Wondering what you should do, see, and eat in a Barcelona in 3 days? You’ve come to the right place! Read on for my tips to help you plan that perfect trip to Barcelona.
With its reputation for being a city full of amazing architecture and amazing food, Barcelona had been on my list for a *long* time. So, when I stumbled upon a $250 flight there from San Francisco, I jumped on it. I was limited on vacation days, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so I decided to take a super quick, whirlwind trip and did Barcelona in 3 days.
I absolutely loved the city and being surrounded by Gaudi’s magical works, the laid-back beach town vibes, and consuming all the delicious tapas and sangrias I could handle. Needless to say, I had an amazing time during my 3 days in Barcelona.
Here are all the things you should do, see, and eat in a perfect trip to Barcelona in 3 days!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase or booking, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
BEFORE YOU GO:
When to go to Barcelona:
A mild Mediterranean climate means that the weather in Barcelona is relatively pleasant year-round, making any time a good time to visit. Barcelona’s peak tourist season is in the summer months (particularly June and July). This is when crowds are at its highest, and temperatures at its highest. I have heard that the crowds are absolutely miserable during these months, and that you must book tickets to the city’s most popular attractions weeks in advance.
A better time to go is during shoulder season – that is during the spring or fall. I spent my 3 days in Barcelona in mid-October. Temperatures were still warm (with highs in the 70s F/20s C), but crowds had thinned out significantly at that point. I bought tickets to the main sighs only a few days before I went (and booked Casa Batllo only the night before I went). It was the perfect time to go!
How to get to Barcelona:
By Air: Most flights arrive at Barcelona’s main international airport, El Prat, which is served by many international carriers that connect it to major cities both in Europe and around the world. Barcelona is served by low-cost carriers such as Norwegian and Level, which offers transatlantic flights at an affordable price point. It is also a hub for airlines such as Iberia and Europa, which offer connections to many destinations around Europe.
El Prat is located about 17km (~10.5 miles) outside of Barcelona. An easy and economical way to get to city center is by taking the Aerobus, which takes passengers to Placa de la Catalunya, where you can easily find connections into other parts of the city. The journey takes about 30-40 minutes (depending on traffic), and also makes stops at Place d’Espanaya, Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, and Placa de la Universitat.
Aerobus A1 serves Terminal 1, and runs every 5-10 minutes. Buses depart from El Prat between 6am and 1am, and run from Placa Catalunya between 6am and 12:30am. Aerobus A2 serves Terminal 2 (A, B, and C) and runs every 10 minutes from 6am to 1am.
The fare is €5.90 one-way, or €10.20 return. You can purchase a ticket on the bus or from an agent at the airport. There are also self-service ticket machines, which accept credit cards.
Another option is to fly into Gironia, which is 90km away from Barcelona, and is served by Ryanair. If you have extra time, an option is to do Barcelona in 3 days, and then have a day trip in Girona. You can get to central Barcelona via bus or train.
By Train: Train service may be a good option when coming from other major cities in Spain, such as Madrid and Valencia. It is not recommended for coming from other European destinations, as flights on budget airlines are much faster and tend to be cheaper.
High-speed train service by Tren de Alta Velocidad Española connect Barcelona to other Spanish destinations. They depart and arrive from Estacio Sants, about 2km from Las Ramblas.
Other Options: Long-distance bus service is also offered to many destinations throughout Europe, as well as Morocco. Barcelona is also connected via ferry to the Balearic Islands and Italy. You can also drive into the city – the A-7 is the main toll road from France, and the A-2 is the major toll-free road.
How to get around Barcelona:
Many of Barcelona’s main tourist tourist attractions are clustered fairly close together, and it is easy to walk to get to them. Grab a pair of comfortable walking shoes – walking was my main method of getting around while exploring Barcelona in 3 days. Wandering through the quaint streets of the city to get around was among one of my favorite activities there.
Barcelona also has lots of designated bike lanes, so renting a bike to explore the city is also a good option. For bike rental options, see here.
