On your way to Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia? Get the most out of your visit with our complete Barcelona Sightseeing Guide.
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For many travelers, Barcelona is merely a starting or ending port for a Mediterranean cruise. But there’s so much going on in this beautiful city, there’s a reason why the cruise ships are here. If you have the time, spend three or four days here and you can take your time and enjoy the sights at a relaxed pace, allowing plenty of time for glasses of wine, some tempting tapas, or a rest in leafy green shaded park.
Catch the Highlights of Barcelona in One Day!
If time is tight it makes sense to have a good plan for tackling the city and its fantastic sites. We’ve made our list of the top ten things to do when in Barcelona, and if you follow our route, you can do all of them in one day.
So take a look and hit the city; be warned, however, there’s little time for a siesta and the flamenco dancing will keep you up late into the night!
Map of Barcelona’s Top Ten Attractions
1. The Port of Barcelona
Our day trip starts at the Mirador de Colom, a memorial to Christopher Columbus commemorating his reporting to the King and Queen in Barcelona on his return from discovering the new world. There’s just something about the water. I love looking out over a busy port at all of the skiffs, boats, yachts, ferries, and ships all coming and going from some exotic port of call.
Barcelona’s old town spills right out into the harbor. Don’t miss the views of the ships, especially during the Sport and Yacht Race, the port master’s building, and the aquarium. If you’re arriving by ship, this is where you’ll start your visit. For more information visit the ports website, Port of Barcelona
2. The Bocqueria
This may be one of the busiest markets I’ve ever been to. Packed full of fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, pasties, breads, and delicacies from around the world, Barcelona’s chefs rely on the market to provide them the freshest ingredients for their culinary creations. Walk around the market, pick up a snack or two for the day, and just be amazed at what all you can find in this world class market. For more info, and to find out what’s happening, checkout the official website for the Bocqueria.
3. The Gothic Quarter
Continue the walk into and through this oldest part of the city. Here you’ll find architectural examples from ancient Rome up to modern day, and as the name implies, more Gothic buildings then you’ve probably found anywhere else. Stroll along the stone cobbled streets and alleys while taking in views of the chapels, mansions, cathedrals and plazas. Take time to visit the spectacular 13th century Gothic cathedral. If you’re getting peckish, we pinned one of our favorite tapas restaurants on the map.
4. The Picasso Museum
There are several excellent museums in Barcelona but this was one of our favorites. The Museu Picasso de Barcelona is housed in a series of medieval mansions which are worth a visit in their own right. But do take the time to see the artwork as well. For opening times and ticket information check the Museu Picasso de Barcelona website.
After leaving the museum it’s time to head further out into the city so walk to the Jaume 1 metro stop, hop on the L4 to station Joanic, walk around the corner to the bus stop at Escorial – Pl. Joanic and take the 119 bus to the stop, Olot-Marianao and make your way to the next site in the top ten of Barcelona.
5. Park Guell
A bit of a trip to reach, Park Güell is well worth the journey. The palace is beautiful and you will love the mosaic artwork, arches, and green spaces. Barcelona is best known as the home city of Antoni Gaudi and this is one of the best places to see his works.
Spend at least an hour wandering up through the park and be sure and take your eyes away from the incredible architecture to take in one of the best views of the city. It’s open every day of the year from 8:00 AM until 9:00 PM. There are parts of Park Guell that are free, but to see the Gaudi portion, you must buy tickets.
Again you can do this online and pick a time. I highly recommend you do this. You’ll come out of the park at the top of the hill ,and up till now you’ve only seen it from a distance, but now it’s time to make your way to the stunning La Sagrada Familia. Leave the park from the eastern entrance and get on the Bus 92 from stop Parc Guell to stop Av Gaudi then make your on foot down the colorful Avenida Gaudi toward the cathedral.
Additional Reading: Where to Stay in Barcelona
6. La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia is synonymous with Barcelona. It is really a must-do. When we visited, I expected it to take me no time at all to walk through the cathedral, perhaps read a little history, and boom I’d be done. I was wrong! We spent two solid hours there and really could have spent more.
Walking through the cathedral, I was mesmerized by the play of the light coming through the windows and the completely nontraditional decorations that Gaudi is known for. Underneath the cathedral is a museum that tells the entire history of Gaudi as well as his process of designing the cathedral. Then the museum illustrates how the various parts were built and the technology involved.
We had bought our tickets online, and boy were we glad we did. The line of people waiting to get in wound around the entire property. It is that popular. Buying your tickets online allows you to choose the time when you will be there, so you can easily fit it into your day.
Again, check the Sagrada Familia website for opening times and to reserve tickets. The two best times to go will be mid-day while everyone is eating lunch or as late as you think you can get away with to do what you want to do. From here you’ll take another ride on the metro, taking the L2 from Sagrada Familia station to Passeig de Gracia station.
