• Leslie

Perfect 3 Days in Barcelona Itinerary (+ Day Trip Options!)

Updated: Aug 30


aerial cityscape of Barcelona
aerial cityscape of Barcelona


Planning a trip to Barcelona and wondering what to do and see? Here's my three day itinerary for visiting the venerable and vibrant Catalonian capital. In 3 days, this Barcelona itinerary takes you to all of Barcelona's must see sites and attractions, its world class museums, and vaunted landmarks.


Barcelona is rich in historic sites, with some of the world's most unique and surrealistic architecture. The city is bordered on one side by mountains and the other by miles of golden sand beaches.


In Barcelona, you can study the works of Picasso, Miro, and Dali. Or pose with Antoni Gaudi's fantastical Seussian architecture and fairytale houses.


Barcelona has an impressive diversity of neighborhoods. Architecturally and culturally, the city lends itself to endless discovery. And the tapas is to die for!



How To Spend 3 Perfect Days in Barcelona


If you've only got three days in Barcelona, this itinerary takes you to Barcelona's must see sites, historic landmarks, and unmissable destinations. I also give you more sightseeing options if you have extra time in Barcelona and ideas for easy day trips from Barcelona.


Here's an overview of what you'll see and do in this 3 day Barcelona itinerary:


  • Day 1: Gothic Quarter, Las Ramblas, La Boqueria, Barcelona Cathedral, Picasso Museum, Sagrada Familia, Bunkers del Carmel, El Born

  • Day 2: Casa Battlo, La Pedrera, Palau Guell, Park Guell, Raval

  • Day 3: Palau de la Musica, Casa Vicens, Montjuic

  • With More Time: Monserrat, Girona, Figueres, Cadaques



Barcelona Cathedral
Barcelona Cathedral


Day 1: Barcelona's Main Attractions


Day 1 Morning: Las Ramblas & the Gothic Quarter


On your first day in Barcelona, head to the Gothic Quarter. Grab some breakfast at Bar Lobo, 1 block from Las Ramblas. Then stroll down the maze-like Las Ramblas, Barcelona's most famous street. It's a one mile walk from the beautiful main square of Placa Catalunya to the old port.


Las Ramblas is a lovely (but very crowded) boulevard with a plethora of cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Don't forget to look up at the beautiful buildings. At Pia de l'Os, you'll walk across Joan Miro's circular mosaic.


READ: Complete Guide to Barcelona's Gothic Quarter



crowds at La Boqueria
crowds at La Boqueria


1. La Boqueria


About halfway down Las Ramblas is the legendary 19th century food market, La Boqueria. It's Barcelona's beating heart, evolving from a rough and tumble purveyor of goods to a bona fide foodie destination.


The market is well worth checking out, especially if you need fresh fruit juice or a smoothie. Inspect its myriad wine bodegas and take home a quaffable souvenir.



Bridge Carrer del Bisbe in the Gothic Quarter
Bridge Carrer del Bisbe in the Gothic Quarter


2. Barcelona Cathedral


The jewel of the Gothic quarter is the 14th century Barcelona Cathedral (shown above). The Gothic cathedral is a grand monument dating from the 13-15th centuries.


The cathedral's facade is stunning. Sit by the steps and absorb its grandiosity. You can visit the church for free from 8:00 am to 12:45 pm and 5:45 pm to 7:30 pm. Otherwise, entry is by donation.


Inside, the cathedral has 28 richly decorated chapels, an ornate finely carved choir, and a peaceful cloister with bubbling fountains. Behind the high altar is the Bishop's chair. You'll also find the crypt of Saint Eulalia, to whom the cathedral is dedicated.


The cloisters are the highlight. Arcaded walkways surround a central courtyard filled with tropical trees. A short elevator ride takes you to the top of the cathedral for stunning city views. For the best view of cathedral itself, take the elevator to the rooftop of the next door Hotel Colón.



the romantically-named Kiss mural near Barcelona Cathedral
the romantically-named Kiss mural near Barcelona Cathedral


3. Kiss Mural


Be sure to see the 26 foot long The World Begins With Every Kiss mural near the cathedral in Placa d'Isidre Nonell (shown above). Created by Catalan artist and photographer Joan Fontcubertat, the mural was unveiled in 2014. It commemorates the 300 year anniversary of the Catalan surrender in the Spanish War of Succession.


