Gaudi, football, and the gorgeous coastline have lured millions of tourists every year to visit the fascinating city of Barcelona. And once in the vibrant city the wide range of culinary delights, the awesome weather throughout the year and the lively atmosphere are going to hold you back and rethink on ending your vacation here.
Barcelona is one of the top tourist cities in Spain and the capital of Spain’s Catalonia region. There are plenty of unique things to do in the city from splendid architectural buildings and monuments to beaches and world-class museums.
Even if you are planning to explore the best of the Catalonia capital city you will need to spend at least a couple of days or a weekend in Barcelona City. And then there are some amazing places around the city which make for some great day trips from Barcelona. We recommend you to spend at least 3 days in Barcelona, to fully experience what the vibrant city of Catalonia has to offer.
Getting Around in Barcelona
The major attractions in Barcelona are spread across the city. Even if you book an accommodation that is centrally located you will need to take public transport for at least a couple of times. There is a well-connected network of bus and metro within the city. The Renfe train system connects the city of Barcelona City with locations outside the city. If you are in short of time or if you enjoy watching the best of the city from the comfort of your seats you can also book a Hop On Hop Off bus tour. HOHO bus lets you explore a lot in a short time without having to worry about transport.
Airport to City Center
If you are flying into Barcelona there are plenty of options to reach the city center from the Barcelona–El Prat Airport. You can either take a taxi which is faster buy pricey or the Aerobus service which is an express bus service, TMB Airport Bus (operates during the day) or Airport Night Bus both are slower due to frequent stops but cheaper and then there is RENFE train service and L9 Metro link. You can use the T10 transport ticket on TMB Airport Bus (operates during the day) or Airport Night Bus, RENFE train service and L9 Metro link. More details here.
Barcelona Itinerary – Day 1
We had booked an apartment in Avinguda Gaudi which is less than 10 minutes walk to Sagrada Familia. So our first stop for the day was the magnificent Sagrada Familia.
Sagrada Familia or Basílica I Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia is a colossal Roman Catholic church and a minor basilica designed by Antoni Gaudi. The basilica is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features exemplary Gothic, Catalan Modernism, and Art Nouveau architectural styles.
The basilica has been under construction since 1892 and is expected to be completed by 2026 at the centenary of Gaudi’s death.
The major draw to the basilica is its incredible architectural design. According to the original design, there will be a total of eighteen spires when it will be completed. Each of the spires symbolizes an important Biblical figure in the New Testament. The Church will have three monumental facades: the Nativity facade to the East, the Passion facade to the West, and the most remarkable of all the Glory facade to the South.
The church interior is made of complex geometric designs and the angled columns resembling trees all inspired by nature. The most magnificent part of the interior is the colorfully stained glass windows. The gigantic windows fill the interior with shades of blue, green and red.
Gaudi’s tomb is present in the chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the crypt of the Sagrada Familia.
There is a museum located in the basement of the Passion facade. The museum displays original and replica drawings, models and structural details, photographs which were part of the Gaudi’s work for construction of the basilica.
There is a school building located in the premises of the basilica. Sagrada Familia Schools or the Escoles de la Sagrada Familia was originally designed by Gaudi for the children of the construction workers. The school building consists of three classrooms, a hall, and a chapel. The entry to the school building is included in the Sagrada Familia basic ticket.
Sagrada Familia Tickets and Open Times
The basilica is accessible to the public with timed tickets. To avoid long queues and the risk of tickets being sold out its recommended you buy tickets in advance. When you book tickets online you can choose the timeslot convenient to you and as per your itinerary. There are different kinds of tickets available for different prices. Tickets may be basic which includes a entry into the basilica, the ticket can include a visit to the towers, audio guides or a guided tour.
The open times for the church vary according to the season you may want to check schedules here before you plan your visit.
Passeig de Gracia
A couple of km walk from Sagrada Familia is the prominent avenue in Barcelona the Passeig de Gracia. The Passeig de Gracia is a popular shopping street in Barcelona and is lined with high-end designer and brand shops. The other draw for the tourists to the street are the exemplary architecture buildings by several famed architects including Gaudi.
Among all, the most gorgeous ones are the Casa Amatller, Casa Batllo, and Casa Mila, which are also open to the public.
Casa Batllo is one of the first buildings you will come across in Passeig de Gracia when you start walking from the side of Sagrada Familia. The building is considered amongst the Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces. The most remarkable features are facade adorned with colorful mosaic work and sculpted stonework, oval windows and a colorful dragon back design on the roof terrace.
