Seeing the best of Barcelona in just a day—impossible or not? We say you can do it! This DIY itinerary shows you the best of Barcelona in a day. Or, you can save yourself the headache of planning and join our local guide who’ll make sure your day in Barcelona is perfect.
Pro Tip: Planning your trip to Barcelona? Bookmark this post in your browser so you can easily find it when you’re in the city. See our comprehensive guide to Barcelona for more planning resources, our top Barcelona tours for a memorable trip, and the top things to see in Barcelona.
The Perfect Barcelona In A Day Itinerary
It is not by chance that Barcelona is one of the most-visited cities in Spain and receives thousands of tourists yearly. Its historical relevance as a strategic port in the Mediterranean put it in the spotlight since the Roman Era, creating a cultural melting pot.
Artists have left their footprints on the city’s architecture, like Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia and Park Güell, or homaged the beloved town by opening museums for their collections like Picasso and Miró.
With such artistic and historical value, spending at least two days in the city is best. Yet, you can enjoy the best of Barcelona in a day if you plan it right. Prepare to be surprised because you will not believe how beautiful the city is.
And be sure to plan ahead as this is a large city that will require some planning to see all the sites. Otherwise, book a guided tour to remove the hassle and enjoy an elevated experience.
Not ready to book a tour? Check out our article on the best Barcelona tours to take and why.
Getting To Barcelona
Barcelona has connections to all the European capitals and international locations by flight and high-speed train (AVE). If you are flying to Barcelona-El Prat airport, you can get to the city’s center by bus. One leaves every 5 – 10 minutes, and it takes around 30 – 40 minutes to get to central Barcelona.
Taking the L9 Sur metro line from El Prat airport is also an option. However, the train stops close to the university, and you would need to change the line to get to the city center. Taxis or private drivers are, of course, another valid option. Time and fees depend on your destination, but getting to the city center should cost around €30 for a half-hour trip.
The high-speed train is best if you are already in Spain. From Madrid, for example, the AVE train will get you to Barcelona in around 3 hours, from the Atocha Station in Madrid to Barcelona Sants, the central train station.
Start Your Day With A Spanish Breakfast
Breakfast is an experience you should take advantage of while visiting another country. You can go two ways to start your day as an authentic Spaniard: all sweet with churros and hot chocolate, or salty and savory with tomato and olive oil toast, Spanish tortilla, and jamón (Spanish ham). And you’ll find both on La Rambla (Barcelona’s iconic street).
For a taste of churros, the traditional Spanish fritters, and hot chocolate, Granja La Pallaresa is one of the best. They have been sharing their love for chocolate since 1947. Another place that will satisfy your sweet tooth is Escribà. This pastry shop opened in 1906, and the founder’s family still runs it. Also, the modernist façade and interiors of the shop are impressive.
If you are up for a savory breakfast, Bar Pinotxo, in the Mercat de la Boquería, is the place to go. Authentic and welcoming, it will bring a smile to your face.
Head to La Rambla & Mercat de la Boqueria
La Rambla, the long pedestrian street in the city center, is one of the most recognizable areas of Barcelona. It goes from the port to Plaça de Catalunya and is full of shops and restaurants. Your tour of Barcelona in a day starts here at the Mercat de la Boqueria.
The vibrant life of a Spanish market is always fun. But here, you will also have an excellent gastronomic experience tasting fresh Catalonian food and dishes.
And did you know that the origins of the Mercat date back to the 13th century? The first document attesting a meat market where today the Mercat sits is from 1217! You can check out the old records about it on the official Mercat website.
Address: La Rambla, 91
Explore the Gothic Quarter & Plaza del Rey
8-minute walk from the Mercat
The charming Barrio Gótico is one of the city’s oldest areas. While walking through the narrow medieval roads, you’ll be fascinated during your walk through different time periods from the ancient Roman walls to the new little shops.
If you’re fascinated by medieval architecture, you will love Plaza del Rey Square. Here, the Palau Reial Mayor was one of the residences of Ferdinand and Isabella of Aragon. The palace has significantly changed over the centuries but is still very evocative.
Walking a neighborhood is great for getting to know locals, but you’ll miss what’s so important about these locations. Our local guides can tell you lots of stories about the area and the castle. For example, the Palau Reial Mayor was where the king received Columbus upon his return from America.
Address: Plaza del Rey
Not ready to book a tour? Check out our article on the best Barcelona tours to take and why.
