Barcelona is one of Spain’s most popular tourist cities, and for a good reason. Between the delicious tapas, gorgeous scenery, and stunning architecture, this eclectic city draws people from all over the world. If you are looking to spend a weekend or even a few days in Barcelona, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to discover the perfect 3 day Barcelona itinerary.
This post is structured for someone who is visiting Barcelona for the first time; however, even if this isn’t your first visit, you may read about some things that you never knew existed! If this is your first visit, I have included all of my travel tips and must-do activities, plus a few of my favorite things I stumbled across along the way. Ready to check Barcelona’s top attractions off your bucket list? Keep scrolling…
Intro to Barcelona
Antoni Gaudi: The Barcelona Architect
You will see me refer to Antoni Gaudí multiple times throughout this post. He is an architect who designed many of Barcelona’s most famous buildings. Quite frankly, his creativity and artistic ability is unmatched. He is famous for incorporating nature, religion, and reason into many of his designs.
Barcelona Food to Try
Although Spain is known for a variety of foods, the most famous are tapas and cava. Tapas are small plates of various types of food that are meant to be shared, and cava is white wine/champagne hybrid.
- For a list of specific recommendations in the Gothic Quarter, check out my other blog post: Must-Try Restaurants in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter
Some (Personal) Barcelona Nostalgia:
If you have read my About Me section, you know that Barcelona was the first trip I took completely solo. Little did I know back then how my first solo trip would change my life. It was the catalyst to me becoming a travel blogger and why Gina on a Plane exists.
Barcelona is the place that made me a brave traveler and the place that keeps calling me back. Every time I visit, I feel like I’m home.
Website Disclaimer: I most recently visited Barcelona in September 2023. Although everything is accurate as of the publication of this post, keep in mind that prices, attractions, and other things may change with time.
Barcelona 3 Day Itinerary: Jump to Section
Day 1: Explore Eixample! Passeig de Gràcia, Plaça de Catalunya, and Casa Batlló
Day 2: Las Ramblas, El Born, and the Gothic Quarter
Day 3: Park Güell, La Sagrada Familia, and Mount Tibidabo
Free Time Suggestions
Where to Stay in Barcelona
How to Get Around Barcelona
Shop My Europe Travel Essentials
Barcelona: The Perfect 3 Day Itinerary
Day 1: Explore Eixample! – Passeig de Gràcia, Plaça de Catalunya, Casa Batlló
Eixample (pronounced “ayy-sham-pleh”) is one of the most popular Barcelona neighborhoods and is home to many of Gaudi’s masterpieces. It is absolutely a must-explore part of the city.
One of the things I immediately noticed about Barcelona was how clean it was (well…except for the Gothic District. But we’ll get there). There is some graffiti and scaffolding, but considering the amount of tourists, I was very impressed with how nice this part of the city looked.
1. Explore Passeig de Gràcia
Passeig de Gràcia is one of the main streets of Eixample and a beautiful area to walk through. It is home to a lot of shopping (including high-end shopping), restaurants, bars, and 2 of Antoni Gaudí’s most famous buildings!
I mentioned earlier how Barcelona was rather clean for a city its size, and you can definitely see that here in Eixample. Take some time to go down the side streets and explore the boutiques, cafes, and gelato shops,
Oh – and you can’t forget to stop and marvel at the architecture. Spanish architecture is stunning, and Barcelona is home to some of the most artistically creative architecture I’ve ever seen.
This probably sounds cliché, and perhaps a bit dramatic, but I have always felt irrevocably happy when I walk through this part of Barcelona. Maybe it’s luck, but every time I have been there, the sun has been shining, people have been friendly, and I smell tapas around every corner. Oh, and I usually buy something. That probably has something to do with it too. /shrug
2. Plaça de Catalunya
If you head southeast down Passeig de Gràcia, you will eventually stumble upon Plaça de Catalunya, a large square that is regarded by many as the City Center. It connects the “old town” (Ciutat Vella, better known as the Gothic Quarter) with Eixample, the “new” part of the city. It is home to fountains and sculptures, and is a venue for various festivals and performances throughout the year.
