Barcelona – all you need to know for a perfect 3-day itinerary

Barcelona is amongst the most visited European cities and if you have been there already, you know why.
For those of you still hesitating, we are going to show you the best places in Barcelona that allow you to combine culture and relaxation time to fully enjoy this magnificent city.
We have put together a perfect 3-day itinerary through Gaudí’s city featuring the highlights like the Sagrada Família, as well as hidden gems, such as the Hospital de Sant Pau.
We also give you some practical tips on how best to prepare for your trip.

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Barcelona – Big Culture Time, Big Relaxing Time

A few secrets that make you find the right balance

Every year more than 30 million visitors travel to Barcelona, to enjoy days of culture time combined with relaxing times.

This overwhelming number is self-explanatory if you’ve ever had the chance to visit this amazing city.

What? Barcelona is still on your bucket list?

You’ll have to go!

The diversity of the city makes a trip to Barcelona an individual experience. It is totally up to you how to balance cultural highlights with tapas stopovers and beach time.

Because Barcelona has it all.

Today I want to share with you some tips and inspire you to find the right culture vs. relaxing balance for a city break in Barcelona and show you the best places for it.

Barcelona, a vibrant melting pot

When I was living in Spain, I had the chance to explore the beautiful country and to also visit Barcelona. My partner and I were living close to Alicante. So, paying a visit to the 400km off metropolis was a must.

We were living close to Alicante for almost two years, and we chose five days/four nights for a trip to Barcelona.

Barcelona Best places to see blog post
Barcelona by night.

Before diving into the best places in Barcelona, the city highlights and hidden gems to explore during a city break, here are some general practical tips to get the most out of your travel experience.

Some Practical Tips for your Barcelona Trip

Time of the year

April to June or September / October are good months to visit Barcelona.

Days are not too hot; nights are mild. And you avoid high seasons with an almost never-ending crowd of tourists.

Plan with margins

Plan for a decent number of sightseeing places. Don’t overload it.

Rather prepare for some highlights. Take your time on the spot, i.e., enjoy the beauty of these awesome places! If you visit Barcelona during a weekend, make sure to build in extra margins, as it can get crowded even during off-season periods.

Try to find the right balance in your program. Culture – that’s why you are in this amazing town. However, don’t forget to allow yourself some time to breathe deeply and to inhale the amazing bits and pieces you see and feel all along the way …  and maybe have a glass of traditional Sangria.

Access Barcelona and public transport

Barcelona is easily reachable via plane, train, or ship.

We took the train as we came from Alicante. Barcelona Sants, the main railway station, is a perfect starting point to begin exploring the city. Also from El Prat Airport, Barcelona Sants is easily reachable via rail or bus.

From the main railway station, you can take the metro to all corners of the city. The Barcelona metro network is excellent.

My tip for the metro: Think twice before buying a multi-day-ticket for the metro. You might not need it. If you like a bit of walking (and with a hotel in the city center), a lot of Barcelona’s sightseeing diamonds can be done on foot. With a current price (2019) of EUR 2.20 for a single metro ticket, it might be cheaper than any multi-day-ticket. You can check here the current prices before departure.

Book tickets online

And last but not least, try to reserve /buy tickets for sightseeing places online. Don’t waste your time in waiting lines. Most of the attractions offer ticket reservations online nowadays and for a lot of the places you can choose a time of the day for your visit. This way, you can easily avoid the peak times.

Barcelona, best places for a 3-day itinerary

We have seen a lot of Barcelona. What I want to share with you today is a travel plan for Barcelona‘s best places that offers a balance between culture and relaxing time. This way you can feel and experience the city in all its facets.

According to statistics, the average EU residents trips (almost 60%) are only one to three overnight stays.

With this in mind, we wanted to form a great sightseeing plan if you have 2 1/2 days to spend in Barcelona.

Let’s dive into one of the most amazing cities in Europe.

Day 1

Feel the electricity of the city

When arriving later in the afternoon, you might want to experience the first vibes and let the first impressions sink in.

There is no better place than a little tapas bar in one of the lively streets of Barcelona.

For example, the Avinguda de Gaudí on the north side of the Sagrada Família. From there, you have an extraordinary view of the Sagrada Família while sitting outside in a restaurant on the avenue and enjoying a delicious Spanish dinner.

Tip for the evening: Go there, when twilight begins. The Sagrada Família is nicely spotlighted, which invites for a first night walk around the basilica after dinner.

Day 2

Big culture time and relaxing beach time

After a first relaxed evening in Barcelona, you are all set for the cultural highlight of the city: a visit of the Sagrada Família

La Sagrada Família

With online tickets and a reserved entrance time in the morning (you can choose, but I recommend a morning visit), you can usually enter the basilica without much waiting time. Online ticket booking is a huge stress saver!

La Sagrada Família, Gaudí masterpiece is one of Barcelona Best places to see
La Sagrada Família, Gaudí’s masterpiece.

We had read a bit about Gaudí’s masterpiece beforehand and were excited to go inside.

Visiting the Sagrada Família is an individual experience for anybody.

I spent half an hour outside looking closer at the facade of the church. For me, it was all the animal and plant forms that Gaudí put into place on the exterior walls.

The facade of the Sagrada Família is jaw-dropping.
Amazing details on the outside of the Sagrada Família.

It is fascinating to see how all these highly realistic details of sculptures of snails, frogs, etc., were put into stone. Gaudí used nature as a model for the architecture of the Sagrada Família.

Inside the basilica, tree-shaped columns build the core structure. It feels like standing in a forest with lightning coming through the colored windows like sunbeams through trees.

