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4 Days in Barcelona: Planning An Amazing Barcelona Itinerary

Planning a trip to Barcelona and not sure where to start? In this guide to planning your Barcelona itinerary, we’re going to give you all the information we think you need to plan an incredible trip to the capital of Catalonia. The detailed itinerary is written for 4 days in Barcelona – which we think is the right amount of time to spend in the city – but below the main itinerary we have some ideas for how to adapt it for different time periods (1, 2, and 3 days, or more!).

We’ll also cover important logistics, like where to stay and how to get around, so that you have everything you need to plan your visit to Barcelona.

Barcelona was our first stop on our latest foray into Spain, and we spent a full week in the city, exploring different neighborhoods, eating and drinking our way through the city, and walking A LOT. Barcelona has a lot of the things we look for in a city – it’s super walkable, full of great food and drinks, forward-thinking and diverse, and has some amazing history behind it.

In this 4 day Barcelona itinerary, you’ll get one level below the surface of Barcelona to learn what really makes it a special city (spoiler: it’s not Las Ramblas or the beach). Along the way, you’ll visit one of the most spectacular churches in Europe, learn how to make a Spanish specialty, and connect with locals to get a fresh perspective on the city they call home.

Sound good to you? Let’s get into it!

P.S.: Planning a trip to Spain? We have a detailed Spain itinerary plus guides to Madrid, Granada, and Seville to help you plan an amazing trip!

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.

How Many Days Do You Need in Barcelona?

Barcelona is a huge, fascinating city, but it’s not exactly filled with landmark tourist attractions like Paris or Rome. It’s much more similar to a city like Lisbon in that it has a few major tourist attractions, but the best part about it is exploring different neighborhoods and, of course, eating and drinking. 

All that being said, we think you need at least 3 days in Barcelona itself, plus a day for an awesome day trip to Girona that takes you deeper into Catalonia and the distinct culture that has thrived here for thousands of years.

In other words, we think 4 days in Barcelona is the right amount of time to experience Barcelona without feeling too rushed, and to fit in that day trip. It’s also not too much time in Barcelona – you’re going to find your days are still full, and you’re going to leave with a list of things you want to do next time you’re in the capital of Catalonia. 

If you have more time or less time to spend in Barcelona, don’t worry – we have an entire section for you below the main itinerary with how we’d recommend spending one, two, three, and five or more days in Barcelona. 

However much time in Barcelona, you’ll be able to use this detailed guide to planning your Barcelona itinerary to organize your trip, figure out the best things to do and see, and plan an incredible trip. 

4 Days in Barcelona: How to Plan the Perfect 4 Day Barcelona Itinerary

Right, now that we’ve covered some basics, let’s get into exactly what to do in Barcelona in 4 days. 

The first thing you should know going into this particular itinerary is that it’s focused much more on experiences than checking off every single tourist attraction in Barcelona. 

Sure, there are a bunch of Gaudí sites to see in Barcelona, but with just four days, do you really need to see them all? Probably not. Instead, focus on one or two that are worthwhile, and save the rest for next time. The same goes for both churches and markets, both of which there are plenty of in Barcelona. 

To illustrate the point above, there are two Gaudí sites in Barcelona that you’ll find on every other itinerary, but we purposely excluded because it’s just too much! Those two are Casa Milà and Casa Batlló, which are in the “with more time” section below, but not in the main itinerary. 

The 4 Day Barcelona Itinerary: An Overview

In general, the Barcelona itinerary that you’ll find below is structured with one major sight per day – like the Sagrada Familia, for example – with time for exploring a particular neighborhood and eating and drinking your way through the city on either side of that main attraction. Speaking as people who have made the mistake of doing multiple major attractions in a single day, we think you’ll enjoy yourself much more this way (we know we do). 

Here’s a high-level overview of the day-by-day itinerary. 

  • Day 1: Exploring the Gothic Quarter & A Walking Tour
  • Day 2: La Sagrada Familia & Barceloneta
  • Day 3: Take a Day Trip to Girona (Our Favorite!)
  • Day 4: Parc Güell & Learning to Make Paella

We don’t want to be too prescriptive – obviously, you could do a day trip on the fourth day in Barcelona instead of the third if it works better for your particular schedule.

