I just returned from my third trip to Barcelona. I’ve heard from many of you that are planning trips there too. I’ve seen and done a lot in in my three visits so today I’m sharing an itinerary for four days in Barcelona.
Barcelona is best seen on foot. Most of Barcelona’s tourist sites are clustered in the old city encompassing the Gothic Quarter and Born neighborhoods and along Passieg de Gracia (a high-end shopping and business avenue in Barcelona). Two places you definitely want to visit are located a short cab ride away from those neighborhoods: the Basilica de Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. But don’t let their distance deter you — they are absolutely worth the visit.
I recommend staying at a hotel in the Gothic Quarter. Since so many of the sights are clustered in that neighborhood you can tick several off your list in your first day. Check into your hotel, catch a few zzz’s if you need it, unpack, grab a quick breakfast and get on your way.
Explore the Cathedral of Barcelona, Kissing Lips Mural & Pont Del Bisbe
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia is also known as the Catedral de Barcelona. It is a Gothic-Revival church in the old city. It’s simply stunning to see (remember to dress appropriately: knees and shoulders covered if you decide to go inside). Rooftop access is open to the public and definitely worth the money to walk up. You’ll get a view of the city below and a unique perspective of the cathedral’s gothic spires. If your first day happens to be on Sunday expect to see heavy crowds in front of the cathedral. There is always singing and dancing circles out in front and very talented street entertainers are often parked near Pont del Bisbe. There are benches across from the cathedral from which you can enjoy the spectacle. Of note, beware of pickpocketers, especially near the cathedral but all over Barcelona, petty crime is common.
Across from the Cathedral, in Plaça d’Isidre Nonell, is a photo mosaic mural of kissing lips that’s worth a stop. If you look closely the mural is made of snapshots. The pictures were submitted by residents and they represent moments of freedom.
Walk around the adjacent Gothic Quarter. A short walk away is Pont del Bisbe, a picturesque Neo-Gothic bridge that unites the Palau de la Generalitat (home of the Catalan government) with the Casa dels Canonges (Canon House). The architecture in this area is stunning so spend some time walking around the narrow streets and taking in the old city. Stop by two old city favorites: Satan’s Coffee and Xurreria del Banys Nous for the best churros around! The Gothic Quarter is also a great place to stroll and check out the local shops for clothing and other uniquely Spanish items. As it approaches sunset, circle back to the front of the cathedral to see it at golden hour. It is simply breathtaking.
Your second day in Barcelona is about exploring Antonin Gaudi’s grand architectural accomplishments: Basilica de Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. In the morning walk over to la boqueria, a large public market in the old city, and pick up items for a picnic lunch. Then head over to Sagrada Familia. Picnic at the park surrounding the church or wait until you get to Park Guell. Alternatively, if you are a football fan, skip Park Guell and opt to do a tour of Camp Nou (or even better) get tickets to a match if FC Barcelona is scheduled to play at home. Head back to the old city and finish the day with dinner and drinks at a restaurant on La Rambla, a grand pedestrian mall famous for its restaurants and nightlife.
Basilica de Sagrada Familia
You can’t visit Barcelona and not see the Basilica de Sagrada Familia. Be aware the line to get into Sagrada is lengthy so it is usually best to purchase your tickets online with a timed-entry. It’s pretty far from the Gothic Quarter so take a cab or the subway (if you are so inclined). Sagrada Familia is a temple in Barcelona designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi — a well known leader of an eclectic, modern style of design in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Sagrada Familia is the most famous of Gaudi’s works and the largest unfinished Roman Catholic Church in the world. Gaudi worked for 43 years on the temple until his death. Construction continues to this day. It is expected to be completed in 2026 on the centennial of Gaudi’s death. There’s a park in front of Sagrada Familia that is a nice place to picnic and enjoy the view on a beautiful day or if you are so inclined go to the rooftop of the Ayre Hotel Rosselon to snap some picture-perfect photos of the historic church.
North of Sagrada Familia and high in the hills surrounding Barcelona is Park Guell, another sight designed by Antonin Gaudi. Park Guell is filled with gardens and unique architectural features that demonstrates Gaudi’s architectural style. If you are traveling with young kids, Park Guell is a must-do because after you’ve taken a few minutes to admire Gaudi’s works you can head to the playground and relax.
If the hometown team is in town, you can’t miss an opportunity to catch an FC Barcelona match at Camp Nou. If there is not a scheduled match I highly recommend getting tickets to the Camp Nou stadium tour if you can squeeze it in. So much of the history of Barcelona is tied to the rise of this beloved football team, the tour is just as much a history lesson of the city as it is a celebration of the beloved football team. As the slogan on the stadium seats says, “mes que un club”. Tickets can be purchased on sight or in advance (recommended).
The theme of your third day in Barcelona is digging deeper into the art and architecture of the city. Choose one or two (at most) of the following sights then spend the rest of your afternoon walking along Barcelona’s most famous avenue, Passeig de Gracia enjoying the shopping and dining.
Casa Mila – La Pedrera
My top choice for families is to see Antonin Gaudi’s architectural style up close at Casa Mila. Casa Mila is the last private residence — an apartment building — designed by Gaudi. Casa Mila is located along the popular shopping and business avenue, Passeig de Gracia. Walking along the street you’ll know instantly that you are coming upon something special (even if you are not aware of the significance). The stone facade and curved wrought iron balconies are a sight to behold. Your kids will probably find the rooftop of Casa Mila the most fascinating part of the tour. There are chimney smokestacks in groupings that some say provided the inspiration for Star Wars characters Storm Troopers and Darth Vader.
Casa Battlo is another Gaudi masterpiece just down the street from Casa Mila. It is a home redesigned by Gaudi in 1904 for a wealthy textile industrialist with a home on Passieg de Gracia. The facade is decorated with colorful mosaic tiles and the roof is arched (in the form of a dragon).
Palau de La Musica Catalana
The Palau is a famous concert hall in the Born neighborhood of Barcelona designed in the style of Catalan Modernism. Guided tours are the only way to see the building up close and tickets are hard to come by if you walk up so plan a tour in advance if you are set on seeing this sight.
The born neighborhood is also home to the Picasso Museum. The museum showcases the artist’s work from an early age to some of his most famous paintings.
Your final day in Barcelona is a chance to immerse in the Catalan culture or enjoy a relaxing day at the beach.
A short train ride away is the city of Girona. Girona is a city that has held strongly onto its Catalan roots and is known for it’s bicycle-friendly streets. Hire a guide and go on a cycle tour of the city to explore architecture reminiscent of the Gothic Quarter and learn more about Catalan culture and history.
The Barceloneta is a seaside neighborhood in Barcelona right on the beach. In addition to the beach, come here for al fresco seafood, tapas, and nightlife.
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