72 Hours in Barcelona
Welcome to our 3 days in Barcelona itinerary! 72 hours is perfect to make the most of this city. Planning a trip is fun but time consuming, however with this Barcelona Travel Guide you won't have to spend much time thinking about what to see in Barcelona. Just follow our suggestions and we are sure you'll have an amazing time. Enjoy!
First time in Barcelona, Spain? Lucky you! You’re in for a real treat as you discover the culture of the Catalan capital. It’s no surprise that a city with as much to see as Barcelona is consistently one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.
After a single weekend trip, you may find yourself planning on a return trip. Between Gaudí’s architectural jewels to the charming winding streets of the Gothic Quarter and the fantastic food and miles of beaches, there’s plenty to satisfy all types of travellers here.
Our suggested itinerary for 72 hours in Barcelona takes you through the city’s history chronologically, starting with the Roman ruins in the old city centre, taking you through the early 20th-century modernist movement and finishing up with the city’s more recent developments.
Day 1: The Old City Centre
Spend your first day in Barcelona getting acquainted with the most ancient part of the city – the Ciutat Vella (Old City in Catalan). Barcelona’s history dates back to the Roman days, when it was called “Barcino”. You can find letters spelling out the original Roman name in front of the cathedral.
The three neighbourhoods that make up the city centre – the Gothic Quarter, the Born and the Raval – will give you plenty to explore for a day.
Start off at the city’s main transportation hub – Plaça Catalunya. There’s not much to see here, but it links two of the most fascinating streets in the city, the Ramblas and Passeig de Gràcia. Leave elegant Passeig de Gràcia for tomorrow, and walk down the Ramblas instead.
Love it or hate it, Las Ramblas is an icon. Built over an ancient riverbed, it’s now a wide semi-pedestrian walkway that trails down to the port. You’ll find all sorts of stalls and shops along the way, along with a slew of street performers. Many of the stalls sell souvenirs, but there are a few traditional places left. Each section has its own different feel; for instance, towards the lower end of the street, artists sketching caricatures or painting scenic cityscapes have set up shop.
If you’re on the Ramblas, there’s one place you can’t miss – the Mercat de la Boqueria, a massive food market. Tantalizing smells regularly waft their way around the market from the tiny tapas bars stuffed in between fruit and veg stalls. Bar Pinotxo is the best known of these, and it’s worth elbowing your way up to the always-crowded bar to taste a few little morsels.
Next, visit the grand Plaça Reial. During the day, the square is filled with tables and chairs for restaurants, but at night the clubs and bars hidden beneath the square open up and the party starts. It’s great for round-the-clock people watching.
Leave the square via Carrer Ferran and stop by the impressive Plaça Sant Jaume, which has been the centre of the city’s political power for centuries. Today it houses local government buildings, which are only open to visitors on special occasions.
Turn up Carrer del Bisbe (Bishop’s Street) to get one of the most picturesque postcard views of the city. This archway may be part of the Gothic Quarter, but it actually wasn’t built until 1928 (that doesn’t make it any less stunning, though).
Keep going and you’ll find the Barcelona Cathedral, which features a beautiful cloister and large stained glass windows. Entry is free after 5:45 p.m. on weekdays.
To finish off your day, stroll through the streets of the Born district and get a feel for the artsier side of the city centre. There are plenty of tapas bars and restaurants with outdoor seating.
Day 2: Gaudi & Modernism
Any visitor to Barcelona should see at least one of Antoni Gaudí’s architectural masterpieces. Filled with forms and shapes inspired by nature, his works have an otherworldly quality. While his fanciful style isn’t always to everyone’s liking, there’s nothing quite like his work anywhere else on the planet.
Start at the skeletal Casa Batlló on Passeig de Gràcia. Many of the buildings here are modernist houses built for wealthy families in the early 20th century. The section the Batlló house is on is nicknamed “The Block of Discord” due to the clash of different architectural styles present. There are four works by major Barcelona architects on this small block, including Casa Amatller, Casa Mulleras and Casa Lleó-Morera.
Just a few blocks up from Casa Batlló sits La Pedrera, whose name translates to the Quarry for its stony appearance. This was originally an apartment building, and a handful of families still live here today. The rooftop terrace has spectacular views of downtown Barcelona, and is filled with twisting chimney spires meant to evoke smoke.