For those times when you are too far or too tired to walk, Barcelona has a fairly extensive public transportation system to help you get around. The Metro is fast, easy, safe, and clean, and gets you around to mostly where you need to go.
The metro serves most of the city on 8 underground color-coded lines. Stations are marked with a red diamond with an “M.” The Metro runs from approximately 5am to midnight on weekdays, until 2am on Friday nights, and all night on Saturdays.
A single-ride ticket is €2.10. I would, however, suggest getting a T-10 ticket, which is good for 10 rides and only costs €10. If there are multiple people in your party, you can split the rides amongst everyone in your group. My only suggestion is to pay attention to which side of the turnstile you are swiping your card! I kept swiping my T-10 ticket over and over at the wrong swiper, and lost a few rides on my ticket, until someone pointed out that I was using the wrong one. DUHHHHH.
The city is also served by 80 bus lines. You can also get around via tram, cable car, and funicular (that takes you up to Tibidabo).
As of October 2017, Barcelona was not served by Uber. If you need to call a cab, I would suggest downloading the Mytaxi app, which can hail a taxi for you and tell the driver exactly where you need to go without any language barriers (and it tells you the exact fare as well).
Currency, money, and tipping:
Like many European countries, Spain uses the Euro currency. Credit cards are widely accepted in Barcelona, although it is good to have some cash on hand for smaller establishments (cash especially comes in handy when buying something at the stalls at the La Boqueria market). It is best to get cash out of an ATM instead of at a currency exchange booth, as the rates are more favorable. You can find ATMs all over the city, or at the airport, train station – I took some out upon my arrival at the El Prat airport.
Like most of Europe, tipping is not expected in Barcelona, and sometimes gratuity is already bundled into your bill. If you feel like it, you can leave some extra coins or an extra 10% for great service.
Barcelona is located in Catalonia, which is an autonomous region in Spain, with its own language and culture. This means that both Spanish and Catalan are the official languages of Barcelona. If you are looking for similarities between Spanish and Catalan, well, you won’t really find any – I found that they were completely different.
I found that my broken high school Spanish came in handy at times. While most people who work in establishments frequented by tourists speak at least some English, it’s not always great English, so I found that having a grasp on some basic Spanish came in useful in my 3 days in Barcelona.
I spent my stay in Barcelona in 3 days as a solo female traveler. I found it relatively safe to walk around the city by myself, even at night (although I definitely do not recommending staying out too late at night). You should avoid walking around El Raval and the southern end of La Rambla late at night – although, I would say that when you are solo traveling, you should avoid walking around by yourself late at night anywhere, regardless.
As with any other solo trip, please use caution and common sense while in Barcelona. As mentioned above, don’t walk around late at night. Don’t go anywhere with strangers. Don’t drink too much. Always watch your surroundings.
While violent crime is very rare in Barcelona, petty crime, such as pickpocketing is a major concern. This is especially true in tourist-heavy areas such as Las Ramblas and on the beach at Barceloneta, and on public transport. It is said that the pickpockets here are *very* sneaky so keep your guard up at all times! Always, always, always keep a close eye on your belongings! I generally keep all my important belongings in a cross body that has a metal chain (like this one or this one), that stays on my person at all times. A money belt may also be a good idea.
Also be aware that tourist scams are commons in areas such as Las Ramblas, so always keep your guard up!
On a side note: I spent my 3 days in Barcelona while the Catalan independence movement was going on. While the media portrayed chaos and made it seem like there were violent mass protests going on everywhere in the city (I almost cancelled my trip because of this), I was pleasantly surprised to find that the city was calm and quiet once I arrived. In fact, the only sign of the movement going on that I could see were the flags representing either side that people hung on their balconies.
My point – take what the media says with a grain of salt, and do your own research. Be an educated traveler!
Like the rest of Europe, Spain uses 230 V Type E power plugs. If you are coming from the United States, you will need an adapter. Here is the adapter that I use in all my travels. It is compact, easy to use, has lots of ports for all my devices, and works pretty much everywhere!
