Home to a rich and vibrant culture, outstanding art, and beautiful beaches, it’s hard to visit Barcelona and not have one of the most memorable trips of your life! In this article, I will explain why this Barcelona is known around the world and how to get the most out of this amazing city.
Table of Contents
- Day 1 – Exploring the Local Culture
- Day 2 – Seeing Gaudi’s Incredible Designs
- Day Three – Nature and Beaches
Day 1 – Exploring the Local Culture
As one of the major cities in Spain, and also the capital of Catalonia (a region in the north of Spain with its own unique culture), Barcelona has much to offer for people wanting to try new foods, different ways of life, and local art. We are going to start our adventure by exploring the old town of the city and soaking up some of this vibrant culture
Placa Catalunya – The Commercial Hub
Before we embark on our journey I recommend buying the T-Casual public transport ticket. This ticket is valid for all forms of public transport in the city and will give you 10 journeys for a reasonable price of $12. You can buy these from any metro station and each machine is multi-lingual and easy to navigate.
Start by walking or taking the metro to Placa Catalunya, this central hub is bustling with activity at all times of the day and is the square that joins the old city with the new. Here you can find large commercial stores, beautiful fountains, and often various shows.
From here you can easily walk in any direction and find something exciting, but we are going to start with Barcelona’s largest walking street, La Rambla.
A Stroll Down La Rambla
This world-famous walking street is a fantastic place to start your Barcelona tour. It separates some of the most interesting barrios (districts) of the city and leads from the commercial and cultural centre of the city, Placa Catalunya, straight to the beach. Doesn’t sound so bad, right?
Hop onto the walking street and start casually making your way down, as you walk you will see a number of restaurants, street vendors and performers and countless shopping opportunities.
Take note that La Rambla, and Barcelona as a whole is well known for pickpockets, so please keep a close eye on your belongings when in any busy area. As long as you are aware then you will be fine as they often only go for the ‘easy targets’.
One key thing to look out for as you casually meander down this bustling street is La Boqueria Market. The history of the city’s oldest market is clouded in mystery and rumour. Dated back to the 13th century (although the current structure was built in 19th century), this market sells fresh fruits, sweet treats, and local meals. This is a perfect place to grab a snack to fuel up for the day ahead.
You can follow the street all the way to the end, taking your time and exploring everything it has to offer. Eventually, it will open up to the harbor of the city and the Columbus Monument. This is another open square filled with beautiful statues and is the gateway to the coastal and beach area of the city (we’ll be exploring there later, don’t worry).
Turn left down any of the streets just before the Columbus Monument and you will see the architecture of the buildings change dramatically. You are now entering El Gotico or the Gothic Quarter. Think of incredibly detailed gothic architecture, coupled with tiny winding streets and cute stores and cafes.
The Gothic Quarter
Spending a half-day wandering the cozy streets of El Gothico and neighboring Born is an essential part of any Barcelona trip. The Gothic Quarter is easy to get lost in, with the narrowing streets crisscrossing wildly and the fascinating architecture often blocking out the sun. Don’t worry though, as it’s the kind of place you want to get lost in.
I often wander the streets randomly here, every avenue is filled with boutique stores, hidden shopping centres, and countless cafes and tapas bars. As you explore this area don’t forget to keep your eyes up to take in the incredible designs of the buildings and gargoyles all around you.
Some top sights to aim for are Placa de Sant Juan (the political centre of the city), Basilica de Santa Maria, Gallerias Malda (a small and quirky shopping centre with themed stores), and Barcelona Cathedral.
Time for a Late Some Lunch
After exploring the Gothic Quarter and being blown away around every corner, you’ve probably worked up an appetite. Barcelona is full of many tapas bars and the Gothic Quarter has some of the best. Each one will offer something slightly different and all will have cold Sangria and Vermouth to enjoy. I recommend L’Alcoba Azul in this area, but you can choose any that catch your eye on the walk.
El Born – The Cultural Centre
After you’ve had your selection of local Tapas, it’s time to get on your feet again and head into El Born, one of the trendiest neighborhoods of the city. Shoot for The Born Cultural Centre which is free to explore and gives context to the historical area you are experiencing.
Some not-to-miss spots in Born are The Picasso Museum, Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar, and the El Caganer store.
After spending the whole day on your feet, why not pop into Park Ciutadella to unwind and bask in the evening sun? You can buy a beer and a samosa from one of the many vendors around and just relax, thinking about all the amazing things you’ve seen today. For dinner options tonight, head to Mimo’s for a beautiful view and tapas.
Day 2 – Seeing Gaudi’s Incredible Designs
If you’ve read anything about Barcelona, you’ve read about La Sagrada Familia. Designed by local eclectic architect Antoni Gaudi, Spains’ most visited building cannot be missed on any Barcelona Itinerary.
If you want to enter this glorious building, you can book online here. Make sure you plan this well in advance though, as there are a set number of tickets each day and they sell out fast.
I would highly reccomend going inside here, but if purchasing a ticket isn’t in your budget then you still have options. Every Sunday you can enter the cathedral for free and attend a service. Even if you are not religious, the grand hall is packed full of colorful stain-glass windows and interesting designs. You will be so amazed by the experience even if you can’t relate to the service itself. Be sure to get there at 8 am as a lot of people use this trick to enter the building for free.