Day 1: Exploring the Gothic Quarter & An Introductory Walking Tour

On your first morning, it makes sense to spend your time exploring the Gothic Quarter, home of the original city of Barcino that was founded by the Romans 2,000 years ago, before taking a walking tour with a local guide to get your bearings in the city and learn a few things along the way. Finish with a guided tapas tour where you’ll not only try some delicious food, but also get the context behind it, which we always find fascinating. 

The Gothic Quarter: La Boqueria Market and Las Ramblas

Start your morning out in the Gothic Quarter, the oldest part of the city and the place where the original city of Barcino was founded by the Romans two millennia ago as a trading post on the Iberian Peninsula. 

Despite being the main tourist attraction in Barcelona, there is still something romantic about the dark, narrow alleys of the Gothic Quarter, which make the huge city of Barcelona feel small and quiet in the way that they insulate you from everything going on outside that particular street. 

Today, it’s the most-visited part of the city, and Las Ramblas – the famous thoroughfare running from Plaça de Catalunya down to the water –  is bustling, loud, and wild at almost all hours of the day (though, not in the early morning!). Theoretically, it’s lovely with its tree-lined pedestrian lined with flower vendors, but in reality it’s pretty unbearable at most hours. 

Start your day off right – with some great coffee at Satan’s Coffee Corner, which is just a few blocks off of Las Ramblas. Take the metro (or walk) to Plaça de Catalunya and wander south before veering off to the left to head to get some coffee. Satan’s is one of the original specialty coffee shops in the city, and they bring in roasters from all over Europe and serve their beans as filter coffee or espresso-based drinks like a latte.

After you’re caffeinated, head back out to Las Ramblas and make your way to Mercado de La Boqueria, the most famous (and, therefore, most visited) of Barcelona’s markets. It is packed with tourists, yes, but we think it’s still well worth visiting, especially early in the morning before it’s wall-to-wall with people oooohing and aaahhing over the fresh produce, cured meats, and fish (among many, many other things). 

It’s a great place to pick up souvenirs, snacks for later (like meat and cheese), or fresh fruit and juice for breakfast, which is what we opted for. Get a container of sliced mango and some fresh papaya juice and take some time to wander the hundreds of stalls. 

Continue all the way down Las Ramblas – 1.2 km or so – to the Christopher Columbus Statue (who is somehow revered for making a huge mistake for thinking that the Americas were India, among other things) that marks the end of the street. Congratulations, you walked Las Ramblas from start to finish. Now, we’d recommend spending the entirety of the rest of your time away from Las Ramblas exploring Barcelona a little more deeply, only returning to cross the main thoroughfare en route to a different spot. 

An Introductory Walking Tour

We always like to do a walking tour on our first day in a new city for a couple of reasons. One, it allows us to connect with a local right off the bat, who can give us tips and tricks on things like the language, local customs, and most importantly, what and where to eat and drink! 

We avoid the free tours now because we’ve found that the guides are just never as good as the ones you pay for… which makes total sense. It’s worth the slight investment on our part to have a local expert giving us the real deal, rather than a college student who memorized a script and is working for tips. 

We did this walking tour, and our guide Miguel gave us a fantastic introduction to the city of Barcelona. It was funny, engaging, disgusting at times, and overall a really fun way to get oriented in a new city. It’s only two hours long, which is great because our attention span is, sadly, roughly two hours or so. 

Other options include this bike tour of Barcelona (it DOES NOT include entrance to the Sagrada Familia, just admiring from the outside) or this nighttime tour of the Old Town

An Evening Food Tour 

Round out your first day in Barcelona with an evening tapas tour with Devour Food Tours, one of the OG food tour companies in Spain. It was founded in 2012 to help support struggling local restaurants during the recession, and has become a Europe-wide food tour empire since. 

Their tours, unfortunately, are not safe for people with Celiac Disease (that’s me!), otherwise we would have done one ourselves. But that doesn’t mean you can’t!

They may seem expensive, but you’re basically getting a history tour and food tour all in one. Come hungry, because you make a bunch of stops along the way at some of the most historic establishments in the city, and your local guide will tell you rich stories that will help you contextualize what you’re eating and get a couple of levels deeper than “wow, these patatas bravas are tasty.”

It’s a three and a half hour tour, and it includes the equivalent of a full dinner plus drinks. Click here to check prices, reviews, and availability

Day 2: La Sagrada Familia & Barceloneta

Spend your morning at La Sagrada Familia, the most impressive church in the world (in our opinion, anyway), then spend the afternoon in Barceloneta. 

