Barcelona is a vibrant city bursting with all kinds of culture, that rose out of some fascinating turns in historical politics which has in turn influenced the incredible architecture and art to be found within the city’s streets.
It’s one of those cities that you could return to time and again and still not scratch the surface, but with this 3 days in Barcelona itinerary you can certainly tick the very best highlights off your list and gain a taste of what makes this city a truly magical destination.
We’re sure you’ll be wanting to return again and again after your first visit too.
3 Days in Barcelona – Day 1
Barcelona has a very distinct new and old city architectural divide due to historical-political reasons. The first place to explore on your 3 days in Barcelona then, should definitely be the older part: the Gothic Quarter.
The Gothic Quarter (Ciutat Vella) in Barcelona takes its name from the supposed medieval gothic architectural style buildings, but in fact, many of these building’s facades are renovations made for the 1929 International Exhibition.
The Gothic Quarter does also house some genuine Roman architectural remnants as well as many other points of interest from Barcelona’s very politically-influenced history and origins.
The Gothic Quarter is a labyrinth of typically narrow and winding cobblestone streets due to overcrowding issues before the expansions of the city beyond the then stone walls in the mid-1800s.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Discover Barcelona Guide Book.
Take a Walking Tour
Our tip for the best way to familiarize yourself with this area, and to get a feel for the history that shaped the Barcelona you are exploring today, is to take a walking tour.
The “Free Walking Tour of Barcelona”, tips based walking tour, by Next Walking Tours provided the perfect introduction to this area and it’s history and leaves from the incredible Barcelona Gothic Cathedral on Pla de la Seu, an important sight to see in itself.
During the walking tour, you will take a rest at a bar, we stopped at Craft Barcelona, home to craft beer and an important introduction to Catalan specific style bar food: pintxos.
If your tour does not take you here then we would recommend visiting this spot of your own accord, right nearby the MUHBA Temple of d’August Roman columns remains historical site.
Your tour will also likely take you through George Orwell Square (Plaça de George Orwell) which is an excellent area to return to for grabbing a spot of lunch if the pitstop doesn’t fill you up during the tour.
We ended up instead at the very trendy, comfortable and airy Bobo Pulpín restaurant near to the Gothic Cathedral again. An excellent choice for lunch, dinner or just a break.
- Tapas Evening Walking Tour of Barcelona Tour
- Premium Small Group Walking Tour, Cruise, and Helicopter Flight
- Gaudi Private Walking Tour with Skip the Line Sagrada Familia
- Barcelona Old Town and Gothic Quarter Walking Tour
- The Dark History Night Walking Tour in Barcelona
- Skip the Line Guided Walking Tour: Gaudi’s Park Guell in Barcelona
Your walking tour guide will also likely recommend some of the museums you may wish to visit to increase your knowledge on some of the many historical, architectural and cultural sights you see and learn about.
Our recommendation for the afternoon would be the unmissable (we think) MUHBA (Museo D’Historia De Barcelona) which gives a very interactive tour of modern Barcelona’s emergence from a Roman past.
This is just one of many historical museums on offer, you may alternatively prefer to check out the Maritime Museum or for football fans, you could instead choose the Camp Nou/ FC Barcelona Museum. Luckily opening hours are typically until at least 7pm for all, so you may even be able to fit two in.
More great walking tours:
If you have any energy left head on down to La Rambla, the open air market shopping street made infamous by its high rate of pickpockets. We found the evening a more pleasant time to visit rather than in the heat of the midday sun.
We also found the goods for sale down the ocean end of La Rambla to be the better quality, more artisanal and less “touristy”.
Book your own La Rambla tour: Private Las Ramblas Walking Tour and Iberian Ham Experience in Barcelona
From here, now that you are somewhat knowledgeable at finding your way around the Gothic Quarter, head back off La Rambla to find some dinner.
We were very pleased with the fast-paced Restaurant Colom which offered a comfortable sit-down option to try more tapas and pintxos dishes (more typically served in the bar and stand-up settings!) and plenty of D.O Catalunya wine options.
