Table of Contents
This article has links to products and services we love, which we may make commission from.
Looking for an extensive 3 days in Barcelona itinerary? We (Gemma and Craig) love Barcelona with its charismatic buildings, interesting history, cute traditional taverns and shopping opportunities. Honestly, with the number of exciting day trips, you could spend weeks in and around this city and not get bored, but if you only have 3 days in Barcelona, that’s cool. That’s a perfect amount of time to experience the best Barcelona attractions and the highlights in the heart of Catalonia.
Thanks to Antoine from Traveling Life for helping to shape our jam-packed Barcelona itinerary.
How to Spend 3 Days in Barcelona
Barcelona Itinerary Day One
Today focuses on seeing the best sights of Barcelona and experiencing what makes this city tick, whether it be old or new. Day one is all about orientating yourself in this new city.
Barcelona ‘Hop On Hop Off’ Bus Tour
Every time I go to a new city, I like to accustom myself by doing a few tours. Hop on hop off bus tours are my particular favourite; like many bus tours, Barcelona’s takes you around the best parts of the city.
In doing so, it gives a great opportunity to learn about its culture and history while working out the distances between the best Barcelona attractions; and helping you make a mental note of which ones to return to.
You could purchase tickets for the hop on hop off bus for just one day or for two; if you make the decision to buy the two-day ticket (which works out cheaper per day than just the single-day ticket) then you can use the bus as transportation around the city on day two.
If you only have 2 days in Barcelona this is a quick way to get around and see the main sites.
Barcelona’s open-top bus tour is the best bus tour Gemma’s Mum has been on and a tour is always part of their itinerary for European trips.
Port Vell, one of the Barcelona attractions on the open-top bus tour
The full open-topped bus tour will take up most of the morning, and you’ll no doubt be peckish after seeing all of Barcelona’s highlights; so take a walk down Las Ramblas, one of the city’s most famous streets.
While Las Ramblas does have gorgeous architecture, it is very touristy so have your wits about you.
The famous/infamous La Rambla
Lunch at La Boqueria
Just off La Rambla is Mercado de La Boqueria market. This is a covered market with rows upon rows of stalls selling juice, spiral crisps, empanadas, meats and seafood.
There are sections of the market which you can sit and enjoy a full meal if you don’t want snack-type food.
Look, La Boqueria is touristy but there’s a reason for that! If you want to escape the crowds, head to the back right hand corner and grab a craft beer in the sun at Moritz.
If you prefer a quieter market used more by locals seek out Santa Caterina Market in El Born.
If you’d prefer a cafe/restaurant-style meal, head to Gats at Carrer d’en Xuclà, 7.
Spiral crisps at La Boqueria
Late Afternoon at Sagrada Familia
If you ask anyone what to do in Barcelona in 3 days their advice will 100% feature a tour of La Sagrada Familia.
A must-visit in Barcelona, this is Gaudi’s unfinished basilica. It is a very famous attraction, and it is incredibly popular.
Gaudi was the main director of the construction of La Sagrada Familia until he died in 1926.
He was very particular about it, constantly requesting it be changed until it suited his exact vision!
This means that nowadays, many people debate about whether the material used and style of the modern church is what Gaudi would have produced.
The controversy almost adds to its appeal as one of Barcelona’s top attractions, and it is a must-see when you’re visiting the city.
Purchasing your ticket for a late afternoon slot means that you can catch the light gleaming through the stain glass windows!
It is strongly advised that you reserve your ticket before you arrive at the Sagrada Familia for a few reasons:
- In high season, tickets sell out. For example, on TripAdvisor, a reader stated that he could not book a ticket for days in advance, in June.
- You can enjoy a ‘skip the line’ pass which means you do not have wait in line like others who arrive on the day.
- You can choose your time slot, the afternoon is best of light, morning is best for crowds (everyone has to go through security).
A trip to the Sagrada Familia is so special, you don’t want to miss out on this Barcelona attraction.
