But what if you don’t have a whole week? What if you’re just passing through, and only have one full day to explore the city? Well, fear not. I think you can squeeze a lot of adventure and sight seeing into one day, from magic fountains to spectacular churches.
I’ve put together a recommended itinerary for a full day in Barcelona, including transport options. Then, at the end of the post I have a couple of extra stop-offs for those of you who really want to fill your day up, as well as some tips and ideas for getting the most out of your day. Let’s get started!
An itinerary for a day in Barcelona
9am: Start point – Placa de Catalunya
The Placa de Catalunya is slap bang in the middle of Barcelona, and a good place to start your day. The main Barcelona Tourism office is situated here, and you can prepare by stocking up on maps, leaflets, and information. It’s also where a number of transport options converge. Sorted? When you’re all ready, it’s time to take your:
Transport to the next stop (Casa Batlló)
Five minutes to walk the 400m up the Passeig de Gracia to the Casa Batlló, which will be on your left.
9.15 – 10.45: Casa Batlló.
Visiting Barcelona is inevitably going to result in you seeing some of the masterpieces that Anton Gaudi left scattered around the city. And this is the case with the Casa Batlló, one of his more famous houses, and one which is entirely open to the public for viewing.
Like many of the tourist attractions in Barcelona, there’s an entry fee, in this case of around €18, but this is totally worth it. You will be issued with an audio guide to take you around the rooms, which explains all the highlights of the building, as well as the history behind its’ construction. I’ve put this as the first stop in the tour as it is a very popular spot, and can only accommodate so many people at a time.
Once you’ve explored as much as you can, and boggled at the dragon like roof, head on out into the sunshine, and decide how you want to get to the next stop on your tour, arguably Barcelona’s most famous attraction: the Sagrada Familia.
Transport to next stop (Sagrada Familia)
Option 1 – 20 minute walk of 1.7km along Carrer d'Aragó, turning left at Avinguda Diagonal onto Carrer de Sardenya
Option 2 – Public transport, 15 minutes. Walk back towards Placa de Catalunya, take metro line L2 towards Badalona Pompeu Fabra for three stops, disembark at Sagrada Familia stop.
11.00 – 12.30: Sagrada Familia
I do not believe that the opportunity to see one of the most spectacular buildings in the world should be passed up, so any itinerary I suggest for Barcelona is going to include this fantastic building. In fact, if you don’t see anything else, just visit this building. It doesn’t even matter if you aren’t a church type, or have been around every church in the world already – nothing is going to prepare you for the interior of Gaudi’s magnum opus. Apart from this picture of course.
Entry isn’t cheap at around €20, but the good news is that you are contributing to a bit of actual history here, as your funds go towards the on-going construction of this incredible building. It’s also a massively popular destination, but for good reason, so don’t be tempted to skip it. You’ll barely notice the crowds anyway, as you gaze upwards at a forest of coral trees…
Transport to next stop (Urquinanoa, Gothic Quarter)
Option 1 – 30 minute walk of 2.4km. Walk southwest along Carrer de Mallorca, turn left onto Carrer del Bruc and keep going until the streets narrow.
Option 2 – Public transport, 11 minutes. Walk southwest along Carrer de Provença around 400m. Take metro line L4 at Verdaguer for 3 stops, direction La Pau, and disembark at Urquinanoa.
12.45 – 4.15pm: Gothic quarter (and lunch!)
Now, I’ve allocated you three and a half hours in the gothic quarter. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, to me, this is one of the best parts of Barcelona, and worth taking the time to explore. Nearly entirely pedestrianized, this quarter is just one crazy mess of tiny winding streets, stuffed full of history and opportunities for aimless wandering.
There is lots to see, from the world heritage listed Palau de la Musica, to the spectacular gothic cathedral, to the Picasso Museum. You could literally spend days wandering in this maze - and you just might if you lose your bearings.