Casa Mila and Gracia
After you’ve spent the morning exploring Sagrada Famila, you probably are excited to see more of Gaudi’s incredibly creative and unique designs. Casa Mila is a fast metro (get off at Passeig de Gracia) or a relatively short walk from Sagrada Familia and shows off Gaudi’s flair in a slightly more humbling way than the towering cathedral.
From Casa Mila, take a stroll through Exiample (the modern shopping district) into the artsy Barrio of Gracia. This walk is mostly uphill now and so if you want to take the metro into Fontanna or Lesseps to skip some of the hike then you will save some time and your legs. Gracia is full of small art galleries, street art and cool bars. It is locally the coolest neighborhood and is often unknown to tourists.
As you walk through this trendy area, look out for more of Gaudi’s designs littered around, and feel free to take a break in any of the district’s amazing tapas and wine bars.
Park Guell and Views of the City
From Gracia you are only a stones throw away from internationally renowned Park Guell. Here you will enjoy excellent views of the city, as well as rugged tunnels and, of course, more amazing art and architecture from Antoni Gaudi. A lot of the park is free to roam around but if you want to get the best views and to really see Gaudi at his best, I strongly recommend paying the 10 Euro fee to enter the restricted part of the park, I can promise you that you won’t be disappointed.
Incredible Sunset Views at Bunkers Del Carmel
Now day two is coming to an end, it’s time to see the whole city in all of its glory. Bunkers del Carmel (MUHBA Turo de la Rovira on Google Maps) is Barcelona’s best viewpoint and offers 360-degree views of the city, ocean, and surrounding mountains. I suggest preparing a picnic, some drinks, and a jacket to take to the top and find a spot to sit and enjoy the sunset. Here you will easily meet many kind people and really experience Barcelona’s open and friendly culture. As you watch the sun go down and the city lights come on, turn your eyes to La Sagrada Famila to see it be lit up by bright and colorful strobes.
Experience Barcelona’s Famous Nightlife
To sum up the nightlife of Barcelona in one sentence is difficult, but the best description I can come up with would be ‘exciting, welcoming and all-encompassing’. This means that literally anywhere you head in the city will have squares packed full of bars and people out to have a good time. Look for tables on the streets to start your night and see where it takes you, or head to one of my favorite bars from the list below. The best districts for bars are the Gothic Quarter and El Born and if you want to go clubbing then head for the beach area of Port Olimpico for nightclubs right on the ocean front that will go on until the early hours of the morning.
- Nevermind Bar – A cool skater bar complete with cocktails and a skate ramp.
- La Ovella Negra – A well-known rustic feel with local crowds.
- Espit Chupitos – A shooter bar with over 200 cocktail-style shooters.
Day Three – Nature and Beaches
Placa Espanya and The Olympic Park
In my opinion, the most beautiful area of Barcelona is Placa Espanya and the Olympic Park. Built for the bid for the 1936 Olympics, this area is filled with grandeur, massive structures, and pristine lawns. Start by taking the metro to Placa Espanya and walk between the two columns toward the National Art Museum of Catalonia. Slowly climb up the stairs and keep bearing right, enjoying every step as you will be surrounded by beautiful buildings and street musicians.
Walking upwards you will end up in the Olympic Park, a large open space complete with various stadiums and is a great place to start the morning.
Mont Juic Park and Castle
From the Olympic Park, head up towards Mont Juic Castle, making sure to explore some of the many parks and botanical gardens along the way. This is my favorite area of the city to unwind and relax and get away from the crowds. Walking through the park you will see lots of hidden viewpoints, beautiful parks, and many fountains and statues. Head towards Salts Terazza around halfway up the mountain to enjoy my favorite view of the city, looking over the old Olympic swimming pool. You can grab a drink here, or just relax and enjoy the view for free.
After taking some rest, head up to the mountain to the castle itself, you can walk around the outside of the castle for free or can enter for a small fee. If you happen to be there after 3 pm on a Monday then it is free to enter the castle also.
Some Delicious Food
As you descend Mont Juic, head for Carrer de Blai, a street packed full of some of the most wonderful food you can find in the city, Pinchos. Pinchos are a Catalonian favorite and you will know you’re in the right place when you see tiny dishes pierced with cocktail sticks on display. I can recommend all of the restaurants on Carrer de Blai (Blai Street) but the best way to enjoy it is to Pincho Crawl. Get one or two Pinchos in each bar and then move on to the next one. This way you will experience everything that there is to offer as each place has slightly different options.
Some Well Earned Beach Time
Since you’ve spent the majority of the last days walking, eating, and exploring, it’s time for some well-deserved relaxation. What better place to do this than one of Barcelona’s many beaches.
From Carrer de Blai it is a 25-minute walk or a short bus ride to Barceloneta Beach, the closest to the centre. Head left from here and stroll at your own pace down the large open pathways that lead all along the coastline. My favorite beach to relax is Bogatel, but really you can choose any of the beaches along this walkway to settle.
If you get restless after a few hours on the beach then why not take a walk up to Arc de Triumph, an area featuring some of the best street musicians in the city and is complete with great restaurants and the grand archway itself?
Overall, Barcelona is an incredible city to spend 72 hours in. Have you got any suggestions? If so, please leave a comment below.