One Day in Barcelona – Top Things to Do and See in the Catalonian Capital

(Last Updated On: August 30, 2018)

Barcelona the capital of Spain’s Catalonia region is a top bucket list item for tourist and travelers visiting Europe. The vibrant city offers a plenitude of attractions and sights and squeezing them all in a day is merely impossible. We have in fact written an itinerary on how to spend 3 days in Barcelona with a possibility to extend it to 4 days in Barcelona. The city offers a wide range of sights and attractions from splendid architecture by Gaudi and other great architects, the FC Barcelona, world-class museums, gorgeous coastline and delightful culinary options.

If you have only one day in Barcelona the best possible itinerary would be to start from the top must-visit attractions in the city and then choose from others as per your interest.

Getting Around in Barcelona

The city of Barcelona has a well-connected network of public transport which includes bus, train, and metros. If you book accommodation in some of the best Barcelona neighborhoods centrally located to the top Barcelona attractions you might still have to use public transport.

We explored Sagrada Familia and Passeig de Gracia on foot and had to use public transport to reach Park Guell, FC Barcelona, and Barceloneta Beach. The key attractions in Barcelona are spread across the city. If you are planning a day trip to places outside Barcelona like Montserrat, Sitges or other major cities of Spain like Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba the Renfe train system connects Barcelona with destinations outside the city.

One of the best ways to cover maximum sights when you have one day in Barcelona is to book a Hop On Hop Off bus tour. You can enjoy the sights from the comfort of your seats without even having to worry about transport. If you feel like exploring any particular attractions you can get down and explore the attraction and again board the next HOHO bus and continue your Barcelona sightseeing.

Airport to City Center

There is only one international airport in Barcelona called Barcelona–El Prat Airport which is about 12 km from the city center. There are plenty of options to reach the city center from the Barcelona airport. There are taxis available which is the faster way to reach the city center. Taxis are a great option if you traveling in a group or as a family but little pricey if you are traveling alone. Aerobus, an express bus service is also a great option.

Then there is TMB Airport Bus which operates during the day and Airport Night Bus for night travel which is slower due to frequent stops. RENFE train service and L9 Metro are also option to reach the city center from the airport. T10 transport ticket which is one of the best ways to save money when traveling in Barcelona can be used on TMB Airport Bus, Airport Night Bus, RENFE train service and L9 Metro link. Read for more details here.

Top Barcelona Sightseeing Attractions

On your visit to Barcelona, you cannot miss a visit to the Sagrada Familia which is the top tourist attractions and amongst the top works of Gaudi, the famous Spanish architect. We recommend you start your day with a visit to the Sagrada Familia.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia or Basilica I Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia is a gigantic Roman Catholic church and a minor basilica in Barcelona. The imposing church was designed by the popular Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. The construction of the church basilica was started in 1892 and is still under construction. It is expected to be completed by 2026 at the centenary of Gaudi’s death. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sagrada Familia features Catalan Modernism, Gothic, and Art Nouveau architectural styles.

The basilica has a striking architectural design which lures tourists and travelers from all around the world. The imposing structure will have a total of eighteen spires and three monumental facades on completion. The spires will be representing the Biblical figures from the New Testament.

One Day in Barcelona

The interior of the basilica is the most breathtaking decorated with complex geometric designs and large stained glass windows. The interior design is said to be inspired by and resembling a forest.

The basilica museum exhibits original and replica drawings, models and photographs used in the construction of the basilica by Gaudi. Gaudi’s tomb is present in the chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the crypt of the Sagrada Familia. You will also find a small school building on the basilica premises. The school was originally planned for the children of the construction workers by Gaudi. The school building has classrooms, a hall, and a chapel which is open to the public.

Sagrada Familia Tickets and Open Times

You can visit the Sagrada Familia with timed tickets which can be bought on spot or booked online. It is highly recommended that you book your tickets online to avoid queues and the risk of tickets being sold out for your requested time slot or for the entire day. The entry to the basilica, school building and museum is included in the Sagrada Familia basic ticket. If you want to visit the towers or want to explore the basilica with an audio guide or a guided tour there are different tickets available. Plan your visit accordingly to the open times here.

Passeig de Gracia

If you are looking for more architecture work by Gaudi or the remarkable modernist buildings then head to Passeig de Gracia. Passeig de Gracia is a popular street a couple of km walk from Sagrada Familia. The street not only attracts visitors for the modernist buildings but also for the high-end designer shops and boutiques. You will also find unique architecture buildings by Gaudi as well as other famed Catalan architects.