This is also a place stuffed full of eateries. I’d recommend finding an attractive looking menu of the day and gorging yourself silly. Then spend time indulging your inner tourist up and down the street known as La Rambla (Barcelona’s most touristy street, and for good reason), and exploring the Mercat de la Boqueria – Barcelona’s most famous market. When you’re sated, head along to the Liceu metro stop on Las Ramblas which is where you’ll find the…
Transport to next stop (Castell Montjuic, Gothic Quarter)
Option 1 – 40 minute walk of 3.2km. Up a hill. If you’re still keen on walking, then head down La Rambla towards the ocean, and turn right onto Carrer Nou de la Rambla. Turn left for a block onto Avinduda del Paral-lel (feel free to hop on the cable car about now), then right onto Carrer de Cabanes and then follow the windy road up the hill until you get to the castle at the top. Well done, you deserve an ice cream.
Option 2 – Public transport, 20 minutes. From the Liceu take line L3 to stop Paral-lel (diretion Zona Universitària, two stops). From here, take the cable car up to Castell Montjuic.
5.00pm – End: Castell Montjuic and Grounds
If you still have time in your day, then I can recommend heading up above the city and finishing your day in Barcelona with a bit of time in the Castle Montjuic and surrounding gardens, followed by a visit to the Magic Fountain. Yes, Barcelona has a magic fountain. How can you not love this city?
Castell Montjuic is perched 180 metres above the city, and will give you a great evening view as the sun starts to lower herself down. It’s free to enter, and is open fairly late.
After you’ve sated your castle and city viewing needs, then I can really recommend timing your visit around Barcelona to take in the magic fountain display, and watch the sun set across the city from the steps of the Palau National. This is either a 20 minute walk from the Castell Montjuic, through a variety of pretty gardens, or a 20 minute bus ride on the 193 bus. Not a bad way to end your day in Barcelona!
Check here for opening times for the Castle Montjuic for your visit, and here for information as to when the Magic Fountain is doing a display, if you get your timings right you will finish your evening off in style, with the streets of Barcelona below ready to envelop you in an evening of food, music, and good times!
Some optional extras:
If you feel you want to squeeze even more into your day, here are a few optional trips you could do on your day in Barcelona.
Parc Guell – This is a big garden complex slightly north of central Barcelona, originally planned as a garden housing development. Only two of the sixty houses were actually built, but the park itself is a remarkable showcase of Gaudi’s talents and ideas. It’s worth a visit, but it is likely to be very crowded. It also offers splendid views across Barcelona. It’s not that central though, so would be a bit of a detour.
If you wanted to add this onto the route, the optimal way would be to go after visiting Casa Battlo, via subway line L3 to stop Vallcarca.
Casa Milà – Also known as La Pedrera, this is another famous Gaudi designed house. It’s only a short walk from Casa Batlló to La Pedrera, so you could do this as an alternative if you wished, although less of the building is open to the public. It’s worth taking a look at the exterior at least, which is free to gawp at.
Tips for your day in Barcelona
- My route above includes the option of using the metro. Pick up a one zone day pass at the start of your day for €7 and you’ll be able to take any transport option in Barcelona for the duration of your stay
- If you are in Barcelona for longer than a day, and want to visit a lot of sights, you may want to consider buying a Barcelona Card. This will give you free public transport, as well as free and discounted admission to various sights. These start at €29 for a two day card.
- If navigating the metro or walking seem like a bit too much, then the Barcelona Bus Turistic is a great option. Sure, you’ll have to throw away my carefully planned itinerary above, but you will be whisked in fine style between every important sight in Barcelona, with commentary to boot. It’s €24 for a hop on / hop off pass, and is seriously worth considering.
- Barcelona is notorious for pick pockets. Keep your belongings secure and locked up. Pay particular attention in busy tourist areas, and on public transport.
- Barcelona is a popular destination, and is likely to be busy year round. Take a look at my tips for surviving a European city in summer for some ideas as to how to stay sane.
- Barcelona is in the Catalan region of Spain, which has it’s own language as well as Spanish. This will explain the signs in a language you don’t understand.
- Food is remarkably cheap compared to many other European countries. Aim for a weekday lunch deal, where you should be able to score a three course meal, possibly even with drinks and wine, for under €10.
A map of the attractions and route
View Barcelona day itinerary in a larger map
And that's it for a day trip around Barcelona! I'd love your thoughts and feedback as to what I'd put in, left out, or anything at all! Hit up the comments below and share your feelings with the world!