In Barcelona for a Day? An Easy to Follow 24 hr Tour

Only in Barcelona for a day? Do not worry, with 24 hour self guided itinerary you can see plenty of the most popular Barcelona attractions and even a UNESCO World Heritage Site or two!

Barcelona is a city of many delights, but one great advantage for anyone coming to visit Barcelona on a day trip is that it’s relatively small, which means you can see plenty of what the city has to offer in twenty-four hours.

So, while one day in Barcelona might sound like a recipe for a breakneck tour, I have a few ideas about how you can get the most out of your time without exhausting yourself too much.

Self-guided itinerary of Barcelona for a day

Let’s get to it.

Plaça de Catalunya and Las Ramblas

We are going to start explore Barcelona in the most obvious place: the city’s most famous square, at the top of Las Ramblas.

If you want your itinerary to begin as soon as you step off the plane, the A1 Aerobus from El Prat Airport takes you directly here.

If not, buy yourself a T-Dia travel pass (unlimited travel on Barcelona’s entire public transport system) and make your way to Catalunya metro station.

Plaça de Catalunya Barcelona
Plaça de Catalunya Barcelona view from the 9th floor of the El Corte Ingles

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The square itself is well worth a look with enormous fountains and statues, but it will be hard to resist the urge to explore La Rambla for long. Pop into the El Corte Ingles and head to the cafeteria on the 9th floor for a superb view.

La Rambla is undoubtedly touristy but still a must-see. At around a mile long, you can walk from one end to the other in about twenty minutes, which means you have plenty of time to make stops or veer off left or right into the narrow streets of the old town.

The most important thing on the Las Ramblas is to drink in your surroundings. Such is the hullabaloo of people at ground level that it’s easy to miss how beautifully decorated the buildings are.

Casa Bruno Cuadros (1858)  located on Las Ramblas of Barcelona
Casa Bruno Cuadros (1858) located on Las Ramblas of Barcelona

That is, in fact, a good rule of thumb for Barcelona in general: look above eye level because a building’s windows, balconies, and rooftops are often a lot more elaborate than the shop fronts or doors at street level would suggest.

La Boqueria market,

About five minutes down La Rambla on your left-hand side is La Boqueria market, still one of the city’s most in-demand spots for restaurateurs and chefs despite its popularity with tourists.

meat in Barcelona Market
Meat eaters will love La Boqueria market

If you are already working up a sweat, fresh fruit juices are on sale at various stalls, although you are advised to shop around for the best price. Take a few minutes to wander inside the grand iron entrance and check out the food stalls of this famous market before moving on.

If you prefer a coffee, Cafe de l’Òpera has been serving customers since 1929 and retains something of an old-world charm. Its name comes from the opera house next door: the Gran Teatre del Liceu, which is well worth a photograph.

Cafe de Opera, (1929) Las Ramblas Barcelona in a day
Cafe de Opera has been serving customers since 1929

The Gothic Quarter and Cathedral

On the other side of the road is Carrer de Ferran, a straight, wide thoroughfare (something of a novelty in a neighborhood of winding streets) ideal if you want to wander into the Gothic quarter or make a beeline towards the city hall or Santa Maria del Mar, the Barcelona Cathedral. The Picasso Museum may also be a draw card for art lovers.

Santa Maria del Mar, the Barcelona Cathedral.
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, also known as Barcelona Cathedral

At the bottom of the Rambla is the Columbus monument, a towering statue of Christopher Columbus, or Cristòfor Colom, as he is known in Catalan.

Turning left here will take you along Passeig del Colom, and the photo opportunities of the statue get better, with the verdant squat shape of Montjuic providing a dramatic backdrop for the old navigator as he gestures towards the sea.

Port Vell and Barceloneta

Crossing the road takes you to Port Vell, Barcelona’s chief port for both cruisers and super yachts. In recent years, the world’s rich and super-rich have come to favor the city, and you can see some genuinely amazing vessels taking harbor.

Barcelona Port

Bearing left around the port will take you past a large elegant port-side building, which houses various restaurants and cafés, as well as the Museu d’Història de Catalunya.

The main strip along the port is Passeig de Joan de Borbó. Following this road leads you to Barcelona’s beaches.

