I lived in Barcelona (or actually Sant Cugat del Valles, very close and well connected to Barcelona) for 5 years while going to college. During that time, I had the chance to explore this marvellous city and also went visiting most of it whenever friends or family visited. Therefore, I am going to present some of the highlights to do and see in Barcelona, starting with a short 3-day visit.
People who lived in Barcelona and loved it will probably tell you that 3 days is not enough, and I used to think so too. However, after starting to work, I realized how little time we have for travelling, and how it is possible to squeeze things into a couple days, although of course you won’t be able to enjoy it as much. Three days would give you enough time to do the “must-see”, since Barcelona is not a big city in global terms, after all. However if you really want to enjoy it, I’d suggest to do at least 5 days.
DAY 1: meet Gaudi, “God’s architect”
[Summary] Gaudi was a genious catalan architect that left behind some of the most famous buildings in Barcelona. His Masterpiece is the unfinished Sagrada Familia, but he also designed the great Parc Guell and many small houses with his distinctive personality like La Pedrera or Casa Milà, Casa Batlló. The full list can be found here.
[Morning] Spend your first day visiting his work. Go for a morning walk in Parc Guell before it gets overcrowded and take some pictures next to the iconic Gaudi Lizard, sit on the long benches to get a rest and view the city (spot the Sagrada Familia from there!) and check out the many other treasures the park can offer you!
The entrance to the park is free, but in order to see the Monumental Zone (which is the most interesting area) you will need a timed ticket. You can buy that online on their website to save a couple euros. I don’t remember paying this before, but I guess Barcelona has gotten so popular that they had to put these measures to control the masses of people (now limited to 400 people each half hour…).
–> How to get there? There are many ways to get in the park. The easiest is by either taxi or the Touristic Bus blue line/ Barcelona City Tour East or green line (stop Parc Guell). You will have to walk for less than 10 minutes on Carrer de Larrard. If you like traveling like a local, you can also take the public buses 24, 32, 92 and H6, or the subway, green line (L3) to Lesseps or Vallarca. Either way, it won’t be too hard to find the Park as everyone knows it. Detailed information can be found on their website.
[Late morning] After visiting the Park, eat some breakfast and head towards La Sagrada Familia. This huge church is unfinished, but it is still the the top attraction because of it uniqueness. The entrance fee is 15 euro for adults, free for children up to 11 years old and with a slightly reduced 13 euro fee for elderly and students. It is open for visits from 9 AM until 8PM (April~September) or 6PM (October~March). Book ahead to save a lot of time!
[Afternoon] By now you should be pretty hungry, so fill your stomachs well. I’d recommend to take L5 to Diagonal, where you should be able to find more restaurants, and then visit the Casa Milà and Casa Batlló while diggesting, unless you already had enough of Gaudi. I did not enter any of these houses, but enjoy seeing them from the outside and taking some pictures. They are only 6 minutes away from each other and the entry fees are 20,50 and 21,50 euro, respectively (with some small discount for students, elderly, disabled; and free for children up to 6 years old).
A good friend of mine whose taste I trust has recommended Ciudad Condal for a good tapas meal. if you don’t know what Tapas are, you haven’t done your homework before going to Spain :p Check the tripadvisor reviews and pictures, you can even see the menu and prices~
–> How to get there? For Casa Milà, either Diagonal (L3 and L5) or Provenca (L6, L7 and S trains). For Casa Batlló take Passeig de Gracia (L2, L3, L4). They are 6 minutes away from each other by foot, and another 5 minutes from downtown Placa Catalunya.
[Evening] You already walked a lot and know by heart Gaudi’s masterpieces, but if you really want to squeeze all in three days, you should still walk down to Placa Catalunya and see the busy life flowing down the streets. If you want to do some shopping, Portal del Angel right next to the Placa has a lot of the typical Spanish shops (Zara, H&M, etc.).
DAY 2: Explore Las Ramblas, the Gothic neighborhood and the Port.
[Summary] Another packed day is coming upon. Wear your sneakers or walking sandals and get your cameras ready! Today you will be walking around the gotic quarter, eat at the famous Boqueria Market, walk down the Ramblas and visit the port.
[Morning] Go back to Placa Catalunya, where you ended your itinerary the day before, and this time walk down the Ramblas. The Ramblas is a famous boulevard that goes from the centre of Placa Catalunya until the sea. On the way, you will see a lot of small shops selling from flowers and ice cream to pets. You will also find some human statues that will sometimes surprise you after you drop a coin in it. Walk down this street enjoying all the entertainment, and be sure to take care of your belongings because the chances of getting sneakily robbed here are high due to the amount of people walking by.
On your right, as you walk down, you will see the Boqueria Market. Stop by here and get a fruit juice for a mid-morning snack. I recommend you don’t buy from the first row shops, as they usually mark up the price slightly. Instead, venture in a little bit and buy in any of those shops. If you’re here around lunch time (afternoon), eat in one of the stalls. They have fresh food at a good price. I’ve tried the restaurant Kiosko Universal and it was always delicious. When you get out, keep walking and see the Liceu Theatre on the same side of the road.
Now cross the road and adventure through the small streets to the Barrio Gotic. Near the Liceu stop on Las Ramblas, you will find the Cathedral of Barcelona and other churches. I particularly like the small streets and some random decoration around there, like a small arc that makes a perfec picture. Spend some time wandering around. To enter the Cathedral you will have to buy a 7 euro entrance only from 13:00 to 17:30. Otherwise you enter for free to the main area of it.
After visiting the area, find a small restaurant to eat in, or go back to the Market and eat in one of their stolls. I didn’t eat here often, but there is a small Italian restaurant that’s really good. It’s name is “Le Cucine Mandarosso“. Recommended only for lunch (lunch special from Tuesday~Saturday) at 11 euro for one amazing pasta/salad dish, a drink, and a dessert and coffee.
