Written by Ash

Barcelona in One Day: Local Advice and No Regrets


Is one day enough for Barcelona?

As a local and one of the city’s greatest advocates I’m going to have to say a stern ‘no’.

I’m sure though that you have a perfectly good reason for having to see Barcelona in one day, and I’m sorry it has to be that way, but there’s still a one day itinerary you can do to get the broad strokes in.

Whether it’s a layover, cruise-ship stop, or just plain bad planning here’s your guide!

Barcelona in One Day

Getting Central

The clock is ticking so if you’re at the airport take a 20 minute taxi for about €30.00. Other airport transport options include the airport train in Terminal 2 (€2.20, 25 minutes but limited departures) or the Aerobus (€5.90, 35 minutes, departing every 5 minutes).

If you’re at the cruise-ship terminal grab the Autobus Azul shuttle to the famous La Rambla and get on the green line of the metro at Drassanes, change at Diagonal (blue line L5) and head to La Sagrada Familia church.

Arriving by train? From Sants Estacio grab the blue line of the metro to Sagrada Familia.

Remember: the best way to see Barcelona in one day is using the metro so grab the map.

If you need left luggage you’ll find options central or at both airport terminals.

Stop #1 – the Sagrada Familia (2 hours)

Yeah yeah, every city in Europe has an enormous Roman Catholic church.

But trust me when I say nothing comes close to this Art Nouveau behemoth. This spiky UNESCO World Heritage Site designed by wonder-architect Antoni Gaudi is by far Barcelona’s most visited tourist destination. It’s so detailed that has been under construction for over 130 years.

With over three million annual visitors the lines will stretch into the hours especially during summer.

Go for the English guided tour for the full experience.

Book my guided tour!

Stop #2 – Passeig de Gracia (1.5 hours)

Take the metro back to Diagonal (blue line, L5) and exit at Passeig de Gracia – Barcelona’s most stylish street known for shopping and architecture.

Walk towards the sea, you’ll know because there’s a slight downward slope. Stop in and visit any of the world’s top brands but remember, if you visit Barcelona in one day time is better spent visiting Barcelona’s world-renowned architectural masterpieces.

The Casa Batllo and Casa Mila are both truly original art nouveau mansions that at the very least need to be appreciated from the outside. Look up and stand in awe.

Stop #3 – Lunch at El Nacional (1 hour)

Barcelona’s newest sensation!

Where else can you find a cocktail bar, a beer bar, a wine bar, and an oyster bar under one roof? There’s also multiple restaurants each specializing in meat, fish, and tapas respectively.

Each cooks using only traditional recipes from the Iberian Peninsula and I’m telling you eating top quality Spanish cuisine is easily one of the top things to do in Barcelona in one day.

You’ll find it at 24 Passeig de Gracia.

Stop #4 – Placa Catalunya (30 minutes)

At the bottom of Passeig de Gracia you’ll find Barcelona’s biggest square and a can’t miss on any one day tour. It’s the city’s true centre and a border of sorts between the old city and the new.

Spend a few minutes dodging the pigeons and contemplating life’s most intricate mysteries, or if you’ve still got the shopping bug duck into the city’s largest department store: El Corte Ingles.

Stop #5 – La Rambla (1 hour)

Just south of Placa Catalunya you’ll find the famous Rambla.

I have an entire article dedicated to this street that never sleeps. There are tons of tourist traps to avoid here but you have to see it and at least you’ll get one of Barcelona’s best markets.

Ignore the street salesmen, fast food restaurants, and overpriced souvenir shops and soon La Boqueria Market will appear on your right hand side. Sample some great Serrano ham and get yourself a fresh 1 euro fruit shake. You’ll need the vitamins for the rest of the walk.

At the bottom of La Rambla take a left at the Columbus Statue and follow Passeig de Colom for 10-15 minutes.

Stop #6 – Fresh Air and a Drink in Barceloneta (2 hours)

Feel the sea breeze in Barcelona’s beach neighbourhood – now you’re officially on holiday! It may not be the best beach but if you’re doing Barcelona in one day you can’t wander far. The people watching here is amazing and it’s another classic place for photographs.

If you’re looking for a drink head to La Xampanyeria (Carrer de la Reina Cristina 7) for cheap bottles of rose wine or Bar Leo (34 Carrer Sant Carles) on a weekend afternoon – you’ll likely get a Spanish guitar performance.

Finish the night in the neighbourhood with a Spanish classic: paella. You can’t miss going to 7 Portes if it’s quality you’re after, and my favourite seafood restaurant in the area is Somorrostro.

Get More Information by Writing Me

Was my Barcelona in one day advice a little too flat for your tastes? Drop me a line below and I’ll help you plan it out more thoroughly with some custom advice.

And there it is! An eight hour shift in one of Europe’s best cities. Do book another ticket back now.

