My favorite European city is usually at the top of most people’s bucket lists and for a good reason. Barcelona is home to amazing Guadí architecture, Mediterranean views, and of course, fantastic tapas (small plates) and cervezas. It’s a city that takes you in and wraps you with warmth, culture, and gastronomy that is out of this world. I’ve been to Barcelona on several different occasions, and each time I fall more in love with it than the previous visit and I can safely say that it is my favorite European city so far. Having been to Barcelona several times I’ve come up with a way to spend the perfect day in Barcelona whether you plan to stay there for a week or just a twenty-four layover, I’ve got you covered.
The first thing that you need to know if you are visiting this magnificent city is that its official language is not Spanish. The official language of Barcelona is Catalan, and it is the primary language that you see written on the metro stops and buildings. No need to worry though, they have their Spanish and many times English translation below. The official coin is the euro since they are still currently part of the European Union. Although Barcelona is still technically part of Spain, they voted to separate from Spain, and it is still a sore subject for many people around Spain. It’s not something I would discuss with just anyone that you meet because conversations about it can get tense, and it doesn’t matter if they are for it or against it, it will spark emotions either way. Although the future of the city is still unknown one thing remains certain, it is a must see!
Barcelona is a very sprawling city, and considering the length of your stay and your itinerary, I suggest using the metro. The metro is a quick and easy way to get from one area of Barcelona to another without having to spend a lot of uber/taxi fares. The metro is also conveniently located throughout the city, so it makes it extremely convenient. My biggest suggestion to travelers while riding a subway anywhere in the world is to watch your belongings. Barcelona, just like Paris, New York, and any other major metropolitan city falls victim to pickpocketers, and there is nothing that will ruin your vacation or trip quicker than someone taking your money, credit cards or passport. Be aware of your surroundings and put your backpacks or purses in front of you, not behind you. If you are a seasoned traveler, then you already know the deal, but for many people who haven’t traveled on the metro systems before, this is all new knowledge. You can get a metro card at any of the stations and refill it as you go. Once you have the metro card, it’s time to hit the streets.
My first stop in Barcelona always is and probably always will be La Sagrada Familia. La Sagrada Familia is a cathedral that was designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. It is the second most visited cathedral in the world, and in my personal opinion, it is the most beautiful cathedral in the world. Sorry to the Vatican, but La Sagrada Familia wins for me.
La Sagrada Familia has tons of stained glass windows that change the colors inside of the cathedral, depending on the time of day and the light that shines through. It truly is a magical experience to see the colors inside of the cathedral differ between morning, afternoon, and evening. If you can swing going at different times of day during your trip, then I suggest it even though that means paying the entrance fee more than once. The cathedral is still currently under construction, and it has been that way for many years. Although La Sagrada Familia is still currently under construction, visitors are allowed to go inside and tour it and experience the beauty of the cathedral for themselves. While booking the tour, I suggest choosing the entrance + tower option. The reason why I say this is because it allows you to walk up one of the four towers and get some incredible views of Barcelona from above. It is definitely worth the additional cost. I suggest spending at least an hour at La Sagrada Familia. Although you purchase your tickets ahead of time on the internet, the queue is long, so try to arrive before your entrance time, and if you can opt for the earliest entrance, which is 9 a.m., then choose that one. Most people don’t like to wake up early while they are on vacation or traveling, so you beat the masses by arriving early.
Find your tickets here.
After basking in the fantastic views at La Sagrada Familia, I suggest heading to Passeig de Gràcia. Passeig de Gràcia is a main avenue in Barcelona, and it is bustling with cafés, shops, and restaurants. It is also home to several Guadí architectural artworks, including Casa Milá, also known as La Pedrera and Casa Batlló.
Just like Sagrada Familia, Casa Milà and Casa Batlló are two top tourist destinations, so you will want to buy your tickets before visiting; otherwise, the lines are long and frequently sold out. I have been to both, and I enjoy them both the same, but you can look at photos online to determine if you prefer to do one over the other. They both have rooftops that you can walk on and take pictures of Barcelona from above. When purchasing tickets for La Sagrada Familia, there is the option to buy entrance tickets to either Casa Milà or Casa Batlló or both. It is more cost-effective and convenient to purchase them all prior, but if you aren’t sure about when to go to each, then I would buy them separately online. The tour in each house is around an hour, and they provide interesting background into the life and works of Gaudí, Barcelona’s most famous architect. If you love history, architecture, or just experiencing something different than what you are used to, then I highly suggest checking both of them out. Once you have finished visiting Casa Batlló and Casa Milà, then it’s time to head to Plaça de Catalunya.
Find your tickets to Casa Batlló and Casa Milà here:
Plaça de Catalunya isn’t only a massive plaza in the middle of Barcelona, and it is considered to be the city center. It is so centrally located that it is the standard meeting place for catching up with someone. As you can imagine, the metro stop there is bustling and full of people. Mentally prepare yourself for a crowd when arriving at Plaça de Catalunya. One of the reasons why Plaça de Catalunya is so popular is also because it is the head of the most famous pedestrian walkway in Barcelona, Las Ramblas.
Las Ramblas is a massive pedestrian street that stretches from Plaça de Catalunya to Port Vell. The street is filled with vendors. They sell anything from souvenirs and clothing to quick bites to eat. Las Ramblas is an experience all on its own. Although it isn’t an actual building, it is a main point of interest. You can grab some souvenirs or do a lot of people watching. Las Ramblas is busy at all times of day, and some people who do not like crowds try to avoid it, but everyone should experience it at least once. Just as I suggested being aware of your belongings on the metro, I have the same suggestion for Las Ramblas. Any place that draws big crowds of tourists or people is a playground for pickpocketers. Just make sure you are aware of this, and you will be fine. It should never deter you from going there.
