
Crudo: focuses on serving raw food especially seafood within a short walk of El Nacional and Passeig de Gracia. Their aguachile is fiery and fresh, ceviches are refreshing and the wine menu is worthy of just coming here for a drink. Their cinnamon-spiced mai tai should be a must drink item. The staff are friendly and bookings are recommended.
Xiringuito Escriba: casual dining restaurant serving traditional Spanish food. Their seafood paella and vegetarian paella are beautifully served in traditional large dishes facing the beachfront overlooking sunsets. The sangria is refreshing as you would expect and service is friendly. You should definitely check this place out even just for a drink on the waterfront.
Flax & Kale: a healthy popular food store in a few locations delivering ever-popular avocado toasts, raw sesame tuna tacos and delicious juices. It is a perfect breakfast spot but also serves lunch. This is a strong choice for people looking for healthy food and conscious about sustainable sourcing. You can also take food away if you are looking for picnic stuff.
Cremat 11: this is a popular brunch and tapas spot serving Instagram-worthy pancake stacks, hanger steak with brioche and mackerel with pea puree. They also serve awesome cocktails that will make you want to come back for more. There is a Californian vibe here with its cocktails, brunches and tapas.
RAO: Rao is well-known for its superb tapas options made with seasonal ingredients. You can expect classics like Iberian ham but also more contemporary items like sea bream, foie gras and grilled avocado. You should definitely make a booking.
Would You Return to Barcelona?
He said: Yes but… don’t do it at the expense of seeing other Spanish cities, especially Madrid and Seville.