The Best Barcelona Itinerary and Complete Guide To The City
Heading to the magical city of Gaudi? Scroll down to find out everything you need to know in order to organise the best Barcelona itinerary for 3 or 4 days, including a list of top Barcelona tourist attractions, best hotels, great places to eat, and more.
Barcelona has become a top bucket list destination for so many reasons! It has a vibrant city center, insane architecture, a rich, artistic history and, to top it all off, a beach to enjoy the Spanish sun! A long weekend Barcelona trip of 3-4 days should be good enough to give you a flavour of this Catalonian capital, but if you have more time to spend, the city offers so much more to enjoy.
Expect magnificent churches, majestic museums, glorious beaches, and vibrant markets, street musicians, and mouth-watering dishes that will open up worlds for you. Below, I’ve rounded up my ultimate list of things to see, things to do and places to eat, drink and stay that will have you screaming “Oh my Gaudi!” while you explore the highlights of the heart of Catalonia!
By the way, feel free to organize your itinerary day by day as you wish, mixing and matching the 10 best places to visit in Barcelona that I listed below (in no particular order)!
Top 10 things to do in Barcelona
1 - Sagrada Familia
A visit to Sagrada Família is a total must-do for all itineraries for Barcelona, regardless if you’re staying for one day or seven. After all, it’s one of the most unique cathedrals on the planet! Antoni Gaudí, the Catalan architect famous for the Art Nouveau school, designed it to be unorthodox and compelling. The exteriors depict the life of Christ with great artistry, while the stained-glass windows inside are majestic for their attention to detail.
If there’s only one place you visit in this architectural marvel of a city, let it be the Basilica de la Sagrada Família! Here are my recommended ticket options and tours to add to your Barcelona itinerary:
- La Sagrada Familia tickets: 20€. I recommend buying your tickets online in advance on the official website.
- La Sagrada Familia skip-the-line + guided tour: 47€. Book your tour here.
- 1-hour and 15-minute Sagrada Familia private tour: 110€. Book your tour here.
- Sagrada Familia + Barcelona Highlights bike tour (Gothic Quarter, Gaudi sites such as Casa Mila): 27€. Book your tour here – it’s a great option for active, eco-friendly tourists!
2 - Park Güell
If you only have 3 days in Barcelona, make sure you don’t omit Park Güell from your bucket list – a UNESCO World Heritage site! Park Guell was the result of Antoni Gaudi being commissioned by the businessman Eusebi Güell to create a fairytale-like space that defies all conventional norms associated with a public park. It’s wildly colourful, with non-linear pathways and viaducts, all conjuring up a fantasy in the middle of the city. Park Guell also offers spectacular views of the city and the sea!
Here are my recommended Park Guell tickets and tours:
3 - Casa Milà and Casa Batlló
Casa Mila and Casa Batllo are two more of Gaudi’s buildings and some of the most popular Barcelona attractions:
Antoni Gaudí designed Casa Batlló in a Modernist style for the businessman Josep Batlló i Casanovas, and from the looks of it, he clearly had a lot of artistic freedom! The facade makes it look more like a castle in a fairytale than a city residence. The roof, designed like a wave, is simply magical!
Casa Milà (La Pedrera)
For Casa Mila in Eixample, Gaudi’s inspiration seems to have been a stone quarry. With non-linear, wavy shapes, the building is a brilliant example of the avant-garde style of architecture.
TIP: If you have enough time on your hands, make sure to visit Casa Vicens as well! It’s Gaudi’s first house in Barcelona and probably the most colourful one as well. It’s less visited by tourists and one of my faves!
4 - Arc de Triomf Barcelona
Almost every European city worth its history has an arch, but what makes Arc de Triomf of Barcelona unique is its New Moorish architecture. The red bricks, intricate artworks and the giant columns speak of a synergy between various cultural influences that the Catalan region has always been proud of. A must-see in Barcelona!
TIP #1: If you want to visit Arc de Triomf as part of a guided tour, I recommend this Barcelona bike tour with a stop at a beach bar. It includes Parc de la Ciutadella, Plaça de Catalunya, the Gothic Quarter and more.
TIP #2: Make sure you wear something of a contrasting colour to make sure that you don’t get lost in the red backdrop in your photos.
5 - Barcelona Cathedral
Nope, we’re not talking about Sagrada Familia again! Barcelona Cathedral or, if you want to use the official name, The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, is not as famous as Sagrada Familia but it’s a must-visit anyway. It’s located in one of the most beautiful parts of the city, the Gothic Quarter, it has a superb facade and it’s full of nice monuments and chapels.
- Barcelona Cathedral entrance fee: 9€ and it includes a visit to the rooftop as well. Buy your ticket online on the official website here.
- Old Town + Gothic Quarter Barcelona walking tour: 16€ – it includes Barcelona Cathedral (from the outside), La Boqueria Market, Las Ramblas and more. Book your tour here.
