1-day Itinerary in Barcelona
Explore the best things to do in Barcelona in 1 day based on recommendations from local experts.
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Antoni Gaudí's Park Güell is as whimsical as parks can get. The park was originally supposed to be a housing community for the rich, commissioned by Eusebi Güell. Güell hired Gaudí but the project eventually folded due to the land's incompatible building conditions. Gaudí continued on, modeling the park after gardens he had seen in England (Güell means English in Catalan) and building around the natural elements of the land instead of tearing them down.
Today's park covers 42 acres of space and features everyday park props with a twist that is quintessentially Gaudí. Instead of numerous benches spread throughout, here visitors will be greeted with one long, wavy stone bench adorned with vibrant mosaics and equipped with views of the ocean. And instead of drab administrative buildings, the welcome centers here (which house park souvenirs and learning materials on Gaudí and the park) look like buildings you'd see in a Dr. Seuss book. You'll also find plenty of picturesque pathways that weave along verdant vegetation, down cascading tiled staircases and through jagged stone columns and tunnels. While you're here, don't miss the chance to see the Sala Hipóstila. Located right at the entrance, the Sala Hipóstila was originally intended to be a marketplace. Today it serves as nothing more than to dazzle visitors with its stately stone columns and beautiful mosaic works, which you'll find dotted all over the ceiling. Other popular attractions here include the Casa Museu Gaudí (Gaudí House Museum), Gaudí's former home turned museum, and Turó de les Tres Creus, a lookout point with pretty impressive views of the city situated in the southwestern point of the park.10 minutes by car; 20-25 minutes by bus
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From 1882 up until his death in 1926, Catalan Art Nouveau master Antoni Gaudí devoted himself to the construction of La Sagrada Família (Church of the Sacred Family), a towering Gothic-style-with-a-twist church. And even then, he was unable to finish; Gaudí was known for saying "My client (God) is in no hurry." The church, which is funded by private donations, is still under construction today and is said to be completed by 2026.
La Sagrada Família is not only considered to be Gaudí most recognized work, but also his best. Believe it or not, this church wasn't always Gaudí's. The architect that was first commissioned to do the church, Francesc del Paula Villar, was replaced after disagreeing with promoters of the church. When Gaudí took on the project, he changed it entirely. Instead of the original neo-Gothic style, he looked toward something more innovative. While the church does feature Gothic elements, there are plenty of unconventional details that deviate from that norm throughout, resulting in an eye-catching structure that is entirely one of a kind.15 minutes by car; 25 minutes by metro
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The Barri Gòtic, or Gothic Quarter, is the oldest part of Barcelona, and considering its location next to the city center, also its most liveliest. Here, you'll find beautiful examples Roman and Medieval-era architecture rubbing elbows with the many shops, restaurants, alfresco cafes, bars and clubs that line this neighborhood's narrow roads and picturesque plazas. And there are so many plazas to explore. Aside from Plaça de la Catedral, which you'll no doubt end up in if you visit the Barcelona Cathedral, make sure you stop in Plaça Reial and the smaller and much quainter Plaça Sant Felip Neri, which was bombed by Spanish dictator Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War (you can see scars from the attack on the church in the square). The palm tree-clad Plaça Reial is much more energetic and usually buzzes till the wee hours of the morning. Definitely come here to start your night out in Barcelona. Another notable plaza is Plaça Sant Jaume, where the Catalan seat of government has been since the Middle Ages. No matter where you end up in the Gothic Quarter, travelers say its Spanish splendor will leave you charmed long after you leave.
Visitors also say when visiting the Gothic Quarter, discard the map and just let yourself wander. The neighborhood isn't that big so you'll probably end up at top spots by mindlessly strolling. Some suggested taking part in a walking tour if you're interested in learning the history behind the neighborhood.10 minute walk
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Even if you're not keen on visiting the touristy Las Ramblas, make the trek to the thoroughfare only for it to lead you to the foodie heaven that is the Boqueria Market. The Boqueria Market is Barcelona's first local market, having opened in 1840. But its foodie history spans much earlier than that. The first food peddlers were said to have been around as early as the 13th century selling meat on the streets. The market you see today wasn't around back then, it took four years to construct once Saint Joseph's convent left the area (hence the name of the market).
Today that tradition of hawking goodies lives on, and the covered marketplace treats visitors to the vibrant colors and enticing aromas of everything from fruit juices and wines to fresh fish, meats, produce and desserts. Make sure to grab Spanish specialties while you're there, including jamón ibérico, manchego cheese and salted cod (or bacalao). What's more, bars and restaurants can be found in and around the market, so food options truly abound here.5 minute walk
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This bustling thoroughfare is one of the city's major tourist hubs. So much so that if you're visiting Barcelona, you're bound to end up here eventually. Las Ramblas is a pedestrian-friendly pathway situated right smack dab in the middle of the city, so expect it to be busy all hours of the day and night. During the day, you can peruse souvenir stands, watch buskers and street performers, pick up some local art from artists selling on the street, or sit down and enjoy a light snack at one of the many alfresco cafes found here. When the sun sets, you should head here to start your night out, as many bars and clubs can be found in the surrounding area.
While Las Ramblas has no doubt established itself as a visitor-friendly stop, it didn't always cater to tourists the way it does now. Soon after the nearly mile-long thoroughfare was developed in 1766, it became a popular place to hang out for locals. The reason for this has to do with its design. Back in the day, streets in Barcelona were predominantly narrow and windy, making the long and wide Las Ramblas unconventionally roomy. Today, the chances of finding locals congregating here fewer and farther between, especially during the day. At night, however, since it is a prime place to party, you'll likely see some more Catalans.
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