Updated Aug 31 2023
It’s almost impossible to see what Barcelona has to offer in one day; although the city might not be physically as big as some of its European counterparts, there are so many places of interest to see, and things to do, that can’t be fitted into a day’s sightseeing. We hope that, thanks to this day trip, you’ll be able to take in a few of the sights, whilst soaking up the wonderful atmosphere in the city’s streets and squares, and that of course you will want to return soon to see everything else that Barcelona has to offer.
Morning in Barcelona: La Rambla and Gothic quarter
The starting point of your day in Barcelona could be in the ‘Port Vell’ (the Old Port), next to the Christopher Columbus monument, which you can go up if you want, giving you the opportunity to see some lovely views of the southern part of the city and the coastline. From there you can walk up the road that has to be the most well-known in Barcelona, ‘Las Ramblas’. If you pass by first thing in the morning you won’t see the street artists (who are usually in action from 10:00 to 22:00), so if this is on your to-do list you might have to return towards the end of the day, in order to have your photo taken with them.
In the nearby ‘Nou de la Rambla’ street, you’ll find one of Antoni Gaudí’s least-known works in the city, the Palau Güell. We advise you to walk past in order to see its façade, although actually the most impressive parts of the building are its interior and terrace. However, as you only have one day to see the city we don’t recommend going in, as it would take you at least an hour to view it properly. From Las Ramblas we recommend that you go up to the Plaça Reial, in which there are several things worth seeing such as the ornate arches, the monumental fountain in the middle and some of its lampposts, which were early works of Antoni Gaudí.
We’re now leading you to the charming Carrer Petritxol, where you can’t help but go into one of the two historical and traditional ‘Granges’ or chocolate cafés (Dulcinea and La Pallaresa) to taste the typical hot chocolate with churros or a pastry, or a coffee accompanied by a freshly baked croissant.
On the walk up to Carrer Petritxol you can’t miss a large church, the Santa Maria del Pi, and in the square outside this church there’s a local food market every first and third weekend of the month, in which you’ll find all sorts of hand-made items.
When you leave the ‘Granja’ wander up to the Plaça Sant Jaume, in which you’ll find two of the city’s most important buildings, one in front of the other – the Barcelona city hall and the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya (the seat of the Catalan government). After taking a few photos go up to the Plaça del Rei to admire the buildings that make up the Palau Reial Major, and form part of the MUHBA – the city’s historical museum.
Then you should walk up to the Carrer del Bisbe (Bishop in English), where you’ll see the beautiful bridge that links the Casa dels Canonges (the House of Canons) with the Palau de la Generalitat. You can go into the Cathedral’s cloister free of charge (only having to pay between the hours of 14:00 and 17:00), which has many chapels and the curious image of its thirteen geese, walking along the central part. When you leave the cathedral, go to the magical Plaça de Sant Felip Neri, in which you’ll still see the shrapnel from the bomb that fell on the church and other nearby buildings during the Spanish Civil War.
Returning to Carrer del Bisbe and turning into the Carrer de Santa Llúcia, you’ll find the Casa de l’Ardiaca (Archdeacon’s House). Entrance to its small, magical terrace is free of charge. Don’t forget to go up the stairs that take you up to the upper terrace, because from there you’ll be able to enjoy the view from a different perspective of its central fountain, of the huge palm tree and of the neighbouring streets and façades. When you leave the Casa de l’Ardiaca you could visit the cathedral, and entry is free of charge early throughout the day (you’ll need to pay between 13:00 and 17:00).
It’s likely that by this time you’ll be starting to feel hungry; for lunch, we recommend going back up to Las Ramblas. At the upper end, near Liceu metro station, La Boquería market has many stalls in which you can sample all sorts of typical dishes from the region, and there are also restaurants under the arches of the square. Out of all of them, we’d like to recommend four of the best, where you’re sure to get a very good meal: Bar Pinotxo, El Quim de la Boqueria, Kiosko Universal and Casa Guinart. Apart from Casa Guinart, where you can sit at a table to eat, at the rest you’ll eat sitting on a stool at the bar. It’s possible that when you arrive there won’t be anywhere to sit, but the turnover is quick and we can reassure you that it’ll be well worth the wait. Although in Barcelona lunchtime falls at around 14:00 as it does in much of Europe, you’ll have no problem finding somewhere to eat in the market, or indeed in other nearby restaurants, earlier at a time to suit you.
After eating, and having wandered around the market, you will be ready to continue discovering the city, going up Las Ramblas until you reach the Plaça de Catalunya – the most central point of Barcelona. As long as you aren’t afraid of pigeons, of which there are hundreds in the square, you can cross through the centre and take some photos next to them, with the monumental fountains in the background.
In order to see a couple of the most well-known buildings in Barcelona – Casa Batlló and Casa Milà, both works of Antoni Gaudí and symbols of Catalan modernism – you’ll need to take a short walk up the Passeig de Gràcia. Upon reaching this point we’ve found it impossible to give you one option from here; we’ve therefore prepared two proposals that you can choose from, depending on where your priorities lie.
