One Day in Barcelona: A Quick Tour of the Catalan Capital
Barcelona is a breathtakingly beautiful city, with so many places to see and things to do. Located in the northern coast of Spain, it offers spectacular architecture such as the famous Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, vibrant neighborhood and markets, art museums and galleries, and numerous restaurants serving delicious tapas.
Here’s a practical one day in Barcelona itinerary, which can help you get the most of your time in the city.
How to get around Barcelona
From the airport, you can take a bus or taxi to reach your destination in the city.
If you’re spending only one day in Barcelona, it’s easy to get around by walking. For distant attractions, taking the metro is convenient because its route passes through most of Barcelona. For easy and cheap transfer, the T-Casual Pass offers 10 intermodal trips around the city, including to and from the airport.
One Day in Barcelona Itinerary
If you only have 24 hours in Barcelona, it’s safe to assume that you will be staying in or around Gothic Quarter. This itinerary starts at La Sagrada Familia — one of the most iconic landmarks in Barcelona — and covers other must-see attractions including Park Guell, Gothic Quarters, and Las Rambas.
Start your morning by a healthy breakfast in a café. You’ll need the energy for the walking tour. Head to a café and get a cup of espresso or café con leche with your choice of pastries or jamon sandwiches.
First stop is La Familia Sagrada. One of the most popular architectural marvels in Spain, La Familia Sagrada is a cathedral designed by the renowned architect Antoni Gaudi showcasing a blend of Gothic and Art Nouveau styles, characterized its intricate details, organic forms, and towering spires. Its construction started in 1882 and is still ongoing now! Yep, you read that right.
A lot of first-time tourists make the mistake of visiting only the outside of La Familia Sagrada believing that the exterior of the cathedral is the most spectacular part, but visiting inside is a must! It is hard to put into the words the beauty of the light passing through the stained-glass windows — truly a magical experience.
Pro Tip: Due to its popularity, it’s important to book your tickets to La Familia Sagrada at least a few days before your visit. Lines can get long and sometimes tickets sell out. You don’t want to miss the chance to see one of the top tourist attractions you should see in 24 hours in Barcelona!
Next, head to Park Guell. Park Guell is — without a doubt — the most beautiful park in the city. It designed by Gaudi by 1900s and is recognized as a World Heritage Site.
The park spans 30 acres of lush gardens and stunning architecture. Its most remarkable area is the Greek Theater — a colorful mosaic terrace built at the highest point of the park, offering stunning views of Barcelona’s skyline and the Mediterranean Sea.
Other points of interest include the grand staircase known as El Drac (Salamander), Austria Gardens, and the Gaudi House Museum.
The entrance to Park Guell is free, but there is a fee to visit the Monumental Zone, which is the most popular spot inside the park. As with La Sagrada Familia, it’s highly recommended to book your tickets in advance to avoid having to get in line for hours.
After a morning of sightseeing, you’ve likely worked up an appetite. Sit down for a Catalan lunch in a nearby local restaurant. This is the best time to try traditional Spanish paella or the famous pa amb tomaquet (Catalan bread with tomato).
From the Park Guell area, walk down for 20 minutes to reach Passeig de Gracia. Passeig de Gracia is one of the major avenues in Barcelona known for its high-end shops and establishments. It’s also home to two remarkable buildings designed by Gaudi — Casa Batllo and Casa Mila.
Then stroll across La Rambla (sometimes called Las Ramblas) — the most famous boulevard in Barcelona, known for its lively atmosphere, souvenir shops, and cafes. Take a leisurely walk to explore the shops or head to La Boqueria market to sample local snacks like churros.
After exploring the streets of Barcelona, it’s time to head back to Gothic Quarter. Gothic Quarter (or Barrio Gótico) is the old historic center of the old city of Barcelona. It is known for its narrow medieval streets and impressive old buildings, particularly the Barcelona Cathedral — one of the most important landmarks in Barcelona.