The photographer asked locals to send in photographs that expressed a moment of freedom. The photographs were placed on tiles and arranged in a mural.


From afar, the arrangement looks like a poignant (or perhaps erotic) kiss. Up close, you see a world in each image.



Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar
Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar



4. Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar


This beautiful basilica of St. Mary of the Sea is tucked away in the El Born neighborhood. It's one of the jewels of the historic center. With roots tracing back to Roman times, the church is one of the finest surviving examples of Catalan Gothic architecture.


On the exterior, it has three facades and two symmetrical towers. Because the area is rather claustrophobic, it's hard to get a full view. Inside, the church has a light and airy feel, with many stained glass windows.


The church is free for self-guided visits. If you spend a few euros for a guided tour, you'll have access to the church's amazing terraces, with breathtaking views.



the Picasso Museum
the Picasso Museum


5. Picasso Museum


Then, head to the Picasso Museum. Founded in 1963, the museum was launched with a donation of 574 works by Picasso’s secretary, Jaime Sabartes. In 1970, Picasso himself donated 800 more pieces. Picasso’s widow, Jacqueline Roque, also donated 41 ceramic pieces and the early Picasso painting Woman with Bonnet.


For Picasso, Barcelona was where it all began. At the museum, you can enjoy an extensive collection of Picasso's work, certainly the best collection in Spain.


There's over 3,000 pieces, mostly from Picasso's formative years in Barcelona. By experiencing his youthful works, you can better understand his later abstract pieces and how he became the greatest artist of the 20th century.


The setting of this museum is stunning. It's lodged in five adjoining medieval stone mansions in Barcelona's funky-chic El Born neighborhood, with a gorgeous terrace.


READ: Guide to the Picasso Museum in Paris



Gaudi-designed lampposts in the Placa Reial of the Gothic Quarter
Gaudi-designed lampposts in the Placa Reial of the Gothic Quarter


6. Placa Reial


The 19th century Place Reial is one of Barcelona's ancient beautifully designed squares. It has charming Neo-Classical pillars and archways, iron lampposts, and even palm trees.


In the center is the Fountain of Three Graces. The lampposts were Gaudi's first government sponsored project.


READ: Guide to Modernist Architecture in the Eixample Neighborhood



Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's defining master work
Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's defining master work


Day 1 Afternoon: Sagrada Familia For a late lunch, head to Tapas 24, a popular spot for inventive tapas. Then, it's time to visit Gaudi's wildy creative opus vertigo-inspiring masterpiece, Sagrada Familia. Sagrada Familia is the undisputed jewel of Barcelona. Despite being under continuous construction, Sagrada Familia is a place of superlatives both inside and out.


After 130 years of construction, Sagrada Familia is still unfinished. It's the world's longest running architectural project. Tourists don't care. They flock in droves to see one of the most visited landmarks in Spain.


Entry is timed, and tickets sell out quickly. You will definitely want to buy your ticket online in advance. Try to reserve a slot for the late afternoon when the sun flows in through the stained glass windows.


READ: Complete Guide to Sagrada Familia



Nativity Facade of Sagrada Familia
Nativity Facade of Sagrada Familia


The exterior of the basilica is audacious and "gaudy" in appearance, a mountain almost. Gaudi laid on the religion thick. It's dramatically designed, with three jarringly different facades, each themed for three chapters in Christ's life.


Some would call the Sagrada Familia strange looking. Salvador Dali called it a "terrifying and edible beauty.”


READ: The Gaudi Trail in Barcelona


But the interior is entirely sublime. Gaudi intended it to be a retreat into nature. And, indeed, you could be standing in a majestic star-lit white forest. It's an astonishing space, an alternative reality full of detail. You'll gasp when you enter.


Be prepared to crane your neck skyward at the starry ceiling. For a long time. The ceiling and stained glass are aboslutely mesmerizing. You'll can't help but be slack jawed.