La Sagrada Familia

Look, we spent three full months in Europe, exploring Portugal and Italy over two months before arriving for just over a month in Spain and let me tell you, we saw a lot of churches. 

La Sagrada Familia is easily the most impressive, and it’s because of the details. It is abundantly clear how much thought and care was given to every single last detail of this architectural marvel. The contrast between the two facades – which you’ll learn about in the handy audioguide (more on that in a second) is fascinating, as is the entire structure. 

While there are bigger churches and more ornate churches out there, this is the pinnacle for us. 

It’s still under construction after being started in 1882 (Gaudí actually didn’t join the project until a year later, in 1883 though, which I didn’t know). Gaudí died in 1926, but left a detailed plan and sketch of his vision for future architects to bring to life. However, there was a slight hiccup in the 1930’s when, during the Spanish Civil War, people broke into the crypt and destroyed his plans, which took more than 10 years to rebuild. 

Hence, the Sagrada Familia is still under construction, due to be completed in 2026, the 100 year anniversary of Gaudí’s death. However, one of our guides in Barcelona mentioned that he’d expect that date to be delayed. Just because. 

We’d highly recommend going either early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the light streams through the amazing stained glass windows and creates a pretty marvelous light show inside the basilica. 

How to Visit the Sagrada Familia

First of all, if you’re in Barcelona in peak season (read: summer), you need to book your tickets for the Sagrada Familia well in advance. They will sell out, and you’ll be left with a couple of options in that case that are going to be more expensive. We’ll get to those in a second.

You have two main options here – visit independently, or as part of a guided tour.  

To get tickets on your own, you’ll need to go to the official website and hit the big red button that says “TICKETS”. 

At the time of writing, tickets are 26 Euros a person (includes entry and the audioguide, which is phenomenal). For 27 Euros, you can do a guided tour with a live guide in place of the audio guide. Those are the only two options through the official site at the time of writing in late 2021. 

You will then have to choose a specific day and entry time for your tickets, which will depend on your particular schedule. Do it as early as possible if you can!

Pro-tip: Make sure to bring headphones with you and download the audioguide on your phone in advance to listen to it as you go!

What if tickets are sold out? If tickets are sold out through the official website, you have two options. Check on Get Your Guide to see if they have Skip-the-Line tickets available, or join a guided tour of the Basilica

If you’re interested in a guided tour of the Basilica, we’d recommend going with Take Walks, one of our favorite tour companies in Europe. We’ve done multiple tours with them (read about our awesome Colosseum tour in Rome) and the guides are some of the best around. They have a specific 90 minute Sagrada Familia Tour, and a more comprehensive Gaudí Tour that visits La Sagrada Familia along with Casa Batlló, Casa Mila, and Park Güell over the course of five hours. 

An Afternoon in Barceloneta

After your Sagrada Familia experience, make your way south to the waterfront to Barceloneta for lunch and a history lesson that should last most of the afternoon. When you’re in the heart of Eixample or the Gothic Quarter, it’s easy to forget that Barcelona is actually a seaside city.

Barceloneta is a neighborhood in the Ciutat Vella (Old Town) in Barcelona that has the most accessible beach in the city. Though, honestly, it’s not that great, and that’s not why you’re here. 

Barceloneta Beach, located in a former fishing district, is one of the city’s oldest and best-loved beaches. The whole waterfront area was remodeled way back in 1992 for the Barcelona Olympics, and today, this long strip of sand is a firm favorite with both tourists and locals alike.

Barceloneta Beach may not have the architecture or urban chic of the inner city, but it’s still a great spot for an afternoon stroll, and an excellent place to grab an ice cream and indulge in a little people watching.

Instead of the beach, though, you’re really here for the food, the market, and the Catalan History Museum, which is an eye-opening experience for those of us who haven’t really learned all that much about Catalonia. 

Museu d’Història de Catalunya

Start your exploration of Barceloneta with the Museu d’Història de Catalunya, which was our favorite museum in Barcelona because it covers a subject that we didn’t really know all that much about prior to visiting. 

The great thing about this museum is that it’s both cheap, at just 4 Euros per person, and has many of the signs in English. Bring your headphones because there’s also a handy audio guide that you can use the museum’s wifi to listen to as you browse, but it’s not totally necessary since most of the signage has an English translation. 

