Last Updated on 28/04/2021
Barcelona is a city with a unique mix of culture, coastline and bustling city feel. From beautiful beaches to breath-taking architecture, this Spanish city has huge amounts of character. We’ve put together the perfect 3-day Barcelona itinerary so you can explore the main highlights on a short trip.
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3 Day Barcelona Itinerary: Why Barcelona?
Where: Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Why go: Barcelona is Catalonia’s largest and capital city. With its unique mix of culture, coastline and bustling city feel, it has something to offer everyone who visits.
How to get there: Barcelona International Airport is a short 20-minute drive from the city center. Travel by train is just as easy. Considered one of the most utilized transport hubs in Spain, the Barcelona Sants Train Station is the primary train station for national and international arrivals and departures.
3 Day Barcelona Itinerary
We’ve broken down our Barcelona itinerary into each of the three days below. This itinerary is designed to help you cover as many of the main Barcelona sights as possible in a short trip. We’ve included extra ideas at the bottom of the post if you have the luxury of a few extra days too!
Barcelona Itinerary: Day 1
The first day of our Barcelona itinerary mainly focuses on orientation. It gives you an opportunity to explore a large area of the city and get a feel for the layout while crossing plenty of sights off your list!
Arc de Triomf
The majestic Arc de Triomf is a great location to start your Barcelona itinerary. Its central location means it is easily accessible from just about everywhere in the city.
This triumphal arch was built by architect Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas as the main access gate for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair. Today, it marks the entrance to Passeig de Lluís Companys, a vibrant promenade full of street entertainers and live music.
Ciutadella Park is a stunning oasis in the center of the city. Located at the end of Passeig de Lluís Companys, it is just a short walk beyond the Arc de Triomf.
A quiet stroll around the park offers a refreshing change of scenery from the city skyline. Its crowning glory is the spectacular lake, which is impressive to behold.
It is worth noting that, due to its proximity to parliament buildings, Ciutadella Park can be closed unexpectedly at times. If you encounter this, be sure to persevere. It really is worth a visit to Ciutadella Park so you may have to wander by on a few occasions to secure a visit.
If you fancy a stroll to the edge of the city, head to the beach at La Barceloneta. Just a 20-minute walk from Cuitadella Park, this sandy beach is easily forgotten in the midst of the many cultural attractions Barcelona has to offer.
Skirting along the blue waters of the Mediterranean, La Barceloneta has a reputation for a lively atmosphere day and night. The ideal location to take a break from city sight-seeing, you can pass a hot day lounging on the sands.
A steady wander following the edge of the marina will bring you to Mirador de Colom, or the Columbus Monument. This marks the beginning of La Rambla.
Stretching for 1.2 kilometers, this tree-lined pedestrian street is a hive of activity. This popular tourist attraction is filled with cafes and souvenir shops. It is also a popular spot for human statues, artists and street performers.
Despite its somewhat touristy feel, a walk down La Rambla is an essential part of visiting Barcelona. Used daily by tourists and locals alike, this famous street has a certain charm that attracts everyone. Keep an eye out for the circular tilework on the central walkway by artist Joan Miró.
Mercat de la Boqueria
Located about halfway down La Rambla, you’ll find Mercat de la Boqueria.
Established in 1836, this bustling food market has over 200 traders. With a dazzling array of fresh produce on offer, it is the ideal place to pick up some spices and olives. There are also several restaurants that use the market’s fresh produce to create their dishes, so it is the ideal place to stop for food.
Cutting across La Rambla now, to the opposite side, venture down one of the side streets and into the heart of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter.
Like Alice through the looking glass, you’ll quickly find yourself enveloped in the warren of streets within the Gothic Quarter. The narrow medieval streets are home to charming boutique shops and trendy bars and cafes. It’s easy to get lost, both literally and figuratively, in this maze of pretty streets.
Cathedral of Barcelona
Barcelona Cathedral is tucked away in the city’s Gothic Quarter. Although it is often overlooked in favor of Gaudí’s Sagrada Família, Barcelona Cathedral is a masterpiece in its own right.
The cathedral was constructed from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries in the traditional gothic style. Its soaring arches and striking columns give it a grand and imposing feel.
There is a modest entry fee of €7* per person, with the option of paying an additional €4* for the audio guide.