6 - Recinte Modernista Sant Pau (Sant Pau Hospital)
This is a former hospital and, trust me, it’s simply gorgeous! Once you set foot here, Sant Pau will transport you to 20th century Barcelona; you’ll also be able to learn about Art Nouveau architecture and old medicine practices. By the way, this is one of the best things to see in Barcelona if you want to take some incredible pictures!
Sant Pau entrance fee: 15€. You can buy your tickets online in advance here.
7 - Bunkers del Carmel
Few cities worldwide are blessed with viewpoints like this. Situated atop Turó de la Rovira, El Carmel Bunkers offers some of the most panoramic and spellbinding views of Barcelona. Once an anti-aircraft offensive point during the Civil War, now the Bunkers serve one of the best points for an almost cinematic, bird’s eye view of the city. By the way, there is no entrance fee here. Whoop-whoop!
TIP: You’ll have to hike for a while in order to get to the top, so please keep this in mind when planning your Barcelona itinerary.
TIP #2: The best time to visit is certainly for sunrise for the most incredible view all to yourselves!
8 - Palau de la Musica
When in Barcelona, it’s good to sometimes remind yourself that there are structures in the city that were not built by Antoni Gaudí. The Palace of Catalan Music, also known as Palau de la Musica, is a sublime mixture of form and function. Designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, this is a must-visit for not just those interested in music, but all those who like beautiful architecture! Oh, and did you know the building is a UNESCO World Heritage site?
9 - Barceloneta Beach
Of course, no trip to Barcelona is complete without spending some time on the beach as well! Picture this: long boardwalks, palm trees, lively bars and teeming cafes. Yep, the beaches in Barcelona are lively – and Barceloneta has to be THE most popular and beautiful one. While you’re there, you can surf, sunbathe, or just lay around in a beach chair, spying yachts in the sea.
By the way, Barceloneta Beach is also an excellent place to try out the famed Catalan seafood, as there are tons of amazing bars and restaurants there.
RELATED READ: 10 Best Beaches in Mallorca, Spain
10 - Cable car to Montjuic
Also known as Telefèric de Montjuïc in Spanish or the Montjuic cable car / funicular, this cable car will take you from Barcelona up to Montjuic Hill, where Montjuic Castle is located. It’s one of the most unique things to add to your Barcelona itinerary and an unforgettable way to experience the city.
Montjuic cable car ticket price: 13.50€ for the round way trip. You can buy your ticket online here.
BONUS: Extra things to add to your list
Can’t get enough of Barcelona? Haha, I get it! Here are some extra things that you can consider for your dream Barcelona itinerary:
- Plaça de Catalunya – there are TONS of shops here!
- Las Ramblas – iconic for shopping as well; La Rambla is the main pedestrianised street that runs through the city, and a landmark in itself;
- La Boqueria Market / Mercat de La Boqueria – 800 year old market with more than 200 stalls offering traditional Spanish and Catalan food;
- Magic Fountain Show – water and light show, free to visit. You can check the Magic Fountain times here. One of the best things to do in Barcelona at night!
- Picasso Museum – for all Picasso lovers out there;
- Joan Miró Foundation / Fundació Joan Miró – for fans of modern art;
- Camp Nou / FC Barcelona Stadium – largest football stadium in Europe;
- Passeig de Gracia – a visit here will give you some authentic Catalan vibes;
RELATED READ: Things to do in Palma (Mallorca, Spain) – Ultimate Guide
Best Barcelona tours by type of traveller
If you don’t want to make all the effort of organizing and timing your Barcelona itinerary all by yourself, I have an excellent solution for you: take multiple organized tours for the attractions that interest you the most! There are literally TONS of options out there, so things can get confusing, but here are my hand-picked recommendations:
- Sagrada Familia and Park Güell Tour – for those that want to see the most important Gaudi sights in one day;
- Barcelona Hop On Hop Off Bus tour – for those that want to do extensive sightseeing over the course of 1 or 2 days;
- Historical Barcelona 3-hour guided bike tour – for the active, eco-friendly tourist;
- Gaudi highlights with tapas (Passeig de Gracia and Gaudi houses) – for the foodie traveller;
- “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” 2 hours film tour – if you’re a movie fan;
- 1-hour Catamaran Tour – if you want to feel like a VIP!
Where to stay in Barcelona
Now that you know everything there is to know about what to visit in Barcelona, it’s time to take care of accommodation. Luckily, Barcelona caters for all types of travellers out there, so you’ll find plenty of hotels, hostels and apartments for all tastes and pockets.
Here are my hand-picked places to stay in Barcelona for an incredible experience:
BIG SPLURGE: Hotel Casa Fuster G.L Monumento
BOUTIQUE HOTEL: Hotel Neri – Relais & Chateaux
MID-RANGE OPTION: Occidental Diagonal 414
BUDGET OPTION: Eco Boutique Hostal Grau
HOSTEL: Rodamon Barcelona Hostel
ENTIRE APARTMENT: Be Mate Paseo de Gracia
As for the best area to stay in Barcelona, I recommend the city center to all travellers coming to the city for the first time – Plaça de Catalunya, Las Ramblas, El Born, and the famous Gothic Quarter. All of them are well-connected with public transport and they’re full of fun landmarks, restaurants and pubs. Eixample is the place where you’ll find some of the city’s most luxurious hotels. If you’re on a budget, I recommend Plaça España or Poble Sec – a bit further away, but still close to the city center.