- Fun Fact: Plaça de Catalunya is actually the starting point for both Passeig de Gràcia and Las Ramblas. To simplify this, remember that Passeig de Gràcia is the street that runs through Eixample, the new part of the city, and Las Ramblas is the street that runs through part of the Gothic Quarter, or “old town.” Thus, this is how Plaça de Catalunya connects both parts of Barcelona!
3. Casa Batlló, Casa Amatller, & Casa Mila
As you explore Barcelona, you will no doubt be in awe over the architecture. I feel like all Spanish architecture is gorgeous, but there are certain buildings that stand out due to the exceptional creativity that was put into their design. Casa Batlló, Casa Mila, and Casa Amatller are 3 of those buildings (along with La Sagrada Familia, but we’ll get to that on Day 3!)
Must Do: Tour Casa Batlló
Casa Batlló is a building in Eixample designed by Antoni Gaudí and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is considered one of his greatest masterpieces. Out of the 3 buildings listed here, this is the one I recommend that you must tour.
- When booking your tour, you can book one of the experiences through Get Your Guide below, unless you want to do the Magic Nights option, which is linked further down:
I love when everything about a building (or a piece of art, or…anything, really) is designed to tell a story or have a deeper meaning. Gaudí incorporated meaning into literally everything he did, which is part of why his buildings have become so legendary.
Gaudí used nature as an inspiration to almost all of his designs, and Casa Batlló is no exception. When you walk through, you’ll notice the blue curved stained glass that resembles the ocean, the swirled designs on the ceiling that resembles a snail’s shell, and the tiles on the rooftop that resembles a dragon’s scales.
Casa Batlló – Magic nights option
If you want to enhance your experience, you can book the Magic Nights tour through Casa Batlló’s official website which includes a tour starting at 8pm and a concert on the rooftop at 9pm after. You also get a free glass of cava while you enjoy the concert! I did this my first time in Barcelona and absolutely loved it.
Get Some Chocolate at Casa Amatller
Casa Amatller – once the home of chocolatier Antoni Amatller – is the only one of these 3 buildings NOT designed by Gaudí. The main thing I would suggest you do here is visit Faborit, the cafe on the first floor.
They serve coffee and tea, salads and smoothies, and of course, chocolate, which is what I recommend you try. Their mancerina de chocolate – bread served with hot melted chocolate – is a fan favorite!
Optional: Tour Casa Mila
Casa Mila (aka La Pedrera) is the other building designed by Gaudí on the main street of Passeig de Gràcia. Also a UNESCO World Heritage site, this building is beautiful (but differently so) from Casa Batlló. Casa Mila also serves as a museum to some of Gaudí’s drawings and work.
You could absolutely tour this building as well, but from what I’ve read, Casa Batlló is a better value for your money, and is the more popular of the two. I have never toured Casa Mila, so I can’t give my personal input, but I did love going through Casa Batlló!
If you do decide you want to tour Casa Mila, check out these options from Get Your Guide below:
Day 2: Las Ramblas, El Born, and The Gothic Quarter
I am obsessed with the Gothic Quarter – or El Gòtic, as they call it in Spain. The Slytherin in me loves the dark accents of the architecture, the narrow alleyways with rustic string lights, and the eerie-yet-beautiful aesthetic. I am fascinated by things that have dualities, hence why I love the angels-and-demons vibes that you get all over this part of the city.
After spending a day in Eixample, you’ll notice that the Gothic Quarter is much…grungier – but in the most beautiful way. This part of the city is much older and therefore dirtier, but I promise you, it only adds to its charm.
Maybe I’m biased, but I think you could spend a whole day here. My first time in Barcelona, I came back here my final evening before I left and I was still finding alleyways and buildings I hadn’t seen yet.
1. Walk Down Las Ramblas
Las Ramblas (or, La Rambla – it is known as both) – is one of the busiest and most tourist-heavy streets in Barcelona. This 0.8 mile stretch contains shops, restaurants, and vendors all along the street, and serves at the connecting point between Plaça de Catalunya and the city’s old port. It is located right beside the Gothic Quarter and therefore, makes it easy to walk down while exploring this part of the city.
