Travel Ninja

Unforgettable 3 Days in Barcelona: What to See and Do

Barcelona is a sprawling city of enchantment and allure, nestled along the sun-kissed shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The overwhelming number of things to see and do can captivate every type of visitor. With so many options, it’s easy to spend three days enjoying Barcelona and then get home and realize you missed some must-see attractions the city has to offer.

Fear not, as this blog post has you covered. I have combed through hundreds of sights, restaurants, and bars and curated the best for a 3-day itinerary, packed with must-sees and options to stretch out your vacation if you have more time or want to tweak it for different situations like families or architecture-fans.

My first time in Barcelona was during a family trip almost 10 years ago. I was instantly fascinated by this bustling metropolis and knew I would come back one day. This year, the right time finally arrived, and together with my sister, we spent 3 days rediscovering and discovering new and familiar places.

Having not been there for quite a while, I vaguely remembered most things, and a lot had changed in the meantime – not the Sagrada Família though, which still felt like the first time seeing it. If you’re traveling to the Catalan capital for the first time and have only 72 hours to spend, you can use this 3-day itinerary to help plan your stay.

Day 1: Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, and Tibidabo

Starting your adventure in Barcelona, tickets for the Sagrada Familia should be booked well in advance since they often sell out on the website. Opt for fast track tickets on Viator to visit the towers; book even further ahead for this option. Arriving at the front of the cathedral, it appears brighter in the morning and backlit in the afternoon, creating opportunities for incredible photos as the afternoon sun pierces the colors. After this, grab lunch at a local tapas bar like Sagradas Tapas, Hasta Los Andares, or the Mercat de Santa Caterina.

Next, head further north to Park Güell. Book tickets in advance for a Park Güell Guided Tour on Viator. If you’re planning to visit multiple Gaudí homes, consider the Barcelona City Pass or a bundle tour to save money. The Aerobus from the airport to downtown is a great ride and saves money with the Aerobus option.

Before sunset, head up to **Tibid

abo**, a prominent hill on the outskirts of Barcelona offering stunning panoramic views of the city and its surrounding landscape. It’s the perfect place to catch the sunset. At Tibidabo, you’ll find the Tibidabo Amusement Park, one of the oldest amusement parks in the world, featuring rides like the Talaia Vantage Point which offers a panoramic shot of the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (or Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor), a stunning basilica that crowns the summit of Tibidabo and is visible from various parts of Barcelona.

Though we didn’t have time to visit the basilica and amusement park ride on my last trip, I’m eager to explore them next time. For a perfect end to your first day, visit Sips, the 3rd best bar in the world in 2022, for amazing cocktails. If you’re hungry, grab pizza from Bellillo Pizzeria Napoletana and eat it while standing in line for DeLaCrem gelato—it’s totally worth it.

Sagrada Família

Designed by the famous Spanish architect Antonio Gaudí, the Sagrada Família is an unfinished cathedral that began in 1882 and remains colossal yet incomplete. This monumental building has seen many successors working continuously over the century, but it’s not expected to be finished soon. Despite this, the church stands as a masterpiece on every Barcelona bucket list.

At first glance, the bleak and monotonous exterior seems the opposite of the colorful, vibrant facades you might expect. However, a closer look reveals intricate details and figures representing different phases in the life of Jesus. As a fan of God, Gaudí incorporated religion into the interior of the basilica, avoiding straight lines to mimic a forest with unique columns and stained windows reflecting mother nature.

what to do in barcelona for 3 days

There’s also a museum below the basilica showcasing drawings, models, and the construction history. Due to its popularity, the Sagrada Família is often crowded, so I recommend getting an online ticket or using the Barcelona Go City Pass to avoid long waiting times. We managed to pass through the entrance gate and security check in just 10 minutes. The cathedral is open from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm every day, with a regular entrance ticket costing around €32.

Park Güell

After your visit to the impressive cathedral, head to Park Güell, one of Antoni Gaudí’s most artistic works in Barcelona. This privatized park is a sprawling green space covering 17 hectares on Carmel Hill, overlooking the city. Gaudí’s genius shines through the artistic highlights here, making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The famous landmark at the main entrance is the dragon, adorned with colorful broken pottery, often seen on postcards as the park’s unofficial symbol.