7. Placa de Catalunya
One of the central plazas of the city, Placa de Catalunya is a hub for transportation and pedestrians out enjoying the city. Take a break in one of the many cafes on the tree lined avenues surrounding the square or stroll among the fountains and sculptures for quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Consider a short detour off the track to visit another of the famous Gaudi buildings, the Casa Batllo is just three blocks up the Passeig de Gracia. When you’re done, make your way out the southwest corner of the placa to the next stop.
8. Las Ramblas
Some would say this is just another street. But what a street! Leafy green shade trees line both sides of this gorgeous boulevard that cuts right through the heart of Barcelona. Take your time to marvel at the beautiful buildings, maybe pick up a trinket or two from the many souvenir stalls, or stop in one of the numerous sidewalk cafes for a coffee or a sangria. From sidewalk vendors to sidewalk cafes, there are plenty of things to see.
9. Tableau Flamenco
About half way down Las Ramblas you’ll come across the Tablao Flamenco Cordobes Barcelona, and, if you’ve timed it right, your just in time for your dinner reservation. Here I’ll give you a choice. If your a fast walker, don’t spend much time reading signs and placards, or skipped something along the way, then you probably will make it here in time for the 6:00 P.M. seating. Otherwise, you should plan on arriving in time no later than 10:30 P.M.
No trip to Spain would be complete with out a Flamenco show and this is one of the best places for it in Barcelona. Check the Tablao Flamenco Cordobes website for exact times and to make a reservation.
10. Eat, Drink,and Be Merry
Barcelona is famous for its food and drink. The nightlife here is unparalleled, in a good way. The hot summer days force everyone inside during the blasting heat of the day, and everyone comes out as the sun goes down. Friends and families are out for a stroll or catching up of tapas and wine in local eatery. Join in, find a table in a restaurant with too many choices to eat in one night, pick several plates to share around the table and just sit back, relax, enjoy the tastes of Spain, and remember the beautiful sites of the city.
Barcelona Tourist Information
Flights to and from Barcelona to many European cities are cheap and plentiful. Ferries connect the port to Mallorca, Morocco, Italy, and other Spanish ports. Driving in the city is easy and parking is plentiful. Getting around by public transportation is my recommendation. Buy a two day pass that will cover unlimited bus, tram, and metro travel as well as trips to and from the airport. An alternative, at twice the cost but easily more convenient, is the hop on-hop off bus. Taxis are also a good way to get around the city.
Additional Reading: Check out this hipster guide to Barcelona with tips on the city’s coolest neighborhoods, where to eat, and what to do! And here’s one if you are looking to take some day trips from Barcelona. If this list of ten overwhelms you, you could take it slower and only hit the 5 essential sights in Barcelona as well. It’s your choice! And if you have more time here, check out this four day itinerary in Barcelona.
We stayed at, and recommend, the Catalonia Portal de l’Angel in the heart of the Gothic Quarter with very comfortable rooms in a 19th century building with a pool.
Portal de l’Àngel, 17, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
+34 933 18 41 41
Portal de l’Angel
Have you been to Barcelona? What were your highlights?
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.
apartment in Sagrada Familia Barcelona
Thursday 30th of June 2016
We love the pics and enjoy so much the post, informative and fun. Good mixture :)
Monday 9th of May 2016
Liz, It's a gorgeous place. I can go back over and over and over.
Shannon - SoleSeeking
Saturday 7th of May 2016
This is a really useful read and the points you've covered are definitely my kind of thing! Pinning for later, thanks :)
Sunday 8th of May 2016
Thursday 5th of May 2016
What a great day in Barcelona! We want to go back so badly - we did get to see most of your Top 10, but not with enough time to really explore. Eager to return! #TheWeeklyPostcard
Thursday 5th of May 2016
Rob, Well, if you try to do all this in one day it will be tight, so again not much time to explore. Exploring is the best part, too!
Monday 2nd of May 2016
As I read your itinerary I was surprised at how many things we both did, and yet how many things were different. That's one thing I have to say about Barcelona: Whatever you end up doing, Gaudí is probably going to be on your itinerary.
Like you I spent far more time at La Sagrada Familia than I had expected to. Oh, the play of light through the windows - I think I could have spent even more time there! ... but not when you only have one day. We plan to spend more than one day there on our next trip, and I've seen the photos so maybe we'll even spend a whole day at Parc Guell. Barcelona got under our skin. We think it is one of those cities that deserves a few visits.
Tuesday 3rd of May 2016
Linda, I have to agree. Barcelona has just a wonderful feel to it; I'm sure we'll go back.