The most popular ones are Casa Amatller, Casa Batllo, and Casa Mila. Due to short in time, it may not be advisable to visit the interior of the buildings. The facades of the buildings are equally stunning and a stroll along the street is worth to explore the abstract artwork on the exterior of the buildings.

Casa Batllo

Casa Batllo is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best works of Gaudi. The facade is decorated with colorful mosaic glass and ceramic work. The most interesting feature of the facade is oval windows, stone bone shaped columns and balconies which resembles a mask which gives a skeletal impression hence the local name ‘House of Bones’.

One Day in Barcelona

The roof looks like a back of colorful dragon back design. If you decide to visit the interior you can book the tickets here.

Casa Amatller

another exemplary Catalan Modernisme architectural building located right next to Casa Batllo. The building was designed by Josep Puig I Cadafalch, a contemporary of Gaudi as a residence for chocolatier Antoni Amatller. The most beautiful feature of the building is its stair-like gable roof and the facade decorated with motifs, ceramic tiles, and wrought iron artwork.

You can tour the interior of the building which lets you explore the lavish apartments of the chocolatier Amatller. On the ground floor is a The cafeteria on the ground floor has a souvenirs shop where you can buy chocolate products. Book Casa Amatller tour tickets here.

Casa Mila

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Casa Mila is the other remarkable work by Gaudi. Casa Mila is also known as La Pedrera or ‘The stone quarry’ owing to its stone-like simple facade. The only artwork on the wavy sober facade is wrought-iron railings with abstract artwork on the balconies.

One Day in Barcelona

You can also tour the interior of the building and explore its striking interior decorated with colorful paintings on the walls and ceilings. Also part of the tour is the Pedrera Apartment which walks you through the life of the bourgeois family from the early 20th century. Interested in the tour book your tickets here.

For the second half of the day choose one from below as per your interest.

Park Guell – If you are fascinated with the awe-inspiring Gaudi Architecture and are keen to explore more of Gaudi’s architectural work.

FC Barcelona – If you are a great football fan you cannot miss a visit to FC Barcelona.

Gothic Quarter and Las Ramblas – For history and museum buffs. There are plenty of historic sites and museums around this neighborhood. The Gothic quarter is home to important historic sights and great museums but unless you want to spend the rest of the afternoon in one of the museums you would have to skip visiting museums. Then there is Las Ramblas about 10 minutes walk from the Gothic quarter where you will find lots of cafes and restaurants and some works of Gaudi as well.

Park Guell

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Park Guell is a public park located on Carmel Hill in Barcelona. The Park Guell can be reached by bus and metro. It is about 15 minutes bus ride from Passeig de Gracia and the bus will drop you right at the entrance. If you plan to visit by metro take the metro on L3 to get down at Vallcarca station. From the station, the park can be reached by a set of escalators on Baixada de la Gloria. This option is not wheelchair or stroller accessible, traveling by bus would be the convenient option.

The original plan of Park Guell was to be built as an estate with luxury houses commissioned by Eusebi Guell, after whom the park is named. The project was unsuccessful and only two houses were built. One of the two houses completed was occupied by Gaudi. The house is now open to the public as Gaudi House Museum and displays some of the remarkable works of the Catalan architect.

One Day in Barcelona

Most part of the Park Guell is free to enter but the most fascinating part of the park called the ‘Monument Area’ which has some impressive work by Gaudi is restricted and can be visited with a ticket. Like Sagrada Familia, the tickets to enter the Monument Area is timed. So again it is recommended you book tickets online to save time and disappointment of the tickets being sold out.

The monument area has several interesting points of interest to explore. A large terrace known as Nature Square was originally built as a Greek Theatre to host shows. The terrace is bounded by long seats decorated with colorful tile work. The terrace offers wonderful panoramic views of the city, you can also spot the rising spires of Sagrada Familia. The terrace overlooks two imposing pavilions on either side of the entrance on Carrer d’Olot.

The pavilions were built as the porter’s lodge. One of the pavilions has a museum on the history of the park. Below the terrace is the Hypostyle Room which was designed as a market for the estate. To the east of the Nature Square, an iron gate leads to the gardens of Casa Larrard through a portico built of slanting stone columns.

Check for the open times and schedule of the park here before you plan your visit.

