Barcelona is one of the most touristic cities in Europe and for good reason. The weather is amazing, their unique tourist attractions are plentiful, and best of all, their well-preserved culture and unique language unlike any part of Spain is something you have to experience for yourself.
For this guide, I will show you what you can do in Barcelona if you have only one day here. Given one day is not enough for Barcelona, this guide will only limit the things to do to the best of the best only for people with limited time. Without further ado, here is everything you need to know to have a great time in Barcelona.
Things to Do Map
When to Go
Late April to June or September to October is a great time to go to Barcelona as the weather is not too hot or cold and the number of tourists, though it is still high, is not as high as in July or August.
Where to Stay
Barcelona - Yeah Hostel Barcelona - 36.91 USD/Night (Excellent location near La Sagrada Familia Church, beds are equipped with privacy curtains)
How to Get Around
There are several ways you can get around in Barcelona but the best way to see the city is by foot. The small alleyways crisscrossing the city grid holds the secret beauty of Barcelona where you can experience Barcelona in a quiet more peaceful way without throngs of tourists. Most of the attractions I included in this guide are all within walking distance from one another so if you are staying in the hostel recommended here, you will have no problem getting around on foot.
If you want to travel a little further, metros are easiest to navigate. You can download the metro map from here. A single metro ticket will cost you €2.20 within the city. Keep in mind that if you are traveling to or from the airport, the airport line uses a different ticket and you will have to buy them separately. For example, if you are going to travel from a metro station in the city to the airport, you will have to get the regular €2.20 one AND the €4.60 airport ticket separately and use them accordingly when you are transitioning to the airport line.
Best Things to Do in Barcelona
A Morning Stroll Uphill at Park Güell
I always like to start the day early with the furthest attraction and then make my way in so that in the evening, when I am most tired, I don't have to make my way back too far, that is why I would recommend starting with Park Güell. It is around 45 minutes walk from the hostel and along the way, you can find a quiet place to sit and have some breakfast.
A stroll in Park Güell is great in the morning where there will be less people and the weather is not too hot. You can spend almost 3 hours in the park walking along the several routes they have, most of which are free, but if you are looking for that iconic photo of Gaudí's houses then you will have to pay €7.50 to get in to the Monumnet Core and get access to that balcony.
But if you are like me and wanting to save cost, there are several walking paths you can take that will give you an excellent view of the city. One of those paths is the Turó de les Tres Creus or the Three Crosses located on top of a hill in the park. Either way, you are sure to have an amazing view from the park.
Pass by Casa Milà
Now, make your way down to where your hostel is and cross the main road to the south and walk 2 blocks away, you should find one of Gaudí's architecture work, Casa Milà. You can see clearly that this is Gaudí's from the exterior of this buidling, more notably the balcony fences that almost seems like the iron beams were randomly curved but not really. If you are willing to pay more, you can go inside and see Gaudí's work designing the interior and the stunning, almost alien design of the chimneys.
Check out the Dragon's Scales Roof of Casa Batlló
Another of Gaudí's famous work is Casa Batlló, which is located around the corner from Casa Milà. Casa Batlló is known for its beautiful color shifting dragon's scales rooftop. What amazed me most when I was looking at the architecture is how few straight lines were used on this masterpiece. Everything is either curved or shaped in a fashion you don't see often in architecture. A truly breath of fresh air from other kinds of architecture in Europe.
Discover the Palau de la Música Catalana architectural gem
After admiring Gaudí's work for half a day, it is good to switch it up a little and see what other types of architecture exists in Barcelona. Palau de la Música Catalana is a great place to explore the variety of Modernista style of architecure. The buidling was designed by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, and built in 1905. The outside might not be much to look at but the interior especially the concert halls are a masterpiece of creativing and imagination.
Hangout at the Gothic Quarter
The gothic quarter is a great place to rest and relax to the sound of street performers and the stunning view of the Cathedral of Barcelona. You can also shop around here for souveniors or eat at one of the oldest restaurant in Barcelona, the Can Culleretes.
If you are looking for that famous gothic quarter photo (shown above), the stree is just around the corner near the Cathedral.
Admire the Art Nouveau Architecture of Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau
This might be a little walk from the Gothic quarter but since we will be making our way towards La Sagrada Familia church for sunset as our final destination, I would recommend to walk a little further and visit the Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau or the Hospital de Sant Pau, another masterpiece designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner with stunning Art Nouveau style interior you come to expect from him. It will set you back €14 to get in but it comes highly recommended as one of the most unique interior design in Barcelona with stained glass windows, paintings, and mosaics, all illuminated by natural lights through massive windows, not something you would expect to see in a hospital.
Be WOWed by La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia is possibly one of the most beautiful church in the world. Like other architectures Barcelona is known for, this church was designed by Antoni Gaudí, the famous Catalan architect known for his bizzare and eye-catching design unlike anything the world has seen before. The church is even more fascinating when you realize that the construction started in 1882 and they have yet to complete it.
The interior design of the church manipulates external lights to illuminate the inside and so it is important that you go inside when the light is best. I found that an hour before the sunset is the best time as the exterior is no longer too bright from the mid day sun and the light shines in an angle that perfectly illuminate the pretty side of the church, while the interior is as breathtaking as ever.
It is also important to note that the church entry is divided into time slot so be sure to book your entry ticket and pick the time online before you head over to the church to avoid disapointment.
Watch the Magic Fountain at Night
Photo by Owen Byrne
Around 8PM or 9PM (check the schedule here), the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc sound and light show begins for visitors of all age to enjoy. With the amazing choreograph of the light show set near of one of the most iconic landmark, the Placa de les Cascades and the Four Columns, you can kill 2 birds with one stone by arriving earlier to check out the Cascades and watch the sound and light show afterward.
Beach day at Nova Icaria Beach (optional)
If you have spare time and are looking for a beach day, the Nova Icaria beach is where the actions are at. Despite the crowdedness, you will still be able to find a place for yourself to enjoy the sun or if you are interested, water sports. Be sure to pack swim suits with you to Barcelona!
People Watching at Ciutadella Park (optional)
Photo by Townie
If you have a few more days to spare, be sure to check out the Ciutadella Park. The park is dubbed the green oasis of Barcelona where one can go walk around, relax and picnic in nature. Within the park, you will find plenty of space to picnic or even row a boat in the lake there. The park is also a great place to go people watching as the locals escape the business of the city and chill out here.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.