WHERE TO STAY IN BARCELONA:
There is no shortage of accommodations in Barcelona, to suit any style and budget. There are countless hostels, stylish boutique hotels, and luxury accommodations throughout the city. Here are some of my picks:
The best and more central areas to to stay are near Las Ramblas, El Raval, Born, and the Gothic Quarter. This will help you make it easy to get around – you can easily walk to most of the major attractions from there, or be super close to transit. The hotels I list above are all in these areas.
On my trip to Barcelona in 3 days, I personally stayed at the St. Christopher’s Inn. This hostel was perfect for my Barcelona solo trip – it is clean, comfortable, and fun. Two of my friends also stayed there and recommended it. St. Christopher’s puts on lots of fun activities for socializing, which I meant to participate in, but I found that I was out and about most of the time and hardly spent time in the hostel. All I needed was a clean and comfortable place to sleep at night, and St. Christopher’s definitely fit that criteria. Breakfast is included.
The best part was the convenient location – it was literally a 3 minute walk from the Aerobus stop in Placa Catalunya, and there are 2 metro stops within 2 blocks in either direction. It was also a good starting point for walking to the major attractions.
Keep in mind that Airbnbs and other vacation rentals here are very much frowned upon, as they are often cited as a reason for driving up rents in the city. Many of the listed apartments are unlicensed and considered illegal. While there are still lots of spots available for booking on the site, keep in mind that it is not a preferred method of stay in Barcelona.
WHAT TO DO + SEE IN BARCELONA:
Gaudi’s magical wonderland was originally created to be a private community for wealthy people. When the project failed because it went way over budget, it was given to the city of Barcelona and turned into a public park, and it became designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984. It is now the second most visited attraction in Barcelona.
Gaudi takes inspiration from nature and organic forms in his creations here, which come alive in the greenery and . While most of the park itself is free to explore, you will need to buy a ticket (which is fairly affordable at €8.50) to get into the Monumental Zone, which is where all of Gaudi’s main works are located. Some of the highlights here are the entrance square, with the salamander fountain,; the Hypostyle Hall, with its 6 meter tall Roman columns and mosaic ceiling; the corrugated mosaic bench; and the gingerbread-style houses out front, one of which Gaudi took up residence in his later years, and now serves as museums.
I bought a ticket for the first time slot of the day (8am) and was glad I did. There were already people in the park when I arrived 5 minutes before opening, and the crowds got thicker as time went on. There were a a bit of a crowd there by the time I went – I can only imagine how crowded it gets during the busy season. The best part about being there so early, however, was that I also got to see the sun rise over Gaudi’s magical creations (and the city below) – one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.
Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter dates back over 2000 years and was the heart of the city during its Roman and medieval times. Even though I came to find out later that much of the current buildings here were built in the 19th and 20th century, you can see some of the remnants of these times here (like the Roman and medieval walls and the remains of the Roman temple), and its labyrinth windy, narrow cobblestone streets and ornate architectural details definitely take you back in time.
It is also the city’s main tourist hub, so at times it can be crowded AF and unpleasant. I suggest wandering the streets early in the morning to enjoy some peace and quiet so you can really be transported back into time and wonder what life was like back then.
Some of the highlights here include the Pont de Bisbe, a Flamboyant-style bridge which connect two buildings on Carrer Bisbe; Placa de Reial; the Aguilar Palace, which is now the Picasso Museum; and the Barcelona Catherdral, a stunning example of Gothic architecture. I didn’t go inside the cathedral, just admired its glorious details of the facade, but I’ve heard that the inside is equally beautiful as well.
Casa Batllo is one of Gaudi’s signature works, and absolutely a must-see. Gaudi was commissioned by the Batllo family to refurbish an existing building om Passeig de Gracia. What he transformed it to is an absolute architectural wonder. You can really see his creativity and genius come alive while walking through the rooms.
The house eschews straight lines, draws inspiration from nature (particularly from marine life), and incorporates organic elements into its design. The house is also sometimes called the “house of bones,” which refers to the structural designs of its facade. The rooftop terrace also draws inspiration from the dragon of St. George’s legend.