Although there are a lot of restaurants and vendors here, my recommendation would be to avoid this area in terms of getting food and shopping. I have never eaten here, but I have had locals tell me the food isn’t as good in this part of the city, not to mention it is more expensive.
As far as shopping, there are plenty of shops – souvenir, boutique, and more – in El Born and the Gothic Quarter, so you don’t need to spend your money on vendors that may provide you with lesser-quality souvenirs.
- Pro Tip: Las Ramblas has been nicknamed “The Pickpocketing Capital of Europe” due to the abundance of people – tourists and locals alike – on this street. In order to come prepared, check out my other post: “The Best Ways to Avoid Pickpocketing in Barcelona.”
Having said all that, don’t let it deter you from walking through here. This street and area is beautifully lined with trees, and since it is buzzing with people, it gives off a happy, vibrant energy. I have also encountered street performers and Spanish guitar players while exploring this area!
Mercado de La Boqueria (aka Mercat St Josep La boqueria) on Las Ramblas
Remember how I just said “don’t eat here?” The Mercado de la Boqueria is the exception to the rule. “Mercados” are Spanish food markets that have everything you could possibly imagine: meat, cheese, seafood, wine, dessert, sandwiches, the list goes on and on.
If nothing else, while visiting Las Ramblas, just walk through here and be amazed…although you’d be hard-pressed not to get at least one thing to eat. It’s been called the “best market in the world,” and maybe I’m biased, but I agree.
2. Things To See & Do in The Gothic Quarter
VIsit the Barcelona Cathedral
When you are getting ready to go to The Gothic District, I would recommend putting the Barcelona Cathedral into Google maps as your destination point. This will ensure that you are taken right to the heart of this part of the city.
The Barcelona Cathedral is by far my favorite church in Gothic District. It is dedicated to Saint Eulalia, who’s tomb actually lies beneath the main alter in the church. Currently, is a stunning representation of Catalan history and serves as the seat for the Archbishop of Barcelona. The outside of it is absolutely gorgeous and would make a phenomenal Instagram photo spot. You can also go inside and tour the cathedral if you wish.
- Pro Tip: If you want to go inside the church but don’t want a full-blown tour, you are able to attend mass here! I did this the last time I was in Barcelona and, even though the mass was in Catalan and I couldn’t understand it, it was such a cool experience.
Get A Drink on Top of Hotel Colón barcelona
Hotel Colón Barcelona is located directly across from the Gothic Cathedral and has a rooftop bar with spectacular views of the city. It is an amazing place to grab a drink and gaze at the city from down below. They do NOT take reservations and there is usually a wait, but the views are worth it!
- Pro Tip: I have stayed in this hotel before and loved it. The location and service were both incredible.
- (Another) Pro Tip: The rooftop bar in Hotel Colón opens at noon, but if you are staying here, you can go up starting at 11:00am.
gaze at El pont del bisbe
El Pont del Bisbe (translation: The Bishop’s Bridge) is a bridge on Carrer de Bisbe, right near the Gothic Cathedral. It is one of the most photographed parts of the Gothic Quarter, partially due to its beauty, but also partially due to the (creepy) legend that it carries with it.
If you walk underneath El Pont del Bisbe and look up, you will see a skull pierced by a dagger underneath the bridge. Legend has it that whoever walks underneath the bridge and gazes at the dagger will be cursed with bad luck!
Of course, now you can’t not look at it, but you also don’t want bad luck, right? Good news: you can (literally) reverse your bad luck by walking backwards underneath the bridge while looking up at the skull and making a wish. Sure, you may get some odd looks, but who’s the real winner here? You, withOUT bad luck, obviously.
Explore Plaça Reial
Plaça Reial (translation: “Royal Plaza”) is a lively square in the heart of the Gothic Quarter surrounded by palm trees, giving it somewhat of a “tropical” feel. If you ask me, the palm trees seem kind of random in this part of the city, but I digress. It has a fountain in the center with two lampposts that were designed by (who else?) Antoni Gaudi, and in fact, serve as his first commissionable work for the city!