The final reason we think you should explore the Gothic Quarter on your first day is that it is also home to some of Barcelona’s best nightlife. But keep your valuables close and stay away from overly dark alleys and La Rambla (particularly the El Raval side) later at night.
- Barcelona Old Town and Gothic Quarter Walking Tour
- Picasso Museum and Gothic Quarter Walking Tour in Barcelona
- **A TOP VIATOR TOUR** Barcelona Gothic Quarter Morning Walking Tour
Barcelona Itinerary – Day 2
If your accommodations don’t include breakfast you can grab an excellent coffee and bakery treats from the chocolate cafe near the Museu Frederic Marès meeting point.
Barcelona has a well-connected metro so getting around the city is cheap and easy with a metro pass which you can purchase at any station before you ride. Of course you can opt to travel via cab, by foot or by bus as well.
Don’t leave home without your Lonely Planet Discover Barcelona Guide Book.
Take the HOHO Bus
It is possible to take a Hop On Hop Off bus tour, arguably one of the best things to do in Barcelona, that offers you not only transport but direct access to all the best sights in Barcelona.
Each bus stop is near an iconic site or district and while riding the bus you’re provided with commentary about what you are seeing. It is a fantastic way to the city and passes are typically sold as 24 or 48 hour tickets.
Save time by booking your HOHO Bus pass in advance so you don’t have to spend time waiting in lines or locating a place to purchase the pass.
Book your Hop On Hop Off bus pass:
- City Sightseeing Barcelona Hop-On Hop-Off Tour
- Barcelona Shore Excursion: Barcelona City Hop-on Hop-off Tour
- Barcelona Hop-on Hop Off Tour: East to West Route
Gaudi & Modernisme
After seeing most of Gaudi’s highlights in the Eixample district such as the Casas Batlló and Pedrera this tour will typically end at the most famed of all Gaudi’s works: the Sagrada Familia.
This now allows you the chance to decide to explore the inside of this impressive cathedral as well. If you decide you will, it’s recommended to buy your tickets online in advance to save time queuing.
This tour probably won’t include another Modernisme building note: the St Pau Hospital. However, by ending at the Sagrada Familia you are well placed to continue on to visit the St Pau Hospital and as a bonus, the best way to get from the one to the other is walking up Gaudi Avenue.
You will learn more about this on your walking tour but basically, Gaudi’s plans for the Sagrada Familia included many blocks around it too. The Gaudi Avenue is also a nice pedestrian mall with plenty of alfresco cafe options should you require a rest before walking the Hospital grounds.
- Gaudí and Modernist Architecture: Guided Walking Tour in Barcelona
- Casa Vicens Guided Tour (Gaudi’s First House)
The icon of Barcelona and probably one of the most visited sites in the city, you can’t miss Sagrada Familia. A lot of people visit only from the outside, but be sure to leave enough time to take a tour of the interior because it is spectacular. Especially the views that you get from the towers.
Entrance to the building is regulated and you need to book your tickets in advance online. You will be required to select a date and time to enter the building and then arrive 15 minutes in advance to stand in the line. Trust me when I say that it is worth the hassle.
- Priority Access: Barcelona Sagrada Familia Tour
- Sagrada Familia Skip The Line Tickets
- Sagrada Familia Semi-Private Tour
Mercat de la Boqueria
But if you can hold out for a rest then we suggest grabbing a taxi back down towards La Rambla to visit the Mercat de la Boqueria. This is Barcelona’s famous food market of over 300 stalls.
Surrounding the food markets are numerous restaurants and bars where you can grab a drink or a bite and watch the world go by.
Alternately dive right into the spirit of this market and grab your lunch inside, you’ll be lucky to get a seat, and will more likely have to eat standing about a row of people back from your chosen food stall.
You could also grab some food (or dessert) to take instead for a picnic, at Parc Guell, our recommended destination for the afternoon.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Discover Barcelona Guide Book.
Parc Guell is a half hour metro ride away and one of Gaudi’s most iconic works. There are options for free entry or ticketed depending on how in-depth you want your visit to be. Book your own guided tour today!
