Barcelona is a big, bustling city. Between the late nights and early mornings, you’ll easily fill almost every hour of your four days in town. You will be able to see the main attractions covered in shorter 2 day or 3 day itineraries and have enough time to dive deeper into the essence of Barcelona.
How to see Barcelona in 4 days
Get to Know Gaudi
Antoni Plàcid Guillem Gaudí i Cornet, the Spanish architect who studied in Barcelona was not appreciated in his time. But as the father of Catalonian modernism, a man whose architecture is easily distinguished but impossible to categorize, it is difficult not to appreciate his brilliance today.
Undeniably Gaudi’s most famous work in the city is the still unfinished Sagrada Familia. Started in 1892 it’s not expected to be finished, at a generous estimate, for another 13 years. The stunning church that pierces the city skyline is a great example of Gaudi’s interest not only in architecture but also in religion and nature, see all three converge in the elegant designs of the building. Definitely make time to enter and grab an audio tour to give you the run down on everything there is to see. Also go up and see the towers.
Parc Güell is usually number two on the list, and for good reason. Created in the early 20th century this was a part of Gaudi’s naturalist phase, relying on organic shapes and a connection to nature. The park was intended as a architecturally designed park of technologically advanced homes, within the park, a natural one that sits atop Carmel Hill. Gaudi’s home is here and can be viewed with a ticket, an advance reservation is strongly recommended. In addition, the park now has areas that are accessible by ticket only though some areas are still free.
If you are adventurous with a flexible schedule you can beat the system to enter the paid area for free and there is no need to take a guided tour here.
Casa Mila, known as La Pedrera, is a cultural center as well as an exhibition on Gaudi. The price tag here is steep, at €29 for entry. If you’re into words and facts this might float your boat but if the colors and lines of Gaudi's work enchant you more than this could be a no go. La Pedrera also has a night tour with lighting and a rooftop drink to accompany the screening of a film on Gaudi and Modernism.
More Modernist buildings
There is much more of Gaudi still to discover, residential buildings cover the city, it would be hard not to notice them. Including Casa Batllo and Casa Vicens. Also keep an eye out for the five lamp posts designed by Gaudi at Plaza Reial.
And then there are the other marvelous buildings by the rockstar architects of Modernism. With 4 days you will have time to consider visiting some of them too.
Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter
1.2 kilometers of exhilarating, thrilling chaos! That’s Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s tourist mainstay. The street was once on the outside of a 14th century Barcelona, then nothing more than a rubbish filled river bed that was usually dry. When the city expanded to include this street, which is actually a succession of small streets with different names, it became the center of city life. Planting of the trees you see today began in the 1700’s. Festivals, markets, and sports events all revolved around the life of the street.
Sadly, today the street is plagued by pick pockets and overpriced souvenir kiosks. But don’t let that stop you from at least one stroll down Las Ramblas.
Next, head around the corner to the Gothic Quarter, a maze of streets that don’t connect in any organized fashion. Don’t worry about getting a bit lost in here, that’s the fun of it. But do be sure, as you’re getting lost, to notice where you are. This area is full of fantastic architecture and designs. Also, if shopping is on your mind, this is an excellent area to partake!
The name means Expansion, and it’s one of the neighborhoods Barcelona first expanded into. Just northwest of the Gothic Quarter and home to the Sagrada Familia this is another excellent neighborhood for exploration. If you start at the Sagrada Familia head straight through lengthwise until you hit Parc de Joan Miro. You’ll pass by much of Gaudi’s architecture as well as other modernist constructions.
Passeig de Gracia is the main street through the area, it’s decorated with sparky shops and five star hotels. The street cuts the area into what is known as the right and left. There is not much difference between the two and both are designed in a well-organized, easily navigable, grid layout, unlike the nearby Gothic Quarter.
With 4 days....
Interesting architecture is abundant throughout the city and you won’t even have to try to find it, it will simply find you. But there are some pieces you should seek out. Certainly no trip to Barcelona is complete with some Gaudi thrown in.
Beyond the buildings though Barcelona has plenty else to offer. An urban beach, plenty of tapas, clubs you’ll get lost in and a history so dark and twisty you’ll wonder how this city has come out the other side so bright and beautiful.
Go beyond Barcelona attractions in 4 days
Camp Nou - tour or match
FC Barcelona. Mas que un club. More than a club. This football team is more than just that, it is a symbol of the region, owned entirely by its supporters and the most widely supported club in the world. Camp Nou is where the action happens, tickets are available and easily bought online, but expect to spend at least €50 a seat for a normal season game.
Camp Nou is worth seeing on a game night but perhaps even more exciting is getting out on the field. Tour the stadium with a walk through the tunnel, a sit down on the bench, see the five European cups up close and learn more about the team in their museum. It’s certainly recommended to buy tickets in advance though just a few days ahead will do. General price is €25.
Palau de la Musica
Palau de la Musica Orfeo Catala is a concert hall worth seeing in its own right, regardless of who’s playing. The venue can be toured but a ticketed event perfectly completes the picture. There are a number of flamenco shows but you can also see guitarists, symphony orchestras, operas and the like. Tickets range in price but you can find shows for just €20. If you don't want to do the tour or watch a show, just go have a drink at the cafe downstairs in the lobby, it's free.
Gaudi and Modernist Tour
Go on a Gaudi tour. No matter when or for how long you are in the city you cannot miss Gaudi, actually, it would probably be impossible. But if you’re into the architecture and learning more about it and the man behind it, take a guided tour through the city to see his best works and the history. Sandemans offers regular tours to the Gaudi (and other modernist) buildings but it goes beyond that getting into the political and social climate at the time the movement took place.
