Barcelona needs no introduction. For many, it’s the very first place that comes to mind when they think of Spain. There’s good reason for that, as Barcelona is an incredibly well-rounded tourist destination, offering beautiful sights, interesting history, rich culture, stunning beaches, and most importantly, delicious food. For those traveling through the country, the city is an essential inclusion in a Spain itinerary.
The question then is how to fit such a big and intriguing destination into just a few days of sightseeing? After all, even just focusing on the very best things to do in Barcelona is going to take up some time. The trick to it is going in with a well-thought out plan so that you make the most of your time while there. That’s where our Barcelona itinerary comes in, we will show you precisely what to do in Barcelona in 3 days to get the most out of your time there.
Best Time to Visit Barcelona
Since Barcelona is one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, picking the right time to visit can help you avoid crowds and inflated prices. Barcelona has been in the headlines recently due to problems with over-tourism, so not only will avoiding high season improve your visit, but it will also help the city. Barcelona’s high season is the summer months of June, July, and August, when the city experiences hot and humid weather.
The best time to visit Barcelona however are the months of May and September, though early June and early October are also good options. Visiting Barcelona during these months means fewer tourists and fine weather, both of which will make sightseeing more enjoyable. You should also have an easier time finding reasonably priced accommodation during these shoulder months.
That being said, the cheapest time to visit Barcelona is during the off-season, when winter arrives. From November through February, you may not want to spend much time at the beach, but you’ll likely find great savings on hotels and flights. Plus, even during winter, Barcelona’s is nowhere near as cold as other parts of Europe.
How to Get Around Barcelona
To truly reach all the best places to visit in Barcelona, you’re going to spend quite some time moving around the city. Barcelona is not a small city, and you can expect to cover a good deal of ground to see it all.
The good news is that you don’t need to walk everywhere in Barcelona if you don’t want to. To cut down the time spent on your feet, it’s best to make use of Barcelona’s extensive network of public transport which includes a metro system, urban trains, buses, and even two tram lines. Chances are the metro with its eight different lines which cover most of the main spots is going to be your most straightforward option.
Together Barcelona’s public transportation network will make getting across the city a cinch, especially since they all share an integrated ticket system. Tickets start at €2.20 for a 75 minute ticket which allows for a free transfer between different public transport systems.
Recommendation: To save money and time, we highly recommend you buy a 3-day public transport ticket. This ticket gives you free, unlimited access to the transportation networks in the city and its suburbs.
If you’re coming in from Barcelona Airport, you have a few options to reach the city center. One is to take the frequent Aerobus which runs to Plaça de Catalunya, costs €5.90, and takes around 35 minutes. A cheaper alternative is the metro line from the airport, but you’ll need to change stations along the way to reach inner city stops. Less frequent, but both cheaper and faster still, is the Renfe trains which run every half hour into the city center.
Where to Stay in Barcelona
Generally, the biggest question that arises when planning your visit is where to stay in Barcelona to make the most of your trip. Selecting not only the right accommodation but also the right part of the city will go a long way towards your enjoyment of Barcelona. Ultimately, the best places to stay in Barcelona are ones which put attractions, restaurants, and transport options right at your doorstep, all the while providing safety.
As far as neighborhoods go, the ones which offer the most convenience are Eixample, the Gothic Quarter, and El Born. The Gothic Quarter and El Born are both historic neighborhoods of Barcelona, full of character and plenty of places to get food. Eixample is a more modern downtown area of the city, full of modern convenience. Other parts of the city will still have sights and food, but may require more effort to get around.
For a truly pampered stay in Barcelona, the luxurious El Palace Barcelona is the way to go. This 5-star hotel lives up to its name with classic decor fit for a palace and doting staff, all the while putting you squarely in the Eixample district.
Mixing comfort and affordability, Motel One Barcelona-Ciutadella is ideal for those looking for a mid-range place to stay in the city. With rooms that have plenty of space, this 3-star hotel has all the essentials, as well as a rooftop terrace.