It’s worth spending between one and two hours here exploring the two floors of the museum. You’ll have to check your backpacks and you’ll need a 1 Euro coin to do so, but we learned (thanks to the friendly man at the front desk!) that the coin you put in to lock the door will be returned to you at the end, and it’s just a deposit to make sure you don’t run away with the key (for some reason?). 

More information on the museum, including current hours and ticket prices, on their official website

Barceloneta Market

After the museum, make your way over to the Barceloneta Market. It’s significantly less touristy than La Boqueria, but still somehow packed to the gills with a mixture of locals and tourists. It’s best in the morning through lunchtime, and the market closes for the day at 2:00 pm. You can either find a place to eat here, pick up some picnic materials and head to the nearby beach, or simply wander the stalls and admire the bounty of fresh produce, fish, and meat before heading out for lunch nearby. 

Tapas for Lunch

For lunch, you have two options nearby that are on every list of the best food experiences in Barcelona (and our local guide actually recommended without us even asking about them). 

First is Perikete, a no-frills tapas bar with outdoor seating and big hunks of meat hanging from the ceiling. Order tapas – we like the fried padron peppers and patatas bravas – and wash it down with a cheap glass of vermouth, cava, or a beer. 

Second, just around the corner, is Can Paixano, a cava bar where locals and tourists alike eat shoulder-to-shoulder in the tiny space. There’s always a line for lunch, but it moves fast. For lunch, you can choose from a range of tapas and bocadillos, which are basically little sandwiches. And, of course, cava. Regular cava. Nice cava. Pink cava. All the cava, please! (note: no gluten free options for food here, sadly – if you need to eat gluten free, make sure to read our guide to gluten free Barcelona!). 

Pro-tip: If the server isn’t paying attention to you after your first glass of cava, it’s because you need to order more food to go with it (thanks to Miguel, our walking tour guide, for the tip!). 

An Evening in El Born

After your leisurely afternoon in Barceloneta, spend the evening in nearby El Born, known for its food scene and great nightlife. 

Here are some things to do in El Born and nearby, in no particular order: 

  • Get coffee at Nomad Coffee Lab (my personal pick for the best coffee in Barcelona, particularly this location) or Hidden Coffee Roasters, some of the best specialty coffee in Barcelona. 

  • Explore Ciutadella Park and walk out to the Arco de Triomf (every European city has one!). 

  • Make a detour into the Gothic Quarter for the best tea we’ve ever had at Salterio. No joke. The Yogi Tea is incredible, and the family running the place is super friendly and welcoming. Caj Chai and La Masala Cafe are close seconds, though, and both are nearby. 

  • Visit the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar after 5:00 pm, when the interior of the church is free! We’d recommend going inside this church over the Barcelona Cathedral.

  • There are an endless number of bars and restaurants to choose from – we liked Flax & Kale Passage for vegetarian, internationally-inspired food (the Malaysian Curry is great!). 

If you’re up for an after-dinner drink, here are a couple of spots you might enjoy in El Born: 

  • El Diset: A classic cocktail bar that also serves IPAs and European lagers. Laid back, effortlessly chic and offering a selection of tasty tapas if you arrive earlier in the evening.
  • Paradiso: This bar feels like the beginning of a spy movie. You’ll begin your visit in an unassuming Pastrami bar, before opening a refrigerator door (yes, really), to reveal the entrance to a super cool speakeasy with expert mixologists and world famous cocktails.
  • El Xampanyet: Less hipster and more traditional, this tavern style bar is a local favorite, with all the hallmarks of a Catalan tapas bar: stand up socializing on tiled floors, barrels stacked behind the bar and a steady supply of snacks throughout the evening.

Day 3: Take a Day Trip to Girona (Our Favorite!)

We’d highly, highly recommend a day trip to Girona to dive deeper into Catalonia. It was the day trip we chose to take from Barcelona, and we really, really enjoyed it. It’s a gorgeous town at the convergence of multiple rivers about 100km northeast of Barcelona. So beautiful, in fact, that Game of Thrones filmed several major scenes in Season 6 in Girona!

We have an entire guide dedicated to planning a day trip to Girona from Barcelona, which you should read for more details. Otherwise, here are the highlights. 