Reserve your ticket and time slot here. here. You can also choose whether you want an audio guide or not.
→ Alternatively, take a tour of the Basilica with GetYourGuide’s top tour run by locals.
Buy a drink at the downstairs bar then take the elevator up to the rooftop at Hotel Ayre.
Here you get the best views of La Sagrada Familia. Gemma and Craig had a drink here before their tour. There are heaps of great viewpoints in the city, click here to read about more.
Gemma and Craig at Hotel Ayre
Recinte Modernista Sant Pau
This Barcelona attraction is a bit of a hidden gem – it is a former hospital, which means it does not attract the same crowds as the cathedrals and plazas! However, it’s a beautiful, peaceful spot and is loved by all who visit.
This show-stopping modernist/art nouveau architecture was created by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, one of Gaudi’s peers. You can take a tour of the hospital, learning about its history, while admiring the artwork and gardens.
It is a very peaceful place; exactly the kind of hospital you’d want to be sent to if you were ill! Here’s their website for more information.
Evening – El Born
El Born is a bustling part of the city with streets of unique shops, cute traditional taverns and hip bars. There’s even a speakeasy behind a deli shop.
Set within beautiful stone buildings, you’ll love the serenity of the Museu Picasso; and will be enthralled at the interior, which contains over 3,500 artworks. It has a major emphasis on Picasso’s art before 1904; the museum was requested by Picasso himself.
Dinner at El Born
Enjoy a tapas dinner at the local tavern, El Xampanyet (Carrer de Montcada, 22, 08003). This isn’t quite like a tapas restaurant at home, here you sit or stand and a small variety of plates (sardines, omelette, meat) is offered to you as you drink beer and wine.
White wine is served in cute Gatsby-style glasses. A very charming bar in El Born.
Bar Hopping in El Born
El Born is a great place to do some bar hopping. There’s everything from quiet corners for chats to jumping bars with loud sound systems and locals spilling out the door. Check out Corner, You’re Super Super and Savannah.
Gemma and Craig stayed in El Born at the very affordable Park Hotel, perfect for rolling out of bed the next day after a few wines the night before.
Day Two Barcelona Itinerary
If breakfast isn’t served at your accommodation you are in luck!
Brunch & Cake (Carrer d’Enric Granados, 19) close to Port Vell serves up an Instagram-worthy plate of pancakes and french toast.
Next, we head up to the pretty street, Passeig de Gràcia where you will find Gaudi’s casas.
First up is the architectural marvel, Casa Batllo. This ex-family home has balconies resembling skulls and pillars in the shape of bones! The building is decorated in aquatic colours.
It was used as the residence for the Batllo family, but has since been vacated and is now a museum dedicated to Gaudi, his life, and his works. Book ahead today for a Skywalk and entry ticket.
If Gaudi’s architecture is the main reason for your visit, you should consider this five-hour group tour of the most popular Gaudi sites in Barcelona. This guided tour sells out, check availability here.
One of Barcelona’s best buildings, Casa Mila is another fantastic Gaudi masterpiece. The building, which is also called ‘La Pedrera’, resembles a collection of stones – another quirky architectural marvel.
It’s a fantastic spot to visit, especially if you’re into photography, and it’s great to explore inside as well. You can purchase a skip the line and audio tour with GetYourGuide before you arrive. Save time and skip the line.
Passeig de Gràcia Shopping
Passeig de Gràcia is long street where you can find both Gaudi’s casas and also lots of upmarket designer shops if that’s your bag.
If visiting Barcelona in Christmas, definitely come up this way to see the incredible Christmas lights. For tips on what to do in winter in Barcelona, read our guide.
One thing that you’ll see a lot of in Barcelona is Gaudi’s architecture. Park Guell, a UNESCO world heritage site, is maybe his most colourful architectural design.
If you like quirky photo backdrops and funky statues, this place is for you! It also has impressive views of the city and beyond.
