🏰 Barcelona Travel Guide: Active 4-Day Itinerary + Day Hike

The blog author standing inside a temple with an decorated bright and colorful ceiling.

One of the most visited places in Europe, Barcelona is a cosmopolitan city with Michelin star restaurants, world-famous architecture like La Sagrada Familia and hiking trails 1.5 hours away on Montserrat mountain.

Here, I share practical tips on how to get to and around the city, and an active 4-day itinerary that incorporates a day hike with a panoramic view and lots of walking to explore several of Barcelona’s colorful neighborhoods.

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Quick Travel Facts for Barcelona

Here is some general travel information on Barcelona to save you research time:

⭐ Known for: Barcelona is a cosmopolitan city known for architecture, tapas and colorful neighborhoods. It’s particularly famous for La Sagrada Familia, an eclectic temple by the famous Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudí.

🛃 Visa: A visa is not required for US nationals visiting Spain up to 90 days.

📍 Location: Barcelona is located on the northeast coast of Spain in the Iberian Peninsula. It’s approximately 390 miles east of Madrid, which is about a 2.5-hour train ride or a 1.25-hour flight.

💬 Language: Barcelona has two official languages, Catalan and Spanish. A majority of the population in Barcelona consider themselves fully bilingual. English is widely spoken in Barcelona, especially by people working in the tourism industry.

🌎 Time zone: Barcelona’s time zone is the Central European Standard Time.

💰 Currency: Barcelona uses the Euro and 1 USD equals €0.94 at the time of writing. USD is not widely accepted in Barcelona, so you’ll need to exchange currencies if you’re paying with cash.

🔌 Outlet: Barcelona uses the Europlug, the two prongs with round pins, so US travelers will need to bring an adapter (I bought and used this well-rated plug adapter).

💧Tap water: Tap water is safe to drink in Barcelona, but some locals and tourists will say that it’s not the best-tasting water.

💳 Credit card: Credit cards are widely accepted in Barcelona, but you should carry a small amount of cash for small purchases.

💵 Tipping: Tipping is not expected in Barcelona, but you can tip 5 to 10% for good service and it will be appreciated.

☀️ When to visit: The most popular times to visit Barcelona are from April to June when the weather is in the 70s°F. I visited in May, which was perfect weather for exploring the city in short sleeves and jeans, but a tad cold for the beach.

⏳ How long to visit: Most people recommend spending 2 to 3 days in Barcelona, which will give you enough time to see many of the top attractions. I stayed for four days, which gave me enough time to do some of the top attractions, do a hike with a panoramic view in Montserrat and bake in some downtime.

5 General Tips for Visiting Barcelona

Here are five general tips when traveling to Barcelona:

  • Tip #1: Book popular attractions in advance and consider getting tickets to skip lines. During the high season (April to June), many of Barcelona’s top attractions, like La Sagrada Familia, should be booked 1-3 weeks in advance or they will be sold out. You can also expect long lines (sometimes over an hour long), so consider paying a premium for skip-the-line tickets if you don’t want to wait.
A cathedral with eccentric and detailed decorations and four pointed towers.
The exterior of La Sagrada Familia, arguably Barcelona’s #1 attraction.
  • Tip #2: Expect to eat at a later time. In Barcelona, like in the rest of Spain, lunch time is closer to 2pm and dinner time is closer 8pm. You can also take advantage of this by eating a bit earlier to avoid the lunch and dinner rush, but check restaurants’ hours to make sure they’re serving food.
  • Tip #3: Take public transport and be ready to walk a lot. Barcelona has an extensive public transport system that you should take advantage of. It’s also a city where you can see many locals and tourists walking around. See below for tips on getting around Barcelona.
  • Tip #4: Don’t try to see all of Gaudí’s works at once. Antoni Gaudí’s architectural masterpieces are some of Europe’s most popular attractions. Gaudí has 10 famous works in Barcelona and you can easily burn out trying to see them all. Aim to see two to three Gaudí sights at most per day if you want to take the time to fully appreciate them.
  • Tip #5: Aim to stay in an accommodation close to Barcelona’s central area. Barcelona’s metro is extensive and can get you to many places, but you can also explore a lot of different neighborhoods on foot. Many people will say (and I now agree after my stay) that within 10 minutes of Placa de Catalunya is the ideal area to find accommodation.
A European alleyway street with balconies decorated with plants.
One of the streets in Gothic Quarter near Placa de Catalunya.

Getting Around Barcelona

Getting to Barcelona from the Airport

Barcelona’s airport, Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport, is 10 miles away from Barcelona’s center.

Getting into Barcelona from the airport takes anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes depending on traffic, method of transportation and exact destination.

You can get to Barcelona from the airport by:

  • Taking a taxi. Barcelona’s taxis are painted yellow and black. You can expect to pay $30+ for a taxi ride into the city.
  • Using a ridesharing app. Barcelona has Uber and Lyft, so you can check prices on the app, but they’re generally only slightly cheaper than taxis.
  • Taking the metro. Barcelona has an extensive metro system and you can pay ~$4 one-way to take the metro line L9 Sud from both airport terminals T1 and T2 into the city.
  • Taking the bus. Barcelona has an express bus called Aerobus that costs $7 one-way. Aerobus runs their A1 and A2 buses from the T1 and T2 terminals, respectively, and they make the same stops. I took the Aerobus into Barcelona because it’s reliable and took me to Plaça España, which is where I needed to go.

