Barcelona is a city full of beautiful street corners, unique architecture, and incredible food. It’s perfect for exploring on foot, and a heaven for photographers and foodies.
With all it has to offer, Barcelona might seem a bit overwhelming to tackle in under 72 hours. But no worries—I documented my itinerary for sightseeing and places to eat from Sunday night until Wednesday morning, putting locations that are closer together in one day so you can visit them in the most efficient way possible. If you’re curious, you can also check out the map to see all of these locations in context.
SUNDAY, 5:00PM: CHECK INTO APARTMENT
Instead of choosing a standard hotel room or an Airbnb, I decided to try something new this time and stay at an apartment that’s been converted to a hotel room. My favorite part of the apartment was the little nook in the back that led into the building’s courtyard from a set of stairs. Very European.
Where I stayed:
Calle Valencia, 347
Pros: The size and location of the apartment were both perfect. It’s located in the busy Eixample neighborhood and only a 10 minute walk away from La Sagrada Família and Casa Milà. The building is also surrounded by numerous tapas bars and small food markets and pharmacies.
Cons: The walls are thin and it gets pretty noisy at night (it is located in a busy neighborhood, after all, and Spaniards eat dinner late so they probably stay out pretty late too). My check-in process was also not great, given that I arrived on a Sunday and the office was closed. It took me a while to find the instructions they left on how to get inside the apartment.
8:00 PM: TAPAS AT CIUDAD CONDAL
Ciudad Condal was my first meal in Barcelona, and my first tapas experience in Spain. As one of the more popular tapas bars in Barcelona, expect a wait. Come with a group of friends so you can try more items on their huge menu. I was impressed by how fresh the ingredients in every dish were, and how cheap everything was—considering a lot of the items we ordered were seafood-based.
As my first meal in Barcelona, I wanted to get all the essential tapas: fried padron peppers, croquettes, and pan con tomate, which is a simple but delicious toast covered in a light tomato sauce and olive oil (and garlic, maybe…?). Can’t choose a favorite dish if I tried, but I totally fell in love with how fresh the seafood was.
Monday, 8:00 AM: SUNRISE AT PARC GÜELL
Come to Parc Güell (pronounced park goo-way) when it first opens at 8AM to get a panoramic view of Barcelona. Since the park faces east, it’s the perfect place to catch a sunrise over the city. Designed by the architect Antoni Gaudí—who created many of his works in Barcelona—the park was originally built to be a housing development. Filled with lush gardens and colorful mosaics, it opened as a public park in 1926 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s just contained enough where you don’t have to do a huge amount of walking, but complex enough where you can spend lots of time ogling at the intricacies of the unique structures around the park.
One warning before you go: as of April 2019, parts of the park are under construction, but it doesn’t really affect much of the park. Also, be sure to get tickets to enter the Monumental Core (though they’re pretty lax with checking tickets early in the morning).
11:00 AM: Hiking at Bunkers Del Carmel
Just northeast of Parc Güell is Bunkers Del Carmel, a great vantage point to get a comprehensive view of Barcelona. You can see La Sagrada Família from here, as well as the Montjuïc mountains. It wasn’t a very tough hike up to the top, but the path was filled with some very interesting bugs! In fact, some really skinny and long black bugs that looked like worms. Very terrifying, but also very fun to look at.
I also really enjoyed walking through the Horta-Guinardó neighborhood, which appeared far more residential than the rest of the bustling city. I saw lots of parents dropping their kids off to school, as well as many dogs out on their walks. This area is filled with smaller, discrete homes compared to the large apartment buildings in Eixample.
2:00 PM: BOURDAIN-APPROVED TAPAS AT QUIMET & QUIMET
Okay, I know the idea of cold canned fish doesn’t sound very appealing, but that’s because you’ve probably only ever come across it in the tuna sandwich context. Canned fish is actually a gourmet specialty in Spain and Portugal. Does it make it better when I tell you that caviar comes in a can?
