There is no place like home and, if home is Barcelona, this saying has a whole new meaning.
Every time someone asks where I am from the reaction is always overwhelmingly positive. They have either been there, know someone who has or are planning to go. If they have been, the “ohhhh” and “ahhh” are endless. It is justified. Barcelona really is a stunning city with history dating back to centuries B.C., a beach-like atmosphere, Mediterranean breeze and absolutely incredible food to match. What else can you ask for? As you may have guesses, I am biased.
There is no doubt that Barcelona has something for everyone but on occasion of a friend’s visit I decided to put together this itinerary for 4 days in Barcelona which resembles what I usually show friends when they visit with me. This is the Barcelona itinerary I, a Catalan who grew up there, would recommend. It is not what an expat may suggest and it is definitively not what a guide will tell you to see, my idea was to suggest the best places to see in Barcelona from a local’s point of view including a bit of local flair, the most cozy and genuine bars and Barcelona’s best fine dining, now that the city finally have been awarded with its first 3 Michelin starred restaurant. Let me share the best four day itinerary in Barcelona and, with it, my city, my land, my culture.
Below you will find an interactive map with all the tops and under it, the proposed itinerary to spend four days exploring Barcelona like a local.
- Barcelona Itinerary: Day 1 – The historical Barri Gotic
- Barcelona Itinerary: Day 2 - Main arteries and some charming districts: Passeig de Gracia, Les Rambles and El Raval
- Barcelona Itinerary: Day 3 - Parc Guell and Sagrada Familia
- Barcelona Itinerary: Day 4 - The beach
- Barcelona Itinerary: Other places of interest
- Barcelona Itinerary: How to get around
Barcelona Itinerary: Day 1 – The historical Barri Gotic
My favorite part of the city is the old part that used to be enclosed within the Medieval city walls. Today, you can’t see the walls anymore as there isn’t any vestige left of them in the open, but that part still looks and feels like it’s breathing the stories of centuries passed. A visit to Barcelona needs to start here, wandering aimlessly but consciously, along the darkish and narrow pedestrian alleyways and cobblestoned streets.
Try one of these Old Town tours either on foot, segway or a photo tour!
Start early in the morning at Placa Catalunya and make your way towards the Cathedral and the area right of Via Laietana and left of Les Rambles. Some points of interest to look out for:
After all the walking and all the savoring you will be done for the day so just go back to your hotel, relax, recharge, get changed and go out for dinner. While you can dine at any of the Michelin-awarded restaurants mentioned in Day 2, you could do something a bit more special and book a private Modernista menu foodie meal with Michelin-awarded chef annotations and explanations about molecular cuisine techniques at Restaurant La Lluerna.
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Barcelona Itinerary: Day 2 - Main arteries and some charming districts: Passeig de Gracia, Les Rambles and El Raval
Everybody knows La Rambla, it is no doubt the most famous part of the city. It is colorful, lively and always busy no matter what time of the day or night. I will only give one piece of advise: be careful of your belongings. Almost everyone I know whose wallet has been stolen in Barcelona was wandering without paying attention along La Rambla. It is the place to get robbed. It is not dangerous, just hold on to your possessions because there are too many ill-meaning crooks that will make your wallet literally disappear.
While you can visit all of Gaudi's buildings above plus Sagrada Familia on your own or even with specific guides per landmark, the most amazing way to explore all of them is by joining a specialised day tour of Gaudi's architecture. This tour really excels and you get an expert in architecture and Gaudi putting it all into perspective. I am sure it will exceed all expectations.
Barcelona Itinerary: Day 3 - Parc Guell and Sagrada Familia
A visit to Barcelona is not complete without a Gaudi day out to his two most stunning constructions: Parc Guell and Sagrada Familia.
Barcelona Itinerary: Day 4 - The beach
Today should be a relaxing day with a bit of Bohemian undertones.
Barcelona Itinerary: Other places of interest
Depending on how tired or inclined you are there are a few other places that are well worth a visit.
If Barca is playing get tickets, this will be a memorable experience. The Museum is also open to visitors and it is the most visited museum in Europe, but what truly shows the atmosphere of the stadium is watching a game. Get your jersey on, wear warm clothes in the winter and a hat if you're not under cover and get ready to cheer together with almost 100,000 other fans. Camp Nou is the second largest stadium in the world and the whistling and shouting of the crowds or the beautiful mosaic built with individual pieces of cardboard held by everyone are something very unique and emotional.
Barca, is more than just a Club, it is the identity of Catalunya and the Catalans.
The Maremagnum, in front of the Columbus Monument is a nice area to shop around on Sundays when everything else in the city is closed. The architecture is very unique as well and makes for a pleasant walk.
Montjuic is the small mountain by the sea that hosted the Olympic Stadium, the flame and the various competition grounds. It is also home of the city's cemetery on one side and to the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC) where you will be able to see Medieval and older pieces of art from religious origins. Next to it there is also the Fundacio Miro.
The Magic Fountain that leads up to the MNAC is used for lights and water shows perfectly choreographed to beautiful songs. Performances happen occasionally during the summer months but the most important one is the show used to close the celebrations of Patron Saint, La Merce, on the 24th of September which also includes fireworks. It is an exquisite show and extremely beautiful. The most famous of them was the show put together for the Olympic Games when Soprano Montserrat Caballe and Freddy Mercury sang the theme Barcelona to celebrate the city's choice as the 1992 Olympic Games destination. You can see the video here. If you are Catalan, you can't watch this video without shedding a tear. The song was released in 1987 but Mercury died before the Olympic Games opening ceremony although the recording was still played.
Here are a few other unique tours you can take in Barcelona
Barcelona Itinerary: How to get around
Most of my Barcelona itinerary calls for walking. Barcelona is a walkable and temperate city with mild weather all year round. It pays to walk so you can fully take in a city that should be lived. If you get tired though, take the metro or a bus. You can find the bus routes on any of the bus stops. It will tell you the ones stopping at that particular stop and their Barcelona itinerary. You can interchange between bus and metro within a 1h period with the same ticket without having to pay again. And if you just want a quick ride, take a taxi, they are not so expensive.
Here are all the best hotels in Barcelona to stay at. And don't forget to hop over to my home town of Sitges for more beach and coastal fun. Here is my complete guide as well as some other day getaway ideas from Barcelona here.
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