  • October 17, 2020 at 5:11 am
    Ruben Nagrampa Briones
    International flight arriving Barcelona at 11:50 AM and Cruise departing the following day and arriving from cruise at 5 AM and departing flight back to New York at 5:10 PM. So half day before the cruise and another half day after the cruise. What should we do? Any suggestions will be truly appreciated.
    • October 20, 2020 at 5:52 am
      Team Member
      Hi Ruben, Thanks for writing in! When exactly do you have this trip planned for and from where? I don't have many people writing with plans these days, it's almost shocking haha. As for your question... I would simply divide the one day itinerary above in two. Start day one at Sagrada Familia, work your way down Passeig de Gracia and then have dinner at El Nacional (instead of lunch). Then when you're back from the cruise you can start the half day 2 at La Rambla (you'll be dropped off at the bottom of it with the Cruise Bus) and work your way up to Plaça Catalunya. From here I'd cut over through El Born back down to the beach neighbourhood of Barceloneta. This way you ensure you see the biggest attractions given your limited time. Please let me know if you have any more questions! Always here to help :) Cheers, Ash
  • February 24, 2020 at 5:05 pm
    Hi Ash, Great website with lots of ideas for things to do and see, Im going over by myself for a day and this page will come in very handy! Thank you! Cheers, Rich
    • September 28, 2020 at 12:16 pm
      Hi Ash, I absolutely loved the day and all the plan, I followed it all and even added some more like visiting the Gòtic quarter and the National Geography Women exhibition. instead of eating lunch at EL National I had lunch at Ciutut Comtal. It was definitely worth the 40 minutes wait for a table.
      • October 5, 2020 at 8:54 pm
        Team Member
        That's so great to hear Mimi! :) I like how you made the ideas your own with some stops aside... and yeah, Ciutat Comtal is a great restaurant option for all those reading!
    • February 25, 2020 at 10:24 am
      Team Member
      Thanks so much Richard! :)
  • February 16, 2020 at 8:49 pm
    I am meeting a friend in Barcelona for the first day of a cruise, I arrive early morning and she arrives in the evening. Where is it safe for me to explore in the city before she arrives? I have also heard that there are rooftop bars near the beach to go to watch the sunset (we are traveling in May so the sunset is around 8pm) - any recommendations? We then have 1 day (until 6pm) to see Barcelona - thanks for the suggested itinerary! We will use it to replace/supplement the cruise's included excursions!
    • February 17, 2020 at 1:00 pm
      Team Member
      Hi Michelle, During the day all of the city's areas are safe to explore! Don't worry about all the pickpocket drama you'll read about... the odds of something happening are so low. I would get right into it with a walk through the Gothic Quarter and check out some of the stuff there. It'll be the easiest thing to do as all the airport transport like Aerobus terminates there. The only well known beachside roof top bar you'll find at the W Hotel. It's quite posh but one of the best in the city. Other than this you'll get a view of the Med from the Hotel Grand Central... it's my favourite one, great views and cocktails! Try and fit it in, it's just off from the Gothic Quarter so would be easy to get to. Cheers, Ash
  • February 15, 2020 at 7:24 pm
    Flying into Barcelona, but staying in Salou for a week. My boyfriend and I want to spend some time in Barcelona the day we arrive and also take a bus there for another day trip. Suggestions?
    • February 15, 2020 at 9:10 pm
      Team Member
      Hola Karly, I am full of suggestions ;) but not sure what you mean? This website is full of maybe 1000 suggestions including this one day post for a day trip... did you have something custom in mind that you needed? If I had to see just a few things I'd do Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, and Casa Batllo... then just enjoy the beach, drink some vermouth, and soak up the sights and sounds of the city. Cheers, Ash
  • December 27, 2019 at 5:17 am
    What could be a nice itinueary for Madrid for a 2 day stay there? What else is there to do in Barcelona?
  • December 8, 2019 at 5:33 pm
    Hi Ash, Your site has been a great source of info in planning my Spain trip with friends. We are from India and barring me everyone else is Vegetarian. Any recommendations on veg eateries, especially restaurants that serve both veg food as well as awesome Tapas, Jamon, Paella that I could partake in? Next question - we are visiting in December 2019. Would you recommend visiting the beach at this time of the year?
    • December 9, 2019 at 2:40 pm
      Team Member
      Hi Vidhya, Thanks for your kind words! Always glad to help :) I will steer you first to my post on vegetarian restaurants in Barcelona because I couldn't have worded it any better than there. You'll find all sorts of places. particularly I would recommend Season. For paella all of the restaurants I mention in my paella article can do vegetarian versions. As for the beach... it is sunny most days but you won't be able to swim or have any sort of traditional beach day out. It's too cold for that. It is quite a nice place to have a walk though in the afternoon. Cheers, Ash
  • October 4, 2019 at 10:22 pm
