WARNING. This is an itinerary for 5 full days in Barcelona. That’s not counting your arrival and departure day (unless you arrive super early in the morning or leave really late). If you have less than 5 complete days, you can check out my other posts:
Your itinerary for Barcelona in 5 days
This is our suggested plan for 5 days in Barcelona
DAY ONE - Old Town
If your first day is a Sunday or Monday, then start with DAY TWO instead and do DAY ONE some other day.
Your first day in the city! Do not do the mistake of having breakfast at the hotel: leave with an empty stomach and head to Petritxol street. In this quaint alley of the Old Town there are the best cafés for hot chocolate and churros. The perfect way to start your day energized! At the end of the street there’s the Church of Santa Maria del Pi , surrounded by lively plazas. Unless your are a church-fan you’ll want to save your money for other churches, though.
From there head to the Cathedral of Barcelona. You are entering the Gothic Quarter: the area where the Romans founded Barcelona 2000 years ago. Take the opportunity to go inside the Cathedral before noon, when they start charging. The elevator to the rooftop is a small extra fee, but it’s quite cool, specially with kids. And don’t miss the geese in the cloister! Next roam around the district: the romantic Plaça de Sant Felip Neri, the historical Jewish Quarter, the bridge over Carrer del Bisbe, the City Hall and the Catalan Government in Plaça Sant Jaume, the Roman temple in a nearby backstreet, the atmospheric Plaça del Rei… Visiting the Roman Ruins of the Museum of History of the City can take around 2 hours, so save it for later (maybe instead of the Picasso Museum, or come back some other day).
By now, you’ll start to be hungry, so head to La Rambla via Carrer Ferran (or the narrower carrer del Call), and then up La Rambla to the Boqueria Market. Explore this bountiful food haven and pick some food to go or relish on the splendid tapas of its many market bars. And save some room for a cake at the nearby Escriba cake shop. Even better: order a crema catalana (creme brulée) to go and see them burn them in front of your eyes!
After lunch we’ll take it easy. Walk down les Rambles checking out the flower market, stopping for coffee in an outdoor café in Plaça Reial… Big Gaudi fans might want to go inside Palau Güell, in preparation of what’s coming tomorrow. Otherwise, reach the port and take a relaxing boat ride around the port on the Golondrinas. For more sailing ideas check out this other post. Families with kids might prefer to visit the Aquarium (there’ll be less queue at this time of the day).
Your afternoon continues along the Moll de la Fusta waterfront, and on to the Ciutadella Park. Relax on the grass, take the kids to the Zoo (if you haven’t done the boat nor the Aquarium), row the boat or just take a lovely stroll. From there, you’ll head to the Born district. A cool way to access it is through the old Mercat del Born building, checking out the excavations as you cross it. As you exit it from the other side, Passeig del Born Avenue opens in front of you.
It’s time for the Picasso Museum: you have all my tips to take the most out of its unusual collection and not get disappointed but excited instead. This time of the day the museum doesn’t usually have lines, but you might want to buy (timed) tickets in advance just in case. If you prefer to do the Museum of History instead, you are just 5 minutes walk from the Picasso: we walked around a big circle today.
You’ll spend the rest of the afternoon in the Old Town, checking out the gorgeous Santa Maria del Mar church, shopping around El Born, hoping over the Gothic Quarter for gelato at Gelaaati di Marco, seating on a terrace and watching people… This is a great area for a tapas dinner, too! Eat early, then head to the Palau de la Musica Catalana, where you’ll have booked an evening guitar concert or flamenco show. What an amazing first day in Barcelona!
DAY TWO - Gaudi Sites
In our private Gaudi tours we get to cover the inside of 3 gaudi sites in just 4 hours, but don’t try to do that on your own! We have refined our timings over years of experience and know exactly how long to spend at each site and the fastest way to the next. And we get to skip lines everywhere! So take your time and enjoy my suggested plan for your second day on your own. You might want to start with cake and coffee at La Pastisseria (best cake in the world 2011!).