Don’t Miss the Barcelona Cathedral
2-minute walk from Plaza del Rey to the cathedral entrance
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia is part of the Gothic Quarter, but it deserves a dedicated section. It is a beautiful building dedicated to Saint Eulalia, the 13-year-old Christian martyr and co-patron of Barcelona.
The first thing to notice is the gothic façade with gargoyles (and a unicorn!), but did you know that they are from the 19th century? The original church is much older though.
According to the information shared by the church, the first document about the basilica is from 599 A.D.! This record certifies the presence of a paleo Christian basilica, whose foundations have been uncovered by recent excavations that also held Saint Eulalia’s remains.
Later on, a new Romanesque basilica replaced the original primitive building. Finally, in 1298, the work for the new cathedral started, and it took till 1448 to complete. However, the façade and the towers were very different back then. And the current look of the cathedral is from a recent renovation at the end of the 19th century.
Address: Pla de la Seu
Take a Guided Tour of the Sagrada Família
30-minute underground train ride from the Gothic Quarter to the Sagrada Família
The masterpiece of Barcelona. This building is so unique that if we could visit only one place in the city, the Sagrada Família would be it. Even unfinished, this basilica is breathtaking. Antoni Gaudí left behind this incredible basilica in progress upon his untimely death, and workers are striving to complete it even today.
If you only book one tour, this is the tour to choose to appreciate it and understand its complexity. Our guides will lead you through the fascinating construction history after skipping the line, which is always very long at the Sagrada Família.
If you’re up for a climb, consider visiting the towers, too. You’ll need to purchase a separate ticket to access the towers and there is no elevator. But if city views are your thing, the views over Barcelona from up here are worth it. No day in Barcelona is complete without touring Sagrada Família.
Address: Calle de Mallorca, 401
Pro Tip: This is the currently best year to visit the Sagrada Familia. In October 2022, the icosahedron at the top of the tower of Luke is finally complete, so the winged ox is the only missing part. The tower of Mark is also planned to be completed by the end of 2022.
Not ready to book a tour? Check out our Sagrada Família Guide for more resources.
Explore the Colors and Textures of Park Güell
About a 35-minute underground train ride from the Sagrada Família
Built between 1900 and 1914 by famed architect Antoni Gaudí, the colorful Park Güell is one of the most charismatic parts of the city. This is despite its original intention to create an English-garden style to the city that failed to materialize.
As stated by Barcelona’s municipality, Eusebi Güell commissioned it to Gaudí as an exclusive residential area. However, the park was too far from the city center back then, so the project didn’t follow through. Güell’s heirs sold the complex to the municipality in 1922, and it became a public park four years later.
Perhaps it was for the best. The vibrant colors and the unique textures and designs will transport you away from the city in a whimsical way.
Pro Tip: The Greek Teather viewpoint and the dragon stairway are great spots for photos!
Address: Park Güell
See the Best Views from Montjuïc
Around 1-hour underground ride from Park Güell
Time to enjoy another astonishing view. The mountain of Montjuïc offers the best panorama from the city to the Mediterranean sea.
But there are other reasons to fit this visit into your Barcelona-in-a-day itinerary. The area has plenty of attractions, including a castle, a botanic garden, and a magic fountain with music and light shows. It’s also the site of several Olympic Games events from when Barcelona hosted in 1992.
And while those are the fun things to explore, here’s an interesting fact: this mountain was the source of the specific stone used to build Sagrada Família until the supply was largely used up.
Pro Tip: If you want to enjoy Barcelona’s sunset from the heights, try a ride on the Montjuïc cableway.
Indulge in Barcelona’s Best Flavors
About a 45-minute (underground) or 25-minute (car) ride from Montjuïc to the Gothic Quarter
You’re probably hungry after a full day of touring! While there are endless places to eat in Barcelona, you want to try best spots with your limited time in Barcelona. So, back to the Gothic Quarter you go.
Here you’ll find plenty of options to taste the best food and local wine from traditional and affordable tapas bars to Michelin-starred restaurants. But you must be careful, as there are many tourist trap restaurants everywhere.
Try Arcano Restaurant if you want modern takes on traditional ingredients. Or if you want authentic Catalonain food, opt for L’Antic Bocoi del Gotic. For more ideas, we had our local experts put together a list of their favorite places to eat in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter.
Dinner in Spain is often later than you might expect, so you’ll have plenty of time to complete your Barcelona in a day itinerary before enjoying your last meal here.
Not ready to book a tour? Check out our Barcelona Guide for more resources.