Beyond the dragon, you’ll find a giant market hall with impressive columns inspired by a forest, and a ceiling decorated with intricate patterns of mosaics. Above the hall is a terrace surrounded by a balustrade, featuring a world-famous bench winding in snake lines, offering a fantastic view of the city. The park also includes various installations, green spaces to relax and slow down, and a lookout point with three crosses at the highest part, providing panoramic views of Barcelona.

what to do in barcelona for 3 days

With three entrances, the main entrance and two others, this private park charges an entrance fee of €10 for adults and €7 for children aged 7 to 12. Tickets can be purchased online in advance to avoid long waiting times. The park is open daily from 9:30 am to 7:30 pm.

Barceloneta Beach

After having seen some of the most famous landmarks in Barcelona, spend your first day in a more relaxed manner at Barceloneta Beach. This 1.1km stretch of La Barceloneta encompasses four different beaches, with the popular and main beach being Barceloneta itself. During the summer, the weather is perfect for a visit, especially on weekends when it becomes crowded with both tourists and locals.

what to do in barcelona for 3 days

People chill with friends, enjoy refreshing drinks, and swim in the ocean. Even in winter, there is plenty to do at the beach. You can walk along the promenade, relax in one of the many cafés and restaurants, or engage in a game of beach volleyball.

Dinner at BarCeloneta Sangria Bar (optional)

To end your first day in Barcelona, I highly recommend dining at BarCeloneta Sangria Bar, a fantastic restaurant located close to the beach. This all-vegan restaurant offers a delightful array of vegan tapas and paellas in a cozy, bright setting adorned with colorful decor. Their homemade Sangrias are truly awesome.

My sister and I shared the vegan paella, which was incredibly yummy, and we indulged in their delicious tiramisu and strawberry whipped cream. This 100% plant-based restaurant is perfect for vegans and anyone looking to try something special in terms of food and drinks.

Day 2: Gaudí Houses and La Rambla

Start your day by booking tickets in advance through Viator for the Casa Milà Skip-the-Line Ticket and enjoy a 10% off with the Barcelona City Pass. Casa Milà, constructed between 1906 and 1912, is known for its distinctive features such as the undulating stone facade, wrought iron balconies, and a rooftop adorned with chimneys that resemble sculptures.

This building showcases Gaudí’s penchant for organic shapes and innovative structural solutions. Double up your house explorations by visiting Casa Batlló, just 500m away, another residential building designed by Gaudí and built between 1904 and 1906. Its imaginative, organic design features a facade that looks like a living, breathing work of art with curves, colorful mosaics, and balconies that resemble masks or skulls, giving it the nickname House of Bones. The creativity of Gaudí is evident in the intricate details, curved lines, and innovative use of space and light.

After exploring, grab a late lunch in the Eixample district with options like Ciutat Comtal for delicious tapas or Batea, a Michelin guide restaurant known for seafood. For a more formal spot perfect for a date, try Compartir. If you prefer a beautiful venue despite the poorly rated food, you might check out El Nacional—although we ended up leaving due to its disappointing offerings.

In the afternoon, head to the northwestern end of the central pedestrian walkway known as La Rambla. Starting at Plaça de Catalunya, a central square that serves as a hub for locals and tourists, marking the boundary between the old city center and the modern Eixample district, walk down La Rambla to enjoy street performers, artists, musicians, and living statues, creating a vibrant and interactive environment.

Don’t miss the La Boqueria Market, one of the oldest markets in Barcelona, started in 1217 and named by CNN as the best fresh produce market in the world. Here you can find many goodies and should definitely eat at El Quim, following the Eater guide and Barcelona Hacks for stall suggestions.

At the end of La Rambla, visit the Columbus Monument and take an evening stroll along the Port Vell area to enjoy the beautiful waterfront views.