From here, catch the blue line metro at Diagonal and go two stops to Sagrada Familia. Ticket prices are steep, but the view from the towers at the top is one of the best in the city. If you’re travelling on a budget, simply admiring the exterior of the church is still worth the trip.
For lunch, move away from the tourist traps surrounding the church. Bar Morrysom (C/Girona 162) serves delicious local specialties, and is only about a ten-minute walk away. Try out the 3-course “menú del día” for a very reasonable €9, or order a selection of tapas to share (the patatas bravas – fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce – are particularly tasty).
After lunch, catch the metro at Verdaguer to enjoy some of the great outdoors in Barcelona.
For avid Gaudí fans, spend the afternoon exploring Parc Güell, the whimsical park originally designed as a housing development. Some of the architect’s best mosaic work is on display on the park’s benches and columns.
If you’ve had enough modernism for the day, catch the yellow line to explore either the Ciutadella Park (stop: Jaume I) or the beach (get off at Barceloneta or Ciutadella/Vila Olímpica).
Barcelona’s beaches are pretty special – after all, how many big cities can boast sandy beaches right next to the city centre? The beaches stretch out for miles, and there aren’t many nicer ways to spend an afternoon in the city than sitting at one of the “chiringuitos” (beach bars) with a drink while watching the Mediterranean waves.
Whichever you choose, finish up your day with a celebratory glass of cava at the Xampanyeria (Carrer de la Reina Cristina, 7). This Barcelona classic sells some of the cheapest cava in the city – and it’s good, too. Don’t expect a seat here, as this tiny bar is standing room only and gets very crowded. After a certain hour, you have to order food with your cava (a rather sensible imposition to prevent visitors from getting too tipsy).
If you’re still hungry, wander over to the charming old fisherman’s quarter of Barceloneta. The main street is lined with fast food restaurants, but just a few steps away from this you’ll find some fantastic tapas bars. Try Jai-ca (two locations, Carrer de Ginebra 9 or Carrer de Ginebra 13), La Cova Fumada (Carrer de Baluart, 56), or La Bombeta (Carrer de la Maquinista, 3).
Day 3: The Olympics & Modern-Day Barcelona
When Barcelona hosted the Olympics in 1992, the city underwent a huge restoration project to prepare to be on the international stage. One of the biggest sites for the restoration works was Montjuïc hill, where the games were to be hosted. Today, you can wander around the sites of former Olympic glory.
You don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy a day out at Montjuïc though. Stadiums aside, this hill offers some of the most spectacular views of the city. It’s also filled with art galleries and gardens, making for a relaxing day of cultural exploration.
Take the funicular railway to the top of the hill and work your way down. The castle, the Pavelló Mies van der Rohe, the Fundació Joan Miró, the Olympic Stadium and the botanical gardens are some of the highlights.
Finish up in the Palau Nacional at the National Museum of Catalonia (Museu Nacional de Catalunya, or MNAC). Enjoy lunch in the upstairs Oleum restaurant, which has floor-to-ceiling glass windows affording you sweeping views of the city at your feet as you dine. Another option is to eat at one of the downstairs cafeterias or terrace bars. The food is nothing fancy, but the prices are more affordable than at Oleum and you still get the great view.
After lunch, take a leisurely stroll around the museum. When you’ve had your fill of art, walk down the grand Reina Maria Cristina Avenue to Las Arenas, a former bullfighting ring that’s been converted into a shopping centre. At the top is a circular viewpoint ringed with restaurants – the perfect place to have a relaxing drink after a busy day at Montjuïc.
If you’ve got a flight to catch, the Aerobus service departs from just downstairs in Plaça Espanya. Otherwise, head to the Poble Sec neighbourhood to get a feel for the less touristy side of the city. You can either take the metro one stop or walk (it’s about 10-15 minutes).
Your best bet for food here is to go pintxos bar-hopping on Carrer Blai. “Pintxos” are small bites of food served spiked with a skewer. Take a look at what’s on offer – the pintxos will be laid out on the bar – and pick a restaurant that takes your fancy. Jump from bar to bar sampling all kinds of delicious little bites.
There is one particular spot you should make a stop by – Quimet i Quimet. Try their smoked salmon and truffle honey montadito – it’s famous for a very tasty reason.