Football Club Barcelona

If you are a football fan you wouldn’t want to miss a visit to Football Club Barcelona. To reach FC Barcelona take a metro on L5 and get down at the station Collblanc station which is about 10 minutes walk from the club.

Tickets for the tour of the club are again timed and it is recommended to book them online. The tour of the club includes a visit to the gallery which showcases all the club trophies, an interactive multimedia wall display where you learn more about the achievements of FCB club teams.

One Day in Barcelona

You can visit a section dedicated Leo Messi, walk through the players’ tunnel, dressing room, and the stadium grounds.

Gothic Quarter and the Las Ramblas

The Gothic Quarter or the Barri Gotic is the oldest neighborhood of the city of Barcelona. You will find several historical monuments, medieval buildings, museums and even remains of the city’s Roman wall in the Quarter. Some of the key attractions not to miss in the Gothic quarter are the magnificent Gothic style Barcelona Cathedral, Ancient Synagogue of Barcelona which is one of the oldest synagogues in Europe, the neo-gothic bridge in Carrer del Bisbe street

Some of the prominent museums like the Barcelona City History Museum and Picasso Museum are located in the Gothic quarter. Both the museums are housed in an exemplary neo-Gothic building.

Las Ramblas is a bustling street lined with cafes, restaurants, shops and street performers. The top things to do in Las Ramblas are Boqueria Market which is one of the oldest markets in Barcelona, the imposing square Placa Reial, Palau Guell a mansion designed by Gaudi for Eusebi Guell and the Columbus Monument or the Mirador de Colom located at Port Vella.

If you have time you can hop onto a Golondrinas Boat and tour the Barcelona coastline and its iconic landmarks. You will be spoilt for the choices of restaurants, cafes and shopping opportunities in both the Gothic Quarter and Las Ramblas. You can also try some local delicacies at the Boqueria Market.

Things to do in Barcelona at Night

Montjuic Magic Fountain

The Magic Fountain of Montjuic has been attracting tourists and locals as well as since its first show in May 1929 for the Great Universal Exhibition.

The spectacular show of light and music is a choreographed show that takes place at the Fonts de Montjuic. The show is absolutely free but takes place only on certain days of the week so you will have to plan your itinerary accordingly. It is interesting to know that the fountain operates on the recycled water which is truly commendable.

The show starts at about 8 or 9 pm depending on the season so you can easily plan it after dusk. Park Guell to Montjuic Magic Fountain is about 40 minutes ride and about 20 minutes from Passeig de Gracia by bus or metro.

There are several ways to reach Montjuic Hill. Driving is the easiest and quickest way to reach Montjuic Hill. You can either ride a Montjuic’s Cable Car or a bus both of which will drop you at the Montjuic Castle. If you are planning to ride a metro then take a Montjuic Funicular from Paral·lel Metro station and then a gondola ride to Montjuic Castle. The Montjuic Hill is connected to the neighborhood of Barceloneta by an aerial tramway which offers great views over the coastline. Check here for show times and book a ticket to the show here.

Casa Batllo

Don’t be disheartened for having skipped a visit to the Casa Batllo during the day due to short of time. You can visit and explore the interior of the imposing Gaudi creation at night too. The visit starts at 20:00 and the performances at 21:00 so you have ample time to explore the Casa Batllo and then enjoy the live show.

Casa Batllo hosts Magic Nights on the Dragon’s Roof Top where visitors can explore the whimsical interior and enjoy cold drinks accompanied by live music performances like rock, jazz, flamenco. The terrace offers a spectacular view of the illuminated city of Barcelona. Book your tickets for the night visit here.

Casa Mila

Like Casa Batllo, Casa Mila or La Pedrera the other magnificent creation of Gaudi also allows you to visit and explore the building interior after dusk. The visitors are allowed from 9 pm to 11 pm. You can join a guided tour with a small group and know more about the history and unique architectural features of the Casa Mila. Book your tickets for the night visit here.

Enjoy a Concert at Palau de la Musica Catalana

Palau de la Musica Catalana is an exemplary modernist building and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The building is richly decorated with mosaics, stained glasses, glazed tiles, and sculptures. You can take a guided tour of the building during the day or enjoy a musical show at night. The concert hall hosts a wide range of shows including operas, musical performances, ballets and Spanish Flamencos. Check for the schedule here or book a Flamenco show at Palau de la Musica.

Other Recommended Night Tours

We have tried to squeeze in as much as possible to make the most of your 24 hours in Barcelona. But we are sure you will be left craving for more from this vibrant beautiful city.

