Barcelona is one of my favorite destinations in Europe and it’s the city I lived in for 6 months. The city has an important place in the Mediterranean Sea region and is home to millions of residents, great beaches, perfect weather, a rich history and culture, and the incredible architecture of Antoni Gaudí.
You can visit this city for just a couple of days to get to know it but to really feel the culture of the city, you need to spend more than just a weekend here. I’ve heard several people mention to me that their visit to Barcelona wasn’t anything special or it just “didn’t click,” but I believe in the power of slow traveling and traveling “off the beaten path.” So here is my first tip for you: travel slow – that’s the way of Spanish life and Spanish culture and that should be the way of getting to know it. When I visited Barcelona, I didn’t fall in love with the busy Las Ramblas or standing in a line to see the Sagrada Familia. I fell in love with the people, with the Spanish language, with the Catalan traditions and even with the Spanish midnight dinner.
Where Should I Stay in Barcelona?
If you haven’t found a place to stay in Barcelona, you should look outside of the city center in neighborhoods like Eixample or Gracia. Barcelona does have a good public transport system, but obviously, you want to spend more of your time sightseeing and less of your time on a bus or metro, so I wouldn’t recommend booking a hotel too far from the main attractions. Why not stay at the Gothic Quarter? I would say that this neighborhood is the most unsafe at night (a lot of pick-pocketing) and all of the restaurants in the Gothic Quarter are way more expensive. Look for a hotel on Kayak, it’s super easy to compare using the map function!
How to Get to Barcelona from the Airport?
If arriving to Barcelona by train, you will most likely be already in the city center when you arrive. But, if you are flying in, you will probably find yourself wondering how am I going to get to Barcelona. First, I would like to discourage you from taking a taxi, seemingly the fastest and easiest choice will also end up being a lot more expensive. I believe that taking a taxi is one of the most common travel mistakes, however, if you’re there only for the weekend or flying in late at night, that still might be the best option for you.
The Best Way to Get to Barcelona from the Airport – RENFE train
The cheapest and fastest way to get to Barcelona is by the RENFE train. It runs about every 30 minutes to and from Barcelona airport to the city center and the travel time will be about 25 minutes. If traveling from the airport to the city center you can get off at Barcelona Sants, Passeig de Gràcia or Clot. From those stations, you can change for the Barcelona metro system to your destination.
To ride the RENFE train, you should follow the signs to Train (not Metro). If you are arriving into Terminal 1, take a shuttle bus to the train. and buy a T-Casual travel card (€11.35 for 10 rides) from the entrance to the RENFE train. You can then use that card for all of your metro and train rides in the city center. It is also valid on the following means of transport to the airport:
- RENFE train
- TMB airport bus N46
- TMB night busses N16 and N17
It is not valid for the following:
- The airport metro stops Aeroport T1 or Aeroport T2 on Metro Line L9 Sud
- The Aerobus (the express bus service to the airport).
Overall, this is the best deal (about 1 euro per person) to get from the airport to anywhere in the city. And, you won’t even have to pay to switch train/metro to get to your hotel.
Getting From the Airport to Barcelona by Bus (Bus 46)
This bus operates during the day from both airport terminals. The single ticket is €2.40 or you can use the T-card (see more above). This is probably one of the slowest ways to get to the city center as the bus stops a lot.
Getting to Barcelona from the Airport at Night
Use the NitBus N16 or N17 (the bus that operates between Barcelona Airport and the city center.) You can also use the T-Casual on this bus or buy a single ticket for €2.40. Operating hours: 21:55 – 04:45.
Aerobus – Express Bus
The Aerobus is an express bus that goes from Barcelona airport to the city center, you can catch it from outside of both terminals and take it to Plaça España or Plaça de Catalunya. It’s one of the more expensive public transportation options with a single ticket at €5.90 and a return ticket is at €10.20.
If you have any more questions about getting to and from the airport and are not sure what to pick, let me know in the comments below and I’d be happy to help!
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The Ultimate Barcelona 5 Day Itinerary
As I’ve mentioned, you should spend at least 5 days here to truly experience this city. However, if the time is short, feel free to mix and match! With that in mind, I’ve put together an overview of some of the city’s main sights to make your stay in Barcelona perfect, whether it’s s part of a long weekend or a longer European itinerary like this.