This area has also become a huge draw for nightlife in Barcelona. Events, concerts, and festivals are often held here, and there are a few nightclubs in the square as well. Plaça Reial is home to numerous bars and restaurants, but I have been told that food elsewhere in the Gothic District is better. Similar to Las Ramblas, this is due to it being a large tourist-draw, which can make for higher food and drink prices.
Having said that, I did stop and get a coffee in Plaça Reial with a lovely Spanish man that I met, and I can’t say I was disappointed. Maybe it was the company? *innocent shrug*
3. Things to See & Do in El Born
When exploring the Gothic Quarter, you may wander into El Born without initially realizing it. Both areas look very similar, and there is no real “barrier” to indicate where one starts and the other begins.
The easiest way I have found to know that I am in El Born is to walk to the Jaume 1 metro station, cross the street, and walk down Carrer de la Princesa. Carrer de la Princesa is a busy street, but once you’re here, you can dart off into one of the alleyways and start exploring. Here, you will immediately notice that it is somewhat calmer – that is, still lively but less touristy.
- Pro Tip: If rustic-grunge alleyways with string lights that come alive at night are your vibe, I found more of them last time in El Born than I did in the main Gothic Quarter.
tour the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar
Santa Maria del Mar is another impressive church in the Gothic District (although from the outside, not as impressive as the Barcelona Cathedral IMO). Still, it is definitely worth seeing. You can also go inside and tour this church as well, which I would recommend. Its incredibly high dome shaped ceiling, tall pillars, stained glass windows, and Gothic-style architecture is truly a work of art.
You may be wondering, what’s the difference between a cathedral and a basilica?
- A cathedral is simply the home church for a bishop or an archbishop in a certain Catholic diocese (district).
- A church is designated as a basilica by the Pope if it carries important historical, spiritual, and/or architectural significance. To be named a basilica is an huge honor, as it is the highest designation that a Catholic church can receive.
Immerse Yourself in the Streets and Alleys
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll understand when I say, “it’s giving Diagon Alley.” Except, you know, make it Spanish.
I’ve touched on the alleyways here already, and so you don’t need me to go on another tangent of how much I love them. I find that there is no real difference in the alleyways in El Born vs. the Gothic Quarter, except that I stumbled upon more with artsy string lights while I was in El Born.
In many of the alleyways, you will find graffiti, hanging plants, and laundry draped from the balconies. Gahh…the fking CHARACTER here!!!! okayiswearimdone….
Have a Spa Day at aire ancient baths
If you are a spa person, I’m going to tell you that AIRE Ancient Baths in El Born is a must-do. AIRE has various locations around the world, but I have been told their Barcelona location is more affordable than some of the others.
You are able to choose from a variety of massage treatments, and/or spend your time in the different baths. They have hot and cold pools, along with a salt pool you can float in, and a sauna. The entire spa is gorgeous and the staff is incredibly kind. Oh – and you can also get cava and chocolate truffles. What’s not to love?
Get a Drink at Paradiso
Voted the best bar in the world in 2022, Paradiso is a must-do if you like cocktails. Located behind the unsuspecting fridge door of a pastrami shop, this hidden speakeasy has taken the world by storm with its creative cocktail presentation and energetic bartenders. Seriously, the bartenders make sure you have the time of your life from the second you walk in the door.
I shamelessly loved this place so much I went back twice. Their menu changes yearly, but my favorite drinks for 2023 were the Great Gatsby and the Evolution Negroni (and considering I’m a tequila girl, this is saying something!).
- Pro Tip: You can’t just walk into Paradiso, and they don’t take reservations by phone. To know how to enter, check out my other blog post: How to Enter The Best Cocktail Bar in Barcelona.
Day 3: Park Güell, La Sagrada Familia, and Mount Tibidabo
1. Walk Through Park Güell
Park Güell is another Gaudí masterpiece known for its iconic rainbow serpentine bench that curves gracefully around the main terrace, offering both a cozy resting spot and beautiful views of the city below. The greenery of the trees and plants allows the colorful architecture to seamlessly merge with the natural environment.
