What you will cover in 1 day in Barcelona
You will see the best of Gaudi architecture, from the never-ending construction of his religious Sagrada Familia to his accomplishments in designing nature at Park Güell. Later in the day, you will also spend time in Barcelona's popular, pedestrian only areas - Las Ramblas and Gothic Quarter - in the old town Ciutat Vella.
First priority to visit in 1 day:
La Sagrada Familia
You will be knocked off your feet even as you approach La Sagrada Familia. It is massive and intricate at the same time. Spend time circling its exterior facades before heading in to see the Nave, Crypt and to access the towers if you have the time.
La Sagrada Familia is recognizable from far away by its smooth, cylindrical spires that tower over the city and also by the cranes and scaffolding that accompany them, showing to what scale Gaudi dreamed up this magnificent Roman Catholic church, which started in 1882 is still not completed. Make sure to buy the right ticket well in advance.
Another of Gaudi’s accomplishments this municipal park is open to the public but certain areas are for ticket holders only. If you’d like to see Gaudi’s work, which includes mosaics and statues, you’ll have to have a ticket to the monumental zone; it is worth it.
The park also houses the Gaudi House Museum which is where Gaudi lived but today shows off furniture that he designed. Again, this area is ticketed. This park is more than just a park, it’s every inch has been thought up and perfected. Enjoy its many intricacies as well as the views.
Next priority to visit:
Federico Garcia Lorca, a 20th century Spanish poet once said, ‘La Rambla is the only street in the world which I wish would never end.’ While La Rambla of today is remarkably different than that of Lorca’s day you may also feel you want it to continue forever.
A tree lined, pedestrianized street which stretches from the city center out to the port, La Rambla of today is thick with tourists. It’s dotted with souvenir kiosks, living statues and sidewalk cafes. It’s full of life, pull up a chair and watch it stride past. Unfortunately, La Rambla has gained a reputation as a pick pockets haven, so hold your bags tight.
The Gothic Quarter has a history dating back that far but unfortunately most of the buildings from the era were replaced in the 19th and 20th centuries. However, it is still worth navigating through the mazes of narrow streets, stopping in one of the plaças (small squares) and if you have time, stepping into the Cathedral of Barcelona. There is lots to do.
As you’re walking along La Rambla, and your tummy starts to grumble, detour into Mercado de La Boqueria. One of the largest and most impressive food markets in Europe, La Boqueria is a feast to all of the senses and even if you’re not feeling peckish it’s worth a visit. Traditional Catalan food is a big deal in Barcelona. Pick up fresh produce, cheese and meats and pack yourself a picnic. Or sit down at one of the stalls serving tapas and fuel up.
How to spend your 1 evening in Barcelona
As the sun starts to set, lights light up the Gaudi architecture throughout the city. And while it’s impressive to see in the day time the lines and colors glitter and dance through the evening. Check out Casa Mila and Casa Batllo along Passeig de Gracia.
When it’s time for Spanish cena (dinner) about 9-10 P.M. head for a tapas bar. Try Cal Pep in Gothic Quarter, an excellent choice where, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the menu or simply indecisive, tell the waiters, they’ll bring you a sampling of what they deem the most impressive choices.
And once you’re stuffed, head out for a drink (vermouth is the local tradition) and a dance. Barcelona nightlife is a big deal and the city is home to some of Europe’s biggest clubs. Or if you’re not feeling the music and sweaty crowds try Bar Mirablau Barcelona on Tibidabo Mountain for a laid-back cocktail and a great view of the city.
What you cannot do in a day in Barcelona
Santa Maria del Mar
Another stunning church, this one was built in the 1300’s in the Catalan Gothic style. While stunning we strongly recommend making the Sagrada Familia your priority in just one day.
Palau de la Musica Catalana
If you’d like to spend your single evening doing something a bit more cultural you might choose to buy a ticket to a show at the concert hall. It is an exquisite building designed by Domenech i Muntaner a contemporary of Gaudi.
Come back on a longer trip to Barcelona, and take your time spending at least 3 days to revel at the modernist architecture marvels throughout the city, explore Catalan cuisine, see modern art museums, hang by the world class beaches, and experience the incredible nightlife.
Tips to visit Barcelona in a day
Do I need advance booking of attractions?
Yes! The Sagrada Familia must be booked in advance to skip past the hours long queues. Also book Park Guell monumental zone in advance. And skip the Gaudi house museum on a 1 day visit.
How to travel within Barcelona?
Public transport plus walking is best. Barcelona is quite a big city so you probably won’t want to walk everywhere. There is an excellent network of metros as well as buses. A single ticket is €2.15. A T10 pass is €9.95 and a daily ticket is €8.40. For a day trip, stick with single fare tickets. If you are a large group consider the T10 even for a day.
Should I buy a City card?
No. The Barcelona Card does not offer a 24-hour option, it starts €45 for 72 hours and while offering discounts does not get you in for free to the Sagrada Familia. We’d recommend skipping it.
Should I take the Barcelona city sightseeing bus?
Not really. Barcelona Bus Turístic, the hop on hop off option in the city, will get you around to see all the hotspots. But it’s not cheap, a one-day adult ticket is €26.10. You’d be better off getting a day pass and getting yourself around on the metro.