Getting to Girona

Take the high-speed AVE train from Barcelona-Sants to Girona, which takes just 40 minutes each way. Book tickets either directly through Renfe, or through Omio for a slightly more user-friendly experience (that comes with a small service fee).

We recommend the 7:05 am train if you can stomach it, which will get you there with plenty of time to do some exploring before meeting up with the best walking tour we did in Spain. Then, catch a train home AFTER 6:00 pm – the siesta is real in Girona, which means everything closes from 2:00 to 5:00 pm or so. A later train will give you time to make it to some of the places you miss during the siesta time. 

What to Do in Girona

Again, see our entire guide to one day in Girona for many, many more details, but here is the gist of how we’d spend a day in Girona (and, essentially, how we did it ourselves). 

  • Arrive early and walk the city walls before it gets packed. You can get up onto the walls from the Jardins de la Francesa behind the massive cathedral (here on Google Maps), and they continue alllll the way around back to right around Plaça de Catalunya (though you can get off the walls at several points between those two spots).
    Don’t miss climbing up into at least one of the towers along the way for great views of the city and cathedral!

  • Head down to Espresso Mafia for the best coffee in Girona and a pastry or two, or over to their sister cafe La Fabrica if you’re in the mood for a more hearty brunch. 

  • Join our favorite walking tour in Spain at 10:30 am. And the best part is, you have two options! We loved the history-focused walking tour we did with Raquel, whose knowledge about Girona and Catalonia as a whole was impressive, and it’s the one we’d recommend for most people. However, they also do a Game of Thrones Tour, which fans of the TV show (minus the last season of course, which was hot garbage) will appreciate because it takes you to places in the city where they filmed pieces of Season 6. 

  • After the tour, grab lunch somewhere in the old town (ask your guide for a recommendation!). 

  • During the siesta, where the entire city basically shuts down for a few hours in the afternoon, hit the informative Jewish History Museum, which covers the history of the Jewish population in Girona, which shaped the city prior to being expelled in 1492, and then the Girona Cathedral, which is home to an impressive cloister, a huge nave (with no arches in the middle, which is unique) and the Tapestry of Creation from the 11th (ish) Century. 

  • Afterwards, spend the rest of your time wandering the old town and stopping into any place that catches your eye before catching your train home!

Day 4: Parc Güell & Learning to Make Paella

On your last day, check out Park Güell in the morning, then do a cooking class centered around paella before ending your trip to Barcelona in Gràcia, our favorite neighborhood in Barcelona. 

Spend your morning relaxing, grabbing coffee and breakfast, and preparing yourself for an action packed afternoon and evening. 

Learn How to Cook Paella in a Gorgeous Garden

We personally did this cooking class, and it was a highlight of our entire trip to Spain.

Did you know paella is a) traditionally a lunchtime dish and b) not from Barcelona, but from Valencia, which is further south down the coast of Spain? In fact, paella from Valencia NEVER has any kind of seafood in it, which is generally what I thought of when picturing paella before this cooking class. 

We frankly didn’t really know a whole lot about paella other than “it’s rice, and it’s from Spain” before doing this cooking class with Clara, who grew up in Barcelona and whose family still lives in the house behind the fabulous garden you’ll make the paella in. 

This class is usually at lunch (except on Fridays) and it’s a lovely afternoon spent cooking a couple of different types of paella, meeting both Clara and like-minded travelers, and eating tapas, paella, and drinking Spanish wine in a gorgeous setting.  

The class lasts three hours, and we’d recommend not getting too drunk off of wine to make it to your next stop, which is one of the main attractions in Barcelona. 

Click here to check prices, reviews, and availability of the paella class we did.

An Afternoon in Park Güell

The main attraction of the day is absolutely Park Güell, a park that was built by Gaudí in the early 20th Century and has a very distinct modernist design and architecture that has led to it being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

This place is not exactly off the beaten path. It’s usually packed with tourists from all over the world at all hours, which means you’re going to need to book tickets well in advance. Basically, as soon as you know the dates for your Barcelona trip, see if there are tickets available. 

This is the official site where you can buy tickets. There is an English version available, which makes it easier. 

Like the Sagrada Familia, you’ll need to choose an exact entry time when you book your tickets. If you do the paella class beforehand, I’d do 4:00 pm to be safe. 

I repeat: BUY TICKETS IN ADVANCE if you are coming in peak season. Trust us. Tickets become available three months in advance. You can also buy skip the line tickets here. 