At Quimet y Quiment, you can get some really tasty seafood on top of crispy toast and pickled vegetables, all topped off with a delicious drizzle of olive oil. Some items will even be topped with caviar, and the average price for a tapa was about 3 euros. The wine and beer are super cheap too, and is probably way more worthwhile than drinking water. This is a step higher than Ciudad Condal, which served pretty standard tapas that you could probably get at a hip Spanish restaurant in San Francisco. Quimet y Quimet is, in my opinion, a little more ambitious and not for those who are squeamish about anchovies and pork cheeks and foie gras, etc.
You can easily see why Anthony Bourdain loved this place. It’s a hole in the wall with standing-room only. There is wine on the walls piled all the way to the ceiling. Locals and tourists alike fill up the space. The servers are also super friendly, and are very open to suggesting items off the menu.
5:00PM: La Sagrada Família
Now, for probably my favorite part of my entire trip of Spain: walking inside La Sagrada Família. I’m upset that I didn’t spend more time inside it. I’ve been to a lot of cathedrals across Europe, and although they were beautiful in their own ways, none of them are as unique as this one. There are intriguing details in every direction you look, large and small. Try to plan your visit in the afternoon, where there will be red light pouring in from the stained glass windows. I’ve heard in the morning, the cathedral will have more of a blueish tint. I found it really difficult to capture its grandeur in photos. I didn’t have a wide angle lens with me, but a 10mm or a fisheye would’ve worked wonders.
Definitely book your tickets ahead for a scheduled time. This is a hugely popular tourist destination so expect a long line for tickets.
Listen to the podcast before you go!
One of my favorite podcasts, 99 Percent Invisible, has an incredible episode on La Sagrada Família. Learning about the cathedral’s story gave me the chills (especially learning that it was partially destroyed in the Spanish Civil War—spoiler alert!). Definitely give it a listen before you go to for some context. There’s also a snippet at the end about how computers and parametric design software is now being used to design the cathedral.
Tuesday, 8:30AM: Baluard Barceloneta for breakfast
Baluard Barceloneta is a bakery that was recommended to me by Airbnb Experiences that’s just minutes away from Casa Milà. They have a huge selection of pastries, tarts, and filled-donuts that will leave you feeling way too indecisive for so early in the morning. So come with a large group of friends so you can try all of them :)
9:00AM: Casa Milà
Casa Milà is another one of Gaudi’s works that was initially designed to be a private residence. It’s other name “La Pedrera,” or “stone quarry,” is actually a nickname given by the citizens of Barcelona who disapproved of its rough outer appearance. Although it’s now a UNESCO World Heritage site and visited by people all over the world, it once appeared in many satirical pieces as was a subject of humor for many of Barcelona’s residents.
11:00 AM: Casa Batlló
If this is still in construction by the time you visit, consider skipping it.
I was tempted to come visit Casa Batlló after looking at photos on Pinterest of its gorgeous exterior and the building’s lack of straight lines. Unfortunately, while I was in Barcelona (April 2019), the building was going through a large renovation which left the facade completely covered up and many areas of the building inaccessible. Although I had booked tickets ahead of time, I still had to wait around 45 minutes to enter. It was definitely not worth the ticket price and the wait, and I have to say that I enjoyed Casa Milà way more.
12:30 PM: Lunch at La Boqueria
La Boquería is a huge farmers market right next to La Rambla that sells yummy ready-to-eat street foods like empanadas and croquettes as well as a huge selection of produce, fresh seafood, and meats. It’s basically a food heaven. Jamón ibérico and serrano (thinly-sliced cured pork, kind of like prosciutto) are on display everywhere in this market, so definitely try a few pieces as it’s hard to get your hands on jamón outside of Spain. Try out the freshly squeezed or blended fruit juices too—you’ll even find some tropical juices made from guava and coconut, all selling for really low prices (if I recall correctly, I got a cup for 50 cents).
Because the La Rambla area and La Boquería can get very crowded, try to keep an eye on your bags at all times. Barcelona is the pick-pocket capital of the world, and you might become the next victim as you’re strolling through these busy areas.