The interior is effectively a spiritual sculpture, reinvented as architecture. The nave has shimmering gold tiles on the floor. It's lined with 36 pale columns in different heights and widths. The columns form a forest, branching out like trees.



nave of Sagrada Familia
tree columns in the nave

interior nave of Sagrada Familia


Day 1 Evening: Bunkers del Carmel & El Born

At sunset, head to Bunkers del Carmel. Bunkers was formerly an anti-aircraft base set up during the Spanish Civil War. When it was abandoned, Barcleonians adopted it as a hangout space and lookout terrace. Bunkers used to be a secret spot, but these days it gets pretty crowded at sunset.


There are a few ways to get to the Bunkers. You can hike up from the El Carmel, Hospital de Sant Pau, or Alfons X metro stops. You can take bus #24 from Passeig de Gracia. Alternatively, hop in a taxi.

For dinner, head to the El Born neighborhood. It's a fun neighborhood with shops, restaurants, and bars.


Try the excellent tapas bar, El Xampanyet, or Cal Pep. Be sure to stroll by the Church of Santa Maria del Mar, an ancient church that has been around in some form or another since the 10th century.



view from Bunkers del Carmel
view from Bunkers del Carmel

the mosaicked facade of Casa Battlo
the mosaicked facade of Casa Battlo

Day 2: Barcelona's Iconic Gaudi Architecture


Day 2 Morning: Gaudi Sites 1. Casa Batllo


After fueling up, head to Passeig de Gracia in the Eixample district. It's one of Barcelon's toniest neighborhoods. This area has some of Barcelona's most iconic architecture, including UNESCO-listed structures created by Antoni Gaudi. Casa Batllo is one of the world's most unique buildings. It's Antoni Gaudi at his hallucinatory, dreamlike best.


Casa Batllo is divine and operatic. Gaudi conjured a building in the image of a dragon. The strange bone-like facade commands your attention. It's studded with skull mask balconies and capped by a sinuously scaled roof.





Casa Batllo's mosaicked facade is a kaleidoscope of blue, mauve, and green tiles. Though it's a bit hard to see, the facade's actually uneven and slightly wavy, like a calm sea. Its marine-like surface doubles as a dragon's skin.


Casa Batllo's interior is filled with beautiful tiles, curved wood, and stained glass -- all in organic forms and curvy shapes. The motif is an undersea grotto lit by skylights shaped like tortoise shells. The ceiling droops and swerves poetically.

The rooftop adds to the surrealistic feel of Casa Batllo. It's deliberately scaly, like the back of a dragon or dinosaur with iridescent skin and visible raised spines. The riotously colored Trencadis tiles represent the blood of its victims. The rooftop spire represents the sword of St. George being plunged into the dragon.


READ: Complete Guide to Casa Batllo



the sinuous facade of Gaudi's La Pedrera
the sinuous facade of Gaudi's La Pedrera


2. La Pedrera

La Pedrera, or Casa Mila, is another Gaudi master work in this area. It's a building that's pure art inside and out. In terms of ingenuity, architectural design, and style, it was even more revolutionary than Casa Batllo. The sinuous rough hewn building was nicknamed "The Quarry" because of its jagged, rocky facade and weird undulating shape.

But La Pedrera is considered one of the crown jewels of the Art Nouveau movement. It's been used in 15 movies. In classic Gaudi fashion, La Pedrera was heavily influenced by nature -- by air, sea, and water. The building ripples and waves like a burbling ocean.


As soon as you enter the building, it will intrigue you. From the ground floor courtyard, look up for an incredible view of the inside of the building. Light pours in from the roof to the interior apartments.





The iconic rooftop has winding pathways and a spiky forest of 30 chimneys. You have a nice view of Sagrada Familia.


In the evenings, a spectacular audiovisual show takes place on the terrace. Casa Mila’s rooftop terrace and stairwells are illuminated with projections set to music. You can enjoy this performance with a glass of cava in hand, which comes with your ticket.


