Weekend in Barcelona: Ultimate 3 Day Barcelona Itinerary
November 8, 2019
Make the Most of Your Barcelona Weekend
Barcelona is my favorite city in Europe. That’s partially due to the fact that it was the first destination in Europe I ever visited, but largely because you will never run out of fun things to do in Barcelona. Spaniards have a zest for life that is contagious. That also means we won’t be able to see and do everything we want in a weekend in Barcelona. And that’s okay. It leaves room for a return trip in the near future. So, when it does come to narrowing down exactly what you want to do in Barcelona, I think you need to determine what your primary motivation is for visiting. Are you here to devour Catalonian cuisine, admire and study Gaudi’s architecture, reset and refocus your mind and body at the beach, party your life away at the discotecas, or are you wanting to sample a bit of everything? In this Barcelona weekend itinerary, I hope to relay the latter.
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How to Get to Barcelona
Fly into Barcelona El Prat airport. If it’s not rush hour and budget isn’t a concern, then simply take a taxi to your accommodation. If you would rather utilize public transport, then there are numerous options. I typically take the Renfe train to either Barcelona Sants or Passeig de Gracia station. The train is just outside of Terminal 2, so you will have to take a free shuttle bus from T1 if you arrive in that terminal. The train leaves every 30 minutes and takes about 30 minutes to arrive at Sants or Passeig. It costs 4.20 euro for a one-way ticket. From there, you should be able to either walk or take the metro to your accommodation. There is also an airport bus that goes directly to the main square, Plaza Catalunya, if you are staying near La Rambla, Barrio Gotico, El Raval, or El Born.
If you’re traveling from elsewhere in Spain, you will arrive to Barcelona Sants which is centrally located within the city. From there, you can take the metro to your destination or jump into a taxi.
If you are arriving by bus from another city in Spain, you will end up at one of two bus stations, Estacion Nord or Estacion Sants. From there, you can take the metro or a city bus to reach your accommodation.
I recommend purchasing the T-10 metro pass for your weekend away to Barcelona. At around 10 euros, each ride ends up being just about 1 euro which is a much better deal than buying individual rides at 2.40.
Where to Stay in Barcelona
I go more in depth of where to stay in Barcelona in my Best Places to Stay in Barcelona post, but for a quick recap…Barrio Gotico/El Born or La Eixample are my go-to areas for a seamless trip. My all-time favorite hotel is the Hotel Europark in the Eixample. It’s reasonably priced — usually somewhere around 100 euros a night — and provides quite a luxe experience for a 3-star property. There’s a rooftop pool, excellent customer service, room service, complimentary cava at check-in, and it’s located in an ideal and safe location. For a more luxe property, I suggest the Palace Hotel which is just a couple of blocks away in a comparable, if not slightly better, location.
If there is a jazz night or any other evening event happening at Gaudi’s Casa Mila (La Pedrera), then I suggest you purchase tickets. In my opinion, it is by far the best way to see the famous Gaudi house. The roof is the best part, so why not see it while simultaneously watching the sun set over the city with a glass of cava and listening to great music.
Please note that these jazz nights typically happen in the summertime, so if there isn’t a show the weekend you are visiting, I have the following options for you.
Depending on your arrival time, I’d recommend throwing down your bags at your accommodation and heading to see the Sagrada Familia with a pre-purchased ticket that you bought for 1.5-2 hours before closing time. Hours vary based on season but the church will close at either 6PM, 7PM, or 8PM during low, shoulder, or peak season, respectively.
There is so much Gaudi to see that I think breaking it up as much as possible allows you to really marvel at the magnificence of it all instead of simply checking off his sights one right after the next as though you’re on a scavenger hunt. After your visit, sit down for a tapas dinner at a nearby restaurant in the popular Gracia neighborhood. This Bohemian enclave is filled with traditional, family-style bodegas at every corner. End the night at Old Fashioned, a gin and cocktail bar in the Gracia neighborhood, which serves up well-crafted beverages displayed in an outrageously inventive way.