–> How to get there? Starting from Placa Catalunya (L1, L3, L6, L7 and S trains). If you don’t want to walk as much, you can start from the middle and jus walk a few steps for the Market: Liceu stop (L3).
[Afternoon] After eating go back to las Ramblas and walk towards the end of it, near the see. You will see many artists selling their paints, and on the left side a wax museum and a curious bar called “el bosc de las fades” or the fairie’s forest.
Las Ramblas is 1,2 km long from beginning to end, and now you should be facing Colombus’ monument on the top of the tower. You can go inside the tower and get to the top for around 5 euro, and enjoy a good view of the centre of Barcelona and the port. If you were planning on visiting the Aquarium of Barcelona, it is right next to here.
[Evening] Next, let’s visit Barceloneta, the Beach and club area. You can get a drink while looking at the sea. If you like parks a lot, there’s the Parc de la Ciutadella behind you, with the “Arco del triunfo“, another option is to keep drinking and party in one of the hottest night club areas of Barcelona, since you’re already there. In this area there are a lot of Paella restaurants and also a couple local bars. Another suggestion for another good friend is Can Maño, a humble and very local bar where you can eat more tapas 😛
If you don’t like clubbing but appreciate cool bars, go to the Ice Barcelona, which is a bar made up with ice and where the temperature is between -2 and -10 celsius.. You pay 15 euro and they’ll give you a big coat and gloves. Inside you can take pictures and drink from an ice-glass (drink included). Children pay 7,50 euro, and not sure about the drink (they cannot go in after 11pm). They also have some non-alcoholic drinks available.
–> How to get there? From Colombus Monument, take a taxi (2km), or bus 59 and D20 to the Passeig Maritim. If you don’t know where to get off, ask the driver or some local to let you know when you’re near to the clubs area (Opium, Shoko, Pacha, etc.). Get off and walk on the beach.
DAY 3: The Hills of Barcelona
[Summary] On your last day, let’s go to the 2 hills in Barcelona for some stunning views.
[Morning] There are two hills in Barcelona: Tibidabo and Montjuic. In the morning, will visit Tibidabo. On the top of the mountain there are a couple things you can do, like seeing Barcelona from high above, visit the church, and play at the Tibidabo amusement park (if you had more time, I’d go for it).
–> How to get there? There are two easy routes to get there: one is more scenic (and expensive) and the other one is the one I take as a local. For the first way, you take L7 (brown) to Av. Tibidabo stop. From there, you will easily find the blue tram (tramvia blau) that will take you up to the funicular for 4,20 euro. I’m not sure then how much more you have to pay for the funicular, but i know if you are visiting the amusement park ont he top, you will get some refund.
For the local/ cheaper way, you will take S1, S2, S5 or S55 to Peu del Funicular. These trains are “S” instead of “L” and they usually go to the cities outside of Barcelona like Terrassa, Sabadell or Sant Cugat. Once at Peu del Funicular, you can find the Funicular de Vallvidrera and get to the top of the mountain.
[Afternoon] Go eat after you’re done up there. I don’t have specific recommendations around the area, but just a stop away from Peu del Funicular, you will find Sarria. This is a walthy neighborhood that was once just a village near Barcelona, but today it is legitimately part of the city. There is a small “bar de tapas” here that I always recommend, as it is one of the best known and highest ranked place for “Patatas Bravas”. It’s called Bar Tomas, and they (used to) have lunch menus, but the only thing that I can’t recommend enough is their famous fries. While the bar looks very simple and normal, even a bit dirty, it is one of the favorite place for all Catalans, so visit for a quick lunch if you have time. Don’t feel offended if the waiters are rude, it is like part of the theme. The bar is very close to the Sarria station, and I’m 100% sure any local will know how to direct you there.
–> How to get there? Sarria station on L6, S1, S2, S5 or S55. Walk for 5~10 minutes.
[Late afternoon and evening] Get back on the subway and find your way to Placa de Espanya. This Placa has two big venetian towers. Many exhibitions take place here, but since there’s no time to visit, let’s keep walking up the main road towards the magic fountains ^^. There is a music & color show here every night, and you can find the schedules here. It’s in Catalan, so if you can’t understand, just leave a comment and I’ll help you with the specific date. At the end, behind the fountains, you will see the National Museum of Catalan Art (MNAC).
Another sight near here is the Castle of Montjuic (entrance fee 5 euro), the small hill near the Placa. to get there, you take the funicular train and then a gondola cable car. On top of the mountains you will find some other museums such as the Miro Foundation, the Botanical gardens or the military museum.
Finally, the Poble Espanyol is a small theme park (or open air museum) representing diverse Spanish architecture, as well as many small shops and restaurants. In summer time, many concerts are held here. The entry costs around 11 euro.
End the evening with the Magic fountain show!
–> How to get there? Espanya station, L1, L3 and L8. Also other trains from around Barcelona. The airport bus also stops here!
Barcelona has a lot to offer, and just by doing the things mentioned above you will feel like you did a lot on every single day. However, some of the activities may not sound attractive to you at all, or you may want to fit even more stuff to do, so here are some more recommendations.
Other things you may want to do (but then you’d have to either stay more days or take some other thing out of the proposed itinerary):
- If you’re a Soccer fan, you might want to visit Barcelona’s most popular museum: the FCB Museum and the Camp Nou Stadium.
- If you’re traveling with kids, the Aquarium or the Cosmo Caixa (a Science museum with a big indoor rainforest) are great places to go to.
- If you wanted sun and beach, you will want to spend more time sunbathing!
- If you have plenty of time, do some day trips. I will come up with more itineraries for longer stays soon!