Your ticket comes with a unique guided audio/video tour that gives background on the ideas and inspiration behind each room in the house. It was so interesting to see how each of these concepts are reflected in the house’s architectural elements. Definitely a must-do on your 3 days in Barcelona.
Ok, so Barceloneta is a man-made beach that was created for the 1992 Olympics, and is not exactly a beautiful white-sand beach. So why is it something you should see in Barcelona in 3 days? It is a great place to hang out at one of the beach-side bars, people-watching with a fruity cocktail in hand. It is the perfect place to relax when your feet inevitably give out and you just want to sit and chill. I definitely enjoyed sitting here, watching the sunset on my last day, with sangria in hand.
At over 500 meters tall, Tibidabo is the highest mountain in Barcelona and offers sweeping panoramic view of the city, the hills, and the Mediterranean Sea. It is also home of an amusement park, a communications tower, and a fairy-tale like church (when viewed from the hills). To get the best view of the church, apparently you should head for the hills…or go on a sketchy ride in the amusement park.
View this post on Instagram
Together with the Sagrada familia and the cathedral of Barcelona, this one definitely belongs to my top three churches in Barcelona ! ❤️ What do you think? I did not take the photo with a drone, next to the church there is an amusement park and I went into the scariest attraction ever to be able to take this shot 🙄😅 ────────────────── … … … … ────────────────── #ladiesgoneglobal #bcn #gltlove #barcelona #visitbcn #europtrip #visitbarcelona #barcelonacity #tlpicks #viewpoint #femmetravel #barcelonagram #alittleblondeinparadise #somosinstagramers #lifewelltravelled #citylife #citystreets #citybreak #spanish #travelendleisure #wearetravelgirls #girlslovetravel #spain🇪🇸 #youmustsee #womenwhoexplore #letsflyawayto #topeuropephoto #travelblogger #beautifuldestinations #dametraveler
You can choose to spend the day here and hang out at the amusement park, or you can just come for the views, like I did. You can pay to take in the views from the observation deck that is at the top of the amusement park, but the better view in my opinion (that is also free), is from the base of the church. From here, you truly get a sense of how expansive Barcelona is – you can see everything in the city (my favorite part of the view was the towers of the Sagrada Familia sticking out in the skyline).
Tibidabo can be a bit of a trek to get to – you must take a RENFRE train (line L7) to the Avenida Tibidabo stop. From here, the journey gets a little bit fun – you get on the Tibidabo tram, and then transfer to the funicular. There are some excellent views from this part of the trek, so just take it all in.
Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (or just La Boqueria) is not only one of Barcelona’s top tourist attractions, it is also known as one of the best markets in all of Europe and in the world. The giant market is said to have been around since 1217. Walking up and down the rows of stalls is like a feast for the senses – it is a harmony of sights, sounds, smells, and flavors.
There are an endless array of vendors selling everything from fruits, vegetables, meats, spices, nuts, confections, and more. Several people told me that the candy vendors here are they best, but they seemed to all be closed when I was there (on a Monday). The best things here are the fruit and juices here – they are all fresh, flavorful, and cheap!
You can spend hours wandering here and snacking on the vendors’ offerings. You can also have lunch here – there are several restaurant stalls in the market. The best meal I had in Barcelona in 3 days was here at El Quim de la Boqueria – see the what to eat section for more on this.
Keep in mind that La Boqueria is closed on Sundays, so plan accordingly (I was not aware and showed up to find everything shuttered. Oops).
Barcelona is a city famous for its remarkable architecture, and the Palau is one of the highlights. It is a shining example of the Catalan Art Noveau style of architecture, which was popularized by Gaudi, but this is not a Gaudi building. The Palau designed by Lluis Domenich i Montaner, who is a contemporary of Gaudi.
It is the only concert hall listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and it is easy to see why. The details on the facade, in the terrace, and throughout its halls is absolutely breathtaking. Many world-class orchestras, choirs, composers, singers, and recording artists have performed on its stage since the venue opened in 1908.
You must book a tour or buy tickets to a performance in order to see the Palau. The tour is about a hour and gives you an insight into the background of the Catalan Art Noveau style. It was absolutely worth it to see the inside of the Palau, since it is such a stunning place.