A lot of travel blogs say to 100% go to Park Güell. IMO, I thought Park Güell was beautiful but did not consider it a “must do.” However, this could possibly be because I got there in the afternoon and it was crowded. For this itinerary, I listed Park Güell as the first thing for your 3rd day because I think going early in the morning would give you a much better experience. Plus, you’d be able to get some amazing photos! For tickets, check out the options from Get Your Guide below:
2. Visit La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia is a church designed by (you guessed it!) Antoni Gaudi, and is an absolute must-do when going to Barcelona. It is a true work of art, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Spain’s most iconic building. It is arguably the most unique-looking church you will ever visit in your lifetime. At the time of this post, it is still being built, and looks to be finished by ~2026.
- Fun Fact: When La Sagrada Familia is finished, it will be the tallest church in the world!
From the outside, La Sagrada Familia is….somewhat drab(?) in terms of color. It’s also not your typical Gothic, baroque, or Romanesque-style architecture that you typically see in European churches. Instead, it’s…Gaudi being Gaudi. Still, a lot of people have a moment of “WTF?!” when they first see La Sagrada Familia, especially if they haven’t learned about its history.
BUT…then you go inside. The colors. THE COLORS!!! I’ll never forget the moment I stepped inside this church for the first time. The stained glass windows illuminate the entire church, making it a stark contrast to the neutral tone of the building’s exterior.
From the Get Your Guide links below, you can purchase a ticket to enter La Sagrada Familia with an audio guide, or you can do a guided tour. Learning about the hidden meanings Gaudí put into the construction and elements of this church is fascinating!
You can also purchase a ticket from the official website that comes with tower entry that allows you to go up inside one of the towers, either on the Passion Facade or the Nativity Facade.
- Pro Tip: I went in the tower on the Nativity Facade my second time in Barcelona. I thought it was cool to go inside the tower, but if you’re looking to save money, I would not consider it a must-do.
- (Another) Pro Tip: If you do decide to go in one of the towers, most people choose the Nativity Tower because you get views of the city from this side of the church. The Passion Tower gives you views of the Mediterranean Sea.
3. Take in the Views from Mount Tibidabo
- Pro Tip: Mount Tibidabo is a bit out of the way from the rest of the attractions listed in this post, so I saved it for your last day after La Sagrada Familia to give you plenty of time.
- (Another) Pro Tip: The best way to get here is to either take the T2A “Tibibus” from Plaça Catalunya, or to Uber. I don’t know why, but the bus system in foreign countries gives me anxiety, so I always Uber!
- If you want to take the bus, it stops at Caja Madrid Bank in Plaça de Catalunya square
Mount Tibidabo is a hill overlooking the entire city of Barcelona. On top of it sits an amusement park, along with a church called the Sagrat Cor, aka The Sacred Heart of Jesus. IMO, you get much better city views from here than you do from the Nativity Tower in La Sagrada Familia.
The Tibidabo Amusement Park is small and would be something fun if you are traveling with kids. For ticket and ride information, you can visit their official website here. I mainly went here to see the Sagrat Cor and check out the views from atop Mt. Tibidabo.
The Sagrat Cor is a gorgeous church with a massive statue of Jesus on the top. You are able to see it sitting on the mountain as you walk through some of the streets in Eixample. I loved walking through this church and looking at the views of the city from this high up.
Free Time Suggestions
Montjuïc literally translates to “Jewish mountain” in Catalan and is an area rich in history. You are able to see some incredible sites here including The Palau Nacional, a stunning palace that is home of the National Museum of Catalan Art. You can also get panoramic views of the city by taking a cable car to the top of Montjuïc Castle.
If you’re here in the evening, check out the Magic Fountain, located at the head of Avinguda Maria Cristina. After dark, the Barcelona Magic Fountain comes to life with a spectacular dancing fountain show with music, water acrobatics, and lights. The Magic Fountain show lasts about 20 minutes and begin at 30 minute intervals. **Update** – As of July 2023, the Magic Fountain is closed due to the drought in Barcelona.