If you arrive in Barcelona after the Sagrada Familia closes, then I recommend a visit to Montjuic to watch the fountain show followed up with a dinner at the foot of the mountain at one of the many trendy restaurants on Carrer del Parlement in the Poble Sec neighborhood. This area has seen a drastic change in the past 10 years since I studied abroad in Barcelona. What was once a seedy neighborhood readily avoided, has recently transformed into one of the most vibrant foodie scenes in Barcelona.
Embrace those alarm clocks because it’s your only full day on your weekend trip to Barcelona. We need to moves.
Let’s start off at Parc Guell because it’s the attraction that is furthest from the center of the city. I’ll admit that I have not visited the site since they made part of the park ticketed, but I do know that you will need to purchase online in advance. The ticketed area will be sold out in the morning if you decide to risk it and just show up. Parc Guell isn’t the easiest to get to as it is at the top of a hill. If you’re not interested in a 20 minute hike uphill, I suggest taking the L4 metro to Alfons X station and riding the shuttle bus included with your park ticket.
I’m always quite conscious of where attractions are located within the city and create itinerary suggestions that group these attractions together. But, in this Barcelona weekend itinerary, I do have you doing some back and forth. This was done intentionally because the public transportation system in Barcelona is so fantastic and I like to give some breathing room between Gaudi attractions. All that to say that after your time at Parc Guell, get on the L4 metro back at Alfons X station and take it 6 stops to Jaume I station.
Rest your legs and grab a coffee and sweet treat before the start of your walk through the Gothic Quarter and up Las Ramblas. I stopped at Buenas Migas coffee shop (Baixada de Santa Clara 2) to get my iced coffee fix. It’s a personal preference, but there are only so many cafe con leches and cortados I can have before I need a large iced beverage. From there, you can meander through the winding streets of the Gothic Quarter.
Take some time in Barrio Gotico as it truly is one of, if not, the best neighborhood in Barcelona. I suggest a visit to the Barcelona Cathedral, a walk through history down El Call, shopping for souvenirs, and some impulse purchasing at Zara and Mango on Portal d’ Angel. Depending on time, you may want to stop for lunch. Spaniards typically eat in the 1:30/2:30 hour. In Spain especially, I prefer to just happen upon a restaurant with a promising Menu del Dia as there are such an abundance of restaurants. But, if cuisine is a priority for you, then I would TripAdvisor some options in the Gothic Quarter during your coffee break.
Read more: Shopping: Best Retail Stores in Spain
After some time in Barrio Gotico, you should make your way to Las Ramblas. Truthfully, I tend to avoid the street but if this is your first visit to Barcelona, then you should at least do one stroll up from the port and the Mirador de Colom to Plaza Catalunya with a pitstop at the famed La Boqueria market. You’ll see the open market about 3/4s of the way up on the left hand side if you walk in this direction. Grab a freshly squeezed juice in the flavor of your choice for the steep price of one euro and browse the different market stalls. I love checking out the marzipan candies stalls which display their sweets so beautifully.
Las Ramblas ends at the most well-known plaza in Barcelona, Plaza Catalunya. If you continue walking in the same direction, Las Ramblas will turn into the street, Passeig de Gracia, the main thoroughfare in the Eixample neighborhood. The Eixample is a bit more upscale and is home to many shops and two of Gaudi’s famous works, Casa Batllo and Casa Mila (La Pedrera). This is also where I always stay when I visit Barcelona.
I encourage you to explore the Eixample a bit. Have lunch in this neighborhood if you were able to last until now (hopefully so because there are so many good restaurants) and do some shopping on Passeig de Gracia.
About three long blocks up on your left will be Casa Batllo, the final stop before your siesta. I prefer the architecture in this Gaudi house to La Pedrera, so with only a weekend in Barcelona, I am choosing Casa Batllo over La Pedrera — with the hope that you can visit La Pedrera at night for jazz. This Gaudi attraction is the same deal as the rest. You should book online, but you can usually find available tickets “day of” which does give you a bit more flexibility.