After Parc Guell returns towards Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter to grab a dinner seeped in history at Els Quatre Gats which your walking tour probably took you past in the morning.
Or you could head further down to Pla Restaurant for modern fusion cuisines. You may have realized by now, that due to tour operating times, you’ve ended up on a much more Spanish dining schedule of eating late.
Museu de la Xocolata
If you can delay dinner, you may wish to head to the Museu de la Xocolata which is open until 7pm daily. They give free chocolate samples with your entry fee which may tide you over until a later dinner hour.
Arc de Triomf
The Museu de Xocolata is only an 8-minute walk from the Arc de Triomf, a picture perfect monument at the entry to a park with plenty of benches for snacking on chocolate. Its also only then 8 minutes further walk to Els Quatre Gats.
Weekend in Barcelona – Day 3
Perhaps at this point, you might be wondering how there has been no mention of art, yet another cultural highlight to be found in abundance in Barcelona.
Well today is the day, art day. If you are passionate about art it is probable that you have already made your hit list of art museums to visit whilst in Barcelona.
If not then the day mapped out here might be for you, combining a couple of the best introductions to notable Catalan and Spanish artists with some scenic views.
Start your day at the Picasso Museum that was actually built and curated by the artist himself. Although born in Malaga, Picasso spent most of his career in Barcelona and his museum boasts over 3800 works telling the story of his career via the growth and changes in his style as an artist.
Check Out This Tour: Gothic District and Picasso Museum Small Group Tour
National Art Museum of Catalonia
From here you can walk up to the MNAC, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, in about 40 minutes. This art museum (the National Museum of Catalonian Art) is located in the Palau Nacional, in Parc de Montjuïc.
This grand building sits atop a hill about 100 meters above Barcelona with views down to the port, the Gothic Quarter and more.
Buy your pass today to explore the National Art Museum of Catalonia.
On the way up you may wish to detour slightly to the Font Màgica de Montjuïc a gorgeous water fountain constructed for the 1929 International Exhibition. There are plenty of ledges on which to have a picnic lunch with a fountain view or grab a bite at one of the tapas bars nearby.
The MNAC art museum is an excellent way to gain a broad understanding of the most important artists from the Catalan region and has a couple more of Picasso’s works too.
This museum may pique your interest in Catalan artist Joan Miró to whom there is a museum dedicated just 700m downhill on your way back into the Gothic Quarter, so you could stop in if you have time.
Love Museums? If so you need this: Barcelona Museum Pass
Restaurant Options for your Final Night
For your final dinner in Barcelona, you may wish to have some classic inexpensive tapas at Bar Ramon or the bodega Els Sortidors del Parlament, where reservations are recommended but not essential.
Or if you have at least two months before your visit to Barcelona and enjoy fine dining, you may wish to try and enter the daily midnight reservation lottery for Tickets a cabaret-themed modern fine dining take on tapas.
All of these suggestions are no more than 15 minutes walk from the Font Màgica de Montjuïc which you may wish to return to by night for the famed free light show at around 9pm daily.
Crowds of locals and tourists alike flock to view this show from ledges, a magical way to round out your magical three days in Barcelona.
Recommended Food Tours:
- Barcelona Food and Wine Tasting Tour
- Small-Group Barcelona Tapas Tour with a Local
- Cava and Wine Tour from Barcelona
- Tapas and Wine Experience Small-Group Walking Tour
Day Trips from Barcelona
If you have more than 3 days in Barcelona you may want to get outside of the city limits to experience the surrounding countryside, beaches and further great works of architecture and art to be found all around.
- Architecture and Art: Figueres is unmissable if you are a fan of either of these as they come as a package deal here. See Modernisme all around in the architecture, a large 18th-century castle and where modernism meets surrealism in Salvador Dalí’s Teatre-Museu Dalí a theatre turned surrealist landscape imagined to live including a display of some of Dalí’s own paintings and jewelry works. Figueres is a 2-hour train journey from Barcelona.
- Beach: Sitges is home to multiple sandy beaches (including a nudist one), beachside seafood restaurants, a nice promenade and even some more architectural examples of modernism. Perhaps it’s even a destination for more than a day, although it’s only a 40-minute train ride away.