An Evening in Gràcia

After a couple of hours at the park, head down into the neighborhood of Gràcia, which sprawls down the hill below the park. It’s our favorite area in Barcelona, and it has an impressive array of food and drinks and a more local vibe than most of the more central parts of Barcelona. 

Never have I ever seen more dogs out for their morning and evening walks in Barcelona than in this part of town!

Here are some places that we think you should check out, though you really can’t go wrong just wandering the neighborhood, choosing a plaza and grabbing a table, and watching the world go by. 

Las Vermudas is the place to go to learn about Spanish vermut, a fortified wine that you might know as “vermouth”. They won best Vermuteria in Barcelona in 2020, and we showed up on a weeknight and it was packed. We knew exactly nothing about vermouth prior to coming here, and over the course of a couple of hours, the friendly servers and bartenders gave us a crash course in vermouth in Spain, which is sweeter and more aromatic than those from places like France and Italy (which are more common, at least in the US). 

Vermouth at Las Vermudas

For great wine, head to Viblioteca, who has a nice array of wines to go with Spanish cured meats cheeses. Or to Bodega Bonavista, which is more of a wine store, but also does tastings and wines by the glass. 

For Venezuelan arepas (and cachapas!) and cocktails, go to Rabipelao Gràcia

The options in Gràcia are endless! You’ll see why we fell in love with this part of Barcelona as you’re walking down a well-lit street buzzing with a combination of locals and tourists mingling and starting their nights. 

What to Do With More Time in Barcelona

With one extra day in Barcelona, you basically have a choice between staying in the city, and tackling another day trip. 

If you’re about done with Gaudí sights and museums, then consider doing a day trip to Montserrat, a mountain range just northwest of the city with some cool hikes and religious sites. We considered this trip, but opted to spend some more time in Barcelona itself after our Girona day trip, which we loved. You can either do it yourself independently (here’s a guide we liked) or join a guided tour, depending on whether you want to deal with the logistics and if it fits in your budget. 

If you’re up for more cultural sites in Barcelona, dive deeper into the city itself and do some combination of the Picasso Museum, exploring the hill of Montjuïc and its castle, gardens,and magic fountain, or heading up to Tibidabo to check out the Tibidabo Amusement Park and some nice views over Barcelona. 

What to Do With Less Time in Barcelona

If you have less time in Barcelona, here’s how we’d organize your time to make the most of it. You won’t be able to see everything, but you can certainly see some of the highlights. 

3 Days in Barcelona

As much as we hate to say it, cut the day trip to Girona and follow the rest of the Barcelona itinerary as written above. We loved Girona, but think it’s a better use of time to get deeper into Barcelona and the rich culture within its city limits. Girona can be saved for next time you make it to Catalonia!

2 Days in Barcelona

With two days, we’d consolidate the itinerary above by doing a morning in the Gothic Quarter, the sights in Barceloneta, and either the Walking Tour OR the Food Tour on the first Day, then doing La Sagrada Familia, the Paella Class, and Park Guell on an action-packed second day. 

One Day in Barcelona

With only one day in Barcelona, you’re going to be really, really short on time. We’d do the Sagrada Familia first, which is our top sight to see in Barcelona, and then explore the Gothic Quarter with an evening Food Tour to round out the day. 

Where to Stay in Barcelona

We think there are a bunch of possible answers to the question “where should I stay in Barcelona?” The truth is, it depends on what you’re looking for. 

Which is why we’ve written an entire guide to the best places to stay in Barcelona, with a detailed breakdown of strengths and weaknesses of each neighborhood. 

However, you’re here for the short version, so here it goes. 

Here are three neighborhoods that stand out to us as nice home bases for exploring Barcelona. 

PS: Whatever you do, DO NOT STAY ON LAS RAMBLAS. It’s a giant tourist trap, and you will end up paying more than your room is worth for the privilege of it being super loud all day and night. 

Gràcia: The Coolest Part of Barcelona

This is the part of the city that we fell in love with, and we stayed here for the first half of our latest trip to Barcelona. It used to be its own city before the expansion of Barcelona swallowed it up, and still retains some of the distinctly independent vibes that it once had. 

It’s less central – and therefore, less full of tourists at all hours – than most of the more central neighborhoods. But it’s still really, really well connected to the rest of the city via the metro (two lines run through this area), and we had no problem getting from place to place while we were staying in Gràcia.