Barcelona knows how to look after budget travelers, particularly with hostels like Yeah Barcelona Hostel. With a boutique look and friendly staff, as well as breakfast and dinner options available, you’ll be happy to come back here after sightseeing. For more good hostels in Barcelona, see our dedicated Barcelona hostel guide.
For more accommodation options in Barcelona check out Booking.com. They continuously offer the best rates and their custom service is on point.
The Perfect 3-Day Barcelona Itinerary
Barcelona is such a massive tourist destination full of wonderful, unmissable attractions that the idea of seeing all the city has to offer in a matter of days can be a little overwhelming. And yet, it’s certainly possible to spend just 72 hours in Barcelona and feel like you didn’t miss anything major. The trick? Our travel itinerary that will show you exactly where you need to go to see the best of Barcelona during your visit.
Throughout your time in Barcelona, you’ll explore much of the city, starting with the central neighborhoods of Eixample and the Gothic Quarter. From there, you’ll move on to Barcelona’s beachfront, up to Gràcia and across to Montjuïc. Then it’s time to leave the city altogether and see some of Catalonia’s other marvels.
However, before we get to our Barcelona itinerary we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it. We recommend World Nomads.
Even if you don’t get travel insurance with World Nomads, please make sure to get travel insurance from somewhere.
Now that you’re properly prepared for your trip, let’s jump to all the goodies inside this Barcelona travel itinerary. Here we’ll take you through exactly what to see in Barcelona in 3 days so you don’t miss a thing.
Day 1 in Barcelona
We’ll start our visit to Barcelona by getting a feel for a few neighborhoods in the center of the city, stopping along the way at some of the best sights Barcelona has to offer.
Casa Batlló and Casa Mila
Even though you’ll be seeing many of his gorgeous buildings during your visit, it doesn’t hurt to start your sightseeing with some special Gaudi architecture. Many of Barcelona’s most interesting and iconic buildings, such as Casa Batllo and Casa Mila, were designed by local architect Antoni Gaudi. Found a few blocks apart in the midst of Eixample, these two landmarks are more like works of art than buildings. Both can be visited inside, and Casa Mila also offers visitors superb city views. Admission tickets to Casa Mila can be bought here.
Placa de Catalunya
Making your way down the streets of Barcelona’s downtown area, you’re sure to come across Placa de Catalunya. Often considered the heart of the city, standing here you’ll find yourself squarely in the center of Barcelona, between downtown and the historic quarters. It makes sense then that this square is a popular meeting point for locals, that along with the various sculptures and fountains truly bring this place to life.
Carving its way through much of Barcelona, from the downtown area to the waterfront is La Rambla boulevard. Lined with big leafy trees, pedestrians make their way down the center of this long promenade, passing cafes and souvenir stands as they do. Not only does La Rambla pass through many parts of town, but it also acts as the boundary between neighborhoods like the Gothic Quarter and El Raval. Walking down this street on your way to more sightseeing is a true right of passage for any first time visitor to Barcelona.
The very heart of Barcelona’s Old Town is the city’s ever-popular Gothic Quarter. This maze of small streets and hidden squares is a treasure trove of many stunning historic landmarks. For the most part, buildings of the Gothic Quarter date from the 19th and 20th century, although you will find some landmarks which date back as far as the Romans.
Inside the Gothic Quarter, there’s no shortage of attractions to seek out. Naturally, you’ll want to see the Cathedral of Barcelona, with its strikingly elaborate facade and impressive interior. Another gorgeous local landmark is the Bridge of Sighs which hovers over the city streets. As you wandering, be sure to check out the El Call Jewish Quarter and also track down the Roman ruins of Temple d’August.
Food is a big part of Barcelona’s appeal and there’s no better place to explore this side of the city than at Boqueria Market. Inside this beloved landmark which dates back to 1217 you’ll find all the fresh, local produce you’d expect from a market like this, such as fruit, vegetables, meats, cheeses and more. Even if you’re not hungry, the market will feed your other senses with a myriad of colors and scents. But if you are hungry, Boqueria has loads of small eateries on site where you can indulge in tapas and other local dishes.
