On Spain’s southern coast lies a city well-loved by modern travelers: Barcelona. It’s both distinctly Spanish and distinctly different from everywhere else in the country. Barcelona retains much of its independent Catalonian culture in language, history, art, and food, all of which you can you experience with just three days in Barcelona.
The city is large but walkable, and some of the best restaurants, cafes, shops, and bars are tucked onto curving cobblestone streets in tiny neighborhoods. Here’s a three-day itinerary for Barcelona to help you make the most of your time here.
Day 1: Picasso, Tapas, & La Rambla
9 a.m.: Have a Cortado at a Historic Cafe
Start your three days in Barcelona with a coffee and pastry at Els Quatre Gats (The Four Cats,) a café first opened in the late 1800s. The cozy space was once a meeting point for legends like poet Rubén Dario, architect Antoni Gaudí, and artist Pablo Picasso. In fact, Picasso had his first-ever gallery show here at age 17.
Order the local’s favorite: a cortado. It’s an espresso with a generous helping of steamed milk and is perfect for sipping as you peruse your city guidebook.
11 a.m.: Visit the Picasso Museum
After breakfast, the art theme continues with a visit to the Picasso Museum. Pablo Picasso’s talent was evident from as early as five or six years old, and the beautiful museum takes a look at his entire life, from his early years to cubism and his famous blue period.
Buy your tickets in advance, or plan to arrive early before the admission line gets too long. The museum is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
2 p.m.: Taste Barcelona’s Tapas Culture
Rather than sitting down for lunch, get to know the city through food on a tapas tasting tour. Tapas, or small plates, have a strong tradition in Barcelona and are almost always served with cocktails or wine at bars and restaurants.
Tapas are more than just tasty bites—the history of the city and its relationship to the rest of Spain is reflected through food, and on a tapas tasting tour, you’ll explore the city while learning more about its history and gastronomy. Most tours last around three to four hours, and your guide will take care of the tapas selection at each location.
7 p.m.: Ramble Down La Rambla
Spend the early evening near La Rambla, one of the city’s largest and most pedestrian-friendly streets. The avenue is busy all day but truly comes alive at night with food vendors, street performers, and sidewalk artists showing off their skills.
There are hundreds of restaurants and cafes lined up along the street, so it’s an excellent place to wander before deciding where to stop for dinner. If the crowds of La Rambla are too thick, walk down a side street for a block or two to find a more local option for a glass of wine or pre-dinner tapas.
A normal dinner time in Barcelona is quite late by most standards: around 9 or 10 p.m. After enjoying a drink or two before dinner, order a meal at a restaurant on La Rambla or down a side street to find a more local place to dine.
11 p.m.: Stop for a Nightcap
You probably won’t be wrapping up dinner until 11 p.m. or later, but if you feel like staying out, you’ll be in good company. Most of the wine and cocktail bars on La Rambla are open until around 1 a.m., though those in the Gothic area may close a bit earlier.
After about 1 a.m., it’s generally only nightclubs and discotheques that remain open. But if you’re tired, don’t worry—you can make it an early night tonight and instead stay out later on the final evening of your Barcelona three-day itinerary.
Day 2: The Works of Gaudí & the Gothic Quarter
9 a.m.: See La Sagrada Familia
Your second day in Barcelona is a busy one, so make sure you’re well-rested to see the best the city has to offer.
Start your second day at La Sagrada Familia, one of the most famous landmarks in Spain. Construction on the enormous cathedral began in 1882 and is still underway—the expected completion date is around 2030. The building’s massive scale and colors created by the sun shining through the stained glass are mesmerizing. A self-guided audio tour is available, though live guides can answer questions and help bring the building’s extensive history to life.
Next head to Passeig de Gracia, an avenue home to two famous buildings from Antoni Gaudí, Barcelona’s most renowned architect. Casa Batlló is a massive home inspired by seashells and nature, and the final result is a unique mix of modern art meets “Alice in Wonderland.” It’s a visual wonder and a true must-see in the city.
Down the street from Casa Batlló is Casa Milà, also called La Pedrera. As the last building Gaudi designed, it had a private residence on the first floor with additional apartments above.
12 p.m.: Visit the Gothic Quarter
Once you’ve had your fill of architectural wonders, head to the Barri Gòtic, or Gothic Quarter. The charming “old Barcelona” is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets, centuries-old bakeries and restaurants, and historical markers that tell the tales of the city.
You can certainly wander the area on your own, but a competent guide can help you find the neighborhood’s hidden secrets and avoid most of the usual tourist haunts. The Basilica del Pi is worth visiting if you’re willing to burn a few calories climbing up the ancient steps.
2 p.m.: Picnic at Park Güell
After your tour, head to Park Güell for a late picnic lunch. Designed by Gaudí (naturally!), the sprawling park is home to museums and historic buildings, gardens, and colorful walkways and bridges that blur the line between art, sculpture, and functionality.
Pick up some cheese, olives, snacks, and a bottle of wine at one of the many stores around the park on your way in. While there are a few food carts and cafes throughout the grounds, many of the streets surrounding the park are residential, and you’ll find more than a few local wine and cheese shops if you ask your driver to drop you a few blocks from the park. The park is on a hill above the city, but public escalators are available to help you get up some of the steeper inclines.
5 p.m.: Shop Local at Boqueria Market
Don’t make any dinner reservations this evening. Let the chef come to you with a guided evening market tour at Boqueria Market, where you’ll have the chance to shop at an authentic food market (while doing some tasting too, of course).
Learn how to select the freshest and best ingredients the city has to offer as you stroll through one of Barcelona’s largest markets. During the tour, your guide will share information on some of the city’s most famous dishes and show you how locals shop to select the best produce and spices. Buying fresh ingredients to cook with is a daily activity for most Spaniards, so the markets are always buzzing with activity (and offer some of the best aromas in the city).
Day 3: Wine Country & Live Performances
10 a.m.: Tour Barcelona’s Wine Country
Though Barcelona has much to offer within its city limits, spend your third day exploring the surrounding countryside. There’s so much to do within an hour’s drive that you’ll certainly wish you had more than three days in Barcelona.
However, exploring Spain’s wine country is one of the best ways to understand this important part of local culture. Book a wine tasting tour that stops in multiple wineries, or learn all about Spain’s cava culture at Codorníu Cellars, where they’ve made sparkling white wines since the late 1800s.
7 p.m.: Catch a Traditional Show
End your three-day Barcelona itinerary on a cultural note by spending the evening out on the town. Dress up for a Flamenco show and dinner in a 1920s-era theatre, or attend a live jazz concert on the roof of Gaudi’s famous Casa Batlló as the sun sets. Alternatively, you could get dressed to the nines and spend the evening at a Great Gatsby-themed social club.
10 p.m.: Try one of the City’s Best Restaurants
For a fabulous dinner out in Barcelona, splurge at the modern and Michelin-starred Cinc Sentis or dine in the dark and let your taste buds do the work at Dans le Noir restaurant (which translates to “in the dark.”) If you’re able to snag a reservation, enjoy dinner at Disfrutar, an avant-garde restaurant where each dish (and cocktail) is a work of art.
After dinner, consider strolling around the neighborhood to find a small wine bar for the perfect nightcap before saying goodnight to the lively city by the sea.
Barcelona is a lively jumping-off point for cruises around the Mediterranean. After spending an unforgettable three days in Barcelona, embark on a cruise to destinations in France, Italy, Portugal, and more.
Browse our cruises from Barcelona and book your next incredible vacation today.