Barcelona is one of my favourite cities in Europe. You’re either a Madrid fan or a Barca fan and although I love Madrid (see my two day itinerary for Madrid here), Barcelona definitely won me over. Why? Because I absolutely love cities where you can be on the water and enjoy the beaches while also still enjoying the busy city life and Barcelona offers just that.
After two short visits to Barcelona over the years, I’ve put together this itinerary based off my personal favourite things to do.
Rise and shine! Start your day by an early morning visit to Boqueria Market (the sign will read St. Josep’s). This market has origins dating back to 1200 and is located conveniently off the bustling street of Las Rambla. It is filled with everything that will awaken your senses. Visit early (it opens at 8am and is closed on Sunday’s) to ensure you beat the crowds and get yourself some breakfast from some of the local vendors.
After breakfast head for a day of exploring the famous architecture of Antoni Gaudi, whose work reflects a very distinctive style that you’ll see throughout the city. If you are feeling adventurous, use the cities public transportation to get you around to the different notable sites. However, if you’re not so into conquering transit, Viator offers great tours which will take you to and by the main Gaudi attractions. Here is a list of the top ten spots in the city to spot his architecture but some in particular that I’d like to point out as must-dos are the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. Lines can be super long at Sagrada Familia so if you intend to visit inside (and not on a tour) try purchasing your tickets in advance. Tickets for Park Guell can also be bought in advance here.
Fun fact about Sagrada Familia is that construction for it commenced in 1882 and at Gaudi’s time of death in 1926, the project was less than a quarter complete. Over the years the construction has continued to progress slowly but was delayed several times as it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. Construction later resumed in the 1950s and only passed the midpoint of being built in 2010 with an anticipated completion date of 2026.
It is really dependent on how long the above takes you for your next steps for this day. For some, this can take the entire day but for others it may take less. Either way, head to get some paella for lunch or dinner. Paella is a rice dish that is Spain’s national dish. It is made in a variety of different ways but usually with seasoned rice, vegetables, seafood and/or meat. If you’re looking for a good place to go, here is a great list by TimeOut. An important thing to note about paella though is some restaurants may not have single servings available given that it’s often made in a large pan. So if you’re traveling solo, pay attention to the place you’re picking!
If you’re looking for a night out at the end of your busy day, Las Rambla is the place to be. However, note that some parts of this strip can become a bit sketchy at night so use your common sense and pay attention to your valuables and surroundings.
If you’re looking to head to bed early, a few years ago I discovered Hotel Jardi, a small boutique hotel located very close to basically everything that you can check out.
Wake up and take a morning stroll down Las Rambla. Even if you’ve visited this busy strip the night before, it’s worth seeing it during the day too. Check out the local vendors, enjoy a drink or breakfast on a nearby patio and sit back and people watch. While you’re out for your morning stroll, head to Placa de Catalunya, a plaza mainly known for its beautiful fountains and statues. If you want, you can also choose to do this before heading down Las Ramblas.
After enjoying the fun of Las Ramblas, you may choose to head to Place Reial which was built in 1848 by Antoni Gaudi. There are also some great places to grab a bite to eat around here including Los Caracoles which is recommended by Apartment Barcelona. Next continue exploring this beautiful city by heading down the side street Carrer de Ferran where you’ll enter the heart of the Gothic Quarter. The Gothic Quarter used to be the Roman village and has remnants of its past. However today you’ll see a mix of old and new architecture. Enjoy the shops, cafes and sights in this magical area of the city.
If you’re tired of walking around the city at this point, why not head to spend the rest of your day at the beach. I mean, how often are you in a place where you can enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city in the morning and the sun on the beach in the afternoon? There are several beaches you can check out, and Culture Trip has this great list of the top ten for you to explore. Personally I just walked towards the water and found some sand to hang out on.
If you want to explore further and are into museums, two of the the city’s most popular are the Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) and the Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona (CCCB).
However you decide to spend your afternoon, head to a tapas bar for a snacky dinner or check out a local seafood restaurant, I mean, you are on the ocean after all! Here are some great recommendations for all sorts of budgets and tastes.
There you have it, two whirlwind days in the beautiful city of Barcelona. Did I miss some of your favourite highlights of the city? Share them below to help other travelers just like you!