We’re not done with Gaudi yet today, as the monumental Güell Palace is just nearby over in El Raval. Designed by Gaudi for the wealthy Güell family, the palace may look a little more restrained from the outside then it is on the inside. Sure, there are some fanciful touches on the building’s front facade, but set foot in the lobby and you’ll see the real story. With great big arches, thick columns, and a huge inner hall, it’d be easy to mistake this for a church rather than a palace for the wealthy elite.
A stellar way to finish your first day in Barcelona is with a visit to the city’s beloved beaches at La Barceloneta. Whether it’s to watch the sunset, get a drink, or just feel the sand between your toes, the beach is a nice relaxing way to wind down after a long day of sightseeing. As a bonus, you’ll find a huge range of restaurants and tapas bars nearby. Alternatively, get away from the crowds and head up the coast to the beaches at El Poblenou.
Day 2 in Barcelona
Even with a whole day in Barcelona under your belt, there’s no slowing down as you continue to make your way through the city’s best attractions and sights.
La Sagrada Familia
For many, the highlight when they come to Barcelona is the iconic La Sagrada Familia. The famously unfinished church is another landmark designed by Gaudi, even though it is still being built almost 100 years after his death. Construction on the church started in 1882 and still continues to this day.
You won’t be looking just at a mess of scaffolding when you arrive at this landmark, with much of the exterior finished and the interior a spectacle to behold. Looking around you’ll find it hard to believe that you’re standing inside a church at all. While visiting, it’s also possible to climb up the church’s tower and score some sensational views out over Barcelona. The challenge with La Sagrada Familia is that it’s very popular, so make sure to book your tickets in advance to skip waiting in long lines.
Next, head over to the second Gaudi attraction of the day, Park Güell on Carmel Hill. This park, created together by Gaudi and Eusebi Güell, is an unlikely collection of attractions which stemmed out of the desire to build a housing complex in this location. Only two houses were actually built here, one of which Gaudi actually lived in for 20 years. The house now hosts the Gaudi House Museum dedicated to the architect’s creations. Elsewhere in the park you can see spots like the Dragon Stairway and the Greek Theatre which has a viewing terrace, plus much more. You can buy your admission ticket in advance here, if you want to avoid the long lines at the ticket office.
To see yet another side to Barcelona, it’s well worth heading into the neighborhood of Gracia after you’re done at Park Güell. This quiet neighborhood feels worlds away from the city center of Barcelona, which makes sense since it was its own municipality until the 20th century. The atmosphere here in Gracia reflects that of towns elsewhere in Catalonia, and yet also happens to have some great modernist architecture to see, like the Casa Vicens, another Gaudi creation.
Arco de Triunfo
Another huge landmark which is hard to miss as you explore Barcelona, is the city’s Arco de Triunfo. Standing almost 30 meters high, this beautiful arch was built as the main entrance for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair. Both sides of the arch feature finely crafted friezes and its mix of stone and brick really make it stand out visually from all the other attractions of the city.
Passing through the Arco de Triunfo you will enter the sprawling Ciutadella Park, a massive green space in Barcelona home to all sorts of attractions. A stroll here is a great idea, whether you’re just looking to escape the bustle of the city streets for a bit, or are curious about what secrets the park holds. Inside Ciutadella Park you’ll find not only the lush greenery and pretty fountains, but also major landmarks like the Catalan Parliament and Barcelona Zoo. Particularly eye-catching is the Castell dels Tres Dragons, an exhibition center and museum of natural history which was built for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair.
Just as there’s nowhere else like Barcelona, so too was there no other artist quite like Picasso. This acclaimed Spanish artist is famed for his cubist paintings and one of the largest collections of his work can be found at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. The museum has a particular focus on the artist’s development as a youth, including pieces he painted when he was around 15 to 16 years old. This museum is quite appropriately located, since Barcelona is where Picasso first mastered his craft after his family moved here. If you’ve ever been curious about Picasso’s artwork, this is the place to see it.