If you are facing the ocean, to your right you will see the eye-catching W Hotel, shaped like a ship’s sail. It’s another magnificent photo opportunity, but turning right won’t lead you to much more than the hotel itself, so we will follow the beachfront in the opposite direction.

 Barceloneta Beach  Barceloneta Beach COR-TEN steel sculpture designed by Rebecca Horn and the W Hotel
Barceloneta Beach COR-TEN steel sculpture designed by Rebecca Horn and the W Hotel

An obvious option for lunch would be paella by the sea. Frank Gehry’s unmissable Golden Fish sculpture is a good landmark for paella places as there are options both before (Marina Bay and Agua ) and after (La Fonda, Barnabier, and El Cangrejo Loco).

La Sagrada Familia

After lunch, make your way to the bus stop in Carrer de la Marina and take the V21 bus uptown to visit La Sagrada Familia.

Sagrada Familia,  designed by Antoni Gaudi
Sagrada Familia, designed by Antoni Gaudi

Even for those who have seen it before, the constantly changing La Sagrada Familia is an incredible sight, and fortunately, there are parks on either side of the basilica, allowing you to admire Gaudí’s painstaking handiwork from every angle.

Sagrada Família stained glass window
A mid to late afternoon visit gives lovely color to the stained glass windows

If you want to see inside, it’s best to buy tickets in advance (€20), but unless you are an architectural buff, you might be willing to settle just to see the outside.

Gràcia

Take the blue line on the metro from Sagrada Familia towards Diagonal, and change for the green line. Get off at Fontana and discover a totally different area: Gràcia.

Once a village that was not part of Barcelona, Gràcia grid of (almost) pedestrianized streets and squares still retains a small-town feeling despite the area’s proximity to the city center.

Turning left out of the metro and left again will take you into the main strip of Carrer d’Astúries, and you won’t go far wrong following this road.

It quickly leads you to Plaçá del Diamant, one of Gràcia’s many attractive squares, where generations of families gather at all hours of the day

Just beyond the square, at right angles to Astúries, is Carrer de Verdi, a wonderful, narrow, leafy street lined with trees, eateries, and an independent cinema.

It’s one of my favorite streets in Barcelona, and so I would recommend walking down it, turning left and left again, and walking back up Carrer de Torrijos, which will take you to Plaça de la Virreina.

This square, dominated by an imposing church, has plenty of bars with outdoor seating if you fancy a tipple.

Suitably refreshed, we now head to Carrer de L’Escorial, to pick up the tiny 116 bus to Park Güell.

Park Güell

The 116 is something of an unlikely chariot – and less romantic travelers may prefer to take a cab – but the winding route it takes to Park Güell will save you a strenuous uphill hike.

Looking towards the harbor from Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain.

How to get up to Park Güell

Gaudí’s park is perched on a hill, and the 116 will leave you outside its main entrance.

The entrance is actually one of the most eye-catching parts of the park, with the two gatehouses on either side like something out of a fairytale. They have been converted into a gift shop and a restaurant, which means you can take a look inside too.

Inside the park, we immediately see the famous salamander perched on the staircase, greeting visitors.

The staircase leads to the base of the park’s terrace. Its sturdy columns collect rainwater during the year to irrigate the park.

The area also provides welcome shelter from the sun and often a rather charming amphitheater for local musicians.

Mosaics at Park Güell

Gaudí lived in the park until his untimely death, in a building designed by a close friend and mentor Francesc Berenguer. That building now houses the Gaudí House Museum.

Access to the terrace on top of the columns costs €10, but it may well be worth it for first-time visitors wishing to explore the endless mosaic bench and wonderful views of the city.

Getting down

You can get down the way you got up – taking a cab or the 116, which goes on a loop. Should you opt for the latter, get off at the “Gràn de Gràcia-Lesseps” stop and take the metro from Lesseps.

Discover the Architecture of Passeig de Gràcia

From Lesseps, take the green line to Diagonal.

Diagonal is a huge metro station, so try not to be intimidated. Once off the platform, go out through the first turnstiles and then keep your eyes open for the “Passeig de Gràcia” exit.