We stayed at Casa Gràcia, which we had a love-hate relationship with. The idea – a hostel with private rooms, dorms, and apartments and plenty of common spaces – is great! However, the rooms were deeply in need of an update (and a deep clean). We were disappointed because it has so much potential! 

L’Eixample: Central and Well Connected

We spent the second half of our latest trip to Barcelona in this central neighborhood, which is significantly more modern than the Ciutat Vella because of the fact that it was built well after the old town as a way to connect ever-expanding Barcelona with the smaller towns (like Gràcia) outside the old city walls. 

It’s more of a grid, with wide boulevards and a distinctly Parisian feeling to it (I’m sure Barcelonians love hearing that), which is a stark contrast to the old, windy alleys of the Gothic Quarter and El Born. 

Still, it’s a nice place to stay precisely because it’s so central, and it has some things to do and see that make it a place to visit in its own right. Like Passieg de Gràcia and some excellent food and drink spots nearby. 

El Born: For Foodies and Nightlife

El Born is the eastern end of the Ciutat Vella – Barcelona’s original walled city – and it’s by far our favorite part of the downtown core of Barcelona. While the Gothic Quarter is nice, it’s evident that it’s completely geared towards tourists. 

Now, all of the Ciutat Vella is geared towards tourists in some way or another, but El Born feels like it is less-so. At least to us. 

The food scene and, in particular, the bars and pubs, in El Born are the best in the city, which means it’s loud, boisterous, and probably not the best choice for families looking to get some sleep (or, for that matter, us). 

Where to Stay in Barcelona

We think there are a bunch of possible answers to the question “where should I stay in Barcelona?” The truth is, it depends on what you’re looking for. 

Which is why we’ve written an entire guide to the best places to stay in Barcelona, with a detailed breakdown of strengths and weaknesses of each neighborhood. 

However, you’re here for the short version, so here it goes. 

Here are three neighborhoods that stand out to us as nice home bases for exploring Barcelona. 

PS: Whatever you do, DO NOT STAY ON LAS RAMBLAS. It’s a giant tourist trap, and you will end up paying more than your room is worth for the privilege of it being super loud all day and night. 

Gràcia: The Coolest Part of Barcelona

This is the part of the city that we fell in love with, and we stayed here for the first half of our latest trip to Barcelona. It used to be its own city before the expansion of Barcelona swallowed it up, and still retains some of the distinctly independent vibes that it once had. 

It’s less central – and therefore, less full of tourists at all hours – than most of the more central neighborhoods. But it’s still really, really well connected to the rest of the city via the metro (two lines run through this area), and we had no problem getting from place to place while we were staying in Gràcia.

We stayed at Casa Gràcia, which we had a love-hate relationship with. The idea – a hostel with private rooms, dorms, and apartments and plenty of common spaces – is great! However, the rooms were deeply in need of an update (and a deep clean). We were disappointed because it has so much potential! 

L’Eixample: Central and Well Connected

We spent the second half of our latest trip to Barcelona in this central neighborhood, which is significantly more modern than the Ciutat Vella because of the fact that it was built well after the old town as a way to connect ever-expanding Barcelona with the smaller towns (like Gràcia) outside the old city walls. 

It’s more of a grid, with wide boulevards and a distinctly Parisian feeling to it (I’m sure Barcelonians love hearing that), which is a stark contrast to the old, windy alleys of the Gothic Quarter and El Born. 

Still, it’s a nice place to stay precisely because it’s so central, and it has some things to do and see that make it a place to visit in its own right. Like Passieg de Gràcia and some excellent food and drink spots nearby. 

El Born: For Foodies and Nightlife

El Born is the eastern end of the Ciutat Vella – Barcelona’s original walled city – and it’s by far our favorite part of the downtown core of Barcelona. While the Gothic Quarter is nice, it’s evident that it’s completely geared towards tourists. 

Now, all of the Ciutat Vella is geared towards tourists in some way or another, but El Born feels like it is less-so. At least to us. 

The food scene and, in particular, the bars and pubs, in El Born are the best in the city, which means it’s loud, boisterous, and probably not the best choice for families looking to get some sleep (or, for that matter, us). 

