It’s difficult not to fall in love with Barcelona. It has vibrant scenes in every barrio–a mix of youth culture and Catalan traditions unlike anywhere else in the world. And while it takes time to learn your way around, you’ll find that you can hit a lot of the major spots pretty quickly. We’ve put together this tight itinerary for those in town for a few days who want to make the most of their stay. Here’s how to fall in love with Barcelona in 3 days:
Day One: Sagrada Familia to El Born
Start your day with a leisurely coffee at Cafés el Magnífico (Carrer de l’Argenteria, 64, 08003 Barcelona). If you’re looking for a more substantial breakfast-brunch, head over to the barrio of Poble Nou (Metro Line 4) to Can Dende. You’ll need to get there early, as this tiny bistro only has a few tables and fills up quickly.
After breakfast, make your way to the barrio of Eixample to see the world’s most famous basilica, the La Sagrada Familia . No trip to Barcelona is complete without a visit to Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece. Under construction since 1882, it will be the world’s tallest church when it is finally completed. What became Gaudí’s magnum opus – he worked on it up until his death in 1926 – is not without its controversy. The basilica, which looms above the city skyline, has been criticized for being both a money-making tourist trap, as well as an eyesore. Love it or hate it, the sheer grandiosity of the architecture and design will stay with you long after you leave.
Later, spend your evening exploring the streets of El Born, a small central barrio in Barcelona. I love El Born because it has the beautiful European old-town vibe, with less claustrophobic streets than its neighbor, Barri Gòtic. Head down Passeig Del Born in the evening for an array of cava, cocktail bars, and places to eat tapas and watch the world go by.
Day Two: Morning cycle tour from Poble Nou to Parc de la Ciutadella, evening hike up to The Bunkers
Barcelona is a wonderfully walkable city, as well as being easy to explore by bike. I always find the best way to get to know a city is to either run through it or cycle. Rent bikes and cycle your way along the beach front, circle round into Poble Nou, and back up to Gràcia. Stop off midway in Ciutadella Park (near the Arc de Triomf ) for a break and to enjoy one of Barcelona’s most beautiful parks. The park is brimming with life: musicians, trapeze artists, runners, and salsa dancers mingle together, enjoying the carefree ambience and allowing time to trickle slowly by. Barcelona’s essence is tangible here; savor and embrace it.
Beyond its green spaces within the city, Barcelona has awesome has the Mediterranean on one side, mountains on the other, and an array of unspoiled coastal towns a short train ride away. For the evening, you can enjoy the best 360 views over Barcelona by taking a short mountainside hike up to Alfons X (Metro to Alfons X). Grab a few beers and some ham and cheese to enjoy while you’re at the top, where you’ll watch the sun set across the rooftops of Barcelona and the lights coming on across the city.
Day Three: Palau de la Música Catalana, Passeig De Gràcia, rooftop bar / party session
Relish a slow start on your third day in the city with a coffee and croissant from one of the many traditional Catalan bakeries found in almost every other street. When you’re ready, head over to the El Born/Arc De Triomf area to the Palau de la Música Catalana. This example of traditional modernist Catalan style is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the most beautiful buildings in Barcelona. Once you’re inside, you’ll experience surreal kaleidoscopic lighting from all of the stained glass in the auditorium.
For another fix of architecture, go to Gaudí’s Casa Batlló on Passeig De Gràcia. The emblematic building is like something out of a Disney film, with bold colors, curved edges, and a myriad of different shaped windows. During summer months, you can pay to visit the rooftop at night and listen to live music. While you are on Passeig De Gràcia, spend your afternoon enjoying one of Barcelona’s most famous shopping streets, as well as some of the cities most striking buildings (Casa Milà and Cases Rocamora can both be found on the avenue).
When you’ve exhausted your bank card and your feet, head back over to the Port area and spend your early evening on a rooftop bar right in the heart of Barcelona. 1881 per SAGARDI overlooks Barceloneta to the left and the Barri Gòtic and El Born to the right, with views of Montjuïc and Plaça Espanya in the distance. This bar is the perfect spot to watch the sunset as you enjoy a bottle of cava. Since Barcelona nightlife doesn’t really begin until well after midnight, you can spend the best part of the evening here as your warm-up. Afterwards, head to one of Barcelona’s music venues or clubs depending on what you’re into. Razzmatazz and Apolo often have famous bands or DJs playing at the weekend. If that’s not your scene, head into Barri Gòtic to The Harlem Jazz Club for a more intimate gig and enjoy your final evening in this captivating city.