HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OUT OF YOUR 3 DAYS IN BARCELONA
If you are planning to have 3 full days in Barcelona, you are a lucky one! You will have enough time to get a good understanding of the city layout and visit the top sites, and go back home thinking you really mastered Barcelona.
At ForeverBarcelona we are specialists in covering the city in the most time-efficient way, so by booking one of our 3-day Barcelona tours you will see everything listed below in half the time, so you’ll have the afternoons free to enjoy yourself and relax, go shopping, go to a spa… But the truth is that if you are on your own you’ll need good planning to make the most out of your time: and don’t worry, we are here to help you out with that too!
This is a perfect plan to see Barcelona in three days:
DAY ONE – Morning & Lunch
THIS ITINERARY IS BEST TUESDAY TO SATURDAY, as some sites are closed on Monday and Sunday. We cover most of the morning and afternoon plan in just 4 hours in our Old Town Tour, but you’ll need a whole day on your own.
Start with the origins of the city and explore the Old Town (Ciutat Vella). The Romans founded Barcelona 2000 years ago, and out of that flourished a powerful city in the middle ages. Head to the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic) and use the Cathedral of Barcelona as your reference point. The entrance is free in the mornings and paid in the afternoons (but then your ticket includes extras such as the elevator to the rooftop and their little art museum). To avoid the lines at the entrance in the mornings it’s best to arrive earlier than 10AM. You’ll be exiting the Cathedral from Bisbe street, and from there I’d recommend to walk down under the scenic bridge over the street towards Plaça Sant Jaume, the political center of Barcelona where the City Council (Ajuntament) and the Government of Catalonia (Generalitat) stand.
If it’s later than noon, head to Llibreteria street for an ice cream at Gelaaati di Marco (you’ll thank me for that tip, they are delicious! but since everything is made from scratch every morning, there aren’t too many flavors available earlier than that…), otherwise take the narrow Paradís alley and make sure to enter that medieval building in a corner with an arched gate open: inside they keep the columns of the Roman Temple! The alley takes you to the apse (backside) of the Cathedral, and from there a street to the right will take you to the Plaça del Rei, where the Medieval Royal Palace stands – now Museum of History of the City, a must for ruins lovers since they have excavated a large portion of the Roman city in their basement.
From there I usually like to go back to the perimeter of the cathedral by crossing over the medieval courtyard of the Palau del Lloctinent, then walk along the backside of the cathedral again continuing until I hit Carrer del Bisbe again, but this time take the alley that starts in front of the exit of the Cathedral to enter the medieval Jewish Section. As you walk it down, an alley to the right takes you to the pretty Sant Felip Neri square, covered in yellow tipuana tree flowers in June, and closed-up to the public when a local public school uses it for their kids recess. In its walls you can still see the results of the explosion of a bomb that fell here during the Spanish Civil War.
Retrace your steps and go back to the alley we took from the Cathedral: soon to the left you’ll take the Salomó Ben Adret st. to cross the medieval Jewish Section – the Call. Little was left after the atacks in 1391, but if you are interested to learn more you can visit here the Interpretation Center run by the Museum of History and what could possibly be the remains of the largest synagogue of the middle ages in town. At the end of Salomó Ben Adret st. you’ll hit Call st, that followed to the right will take you straight to La Rambla – the most famous pedestrian area in town. Don’t miss the mosaic by Joan Miro that marks the heart of the bulevard (find it between the stalls of the flower market and the Liceu opera house), and from there go up the street for just over a block to find the entrance to the Boqueria Market to your left. This is a great spot for lunch, no matter if you just want to quick bite (the right side of the market has plenty of stalls selling food to go), or an awesome tapas meal – check out our post with our favorite Boqueria bars.
DAY ONE – Afternoon and Evening
Continue your day walking down la Rambla all the way to the Port Vell, where stands the sculpture of Christopher Columbus, and from there walk left along the pier enjoying the Mediterranean atmosphere. When you reach a tall colorful contemporary sculpture called Face of Barcelona Smiling to Visitors, cross over the big Laietana avenue and take any alley into the Born district: you’ll eventually hit the majestic church of Santa Maria del Mar with its gorgeous stained glasses.
If you need desert, don’t miss the “Best chocolate cake in the world 2005” sold at Bubo, a wonderful cake store that almost looks like a jewelry shop. Or head up Argenteria street (left of the church) for freshly ground coffee at Cafes el Magnifico. Then take any alley around the church: to the right history lovers will find the memorial to the fallen in the 1714 War of Succession: the Fossar de les Moreres, while the alley left of the church hides a 160+yo shop where they still roast nuts in the same wood oven they’ve used for over a century. Both streets take you to the end of Montcada street, lined up with medieval mansions and home to the Picasso Museum (make sure to buy tickets online to avoid queues).
By the time you finish visiting the museum it’ll be pretty much time for dinner (our recommendations for restaurants in El Born are here), but if it’s still early you can just meander the alleys around Passeig del Born (great area for shopping!), visit the ruins inside Born Centre Cultural, or stroll around the Ciutadella park behind it. And if you still have energy left after dinner, today is a great day for a flamenco show, or a tapas tour.
DAY TWO – Morning and Lunch
THIS ITINERARY WORKS FOR EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK, since the Gaudi sites open daily. We cover most of the morning and afternoon plan in just 4 hours in our Antoni Gaudi Tour (and we take care of bookings for you), but you’ll need a whole day on your own and to get your tickets online in advance.
Today you’ll be covering the Gaudi sites and Modernism, and that requires some planning: make sure to purchase your tickets for both Park Guell and Sagrada Familia Church well in advance because they sell out. Start your day taking a taxi to Park Guell, or hoping on the yellow L4 line of the subway to Alfons X where there’s a shuttle included in the cost of your Park entrance fees. Do not take the green line to Lesseps or Vallcarca as you’ll end up walking over 20 minutes… uphill!