Probably the most famous of Gaudi’s works, the Sagrada Familia is also the most popular tourist site in Barcelona, attracting some 3 million visitors a year. Just one look at the structure and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular – it’s unlike any church you will ever see. Trust me, you just have to see it to believe it. The church has been under construction since 1882 (that’s 136 years as of present writing, guys), and isn’t slated to be completed until 2026, to coincide with the centennial of Gaudi’s passing.
You should definitely admire the cathedral from afar (a good place for a photo op is from the Placa de Gaudi park across the street), but you absolutely must see it from the inside as well. Even if you’re on a budget, if you pay for one thing in Barcelona, make the Sagrada Familia the one. It is absolutely worth every penny. Even after going to so many churches around Europe last year (most notably the Duomo in 2 days in Florence and the Notre Dame in 2 days in Paris), it was unlike anything I had every seen before.
You can purchase tickets for just entry into the cathedral (€15), or a combo ticket that also includes entry to the top of either the nativity or passion tower (€29). I didn’t really see the advantage of paying an extra €14 to go up the towers, and no one really convinced me otherwise, so I just bought the entry into the church. (If someone really thinks that the combo ticket is really worth it and wants to convince me, please do.) You can also opt to add an audio tour, and guided tours are also available.
Before you step into the cathedral, spend a bit of time walking around the perimeter of the church to admire all the details that are carved into the facade. One side portrays the nativity scene, and the other portrays a somewhat graphic rendition of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is absolutely spectacular.
I probably spent an hour inside the church, just admiring all the light, color, and details that are present inside. It is an absolute magical sight. The design is whimsical, almost like something out of Dr. Seuss, which makes it unique from all the other churches out there. I loved seeing the the play of shadow and light, and seeing the interior be bathed in a prism of colors from the colorful stained glass windows. Seriously mind-blowing. Definitely the highlight of my 3 days in Barcelona.
Other things to do in Barcelona
If you want to see more of Barcelona in 3 days, check some of these places out:
I went up to the front of Casa Mila, Gaudi’s other famous building, found it rather plain in comparison to his other works, and opted to not go inside. I am kicking myself now. While unassuming from the outside, this is one of Gaudi’s most creative works, and is renowned for its functional and constructional innovations. The rooftop features some impressive looking chimneys, which are constructed to look like soldiers guarding the house – this is definitely something I wish I had seen. You can book entry and audio tour here.
If you are into art museums, this would be the one you should definitely check out in Barcelona in 3 days. The museum features one of the most extensive collection of Picasso’s works in the world, and gives an insight into the artist’s formative years. The museums also has a gorgeous terrace! I had intended to go during my 3 days in Barcelona, but my feet ended up giving out on the last day, and I headed out to Barceloneta to relax instead.
El Bunkers del Carmel
This one is a local favorite, and is also supposed to have an amazing view of the city. This one was another one that I just ran out of energy to go to. Once a site for anti-aircraft guns, the bunkers now one of the most scenic viewpoints in the city.
WHERE TO EAT IN BARCELONA:
El Quim de la Boqueria
El Quim was a top recommendation from one of my best friends (who also happens to be the biggest foodie I know), and my orthodontist (hey Dr. I, if you’re reading this), and they were both spot on because this was the best meal I had in my 3 days in Barcelona. El Quim is a tiny little stand located in La Boqueria, and sources fresh ingredients from the market to make their traditional Spanish dishes.
It gets crowded super quick – you will always find a crowd of people surrounding the stand just waiting for a spot to open up – so go early! El Quim opens at 7:30am most days, but I went on a Monday, when it opens at noon (also keep in mind it is closed on Sunday because the market is closed). I showed up 10 minutes before opening and literally grabbed the last spot there.
Their house specialty is the baby squid and eggs, which is what I had and it was phenomenal. The squid is so juicy, and the eggs soak it up so perfectly. They will also give you a loaf of bread to help you soak up the remnant juices after you’ve demolished the rest of the dish. So, so, soooooo good.