- Countryside: Do as the locals do and head up to Parc de Collserola to get your nature fix! These hills contain hiking and cycling trails with many farmhouse style restaurants along the way. You can even make your way from one railway station (Baixador de Vallvidrera 20 minute train from Barcelona) across the park to another (Sant Cugat, 1-hour commute from Barcelona) rather than doing a circle route.
Recommended Day Tours:
- Salvador Dali Museum, Figueres and Cadaques Small Group Day Trip from Barcelona
- Montserrat and Cava Trail Tour from Barcelona
- Three Countries in One Day: France, Andorra, and Spain from Barcelona
Where to Stay in Barcelona
We found Barcelona reasonably cheap to eat, drink, see and get around in. Accommodation however seemed very expensive and to book out pretty quickly. Barcelona is understandably a city in demand. If you are looking for cheap accommodation you may want to look at some of the many hostels in Barcelona.
A bed in a dorm room will cost around 30 Euro per night at around 6km from the city center. If you’d like to be a kilometer or less from the city this jumps up to around 35-40 Euro per night.
A double room will typically cost from 40-75 Euro per night depending on proximity to city center. We stayed in the No Limit Hostel Graffiti which despite the strange name was clean, had knowledgeable desk staff and a good shared roof terrace and kitchen.
They have dorm rooms from around 20 Euro per night and private twin-share rooms from around 60 Euro per night and are located only 2.5km from the city center.
Top hostels we recommend in Barcelona, Spain:
- Black Swan Hostel ***** Excellent Traveler Rating by TripAdvisor
- Itaca Hostel ***** Excellent Traveler Rating by TripAdvisor
- St Christopher’s Inn Barcelona **** Excellent Traveler Rating by TripAdvisor
Mid-level accommodations in three-star hotels start at 100 Euro per night if you stay near a subway station around 4km out from La Rambla. If you want to stay around 1 kilometer or less from the center then you can expect to pay 125 Euro per night or more. Our pick is the 3 star B Hotel for its rooftop pool and close proximity to the Font Màgica de Montjuïc.
Top mid-range hotels we recommend in Barcelona, Spain:
- Hotel Brummell ***** Excellent Traveler Rating by TripAdvisor
- Catalonia Square ***** Excellent Traveler Rating by TripAdvisor
- Yurbban Trafalgar Hotel ***** Excellent Traveler Rating by TripAdvisor
If you were looking to treat yourself with some top-level accommodations there are over thirty 5 star options to choose from. These options start at around 200 Euro per night and most are not much more than 1 kilometer from the city center.
Our pick in this price range is the 5 star Hotel Neri for being housed in an 18th-century building right in the Gothic Quarter to add an interactive historical experience to your Barcelona stay.
Top luxury hotels we recommend in Barcelona, Spain:
- Hotel DO
- H10 Casa Mimosa
- Yurbban Passage Hotel & Spa
- Click to view all of the luxury hotels in Barcelona, Spain on TripAdvisor.
Get the Barcelona Card with Guidebook
Make the most out of your Barcelona visit for less with the Barcelona Card. This is a great way to see the top attractions in Barcelona without breaking the bank. Choose a 72, 96 or 120- hour Barcelona city pass, and enjoy money-saving deals on a host of sights and activities.
Gain free or discounted entry to more than 20 top visitor attractions, including the National Art Museum of Catalonia and Chocolate Museum; enjoy savings at other attractions; and get free travel on Barcelona transport services, including the metro and buses.
Plus, get a free guidebook, city map, and over 90 special offers at select shops, restaurants, and outlets. This is something I wish every city would have! Buy Your Barcelona Card
About the Author
Erin Hardie and Ryan Platten are teachers and travelers from Perth, Western Australia. A mutual love of travel, Guinness and trying new flavors brought them together. So they created the Guinness seeking travel blog downbubble after having traveled to over 15 countries individually. They visited Barcelona during the Long Night of the Museums.
More on Spain:
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- Best Day Trips from Barcelona
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