Day 1 – Explore the Gothic Quarter and Ciutadella Park
Get Lost in the Gothic Quarter
The Gothic Quarter is one of the most famous (and one of my favorite) parts of Barcelona. Located in the heart of the old city, Barrio Gòtico (the Gothic Quarter) and nearby Ciutadella Park make the perfect first impression of Barcelona. You should start at Plaça de Catalunya in the morning and after taking a couple of pictures, take Portal de l’Àngel straight to Barcelona Cathedral.
After the Cathedral, take Carrer del Bisbe and Carrer de la Pietat to the Museum of History of Barcelona. This museum is one of my favorites in the city – here you will witness a whole network of Roman ruins underneath the heart of the city.
Then, take Carrer de la Llibreteria to the Plaça Sant Jaume, the administrative heart of both the city and surrounding Catalonia, where you will often find festivals and celebrations taking place. From there, keep going down Carrer de la Princesa to Parc de la Ciutadella.
Shopping in the Gothic Quarter
Note: I wrote a whole post on things to see and do in the Gothic Quarter, see more here!
Lunch: Have an Authentic Neapolitan Pizza at N.A.P.
A Picnic in the Ciutadella Park
Running around Barcelona on foot can be tiring, to relax and have a snack, head to Parc de la Ciutadella, my favorite park in the city built over the previous site of a military citadel. The park is full of hidden surprises – some of my favorites: Cascada Monumental, the zoo, and Arc de Triomf! If you bring a few snacks with you (and a bottle of vermouth), you can easily spend a few hours here. (I think public drinking might be illegal in Barcelona, so do so at your own risk)
Dinner: Have a Wonderful Greek Feast at Dionisos
Day 2 – Gaudi Architecture, Passeig de Gràcia, and Tapas All Day!
Tour Sagrada Familia
Start at Sagrada Familia, one of Barcelona’s symbols and is Antoni Gaudi’s most elaborate work. It’s one of the most popular attractions in Barcelona and you will probably spend most of your morning there – it’s breath-taking! It also often sells out, so get tickets online in advance and if possible, visit the towers (for an additional fee). Admission is about 15 EUR and 22 EUR for a ticket and audio guide.
Lunch: Try Some Tapas at Casa Angela
See More Gaudi Work at Passeig de Gràcia
After Lunch, take Carrer de Mallorca towards the city center and Passeig de Gràcia. On the way, you’ll see the Palau Macaya, Avinguda Diagonal, and in about 20 minutes of walking, you will arrive at Passeig de Gràcia. It’s also worth making a short detour on Avinguda Diagonal to see Casa de les Punxes.
At the corner of Carrer de Mallorca and Passeig de Gràcia, you will see Casa Mila, another Antoni Gaudí’s masterpiece! If you have time, the inside is just as unique as the outside and the rooftop is so beautiful at sunset. Also, Casa Mila hosts a light show in the evenings with music and dancing lights bringing the building to life. Standard admission (which includes an audio guide) is 22 EUR.
Next, look right across from Casa Mila and you will see Casa Batillo, I recommend visiting them on the same day.The façade of Casa Batillo is decorated with a colorful mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles and the roof is arched like the back of a dragon. Best time to see it is on April 23rd, it will be beautifully decorated with roses, definitely one of the most beautiful Gaudí buildings.
Dinner: Head into the local Gracia neighborhood and have dinner in one of the local streets or squares like Plaça del Sol, Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia, or Carrer del Torrent de l’Olla. Have more tapas or Paella, and don’t forget about Spanish wine!
Day 3 – Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya and Plaça d’Espanya
You may have noticed how I split up Barcelona into sections! Now, it’s time to visit another beautiful area of Barcelona, Plaça d’Espanya and Montjuïc! And the best day to visit this area is on a Saturday or Sunday, as Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya is free on Saturday evenings and first Sundays of the month, and Montjuïc Castle is free on Sundays! I know, a lot to look forward to, it’s one of my favorite parts of the city!
Start at the Montjuïc Castle
In the morning, I recommend starting at the Montjuïc Castle, a beautiful 17th-century hilltop fortress & former prison, housing a military museum with impressive city views. The best and the cheapest way is to get there by bus #150 from Plaça d’Espanya (about $1.50 if you have the 10 ride ticket), the most exciting way is to take the cable car (13,50€ there and back from the Parallel L2/L3 stop). I would recommend taking the cable car there and then the bus to Plaça d’Espanya afterward. General admission to the castle is 9 euros, but the first Sunday of each month and Sundays from 3pm are free! Read more about the Montjuïc Castle here, it has incredible history, and as I’ve mentioned, amazing views!
