Every year, several million tourists visit Barcelona, drawn to its laid-back lifestyle and rich cultural heritage. For a short but intense stay in the Catalan capital, there's nothing better than a tailor-made itinerary. Here is how we would suggest spending one day in Barcelona.
Placa de Catalunya
The tour starts at a strategic location : Placa de Catalunya. It's the start of the famous Las Ramblas, whose pedestrian centre offers tons of activities : a flower market, bird market, and music shows. If you only have one day in Barcelona, you must visit the Boqueria, the largest covered market in Catalonia, with 300 colourful and lively booths.
Next along Las Ramblas is the prestigious Liceu opera house. One of the most beautiful squares in Barcelona, Placa Reial, is worth a detour. How can you resist its photogenic palm trees, lampposts designed by Gaudi, and beautiful central fountain?
Walk along the water's edge
The tour resumes on Las Ramblas and ends at the foot of the statue of Christopher Columbus, opposite Port Vell. Enjoy the views over the Mediterranean and then head to Barceloneta, a former fishing district that has become 'the place to be'. Its seaside promenade and sandy beaches makes it one of Barcelona's best tourist attractions.
Born and La Ribera
It's time to leave the beach and explore the Born and La Ribera districts to continue your day in Barcelona. Between the 13th and 15th centuries, this was the economic heart of the city. The church of Santa Maria del Mar is one of its jewels. The surrounding streets, such as Carrer de Montcada, offer beautiful examples of Catalan Romanesque and Gothic architecture.
The nearby Santa Caterina covered market is an ideal spot for a snack break. Its undulating, multicoloured roof is worth a closer look, and its multiple stands offer tapas, seafood, charcuterie, local wines, and more.
The Picasso Museum
Once satiated, return to the Carrer de Montcada for a visit to one of the most interesting museums in Barcelona : the Picasso Museum. Located in five ancient palaces, it highlights the works produced by the famous artist during his formative years as well as during his 'blue period' and the time he spent in Barcelona.
Due to its many Gothic buildings, the neighbouring area is called the Barri Gotic. It is the historic centre and the most visited part of the city. Barcelona Cathedral, commonly known as the Seu, was built around the 14th century. Its charming cloister, populated by 13 white geese, is well worth a visit. During your 24 hours in Barcelona, you can explore all the Gothic Quarter has to offer : Placa Sant Jaume, Carrer del Call, and the streets around the Basilica of Santa Maria del Pi.
Crossing Las Ramblas, north of the Boqueria, you enter El Raval. Formerly known as the Barri xino, the 'Chinatown', it had a reputation for scandal and danger. Today, the northern section is a trendy, cosmopolitan place. The star of El Raval is undoubtedly the MACBA, Barcelona's Museum of Contemporary Art. The glass and white aluminium building is the work of architect Richard Meier.
Passeig de Gracia
During your 24 hours in Barcelona, you'll visit the heart of the Eixample, to the Passeig de Gracia, a vast avenue where you can find not only the biggest brand names, but above all the architectural pearls of Catalan Art Nouveau. Modernism (as it is called here) gave rise to wonders, including Casa Batllo and Casa Mila, works by Antoni Gaudi.
After the Casa Mila, the subway runs to the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's famous basilica. Its construction, which was halted after Gaudi's death in 1926, remains incomplete. Having now become the symbol of Barcelona, it might be finished for the centennial of his death. Regardless of whether the doors are still open, seeing the basilica up close will take your breath away.
Dine like the Spaniards during your day in Barcelona. Neighbouring Gracia is the place to be. This part of town is untouched by mass tourism and has an authentic village charm. You can of course sample Catalan food, although many other world cuisines are also available. ¡Buenas noches.