Palau de la Música Catalana
Also located in the Gothic quarter is the spectacular Palau de la Música Catalana.
Designed in the Catalan modernist style, this concert hall is stunning. Quoted as ‘one of the most beautiful [concert halls] in the world,’ it is the only auditorium in Europe that is illuminated during the day entirely by natural light. This is a result of the breath-taking stained-glass skylight.
Tours run frequently throughout the day in a number of languages. Tours cost €20* and last approximately 50 minutes. It is a worthwhile investment just to see the awe-inspiring skylight, colorful balcony and to hear the powerful organ play.
We recommend checking the website for tour times and pre-booking tickets to avoid disappointment.
Barcelona Itinerary: Day 2
The second day of our itinerary is an introduction to the works of architect Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí’s work is synonymous with the city of Barcelona, and you can’t leave without at least visiting the highlights.
La Sagrada Família
This is possibly the most iconic landmark in Barcelona. Antoni Gaudí’s still unfinished cathedral first started development in 1882. The aim is to complete the building by 2026, to mark the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death.
When you visit La Sagrada Família, you will understand why it has taken almost a century and a half to build. The intricacy of the external facade tells the story of the life of Jesus through the use of detailed statues adorning the outside of the building.
While you can see the outside of the building from the street, to fully appreciate it’s beauty, you need to experience La Sagrada Família from the inside.
When visiting La Sagrada Família, it is vital that you pre-book tickets. Queues amass quickly during the day but booking gives you an allocated entry slot to avoid a lengthy wait.
Another tip would be to book the earliest slot available. Entry starts from 9am and if you can get this slot you won’t regret the early start. As soon as the doors open a constant stream of tourists filter through the attraction. If you can get in at 9am, you can enjoy La Sagrada Família in relative peace and fully immerse yourself in the building without the bustling crowds.
Gaudí House Museum
Once you have fully absorbed the beauty of La Sagrada Familia, head to Park Güell in the north of the city. Here you’ll find the Gaudí House Museum.
This historic house was home to Antoni Gaudí for almost 20 years. Gaudí lived in the house between 1906 and 1925 until he relocated to La Sagrada Família to oversee the development.
The house itself was commissioned by Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi. He was inspired to build a garden city after a stay in England. The project was designed to develop 60 houses, but ultimately only 2 were built.
The Gaudí Museum house was designed as a show property. Unfortunately, it attracted no buyers so Gaudí bought the house in 1906.
Although only a small museum, it gives a great insight into the life of the man behind Barcelona’s most iconic buildings. You can see how the house would have been used by Gaudí during his tenancy. There is also a collection of furniture designed by Gaudí on display at the house, which highlights how Gaudí was a master of all areas of design.
Located on the northern face of Carmel Hill, Park Güell is a large public park. Originally built between 1900-1914, the park first opened to the public in 1926. In 1984 UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site.
On a sunny day, a stroll around the park is a relaxing break from the constant flow of the city. You can admire street performers and birdsong in this green oasis.
In recent years an entrance fee has been applied to the Monumental Zone. The Monumental Zone includes the main entrance, terrace, and areas with significant mosaic detail, including the iconic salamander.
Having an entrance fee is designed to preserve the area. However, as the number of visitors is limited to 400 every 30 minutes, it means you can enjoy the architecture with significantly less crowding than in prior years. Overall, it lends itself to a more pleasant experience.
While a stroll in Park Güell is beautiful, we’d strongly advise a visit to the Monumental Zone. This area of the park further exemplifies Gaudí’s unique architectural skill.
If you want to visit the Monumental Zone on your visit, you must pre-book tickets. Tickets cost only €10* per person, but to guarantee entry, need to be booked 24 hours in advance. They can easily be booked online and you can choose your preferred 30-minute entry slot.
Barcelona Itinerary: Day 3
Your final day in Barcelona is dedicated to museums. We’ve picked two Gaudí houses as further examples of his work. We’ve also highlighted the Picasso museum, so you can explore the life of another Barcelona icon.
Casa Milà (La Pedrera)
Casa Milà, otherwise known as La Pedrera or ‘the stone quarry,’ was the last private residence designed by Gaudí. It was built between 1906 and 1912 in the modernist style.
Perhaps the most famous part of the building is the rooftop. The undulating rooftop affords visitors some spectacular views of the city. It is also guarded by warrior-like chimneys that have become synonymous with Gaudí.