Getting Around Barcelona

With limited time, we’d DEFINITELY recommend taking advantage of Barcelona’s wide-reaching and efficient metro system, which is one of the better ones in Europe. Sure, you can absolutely walk around Barcelona since it’s flat until you get up towards Park Güell, but you’ll end up walking for 30 minutes to get between places on this itinerary. 

It’s a beautiful city, don’t get us wrong, but we think you’ll appreciate the efficiency that comes with zipping around on the metro, covering that ground in eight minutes instead of 28. The bus system is pretty good too, although the schedules posted weren’t quite accurate in our experience (which isn’t surprising, just something to note). 

You can either buy tickets individually at 2.40 Euros a pop (which is expensive), as a group of 10 tickets (for one person) for 11.35 Euros, or you can get an Hola Card, which is their unlimited transport card for tourists, for 48-120 hours (in increments of 24 hours). 

Tickets can be bought at the TMB (the metro system company) machines at most metro stations. 

We went with the Hola Card, and recommend that you do too, especially if you’re arriving in Barcelona via the airport, which is included in the price (and costs 5.15 Euros one-way). You can get a discount if you buy it online in advance, and use a code to redeem it at the machines when you arrive. 

Prices and ticket types might have changed, so make sure to check the official TMB website for the most up to date information. 

Getting To Barcelona

If you’re planning a flight to Barcelona, there are a couple of important considerations to keep in mind before you book your trip. 

Barcelona only has one main airport.

Budget airlines would have you believe that Girona Airport and Reus Airport are actually “Barcelona Girona” and “Barcelona Reus”. 

In reality, these airports are around 75 miles (120km) away from Barcelona, on the outskirts of two completely separate cities. It’s possible to find extremely cheap flights to these provincial airports, but much of the savings will be cancelled out by the 1.5 hour trip to the center of Barcelona. 

The Better Option: Fly into El Prat (BCN).

Barcelona’s real international airport is officially known as “Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport”, or simply “El Prat” or “BCN”, for short. 

The vast majority of long-haul international flights land here, and you can also connect to main European hubs like London, Frankfurt and Paris. 

How to Get into the City from the Airport

Once you’ve landed at El Prat, avoid an expensive taxi fare and take advantage of the excellent public transportation links into the city.

The best option is the metro – line L9 sud, which takes roughly 30 minutes (and departs every 7 minutes) costing 5.15 Euros each way. It’s covered by the Hola Card, Barcelona’s unlimited public transit card for tourists, which you can buy in advance (for a 10% discount) and pick up at the departure station near Terminal 2. 

Airport buses (Aerobús) run directly to the very central Plaça Catalunya every 15 minutes. The journey takes 40 minutes and only costs around 10 Euros for a return ticket (valid for 15 days) or 5.90 Euros for a one-way ticket, if this is a jumping-off point for a broader Spain itinerary. IMPORTANT NOTE: This bus is NOT covered by the Hola Card!

The Best Time to Visit Barcelona

Barcelona is a beautiful city all year round, but there are a couple of considerations to keep in mind.

If you can swing it, avoid the height of summer.

From mid-July and through to the end of August, Barcelona’s locals leave the city in droves. And who could blame them? The streets are absolutely jam-packed with tourists, and the sweltering, humid weather can make for an oppressive and claustrophobic atmosphere.

Plus, that means lots of businesses are closed in August, when the locals head out on vacation to recharge for another year of tourists.  

In my view, late spring (May and June) and early fall (September and October) are the best times for visiting Barcelona. The temperatures are much more manageable than the summer, and there’s less chance of heavy rain and strong winds than the early spring or winter.

We were in Barcelona in early November on this latest trip, and it was a lovely time to be in the city (though it’s a bit colder than we expected, so bring a jacket in the late fall and winter!). 


Let Us Help You Plan Your Amazing Trip to Spain!

We’ve got plenty of other detailed guides for our favorite places in Spain – from Barcelona, to Madrid and Andalusia – that we wrote to help you plan an incredible trip.

P.S.: If the link isn’t there, it means we’re still working on it and the guide will be up shortly. It takes a lot of time and effort to put together these detailed guides! Bear with us.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi which hotels would you recommend for me and my 20 year son. It’s our first time visiting Spain and Barcelona. We are going to stay in Barcelona 5-6 days and i was thinking if we should break our stay in two places. Please give some good affordable/ boutique/ midrange hotel suggestions.

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