Barcelona captured my heart. I first lived there for a year as a student, then later I returned to spend 4 years in this magical city before I left to go travelling. Using all my years of experience in the city, I have put together this Barcelona 2 day itinerary to cover the highlights so you can get a taste of what the city has to offer. Although there are so many things to do in Barcelona it’s impossible to see everything, I’ve tried to narrow it down so you can get the most out of just 2 days in Barcelona, including some of the top attractions and my favourites places to eat and drink.
I will say though, that if you can spend any more time here I highly recommend spending at least 3 or 4 days in Barcelona to properly explore.
Where to Stay in Barcelona
Although some people prefer to stay in a quieter area of the city, I love being right in the centre of Barcelona so I can walk everywhere. Areas in the Gothic Quarter and around La Rambla do get noisy at night, so bring some earplugs with you. If you are travelling to Barcelona on your own, be careful walking around quieter streets alone at night, especially in Raval. Barcelona is a safe city, but still be aware of what’s going on around you.
Hostels in Barcelona
I stayed at Fabrizzio’s Petit Hostel and loved it, and they even had free paella nights if you are backpacking on a budget and want to try some delicious Spanish food. There are private rooms and dorms available, and I really enjoyed my stay here. Read my full review of what I think is the best hostel in Barcelona, or book it on Hostelworld.
If Fabrizzio’s isn’t available then there are plenty of other hostels and budget hotels in Barcelona, including plenty of options for private rooms in hostels. You could also try Hostel One Las Ramblas which is great for solo travellers or Fabrizzio’s Terrace which also gets excellent reviews and has private rooms or dorms to choose from. Take a look at all the hostels in Barcelona on Hostelworld to check prices, read reviews and book your hostel online.
Hotels in Barcelona
There are hundreds of hotels in Barcelona to choose from, and you can find something for every budget. Staying outside of the city centre is cheaper, but as you only have 2 days in Barcelona these options are all in or around the Gothic Quarter so you can easily reach the attractions in Barcelona on foot or with the metro.
Luxury: The 5* Mercer Hotel has a rooftop pool, chic décor with original beamed ceilings and exposed brick walls. Guests love the helpful staff, comfortable beds and the location.
Mid-Range: The H10 Madison hotel has lovely views of the Gothic Cathedral from the roof terrace and gets rave reviews for the friendly staff and excellent location.
Budget: Chic & Basic Born Hotel is in the popular Born neighbourhood. It has a restaurant and bar onsite, and guests loved the boutique style and the location.
Airbnb in Barcelona
There have been problems with Airbnb in Barcelona, with large companies buying up apartments to rent to tourists and pushing out local residents. If you do decide to book an Airbnb in Barcelona I would recommend staying in a private room in an apartment, so you are helping someone who lives here to pay their rent, which is now at record levels in the city. Something like this room in the gorgeous apartment hosted by the Soler family or this room in Mod’s flat in the Gothic Quarter are central places to stay and close to everything you might need.
If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip! Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code and my full Airbnb guide or click below for your Airbnb coupon.
Getting Around Barcelona
There is a stupid amount of taxis in Barcelona, so if you need to get anywhere fast you easily can flag one down. They all have a meter and should use it.
The bus system can be a bit confusing in terms of where to get off, although if you have wifi then Google maps will tell you the best way to get around.
The underground Metro is the easiest public transport to navigate but do watch out for pickpockets.
If you plan on taking 6 or more journeys by bus or metro (including the train from/to the airport), then you could buy a 10 journey ticket called a T-Casual. This allows you 10 journeys on the bus, tram, metro or train within zone one for just €11.35. If you only plan to use public transport once or twice, a single ticket costs €2.40. Children under 4 travel free.
There are also transport cards specifically designed for tourists, called the Hola Barcelona Travel Card. However, unless you plan on taking public transport everywhere, I don’t think they are the best value. For example, a 48-hour transport card costs €16.30, but you would have to take more than 10 journeys in 2 days to make it better value than the T-Casual Card.
Pickpockets in Barcelona
Although Barcelona is a safe city, unfortunately, pickpockets are a problem; particularly in popular tourist areas and on the metro. Do not keep your wallet or cash in trouser pockets and keep your hand on your bag at all times. Leave your passport and other valuables locked away in your accommodation, and only bring out what you need.