    Hi Ash My boyfriend is visiting me in Barcelona for four nights (10/11 - 10/14). Where is the best Paella? Best bar scene? Romantic spots in the city that won't be a huge commute? I want to plan a really nice weekend with activities but not an overwhelming or exhausting experience. We are looking for fun and adventurous.
    • October 5, 2019 at 12:26 pm
      Team Member
      Hi Miranda, I couldn't have worded it any better than in my list of best paella restaurants and best romantic ideas in Barcelona. For couples I would say the best bar scene is in the El Born area and specifically the area around Passeig del Born and the cocktail bar Paradiso. Take a look! And let me know if you still have any more questions :) Ash
  • September 8, 2019 at 3:05 am
    Hi Ash! So I'm flying to Barcelona in early October with two teenagers and a husband. We'd like to see as much of the area and beyond as we can in a week. The plan is to rent a car and make a loop down the coast (Valencia), go east up to Bilbao and back to Barcelona. I know - ambitious! So as we arrive in Barcelona, I'm thinking we should rent a car from the airport and drive to our hotel. Still not sure where to stay - on the coast or in the city? We're not drinkers, but we are eaters and love to find those local favorites that are less expensive but still classic deliciousness and not as well known. Know of any? Do you have an opinion on where I should be looking for a hotel or if I should trust AirB&B? Should we plan on keeping our car at the hotel and take public transportation around to the sites you suggested (parking is hard to find/expensive)?
    • September 9, 2019 at 10:58 am
      Team Member
      Hi Kara, First off let me say that Barcelona is so well connected via public transit that it would hardly make any sense just renting a car and keeping it in a parkade for a few days. Not to mention the fact that parking is often expensive and can run you like €30.00 a day or more. I've lived here 9 years and maybe twice did I ever wish I had a car... and it was when I was going outside the city. It would make more sense to me to get the car the day you're ready to leave... or maybe get it if you're going up the coast, though I'm not sure what you mean by that. Do you mean staying in a neighbourhood along the water? Or up the coast in a small down? I've got an entire list of the best things to eat in Barcelona as well as the best restaurants. I try to keep them local and fairly reasonably priced... if you've had a look there and still haven't found what you're looking for please let me know. I have a post on the best areas to stay in Barcelona. You should take a look there first and determine the area, then click on the buttons to go to a list of hotels which you can search by amenity. Without knowing your budget and needs it's tough... though in general for families I would recommend El Born or Gracia as they're both a bit more relaxed and authentic. Cheers, Ash
  • August 31, 2019 at 2:08 am
    Kandra James
    Hi there, I appreciate your one day recommendations. Couple questions: I am hoping to squeeze in this one-day trip in late October. Is there a day of the week that you most recommend? Also, I will be with my mom, who is a little older (73). While she is active and mobile, I want to be certain that the walking is doable. If I had to subtract from this list, with her needs in mind, what would you take off? (Of course not THE SAGRADA FAMILIA! As an art history student, the art and architecture is the reason for the visit,lol) Thanks
    • August 31, 2019 at 2:02 pm
      Team Member
      Hi Kandra, Walking will be possible for 90% of your one day trip but keep in mind the initial trip up to Sagrada will require the metro from basically any 'landing point' in the city unless you're prepared to take a big walk of 45 minutes or more. The rest however... no worries! As for subtracting something from this list I would sub out the stop at El Nacional and opt for a quick on the fly lunch. If you're not beach people there is of course also the option of cutting the Barceloneta portion as it doesn't contain any major postcard type monuments and being October is not the optimal time to visit. Cheers, Ash
  • July 18, 2019 at 10:42 pm
    christine seabright
    Hi, we will be staying in Santa Susanna for a long weekend and plan to visit Barcelona on Sunday 8 September. The itinerary above looks great, however we are not shoppers, would prefer to see more sights. We aim to get into Barcelona for about 9.30 / 10.00 am. e would like to visit the Camp Nou. Would you suggest starting of at Camp Nou? We plan on staying until 6.30 pm and having a late lunch. Should we pre book tickets for main for la saqrada and nou camp before we come? We want a full day but not rushed, we have a fit 84 year old aunt. What would be your suggestions. Thanks
    • July 19, 2019 at 10:30 am
      Team Member
      Hi Christine, Provided you're getting in at 9:30 it should be totally doable... if you're not big shoppers you could easily just substitute Camp Nou for the La Rambla portion of my one day itinerary, or even for the Barceloneta bit a bit further on. That said, you could also just start the tour at Camp Nou since it'll be the furthest out attraction... then work your way back in doing Passeig de Gracia, Plaça Catalunya, La Rambla, Barceloneta, and finishing at Sagrada later on around 5. Just please make sure you book your tickets in advance online because I've been getting tons of people asking me for tickets at the last moment but I can't do anything for them because it's all sold out! Cheers, Ash
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