Other Barcelona Sightseeing Attractions

Other Attractions which we think might interest you and would want to swap these for any of the attractions we covered during your one day in Barcelona.

Barceloneta Beach

Barceloneta Beach is the nearest beach to Barcelona City and is a 15 minutes bus ride from the Gothic Quarter. You will find a lot of seafood special restaurants along the beach. The beach is also equipped with public toilets, kids play area and hosts several water sports activities. The beach can also be reached either by bus or by metro on Line 4. Sitges is also popular for its golden sandy beaches and is only around 30 minutes train ride from Barcelona.

Colonia Guell

Colonia Guell is a small 19th-century village located in the town of Santa Coloma de Cervello and is known for the remarkable architectural buildings and Gaudi’s Crypt yet another incredible work of art by Gaudi. The village is located some 23 Km from of Barcelona city center and is about 30 minutes train ride from Placa D’ Espanya in Barcelona.

Montjuic Hill

Montjuic Hill has numerous attractions apart from the Montjuic Magic Fountain. The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya or the National Art Museum of Catalonia displays a collection of Romanesque and Gothic paintings and Renaissance and Baroque Art Collection.

The Palau Nacional or the National Palace houses the National Art Museum of Catalonia. The tour of the palace walks you through the beautiful interior decorated with geometric designs, murals, and sculptures.

The 17th-century Montjuic Castle sits overlooking the harbor and the city of Barcelona. The castle served as a former military prison today houses a museum on the Military History. The castle also hosts numerous Concerts and temporary exhibitions.

Poble Espanyol or the Spanish Village is an open-air architectural museum. The museum displays replicas of over 100 important Spanish buildings from various regions of Spain. The museum premises also consists of shops, restaurants, and the Museu Fran Daurel displaying work of popular artists, including Dali, Picasso, and Miro.

Also Read: A visit to the Ballenberg Open Air Museum for an authentic Swiss Experience.

Other attractions on the Montjuic Hill include the botanical garden, Juan Antonio Samaranch Olympic and Sports Museum, Montjuic Cemetery, Joan Miro Foundation and Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys.

Ciutadella Park

Ciutadella Park is the biggest and the most popular park in Barcelona. The park offers a wide range of attractions and activities and is a respite from the bustling city of Barcelona. The main attraction in the park is the Cascada fountain featuring a sculpture of Venus standing on an open clam. The design of the fountain is said to be inspired by the Trevi Fountain in Rome. The park is home to the Catalan Parliament House, the Barcelona Zoo, and Museum of Zoology and Geology. 

One Day in Barcelona

On your visit to the Ciutadella Park do not miss the striking brick red color Arc de Triomf built in Neo-Mudejar style. The monumental Arc de Triomf is a triumphal arch was built as a gateway to the Barcelona World Fair of 1888. The triumphal arch is about 5 minutes walk from the park and different from the ones you must have seen in Paris or Rome.

Fun Things to do in Barcelona with kids

If you are traveling with kids you may want to squeeze in one of these attractions into your city sightseeing.

Barcelona Aquarium

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. Book your tickets to Barcelona Aquarium here.

Also Read: A visit to the Lisbon Oceanarium exploring the life underwater

Chocolate Museum

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.

Also Read: A visit to the Chocolate Museum in Switzerland.

Barcelona Zoo

The Barcelona Zoo is located in the Ciutadella Park and is home to a wide range of different species consisting of mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. The zoo also has a rich variety of plants and trees. The zoo also organizes various activities and educational tours on wildlife conservation and petting farm for kids.

More on Barcelona with kids: Fun Things to do in Barcelona with Kids

Day Trips from Barcelona

We still suggest you spend at least a couple of days in the city. Apart from the amazing Barcelona sightseeing attractions, there are plenty of places around Barcelona which can easily be explored on a day trip. All of these locations are well connected by buses and trains and can be reached within a couple of hours journey.

From Catalonian Pilgrimage Destination of Montserrat to beautiful coastal towns of Cadaques, Garraf, Calella de Palafrugell and charming medieval villages like Rupit, Besalu and Tarragona there are plenty of unique and amazing places to explore on a day trip from Barcelona.

Read here for more details on the amazing day trips from Barcelona which you should definitely add to your bucket list.