When you are eating at a restaurant or café, keep your bag on your lap, not hanging over your chair and personally I avoid leaving my wallet or phone on the table – especially if I’m eating outdoors. It only takes a second for someone to distract you and grab it!
I don’t want to scare you but please take care of your belongings and make sure you have travel insurance in case something does happen.
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Things to do in Barcelona in 2 Days
For the purposes of this Barcelona 2 day itinerary, I’ve assumed that you will be spending a weekend in Barcelona and planned the activities as such – if you come to Barcelona on different days of the week then be sure to check opening times as places like the Boqueria Market are closed on Sundays.
I’ve tried to mix up this itinerary to include some of the more typical Barcelona attractions, while still exploring a lot of the different neighbourhoods in Barcelona.
You’ll notice that I haven’t included any museums in this itinerary – for your first trip to Barcelona, I’d recommend spending as much time as you can outside on the streets and soaking up the atmosphere. Football fans may also be horrified by no mention of Nou Camp, so feel free to chop and change my Barcelona itinerary to best suit your tastes.
Barcelona 2 Day Itinerary: Day 1
A walk down the Rambla is a must for first-timers; it is the most famous street in Barcelona but it gets crowded and busy, so make this your first stop in the morning. It is also a popular street for pickpockets in Barcelona, so watch your belongings at any time of day!
However, first thing in the morning La Rambla is blissfully quiet, and you can grab some breakfast at the wonderful Boqueria Market. Later on in the day, La Rambla fills with stalls, living statues and throngs of people, so if you stay in the market for a while you are bound to see it getting more lively! Start off at Plaça Catalunya and walk down towards the sea.
La Boqueria Market
This wonderful market is firmly on the tourist trail, but for good reason and one of the best free things to do in Barcelona. There are still local people here doing their shopping, but they do have to fight their way through the crowds of tourists! If you want to take photographs of the stalls, it is polite to ask or to buy something from the stall owners. Make sure you stray off the main walkways as the market stretches way beyond the first two rows! You could pick up some food for breakfast or a picnic-style lunch here or at the very least some fruit for a snack.
Port Vell & the Columbus Monument
At the bottom of La Rambla is the statue of Christopher Columbus, pointing out to sea – not towards the Americas. You can go up to the top of the monument for €6 to enjoy lovely views of the city, or simply stroll by it. From here, turn left and walk along the port front. Port Vell means Old Port, but it was actually built for the 1992 Olympic Games, when the whole of the beach and waterfront was redesigned and rebuilt. Now you can admire the boats docked here, including some insanely big super-yachts!
Lunch at La Xampaneria
Can Paixano, affectionately known as La Xampanyeria thanks to the delicious cava they sell, is always stuffed to the brim with locals and tourists alike. If you like it cosy (read: jam-packed) and don’t mind standing up to drink or being trampled on a bit, the cheap cava and delicious sandwiches are worth the scrum. You can pop in here just for a glass of cava, but order 2 glasses or more and you need to get some food too. As well as sandwiches there are also plates of tapas such as cheese, morcilla black pudding and croquetas (cheese and ham potato croquettes). All the tapas are served in generous portions, and a meal works out at just over 10 euros for a bottle of cava and 2 tapas.
If that sounds like too much, then head to the nearby neighbourhood of Barceloneta. For delicious tapas, try La Bombeta or Bar Jai-Ca which are probably equally busy, if a little less raucous. At least they have seating, although you may have to wait for a table.
Barceloneta is the old fishermen’s neighbourhood, with straight narrow streets and blocks of small apartments. You can visit the market here which is less crowded than La Boqueria or walk through the streets to the beachfront. I love to just look at the sea in Barcelona, although there are plenty of beaches here the water isn’t that clean, and as you’re only in Barcelona for days I would suggest leaving the sunbathing for another time, but sitting for a while on one of the benches to enjoy the sunshine is very pleasant indeed. If you’re not bothered about seeing the sea, you could skip Barceloneta altogether and go straight to Ciutadella Park.
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This large park is one of the few green expanses in Barcelona. It’s often filled with picnicking families and groups of friends enjoying a drink and a smoke, and if you’re lucky you might catch some live music or a street performance of some kind. Stroll around to the lake and the Cascada Monumental fountain, keeping an eye out for some unusual statues like that of a woolly mammoth.
