We first visited Barcelona in 2015 and loved it. We split it up then, with a few days in Palma de Mallorca for some beach, mountains and road tripping. Anytime we asked for a recommendation on what to do, we always just got “Sagrada Familia!” “tapas!” “Gaudi!” We ended up going back in 2017 (accidentally crashing a honeymoon), so here’s some suggestions.
What I’d tell my sister:
- Book your tickets to Tickets as soon as you have your flights (or know your dates). We happen to book last minute both times and haven’t gotten a chance to try it.
- Book your Sagrada Familia tickets to be early in the trip. Go in the morning, hike up the towers. It’s great no matter which tower you end up going up. We went up the nativity tour in 2015. In 2017, we did an English audio tour and loved it. Both times, we took our time checking out each exhibit in the museum learning about the architecture and about Gaudi. You could easily spend a couple hours here if you check out every nook and cranny. I say do this early in the trip because it explains the Gaudi art, and explains the interesting Gaudi architecture around town. We ended up seeing it late in our first trip and thus skipped Casa Battlo, Casa Mila (aka La Pedrera), and Park Guell the first time because we didn’t get what the hype was all about. Book all these tickets online and skip the wait. You can download the tickets straight onto your phone for easy access.
- Go to El Xampanyet. It’s this great bar for tapas. If you’re patient, the manager there will look out for you and get you seated as soon as possible. Enjoy the xampanyet while you wait. It’s a sweet bubbly wine that I really enjoyed!
- Stay in Eixample–it’s convenient to a lot of sights. Better yet, stay close to Passeig de Gracia so you can step outside and admire the Gaudi as you head off to explore. (We stayed at the Royal Passeig de Gracia)
Sights we loved:
- all the Gaudi
- Picasso museum
- the cathedral was a fun little stop
- day trip to Montserrat
Barcelona is known for the Sagrada Familia (which still isn’t finished!) and it’s definitely a do not miss! Even if you aren’t Catholic or religious in any way, it’s just breathtaking. I didn’t like Gaudi architecture until I visited Sagrada Familia and finally understood what he was trying to do.
On our first trip in 2015, we were in Barcelona right around Easter, so we missed certain spots because they were closed for the holy week (El Xampanyet–I’m looking at you). We did one day of Hop On/Hop Off which helped us see a bunch of the city without having to walk everywhere.
Right after we arrived in Barcelona from a red-eye, we checked into the hotel, took a little nap, then wandered down las Ramblas towards Boqueria, the large market in town. We sampled here and there, and sat down at El Quim for some late lunch.
Places to save to your map:
- Santa Gloria a bakery with the most exquisite pastries and sandwiches, a block and a half away from the Passeig de Gracia
- Cake Shop Mauri, a neighborhood bakery since 1929. A great spot to grab breakfast or sandwiches to go if you’re headed to Montserrat