Recommendation on Barcelona walking tours
A walking tour may be a good idea for a longer trip. Barcelona is a big city so to do a walking tour in order to see it all would be strenuous and long. However, if you’re interested in a specific niche within the city, say the street art scene or a specific area, say the Jewish quarter, then a walking tour is a great idea. Check out Hidden City Tours, a Barcelona based guide company that gets homeless people off the streets by giving them a job as your tour guide.
How to see Barcelona in one day
Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in Europe. With many things to see and do in Barcelona, one day is just not adequate. If you have only one day, it is very important to prioritize and shortlist attractions that interest you.
Barcelona is known for its tradition, cultural heritage dominated by modernisme architecture, gastronomy, and of course its football team, and the famous urban beach.
While deciding on your one day itinerary for Barcelona, try and get a flavour of each of the above elements that define Barcelona. You can either do an online research and make a bucket list or hire a local private guide to take you around Barcelona.
In my opinion, one day is too short a time and you will better off with some sort of an organized tour, either the cost effective sightseeing bus or a private tour with a local guide.
Barcelona in one day by sightseeing bus
The official site of Barcelona has laid out a reasonably well crafted one day itinerary for Barcelona. The itinerary makes use of three routes of Barcelona’s Hop Off Hop On bus city sightseeing bus service. It works out cheaper and efficient as one single ticket allows you to board all of the three routes.
I do get many enquiries from visitors on business trips to organize a one day tour of Barcelona. I politely request them to book the hop off and hop on bus sightseeing tour and enjoy Barcelona.
Private One day tour of Barcelona
If Hop On Hop Off is just not your style, then scout around for private operators who offer a personalised tour. Personally, I avoid conducting one day Barcelona sightseeing tours. However, many of my friends are happy organizing such tours. You will find a list tour operators in viator. The advantage with a private tour is that a local expert will ensure you capture memorable snapshots of all the key tourist attractions and historical sites of Barcelona.
One day private tours of Barcelona are split into two parts - The morning tour and afternoon tour.
Morning tour of Barcelona
You will start early and start with a walking tour of Barcelona’s famous Barri Gòtic and the Cathedral. You will then move to Pueblo Español and finish the first leg of your one day tour in Barcelona with a cable car ride to Montjuic Castle. Barri Gothic or Gothic Quarter is the centre of old Barcelona. You will enjoy the architecture, narrow streets and the vibe. You may not have the time to visit many of the museums that are housed in Gothic quarter.
Pueblo Español also called the "Spanish village" is supposedly full of local colours, traditional architecture and culture. It is included in almost all organized one day tour of Barcelona, though I find the place too plastic and avoid taking my guests to Pueblo Español.
On the other hand, cable ride to Montjuic is a must do especially when you are short of time and have only a day to see all of Barcelona. Montjuïc Castle, an old military fortress on top of Montjuïc hill offers stunning views of Barcelona.
Afternoon tour of Barcelona
The afternoon tour of Barcelona is all about Gaudi and his creations. The tour starts with an exterior tour of Sagrada Familia. If your operator allows customizing the tour, insist on a whirlwind visit of the interiors of Sagrada Familia. It is alright to skip some of the other Gaudi’s buildings but you must visit the interiors of the La Sagrada familia. It is unlikely you can climb the towers when you have only one day in Barcelona, but you should not skip the interiors.
To save time so that you can visit the interiors, have your lunch near Sagrada Familia. Unfortunately, almost all the restaurants around Sagrada Familia are tourist traps dishing out mundane stuff with skyrocket prices. However, there are two exceptions - ’L’ Encís restaurant which offers tasty Catalan dishes at reasonable prices and Tossa, a typical tapas bar. Barcelona is not exactly known for its tapas, but if you insist on visiting a tapas bar in Barcelona, have your lunch at Tossa and ask for salpicón de marisco, a Catalan seafood salad.
The evening tour normally concludes at Parc Guell where you can climb to the sunset point to capture a panoramic view of Barcelona.
If you still have the energy, you can take a taxi from Parc Guell to la Ramblas, the iconic street of Barcelona and an excellent spot for people watching though very touristy. If not, you can also head to the Barceloneta beach which is famous for its nightlife.
Here are the top attractions you can visit in Barcelona in One day
- La Rambla
La Rambla is one of the world’s most famous pedestrian streets. To get a feel of Barcelona walk down La Ramblas to Mirador de Colón beside the port. Once at Mirador de Colón, climb to the top by elevator to the Columbus statue and enjoy marvelous views of the harbor and Ciutat Vella.
- Gothic Quarter
Gothic Quarter with its central Catedral is the best neighbourhood to explore the historic Barcelona and understand the Roman influence.
3. La Bouqeria
One of Europe’s most famous food market. Excellent as pitstop after walking through La Rambla and Gothic Quarter
The ride on the cable car to Montjuic which takes you which carries you high above the harbor is a must-do and worth a visit even if you are in Barcelona only for one day.
5. La Sagrada Família
You cannot make a trip to Barcelona and not visit La Sagrada Familia, the pinnacle of Antonio Gaudi’s creation. Gaudi, the maverick catalan architect,who created numerous modernisme buildings is most strongly associated with Barcelona. If you are on a one day trip to Barcelona, you may not have time to visit many modernisme buildings. However, you must take time to visit at least Sagrada Familia and Casa Batllo to understand why Gaudi is so highly revered across the world.
6. Barceloneta Beach
A touristy beach but still worth a visit, especially in the evenings. It is easily accessible, the last stop on the metro Line 2.
Aiming to see more attractions beyond the above six will be challenging and almost worthless.