How much can you fit into a weekend in Barcelona? Lauren Murphy finds herself with 48-hours in the Catalan capital and two children to entertain, here’s what she recommends you see and do.
October is my favourite time of year for a Mediterranean city break. Not only is it an opportunity to grab the year’s final slice of sun, but it’s also when we need that little burst of summer before wrapping up warm for the winter months with a soundtrack of Michael Bublé and Mariah Carey for that festive feeling.
I love an all-inclusive resort holiday, because it makes family travelling so much simpler. But with my boys growing up so fast, I thought it was time they saw there’s more to holidays than just hotel pools. So we booked a family cruise, setting sail from Barcelona. Then, due to flight changes, we ended up with 48-hours to spare in the city before we hit the open seas: a fantastic opportunity to explore and show our boys somewhere new.
Start a weekend in Barcelona in the right place
Basing ourselves at the Hyatt Regency Barcelona Tower hotel – just a 20-minute taxi ride away from the city itself, and just 15 minutes from the cruise departure terminal – we were close enough to make travelling easy while also being far enough away that we could relax and switch off in the evening.
The hotel is huge, and the boys were impressed with how the Sky Fall Cocktail Bar looked from the outside. My youngest described it as a spaceship, and honestly, I can understand where he got that image from! We stayed in two stunning duplex suites, each with a large living room and bedroom and a sumptuous, relaxing jacuzzi bath. It was a real treat to return to after our busy days embracing tourist life.
After a quick 2-hour flight from Liverpool, we arrived in the City and headed straight to the hotel to decide how we wanted to spend our first day. Before long, we were all finishing our drinks at the hotel’s Regency lounge and grabbing a taxi into the City. On the drive-in, the boys were impressed with all the unique buildings and beautiful architecture. Down went their phones and devices – a miracle in itself – so they could fully absorb the sights.
Carter beats the Robokeeper at Camp Nou
We started walking around the city, passing Casa Mila, the last private residence designed by Gaudi, and La Sagrada Familia, his legendary unfinished cathedral. Naturally we stopped for some tapas, great for picky eaters and for those who can never choose what they want – guilty! Then my youngest, Carter, wanted to see Camp Nou as he’s a colossal football fan.
Although the stadium itself is undergoing major construction at the moment, the football museum and official club shop are still open, so this kept us busy. The highlight for Carter being the challenge to beat a virtual goalie – Robokeeper – who famously saved a goal from Lionel Messi. But Carter scored, much to the delight of all the adults who had tried and failed before him.
Invigorated but exhausted from a day of travel and exploring, we headed back to the hotel for a splash in the pool, before going back to our suites and ordering room service to eat in our pyjamas – bliss.
A day at the zoo fits a weekend in Barcelona perfectly
Waking up on day two, it was hard to drag myself from the comfy bed but we wanted to get up early and explore the city some more. After a brief family strategy session, we unanimously agreed that Zoo de Barcelona had to be our first stop.
We arrived just before 10am, and with minimal queuing and lots of excitement, it was all systems go. We walked around the zoo, admiring all the animals basking in the glorious autumn sunshine. Both boys were laughing and smiling, not a quarrel in sight, which, with a teen and a tween, doesn’t happen too often! Our favourites were the elephants or maybe the adorable prairie dogs, sleeping all piled together.
No trip to the zoo would be complete without stopping at the gift shop, and while the boys browsed, I couldn’t help but notice how long the queues to enter the zoo were now. I’m so glad we’d made this an early morning visit.
Don’t miss the world’s largest Mediterranean aquarium
After refuelling with some delicious pizza, next stop on our weekend in Barcelona dash was L’Aquàrium, just a short walk from the zoo and next to an achingly pretty marina. It’s the largest Mediterranean-themed aquarium in the world, and we were immediately awestruck. You could easily spend an entire day wandering around here and Carter particularly loved the moving underwater walkway – the oceanarium – where you could see all the sharks and other sea life.
As well as being thrilling, there were plenty of educational elements too, and opportunities to learn about conservation and protecting our oceans. Children can even play in the Explora children’s area, with close-up sea life tanks, larger-than-life fish sculptures, and a fantastic waterslide.
Expect the unexpected from your weekend in Barcelona
After a busy afternoon of fun and learning, we decided to stroll along the beach for an ice cream, something we love to do on any family breaks. Barceloneta Boardwalk leading up to the W hotel is a city icon and its beach was bustling with families still having fun in the water, even in October. People were playing volleyball, grabbing some sun or just watching the watching the world go by, and it was a great way to round off our day.
We had planned a gentle stroll around the city before heading back to our hotel, but instead we somehow managed to walk into a vibrant local festival. Festes del Roser, also known as the Festa Major de la Rambla, takes place in early October on Barcelona’s most famous street in honour of Mare de Déu del Roser – the Virgin of the Rosary. It was a completely mesmerising sight, and all the more wonderful for being totally unexpected.
We returned to the hotel in the comfort of a jacuzzi tub before getting ready to enjoy a delicious meal at the hotel’s restaurant, Terrum. Colin and I were treated to an impressive-tasting course menu while the boys enjoyed steak and pizza. Then Colin’s night was made when reception agreed to screen the Scotland v Spain football game in the hotel lobby just for him. Now that’s impressive customer service.
How to plan a weekend in Barcelona
How to get there
Direct UK flights to Barcelona take from 2 hours
Where to stay
Hyatt Regency Barcelona Tower, family room (2 adults, 2 children) from £332 per night
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