Barcelona. This city of late-night tapas, shopping in all price ranges and even a beach with surfing might be half-way around the world for some of us. But it is the perfect place for a girls’ getaway vacation. Without kids in tow, things to do in Barcelona include much more eating, drinking, shopping, and pounding the pavement.
Yes, I’d definitely take my daughter here but wow was it fun to meet friends here on my own.
First, logistics in Barcelona are easy. Barcelona—El Prat Airport is a 20-minute or so ride to the city center. Taxis are inexpensive and easy to come by though we could mostly walk to various attractions.
Barcelona weather is pleasant year-round though you’ll want to plan to visit during warmer months should sunbathing on a Mediterranean beach be on your itinerary.
Here are some of the many reasons why Barcelona makes an epic girlfriend getaway.
1. (Really) Late and Lengthy Dinners
Forget family dinner at 5 p.m. In Barcelona, the average dinner time is 10:30 p.m. I thought it might be hard to transition to a late final meal but adjusting to a new time change made it easy, as did mid-afternoon tapas and late lunches.
And, dinner can be festive such as when the servers at La Tapateria in El Nacional shriek the glory of whatever tapas they’re passing out to willing takers. We’d always start dinner “early” but would chat (and eat) for hours. So fun.
Our two favorite spots included the multi-restaurant El Nacional center and an incredible fine dining experience at ABac Restaurant.
2. Daytime Segways
I’ve never booked a Segway tour because my daughter isn’t quite yet old enough to maneuver one. Now, I can’t wait until she is. Segways are a brilliant way to tour large parts of a city in a short amount of time. They are easier to “drive” than you might think after a quick tutorial.
I highly recommend our tour with Barcelona Segway Tour. We booked the aptly-named 2-hour Barcelona Segway Tour (named after the company) that took us from the old city (starting in the Gothic Quarter) to Barceloneta, passing 2000 years of history along the way. The cost was worthwhile. We then added on the “Relax” package which included number three below.
3. Lingering in an Arabic Bath
The Barcelona Segway Tour offered an optional relaxation upgrade at a price that we simply could not refuse. While Arabic baths might not be the first thing you think of in Barcelona, our experience at Aire de Barcelona is one to consider. Our tour ended just before lunch at noon so we stopped to eat tapas and drink wine before experiencing the hammam.
Basically, guests enjoy a circuit of relaxing bathing rooms at various temperatures ranging from cold plunge pools to heated saltwater baths. While it is a busy place, the dimly-lit experience proved incredibly relaxing and we left quite zen.
Bring a bathing suit, toiletries (you’ll shower off at the end) and opt to upgrade your experience with a massage. Our 90-minute experience included a 15-minute massage and I so could have tolerated an hour!
4. Barcelona Food Tours
My friends and I love to eat. A foodie tour of the Gracia neighborhood with Devour Barcelona was a highlight of our vacation. Did we ever enjoy our half-day adventure full of grazing, drinks, and history in the off-the-beaten path from touristy areas.
We sampled famous dishes like olive and salt cod skewers, Catalan cheese, “bomba potato” and ground beef croquettes, local vermouth and so much more with our incredibly-knowledgeable guide. We ate a lot for the €75 we paid.
5. So Much Shopping
Hello, Zara. When your hotel is smack dab on the famous Passeig de Gracia, despite long haul flight exhaustion, it’s nearly impossible to pass up the only Zara Home store I’ve ever been in, European designer labels absent from San Diego, as well as other fantastic stores and markets.
We walked from the haute Passeig de Gracia to the famous Las Ramblas shopping zone in a matter of minutes.
7. Barcelona Food Markets
La Boqueria food market may be touristy (even the less frequented Abaceria Central Market was crowded with locals) but we loved it. I took great pleasure in being able to linger at leisure, shop for souvenirs, sample fresh fruit, and cured meats as well as scarf down tapas at the busy Pinoxto Bar and BarCentral.
The food markets are almost sensory overload and nothing like we have here in the U.S.
But there are similar flea markets and many more similar shopping experiences to be had all over town. I have always adored shopping in Barcelona. Souvenir ideas include local olive oils, chocolate, and the stunning artisanal candies.
8. Rooftop Bars
Barcelona is full of rooftop bars that provide sweeping views of the city. Like San Diego, Barcelona experiences temperate weather which means you can enjoy them year-round.
Gin and tonics are mixed incredibly well across the city (who knew?) as is the sangria (obviously). I reveled in sipping Spanish wine with my friends everywhere we went. I even took my laptop to the rooftop bar here at Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona to catch up on email and relax for a bit. (CN Traveller has a list of other Barcelona rooftop bars for your enjoyment.)
In between the tapas, shopping, and wine, it’s easy to soak up history in Barcelona. Gaudi’s masterpieces are everywhere.
I relished being able to enjoy an audio tour at leisure inside the Sagrada Familia as well as lengthy strolls in Parc Guell (a must-visit for any age).
We also visited Hospital Saint Pau and walked by a number of his other famous works like Casa Batllo and La Pedrera. I think we would have gone inside all of his buildings if time permitted.
10. The Beach
Yes, you can actually surf in Barcelona! In good weather, plan to sunbathe and enjoy life on the Mediterranean at Barceloneta Beach.
It reminds me of the beaches in Southern California actually with blue skies, gentle waves, a bit of volleyball, and lots of palm trees lining the boardwalk.
Where to Stay in Barcelona
If on a girlfriend getaway, Barcelona has a number of suites hotels with separate bedrooms, living areas for socializing, fully-stocked kitchens and housekeeping.
Eric Vokel Boutique Apartments are quite popular for this. We stayed at the Eric Vokel Sagrada Familia Suites within walking distance to many restaurants, Sagrada Familia and Passeig de Gracia. Eric Vokel also has Gran Via Suites near Placa d’Espanya that are in the heart of shopping and entertainment. We looked at this area first but it was booked though wound up happy where we landed.
But if luxe digs are what you crave, I highly recommend Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona. I stayed here before meeting up with my friends and it’s one of my favorite in their group of luxury hotels. Fantastic spa, service, rooms, location… you name it. It’s right next to El Nacional and on the glorious Passeig de Gracia.
I have always love Barcelona and recommend it really for any kind of getaway. However, it was fantastic with just the girls.
What is your favorite thing to do in Barcelona?
Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).
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