12 Hour Guide: Barcelona
How to spend a day in one of Spain’s most cultural and stylish cities
Known most famously for its architectural wonders and Mediterranean tapas, Barcelona has a rich culture that makes it Spain’s capital for young artists and expats. Filled with markets, shops, winding alleys, and unassuming gastronomical wonders, it’s impossible to get bored in this city. Luckily for me, I was able to visit Barcelona earlier this month as an embarkation point for a European cruise. The downside: I only had one day to see and experience as much as I could. Here is my guide to a perfect, albeit short, day in Barcelona.
10 AM: Like most European cities, Barcelona is full of independently owned cafes that serve amazing coffee and homemade pastries. Skip Starbucks and instead head to Cappukccino, a cafe not far from where I was staying. Cappukccino serves churros made in house, and even carries specialty drinks like iced coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice, making it the perfect spot to begin your day.
11 AM: Barcelona is home to Spain’s most famous artist and architect, Antoni Gaudi. So naturally, I had to take a quick cab ride to La Sagrada Familia, an imposing cathedral that is still under construction even 100 years after Gaudi originally designed it. Production halted after Gaudi’s death in 1926, and since then, architectural direction has shifted from person to person. Buying tickets in advance online is a must for this attraction, especially if you’re on a tight schedule! It also pays to purchase tickets to climb one of the church spires, which offers one of the best views the city has to offer.
12 PM: Keeping along with the Gaudi theme, I visited Park Güell. Often viewed as Barcelona’s version of Central Park, Park Güell features mosaics and statues all hand-made by Gaudi himself. For those on a tight budget, Park Güell is open and free to all, however to view some of the more popular pieces, as well as Gaudi’s personal house, there is a separate entrance fee.
1 PM: Lunch time! Barcelona is home to some fantastic food, and lunch is viewed by many Spaniards as being the most important meal of the day. To truly experience lunch the way locals do, head to Mercado de La Boqueria, located smack in the middle of La Rambla, Barcelona’s most famous street. La Boqueria is packed with independently owned food stalls, each with its own specialty. While many choose to eat an entire meal at one stall, its much more exciting to sample plates from many different stalls. My personal favorites were croquetas de bacalao (cod croquettes) and ham and cheese skewers.
2:30 PM: Since La Boqueria is located in Barcelona’s iconic La Rambla, it only makes sense to do some (window) shopping. La Rambla was originally a street with shops predominantly owned by local vendors, but due to increases in rent and tourists, it is now full of chain stores and high-end brands. However, just like any other iconic landmark, it’s worth a visit. Peruse through some of the wares sold by street vendors, such as flower crowns, children’s toys, and even clothing.
4 PM: After shopping, a quick trip to Casa Batllo, a private home designed by Gaudi himself, is definitely in order. Casa Batllo requires a ticket to enter, so for those on a tighter budget Gaudi also has a park (Park Guell) which features some of his most famous statues that’s free to all! Batllo is an airy, colorful home, making it a breath of fresh air from the dark and severe architecture that is usually found all over Europe. The cost to enter is definitely warranted and learning about how and why Gaudi built the home allows visitors to enter the mind of one of Spain’s greatest artists.
5:30 PM:After a lond day of travel it was time to get to the room, wash up, and head back out for the night. Mercer Boria is a boutique hotel located few blocks off of La Rambla. Although it is was a bit further from the main action, any area outside of La Rambla or La Sagrada Familia is hundreds of euros cheaper than the alternative. Mercer Boria offers apartment style rooms, making it perfect for families or larger groups of four or more. It also has a kitchen, so if you plan on staying in Barcelona for a long time you have the option of cutting costs and cooking some occasional meals.
7 PM: Barri Gotic, known in english as the Gothic Quarter, is an area in Barcelona known for having Gothic-style buildings next to ultra-modern architecture. Getting lost in Barri Gotic’s picturesque winding alleys is a must, however ask locals to direct you to Els Quatre Gats. This bar once hosted Picasso’s very first exhibition and is now a hub for local artists. Kick back with a drink and people watch.
8 PM: After asking some locals for good bars, I was directed to La Torre Rosa. Although a bit far from the city’s center, La Torre Rosa was worth the drive. All their cocktails are made with 100% fruit juices, and even though the rain prevented me from enjoying the beautiful outdoor terrace, the all-natural Cosmopolitan made up for it.
9:30 PM: In a city that’s any foodie’s dream, deciding where to eat dinner is no easy feat. With that in mind, I knew that instead of happening upon a restaurant as I usually do abroad, I had to do some research. El Pla was a restaurant that immediately stood out to me due to its intimate setting and reasonably priced menu. Although it is a bit hard to find (it’s located on a street non-accessible to vehicles, meaning a taxi can’t even help), El Pla was worth any difficulty it took to find. The menu does change seasonally, but my personal recommendation is the pork chops.
Barcelona is a huge city with a diverse populous that offers all its visitors culture, art, and great food. It is absolutely impossible to truly experience Barcelona in just one day, but 12 hours gives you more than enough time to get a taste of all the city has to offer. I know I’ll be back one day, and I hope you’ll be there too!