Where to eat in Barcelona and what dishes to try
No Barcelona itinerary is complete without some food stops, of course! And, luckily for us, this city offers some of the best Spanish food and tapas in the entire country. Honestly, I could just spend an entire day in Barcelona just roaming around, eating and sitting in cafes and restaurants and, in the end, I’d consider it to be a day well-spent! If you’re like me, here are the best places to eat in Barcelona to add to your list:
BEST LOCAL FOOD: Taverna El Glop
FAVOURITE PLACE FOR TAPAS: Colom
BEST PAELLA: 7 Portes
GREAT BRUNCH SPOT: The Egg Lab
PERFECT DATE NIGHT: Casa Lolea
VEGETARIAN: Flax & Kale
UNMISSABLE BARCELONA FOOD
What about unmissable Barcelona food? If you want to make sure you don’t miss anything important, here is my list of must-try dishes during your Barcelona itinerary:
A real symbol of Spanish cuisine; the seafood version is a must-try!
Iberian ham, my favourite was found at La Boqueria Market;
Deep-fried pastries, very similar to doughnuts, only crunchier and often dipped in warm, melted chocolate. Heaven on Earth!
Roasted potatoes with plenty of sauce;
Creamy vanilla custard, very similar to creme brûlée.
Getting around Barcelona
There are various ways of getting around the city for all types of travellers that are planning a trip to Barcelona:
- FGC, metro and tram – quickest and most convenient options;
- Bus – there are many buses in the city, but it can get crowded during high-peak hours;
- Hop On Hop Off bus – made for tourists. You can buy tickets for 1, 2 or 3 days and you can take unlimited rides during those days. They have predetermined touristic routes and you can get off whenever you want, then once again hop back on the next bus. You can check the prices and buy your ticket here.
- Bike – did you know that Barcelona is a super bike-friendly city?
- Taxi or Uber – a bit more expensive but very convenient;
There are also various travel cards that you can use if you need a way to get from point A to point B using a variety of vehicles such as FGC, metro, tram, bus and even Renfe trains. I recommend getting a Hola! Barcelona Card (2, 3, 4 or 5 days) which offers unlimited travel on public transport for metro, bus, tram and commuter trains, as well as roundtrip airport transfer.
SHOULD YOU GET A BARCELONA CITY PASS?
If you only have 3 days in Barcelona or if you’re planning on exploring as much as you can, a Barcelona city pass might be an excellent idea for you! There are plenty of options available for one day or multi-day and most of them include the entrance fee to some of the top Barcelona attractions and public transport as well.
Here’s a round-up of some of the best available options out there:
- Barcelona Card – doesn’t include Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, but it has public transportation and a 20% discount to multiple attractions;
- Barcelona City Pass – includes Sagrada Familia and Park Guell and 20% discounts to multiple attractions – my recommendation!
- Go Barcelona Pass – includes Casa Batllo, Casa Mila and Hop On Hop Off bus, but doesn’t include Sagrada Familia and Park Guell
- Turbo Pass Barcelona – includes Sagrada Familia but not Park Guell; includes public transportation
Best day trips from Barcelona
If you have more than 3 days in Barcelona, for example, you might want to explore the surrounding areas as well during a day trip. Sure, the city has tons of things to offer and there are always more places to explore, but the surrounding area is excellent as well! Here are two of the best day trips to add to your Barcelona itinerary:
Located around 60km from Barcelona, Costa Brava is an amazing vacation spot made of multiple beach towns and it makes for an unforgettable Barcelona day trip. Once you’re there, you can do some kayaking, snorkelling or simply laying on the beach, as Costa Brava is well-known for sunny spots, summer festivals and good food.
Here are my recommended Costa Brava tours:
RELATED READ: 12 Most Beautiful Mallorca Resorts, Cities and Villages
Girona is another popular destination close to Barcelona thanks to its rich history and ancient, well-preserved Old Town. Expect to see lots of medieval walls, cobblestone streets and colourful buildings! Below are my recommended tours and day trips:
TIP #1: Want to visit both of these locations? Here is a great Girona and Costa Brava tour with hotel pick-up from Barcelona!
TIP #2: Some other great places to add to your Barcelona itinerary for a day trip are Montserrat Mountain and Monastery and Tibidabo Amusement Park.
That’s it, guys and girls! This was my complete Barcelona itinerary for three-four days and more! I added TONS of practical info to this article so that you can create the best itinerary for Barcelona EVER! From the best things to do to the best hotels, top places to eat and even some day trips and organized guided tours, you’ll find everything you’ll wish for and more here. Thank you so much for reading!
Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain (in my humble opinion), and if you want to further explore this beautiful country, I recommend reading all my articles and adventures in Spain here.