what to visit in Barcelona | 1-7 days itinerary

Having lived in Barcelona for 2 years, I (Timon) witnessed this city’s unique vibe first-hand from nearly every corner and have concluded that it’s one of the best places to live in Spain with family (and one of the most-visited cities in Europe) for a reason.

The buzzing nightlife appeals to backpackers and the surreal architecture is great for culture-hungry travelers, but there’s so much more to Barcelona than meets the eye. This begs the question: How many days is enough to absorb all of Barcelona’s magic?

Over the years, I have found that the itineraries below are great, depending on how many days you have to spend in the Catalan capital.

Hi, we’re Timon & Filipa!

We travel across Spain in our motorhome, Speedy, and update TravelSpain24 with fresh content, practical tips, and personal stories from the road. Our goal is to help you experience Spain beyond the typical tourist trails.

How Many Days in Barcelona Do You Really Need?

Barcelona has endless things to see and do. It’s home to dozens of Michelin-starred restaurants, Gaudí architecture, and beaches that’ll keep you entertained for days. If you want to explore the city without feeling rushed, spending at least 3 or 4 days here is best. However, you can discover even more unique experiences with a full week. Whether you’ve got one day or a full week, here’s how to make the most of your visit.

1-2 Days in Barcelona

A low angle view of balconies on old buildings with lights in Born Area, Barcelona

With just a day or two in Barcelona, you’ll want to make the most of your time by focusing on the popular landmarks. 

Start at Antoni Gaudí’s masterpiece — La Sagrada Família. Take a guided tour to learn about the landmark’s 140-year history. Then, head over to Park Güell for more Gaudí and great city views.

To save time, purchase a combo ticket that comes with skip-the-line access to Park Güell and guided tours of both attractions.

End your trip with a stroll down Las Ramblas before returning to your accommodation in the Gothic Quarter or El Born, two neighborhoods I recommend for their proximity to major sightseeing spots, safety, and unique charm. If you stay in El Born and have time, visit the Picasso Museum.

3-4 Days in Barcelona

Residential building with Estelada flag in Gothic Quarter in Barcelona city, Spain

With a few more days in Barcelona, you can hit all the hotspots mentioned above while also experiencing the lesser-known parts of the city. Add a tour of the Gothic Quarter to your itinerary, and stop for good eats at the Mercat de la Boqueria.

Stay in El Raval if you want to explore bohemian bars and boutique shops.

You can use the extra time you have to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art and explore the great cafes in the area, including Departure Coffee Co. and Dalston Coffee. 

When you get hungry, indulge in various cuisines found in the neighborhood, from curry to Catalan. Restaurant Rosa Negra and Tosca del Carme are great local spots, or you can try Succulent for a more upscale experience.

If you have time (and energy), end your trip by exploring Parc de la Ciutadella, a large green space where you’ll find the Arc de Triomf. Or, visit Barceloneta Beach or the Carmel Bunkers for great sunset views.

5-7 Days in Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain. View at Plaza de Espanya and Palau de Montjuic

With five to seven days in Barcelona, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the major Gaudí attractions, plus other typical tourist spots like the Barcelona Cathedral, Montjuïc, and Plaça de Catalunya.

If you’re a sports enthusiast, you have to explore the history of one of the most popular sports in Spain at Camp Nou Stadium. It’s home to one of the most popular football teams in the country, FC Barcelona.

Not a sports fan? Skip the stadium and tour the Palau de la Música Catalana instead. The UNESCO World Heritage site serves as a beautiful display of art nouveau architecture, with stained glass windows illuminating the space in color. 

With more time to enjoy Barcelona at a leisurely pace, it’s worth staying in the Barceloneta neighborhood to enjoy evenings at the beach. Or, for a quieter stay, Gràcia is a family-friendly neighborhood with lots of green spaces (like Park Güell) and a very Catalan vibe.

Personalize Your Stay in Barcelona

While planning a trip to Barcelona based on popular attractions is a helpful way to organize your days, I suggest personalizing your stay based on your interests.

Barcelona for the History Buff

Barcelona - The facade of old gothic cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia at dusk.