As it turns out, paella isn’t really a specialty in the region… but this was my first time in Spain, so I really wanted to eat some paella while I was there. That doesn’t mean that paella isn’t hard to find in Barcelona – just walk through the Gothic Quarter, and you will see a ton of restaurants advertising it. One problem: I was traveling myself, and paella isn’t really a meal for one. In fact, many restaurants won’t even serve it to you, unless you have at least 2 people in your party.
Enter L’arros. Located on a busy, kinda touristy strip in La Barceloneta, L’arros not only serves up single portions of paella, but it has a ton of variety.My guess is that the places that multiple-person portions are probably better, but I had the seafood paella here and it was solid, and I happily devoured it.
I went for dinner, but L’arros has a lunch special that is a great deal.
Irati Taverna Basca
This one is a recommendation from Kristen of Travels and Treats. Irati specializes in Basque-style tapas. You are correct that Barcelona is in fact, not in Basque, so why am I recommending Basque-style tapas? At the bar section in the front of the restaurants, there is a large buffet with a seemingly endless variety of little tapas that are served on toothpicks. There is a good selection here, and everything I had was very tasty. They add up how many toothpicks are on your plate at the end, and charge you accordingly. This was a fun little spot to stop in for a little snack and a glass of cava to give me a little bit of sustenance while exploring the city.
Gelaati Di Marco
This one was a a recommendation from Kati of Untold Morsels. Gelaati Di Marco has a TON of flavors, including some really fun and unique ones, such as mojito and avocado+lime. It is tucked into the Gothic Quarter, so it makes for a perfect little treats as you wander those little streets and explore the neighborhood.
This bustling tapas spot is always busy, and for good reason. It is affordable and tasty, and super traditional. They have an extensive menu full of traditional tapas. The fried seafood here is excellent (especially the squid). I enjoyed sitting at the bar and watching the flurry of activity here, while enjoying my tapas and sangria. The vibe here is a super classic Spanish diner style, with marbled tables, checkered floors, and vintage posters all over the wall.
The original location has been around since 1955, but they recently opened up a second location down the street to alleviate the crowd. The menu is the same. This was the perfect place to enjoy some tapas for lunch!
Also check out: Barcelona Tapas Tour
Tucked into a quiet street in a corner of Barceloneta, I walked into Bitacora, was handed a menu that was only in Spanish and Catalan, and I knew I would be in for a treat. It seemed to be mostly locals in here – I didn’t hear a word of English around me all night (although reviews that I had read prior to coming also mentioned a good mix of tourists).
These were probably the best tapas that I had in Barcelona in 3 days – everything I had was absolutely delicious! Also be aware that the portions are huge – my eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach here.
I loved the patatas bravas here, as well as the bombas, which are a local favorite. They also had fiduea (kinda like a Catalan take on paella, made with rice noodles) on the specials that night that was super tasty. Be sure to save some room for dessert – the lemon pie here is divine. The sangrias are also cheap, tasty, and plentiful (€3 for 1/2 liter).
I made a stop to Artisa every night during my 3 days in Barcelona for a sweet treat on the way back to the hostel. Artisa is located right off Las Ramblas and is open late, so I just had to stop in for some churros and chocolate every night. So tasty and a perfect way to end the night. They also have coffee, gelato, and other pastries.
These places came highly recommended to me from friends, but I ran out of time to make it over to them:
Quimet & Quimet – is one of the oldest tapas bars in the city! Quimet & Quimet has been around since 1914 and is kind of off the main part of Barcelona (which is why I ended up never making it there), but people flock there anyway because apparently it is always super packed. Their specialty is the montaditos, aka two-bite tapas on crispy bread. Definitely on my list for next time.
La Paradeta – This is a super popular seafood spot. You order by weight, and they cook it right in front of you. Came highly recommended, and I’m still sad I ran out of time to go (definitely couldn’t eat all the food I wanted in Barcelona in 3 days)!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase or booking, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
You might also like:
The Most Instagrammable Places in Barcelona
3 Days in Lisbon
2 Days in Florence
Have you ever been to Barcelona? What are some of your picks on what to do in Barcelona in 3 days?