Arc de Triomf
From Ciutadella, walk up Passeig de Lluís Companys to the Arc de Triomf. It isn’t quite as iconic as the Parisian version, but I love the red brick of this one. It was built as the main entrance for the 1888 Universal Exhibition hosted by the City, and now stands tall – usually surrounded by people taking photographs, human statues and a street musician or two. From here, walk down through El Born.
The Born neighbourhood is a maze of streets, filled with boutique shops, eateries and bars. The old Mercat del Born is now a cultural centre since renovations uncovered Roman ruins beneath the foundations. The Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar is a lovely church which inspired the novel, and you can go up on the roof for wonderful views of the city – if you get there before 5.15pm when the last tour leaves. If you’re too late for the tour you can enjoy walking around or have a glass of wine and admire the church from below.
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Dinner and Drinks in Gracia
Gracia was its own town before it got swallowed up in the “expansion” and was joined to Barcelona by the Eixample district. It still has its own personality and has much more of a local atmosphere than the areas closer to the centre. There are various Plaças where you can have a drink and a bite to eat, but if you want to try something typically Catalan, head to La Vermu for an aperitivo drink of local vermouth then to my favourite place for traditional Catalan food – El Glop. Choose from a wide menu including grilled meats and a variety of rice dishes but I suggest you skip the paella and go for the Black Rice – a rich rice dish made with squid ink, cuttlefish, clams and prawns. Order it with a side of aioli garlic sauce and a starter of bread with tomato and you and will not regret it! Booking in advance is recommended.
Afterwards, if you still have the energy for a cocktail, try El Ciclista or Bobby Gin for a Barcelona style huge gin and tonic. I’ve got a busy day planned for tomorrow, so don’t overdo it – you want to be up early and ready to go for the rest of your Barcelona itinerary!
2 Day Barcelona Itinerary: Day 2
Your second day in Barcelona is all about Gaudi. Gaudi’s architectural style has left a lasting mark on the city, and his influence is everywhere. He’s not the only Catalan architect though, and this Barcelona itinerary will also give you a chance to see some of the other incredible buildings here.
Parc Güell is one of Gaudi’s masterpieces, originally designed as a kind of magical housing estate commissioned by Gaudi’s patron Eusebi Güell. Only three of the houses were built, yet the gardens surrounding them are beautiful and include some stunning mosaics, the famous Gaudi dragon and the mosaic terrace. Most of the park is free but the iconic terrace and dragon statue are in the paid section. It costs 10 euros to get up close to those areas (discounts for children and senior citizens are available), and you will need to reserve a time slot in advance. Don’t miss exploring the rest of the park, and head up as high as you can go for the best views of Barcelona. Book tickets online here.
The park is open from 7.30am in the summer, 8am in shoulder season and 8.30am in the winter. I’d advise getting there as early as you can before it gets too busy. An early start also means you’ll be able to fit more into your day! It also seems that if you arrive before the official opening times above, you can access the paid area for free, but it might still be dark then.
Check out these Park Guell tour options:
Once you’ve finished here, take the metro down to Diagonal. Change lines and head to La Sagrada Familia. You can also walk if you’re feeling energetic!
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia is Gaudi’s famous cathedral and is absolutely stunning inside & out. You can just wander around the outside if you like but inside is definitely worth seeing – book a visit slot in advance online to avoid horribly long queues. Inside, you can see how nature influenced Gaudi’s designs. From the soaring tree-like pillars to the colourful stained glass windows producing rainbow colours as the sun shines through the panes. If you want to go up one of the towers for beautiful views of the city, you’ll need to buy the audio-guide ticket which includes tower access for €33. Cheaper tickets are available which don’t include the tower access, but it is totally worth it. Children under 11 go free, and discounts are available for students and seniors.