- Pro Tip: If you are coming from Eixample near Casa Battló, the best way to get to Montjuïc is to Uber. Getting there via car will take you 15 minutes, whereas the subway will take you 45 minutes.
Check Out a Rooftop Bar
A lot of hotels in Spain have fun rooftop bars, and you can even Google different options nearby wherever you are. I have so much fun relaxing on a rooftop with a glass of wine or cava!
- Check out the rooftop of Hotel Colon Barcelona for views of the Gothic Cathedral
- Check out the rooftop of Bar-Terraza Ayre Rosselló if you want views of La Sagrada Familia
Go to the Beach
Barceloneta Beach is the closest beach to the city center and is surrounded by cute bars, restaurants, and cafes. However, I should probably tell you that parts of it are a nude beach, and you can’t always tell where those parts end and begin. I suppose there are worse things in the world though, like having tan lines….
Take a Walking Tour or Hop On/Hop Off Bus Tour
Get Your Guide offers a walking tour of Barcelona that allows you to sample some tapas and wine in the Old City while learning about the city’s (fascinating) history!
If you want to see even more of the city, you can book a hop on/hop off bus tour to quickly get to different places. This tour comes with a complimentary map, and you will have access to 2 different routes.
Explore (More) of the Gothic Quarter
IMO, one day is not enough to spend in the Gothic Quarter. If you had free time, you could absolutely come back to this area of town and walk around. There is such a variety of restaurants, bars, and people here that it isn’t hard to be entertained.
Take a Day Trip
I know, you only have 3 days, but maaaybe you fancy seeing even more of Spain? If so, a day trip from Barcelona to Montserrat or Costa Brava through Get Your Guide may be the perfect idea! Get Your Guide also has half day trips to Montserrat if you don’t want to spend a whole day.
Where to Stay in Barcelona
When it comes to choosing a neighborhood, the 2 that I recommend the most are Eixample and El Born/El Gòtic (the Gothic District), largely due to the location and ease of getting around.
Hotels in Eixample
In Eixample, I have stayed in YEAH Hostel Barcelona (2 stars), Ona Hotels Mosiac (3 stars) and Hotel Claris (5 stars). Obviously, Hotel Claris was my favorite, but I stayed there during COVID and therefore got a bomb deal. (One perk of a pandemic is staying in 5 star establishments without paying 5 star prices!)
Overall though, I would recommend all 3 places. They were all clean and all had great service. My only complaint was that Ona Hotels Mosiac got a little loud at night because it was on a busy street. Usually though, I was so exhausted from my day that it didn’t take me long to fall asleep despite the noise.
Hotels in the Gothic Quarter
In the Gothic Quarter, I have stayed in Hotel Colón Barcelona (4 stars) and would absolutely recommend it for the location, rooftop, and service. My room had a balcony overlooking the city opposite from the Cathedral, but it was giving “Maria Maria” vibes and I was down.
My room also had a coffee machine complete with different espresso assortments and milk. I don’t know about you, but any time a hotel gives me a coffee machine, it instantly elevates my entire experience. If you work for a hotel chain and are reading this, take notes. Caffeinated guests = happy guests.
How to Get Around Barcelona
The best ways to get around Barcelona are to either walk or take the metro. Transportation-wise, this city makes it so easy to get around and is another reason why it is my favorite. The main parts of Barcelona are incredibly walkable, and the metro is very easy to figure out, which I love.
You are able to get a metro card at any of the metro stations and use it for a set number of days (up to 5). If you’re an expat or staying longer, you can buy a monthly card starting at only €20.
Barcelona: The Summary
If Barcelona was a person, she would be one of the most multifaceted people you know. A little bit gothic, a little bit sparkly, and a whole lot of fun. Whether you’re going to explore the famous buildings, walk through the Gothic Quarter, eat your weight in tapas, or hit the beach, you are sure to find happiness in this Spanish city.