The inside of Gaudí La Sagrada Família - just amazing
Visiting the inside of the Sagrada Família is an incredible experience. The view and the lights are simply jaw-dropping.

Make sure to be prepared, as there is so much to explore in- and outside of the basilica.

If you want to have tailored information at hand during your visit, mundolore mini guides can help you with this.
With specific sections for different interests, such as architecture, history, or exhibitions, you will always find the information that matters most to you.

mundolore also offers a free trip planner.

La Sagrada Família on mundolore. mundolore also offers otherBarcelona mini travel guides.
A mundolore mini travel guide about the amazing architectural are of the Sagrada Família by Gaudí.

We have also created mini guides for all the attractions we show you in this post, just head over to the Barcelona mundolore section by clicking here.

Tip for Sagrada Família: Take your time for Gaudí’s masterpiece. Between 2-3 hours (exploring from the inside and outside). And buy tickets online. A basic ticket entry is (2019)  EUR 17.

La Barceloneta

In return for a morning full of culture and history, the next stop is La Barceloneta. La Barceloneta, a district of Barcelona that is popular for its sandy beach and its restaurants, is perfect for having an easy afternoon.

To go there, you want to choose the metro. Travel time via metro from the Sagrada Família to La Barceloneta is 30min.

Tip for La Barceloneta: If you feel like walking a bit along the beach, don’t miss the sculpture La Estrella Herida. Lovely piece of art! It consists of twisted stacked cubes, and it should remind of the old huts that once lined the beach before they were removed at the time of 1992 Summer Olympics.

If you are thinking about a city break, our blog post
9 Tips to prepare for an unforgettable city break
will help you.

After having a nice dinner in one of the fish restaurants in La Barceloneta, a great way to end the day is with the Magic Fountain at the Plaça de Carles Buïgas.

Magic Fountain

The fountain was built in 1929 for the International Exhibition. There are spectacular shows with water, light, and music, you shouldn’t miss out. To save drinking water, the fountain operates on recycled water.

Tip for the Magic Fountain: Check the show scheduling for the different seasons beforehand. Be there a bit earlier, as it can get very crowded.

The Magic Fountain is among the best places to see in Barcelona.
A spectacle at night – the Magic Fountain, definitely on the list of the best places in Barcelona. Although crowded, it is still relaxing to watch the water show.

Day 3

More culture and a hidden gem in the city center

Park Güell

Yes, you are in the city of the great architect Salvadore Gaudí. And you see it at every corner of Barcelona.

So, a visit of the Park Güell is an absolute must.

If you enjoy a morning walk to warm up for the day, then just follow the crowd. Either from the metro station Vallcarca or Lesseps. However, you should consider that the park is located on a hill. So, if you prefer to take it easy, close to the metro station Vallcarca (15min walk), you can take escalators up to the park.

The Park Güell, another masterpiece from Gaudí.
A visit to the Park Güell is a must when you are in Barcelona and want to see the best places.

Like for the Sagrada Família, in Park Güell you see all kinds of examples where Gaudí took forms from nature as models for structural and decorative elements. A friend of Gaudi, Eusebi Güell, commissioned Gaudí to develop an estate for well-off families. Park Güell was intended to become a residential park with 60 villas. However, only two houses were completed. Gaudí himself lived there until his death in 1926.

Park Güell in Barcelona. Gaudí lived in one of the two houses.
Despite the original planning, only two houses were built inside the Park Güell. Gaudí lived here until his death in 1926.

It is fairly difficult to find a time of day when it is not crowded in Park Güell. However, the admission of only 400 visitors per half an hour is well-regulated. Again, you can buy tickets online (adult ticket for entry (2019): EUR 8,50) and choose your preferred time slot to ensure admission.

Tip for Park Güell: About 95% of the park area is free of charge. The area around the monumental zone is spacious and less crowded. And from there, you can also take great panorama shots of Barcelona. Maybe have a little picnic in the free access area or just enjoy the shadow under some Pine trees, before continuing with the day.

Hospital de Sant Pau

A visit of the Hospital de Sant Pau is an insider tip. And it’s a perfect way to round off the day before leaving for the airport or train station.

The former hospital is an amazing Art Nouveau Site that is really worth visiting.

Not only because of the great work of an important architect of Modernisme, Lluís Domènech i Montaner. But also because it’s exhibition leads you through the history of medicine and rehabilitation. Information panels, models and very nice video projections guide you through the main building, the pavilions, the underground tunnels connecting the various buildings, and the outdoor spaces.

The hospital de Sant Pau is a hidden gem in Barcelona.
A panoramic view of the Hospital de Sant Pau.

The outdoor area is a well-maintained park that allows a bit of strolling and breathing. Although located just at the end of the Av. de Gaudi which leads straight to the busy square of the Sagrada Familia, it is a place with enormous recreational spirit.

During your visit, you will see just a handful of other tourists.

It is definitely one of our favourite places and therefore made it on the list of the best places in Barcelona.

Tip for Hospital de Sant Pau: Every first Sunday of the month the entry is free (but only open until14:30). A regular adult ticket is EUR 14 (2019). Also be aware that the opening hours are not very royal in general. Depending on the season, the Hospital closes either 16:30 or 18:30. However, that makes it a great last stop before heading to the airport.

Hospital de Sant Pau in Barcelona among the best places.

(Disclaimer: all images mundolore co-founder Nicole Vagt, apart from Barcelona at night [image source: Pixabay])

Did we inspire you?

And? Did you move Barcelona up to the top of your bucket list?

Did you like the tips in this post?

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