The facade resembling the surface of a lake with water lilies is said to be inspired by the Monets paintings. The interior of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Casa Batllo can be explored with tickets. Book tickets here.
Casa Amatller is yet another building a fine example of Catalan Modernisme style designed by Josep Puig I Cadafalch, a contemporary of Gaudi. The building is located next to Casa Batllo and features stair-like stepped gable roof, gothic windows, and facade decorated with ceramic tiles and stained glass windows. Casa Amatller was built as a residence for chocolatier Antoni Amatller.
The tour walks through the apartments of the chocolatier Amatller and gets an insight into the way of life back in the 1900s. On the ground floor is a cafeteria where you can taste hot chocolate and a shop where you can buy souvenirs and chocolate products. Book tickets here.
Casa Mila also known as La Pedrera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and yet another amazing work of Gaudi and his last architectural project. The facade of the Casa Mila building is decorated with wrought-iron railings with abstract artwork. Tour starts at the courtyard which contrasts with the simple sober facade of the building. The courtyard is decorated with colorful paintings on the walls, ceilings and the along the staircases.
A tour of the Pedrera Apartment provides an insight into the life of the bourgeois family in Barcelona from early 20th century. The apartment is decorated with decorative furnishings and household items. The Roof-terrace of Casa Mila which has some amazing sculpture work offers spectacular views of the city. Book tickets here.
You can book tickets and explore the interior of the buildings. We found the tickets bit pricey and we had spent enough time in Sagrada and had to move to our next stop Park Guell which also showcases some of the incredible work by Gaudi so we skipped the inside of these buildings and only enjoyed the facades which are equally stunning.
From Passeig de Gracia, Park Guell is about 15 minutes bus ride which will drop you right at the entrance. We took a metro on L3 to get down at Vallcarca station. Just around 5 minutes walk from station one can find several sets of escalators on Baixada de la Gloria to climb the Carmel Hill to visit the Park Guell from the entrance on Passatge de Sant Josep de la Muntanya.
Park Guell is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a public park located on Carmel Hill in Barcelona. The original plan of Park Guell was to be built an estate for well-off families which was not successful.
The project was assigned by Eusebi Guell to Gaudi. Of the two houses built as a part of the project one was occupied by Gaudi and is now open to the public as Gaudi House Museum. Park Guell was officially opened as a public park in 1926.
We entered through the west entrance and walked through the public park area to the ticket counter to visit the monument area. The entrance to the park is free but there is a timed entrance to the monument area in batches. To avoid wasting time in queue or for the allotted time slot or even the risk of running out of tickets for the day it is recommended that you book tickets online in advance.
There are numerous interesting points of interest in the monument area of Park Guell. The large esplanade called Nature Square has some of the remarkable tiled mosaic seats. The terrace overlooks two large pavilions, one houses a souvenir shop and the other a museum on the history of the park. The pavilions are located on either side of the entrance on the south side called Carrer d’Olot. One can enjoy wonderful panoramic views of the city from the Nature Square.
One of the most popular works of art in Park Guell is a large sculpture of salamander, popularly known as “el drac” (the dragon) located on the stairs leading to the Nature Square.
An iron gate from the square leads to the gardens area with a colonnaded walkway with amazing architecture work.
Visiting the park through the Vallcarca Station would take around 20 to 25 minutes with a steep hill walk for last 250 m. This option is not wheelchair or stroller accessible. The better option would be to visit the park through the bus line 92 or 24 that has a stop at Carretera del Carmel-Park Guell at the main entrance of the park.
The entry times to Park Guell varies as per season. During the winter the last entry time is 5.30 pm so you may have to stick to your schedule of the day in the morning if you want to make it on time. Check for schedule here.
Montjuic Magic Fountain
The light and music show at the Montjuic Magic Fountain is also a popular attraction for the tourists. The show takes place at the Fonts de Montjuic on certain days of the week and is absolutely free. We missed this during our visit as we visited on the other days when the show didn’t take place. The show starts at about 8 or 9 pm so you can easily plan it after a visit to Park Guell. Park Guell to Montjuic Magic Fountain is about 40 minutes ride by bus or metro. Check here for schedules and open times.
Barcelona Itinerary – Day 2
Football Club Barcelona
On a visit to Barcelona, the Football Club Barcelona had to be on the list. Due to a scheduled match, the club was open only till afternoon hence we had to rush. We boarded a metro line L5 and got down at the station Collblanc close to the club. We collected our tickets and started our FCB tour through the museum.
