How to spend four days in Barcelona? First of all, Barcelona is the third most visited city in Europe (behind London and Paris) and the 10th most visited in the world. That’s not bad going, considering it’s not the Spanish capital!
I love Barcelona and I have been lucky enough to visit a few times – here’s my ultimate, four-day itinerary for those of you heading out on your first trip.
So let’s learn how to spend four days in Barcelona if it’s your first visit…
DAY 1 – La Sagrada Familia, walk and cycle by the beach
Morning: La Sagrada Familia
Where do I start with La Sagrada Familia? It’s not even finished yet but this is one of my favourite buildings in the world. To me, this is what the word ‘awesome’ (i.e. awe-inspiring) was invented for.
After the initial project idea for the church came around in 1892, famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi was commissioned to carry the project forward in 1983. He did so until his death in 1926 and since then a number of architects have continued work on the famous Basilica. While there is no finish date confirmed, some say it could be complete by 2026.
You don’t have to be particularly religious to visit or appreciate this church and the work that has gone into it to date. No photos can capture the magnificence of La Sagrada Familia so if you only see one thing in Barcelona, then make this it!
I highly recommend buying a ticket for entry to La Sagrada Familia in advance. Dependent on the time of year, queues for entry can sometimes wrap around the whole building and you could be waiting hours to get in.
Tickets can be purchased online and you are given a time of entry which you must adhere to or risk losing your entrance altogether.
Prices: From €14.80 (€12.80 for students/retirees)
Metro: Sagrada Familia
Afternoon: Take a walk or cycle by the beach
Barcelona has a long stretch of beach so if you are cycling you could see the whole coastal area of the city.
However, it is still worth a little stroll or cycle to check out the beach area of Barceloneta. Try a cocktail at the W Hotel or a sandwich at one of the many stands along the way if you’re feeling peckish.
Prices: Free! (If walking!)
Metro: Barceloneta, or others depending on which beach you want to see.
Cycling: Various operators along the beach rent out bikes starting from €8 for half a day.
I booked a tapas tour through Viator to get a guide’s take on some of the best tapas places in the city and a little background on the Spanish and Barcelona culture.
This was very good as it also included a walk around the streets of the city and a quick trip into the food market off La Rambla (La Boqueria) which I recommend visiting separately to take more time to see things.
Prices: Check Viator for tours, rates and meeting points.
DAY 2 – La Pedrera and Casa Batllo on Passeig de Gracia along with Arc De Triomf
Morning: Gaudi’s Casa Mila (La Pedrera) and Casa Batllo on Passeig de Gracia along with Arc De Triomf
I put these together as they are quite close in proximately so you can walk between them or use the metro.
If you start at the top (of your map), you will see Casa Mila (La Pedrera) first on Passeig de Gracia with Casa Batllo further down on the same street. These show some more of Gaudi’s architecture which have the same idea as each other but executed differently. I always think of the film Beetlejuice when I see these buildings!
If you keep walking down Passeig de Gracia towards Placa Catalunya and take a left onto Ronda de Sant Pere, you will eventually come to the Arc de Triomf (Barcelona, not Paris!). If you have time, you can walk down the ‘Champs Elysees’ equivalent to take in more sights and scenery in the area.
Prices: To walk to these sites and look at them from the outside it is free! However, if you want to go into the Casa Mila or Casa Batllo you will need to buy tickets which start at €14.85 (Casa Mila) or €18.50 (Casa Batllo).
Metro: Passeig de Gracia / Arc de Triomf
Barcelona hosted the Olympic Games in 1992. Even though that was 22 years ago, it helped Barcelona hugely with tourism and the Olympic stadium and swimming pool are still sights for tourists to visit today. The stadium is now home to the Catalonia national football team and you can take a swim in the Olympic pool too!
Prices: Free to view. If you want to use the Olympic pool you will need to pay.
Metro: Poble Sec or Paral-lel
Evening: Food Market (La Boqueria)
As part of the tapas tour, we took in a visit to the food market (La Boqueria) just off La Rambla. A separate visit is needed however, if you want to take a closer look at the food stalls.
If you live locally or are staying in an apartment this is great for buying food at cheaper prices. But this market is definitely worth a look even if all you buy are some sweets or fruit!
The market opens from 8.00am to 8.30pm daily except Sundays when it is closed.
Prices: Only if you purchase something!
DAY 3 – Camp Nou tour, Cable car ride and Flamenco
Morning: Camp Nou tour
Whether you are a football fan or not, a visit the home ground of FC Barcelona, Camp Nou, is worthwhile.
