Barcelona is a hip and vibrant city sprinkled with medieval charm, whimsical architecture and delicious food. A city that inspired artists like Salvador Dali, Picasso and Gaudi to create masterpieces and leave behind a legacy. Sun kissed by he Mediterranean sea and a shoppers paradise for designer boutiques – Barcelona has it all. Barcelona has a special place in my heart as it’s the first city I explored on my two month European adventure. I fell in love with everything this city has to offer.
To make the best of your time we’ve put together a four day itinerary to help organize your trip and catch the highlights of this amazing city.
Indulge in a food tour
Tapas Tapas Tapas!!! A food tour is a great way to get an introduction to the city and its culture. We booked an evening tour with Barcelona Food Tour with Kaye, who took us through the winding cobbled stone streets of the Gothic Quarter where we indulged in Catalonian delicacies, wine, cheese and finer foods like foie gras, the famous Spanish Iberico jamon and other delicious treats. We recommend doing this tour on your first day so you can revisit some of the places and get other recommendations from Kaye on must eats in the city. A fabulous way to start your Spanish experience.
Take a free walking tour
There are a bunch of free walking tours around the city that cover different areas like the old city, the Spanish civil war or Gaudi’s work. It’s a great way to meet fellow travelers and uncover the mysteries of the city together while exploring local coffee shops and taking in the sights. The best part is it’s free and you really don’t need a reservation, just show up at their meeting point and enjoy the tour. Don’t forget to tip your enthusiastic guides for showing you a good time. We love the flexibility of these tours, here are some options
– Runner Bean Walking Tours
– Travel Bound Barcelona Free Walking Tours
Explore El Born and Gothic Quarter
El Born – We highly recommend staying in the El Born area close to the Santa Caterina market and Picasso museum. The El Born district is where locals hang out in their favorite coffee shops in the open plaza around the church in the day and go drinking at some of the finest bars in town at night. Explore the fancy designer boutiques, chocolate shops like BUBO and delicious tapas bars in the area. This trendy part of town just a 10 minute walk to the beach and the beautiful Gothic quarter.
Barri Gotic – Explore the majestic Gothic cathedral (La Sue), walk on the winding cobbled stone streets and travel back in time to the medieval ages while exploring Barri Gotic or the Gothic Quarter – the center of the old city. The little shops and restaurants around the numerous plazas, the melodic sound of the Spanish guitar in the distance and the dimly lit alleyways are romance at its best. Evenings here are magical!
Get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and unwind at the relaxing Aire de Barcelona in the El born district. We stumbled upon this Arab bath by accident and couldn’t resist going there multiple times, it’s a perfect end to a busy day of sightseeing. The baths are underground setting with exposed brick walls and multiple pools with different temperatures, they also have a salt pool, Jacuzzi, steam room and massage area. Scented air, delicious tea, and candle light create a romantic and tranquil ambiance. Stop by in the day or call ahead and book a slot for the evening or the following day. They have lockers and provide swimsuits and robes if required. We bet that you will love this and will be going there multiple times.
Breakfast at Santa Caterina Market
Start your day exploring the Santa Caterina market. The colorful wavy roof of this complex is art itself and the delicious treats under this roof are worth exploring. We had some of our most memorable meals at the markets. The seafood here is as good as it can get!
Visit Plaza Espanya
This is the commercial tourist center of the city. This is an iconic plaza with a beautiful fountain and glorious architecture. It’s also the meeting point for many walking tours and is the transport hub of the city, you can catch a bus to get to most parts of the city from this point.
Take a walk on Las Ramblas
The infamous Las Ramblas is the party and tourist district notorious for its night life. This 1.2 mile promenade is filled with boutiques, fast food restaurants and lots of bars. It was fun strolling around for a bit but too touristy for our taste. Spend some time here in the day and visit back at night to check out the buzzing night life.
Lunch at Mercado de la Boqueria
This is a must do in Barcelona! The energy in this market is like none I have ever seen before. Stroll around and check out all the fresh produce and treats. There are several small restaurants in the market, once you decide on which one appeals to you get the attention of the server and let him know that you want a seat at the bar. There is a protocol and a method here, it gets pretty crowded so be prepared to wait a bit to get a spot. Eating here is a unique experience.