READ: Complete Guide To La Pedrera

3. Casa Lleo Morera and Casa Amatller

You should also walk by Casa Lleo Morera, one of Barcelona's best preserved Modernista buildings. Casa Lleo Morera was revolutionary in its day for the different forms of artistry on the exterior.



facade of Casa Lleo Morera
facade of Casa Lleo Morera


The most striking detail is the beautiful curved balconies with ornate floral designs and lions. The ones on the second floor are elongated. The ones on the third floor are rounded. The fourth floor has a set of gallery windows. The overall effect evokes a convent cloister.


READ: Guide to Casa Lleo Morera


When your visit is complete, head into the neighborhood Chocolate Shop inside Casa Amatller. It’s been selling artisanal chocolates for over 200 years.


Day 2 Afternoon: More Gaudi


Break for lunch. The Eixample neighborhood has loads of good options.


Try 9 Reinas (Argentinian food), Oval (gourmet burgers), Alba Granadois (Basque), or El Nacional (multi-zone culinary space). Alternatively, eat lunch back in the in the Gothic Quarter, at El Pintxo del Petrixol or La Boqueria's Bar Pinotxo.



curvaceous entrance to Palau Güell
curvaceous entrance to Palau Güell


Then, continue down Las Ramblas to Palau Güell in Raval. It's a dazzling mansion that reopened in 2011 after a massive renovation. It's still a bit of a hidden gem in Barcelona.


Inside, the building doesn't scream Gaudi. Palau Guell is traditional and dark, almost like a luxurious Venetian palace. It has a creepy Gothic vibe. And I mean that in a good way. Don't miss this wondrous building.


The home centers on a main room that was used to entertain wealthy high society guests. It has a 17 meter high ceiling crowned by a parabolic dome.


Small holes are perforated near the top, where lanterns were hung at night to give the appearance of a starlit sky. It's almost like a planetarium experience.



dining room in Palau Guell
dining room in Palau Guell

rooftop of Palau Guell
rooftop of Palau Guell


Most of Gaudi's experimentation is in the basement, which reflects Gaudi's early enthusiasm for using natural shapes, with pillars in the form of mushrooms. The roof, like many Gaudi creations, also features colorful ceramic shapes and 20 chimneys. One conical chimney looks like a stack of green olives smooshed together.


From Palau Guell, continue your journey south along Las Ramblas until you get to the end. There, you’ll be greeted by the sight of a large column with a statue of Christopher Columbus, the famed Italian explorer who opened up the Americas to European exploration.


Day 2 Evening: Park Guell In the evening, head to the wonderland of Park Guell at sunset. Park Guell might be Gaudi's most fantastical creation.


It's a 45 acre public park and garden complex, with stunning mosaic art, located on Carmel Hill in Barcelona. Enjoy a gorgeous sunset experience and stroll in Barcelona’s finest park.



view from Parc Guell
view from Parc Guell

At Park Guell, Gaudi created a plaza, two Hansel and Gretel gatehouses, a serpentine bench, colonnaded walkways, and steps. He purchased one of the homes and lived there for almost 20 years before he moved into Sagrada Familia for good.


His home is now the Gaudi House Museum. The most famous icon at Park Guell is the multicolored mosaic lizard known as "El Drac," or the dragon.

Most of the Park Guell is free to visit and you'll have some nice views over the city. But the central Monumental Zone has a fee. If you want to visit Gaudi's home, the house-museum is located just outside the Monumental Zone in the park's free section.


Day 2 Dinner Options: Cap off your day with dinner in another Gaudi-designed building, Casa Calvet. It's a hidden gem among the other modernist standouts in Passage de Gracia. In 1900, the Barcelona City Council voted Casa Calvet the best building of the year -- the only time Gaudi won such an honor.



Casa Calvet
Casa Calvet


Casa Calvet is privately owned. It's not open to the public. But to the right of the private door is the entrance to the elegant restaurant, Casa Calvet Restaurant. You can dine amidst Gaudi decor for the full Gaudi-Barcelona experience.