With your ticket, you have access to the free park bus which drops you off at the closest metro station. Across the road, there are cafes if you want to pick up a baguette.
Dinner at Plaça Reial
Close to the La Rambla area, there is a square with lots of dining opportunities called Plaça Reial.
Gemma’s friend recommends Ocana.
» You may also like | Things to do in Barcelona at night
Use day three in the city to see a different side to Barcelona’s vibrant culture; The Gothic Quarter displays some of the best of the city’s history, while the Poble Espanyol demonstrates how it harmonizes with the rest of Spain.
Plus, Montjuïc Castle is one of the most historically significant places to visit in Barcelona.
Grab an acai bowl at Senor Pina in El Raval for a healthy start to the day.
The Gothic Quarter
The 2000-year-old Gothic Quarter is a must-visit in Barcelona, with quaint buildings and alleys, religious buildings and enthralling shops. Start your time in the Gothic Quarter by visiting the beautiful Gothic Cathedral – if you make it there before 12:45 pm, admission is free.
Or if you miss this time slot, entrance is by donation.
Much of the Gothic Quarter can be enjoyed just by strolling around it, but the Roman Temple – Temple d’August – is well worth visiting as well. One of the best areas of the Gothic Quarter is the Jewish Quarter, El Call. The area is steeped in history and it is wonderful to walk around – don’t miss the old synagogue.
There are lots of restaurants and cafes where you can grab lunch, including the oldest restaurant in Barcelona, Can Culleretes, dating back to 1786.
In winter, this is where the traditional Christmas market in Barcelona stands.
For awesome views of Barcelona Cathedral, as you in you can nearly touch it views, take the elevator to the rooftop of Hotel Colón (Av. de la Catedral, 7, 08002).
Servers take your order while you relax. Worth visiting at sunset.
The World Begins With Every Kiss
The World Begins With Every Kiss mural (Plaça d’Isidre Nonell) is a huge image of two lips embraced in a smooch, but if you look closely you’ll see it is so much more.
Thousands of Barcelonés contributed images they felt summed up the theme ‘moments of freedom’ and a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes reads ‘the sound of a kiss is not so loud as that of cannon but its echo lasts a great deal longer”.
Literally meaning ‘Spanish Town’, the Poble Espanyol is a must-visit for travellers to Barcelona. It replicates fifteen autonomous Spanish communities within 117 buildings.
The open-air museum, which is 400 metres away from the Fountains of Montjuic, is one of the best things to do in Barcelona with kids to show them the intricacies of Spanish culture.
Telefèric de Montjuïc
Don’t be fooled by the stretches of sand, see the city from a bird’s eye view to really understand how mountainous the area is!
The Telefèric de Montjuïc lifts are a great way to get to Castle Montjuïc.
The 360 glass cable car rides to the top of the mountain, stopping at Castle Montjuïc.
How to get to the Telefèric de Montjuïc.
If walking, be prepared to enjoy a hefty hike up through a residential area, past a football court and among lots of street art.
Alternatively, avoid the walk and hop on the 150 or 5 bus or L2 or 3 Metro to Paral·lel.
Offering amazing panoramic vistas of the city of Barcelona, Castell de Montjuïc is a fascinating place to visit to learn about Barcelona’s culture and history.
As Catalonia is a part of Spain with its own language and culture, it goes without saying that it has been home to a fair bit of turmoil throughout its history; and Montjuïc Castle has been in the thick of it.
The view from the top is mesmerising, and the parts of the castle that educate you about different aspects of the city’s history are just as captivating.
Palau Montjuic (Parc de Montjuïc) is Gemma’s favourite building in Barcelona.
Eugenio Cendoya and Enric Catà were the designers of this Spanish Renaissance-inspired building which is home to an art gallery. The impressive waterfalls cascade down the front it making it a very popular photo spot.
On Thursdays to Saturdays, this is where Font Màgica de Montjuïc takes place at night
If you’re spending 4 days in Barcelona, or maybe even longer, you may be seeking for more things to do than offered on this itinerary.