An afternoon at Sagrada Familia
Gaudi’s incomplete masterpiece will take your breath away. The stories the walls and sculptures of this larger than life cathedral narrate, are beautiful to say the least. Plan on spending a good 2-3 hours here. The audio guides are very descriptive and have all the information you need to enjoy this Unesco World heritage site.
*Our Tip – Visit in the afternoon on a bright sunny day to see the sunlight shine through the colorful stain glass windows and paint the cathedral in ethereal hues.
Explore Gaudi’s famous works
From Sagrada Familia you can explore Gaudi’s other famous works like Casa Battlo and Casa Mila aka La Perdrara. You could also choose to do a free walking tour of Gaudi’s works.
Drinks and Tapas
End the day with some tasty bites from the numerous tapas bars in the city. We liked to hang out in the El born district to ‘wine down’ every night. Spanish wines are world-famous but what’s making a ferocious comeback is Vermouth. Try the sweet vermouth, an aromatized, fortified wine flavored with herbs and spices. Try it neat or with a splash of soda.
This park is not your ordinary park but an architectural marvel. Walking through this park almost feels like an adventure in the land of Dr. Seuss. Curvy rooftops, colorful spiraling columns, mosaic details and buildings of whimsical shapes are part of the scenery in this one of a kind park. Plan to spend half a day here at least…lots to see and explore.
Lunch at Cuidad Condal in Eixample district
Trust us! You will not be disappointed. This restaurant came highly recommended by our Airbnb host. It’s a very popular tapas restaurant among locals and tourists. Try the prawns, they are delicious!
Shopping at Eixample
This is the new hip part of town with wide streets and beautiful architecture from the morderniste movement. If you’ve missed any of Gaudi’s work, this would be a good day to catch it as it’s all sprinkled in this area. This is also the main designer shopping district – think Chanel and Prada. Your wallet will definitely be lighter by the end of the day.
Head to Barcelonata, the happening and bustling beach with sand artists, musicians and trendy seafood restaurants. Don’t expect seclusion, this is one of the busiest beaches in town but also the most fun. People watch have a few drinks and catch the sunset.
We like to venture out of the city and explore small towns and secluded beaches so how you choose to spend Day 4 depends on your interest and the amount of time you have in Spain. Here are some options:
1. Picasso Museum and more beach time
Get an early start to the day and explore the Picasso Museum. Make sure you buy your tickets online in advance and be prepared to stand in line. After the museum you can choose to explore some of the other beaches around town or if your up for a little adventure drive to Tossa De Mar, a beautiful beach town an hour and half away on the coast of Costa Brava.
2. Walk in the footsteps of Salvador Dali
The Dali museum is located in Figueres, 143 kms from Barcelona. You can get there by train, bus or rent a car if you want the freedom to explore the surrounding area. After visiting the museum explore the beautiful beachfront village of Cadeques – a place that served as a home base for Picasso and Dali has to extremely special. Visit Dali’s house museum to get a sneak peak into his life and sip a delicious Rioja in one of the sea-side cafes. If you only have a day to explore Costa Brava, make a trip to Cadeques.
3. Romantic road trip to Girona and Cadeques – Costa Brava
Not a museum person..I get it! Rent a car and head north to the charming medieval town of Girona. Plan to spend a couple of hours here before you head to the surreal coastal town of Cadeques. We spent most of our time exploring this Mediterranean white washed Spanish fishing village and loved the romanticism of the turquoise ocean, lighthouses and beautiful landscape. No wonder Salvador Dali chose this village to paint his masterpieces.
There is so much to see in Costa Brava that a day is definitely not enough. In order to do justice to what this beautiful part of Spain has to offer we recommend spending at least a night or more here. You can choose to spend a night in Cadeques and explore the coast and the medieval towns on the next day making your way back to Barcelona.
That’s it folks! Hope you find this information helpful when planning your trip to Barcelona.
Cheers and Happy Travels!