Finish your day with dinner in or near the Gothic Quarter with recommendations like El Xampanyet or L’Alcoba Azul for tapes. For a perfect end to the night, visit the World’s Best Bar of 2022, Paradiso. Get there ahead of time to join their virtual queue system via QR code at the entrance and wait for the call. The vibes and drinks are impeccable, though the bar food is minimal, so I recommend eating somewhere else first.

La Rambla

Just as Paris has its Champs-Élysées and London boasts Oxford Street, Barcelona is famous for its vibrant La Rambla. This 1.2 km, tree-lined pedestrian boulevard connects Plaça de Catalunya to the Christopher Columbus Monument near the port. The sides of the street are dotted with cafés, terraces, artistic shows, souvenir stands, and flower stalls.

what to do in barcelona for 3 days

Although there’s nothing special to do here, it’s a perfect spot to stroll around, admire architectural delights, and enjoy some people-watching. However, always keep an eye on your belongings as La Rambla is known for its high number of pickpockets. Be cautious while walking down the boulevard to avoid getting your bag stolen or falling into tourist traps like tourist-first restaurants serving mediocre food at expensive prices.

For authentic Spanish cuisine, plan a visit to the Mercat de la Boquerìa, a huge food market right on La Rambla. It is considered one of the best gourmet markets in Europe.

Casa Batlló

One of the most striking sights in Barcelona is the colorful facade of Casa Batlló, with its bone-like balconies and eye-catching tiles. Although it’s not 100 percent Gaudí’s original work, as it’s a remodel of a previously built house, the interior is equally as fascinating as the outer part. While the expensive ticket price might deter some, it’s absolutely worth it.

It’s advisable to buy tickets at the entrance, but it’s better and cheaper to get them online beforehand to save time and avoid the queue. An entry ticket for an audioguide tour costs around €35 per person. Whether you plan to visit once or twice in your lifetime, the experience is definitely worth it. The tour takes you through various parts of the building, delving into the history of the Batlló family and the ideas behind Gaudí’s extraordinary architectural creations.

what to do in barcelona for 3 days

At the end of the tour, you get to travel into Gaudí’s mind through an epic 360° experience featuring a spectacular display of light and sound. Although it might not be suitable for those who are sensitive to such stimuli, I found it super fascinating and even stayed a second time.

Casa Milà

In contrast to Casa Batlló, Casa Milà was completely designed by Gaudí and stands as a unique and original apartment block that people either like or not. Though it lacks color, its architectural brilliance is undeniable. Tickets for a skip-the-line audioguide tour are €25 per person, making it cheaper than Casa Batlló.

what to do in barcelona for 3 days

Depending on your time schedule and how much money you want to spend, you can choose to see the inside of either building. From our research, we found Casa Batlló to be more interesting to explore through a tour, so we opted to see Casa Milà from the outside.

Day 3: The Beach, The City, And The Hill

Start your morning at Barceloneta Beach where you can relax on the sandy shores, swim, or rent a bike to explore the waterfront area. Some of the best Paella restaurants are close to the beach, though not along La Rambla. After some thorough research, we decided to eat at El Xiringo de la Barceloneta for a legit paella which was phenomenal—just skip their Instagram Flan, it’s not good.

Following lunch, make your way to Parc de la Ciutadella, a serene park featuring the Arc de Triomf at its northern end. Spend your afternoon exploring or shopping in the streets of the Gothic Quarter, ensuring you visit the Barcelona Cathedral and Placa Reial among the ancient streets. By late afternoon, head to Montjuic Park, a large hill overlooking Barcelona.

Take a cable car ride to the top for panoramic views of the city and visit the Palau Nacional, home to the National Art Museum of Catalonia, and watch the sunset. If you’re visiting Barcelona in the winter, prioritize Montjuic over Parc de la Ciutadella to ensure you go up while there’s still light. For dinner, try Quimet & Quimet, a well-loved tapas bar in El Poble-Sec.

Mount Tibidabo

Start your day with a visit to Mount Tibidabo, a hill overlooking Barcelona with a magnificent view of the city and coastline from 500 meters high. Although it’s easy to reach if you know the way, we had no clue about the correct public transport connection and found pretty much every internet source offering different advice. We ended up taking a cab there and used public transport on the way back.