You’ll be only 2 blocks away from the Block of Disagreement. My suggestion is to go inside only one site this morning, and that would be either Casa Batllo or Casa Mila by Antoni Gaudi. Or if you prefer to stay away from the crowds, Casa Amatller by Puig i Cadafalch is the way to go. Don’t forget to check if there are free chocolate samples at their chocolate store!
From the Block of Disagreement to Casa Mila (la Pedrera) it’s 3 blocks lined up with up-skilled boutiques like Channel, Gucci… Window shop and feel like in the Champs Elysees in Paris! In the side streets and the nearby Rambla de Catalunya there’s lots of more affordable cool shops. But unless you are not entering any site this morning, you’d rather wait to shop another day.
When you are done in this area, take the subway to Hospital de Sant Pau (L5 – blue line) from Diagonal, just around the corner from Casa Mila. This modernist hospital by Domenech i Muntaner is a gem, but if you went to Palau de la Musica the day before, you can skip this one. Now walk down Avinguda Gaudi getting excited about the view of Sagrada Familia in the distance. But before visiting it… it’s time for lunch! Stop at the pizzeria La Piazzenza in a corner and order a vegetarian calzone. You’ll thank me for this tip. Alternatively, in my blog you’ll find more ideas for places to eat near Sagrada Familia.
Now you should have booked tickets for Sagrada Familia for no earlier than 3PM if you followed my plan and started the morning between 9 and 10AM. The building is impressive by itself, but the history and architectural achievements it hides make the visit much more meaningful. If you can, take a tour: your experience will be transformed. And you can always stay longer inside after the tour is over.
Plan between 1 and 2 hours in the church, depending on your pace. And then take a taxi to Park Guell. Yes, you can take the metro… but it leaves you 20-30 minutes walk from it, uphill! Trust me, a taxi is here the best option.Again, you’ll have booked tickets for the Park in advance. They sell out, so if you don’t have tickets… skip the Park today. Ideally, your tickets would be for 2.5 hours after your entry time to Sagrada Familia. They give you a 30 minute slot to get in after your entry time at the Park – that’s enough buffer time. And if you get there too early, you can just stroll around the non-paying area until it’s time to enter the paying area. Here are the musts you need to see.
After visiting the Park, you’ll be 15-20 minutes walk downhill from the heart of the Gracia district. A great area to stroll, check out its plazas, do some fun local shopping, and end up having dinner there like the locals do. Here are some of my favorite Gracia restaurants. Wow, that was a packed second day in town! But wasn’t it rewarding?
DAY THREE - Out of Town
On Saturdays you’ll miss the Escolania Choir: you might want to switch day if you are interested in hearing them.
You’ve made it to the middle of your Barcelona trip, so far! And today you deserve a more relaxed pace. The Monastery of Montserrat is everyone’s favorite destination out of town. It’ can be covered in one morning on a private tour, but it’s not cheap because you are paying for a guide AND a driver. However, it can be easily done on your own by train and it’s much more affordable. It just takes twice as long! But didn’t we say you deserved a slower pace today?
The train departs from Plaça Espanya and takes a bit over one hour to take you to Monistrol de Montserrat. If you bought a Montserrat Pass you won’t have to worry about the lines to get the ticket for the rack train that takes you to the Monastery (or elsewhere). Once there, there’s plenty of things to do in Montserrat until it’s time to see the Boys Choir at 1PM (noon on Sunday).
The food options in Montserrat are not impressive. Instead, it can be fun to buy some bread at the bakery and some cheese from the farmers market and improvise a little picnic. In the afternoon, when the crowds are gone and there’s no line, take the Sant Joan funicular and walk down back to the monastery (1 hour). Or alternatively do some other easy hike around Montserrat.
To go back to Barcelona, I recommend to take the Aeri cable car. It connects with the same train you took to come from Barcelona. Easy! If you didn’t go hiking, you might want to stop over at Colonia Guell to visit a little known Gaudi gem.
DAY FOUR - Uptown and Montjuic
Best on Friday or Saturday, or any day the Magic Fountain show is on.