Option 1: Visiting Casa Batlló and the Sagrada Familia
Before visiting the Casa Batlló, one of Antoni Gaudí’s most important works, make sure you take a good look at the wonderful building that is right next door to it, the Casa Amatller, which is also open to the public and is one of the great examples of Catalan modernism. It’s a shame that it often goes almost unnoticed by the thousands of tourists who pass it. Although at the busiest times of the day there’s often a queue to enter the Casa Batlló, it’s rarely very long (except during July and August, when the influx of tourists in the city is at its greatest), and usually passes very quickly. After your visit, we recommend going up to Casa Milà to admire its beautiful façade.
After being on the move all day, we imagine you’ll be feeling slightly weary by the time you get to this point. We suggest wandering up to the Rambla de Catalunya that runs parallel to the Passeig de Gràcia, to sit down and have a drink outside in one of the many terraces (Forn de Sant Jaume, Häagen-Dazs, Fornet d’en Rossend…)
Casa Amatller visit
| Guided tour in english or visit express with english audioguide
Then you have two options to get to the Sagrada Familia. You can take the Metro (Line 5) from Diagonal station and get off at Sagrada Familia station, or you can walk there, which should take you around 20 minutes. Even when you emerge from the Metro station at Sagrada Familia, or from a considerable distance away if you choose to walk) you’ll be immediately blown away by the sheer scale of the basilica, but its scale is only truly reflected when you go inside, and you’ll be able to appreciate this during your tour.
After your visit to the Sagrada Familia take the Metro line 4 (by walking to the nearby Verdaguer stop, or by catching the metro at Sagrada Familia to Verdaguer and changing there) and get off at Jaume I.
Option 2: Visiting La Pedrera and Park Güell
After admiring the façades for Casa Amatller and Casa Batlló, keep walking up the Passeig de Gràcia until you arrive at the nearby Casa Milà (La Pedrera). During your visit you’ll be able to see one of the apartments, set up with the original furniture of the era, and you can go up to the roof terrace, which is a sight in itself, but is made all the more special due to the views that you’ll experience from up there.
Just as if you had chosen Option 1, after seeing the Casa Milà we recommend that you wander up to the Rambla de Catalunya to charge your batteries in one of its many terraces, sitting down for a while with a drink..
When you’re ready for your trip to the somewhat secluded Park Güell, you need to take Line 3 of the Metro from Diagonal, and get off at either Vallcarca or Lesseps (the latter is recommended, as it’s easier to reach the park from there).
If the church is open when you arrive, don’t hesitate to go inside, as it’s one of the largest churches in the city and is certainly the best example of the Catalan Gothic style. When you leave the church we suggest that you wander through the narrow streets in between Carrer Princesa and the basilica at your leisure, as well as walking along the Carrer Montcada, the Carrer del Rec and the Passeig del Born, all of which have their own charm.
Whilst you walk through the streets of Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i La Ribera-Born, you’re sure to come across bars and restaurants that you like the look of. We recommend that you take a look at them all, and choose one depending on what you fancy to eat. The variety is huge, and you’ll find all sorts of menus. From the typical tapas bars (Bar Mundial, Bar del Pla, El Xampanyet, etc) to the well-stocked bars and Italian restaurants (Pizza del Born, NAP, Little Italy) and various restaurants serving local food (Pla de la Garsa, Casa Delfín, Bar Restaurante Rodrigo etc), there’s something for everyone.
After eating, and depending on whether the night is still young or not, we recommend that you go to one of the trendy bars in the area, or perhaps head down to the Bosc de les Fades (literally The Fairies’ Forest), which as its name suggests is an other-worldly bar, located at the bottom of Las Ramblas near the Christopher Columbus statue. This will give you a chance to see the famous street artists if you didn’t see them in the morning, as long as you are there before 10pm.
Have you finished the day wanting to come back for more? In that case, our mission is accomplished! We hope that you return soon and get to know our city better. And if it’s with our help, even better!
Travel advices and transport for a day in Barcelona
For the two options that we have given you, the maximum number of journeys you’ll need to make in public transport is two, so it works out cheapest to buy individual metro tickets for getting around. However, if you’re in a group of more than two people, it’s probably worth buying and sharing a T-10 ticket. More information about Barcelona’s transport system.
Estimated transport costs: It will vary according to how many journeys you make, but it will cost you no more than €5 per person.
The most well-known ticket, the Barcelona Card, doesn’t have a 1-day option, so it wouldn’t be financially beneficial to get one. Other tourist passes are the Arqueo Ticket and the ArtTicketBCN, but due to your time pressures if you’re visiting the city for a day, the routes we have proposed don’t include the museums on these cards.
Cost of seeing the sights (excluding food): €25 – €35 (depending on the options you choose. If you qualify for discounts because of your age or if you’re in a group, this cost will be reduced).
At your leisure, but with momentum: this will allow you to enjoy everything you see, but to fit everything in without hurrying towards the end of the day.
The ‘granges’ cafés on Calle Petritxol: enjoying a hot chocolate or a coffee in one of the granjas on Calle Petritxol is something you shouldn’t miss out on.
Eating outside the restaurants on Las Ramblas itself: The vast majority of the restaurants on Las Ramblas (with the exception of La Boqueria market) offer food of a very inferior quality at inflated prices, compared to that of bars and restaurants on nearby streets. Although it may seem tempting, avoid eating or even having a coffee in these bars and restaurants.