Passeig de Gràcia isn’t as famous as La Rambla, but it’s a world-class high street and arguably has more notable buildings – not to mention people-watching opportunities – in its favor.

Case Milà, Casa Batlló and more!

Two of Gaudí’s most important designs are found on this street. Heading downtown from the metro, you will soon see Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera (“The Stone Quarry”), on the left.

la Pedera Gaudi Barcelona Spain
La Pedera Gaudi Barcelona Spain

An undulating rocky building stretching around the corner of Passeig de Gràcia and Carrer de Provença, like many of Gaudí’s designs, looks like no other urban building.

Just three streets down is another Gaudí masterpiece: Casa Batlló. Where Casa Milà has the stony presence of an eroded cliff-face, Casa Batlló is much more in keeping with the colorful mosaics of Park Guell or some of the chocolate-box ornamentation around the newer elements of La Sagrada Familia.

Casa Batllo Barcelona Spain

Manzana

Show-stopping buildings on Passeig de Gràcia were something of a trend in early 20th century Barcelona, and Gaudí wasn’t the only architect paid by a rich Catalan magnate to wow his rivals.

The stretch of Passeig de Gràcia between Carrer d’Aragó and Carrer de Consell de Cent is known as La Manzana de La Discordia (a reference to the Apple of Discord which caused a deadly conflict between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite in Greek mythology, and a pun: manzana means both apple and block).

Casa Lleo Morera in Barcelona, Spain by Catalan architect Domenech i Montaner.

So instead of Greek goddesses, visitors can decide which of Casa Batlló, Casa Amatller (next door at number 41), Casa Bonet (number 39), Casa Mulleras (number 37), and Casa Lleó (number 35) is the fairest of them all.

(Window)-shopping

The ground floor of Casa Lleó is actually occupied by Loewe’s flagship Barcelona store, and high-end shopping in historic buildings is one of Passeig de Gràcia’s attractions – even if that means window-shopping for most of us.

Time for tapas

One street I often favor when I have visitors is Rambla de Catalunya, perhaps a more upmarket sister to the more famous Ramblas, which runs parallel to Passeig de Gràcia.

Time for tapas

There are lots of outdoor eating options along this street, and I particularly recommend Ciutat Condal, a tourist-friendly place with helpful staff and an excellent range of tapas and other local food. Reservations are not possible, but it has a sister restaurant, Cervecería Catalana, just five minutes’ walk away at Carrer de Mallorca 236 and waiting times are normally reasonable in any case.

Back on Passeig de Gràcia itself, El Nacional (Passeig de Gràcia 24) is an amazing place hidden down a romantic alleyway. This is a very different dining experience, a high-ceilinged “gastronomic multi-space”, meaning you can sample traditional food from different parts of Spain all under one roof.

You might like to consider a guided tour to help you find the best tapas in the city. (link to our post) An organized tour can be a relaxing way to end your day in Barcelona.

Nightcap(s)

After a day as busy as that, you may be forgiven for wanting to go straight to bed!

For those of you willing to cap off your one-day Barcelona itinerary with a drink or two, the area around Passeig de Gràcia is overflowing with choices.

Tapas and drinks in Barcelona
Tapas and drinks in Barcelona

If you made it to El Nacional for dinner, you could do far worse than having cocktails or wine here.

Not far away in the tranquil and elegant Passatge de la Concepció is Boca Grande. Cocktails here are expensive, but the bar’s soft lighting, red velvet armchairs, and model waitresses make for an unquestionably glamorous setting.

For a killer view, the Hotel Majestic is perched on the corner of Passeig de Gràcia and Carrer de Valencia. This means its sprawling rooftop bar boasts an unbeatable panorama of Barcelona’s twinkling night skyline.

Hotel Majestic Barcelona
Hotel Majestic’s rooftop bar has an epic view

But higher-end options are not at all necessary. The best advice may be to pop in the first place that catches your eye – one of the city’s enduring charms is the offbeat character of many of its bars.

Take the chance to enjoy some local wine or an IPA – and if you are ordering liquor or a cocktail, brace yourself for a typically generous Spanish pour!

We hope you like the million annual visitors; you enjoy visiting Barcelona and perhaps plan another Barcelona trip sometime soon.

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