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3 DAYS IN BARCELONA: THE PERFECT BARCELONA ITINERARY
Barcelona is one of Europe’s most popular cities for visitors, and one of our favourite cities too. There’s loads to see and do, from the incredible architecture of Anton Gaudí, through to museums, UNESCO world heritage sites, markets, delicious tapas – and even a beach.
As you might imagine, it is not hard to fill your time when visiting Barcelona, even with three full days to play with. We’ve visited multiple times, and are always coming across new sites and things to do.
You should be aware that Barcelona is a fairly big city, with a number of fairly distinct areas. It does have a good public transport system, but obviously you want to spend more of your time sightseeing and less of your time on a bus or metro.
With that in mind, I’ve put together what I think is a good overview of some of the city’s main sights that will help you spend three days in Barcelona.
I’ve ordered the sights for each day by a logical order of how you might want to visit them and also put those sights first that you should visit earlier in the day before the crowds arrive, where possible. Barcelona is very popular with visitors, and especially in the summer months attractions can become very crowded, so booking ahead where possible and turning up early are the key to a frustration free trip.
1. Casa Batlló
Certainly one of the most famous of Gaudí’s houses in Barcelona, Casa Batlló is also one of the most popular, so we definitely recommend you put this at the beginning of your day. Even from the outside, this property is intriguing, with the famous balconies on the buildings façade, which is reminiscent of Venetian masks.
2. Casa Milá
Casa Milá, also known as La Pedrera, is a short walk from Casa Batlló, and is another of Gaudí’s houses in Barcelona – the last of his major civil works.
This one also has a famous façade, this time of undulating limestone, the stone-like look which earned it the nickname “La Pedrera”, which means the Quarry. This façade is self-supporting, freeing up the rest of the building from requiring load-bearing walls.
3. Las Ramblas
Time for a spot of walking, and maybe all this sight-seeing has you hungry? Why not head past Plaça de Catalunya, and onto one of the cities most famous streets for a stroll – Las Ramblas. Take a drink from the fountain at the northern end of the street, which will guarantee you’ll return to the city.
4. La Boqueria
About halfway down Las Ramblas, you’ll come to La Boqueria, the city’s oldest and most famous market. This used to be just outside the old city wall and has always been famous as the market that would have the items you couldn’t find elsewhere.
5. Mirador de Colom (Columbus Monument)
From Palau Güell, I suggest you continue your journey south along Las Ramblas until you get to the end, where you’ll be greeted by the sight of a large column, atop which sits a statue of Christopher Columbus, the famous Italian explorer largely responsible for opening up the Americas to European exploration.
6. Las Golondrinas Boat Tour
At the end of Las Ramblas where you find the Columbus Monument is the marina area of Barcelona. So far the day has involved a fair bit of walking, so this might be a good opportunity to rest and let the scenery float by, perhaps accompanied by a coffee or something stronger.
7. Barcelona Aquarium or Catalonia History Museum
If a boat ride isn’t for you, or you want to keep exploring once the ride is finished, there are a couple of great options at this end of town. Depending on your interests, you could visit the Barcelona Aquarium or the Catalonia History Museum (the former is free with the Barcelona Pass and both are discounted with the Barcelona Card & Barcelona City Pass).
8. Sagrada Familia
Without a doubt Gaudí’s masterpiece, this massive basilica was the work that Gaudí was labouring over when he tragically died. Construction started in 1882, although by the time of Gaudí’s death in 1926 it was still less than a quarter finished. At time of writing, it’s still not complete.
9. Recinte Modernista Sant Pau
A relatively new opening to Barcelona visitors, the Recinte Modernista Sant Pau is quickly becoming one of Barcelona’s more popular attractions.
Originally built as a hospital, this series of buildings is one of the finest examples of Art Nouveau architecture in Europe, and has been awarded UNESCO world heritage status alongside the Palau de la Musica Catalana in the Gothic Quarter.
10. Gaudí Experience
Next on our itinerary is a trip up towards Park Güell. On the way, we suggest you might want to pop into the Gaudí experience, an interactive exhibition that will take you through the life and works of the architect responsible for so many of Barcelona’s sights. There’s an overview of some of his most notable works, as well as a 4D cinema.
11. Park Güell
Situated on the hills towards the north of the city, Park Güell is another of Gaudí’s works. This is a little bit different though, being as it is a large park area with a number of installations to explore and visit.
Originally planned as a housing development of upper-class properties offering spectacular views, the vision of sixty homes was never realized, with only two actually completed.
However, many of the features envisioned by Gaudí for the public spaces were created, including the entrance houses, main terrace area, mosaic serpentine bench, and colonnaded footpaths.
12. Chocolate Museum
What better way to start the day than with chocolate? And given that your entry ticket to Barcelona’s chocolate museum is actually a real bar of chocolate, you can’t fail to be happy when you visit.
13. Gothic Quarter
From the Chocolate Museum, you’re going to head deep into the warren of narrow streets that is the Gothic Quarter.
This is the oldest part of the city and is where some of the highlights of Barcelona are tucked away. I’d definitely recommend having a paper map handy when you start to explore – the high buildings and narrow streets mean GPS signals can get easily confused.
14. Montjuïc Hill Attractions
We’re now going to head up Montjuïc Hill, which has a number of attractions atop it. Depending on your interests and how much time you have, you will probably want to pick a few of these rather than try to rush around all of them.
First on my list is the large fortress atop the hill, Montjuïc Castle. This huge fortress has played a key role in the history of the city over the last few hundred years, serving as a Spanish control over the potentially unruly Catalan city, as well as a prison and execution center.
The last entry on the final day of our three day Barcelona itinerary is the Magic Fountain, which you can see from the steps in front of the National Museum of Catalan Art.
This fountain runs a spectacular sound and light show in the evenings which is a real treat to watch as the water displays synchronize with the sound and light.
Where to Stay in Barcelona
Barcelona has no shortage of choice when it comes to accommodation, and we’ve stayed at a number of different locations in the city in both apartments and hotels.
Our preferred option when booking accommodation is booking.com (see their Barcelona listings here). They list everything from hotels to apartments to hostels, and we find they usually have the widest range at the most competitive prices.
To give you an idea of what’s available, here are some options we researched for you:
- Hostel One Ramblas – a very well reviewed and incredibly central hostel option
- The 8 Boutique B&B – a highly rated and well-located bed and breakfast
- Duquesa de Cardona – a 4* property on the waterfront with a rooftop bar
It’s worth bearing in mind that Barcelona is a city which is a little overwhelmed by tourism, and as such, is taking measures to ensure that residents are able to afford to live in the city.
In particular, there has been a crackdown on city center AirBnB accommodation, as well as a restriction on the new hotel, builds in the city center.