FCB is a professional football club and the largest stadium in Barcelona with a capacity of more than 98k. The tour begins at a gallery with a collection of trophies representing the achievements of FCB teams.
An interactive multimedia wall display shows over 4000 images of important historical moments of FCB and is a great way to know about the history of the club.
Then there is an entire section dedicated to Argentinian superstar Leo Messi. We walked past the conference room, team changing rooms to the pitch which gives one the feeling of excitement as experienced by the players during a match. Both the stadium grounds and the spectator seating section have stunning views of the stadium.
Las Rambla and the Gothic Quarter
Las Ramblas is a km long bustling street lined with cafes, street performers, and souvenir shops. It connects Placa de Catalunya with the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell.
There are numerous points of interest around Las Rambla. Foodies should not miss a visit to the Boqueria Market which is one of the oldest markets in the city. The market has shops selling fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and also has fresh juice and street food stalls where you can taste some local delicacies.
The Placa Reial is a beautiful square you should not miss. The square is surrounded by restaurants and nightclubs. It is the venue for open-air concerts during the annual La Merce festival in September and the New Year’s Eve. The street lamps on the square are one of the very first works of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi.
The Palau Guell is a mansion designed by Gaudi for Eusebi Guell. The house completed in1888 is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is one of the magnificent works of Gaudi featuring intricate patterns of ironwork, woodwork, ornate decorations on walls and ceilings and parabolic dome in the living room. It is interesting to know that one could enter the building in horse-drawn carriages through two large entrances. The carriages were then led to the basement through ramps while the guests headed to the living room.
At the end of the Ramblas street near the Port Vella is the Columbus Monument or the Mirador de Colom. The 60 m tall Corinthian column is topped by a bronze statue of Columbus. The monument was built to honor Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas.
Next to the Columbus Monument is the Barcelona Royal Shipyard which houses the Barcelona Maritime Museum.
Golondrinas Boat Tour
Golondrinas Boat Tour is one of the best ways to explore the Barcelona coastline and its iconic landmarks. The tour starts from the old harbor of the Port Vell. There are different types of tours offered depending on the length of time and routes. The boat tours are a great respite from the hustle bustle of the city where you can enjoy the fresh sea breeze.
For lunch you can either stop by one of the restaurants and cafes in Las Ramblas or a plenty can be found in the Gothic quarter.
The Gothic Quarter is about 10 minutes walk from Las Ramblas. The Gothic quarter is the oldest part of the city and has plenty of historic monuments and buildings to explore.
You will also find remains of Roman walls and a temple and some amazing museums like Barcelona City History Museum and Picasso Museum.
Barcelona Cathedral or the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia is a Gothic cathedral dating back to the 13th centuries. Do not miss the beautiful neo-gothic bridge in Carrer del Bisbe street next to the cathedral.
Ciutadella Park or Barceloneta Beach
You can either head to Ciutadella Park or Barceloneta Beach depending on your interest.
From Barcelona Cathedral, Ciutadella Park is about 10 minutes walk. The park is a green oasis amidst the bustling streets and the touristy crowd of the city. The popular feature of the park is the large Cascada fountain which is said to be inspired by the Trevi fountain in Rome. The park is decorated with plenty of sculptures, flower beds, and buildings including the Catalan Parliament House. The Barcelona Zoo and Museum of Zoology and Geology is located on the premises of the park. It is possible to rent boats and go boating in the lake of the park.
About 5 minutes walk from the Ciutadella Park is the Arc de Triomf. Arc de Triomf is a monumental triumphal arch erected as a gate for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair. Unlike the one, we saw in Paris or Rome this one was built with striking red colored bricks and in Neo-Mudejar style.
We chose to head to the beach to end our day with a relaxed stroll along the sandy shores. Barceloneta Beach is the closest beach to Barcelona and is a 15 minutes bus ride from the Barcelona Cathedral. The bus stops along the broad walkway built over the Barceloneta beach.
Barceloneta beach is known for its sandy beach and has many seafood restaurants along the boardwalk. Beach is also equipped with Lifeguard, public toilets, children games area and sports activities. The beach can also be reached by metro station Barceloneta on line 4.
We boarded back the bus line 92 that has a stop at the Avinguda Gaudi, close to our apartment. We had our dinner at one of the restaurants with outdoor seating enjoyed the views of the illuminated Sagrada Familia.