You might also be interested in learning of some specific activities that you can do with kids, in the rain, or as a couple. Here is a list of the best other activities to enjoy in Barcelona.
4 Days in Barcelona?
If you are lucky enough to have four days in Barcelona here are other things to do in Barcelona to add to your itinerary.
Barcelona FC Stadium
Barcelona FC Stadium might be top of the list for some, and it’s a great thing to do in Barcelona with kids if they are into football.
You can take tours of the world-famous stadium, learn about its history, and buy merchandise. Tours of Tour Camp Nou take around 90 mins with access to the museum too.
As with many historic cities, there are museums dotted all over Barcelona. Obviously, one of the best things to do in Barcelona in the rain is to visit one, or a few, of these museums.
Whether you’re into art, history or culture, there’s something to suit you. Popular favourites are the Museu Maritim, Disseny Hub Barcelona and the City History Museum. If you’re visiting Barcelona with kids, the Cosmo Caixa science museum, the magic museum and the chocolate museum are great bets.
It is easy to forget that Barcelona is a coastal city, but there are lots of beaches in close proximity to its centre. Barceloneta Beach is the closest to the city and can be accessed by metro, and therefore very busy during the summer. Icaria Beach is another beach accessible by metro.
A bit further from the city (and a lot quieter!) is Sitges and Ocata Playa. And of course, from Barcelona, you can easily reach the Costa Brava and many of its secluded bays.
Barcelona Day Trips
One of the most common questions asked is ‘how many days in Barcelona’ and like most European cities the answer depends on what type of trip you are looking for. There are plenty of days trips from Barcelona if you exhaust the top attractions above.
For example, Girona is one of the best towns near Barcelona, colourful Girona is home to an impressive Jewish Quarter, amazing Game of Thrones scenes and spectacular viewpoints over the city.
Nature lovers won’t want to miss Montserrat! Take a beautiful mountain climb at Montserrat, an 800-metre high mountain with a monastery at the bottom.
It’s a great spot to visit out of the city. Both could be considered if you had 4 days in Barcelona.
There are two options for visiting Montserrat.
Firstly, you can take the train, enjoy unlimited use of the Santa Cova funiculars and participate in a virtual tour of the Benedictine monastery in the Audiovisual Gallery with this Trans Montserrat return ticket combo.
The second option is to visit by bus.
This half-day bus tour with Madrid Busvision not only visits the Montserrat Monastery but also the Benedictine monastery and La Moreneta, the 12th-century Black Virgin. Book your ticket here.
Check out the full list of day trips here.
Where to Eat in Barcelona
Restaurant recommendations are always tough for a city, and for one as effervescent as Barcelona, it is difficult to know what individual interests are. The city has so many restaurants, from traditional Catalonian fare to tapas bars to vegetarian restaurants to burger joints.
You won’t go hungry in Barcelona – popular tourist areas like Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter have great eateries on every corner – but do be aware that many places, especially more authentic restaurants, close for a siesta in the afternoon and do not serve dinner until late.
- Senor Pina – Acai bowls and poke bowls
- Brunch & Cake – Instagram friendly all-day brunch
- El Xampanyet – Tiled decor, local tapas and drink in El Born
- Gats – small courtyard, indoor seating, cool mural and toilets
- Pasta Bar – build your own pasta plate
Where to Stay in Barcelona
There are hotels and hostels all over Barcelona, which are fantastic accommodation options. There is something to suit every budget.
Hotels in Barcelona
- Park Hotel – Affordable, comfortable hotel in El Born. Rooftop swimming pool all year round
- Iberostar Paseo de Gracia – located on Plaça Catalunya Square, swimming pool and free parking available.
Hostels in Barcelona
- Yeah Barcelona Hostel – super modern and creative hostel with custom-made beds. Excellent central location.
- Ten to Go Hostel – relaxed hostels in the authentic Sants neighbourhood. Capsule dorm beds for privacy.