While walking Las Ramblas, you cannot help but notice Mercado de La Boqueria. It is a massive food market located on Las Ramblas, and it is a must-see. Besides, by this time, you are probably hungry and what better way to check out the local food scene than a local food market. The food scene in Barcelona is top-notch, in my opinion, and the view of most of the top gastronomers in the world. Something to try while visiting would be jamón serrano. It is a dry-cured ham, and it is delectable. If you don’t eat meat or pork, then I suggest trying patatas bravas. They are the Spanish version of fries that are to die for. They are potato wedges with hot sauce and aioli (mayonnaise seasoned with garlic) on top of them. My mouth is watering while I write this. Although I suggest trying these two typical food items, there are so many others to check out in La Boquería that I recommend walking around and checking out whatever calls out to you. You cannot go wrong in La Boquería.
After you’ve tasted some of the local treats, then you can walk off some of the calories by heading over to Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. The Gothic Quarter is located off of Las Ramblas, and it is also a popular point of interest. Barcelona’s gothic quarter was the old city center, and it remains a bustling part of Barcelona. It is compiled of small shops, plazas and it is home to some of Barcelona’s best nightlife. During the day you can take advantage and walk around and admire the gothic architecture and the Gothic Cathedral, which is one of the main attractions in the quarter. The Gothic Quarter is also filled with tons of street musicians and artists that give it a unique local flare as well. It’s fun just to walk around and get lost in the quarter for a few hours.
If you’ve had enough of the Gothic Quarter and looking for a change of scenery then head back to Las Ramblas and walk towards Port Vell, the tale tells sign that you have reached Port Vell is the famous Christopher Colombus statue at the end of Las Ramblas. Port Vell is a great spot to capture beautiful photographs of boats on the Mediterranean. It is also a great way to walk from Las Ramblas to La Barceloneta.
La Barceloneta is the most popular beach area of Barcelona that provides excellent views of the Mediterranean during the day and a crazy nightlife scene during the summer. It is also the best area to check out another traditional Spanish dish called paella (a rice dish containing seafood). During summer, it’s nice to walk along the beach during the day and catch some sun rays or spend the actual day there soaking up the sun. It is a place that cannot be passed up while visiting Barcelona, but if it isn’t summertime, walking along it is still fun.
After checking out La Barceloneta, I suggest making your way to Parque Güell. It is not close to the city center, BUT it is the spot for some of the most magical Barcelona sunsets, in my opinion. Parque Güell is another beautiful Guadí masterpiece, and it is my second favorite to La Sagrada Familia. I love nature and art, and when you combine both, I’m in Heaven on Earth. Parque Güell is a trendy tourist destination; therefore, prepare yourself for the typical crowds and long lines and buy your entrance tickets online prior. The entrance to the park is sold out a lot of times, so if you do not purchase your tickets prior, you will more than likely be disappointed when you arrive. Either they have tickets available for a few hours later, or it’s sold out.
Parque Güell is not something that you want to miss or skip out. Even if nature isn’t your idea of a good time, the views of Barcelona from Parque Güell are hard to beat. Most bloggers would suggest going as early as possible to get photos with the least amount of people possible, and this is true. There is a big crowd, and getting the perfect Instagram shot is nearly impossible if you don’t go early, but the best time to visit is right before sunset, aka the golden hour. It is crowded in the afternoon and evening, but the sunsets that I’ve witnessed from Parque Güell are to this date the best sunsets I’ve ever seen in Barcelona. You may not get the best Instagram shot, but you do get some of the best mental photos you can imagine. I try to get to Parque Güell no later than 4 p.m. so that I can walk around and enjoy the gorgeous Guadí architecture and find a spot to sit to enjoy the view. The park closes at 6:15 p.m., so if you are like me and arrive at 4 p.m., you at least get a couple of hours to check it out before you have to leave.
Purchase your tickets here:
After taking in an incredible sunset at Parque Güell, I typically backtrack to Las Ramblas, and there is a good reason why. Food and nightlife. As I mentioned before, Plaça de Catalunya in the center of the city and the surrounding areas are the best to find food and drinks, and this is especially true in the evening in the Gothic Quarter. Some of the best nightlife in Barcelona is in the Gothic Quarter. One of my favorite places to grab a drink is at El Bosc de Les Fades (The Forest of the Fairies). The reason why it is such a popular bar to check out is that it is like being inside of a hidden forest. Hence the name. Of course, I am drawn to a fairy forest because I love nature and fairies, but I have yet to meet someone that has said that they hated visiting El Bosc de Les Fades. It is like being transported to a whole different place. Outside you have the hustle and bustle of a huge city, and inside you have the calm, tranquil forest-like vibes. It is a great place to grab a small glass of beer (caña) or my favorite traditional Spanish wine drink, sangría. It’s a great place to hang out and meet both tourists and locals and find out the best place to party. Barcelona’s nightlife is ever-changing, and every time I visit, there is a new place to check out or another place that has become more popular. I always like to ask locals in my age group, where they recommend and determine which place sounds bests and head there.
Check out El Bosc de Les Fades below:
My typical perfect day in Barcelona includes all of the aforementioned stops and places of interest. This itinerary is great for those who are limited on time and/or those who are like me and want to see as much as possible in a day. This itinerary can also give you a blueprint of how you would like to plan out your visit to Barcelona. It is a massive city with lots of fun things to check out and do, but in my opinion, everything that I’ve mentioned in this blog is a must-see. I love Barcelona because of its food, architecture, culture, and friendly vibe. It’s a great city for any age group and a fabulous place to make your first visit to Europe.