Barcelona Itinerary – Day 3
For day 3 we recommend you head to one of the amazing places around Barcelona on a day trip.
If you want to continue with Barcelona sightseeing or if you have 4 days in Barcelona – add these items to the list. You can also swap these for any of the attractions we covered on Day 1 and Day 2.
More of Montjuic Hill
Apart from the Montjuic Magic Fountain which we covered on the Day 1, there are a plenty of things to do on the Montjuic Hill. You can get to the Montjuic Hill either by Montjuic’s Cable Car or by a taking a bus which also stops at the castle. The cable car ride offers great views over the city of Barcelona. One can also take a Montjuic Funicular from Paral·lel Metro station and a gondola ride to reach the Montjuic Castle. An aerial tramway also connects to the Montjuic Hill from the Barceloneta.
Some of the attractions that be covered on a visit to the Montjuic Hill are –
The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya or the National Art Museum of Catalonia abbreviated as MNAC is the national museum of Catalan visual art. It holds a wonderful collection of Romanesque church and Gothic paintings, and Renaissance and Baroque Art Collection.
The Palau Nacional or the National Palace houses the National Art Museum of Catalonia. The magnificent palace is built in the Spanish Renaissance architecture style features a central dome flanked by two smaller domes and four towers. The interior is decorated with columns, geometric designs, murals, and sculptures.
Montjuic Castle is a 17th-century military fortress overlooking the harbor and the city of Barcelona. The castle served as the military prison until 1960 today houses the Military History Museum. The castle is also a popular venue for Concerts and exhibitions.
Poble Espanyol or Spanish Village is an open-air museum displaying replicas of 117 popular buildings from various regions of Spain. The Spanish Village also has handicraft shops, restaurants, and Museu Fran Daurel displaying work of contemporary artists, including Dali, Picasso, and Miro.
Other attractions include a botanical garden, Juan Antonio Samaranch Olympic and Sports Museum, the Montjuic Cemetery has memorials and monuments featuring classic, Gothic and Art-Nouveau styles, Joan Miro Foundation displays works of Spanish painter Joan Miro and Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys formerly known as the Estadi Olimpic de Montjuic is a stadium with a capacity of 55,926.
If you are traveling with kids you may want to squeeze in one of these attractions into your city sightseeing.
Barcelona Aquarium is located in Port Vell harbor. It is home to 11,000 animals representing 450 species and offers an amusing 80-meter long underwater tunnel. We had recently visited the Lisbon Oceanarium so we skipped this one. Book your tickets to Barcelona Aquarium here.
Chocolate lovers cannot miss a visit to the Chocolate Museum or Museu de la Xocolata located in the Gothic Quarter. The museum walks you through the origin, history, and trading of chocolate in Europe. The museum displays various works of art made of chocolate including sculptures and paintings. The tour also walks through the manufacturing process of chocolate from cocoa beans to chocolate bars. We had to skip this too after our recent visit to the Chocolate Museum in Switzerland.
More on Barcelona with kids: Fun Things to do in Barcelona with Kids
Day Trips from Barcelona
There are some unique and amazing places around the Barcelona City which you can easily visit on the day trip. From the Catalonian Pilgrimage Destination of Montserrat to beautiful medieval towns you have plenty of options. We visited Montserrat on a day trip from Barcelona and we believe it is one of its kind of experience which is a must visit when in Barcelona. Barceloneta is the nearest beach to Barcelona but if you are looking for more then Sitges, 30 minutes train ride from Barcelona is an ideal beach destination with plenty of nightclubs.
There are plenty of architectural masterpieces by Gaudi spread across the city of Barcelona. If you are looking for more head to Colonia Guell, an interesting 19th-century village located in the town of Santa Coloma de Cervello, 23 Km from of Barcelona.
The major point of interest in the village is the church of the Colonia Guell known as Gaudí’s Crypt. The church designated a UNESCO World Heritage site features design elements like leaning pillars, catenary arches, beautiful mosaic work, hyperbolic parabolas in walls and vaults.
Check here for the amazing day trips from Barcelona which you should definitely add to your bucket list. All of these locations are well connected by buses and trains and can be reached within a couple of hours journey.
Where to Stay in Barcelona
Avinguda Gaudi or Eixample
We booked an apartment in Avinguda Gaudi which is close to Sagrada Familia. Avinguda Gaudi is a bustling street connecting Sagrada Familia with the Hospital de Sant Pau and is lined with many outdoor and indoor restaurants. It was our first time in Barcelona and we didn’t want to spend time traveling Avinguda Gaudi was an easy walk to Sagrada Familia and also Passeig de Gracia which about 15-20 minutes walk.