Lunch at La Paradeta
Depending how much time you choose to spend at Park Güell, you may want to have lunch before or after going to La Sagrada Familia. Whatever you decide, don’t miss lunch at La Paradeta – if you like fish! This is the best and cheapest seafood restaurant in the city. They have a counter like you might find at the market where you point at what you want – prawns, calamari, mussels, crab, lobster etc, as well as incredible tuna steaks and monkfish. They cook it simply and quickly and call out your number for you to pick it up at the counter. Not classy but amazing food! However, if you don’t eat seafood then there are no other options so you’ll need to find somewhere else to eat. If you can hang on until after Sagrada Familia there are lots of choices on La Rambla de Catalunya, or try Arc Iris for vegetarian.
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Passeig de Gracia, Casa Batlló and La Pedrera
After lunch, a stroll down Passeig de Gracia is the perfect way to let your lunch go down. If you haven’t had lunch yet, then go another street over to La Rambla de Catalunya to eat. Assuming you’ve had lunch, start from where Diagonal meets Passeig de Gracia and head down towards Plaça Catalunya. First, you’ll come to Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera, which means ‘the stone quarry’ then further down is my favourite building in Barcelona – the glorious Casa Batlló. You can go inside both of these for an extra fee, but I prefer to just admire them from the outside. If you want to go inside, these tour options which might be useful for you:
Casa Batlló is one of a trio of buildings which make up the ‘Block of Discord’, as each building was designed by a different Modernist architect. Casa Lleó Morera by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, Casa Amatller by Josep Puig i Cadafalch and Casa Batlló by Antoni Gaudí are not only in very contrasting styles but are also considered signature pieces by each of the men, with the name of the block hinting at the competition between them all. Continue down Passeig de Gracia to Plaça Catalunya.
Palau de la Música Catalana
Not far from Plaça Catalunya, is another stunning Modernist building, designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. It was built between 1905 and 1908 and has an incredible stained glass roof inside, as well as beautiful details throughout. A guided tour is €20 per person and lasts for just under an hour, and is well worth the money. Alternatively, if there is a performance on in the evening you could get tickets for that. The last tour of the day is at 3pm (check the times and availability) so be careful not to miss your slot. If you book your tickets more than 21 days in advance you can get a discount too, so the early bird catches the worm! Visit the official Palau de la Musica website here.
The Gothic Quarter
The Gothic Quarter is a great place to explore, impressive buildings and lots of boutique shops, cool bars & restaurants. I used to live there & it’s still my favourite part of town, although it does get busy!!
Chocolate and Churros
After all that walking, perhaps you’re in need of some sustenance – how about hot chocolate and churros? Thick gloopy hot chocolate and finger-shaped donuts to dip are heavenly, and you’ll find some of the best in Barcelona on Carrer de Petrixol at La Pallaresa or Granja Dulcinea.
Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi
The nearby Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi is a beautiful 14th Century Gothic Basilica which you can take a look inside for €4.50, or just stroll around the square. There is often a food market or artists selling paintings here too.
Gothic Cathedral & Surroundings
The cathedral is another magnificent example of Gothic architecture, towering above the square. The square often hosts special events such as wine tastings of Christmas markets if you visit Barcelona in December, or you can wander around here freely to explore the narrow streets and hidden gems. Plaça D’Isidre Nonell has a beautiful mosaic artwork called The Kiss, Plaça de Sant Felip Neri is a peaceful square near the cathedral, there is the ‘fake’ gothic archway near Plaça Sant Jaume and the impressive Plaça del Rei.
Dinner at La Vinateria del Call
Let’s stay in the Gothic Quarter for dinner, one of my favourite tapas restaurants is the Vinateria del Call, hidden away in the old Jewish Quarter behind Plaça Sant Jaume. It is a popular place for tourists and locals alike, so it’s best to book a table if you can. Choose from a range of tapas dishes including local cheeses, Catalan specialities and morcilla blood sausage. There aren’t too many options for vegetarians, but cheese and meat-lovers will be happy here. The waiter will recommend a wine to go with each course and make sure you save room for dessert – the chocolate fondant is to die for!
If you fancy a drink or two after your meal, there are plenty of bars in the Gothic and Born areas – my favourite being Rubi, a tiny place with red lighting, cool music, homemade gins and killer mojitos for €5.
Well, that’s it! There are so many other wonderful things to do in Barcelona that I simply could not fit into this itinerary – so you definitely need a return visit! What do you think, have I missed anything that definitely should be included on a 2 day Barcelona itinerary? I would love to hear your thoughts, please leave your comments below.
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