Barcelona City History Museum
To learn more about the city that you’ve been exploring, head to the Barcelona City History Museum. Rather than just telling you Barcelona’s history, this museum actually takes you through it layer by layer with its underground exhibits beneath Plaça del Rei in the Gothic Quarter. Here there are excavated remains of ancient Roman landmarks and exhibits from medieval times inside the Palau Reial Major. Hopefully, the museum will help give you more context to the various sights you’ve seen so far.
So far we’ve seen a few viewpoints from within the city center, but to see all of Barcelona at once, you should head for Montjuïc. Southwest of the heart of Barcelona, this overlooks the city’s harbor and is home to a number of cool sights. Up on the hill you’ll spot the impressive Montjuic Castle where you’ll get those classic views, as well as other cultural and leisure facilities. Then there’s the fun of getting up Montjuic, whether you choose one of the cable cars or make your way up with the funicular. Also, if you have time, check out the Fundació Joan Miró, full of 20th and 21st century art. You can buy your round trip cable car ticket in advance here.
Day 3 in Barcelona
On your last day in Barcelona, it’s time to set your sights to all the other treasures Catalonia has to offer. Even though you could easily spend more time in Barcelona itself, it’s best not to give up the opportunity for a day trip from Barcelona to see more of Spain.
One of Catalonia’s other prominent cities is the city of Girona, to Barcelona’s northeast. While it may not be as widely known as Barcelona, Girona is just as packed with culture and sights and is another fantastic city to explore. Resting on the banks of the Onyar river, Girona is best known for the traditional houses which line the riverfront in eye-catching colors.
Beyond this spectacular scene, Girona is a haven of history and architecture, all of which is best appreciated on foot. Walking through the streets of Old Town, you’ll find plenty of great architecture and landmarks from many different periods of the city’s history. These range from ancient Roman fortifications, to the Jewish Quarter, medieval walls, and Baroque architecture.
To get some great city views, be sure to head up onto the medieval walls and enjoy panoramic views from the watchtowers. Down at street level, you’ll find spots which were used as a filming location for Game of Thrones, including the stairs that lead up to the beautiful Girona Cathedral.
Inland from Barcelona you’ll find all sorts of landscapes to explore including mountain ranges like the range of Montserrat. With multiple peaks to the mountain range, Montserrat would be an interesting place to explore even if its nature was the only noteworthy thing about it. But it’s not, Montserrat is also home to the Abbey of Montserrat where monks reside still to this day. An important holy place, the abbey is home to a cherished 12th century carving of the Virgin Mary.
Of course, Montserrat also has plenty to offer those who aren’t interested in the area’s religious significance. For starters, there’s the journey up into the mountain range which has no shortage of scenery to offer. Then there’s the matter of how you choose to make your way up, be it on cable car, via cog railway, or by foot. If you’re a fan of cable cars or really into trains, these options are hard to pass up.
With multiple hiking routes through the mountains, you could easily spend your day hiking to see more of the mountains. That being said, there’s plenty of walking to be had already, with sights like the Santa Cova Chapel and Sant Miquel Cross found at the end of different trails.
Barcelona is not the only place that has beaches in this corner of Spain. In fact, there are loads of places up and down the coast from Barcelona where you can go to enjoy some sun and surf. One of the best in Catalonia which you can comfortably visit on a day trip from Barcelona, is the beach town of Sitges. With four kilometers of beach front divided among 17 beaches, you’re bound to find at least one you like. It’s easy to see why the areas has become such a popular resort destination with so many options available.
But Sitges isn’t just beaches, the town also has a strong sense of local culture and history to it. Step away from the beachfront promenade Passeig Maritim and into its peaceful historic center to get a taste of what life is like in this coastal town. For a spot of sightseeing, head to the Cau Ferrat Museum for art collected by Santiago Rusiñol who once lived there, or the Maricel Museum for its art that spans centuries. Before leaving, take a trip over to Casa Bacardi to learn about Bacardi rum and the founder of the company who was born here.
That concludes your journey through the city of Barcelona and its sights. With this itinerary 3 days in Barcelona is sure to fly by, but you can safely say you’ve seen a good deal of the city.