Alternatively, to see another area of Barcelona, you could head to Barcelona's El Raval neighborhood. Raval is becoming one of Barcelona's trendiest and most colorful neighborhoods. It even has its own Rambla, with plenty of street art.


In Raval, you'll find one of Barcelona's hotspots -- the tapas restaurant, Tickets. You must make reservations well in advance to score this trendy eatery. If you can't get a reservation there, try El Rincon de Aragon.



the El Raval neighborhood in Barcelona
the El Raval neighborhood

Day 3: Barcelona Hidden Gems and Montjuic


Day 3 Morning: Hidden Gems On day 3, spend your morning exploring one or two of Barcelona's unusual hidden gems, where you can escape the ever present tourist siege. Here's my guide to Barcelona's hidden gems.


I think the best two hidden gems options are Palau de la Musica and Casa Vicens. Start your day early and have an early lunch in preparation for an action packed last afternoon in Montjuic.



sculptural group on the facade corner that seems almost to fly off the wall of Palau de la Musica
sculptural group on the facade corner that seems almost to fly off the wall of Palau de la Musica


1. Palau de la Musica


Perhaps Barcelona's most beautiful and photogenic spot is Palau de la Música Catalana. Palau de la Musica is a gaudy rose-covered wonderland. It's a magnificent concert hall designed in 1905-08 by Lluis Domenech i Montaner -- an architect who was just as famous as Gaudi at the time.


You have to see it to believe it. Musicians love its acoustics. Tourists love its unique design. It's a veritable symphony of stained glass, mosaics, and sculptures.


Palau de la Musica is located along a claustrophobic, densely packed street in the Gothic Quarter. Montaner countered the claustrophobia with color and levity. The arches and intricate mosaic columns draw your eye up to the roofline. Stained glass windows bring in the natural light.



the concert hall of Palau de la Musica
the concert hall of Palau de la Musica

the breathtaking ceiling of Palau de la Musica
the breathtaking ceiling of Palau de la Musica


The auditorium is almost overwhelming. The piece de resistance is the intricate stained glass ceiling by Antoni Rigalt. Iron and glass chandeliers create a starry night effect. And sculptures curve up the sides of the stage, including a glowering Beethoven and Valkeries from Richard Wagner's operas.


2. Casa Vicens


If you want to visit a Gaudi hidden gem, head to Casa Vicens. North of the city center in the sleepy village of Gracia, Casa Vicens is one of Gaudi’s lesser-known works. It's his first home and a UNESCO-listed site.


The vivacious Casa Vicens splashed onto the Gaudi tourist circuit in November 2017. After 130 years of private ownership and a massive renovation, Casa Vicens opened its Orientalist doors to the public. The building's exotic, an intense burst of vibrant color and marigold tiles.



Casa Vicens
Casa Vicens


Casa Vicens is a must see sight in Barcelona for those who love architecture and all things Gaudi. Even if you don't love architecture, you'll be hypnotized by the showy building. It's likely like nothing you've ever seen before. And it's gloriously off radar because it's so new.


When you're done, wander around Gracia. It has a pretty central plaza lined with buildings in bright blues and pinks. Carrer de Verdi is a tree-lined boulevard stuffed with boutiques and bookstores. For some chocolate and churros, head to Xurreria Trebol.


READ: Complete Guide to Casa Vicens


Day 3 PM: Montjuic


After lunch, taxi or take a glass cable car up to the hilly Montjuic area. Montjuic literally translates to “Jewish Mountain.” Montjuic is located in the southwest part of Barcelona, almost 75 meters above sea level.

Montjuic
Montjuic


Take a leisurely walk around the botanical gardens. Peak into the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, created in 1929 as part of the International Exposition in Barcelona. Its sleek design was considered a bridge to architectural modernism.


Here are the things you can't miss on Montjuic:


1. National Museum of Catalan Art


Head to Placa Espanya and visit the grand domed Neo-Baroque Palau Montjuic, which houses the National Museum of Catalan Art. This museum is the largest in the whole of Catalonia. You can easily wile away a couple of hours here, exploring the art and architecture.