The enormous size of the statue of Jesus is an iconic part of the skyline, visible from most areas of the city. On Tibidabo, you’ll find a church and the Tibidabo Amusement Park, one of the oldest still functioning amusement parks in the world, featuring roller coasters, a Ferris wheel, and other fun attractions.

what to do in barcelona for 3 days

The park is open on weekends and public holidays from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm. Tickets can be bought at the counter for €35 for adults and €14 for children between 90-120 cm, which includes the Tibidabo Funicular and the shuttle bus.

Plaça d’Espanya

One of the most important Plaças in Barcelona is Plaça d’Espanya, situated at the intersection of the city’s significant streets and serving as the gateway to Montjuïc. It features the Palau Nacional and the Magic Fountain. You’ll immediately recognize the two Venetian towers, an unusual sight in a Spanish city, built as the entrance to the World Fair in 1929.

The Magic Fountain, located in front of the Palau Nacional, was designed by Carles Buigas and remains one of the most popular attractions of the exhibition, known for its spectacular show of light, water, and sound, offering an unforgettable experience. The shows run from Wednesday to Sunday between 9:30 and 10:30 pm. Unfortunately, due to poor time management, we missed the show, but it’s definitely one of the best reasons to come back to this vibrant square.

Arc de Triomf & Parc de la Ciutadella

Last but not least, don’t miss the chance to experience the everyday life of locals who step together, dance Bachata, sit around, play guitar, and engage in ball games at Parc de la Ciutadella, the greenest oasis in Barcelona. This perfect place to relax, recharge, and enjoy long walks also offers various attractions such as a zoo, the Catalan parliament, and a monumental fountain created by Gaudí.

The park is free to visit and open every day from 10:00 am to 10:30 pm. Just next to Parc de la Ciutadella, you’ll find the giant monument Arc de Triomf, which marks the entrance to the promenade Passeig de Lluís Companys and served as the main access gate for the World Fair in 1888.

Customize Your Itinerary

Planning your itinerary for 3 days in Barcelona involves a lot of choices, and here are some suggestions on what to skip and save for your next trip. On Day 2, if you’re over the numerous Casas by Gaudí, who was incredibly prolific, you might want to skip one of these houses. Montjuïc Hill can also be out of the way and might be better left for another visit.

While Parc de la Ciutadella and the Arc de Triomf on Day 3 are nice to visit, they are not strictly necessary, especially since there are Arc de Triomfs in at least 4 other European cities that look quite similar. To tweak your itinerary further, if you love markets, you should add the Mercat de Santa Caterina and Mercat de Sant Antoni to your days. For those who love bars, add Two Schmucks to your list.

If you love food, prioritize making a reservation at Disfrutar, Lasarte, or ABaC, and spend more time relaxing at a tapas restaurant, people watching, and enjoying your meal rather than hopping to the next sight. Families with kids should consider visiting the aquarium or the zoo near the Gothic Quarter. If you need more Gaudí, add Casa Vicenes, Palau Güell, the Church of Colònia Güell, and Casa Calvet to your itinerary.

Where To Stay

Finding the perfect accommodation is key to enhancing your Barcelona experience. In another blog post, I have provided detailed notes on where to stay in Barcelona, covering different neighborhoods. The Gothic Quarter offers a historic and central location, while Gràcia provides a bohemian atmosphere with a local feel.

For those who prefer modernity, Eixample is known for its grid layout and architectural gems. The post includes recommendations tailored to every budget, ensuring you find the ideal spot for your stay. For more information, you can read the full post to make the best choice for your trip.

Tips For Your Trip

Barcelona is notorious for pickpocketing and petty theft, so be careful everywhere you go. Always walk in groups at night and avoid sketchy areas unless with other people. Watch your bags and phones especially in crowded areas like La Rambla, Sagrada Família, and La Boqueria.

On a brighter note, Barcelona is largely cashless. Most taxis accept credit card, and even small stalls at La Boqueria accept it, like when buying a 2.50€ juice. We didn’t use cash at all, with Apple Pay becoming our best friend during the trip.

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