The apartments provide a glimpse into how the wealthy once lived in Barcelona. The grand rooms and elaborate furnishings give the impression of stepping back in time to a life of luxury.
The building itself towers around a central courtyard. The entrance to the courtyard is via an ornate wrought-iron gate, which allowed the owners to access the underground carpark. The ceiling and walls around the gate are covered with delicate, colorful paintings.
Tickets are available on the day for Casa Milà, although queues can get long. If you book online you can avoid long wait times. The online booking includes an audio guide of the building.
Located just down the road from Casa Milà, Casa Batlló is another of Gaudí’s masterpieces. Originally built in 1877, Gaudí was commissioned to redesign the building in 1904. The house was bought by Josep Batlló in 1900 who requested Gaudí create a house that was like no other.
As is often seen in Gaudí’s works, the design of the house is inspired by nature. Stepping through the doors you will feel yourself immersed in the ocean. The distinctly nautical design runs through the entire building, making the tour through Casa Batlló a cohesive and whimsical experience.
Possibly the most audacious of all Gaudí’s creations, Casa Batlló can surprisingly be overlooked by tourists. While not his most famous work, Casa Batlló is the one that gives the best glimpse into the mind of Antoni Gaudí. Of all of the Gaudí attractions, this one was our favorite.
As with all the Gaudí attractions, pre-booking tickets is recommended. Once you enter the building, a comprehensive audio and augmented reality guide will direct you from room to room. It gives you an overview of the history of Barcelona, the building, and shows you what it looked like during the time of the Batlló family’s residency.
Delving back into the maze of the Gothic Quarter, you will find the Picasso Museum. Featuring an expansive collection of works by the artist, Museu Picasso has 16 galleries dedicated to Picasso’s works.
The collection spans Picasso’s lifetime. Some of the earliest pieces date from his teenage years, right through his career. It is a diverse mix of styles including mediums such as sculpture and ceramics. It really highlights the versatility of Picasso’s skill.
Tickets can be purchased on the door for €12* for the collection, or €14* for the collection and temporary exhibition. If booked in advance these are slightly cheaper. There is also the option to include an audio tour for an extra €5* per person.
Barcelona Itinerary: Things To Note
Here are a few useful pointers to keep in mind when visiting Barcelona.
- Firstly, it is worth noting that Barcelona has an extensive Metro system. While the itinerary can be completed on foot, all of the landmarks have Metro stations within a reasonable distance should you prefer to travel this way.
- As with all major cities and tourist destinations, Barcelona does have its fair share of pickpockets. As always, when in busy areas make sure you are aware of your belongings and carry important items in a secure bag.
- Finally, we discovered what is possibly Barcelona’s best-kept secret. Hot chocolate! If you are grabbing a bite to eat in a local cafe, be sure to order a hot chocolate. You will be presented with a small cup of what appears to be literally molten chocolate. Hot chocolate in Barcelona is served thick so you can dip in churros before drinking the rest. Just trust us on this one and give it a try!
Other things to include in your Barcelona itinerary…
A 3-day itinerary just scratches the surface of what Barcelona has to offer. If you are in the city for a little while longer, why not add the following to your Barcelona itinerary?
- Mount Tibidabo – The majestic Tibidabo is the largest hill in the Serra de Collserola. It is visible from almost everywhere in Barcelona and is recognizable thanks to the striking Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor perched on top.
- Museu de la Xocolata – As soon as you enter the chocolate museum the smell alone is enough to have you drooling. This fun and interactive museum tells the history of chocolate, alongside impressive, 100% edible sculptures!
- Barcelona Zoo – Conveniently located in Ciutadella Park, Barcelona Zoo is home to an impressive variety of species that you can experience all under one roof.
- Take a tour – taking a tour of the city with a guide is a great way to see the sights and to learn more about the history of Barcelona. Check out these great options for inspiration:
Get Your Barcelona Trip Essentials
If you’re planning a trip to Barcelona, don’t forget to pick up your travel guide and Barcelona essentials before your visit!
What’s on your Barcelona itinerary?
So we’ve outlined our ideal 3-day Barcelona itinerary. Have you visited Barcelona? Let us know what is topping your Barcelona itinerary in the comments!
*Prices updated as of July 2020
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