Park Hote, El Born
Planning a Trip to Barcelona: Key Things to Know
Free Barcelona Map
Here’s the free map where all the attractions discussed are pinned plus some additional tips!
How to Get There
Barcelona is easy to reach from all European cities; El Prat international airport serves flights all over the continent and to destinations in North and South America, Asia and Africa.
It can also be accessed by train from other cities in Spain and France; Barcelona is about two hours from Barcelona to the French border in the car.
From the airport, you can catch the L9 Sud metro, the terminal 2 train or the Aerobus.
Alternatively, check out this private airport transfer for under 40 Euro.
How to Get Around
Barcelona Metro connects all of the main tourist spots, and it is user-friendly.
There is a local taxi service which you can hail on the street.
You can purchase the Hola BCN multi-transport ticket which gives you access to the metros, buses, and suburban trains for 2-5 days.
For unreal panoramic views of the city don’t miss the Montjuïc cable cars.
Barcelona uses the Euro. Check out today’s rates here. Most restaurants, accommodation and tours accept all major credit cards.
Tourist Information Address
There are a few tourist information points in Barcelona, the main one is located at Placa de Catalunya, 1708002 Barcelona, España.
Don’t forget to book your travel insurance before you leave for your trip to Spain.
Two Scots Abroad use True Traveller because it offers short and long-term travel trip deals as well as high altitude (not an issue in Barcelona!) and extreme sports.
Gemma claimed in Vancouver when I fell sick and they reimbursed my GP and physio visit promptly. Click here to see if their rates work for you too.
Best Time to Visit
Barcelona has an idyllic climate; its coastal position means that it rarely gets too hot, although some people prefer to avoid the middle of summer.
July and August are school holidays, so if you are not going with kids, May, June, and September can be great times to visit. Although you may experience crowds in June and September. See our section on overtourism below.
Barcelona is never freezing in the winter and is a popular city to visit for those escaping the cold of northern Europe. Click to read more activities to do in Spain during the summer months.
Winter is also a great time to see the city as there are fewer crowds and balmy temperatures. Read our Barcelona in winter guide.
Barcelona is rainiest in Autumn and Spring, but there is not much rainfall year-round. Its hottest months are July and August when temperatures reach 30 degrees, and its coldest month is January – when the average is 13 degrees.
- Sant Jordi Day – the patron saint of Catalonia, Sant Jordi is celebrated on the 23rd April.
- BCN Beer Festival – held in March every year, this is Barcelona’s answer to Oktoberfest!
- Primavera Sound – this music festival takes place in early summer and has all sorts of genres.
- Sonar – this creative festival takes place in June and hosts some of Barcelona’s best electronic music, as well as showcasing artwork.
Barcelona Packing List
- Layers like a cardigan for shaded areas and indoors
- A waterproof coat like this reliable foldaway by Marmot
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Refillable water bottle – you can drink the water in Barcelona
- Tote bags for Christmas shopping
- Anker battery packs for phones
- Hydration tablets for sangria hangovers
- Travel Insurance
Overtourism in Barcelona
Consider the following.
- Visit during low season, avoid June through to September
- December is a great time, visit the Christmas markets while enjoying the warm days
- Avoid cruises, the port is said to be one of the most polluted in Europe
- Book a room in a hotel and not Airbnb*
- Stay longer than a day, you’re already looking at three!
* We love self-contained apartments and have used them all around the world but in Barcelona, there is a particular problem with ‘buy to rent’ which forces locals out of their homes and communities.
Planning a trip to Barcelona?
Bookmark this guide by pinning the below image to your Barcelona board
Any questions? Just ask below.
As you can tell from the above itinerary, the question – what to see in Barcelona in 3 days is an easy one to answer! From outstanding architecture to a variety of different tours as well as unique days trips from the city, Barcelona is a well-loved city trip for obvious reasons. I hope that you have enjoyed this itinerary.
» Read next: things to do in Granada, Spain