Usually, when visiting a city, I would say ‘you only need a few days to do everything’. When it comes to planning a trip to Barcelona, it’s a totally different ball game.
I have now been to Barcelona over a handful of times over the years; some for day trips when I worked on a cruise ship and recently for 4 days consecutively. Despite how many times I have now been, I still need to go back to see everything.
If you want to get everything done and dusted in one swift trip to Barcelona then here are my tips for how to make the most of your trip to Barcelona without missing out on anything truly special.
The main places to hit when planning a trip to Barcelona…
Before we begin, there are a lot of popular tourist attractions to hit in Barcelona so let’s list them. I have still not seen all of these things because whenever I have visited I have had a short amount of time there, hence having to plan my activities out, so you would do well to do the same!
If you want to make the most of Barcelona, my personal recommendation of places to hit are: La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, Casa Milà, La Rambla, The Gothic Quarter, climb Montjuïc, walk up to the outside of Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (it is stunning and the views from the top are awesome), The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, and Ciutadella Park.
Barcelona is one of those cities that has SO MUCH going on that it would be hard to list you off everything great to do there. But these are the main tourist attractions that I would recommend.
Book your tickets ahead of time!
The works of Gaudi are obviously a massive tourist attraction of Barcelona and it’s for good reason; they are amazing! You would be missing a serious cultural treat to go and not witness these amazing places.
But don’t leave it until you get there to book your tickets to visit, especially if you’re only there for a few days. La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell and Casa Milà are extremely popular and only allow a certain amount of ticket holders in at hourly slots throughout the day. So as you can imagine, they book up in advance for the peaks days and times (which in the holiday season is pretty much every day).
I was unable to visit either Park Güell or Casa Milà because I couldn’t get tickets for the days that I was in Barcelona. I was very lucky to get one of the last tickets to La Sagrada Familia but I booked days in advance and went at an early time in the day.
To Tour Or Not To Tour?
Don’t bother booking a tour of La Sagrada Familia, just get one of the headset tours with your tickets. I would recommend this for a lot of historical tours in a lot of cities I’ve been to, to be honest. You can go at your own pace, skip past the parts that you find less interesting, and it is significantly cheaper than paying for a tour guide.
If anybody figures out how to hire the bikes from the streets of Barcelona, then please let me know because we wasted at least a couple of hours of one of our days just trying to rent bikes to get around on. Eventually, we gave up and walked (but Barcelona is very big!).
If you fancy renting bikes, go to a shop to rent as it will be much quicker. However, a lot of the shops charge you a lot of money as a deposit for damages to the bike/ if it goes missing so take this into consideration.
You know when you go somewhere and you can’t stop thinking about eating a particular food again? Well, that is the case for me with the goats cheese stuffed peppers from La Alcoba Azul in the Gothic Quarter. It is a very small medieval-style bar in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona and they serve delicious tapas. The place was recommended to me by a couple of people and I even bumped into someone I went to drama school with there, but it wasn’t overly busy. This is definitely a place you have to try out before everyone cottons onto it!
If you’re looking for somewhere to have really delicious, high-quality tapas then eat at Gourmet Tapas by Sensi. It does get full very quickly in advance but if you’re lucky you can grab a table on the night if you happen to arrive at the right time. The food is delightful and the service is brilliant. It was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time.
There is a really romantic restaurant on the way up Montjuïc with incredible views looking out over the city. It is the perfect place for watching the sunset over Barcelona with a drink in hand. But for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of it and I can’t find it online (argggghhh!). It was an Italian restaurant and it was predominately pink decor. If you know the name of this restaurant, please let me know!
This is the main thing that I have not managed to do in all the times that I have visited Barcelona. Granted I was hungover on my recent trip on the last day when I was meant to be hitting up the beach, so that spoilt the plan… but factor this is in when planning your trip to Barcelona. You probably will be hungover for a lot of your trip if you’re doing it right.
Climbing Montjuïc (the mountain in the middle of Barcelona) was a fun activity to do that was free. It took a couple of hours in total to walk across the city and climb the steps to the top of the mountain and from the top, the view is awesome.
I personally wouldn’t bother with paying for the cable car from the top of the mountain that propels you over the top of the city. The cable car doesn’t take you anywhere, you’re crammed into a tiny rickety car with loads of other people in hot, sticky Barcelona, and it’s quite expensive. It was over €20 per person!
We personally had a glorious view from the bar at the top of the mountain next to the cable car point. We drank wine and ate crisps at a table looking out over the city, which I much preferred to being scared for my life in a car mid-air above the city. The view from the bar was a lovely treat at the end of a long sweaty walk up the mountain.
Where To Stay
You may already have somewhere to stay in Barcelona, but we stayed at the Motel One Barcelona-Ciutadella and I would definitely recommend it; it was gorgeous.
Don’t be fooled by the ‘Motel’ name, the Motel is stunning! The room was beautiful, albeit on the small side, but I don’t need anything besides a comfy bed, a fridge and a nice bathroom in my hotel rooms. The motel itself is decorated beautifully, in a great location (across the road from the Parc de la Ciutadella), breakfast was additional but very nice on our last morning, and the staff are very helpful.
A massive plus is that there is a rooftop bar on the top of the Motel which is PERFECT! If you’re debating where to stay, I’d definitely recommend this place.
As a general rule for Barcelona, keep your wits about you and keep your valuables close by. We were warned by a lot of people, both local and tourists, who have been before to be wary of pickpockets so, as you would anywhere, be safe and hold onto your valuables when walking around the streets.
Barcelona is an amazing city and one of my favourites that I’ve visited. Like I’ve said several times, I’m already wanting to go back to see more of it and it was less than a year ago since I last went. If you’re planning a trip to Barcelona, be prepared for amazing views, great food and hot weather! But my main tip for making the most out of Barcelona: plan ahead so you don’t miss out!