The MNAC features the best Romanesque collection of mural paintings in the world, including art work gathered from churches, chapels, and monuments. The museum's collection ranges all the way from Gothic art to modern art. You'll find works by El Greco, Velazquez, Gaudi, Ramon Casas, Julio Gonzalez, and Dali, among others.



views from Montjuic
views from Montjuic

Magic Fountain light show at Placa Espanya
Magic Fountain light show at Placa Espanya


2. Magic Fountain


The MNAC balconies offer amazing views of the Plaza de Espanya and the Magic Fountain. The Magic Fountain puts on mesmerizing water and light shows several nights a week throughout much of the year. Click here to check the schedule, so you don't miss it.


3. Joan Miro Foundation


The Joan Miro Foundation is Barcelona's most emblematic gallery. The museum is housed in a spectacular building, the perfect example of equilibrium between architecture and landscape. The building in a light-filled gleaming white design from the 1970s, created by Miro's friend, architect Josep Luis Sert.



the wonderful Joan Miro museum
the wonderful Joan Miro museum

Joan Miro, Bird in Space, 1976
Joan Miro, Bird in Space, 1976


The Joan Miro Foundation is one of Barcelona's best museums. In this fabulous single artist museum, you'll find the world's largest collection of Miro paintings. Miro founded the museum himself in 1975.


The museum is crammed with seminal Miró works, from his earliest sketches to his later years. There's 220 paintings, 180 sculptures, and over 8,000 drawings.


4. Montjuic Castle


Montjuic Castle is a massive fortress has played a key role in the history of Barcelona over the last few hundred years. It served as a Spanish control over the unruly Catalan city, as well as a prison. You can wander the walls and take in city views.



view of Barcelona from Montjuic
view of Barcelona from Montjuic


Day 3 Evening:


The Montjuic area also has a fantastic selections of restaurants and bars to end your evening. For a break from traditional tapas, pop into Bangkok Cafe. For seafood, try Abrassame. For the best views over Barcelona, reserve at El Valet, which boasts a panoramic terrace.


More Time in Barcelona? Other Things To See In and Around Barcelona


If you have more time, there are plenty of other amazing things to do in and around Barcelona.


1. Torre Bellsguard


A little way north of the city center, the Neo-Gothic Torre Bellesguard is a relatively recent (and secret) addition to the works of Gaudi that you can visit in the city. First opened to the public in 2013, Bellesguard was constructed on the ruins of the medieval castle of Martin of Aragon, the last king of the Catalan dynasty.



Gaudi's Torre Bellesguard
Gaudi's Torre Bellesguard


Gaudi led the construction project for nine years. But then he dedicated himself exclusively to creating Sagrada Familia.


Bellsguard was completed by Domenec Sugranes i Gras, who created the colorful mosaics that give a pop of color to the mud-colored building. But the symbolism, curves, and nature motifs are pure Gaudi.


At Bellesguard, as with Casa Batllo, Gaudi drew on the dragon theme, conjuring a roof with a built in dragon face and angled rocks that double as dragon scales. It's topped with a tower-sword.


On either side of the entrance door are brightly covered seats, which symbolize the Golden Age of Catalonian rule. The interior is a mix of brightness and tranquility. White walls are juxtaposed with blue and yellow tile and stained glass chandeliers and windows. The chandeliers are similar to those at Casa Amatller.



entrance to Colonia Guell
entrance to Colonia Guell


2. Colonia Guell


Colonia Guell is 23 kilometers from the center of Barcelona. But it can still be reached by public transport. So don’t let the distance put you off visiting.


Colonia Guell is located in the sleepy village of Santa Coloma de Cervello. Gaudi began work on the church there in 1908. But only the crypt-like lower nave was completed. In 1915, the lower nave was blessed by Barcelona’s bishop. It's functioned as a church ever since.


The crypt's exterior has whimsical stained glass windows. Inside, it's an intimate, earthy space with a circular nave, held up by dramaticaly lurching stone pilars. There's a giant clam shell repurposed as a holy water font and and beautiful ergonomic pews designed by Gaudi himself.



the monumental fountain in Parc de la Ciutadella
the monumental fountain in Parc de la Ciutadella