1:30 PM: explore the Gothic Quarter
Just a few blocks away from La Boquería is the Gothic Quarter, a neighborhood filled with tiny streets, medieval architecture, and countless tapas bars and shops. Set aside some time here to visit the Barcelona Cathedral and the Picasso Museum, or just to get lost inside the beautiful narrow streets. You’ll instantly feel like you’ve escaped the busy city after slipping away into a beautiful secluded alleyway.
3:00PM: Tour the Palace of Catalan Music
Located just on the edge of the Gothic Quarter, The Palace of Catalan Music is a beautiful concert hall open for shows at night and tours during the day. I would’ve loved to see a concert here, but didn’t get a chance to plan it into my itinerary. So instead I hopped onto an afternoon tour instead where I learned about the history of the concert hall. The hall sits around 2000 people, and is actually one of the few concert halls in the world that is illuminated by natural lighting.
I also learned that famous composers like Rachmaninov, Ravel, and Stravinsky performed their original works here. Jazz/Bossa Nova musicians like Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and Gil Gilberto have also graced the stage. Yeah, no big deal.
4:30PM: Churros & chocolate at Xurreria Laietana
Xurreria Laietana (or Churrería Laietana) is one of the more popular churros spots in Barcelona and is another one of those hole-in-the-wall places that has a line spilling into the street. Here you can get freshly fried churros at a low price as well as a cup of chocolate sauce to dip them into (note that this is a thick chocolate sauce, and not to be mistaken for hot chocolate, even though it comes in a coffee cup). Try to visit when they first open in the morning, or when they reopen in the afternoon (around 4:30 PM) to avoid lines and to find a place to sit.
9:00PM: The best paella of my life at Arume
Okay okay, I know Paella is not from Barcelona and that Valencia is the best place to get it. And it’s probably true that there’s a myriad of tourist traps that will serve you “paella” on every street corner. So after doing extensive research on Yelp and TripAdvisor I decided on Arume, a small, romantic, sit-down place specializing in Galician cuisine. We got a Tortilla Española (Spanish omelette) to start, and then 2 different paellas to share: the seafood paella, and the duck paella.
The duck paella! Oh my goodness. It was probably one of my favorite dishes in Spain. The paella was very rich and flavorful, filled with large chunks of duck, different kinds of mushrooms, and topped with fried peppers and mayonnaise. I’m a big fan of poultry and mushrooms, and the kick from the pepper balanced out the richness of the duck. This dish basically contained all of my favorite ingredients in one hot plate, and I wish I could’ve gone back there a second time to eat it.
Also I want to say that the dining experience here was nothing short of perfect. You can easily make a reservation on their website and not have to wait for a table (we saw a group waiting for a table when we walked in, and still waiting when we left, so I highly recommend booking a reservation). The service is also great, with very friendly waiters and hosts, ready to explain the menu and give you recommendations.
Wednesday, 7:30 AM: Early morning photowalk
I wanted to see La Sagrada Familía without all the tourists before I left, so I woke up early in the morning to watch the sun rise behind it. I really loved the lighting at this hour, and how it gave the cathedral’s facade a reddish tint.
9:00 AM: Chocolate Croissants at Forn De Sant Jaume
Forn De Sant Jaume is a cute little bakery and breakfast spot filled with locals. After watching Simon & Martina’s YouTube video on what to eat in Barcelona, I knew I had to come here for their chocolate croissants and bunyols. I loved how creamy and thick the chocolate on the inside of the croissant was. The consistency was so much richer than that of a chocolate croissant you would get here in the states. It was a super simple but decadent last meal in Barcelona.
Photos were taken on the Canon T7i and edited in Adobe Lightroom CC, with the exception of a few taken on my iPhone and edited with VSCO.
Though Barcelona is a safe city for the most part, it does have a pick-pocketing problem. When you visit, be sure to keep an eye on your bags at all times, as pick-pockets might appear in the most unexpected places. Don’t let it ruin your trip, but do keep it in the back of your mind at all times.
Hope you found this (rather lengthy) guide to Barcelona helpful. Have fun in Barcelona, and ¡buen viaje!