Make your way back to your accommodation to relax before dinner. If you went to Gracia last night, then do the fountain show tonight and vice versa. If you want to explore more of the nightlife in Barcelona, I recommend going to Espit Chupitos, Dow Jones Bar, or Oveja Negra after your evening activity. And, if you are in Barcelona when FC Barca is playing at Camp Nou, then I highly recommend you go to a game.
And for those of you looking to dance the night away, then Pacha, Razzmatazz, Sala Apolo, or any of the beach clubs are great options. Personally, I would do Opium Mar down at Barceloneta beach. Shoko and CDLC are both right next door if you want to take this party from night into morning.
*Be sure to look up the dress code for these clubs. Men need to wear closed-toed shoes to some and women cannot wear flip flops or sandals with no strap in the back.
Please Note: I did not recommend flamenco and paella because there are other regions of Spain where you will find more authentic opportunities for both. However, if you are not heading down to Andalusia for flamenco or Valencia for paella, there are still notable ways to experience both. For example, you can also visit the Tablao Flamenco Cordobes for a tapas dinner and flamenco show. If you are interested in making paella or taking a cooking class in Barcelona there are nothing but rave reviews for the Paella Cooking Experience with Professional Chef and Bottomless Wine You can also visit the restaurant 7 Portes near the port of Barcelona if you simply wish to eat!
Start off the morning at the Picasso museum in the El Born neighborhood. You will need to have bought tickets in advance for the museum which opens on Sunday mornings at 9AM. It’s extremely popular because it’s actually that good. I’m not a museum person, but the way the museum walks you through the different eras of Picasso’s life is truly remarkable. Oh, and be sure to grab an audio guide too. If you’re looking for a breakfast joint near the museum, there’s a place called Milk that is incredibly popular. You can also take a short walk to look at the beautiful Santa Maria del Mar basilica which is just a two minute walk away.
*There’s a guided tour in English at 11AM on Sundays if you can get tickets.
**Keep in mind that the first Sunday of the month is free which is a good thing if you’re on a budget and a bad thing because it will be extremely crowded.
Today is slower-paced. The only other activities we have on tap are a visit to Can Paixano (La Champagneria) and the beach. Can Paixano (Carrer de la Reina Cristina 7) is my favorite bar in the entire world. And I’ve been to many. It’s a crowded dive bar with the most wonderful and cheapest champagne. Before 5:00 PM, you can buy bottles of champagne to drink at the bar with the purchase of two food items. My vote is for the Pollo con Pimientos sandwich. Is there a better way to end your short weekend break in Barcelona?! No.
Barceloneta beach is just one metro ride or a 15 minute walk away; however, I recommend walking along the port as there are typically local artists selling jewelry, prints, and other great souvenirs along the way. Spend the rest of the afternoon at the beach until you must head back to the airport to catch your flight. Just a note on the beach…this is not a quiet respite where you go to escape your problems. There are other beaches for that. At Barceloneta beach, you will be inundated with vendors selling you massage and cervezas and chotchkies every second. It’s a scene. But a scene that’s fun to experience for a short period of time.
Read more: Shopping for Souvenirs in Barcelona
Make it a Long Weekend in Barcelona
If you can swing a long weekend in Barcelona, there are two fantastic day trips that you can take. The first is to Montserat, the monastery atop a mountain. To get to Montserat, take a one hour train ride on the R5 toward Manresa to the bottom of the funicular. You can get the train from the metro stop Plaza Espanya. From there, it’s another 23 minutes up the cable car to the top of the mountain. Ideally, you can make it up to the top of the mountain by 1:00 PM to hear the boys choir perform in the Basilica.
Another great day trip for a Barcelona long weekend is a visit to Girona to see the cathedral where Cersei walked down in shame and Figueres to visit the Dali museum. The trip is a full-day experience, but both stops are well worth the shlep. You can do this trip on your own, but I recommend booking a guided tour for this day trip as there are multiple locations and consequently, more moving parts.
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Heading out for a weekend to Barcelona? What activity are you most excited about? Please share in the comments below!