Your tickets are timed and you are given 30 minutes to get your tickets scanned at the access control points. So for instance if your ticket is for 10AM, you can get your tickets scanned and enter anytime between 10AM and 10.29AM but later than that you’ll be refused access. This is why we recommend that you plan to arrive somehow early, like 10-15 minutes early so you have enough time to find the control points and not be rushed. A taxi ride takes around 15 minutes from most areas in town, but for a subway + shuttle ride I’d plan for at least 45 minutes or even 1 hour. Once inside the paying area you can stay inside for as long as you wish, but most people spend around 1 hour there, plus whatever time you want to spend exploring the non-paying area (featuring more great views over the city and a few bridges built by Gaudi.
Getting to the Park and back to the city takes time… we don’t recommend you try to pack your morning with more sites: once you are done with Park Guell, hop on a taxi or the V19 bus to the Hospital of St. Pau, a gorgeous modernist hospital built by a teacher and competitor of Gaudi: Domènech i Muntaner. There’s a lovely tapas bar at the entrance, and the area is full of little bakeries to have a quick lunch as well. Or if you aren’t planning to go inside the Hospital, walking down Avinguda Gaudi you’ll get to the magnificent Sagrada Familia church, where there are more lunch options (although none super exciting unless you are a fast-food fan).
DAY TWO – Afternoon and Evening
You guessed it right: the afternoon will be all for the Sagrada Familia Basilica (remember you should have purchased tickets online in advance because they sell out). The lights inside the Church are beautiful at that time of the day, and you can easily spend two hours in this wonderful place (and if you purchased tickets with towers included, even longer).
When you are done, take a taxi or the subway (Blue L5 line to Diagonal or Pink L2 to Passeig de Gràcia) to get to the city main street: Passeig de Gràcia. Walk around Passeig de Gràcia seeing Casa Mila and Casa Batllo with the Block of Disagreement from outside, or go inside one of them (only one of them even if you’d like to go inside both: you’ll soon see why). It’s a great area for shopping, too. Or head to Rambla Catalunya just one block away for lovely bakeries and cafés (my personal favorites are the one at the bottom of the Cacao Sampaka chocolate store, and the Maure cake shop).
After visiting the hospital and having some lunch, walk down Avinguda Gaudi, that will take you After lunch walk around Passeig de Gràcia seeing Casa Mila and Casa Batllo with the Block of Disagreement from outside. It’s a great area for shopping, too. If you are planning to go inside both Casas, then do Casa Batllo now (having bought tickets online in advance will save you time). When you start to get hungry, there’s plenty of great options for dinner in Passeig de Gracia.
And there’s more exciting things for you in the evening! Did you know that Casa Mila (Pedrera) opens at night offering a light show at the rooftop? Get your tickets in advance here, because they sometimes sell out.
DAY THREE – Morning and Lunch
Your last day in Barcelona is more flexible. Some people might want to go out of town, in such case we recommend they plan a whole day for the mountain and monastery of Montserrat, the most popular destination near Barcelona (you’ll need an entire day if you are taking the train on your own, but we cover it in an efficient 5 hour private tour). If you are staying in town, you might want to use it for a favorite activity: sport lovers will want to visit the FC Barcelona stadium, museum goers will want to spend a fascinating morning in the MNAC. Others will want to spend a relaxed morning in the city beaches, marinas and waterfront. A fun way to do that is taking a bike tour: the ones in this post are all bike tours that don’t overlap with your two previous days.
Stay in the Barceloneta district for lunch: it’s the best place for paella! In our blog you’ll find our favorite restaurants by the water. Paella is best eaten for lunch because it’s a heavy meal, plus when it’s freshly made lunch can take up to 2 hours: take it easy and enjoy the Spanish way of living.
DAY THREE – Afternoon and Evening
THIS ITINERARY WORKS EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK UNLESS YOU WANT TO ENTER A MUSEUM, since they are closed on Mondays. We cover this itinerary in just 4 hours in our Montjuic Tour.
After lunch take a taxi to the Castle of Montjuic (the 115 bus also takes you there from Plaça Espanya). Visit the castle if you are a castle lover or have an interest in war history. Then take the cablecar down (most people go to the bottom and buy round-tickets so… there’s usually no line to buy tickets only for the ride down! My pleasure). If you are scared of hikes you can also walk down through gardens and vantage points, but the views from the cable car are breathtaking!
From the bottom station of the cable car you’ll be only 5 minutes walk from the Miro Foundation – a must for any art lover, but also a great place for a coffee break, a toilet stop or to visit their very original gift shop. And 5 minutes further away you’ll find the Olympic Ring, with the Olympic Stadium (quick photo stop from their free balcony) and an esplanade with other olympic facilities that makes for cool photo opportunities.
And from there, accross the street and in the distance you’ll see some imposing domes rising behind the trees. Head in that direction and soon some escalators will take you to the back of the MNAC, the Museum of National Art of Catalonia. From here you’ll get spectacular views over the 1929 World Fair area and the rest of the city. Time for another coffee break or toilet stop!
The Magic Fountain Show takes place at night on selected days of the week at the foot of the MNAC, and if you are lucky to be there one of those days now it’d be a good time to go for dinner while waiting for it to start. An easy option are the local restaurants at the top of the Las Arenas mall, a former bull ring on Plaça Espanya, easily visible from the MNAC. Alternatively, if you didn’t go to a flamenco show on your first day you might want to do it now, since the famous Tablao de Carmen in Poble Espanyol is nearby.
So what about you? Head to the comments below and tells us: How many days are you gonna be in Barcelona and what are your plans?