An ideal itinerary for a history buff should start with a visit to the Augustus temple columns — nine-meter-tall columns leftover from Barcelona’s Forum. They date back to the first century BC and are impressively well-kept (you’ll find them inside a courtyard in a building on Carrer Paradís). 

While in the area, visit the Museu d’Història de Barcelona (MUHBA) and then walk over to the 14th-century Barcelona Cathedral before spending a full day discovering Gaudí. 

Start at the Sagrada Família, which never disappoints. It’s worth getting a skip-the-line ticket here, which you can get if you take a guided tour (as a history lover, you’ll enjoy the added context).

Barcelona for the Nature Lover

Landscape of the mountains of montserrat, catalonia, spain

Despite its status as a sprawling metropolis, Barcelona has plenty of natural spaces to explore, including Parc de la Ciutadella. You’ll find everything from the city’s small zoo to waterfalls, walking trails, and over 100 species of birds.

Don’t stop exploring nature just within the city limits, though. If you have time, it’s worth making a trip to Montserrat, a mountain range with unique rock formations and a monastery to explore. There are several hiking routes in Montserrat, with the longest, hardest, and most rewarding being the hike up to the San Jeroni summit. 

If you’re short on time and want to make the most of your nature experience, book a half-day tour to Montserrat that includes tapas and wine tasting at the Oller del Mas vineyard. If you don’t have time to make the day trip to Montserrat, you’ll also find hiking trails around Montjuic or Collserola.

Barcelona for the Art Aficionado

Aerial drone view of Basilica Sacred Heart on Mount Tibidabo near Barcelona

The city of Barcelona itself is a work of art, but it’s also filled with plenty of places to see great art. Visit the Picasso Museum or, if you love classical art, head up to the top of Montjuïc Hill to the Joan Miró Foundation.

Prefer modern art? You’ll enjoy the intriguing displays at the MACBA or the colorful exhibits at the Moco Museum. If you’re after an immersive experience, check out the CaixaForum. It’s housed in a beautiful art nouveau building and hosts events and exhibits that’ll definitely spark a dialogue.

For an immersive experience that blends art with history, book the Picasso walking tour. An experienced guide will teach you about the life and influence of Picasso in Barcelona. The tour includes entry to the Picasso Museum, where your guide will give you pointers on understanding and appreciating the various artworks inside.

Navigating Barcelona Like a Resident

Experiencing the Catalan capital from a resident’s perspective will help you truly understand the magic and appeal of the destination. Here are a few tips on how to do just that.

Unwritten Etiquettes of Barcelona Life

Catalan flags hanging on the balconies of a building in Barcelona

The easiest way to blend in with the locals? Learn a few Catalan phrases. Saying please and thank you in Catalan will go a long way in showing your appreciation for the culture.

After brushing up on your Catalan, you’ll want to adjust your internal clock to a slower pace. Learn to respect siesta time, as you’ll find you can’t get much done during roughly 2 to 5 p.m. And get used to eating dinner pretty late, with evening meals starting around 9 or 10 p.m.

Finally, get used to getting up close and personal with people here, as it’s customary to greet others with a kiss on each cheek. It’s a nice gesture that’ll help you fit in and seem friendly.

Hidden Gems: Secret Spots in the City

Barcelona downtown and uptown

The best way to explore Barcelona like a real resident is to dive deeper into the heart of the city to places off the tourist radar.

For example, Els Jardins de la Tamarita is a garden oasis just minutes from the city center. While smaller than Parc de la Ciutadella, it offers a peaceful and romantic escape from all the city noise. After enjoying some peace and quiet, head to La Cervesera Artesana, the first brewpub in Barcelona, where you can sample local and imported beers. 

If you’re craving a unique dining experience, head to El Nacional, an industrial-style food hall located just a few minutes from Plaça de Catalunya. Eat dinner there, and then check out Jazzman Jazz Club, where you can enjoy soulful live jazz music and great cocktails.

Alternatively, visit The George Payne, an Irish Pub with live karaoke music that I have always loved.

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