The Barcelona Cathedral (also known as the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia) is a magnificent Gothic Cathedral built between the 13th and 15th centuries, in dedication to Saint Eulalia — one of the Saints at the Cathedral of Barcelona. It features an ornate facade, intricate carvings, and soaring bell towers. It also has an equally impressive interior, a beautiful cloister, and a rooftop that you can visit via an elevator ride.
Other notable attractions in Gothic Quarter are the Picasso Museum and Palau de la Musica. The Picasso Museum showcases over 4000 works of the world-renowned artist Pablo Picasso, arranged chronologically so you can observe the progression of his art and techniques over time. Meanwhile, Palau de Musica is a concert hall in the Catalan Art Nouveau style and listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
At this point, you’ve already seen some of the best tourist attractions in the city, but your one day in Barcelona isn’t over yet!
Head to Hotel Colon or other rooftop bars in Gothic Quarter for a glass of cava and sangria and enjoy the sunset views. Rest for a while and reflect on the places you’ve visited for the day.
At around 8 or 9PM, enjoy a classic cocktail and tapas dinner. Try some classic tapas including pan con tomate, homemade iiberian ham croquettes, or patatas bravas.
At 10PM onwards, get ready to experience the nightlife in Barcelona. Similar to other cities in Spain, Barcelona has a vibrant nightlife with locals partying until morning. If you want to stay in Gothic Quarter, you can easily find numerous trendy bars and restaurants to party the night away. El Born is also one of the most popular nightlife spots in the city and is perfect for bar hopping. Barceloneta offers various night clubs from where you can dance all night.
Alternatively, if you just want to chill and have drinks, there is a variety of cafes and pubs that can help you unwind after sightseeing the best of Barcelona in a day.
Another option to spend the evening in Barcelona is going to a flamenco show. Enjoy a night of performance while soaking up Spanish culture by seeing a 1-hour show at the City Hall Theater, at the Palacio del Flamenco — one of the most famous flamenco shows in the city, or at Tablao Flamenco Cordobes which offers both a flamenco show and dinner.
Tips to Enjoy Barcelona in a Day
Here are tips for planning your layover tour in Barcelona.
Is one day enough to explore Barcelona? Barcelona is not that big so you can see the best landmarks and neighborhoods in a day. The key to enjoying one day in Barcelona is to plan your itinerary around 2-3 main attractions and then spend the rest of your time exploring the neighborhood, strolling across streets, and discovering cafes and hidden gems. If you have more time, the ideal stay in Barcelona is at least 3 days.
Booking tickets. It’s highly suggested to purchase your tickets in advance especially on popular attractions such as La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, so you won’t have to waste time getting in line or missing your preferred time slot altogether. Also consider making reservations on restaurants for lunch and dinner as the best ones can fill up quickly.
Getting around and what to wear. Barcelona is a walkable city, and for this 24 hours in Barcelona itinerary, you will be walking a lot. So make sure to wear comfortable clothes and footwear. It’s also important to bring a reusable travel bottle to keep you hydrated and sun protection. Consider bring layers or cover-ups as well – shorts and short skirts, sleeveless tops, and flip-flops are not allowed inside La Sagrada Familia.
Barcelona tours. To make the most of your time, considering joining an organized tour. The hop-on/hop-off bus is also a popular way to explore the city. It covers some of the main sights in the city, such as La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Boqueria Market, Casa Batllo, and Casa Mila and comes with guided commentary. Just be aware that there may be long wait times and less information compared to organized tours.
Safety. Barcelona is notorious for pickpockets especially on public transport, touristy areas, and El Born in particular. Always keep your belongings closed and secure.
It is perfectly doable to see the best spots in Barcelona in a day, but remember that these are just the highlights and the city has much more to offer!
Has this one day in Barcelona been helpful to you? If you have comments or questions, let us know in the comment section below!
Katherine Cortes is a 30-something freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).