Barcelona is a fascinating city that could easily not only be Europe’s coolest one but also one of the most enjoyable places to live on Earth. And it is. Nice climate, closeness to the Mediterranean sea, mind-blowing architecture (thanks to Gaudí), good and affordable food, great urbanism with functioning solutions for bikes and public transport, clean streets, smiling people that seem to know how to enjoy life…
2 days is just enough to get a first taste of this wonderful city and you will be even more willing to come back! Barcelona surely has great museums worth the visit (Museu Picasso, Fondació Joan Miró, Museu national d’Art de Catalunya…) but for only 2 days thepickytraveller recommends to emphasize on discovering the city outdoors, enjoying the Mediterranean sun (it’s very easy to walk between the main attractions, with some metro rides along your way when you feel tired). For the metro it’s recommended to buy the T-10 ticket (10 metro rides, usable by multiple passengers at the same time) instead of the rather expensive T-Dia (one-day travel card).
Start your first day from la Barceloneta, the city’s closest district to the sea. Walk on the long beaches among surfers, runners, bikers and old folks happily playing pétanque.
Then take the Transbordar Aeri (an old cable car) to make your way to the Montjuïc mountain, enjoying great views of the city (be sure to be on the right-side of the cabin, the one facing the city, otherwise you will just see endless deep blue sea).
Walk the mountain slopes and its gardens towards the massive Museu national d’Art de Catalunya, enjoying beautiful panoramas of the city here and there. You will also pass by the Fondació Joan Miró. When you reach Museu national d’Art de Catalunya, decide if you want to visit it or not (but keep in mind it’s a very big museum and visiting it thoroughly will take time…).
Take the metro at Plaça d’Espanya (or walk) towards the famous (and crowded) Mercat de la Boqueria. This very photogenic market (open all day round but closed on Sundays) might well be one of the world’s most beautiful ones with its appealingly well arranged stands of fruits, veggies, seafood, Iberian delicatessen, nuts, candies, you name it… As this is one of Barcelona’s most visited places, it’s not necessarily recommended to try having lunch at the few tiny and usually packed restaurants inside the market (unless you are willing to buy some food from a stand for a picnic). Look for a quieter place nearby (for example this one, thepickytraveller tried it and loved it).
Now it’s time to walk up the famous (and very crowded as well) La Rambla, Barcelona’s biggest pedestrian street (in fact there are 2 ”roads” at each side of La Rambla for cars to drive, but pedestrians enjoy the biggest part of the street). Beware of pickpockets in this area fully packed with tourists.
When you have enough of the crowds, continue east towards the old town (Barri Gòtic) and its (very) narrow streets (ok, it’s crowded here too…). You can find multiple different suggested itineraries on the internet, but rather than tracking a map it’s more enjoyable just to wander the small streets. You are not likely to get lost as it’s quite a small district and there will always be someone helpful somewhere to ask your way.
You will pass by Barcelona’s famous Gothic cathedral (Catedral de Barcelona) that you can also visit, but beware of long lines (again)…
Now you gotta see some Gaudí. Prepare to be completely amazed!!! His masterpieces are insanely magnificent. Most of them are UNESCO-listed, making Barcelona one of the most UNESCO-“awarded” cities in the world (with a total of 9 World Heritage sites inside the city!). The must-sees are Palau Güell, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà (la Pedrera), Park Güell and the icing on the cake, la Sagrada Família. Tickets are expensive, but they are really worth it.
The first 3 ones are close to each other and you can easily walk between them. Park Güell and la Sagrada Família are a bit further, but not that far either and both next to one or even 2 metro stations. When visiting Barcelona during peak season, it’s strongly recommended to buy tickets online in advance or you will waste a lot of time queuing or even not being able to enter the site at all (for example Park Güell regulates its entries and sells scheduled tickets, which can lead to fully-booked days). The not-so-pleasant part of this kind of planning is the need to precisely schedule your visits (online bought tickets give you a 15 or 30-minutes timeframe to enter the site).
Note that Park Güell can mainly be visited anytime and free of charge, but for the monumental (and most impressive) part you will need a ticket (with strictly regulated entries and no more than 400 persons on the site at the same time). Go there even if you don’t manage to get a ticket as you will see a lot of interesting things anyway. Take the metro to Vallcarca station, walk through the park and ride the metro back to the city center from the downhill Lesseps station.
For Palau Güell, Casa Batlló and Casa Milá (la Pedrera) you won’t see much unless you buy a ticket to get inside (and your are strongly advised to do so!). The ticket will also give you access to those places’ great rooftop terraces.
Finally take the metro to the ultimate Sagrada Família metro station and visit this incredible temple that will be finalized only in 2026. Once again, buying tickets online is strongly advised. Try to visit la Sagrada Família on a sunny day’s late afternoon, when the bright light amazingly shines through the colourful stained glasses…
Consider also booking a guided tour inside the Palau de la Música Catalana in the Barri Gótic district (this one is not Gaudí’s, but still astonishingly beautiful).
Barcelona is just mind-blowing. That’s all. Enjoy!