One Day in Barcelona, Spain: From Gaudi to the Gothic Quarter
So you only have one day in Barcelona, and you want to see as much as possible.
Barcelona is a lively city with lots to see. But if you’re ready to pull up your socks and put in a long day, you can pack in many of the main sights.
Be sure to stay someplace central so you can get off to an early start and be right in the heart of the action. We found the most adorable traditional Spanish apartment that was located right across the street from the Arc de Triomf and Parc Ciutadella. Situated in a trendy, Bohemian community in the heart of the Old Town, it was only about 1 10-minute walk to Las Ramblas and other popular attractions.
Now that you’ve found the perfect place to rest your head, let’s take a look at how to spend one day in Barcelona so you can see plenty of what this exciting city has to offer.
Get up early so you can enjoy the energy of the morning rush as people sip their morning espresso before dashing off to work. There’s energy alive on the streets of Barcelona that simply isn’t found in other parts of the world. You can literally feel it buzz through you as you wend your way through the city’s streets. You simply have to experience it for yourself. It’s incredible. You’ll find plenty of pastry shops where you can grab a Danish or croissant. If you prefer a full meal in the morning, there are lots of curbside cafes that offer local delicacies or a traditional English breakfast of toast, eggs, and sausage or bacon. If you’re staying by the Arc de Triomf, El Nostre Pa on Passeif de Luis Companys is a great place to grab a bite to eat. You can either enjoy your meal inside the shop or take it to go and walk across the street to eat in the green space surrounding the Arc de Triomf.
Now that your stomach is sated, it’s time to start your journey. If you enjoy walking, this one-day guide has plenty of it, but some sites are quite a distance apart. When you conjure up images of Barcelona in your mind, the one attraction that likely stands out most in Gaudi’s infamous Sagrada Familia. A visit to this fair city simply wouldn’t be complete without making a stop at this towering basilica. This is the first point of interest on our one-day tour.
Construction of the UNESCO World Heritage site started in 1882 and is projected for completion in 2026—100 years after the death of its enlightened architect Antoni Gaudi. The site of La Sagrada Familia is perpetually under construction, with large cranes extending out at every angle—something you don’t typically see in the online pictures promoting the basilica. Still, it’s a sight to behold with its detailed sculptures and 18 sky-scraping spires that exude both Gothic and Art Nouveau styles. Each of the church’s three facades is ornately decorated to highlight the story of Jesus’s life, and the interior of the building is equally as impressive.
It will take you about 30 minutes to walk to La Sagrada from the Arc, and you’ll want to spend an hour or so wandering around the site once you arrive. The details are so intricate that it’s impossible to take it all in, but drink up as much as you can before starting off again, this time, in the direction of the Park Güell.
It’s a 40-minute walk to the park from La Sagrada, so you may opt for a taxi to help keep your feet fresh since there’s still a lot left to see later in the day. Spend an hour or so wandering around the public park, which is home to even more of Gaudi’s masterpieces. In 1900, wealthy Spanish entrepreneur Eusebi Güell commissioned Gaudi to build an estate for the elite. Gaudi adorned the area with his unique designs. A few years after Güell’s death, his family gifted the area to the city as Park Güell.
Much of the park is open to visitors to wander around at leisure. However, if you want to get up close and personal with Gaudi’s designs, you’ll need to purchase a ticket for an exclusive part of the park known as the Monumental Zone. Here, you’ll find the serpent-inspired mosaic terrace, the infamous El Drac mosaic salamander and other mosaics, and the main park entrance. An additional ticket is required to visit Gaudi’s house, la Torre Rosa.
Pro Tip: Get in line to purchase your ticket before you begin exploring the public parts of the park. You’ll likely have to wait a while just to make your purchase, and once you do you’ll be given a time to return for entry into the exclusive area. While you’re waiting, you can check out the rest of the park, which includes Gaudi’s colonnaded pathways and bird’s nests. Alternatively, you can pre-purchase tickets that allow you to skip the line.
Once you’ve had a chance to wander around the park, it will be mid-day. By now, your stomach will be rumbling, so be sure to stop for lunch. You can either grab a bite nearby or head toward your next point of interest, where there’ll be plenty of places to whet your whistle.
From Park Güell, you’ll make your way to Passeig de Gràcia in the Eixample area of Barcelona. It’s about 40 minutes of walking, so once again, you may want to hail a taxi for this leg of the trip. Passeig de Gràcia is home to some of the city’s finest shopping, including everything from Cartier and Hermes to H&M and Zara. Like the shopping, food vendors runs the gamut from takeout tapas joints to trendy and chic upscale restaurants.
In addition to all types of fashion-forward clothing chains and popular restaurants, you’ll get to glimpse two more of Gaudi’s masterpieces on Passeig de Gràcia: UNESCO World Heritage Sites Casa Milà and Casa Batlló. Walk up one side of Passeig de Gràcia and back down the other until you reach Plaça Catalunya, the place where the Old Town and newer Eixample part of the city meet. If you don’t dawdle, only stop into a few shops, and chow down on street food as you walk, you make your way from one end of Passeig de Gràcia to Plaça Catalunya in an hour or so.
Considered the city center, Plaça Catalunya is a massive that square boasts a number of fountains and statues and is the gateway to many of the Barcelona’s most important streets, including the popular pedestrian street known as La Rambla. Walk south from Plaça Catalunya to reach La Ramblas, the hub of tourist activity in Barcelona. The tree-lined street is approximately three quarters of a mile long and is completely free from vehicles. Here you’ll find street artists entertaining the thousands of tourists that stroll this street every day. You’ll also find dozens of street cafes and boutiques where you can buy all types of clothing, souvenirs, and gifts.
Pro Tip: Be sure to try the churros and chocolate. The local delicacy consists of fried pastry that is dusted in sugar and cinnamon and served with a cup of sweet, creamy chocolate. You can find the combination on the menu at just about every eatery in the area.
At the southernmost tip of La Rambla, you’ll reach the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell. If it’s still light out, you may want to make your way across the street and walk along the pier a ways. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, from here, it’s only about a 20-minute walk to the beach. Slip off your shoes and dip your toes in the sand for a short stroll along the water before the sun goes down.
Once darkness falls, it’s time to head to Barri Gotic, or the Gothic Quarter. It’s about a 20-minute walk from the beach, and the main attraction here is the Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia, or Barcelona Cathedral. Its soft lights cast an amazing aura over the area at night. After you’ve taken in this impressive sight, get lost in the narrow and winding streets of the Gothic Quarter. Take your time enjoying the one-of-a-kind offerings at the unique boutiques and pick up dessert at one of the tasty pastry shops.
By the time the shops start to close, you’ll be ready to call it a night. It’s a short 20-minute walk from the Gothic Quarter to the Arc de Triomf, where you can kick off your shoes and give your feet a much-deserved rest.
If you only had one day in Barcelona, what would you add to this list? Leave a comment below with your suggestions. We’d love to hear from you.
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