Apartamento Gaudi-Sant Pau is located 10 minutes walk away from Sagrada Familia and 3 minutes walk from Sant Pau. The apartment offers free WiFi and a well-equipped kitchenette. The nearest metro station is Maig Metro Station. Also, check the Ayre Hotel Rosellon located close to Sagrada Familia and offers great panoramic views of Gaudi’s masterpiece from its rooftop terrace. The nearest metro station is Sagrada Familia Metro Station.
Another popular neighborhood to stay if it is your first time and if you are looking for a place close to most of the Barcelona attractions is the Gothic Quarter. It is 15-20 minutes walk to Passeig de Gràcia and about 10 minutes walk to Las Ramblas.
The Sun & Moon Hostel is located in the heart of the city, 5 minutes from the Gothic Quarter and the Ramblas. The nearest station is Liceu Metro Station. The Barceloneta Beach is about 15-minute walk away.
The most recommended hotels if you are looking to stay in the Gothic quarter are Hotel Duquesa de Cardona, Hotel Barcelona Catedral, and Barcelona Hotel Colon. The hotels are located 5 minutes walk from the Gothic quarter and features a roof terrace with a bar and restaurant. Hotel Barcelona Catedral and Barcelona Hotel Colon are located next to the famous Barcelona Cathedral and offer wonderful views of the cathedral from the terrace.
Passeig de Gracia
Passeig de Gracia is a popular street which is centrally located to Sagrada and Las Ramblas and also to some of the incredible artwork by Gaudi. The Hotel Praktik Gardens is located about 10 minutes walk away from Placa Catalunya and Passeig de Gracia. The hotel features a garden terrace and balcony for most of the rooms. The nearest station is Girona metro station.
One of the best budget option recommended by our fellow travel bloggers is Barcelona Central Garden. The Hostel is located 5 minutes walk from Passeig de Gracia and about 10 minutes walk to Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter. The hostel offers a shared kitchen, a common lounge and a terrace with outdoor seatings.
If you like to stay by the beach then there are some fabulous hotels in Barcelona’s former fishing district Barceloneta next to the Barceloneta beach. W Barcelona is located next to Barceloneta Beach and offers spa, infinity pool and a rooftop bar with breathtaking views of the blue sea. For budget option check Hotel 54 Barceloneta and Safestay Barcelona Sea Hostel.
Best Time to Visit Barcelona
We visited in November when the climate was very pleasant. We did not book any tickets in advance and even got through easily without having to wait in the queue. So if you are looking for warmer weather with less crowd then late September to November is the best time. Same is the case with April and May. Winter (Late November – March) is also considered to be a good time but there is a possibility of rain during this time.
June to August is the peak season when you will find the maximum tourist crowd and even a steep rise in the prices of the hotel. If you are planning a visit to Barcelona or some of the other parts of Spain do read for the best time of the year to visit Spain for some insightful information.
Barcelona City Pass or Barcelona Card
There are two ways to save money during your trip on Barcelona sightseeing and getting around the city. Barcelona City Pass and Barcelona Card offer different benefit and a varied range of offers and discounts. Buy both or any one of them depending on the attractions you choose to visit during your stay in Barcelona.
Barcelona City Pass
The Barcelona Pass is a sightseeing city card available for a duration of 2 and 3 consecutive days. It offers free entry to over 20 Barcelona attractions and museums including FC Barcelona, Barcelona Zoo, Aquarium, Gaudi masterpieces of Casa Mila and Casa Batllo, Gaudí’s Crypt at Colonia Guell along with skip the line entry and numerous other discounts. The Pass also includes a free hop-on-hop-off bus tour and a walking tour.
If you buy the Barcelona Pass with a Travel Card you can enjoy free travel on public transport including bus, metro, train, tram and Montjuic funicular. Barcelona Pass can also be used to travel from airport to city center. The Travel Card offers unlimited journeys for the duration of your pass.
Barcelona Card offers free travel on public transportation like metro, buses, trams, and trains including the airport metro and train. The card also offers free entry to top city attractions/museums and skip-the-line benefit at Barcelona’s popular attractions. As well as discounts and deals on over 70 city attractions, tours, shopping, and nightlife. Check here for the discounts and deals.
Have you been to Barcelona? What is your favorite attraction and what do you love the most about the city of Barcelona? Do share with us in comments.
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