Civil War tour
A surprising suggestion aimed at history buffs as well as their travel companions, a tour of Barcelona through the lens of The Spanish Civil War is an experience you won’t regret. Iberia Nature gets rave reviews for their focused walking tours.
Buy a souvenir - 4 days is enough time
Bring home a bottle of vermouth to be enjoyed over ice as a precursor to any meal. You can easily find name brands anywhere liquor is sold but the real gold juice is house blended bottles. Called vermut casera you’ll need to sniff out a bodega that sells it, but it’ll be worth the hunt.
Anything FC Barcelona. From Thailand to South Africa you’ll see people wearing Barca knock offs, here’s where to buy the real thing. Grab yourself (or your loved one) a t-shirt, a game ball or a simple key chain. There are three licensed stores around the city, or if you make it to the stadium you can purchase the goods there.
Perhaps one of the strangest souvenirs you’ll ever bring home is this many taking a poop. Yes.
Stay outside Barcelona centre
With 4 days in the city you can venture into local-land beyond tourist central accommodation. Barcelona has many, many options for neighborhoods each is as good as the next but they all offer different vibes. Here are two we suggest:
Gracia for a village feel
Gracia is to the northwest of central Barcelona and once upon a time it was its own village before being swallowed by the expanding city. It still retains that local village feel with minimal tourists about and lots of small, local bodegas, bars and shops. Characterized by narrow streets and small cafes you should head to Plaça del Sol where late afternoon happenings happen. Check out Relais du Silence Le Palacete for an upscale but quaint hotel experience. Or for more of a budget stay you should go with Bas Apartments Gracia, an especially good choice for larger groups.
If you prefer beach to city life check out the Barceloneta neighborhood. This fiercely Catalan neighborhood has pushed back on the surge in tourism, but don’t let that discourage you, instead let that guide your time here. Be respectful, remember that people live here and have to wake up and go to work in the morning, so try to be quiet in the later hours. Aim to support local businesses like the restaurant La Cova Fumada. The neighborhood is beautiful and with the sand at your doorstep there’s no reason not to choose to stay here, just treat it as you would if you were lucky enough to call such a perfect spot home. For a great, affordable choice just steps from the beach try Hotel 54 Barceloneta.
Getting around Barcelona
A four day Barcelona card costs €55, that’s €13.75 per day. This gets you free transport (including the airport train) but the really good stuff stops there. You do get some free spots, lesser known museums mostly. But the spots you’ll really want to go you’ll only end up with a discount. For example, you get €1 off at the Sagrada Familia, it seems very unlikely that you’ll make your money back with discounts of that nature!
Alternatively, a 96-hour travel card costs €27.50. It covers all transports and the airport train as well. If you book it online you get a 10% discount.
Also consider the T10 pass for 10 trips (it is a multi user card) and each trips nets out to about a euro.
Explore Barcelona cuisine
Try La Bomba’s. Inspired by and named after the handmade grenades the revolutionaries threw around the streets of Barcelona in the awful days of Franco. The bomba is a potato croquette served with two sauces. If you make it La Cova Fumada in Barceloneta, they serve an excellent one.
Calçot is a native Catalonian green onion. When it comes into season at the end of winter barbeques are held in celebration. Try them at Quinabarra in city center.
There’s an argument between the Catalans and the nearby French as to who created the crème brûlée, here called crema Catalana. It’s the standard desert that you’ll see on most menus at Spanish/Catalonian restaurants around the city.
An evening for world class Nightlife
Barcelona is a city known for its nightlife. If you’re planning to go out, don’t plan to sleep. Las Ramblas is a nice place to begin with an early evening watching the street performers. But this is truly for the tourists, and you’ll want to escape that fairly quickly. But now your choices are endless. Will you head for the Irish pubs of the Gothic Quarter, the trendy bars of El Born or the edgy, bohemian Raval. Bar choices are endless and after that come the clubs. You’ll again be at no shortage for venue. Try out Sala Razzmatazz, an endlessly connected complex of industrial rooms, the club has different DJ’s throughout the entire place and has hosted some world-famous talent. You can buy tickets in advance here, which will save you a few euros and allow you to skip the queue.
Advance booking is critical even with 4 days
Here is a list of Barcelona attractions that need advance booking. The Sagrada Familia should certainly be booked in advance, especially between April and September where lines can get outrageously long. Tickets bought directly through the Sagrada Familia site cost €29 for entrance, and audio guide and the towers, without the towers you’ll pay just €22. Even with a ticket you may still face some amount of queuing but your time will be greatly reduced. If you’re eager to dive straight in, go for a guided tour, this way you’ll jump straight to the front. Tourist Active offers such deals for about €40. Also book Picasso Museum especially on wekeends.
- TMB : or public transport
- BCN Visual : see the streets you're walking as they looked years in the past
- Barcelona Corre : for runners to get routes around the city
- FCB World : it’ll be important to keep up with the football score when in town
Avoid a day trip from Barcelona in 4 days
There are some fantastic options for day trips and yes you can even make it into two other countries with ease, Andorra, and France, both make good day trips.
But four days still isn’t enough time to cover the entirety of the city. Aim for a week in the area to include a few day trips outside.
Traveling with Kids?
While Barcelona is a wonderful city and has plenty for the kids to see you may want to give them some green space from time to time where they can have a bit more freedom to run. Try out Turó Parc for a bit of fresh green air. Or if you’ve got a sweet tooth in the family go to Museo de la Xocolata and perhaps save the park for afterwards to run off the sugar!
Are you a couple?
Barcelona is, by its very nature, romantic. Stroll through the narrow alleyways of old town and you will undoubtedly find your share of perfect spots for dinner or a drink. During the summer, check the schedule of outdoor films at Monjuïc castle. Book tickets in advance and pack a picnic for a perfect evening al fresco.