Lunch, Plaça d’Espanya, and Arenas de Barcelona
As I’ve mentioned above, after a tour of the Montjuïc Castle, you should take the bus to Plaça d’Espanya. Here you will find more lunch options and you can enjoy a little rest or shopping. You can have lunch at the shopping center food court at Arenas de Barcelona. Here, you can also take the escalators to the rooftop to see the views of Plaça d’Espanya, relax, or do some shopping. Other great options for lunch are sushi at Dumplings, empanadas and pizzas at L’ Empanada de Papá, or traditional Spanish food at Grupo Silvestre.
Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya
After a tasty lunch, start your hike to the Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya. You will pass the Font Màgica de Montjuïc (Magic fountain of Montjuic), but it’s ok, it’s truly magical in the evening. Spend the rest of the afternoon at Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, a museum of the 11th- to 20th-century Catalan art with an amazing Romanesque collection. Here you will see art by famous artists like Pablo Picasso, Marià Fortuny, Antoni Caba, and Salvador Dalí. And yes, if you visit on a Saturday evening (check the time) or first Sunday of the month, you will be able to get in for free!
The Magic Fountain
The magic fountain is a spectacular display of color, light, motion, music and water performance. If you’re in the area, stay for a couple of hours to see the show. The shows usually start at 8 pm or later, see the schedule here. (Note, last time I was there, it was incredibly crowded and definitely not worth it.)
Dinner: Have an Italian dinner at Ristorante Meraviglioso, traditional Catalan food at L’Amfora, or fixed menu at Criux or Cinc Sentits.
Go Clubbing in Barcelona?
I am usually not the one to go clubbing, but when in Barcelona, a party is a must! There are several clubs on the beach, including Shoko or Pacha and many people also love Wednesday nights at Razzmatazz.
Day 4 – Visit Park Güell in the Morning and Climb Tibidabo
Day four will consist of amazing views of the city and mountains outside of the Barcelona city center.
Take a Walk in Park Güell
Park Güell is one of the most impressive parks in the world, and if you were to choose 2 things to see in Barcelona, I would recommend Park Güell to be one of them. There are only 400 tickets available every half-hour and they sell out well in advance. As with Sagrada Familia, you should book your tickets online. Admission is 7.50 EUR, with discounts available.
Note: you can see the park for free if you come before it opens or after it closes. Early morning is my favorite time to visit Park Güell to enjoy it without big groups of tourists, enjoy the sunrise at Park Güell for free!
Lunch: This part of Barcelona has a lot of options for Menu del Dia – a lunch menu that includes a first and second course, plus drink and dessert for a fixed price, usually between 10 and 15 euros. Or, have a quick stop at La Terrasseta del Lesseps for a more affordable option.
See the Views from the Tibidabo Mountain
After lunch, head to L7 stop of Avinguda Tibidabo and use the cable car to get on top. Once you’re on top, be sure to visit Tibidabo’s retro theme park and, of course, the Cathedral del Sagrat Cor. This is the cathedral that you see from almost anywhere in the city and it’s even breath-taking up close. Spend the rest of the day exploring the beautiful area.
Related: See Europe Travel Tips for 2020
Day 5 – Relax on the Beach at La Barceloneta and Have Romantic Picnic with a View
The perfect way to end your trip – relaxing and soaking up the sun!
Take a blanket, lay down and enjoy the sun, the sounds of the waves with the music hums – Barceloneta is all about the action.
Explore a Secret Barcelona Spot – Bunkers del Carmel
After the beach, take public transportation to Bunkers del Carmel, WWII bunkers and a historic landmark that arguably provides the best view of Barcelona. Seeing the sunsets here is a must-do while you are in Barcelona and bring your own drinks and snacks while enjoying the view. If you go, share your pictures with me on Instagram or in the comments below!
Day 6 – More Things to Do in Barcelona
See more exciting ideas below:
- See a Soccer Game at Camp Nou
- Watch a Flamenco show at Palau de la Música Catalana
- Visit Picasso Museum
- Find all of Gaudi’s architecture in Barcelona
- Get lost in Parc del Laberint d’Horta
Go on One of a Day Trip from Barcelona
There are great destinations that are just a short train ride away from Barcelona! If you have more time, you should definitely take a trip to Girona, Montserrat, Tarragona, or Cadaques. And if you have a few more days, you should continue your trip to the south of Spain in Andalusia or Madrid.
Are you going to Barcelona? What are you looking forward to the most? Let me know in the comments!