Barcelona is the perfect combination of everything: great weather all year round, stunning architecture, delicious food that's distinctly different from the rest of Europe, and a lively social culture that prides itself on a bustling nightlife and late dinners. If you find yourself with 3 days in Barcelona, here are the 10 best things to do - a mix of both tourist spots and offbeat experiences.
1) Explore Gaudi's works
2) Take a free historical walking tour
3) Take a Spanish cooking class
4) Explore the medieval neighborhood where Picasso grew up
5) Check off the tourist spots by bus
6) Watch the Magic Fountains light and sound show
7) Go bananas at the Boqueria Food Market
8) Stroll around the central boulevard of Las Ramblas
9) Take a day trip to the Montserrat Mountains
10) Drink at a bar filled with cauldrons
Here's a detailed itinerary for 3 days in Barcelona:
Take a free historical walking tour and a Spanish cooking class Total time: 3-4 hours
I'm a huge fan of the free walking tour culture in Europe; more cities need to adopt it! It's such a great way to get acquainted with a new city, especially since the tour guides are generally locals. I also just love exploring new places by foot because you get a sense of the city's charm that you don't in buses, trains or cars. That being said, Barcelona is too huge a city to have a three-hour walking tour cover all its important sights, so a sightseeing bus is still the best way to do it (more on that below). Use walking tours to learn more about individual neighborhoods in Barcelona.
Travel Bar runs one of the most popular free walking tours of the city and is one of the best things to do in Barcelona; it takes you through the city's entire history in just three hours. For a history buff like me, it was great, but be warned! It's rather heavy on the history.
If that doesn't sound like your thing, then take a paella, tapas and sangria class with Travel Bar instead.
Enter food heaven at the Boqueria Market Total time:
1 hour (at the least)
I have never seen a more tempting and delicious display of food in my life than at La Boqueria - chocolate, candies, fresh fruit, and vegetables. If you have 3 days in Barcelona, I'm pretty sure you will end up here everyday (guilty as charged: I basically had a second breakfast here every single day)! I'll let the photos do the talking, but if there is one thing you do in Barcelona - let it be this:
Watch the Magic Fountains
Total time: 10-15 minutes
This is a great light-and-sound fountain show that runs for a few nights each week. Timings vary depending on the season, so make sure to check that online before you go. If you're spending 3 days in Barcelona, you're likely to catch this on at least one of the days. It's free to watch, only lasts 10 minutes, and is situated at the steps of the National Art Museum of Catalonia, providing a gorgeous setting to the whole show.
Check off the tourist spots on bus
Total time: 7-8 hours (for both bus routes, and depending on how many stops you get off at)
There are A LOT of monuments in Barcelona (who's complaining?), and as much as I hate guided tour buses, sometimes they are the fastest and cheapest option to cover the most ground, especially if you've only got 3 days in Barcelona! I'd recommend buying a day pass for the Hop On Hop Off sightseeing bus (25 euros). There are three circuits, of which only two are worth exploring: the blue and the red. Cover one circuit in the morning, and the other in the afternoon.
Make sure to get a map beforehand so you can plan out which monuments you'd like to get off the bus for. The others can just be viewed from the bus. The bus returns every 30-60 minutes, so if you do get off at a particular monument, make sure you keep track of time. This is also a great way to see the Gaudi monuments (more on that below).
Explore Sagrada Familia and Gaudi's other works
Total time: 3-4 hours (included in the bus tour time)
You can't come to Barcelona and not admire the works of famous architect Antoni Gaudi. His constructions are magical and toy-like, and they stand out as whimsical structures amidst Barcelona's modern buildings. Don't miss Sagrada Familia and Park Guell - two of the most iconic places to visit in Barcelona. If you have time for more, Casa Battlo is really cool too, but has quite a pricey entrance ticket (23 euros).
Sagrada Familia is unlike your regular European cathedral - stunning is an understatement! It's pristinely white on the inside, with very unique pillars and gorgeously bright stainglass windows. Make sure to buy tickets in advance (starting at 15 euros), or be prepared to stand in extremely long lines!
Park Guell is a funky public park compound with various elements designed by Gaudi. It's great to walk around and take pictures, and you'll notice some iconic structures that feature in all the photos you may have seen of Barcelona! Definitely one of the best things to do in Barcelona, especially for photo ops. Tickets can be bought on the spot, and start at 7 euros.
Casa Battlo is very much a house from a fairytale. Gaudi built this house in 1877 with an underwater theme in mind. As a result, there are no straight walls in the house. Everything is curved to give the resident an illusion of water waves. The stainglass windows are blue and semi-opaque, so that when you look through them, you feel like you're underwater! Tickets can be bought on the spot (starting at 23 euros, but you can avail a student discount if you have valid ID).
Explore the medieval neighborhood where Picasso grew up
Total time: 3 hours
El Born was hands-down my favorite neighborhood in Barcelona. If you're spending 3 days in Barcelona, you must dedicate an evening to this neighborhood. It is the most charming of the lot, with narrow alleys, cobblestone streets, and lots of bars and restaurants. The best way to explore it is to take a free walking tour. Make sure you do the tour at night, so you can see the neighborhood beautifully lit up. It reminded me of New York's West Village. I did a walking tour with Discover Walks, which was a good mix of anecdotes from Picasso's time, food and drink recommendations from our local guide, and sneak-peeks into artists' workshops, that kept it interesting and off-the-beaten-path. Highly recommended - one of the best things to do in Barcelona!
Drink at a bar filled with cauldrons
La Tinaja in El Born is just one of many amazing restaurants and bars, tucked away in the alleys of El Born - just stroll around, find a cozy spot and enjoy your evening!
If you only have 3 days in Barcelona, you can choose to spend the third day shopping, taking a day trip, or revisiting some of your favorite spots around the city.
Stroll around the central boulevard - Las Ramblas
This is like the Times Square of Barcelona (maybe slightly less crowded, and with fewer lights). Las Ramblas is the focal point of all tourist activities in Barcelona because it's the first attraction on any visitor's checklist. This massive boulevard makes for a great stroll, especially to satisfy your shopping needs, with boutiques, department stores and coffee shops lining either end. The promenade is home to the Christopher Columbus monument, and La Boqueria market. Reserve some time to stroll through this bustling street!
Take a day trip to the Montserrat mountains
Both an unusual and a serene mountain range at once, most visitors to Barcelona will make a day trip to Montserrat, which only takes an hour by train. If you're feeling particularly active, consider making this trip. Montserrat is famous for its peculiar rock formations, and monastery set atop the mountain. It boasts of several hiking trails which offer stunning panoramic views. If you have 3 days in Barcelona, and want to get away for a day trip, I highly recommend Montserrat!
If you're ever looking for a quick getaway, look no further. Barcelona has it all and more. 3 days in Barcelona will seem like too little (as it did to me ???? ). The city is teeming with culture and energy, waiting to be discovered! What are some of your favorite Barcelona experiences?