Once you’ve covered the must-see, there are no magic formulas. Every traveler is different. So today’s morning will be a little bit customized. Gaudi lovers will want to visit another Gaudi site (Casa Vicens or Torre Bellesguard). Nature lovers or families with kids might want to head to the Parc del Laberint (a cypress tree maze). Soccer lovers will want to do the FC Barcelona Stadium. History lovers will prefer the Monestir de Pedralbes, instead. Considering they are all away from the city center, plan the entire morning for them.
And when it’s time for lunch, take the L3 to Poblesec. All the sites I mentioned have some L3 station close enough, except Torre Bellesguard and the Monastery of Pedralbes, where you’ll have to take the FGC to Plaça Catalunya and switch to the L3 there.
Enjoy some informal and fun tapas in Poblesec. Or if you prefer a more hispter style, head to the Sant Antoni district instead – it’s not too far. After lunch you’ll want to take the funicular from Paral·lel to the Hill of Montjuic. It’s included in your subway pass. Once there, you’ll want to pay for the cable car to the Montjuic Castle. Or just take a taxi from Poblesec to the Castle and walk down through local parks and gardens. If castles and cable cars are not your thing, then the Miro Foundation is just 5 minutes walk from the funicular top station. And 5 minutes further you’ll reach the Olympic Stadium. The entrance is free (and there are toilets inside!). And the surrounding area, the Olympic Ring, offers plenty of cool photo opportunities.
When you are done, look around. In the distance you’ll see an impressive building with domes. Walk in that direction and some escalators will take you to the back of the Museum of National Art of Catalonia. The views from there are breathtaking – BTW, it’s one of my favorite places for a cup of coffee overlooking the city! The visit of the museum itself takes at least 2 hours – but that’s a plan only for hardcore museum goers.
If that’s not you, then you can spend the rest of your afternoon checking out the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, the Caixaforum exhibit center or the picturesque Poble Espanyol… Or you can shop at the Las Arenas mall, the former bull ring, and see the city views from the top terrace.
Plan an early dinner at the mall (or a fancy fish dinner at the nearby Rías de Galicia), but time it carefully to get to the Magic Fountain show on time. The starting times vary depending on the season of the year. So plan ahead! It’ll be a fun way to end your 4th day in Barcelona.
DAY FIVE - Girona or Dali or... your choice!
Five days in Barcelona allow you to get out of town even twice if you wish! The town of Girona is my first choice, because it’s easy to get there by train. There’s a regional train that takes around 1.5 hours, and a fast speed train that takes you there in only 30 minutes. If budget allows, I suggest you take a one-way timed ticket for the fast speed train, and play by ear on the way back. That’ll allow you a more flexible schedule.
Girona is a beautiful medieval town with an interesting Jewish past. And Game of Thrones fans need to know that it was used as Bravoos and the Great Sept of Baelor! Here are some things you need to see in Girona.
The Dali Museum is only 30 minutes drive from Girona, and it’s also connected via high speed train. But trying to do both by train on your own will require some careful planning and sticking to a strict schedule. That’s why I’d recommend you to do either one or the other if you are on your own. Or indulge in a private tour that takes you to both in one day!
If you prefer to stay in town, I’m sure you’ll have things in your list. Maybe you left the Roman ruins of the Museum of History for another day (now it’s the time!). Or want to go inside a modernist building you skipped on Day 2. Or there’s something from DAY 4 you’d also like to cover… Or you need some time for shopping. Or you want to take a cooking class (sounds cool, uh?).
And if it’s hot enough, what about some beach time? Actually, if you aren’t afraid of taking the suburban train, a beach day in Sitges can be a great idea! It’s just a 30 minutes ride – although it’s true that in the summer the trains to the beach are usually packed.
If you are staying in town, save a couple of hours for a paella lunch. Sitges is also a good place for that, but I’m afraid Girona and Figueres where the Dali Museum is located aren’t really paella spots.
As for dinner, make it a special last night in town! Here are some ideas for high end dinning, romantic restaurants and restaurants with a view. And if you need night plans, consider a drink at a rooftop bar, a wine bar, or a cocktail bar. Have fun during your last hours in town!
Enjoy your 5 days in Barcelona!
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