Where to Stay in Barcelona

Avinguda Gaudi or Eixample

The apartment we booked during our stay in Barcelona was located in Avinguda Gaudi which is less than 10 minutes walk to Sagrada Familia and about 15-20 minutes walk to Passeig de Gracia. The street of Avinguda Gaudi is lined with several eateries, restaurants, and cafes. It extends from Sagrada Familia to the Hospital de Sant Pau. and is lined with many outdoor and indoor restaurants.

Apartamento Gaudi-Sant Pau is 10 minutes walk from Sagrada Familia and about 3 minutes from Sant Pau. The apartment offers free WiFi and a kitchenette. Maig Metro Station is the nearest metro. The Ayre Hotel Rosellon is the other recommended hotel located close to Sagrada Familia. The hotel rooftop terrace offers great views of Sagrada Familia. Sagrada Familia is the nearest metro station.

Gothic Quarter

If exploring the Gothic Quarter and the Las Ramblas is part of your itinerary then you can save a lot of time booking an accommodation in this neighborhood. If you book a room here Passeig de Gracia will be about 15-20 minutes walk.

The Sun & Moon Hostel is one of the most recommended budget stay located 5 minutes from the Gothic Quarter and the Ramblas. Liceu Metro Station is the nearest metro station. If you like walking which is the best way to explore the hidden gems then Barceloneta Beach is about 15-minute walk away.

The other recommended hotels around the Gothic quarter are Hotel Duquesa de Cardona, Barcelona Hotel Colon, and Hotel Barcelona Catedral. The hotels feature a roof terrace with a bar and restaurant and offer great views over the historic Gothic Quarter. Hotel Barcelona Catedral and Barcelona Hotel Colon are located right next to the Barcelona Cathedral with impressive views of the cathedral from the terrace.

Passeig de Gracia

If you are looking for an accommodation centrally located to Sagrada Familia and Gothic Quarter then book an accommodation in Passeig de Gracia. The Hotel Praktik Gardens is a recommended hotel located about 10 minutes from Placa Catalunya and Passeig de Gracia. Girona metro is the nearest metro station.

If you are looking for budget options then check Barcelona Central Garden it is most recommended by our fellow travel bloggers. About 5 minutes walk from Passeig de Gracia and 10 minutes walk from the Gothic Quarter the hostel is located in an ideal location. The hostel has a shared kitchen, a common lounge and a terrace with outdoor seatings.

Best Time to Visit Barcelona

We visited Barcelona in early November which was a perfect time for the pleasant climate, we did not book any tickets in advance and there were no long queues. September to early November is considered the best time for less crowd and good weather conditions. Same can be said for the months of April and May. If you visit Barcelona later in November until March there could be a possibility of rain otherwise it is still a good time to visit. The months to avoid are June to August which is the peak tourist season and when the hotel prices are high.

Barcelona City Pass or Barcelona Card

Barcelona City Pass or Barcelona Card are two ways to save money on Barcelona sightseeing and attractions and to enjoy the benefit of free travel on public transport. There are different discounts and benefit for Barcelona City Pass and Barcelona Card so deciding on which one to buy depends on your itinerary.

Barcelona Pass

The Barcelona Pass is a city card which can be purchased for a duration of 2 and 3 consecutive days. The pass is a little expensive and works out well if you can visit maximum attractions included in the pass. Barcelona Pass offers free entry to over 20 Barcelona attractions and museums including Barcelona Zoo, Barcelona Aquarium, Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, FC Barcelona, Colonia Guell with numerous other discounts. The Pass also includes a free hop-on-hop-off bus tour and a walking tour.

If you with a Travel Card You can enjoy free travel on public transport if you include the Travel Card when buying the Barcelona Pass. The Barcelona Pass can also be used to for traveling from airport to city center.

Barcelona Card

Barcelona Card is the official city card provided by the Barcelona Tourist Office. It offers free travel on public transportation like metro, buses, trams, and trains including the airport metro and train and free admission to the some of the museums and Barcelona attractions. The Barcelona Card can be purchased for 3, 4 or 5 consecutive days though this might not be very helpful when visiting for a day you may want to consider the Barcelona Card Express which is a 48-hour Barcelona Card. The Barcelona Card Express does not include free admission to attractions but offers discounts and free travel on public transportation. Check here for the discounts and deals.

Barcelona City Pass

Barcelona City Pass is another great option when you have limited time in the city or when you can visit fewer Barcelona attractions. You can choose from 3 different packages each of which includes a combination of free entrance to Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Aerobus travel, HOHO bus and/or other discounts and tours. You can choose the package depending on the attractions you decide to cover during your one day in Barcelona. Book your City Pass here.

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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