Basketball and football are two of the main sports in Spain. But to the people of Barcelona, football is said to be in their blood.
This tour will give you a background as to why the football culture is so important to the Catalan people and why it’s one of the biggest clubs and stadiums in the world.
Do check before you go that the stadium tour is open. On match days the timings change.
Prices: €23 with discounts for students, infants, those requiring assistance and over 70s
Metro: Palau Reial or Badal
Afternoon: Cable car ride
A great way to view Barcelona is by using the cable car. At €16.50 for a round trip and approximately 15 minutes of travel (7-8 minutes each way), it might seem a little steep but experiencing will make you glad you did it.
You start at the tower of San Sebastian which is beside Barceloneta beach. Barceloneta metro is the nearest metro station, but following the cable lines you can easily walk there in about 15 minutes from the bottom of La Rambla – taking in the lovely Port Vell marina along the way.
When you start moving in the cable car there is an initial jolt but then you start to glide and it is quite a pleasant journey. You pass through the middle tower, Jaime I, and move on again to the last stop, Miramar at Montjuic’s mountain.
You have the option of getting off at Miramar and having a look around to return later or you can return straight away. The other option is to get off at Miramar and make your own way back to your destination.
There is one seat in the car to sit on, but other than that it is standing room only. It’s a scramble for the best view but most people are quite good in moving around and giving everyone a chance to see the amazing skyline of Barcelona. The tree-covered La Rambla is also almost unrecognisable from above!
The cable car is open all year round, closing only on Christmas Day.
Round Trip: €16.50
There are many opportunities to see Flamenco and most hotels will probably be able to arrange something for you. I was recommended a little venue called Tarantos in the Placa Reial in the Gothic Quarter who do short 30 minute shows.
Tarantos has been there for 51 years and plays host to flamenco music, singing and dancing from fresh and emerging talent each week. The venue opens at 8pm every evening and you can either buy your ticket in advance, online or at the door.
Queuing up early is a must as it’s a popular place. If you have your ticket in advance it’s not a problem but for those hoping for a ticket at the door, the seats do fill up quickly.
This short show will give a little taste of Spanish culture and real emotion projected through performance.
Show times: 8.30pm, 9.30pm, 10.30pm
Tickets at the door: €10
Tickets advance/online: €8
Metro: Liceu (Jaume I and Drassanes are also close with approximately 5 minutes extra walk)
DAY 4 – Park Guell and Boat ride
Morning: Park Guell
Park Guell is the remains of a residential area which was designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi at the request of Industrialist, Eusebi Guell. Guell wanted to build an estate for the well-off and wanted to build it in a British way – hence the name in English – Park Guell.
Work started on the park in 1900 but by 1914 work was abandoned and only a couple of houses had actually been built. It was used for private events until 1922 when the council bought it and turned it into a municipal park. Later in the 60s it became a public park with a Gaudi museum and then in 1984 it became a recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The park is full of weirdly designed buildings and gardens and you sort of feel like you are in some sort of cartoon. There is also a Park Guell app now to download which you can use to plan your visit or give more information on areas of the site. I wonder what Gaudi would make of that!
The opening times for Park Guell vary depending on the time of year but 8.30am-6.00pm is the constant with earlier opening and later closing times in the summer.
Prices: Adult €8 with discounts for those over 65.
Metro: Valcarca or Lesseps
Afternoon: Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic) and Barcelona Cathedral
The Gothic Quarter (also referred to as Barri Gotic), is the old town and worth a wander around. It is filled with squares to rest in, shops to browse around and lots of cafes and restaurants to snack in. A good way to relax after taking in Park Guell earlier.
It’s no La Sagrada Familia but Barcelona Cathedral is still impressive. Another example of beautiful architecture which took a total of 150 years to build at different intervals over the last five centuries.
There are various opening times for the Cathedral and when you enter depends on whether you pay (donation).
Prices: Free dependent on time of visit or whether you want to see the choir or rooftops. Donations when required are from €6.
Metro: Jaume I
Evening: Boat ride
A relaxing boat ride can be taken from Port Vell just opposite the Christopher Columbus statue (Colom) at the bottom of La Rambla.
There are a few different companies to choose from but they are all around the same price and journey length of 40-45 minutes.
The boats have trips from morning until early evening and it’s a nice little way to end your day – and your trip.
After these four days you should be pretty exhausted but I guarantee you will want to return again and again.
Where to stay:
I stayed at Hostal Fernando in the Gothic Quarter. It was a great location and value for money with a substantial buffet breakfast included.
Let me know what you like about Barcelona! Are there any places I should check out on my next visit?