Getting Around Barcelona

Once you’re in Barcelona, you can get around by walking, taking a taxi or using a ridesharing app, but the best way to get around Barcelona is by riding their extensive public transportation system, which includes the metro, train (called FGC) and tram.

I primarily traveled Barcelona by metro and train. Here are some tips about taking their public transport:

  • You can save some money by buying an “integrated ticket”. An integrated ticket gives you access to the Barcelona metro, train and tram for a set number of times or period of time. For example, a single metro ride costs ~$2.60, but a T-casual card gives you 10 rides for ~$12 for Zone 1, which is what you mainly need if you’re staying inside Barcelona’s center.

If you’re looking to get outside of Barcelona’s center, a popular destination is Montserrat, which has over a dozen hiking trails. A metro and train ride will get you to the mountain in 1.5 hours.

4-Day Itinerary for Barcelona

Below is how to spend 4 active days in Barcelona while visiting some of the city’s top attractions (e.g., some of Gaudí’s best architectural work), doing a day hike at Montserrat and exploring the different neighborhoods of Barcelona.

This itinerary resembles how I spent my time in Barcelona while incorporating improvements. I’ve included some of my actual timestamps to give you an idea of how long you might need for each activity and how to efficiently sequence things.

It’s also an active itinerary in that if you walk everywhere as sequenced, you can cover 4 to 6 miles per day for a total of 12 to 18 miles by the end of the trip, not including the suggested 6-mile moderate hike on day 3. You can easily make it less walking-heavy by taking public transportation.

Day 1✈️ Fly into Barcelona’s airport and travel to the center (morning)
🍤 Get settled in and grab lunch
🚶🏻‍♀️ Take a Gothic Quarter walking tour (3pm-5pm)
🚶🏻‍♀️ Explore El Born (5pm-7pm)
🚶🏻‍♀️ Walk through Parc de la Ciutadella (7pm-8pm)
🥘 Get tapas for dinner (8:30pm-9pm)
Day 2🏰 Visit the famous La Sagrada Familia (10am-12pm)
 🍤 Eat tapas at Vinitus (12:30pm-2pm)
🏰 Visit Casa Batlló or another of Gaudí’s work (2pm-4pm)
🚶🏻‍♀️ Walk down La Rambla (5pm-7pm)
Day 3🥾 Take a hiking day trip to Montserrat (all day)
Day 4🚶🏻‍♀️ Explore La Barceloneta (morning and early afternoon)
Explore El Poble-Sec area and catch the Magic Fountain show (late afternoon)

I share all my travel expenses from doing a similar itinerary in this Barcelona cost breakdown.

About This 4-Day Barcelona Itinerary

This 4-day itinerary was put together thoughtfully with the help of a local friend. Below are the explanations and details behind this Barcelona itinerary with practical tips sprinkled in.

This Google Map has all Barcelona places mentioned in this list.

Day 1: Get to Know Barcelona

Stop #1: Gothic Quarter

Upon arriving, settle in and start getting the vibe of Barcelona by visiting the historic center of Barcelona’s Ciutat Vella (which is “Old City” in Catalan), Gothic Quarter. You can explore the center by taking a Gothic Quarter walking tour or a free walking one, which is what I did.

  • Duration: The Gothic Quarter walking tours last 2 to 2.5 hours.
  • Cost: Barcelona walking tours are usually around $20. The free walking tours are tip-based, so you can give any amount you like at the end.
  • My take: Doing a walking tour right after arriving can be tiring for some people, but I found it nice and relieving to not have to figure out where to go on day 1.
Stop #2: El Born

Continue heading northeast to the trendy and popular El Born neighborhood for a different vibe.

  • Duration: You can spend an hour or more walking through the neighborhood and looking at trendy shops, restaurants, bars and spas.
  • Cost: El Born is free to walk around, but know that some of the trendy shops can get pricey.
  • My take: Don’t worry too much about where to walk; El Born is a great place to wander around aimlessly.
A narrow street with trendy shops and lights.
Exploring El Born neighborhood.

Dr Stravinsky is a cool bar in El Born that serves unique drinks and is recommended by locals. They have a “drink profile” menu that helps you choose a drink based on the types of flavors you like.

A red with black stripe cup holding a yellow liquid with a chocolate decoration at the top.
A unique drink at Dr Stravinski.
Stop #3: Parc de la Ciutadella

Keep heading northeast to the largest park in Barcelona, Parc de la Ciutadella, where you’ll see a mix of locals and tourists relaxing and taking casual strolls.

The blog author standing in front of a tall arc.
One of Parc de Ciutadella’s arches.
Stop #4: Tapas Dinner

Barcelona is known for their excellent cuisine so on day 1, it’s worth finding a tapas restaurant (tapas translates to “a smart portion of food”) where you can try a sampling of Spain’s most famous appetizers

  • Cost: A tapa generally costs $3 to $5 with some upscale restaurants charging double the price.
  • My take: One of my favorite tapas is “pulpo a la gallega”, which is octopus with potatoes and paprika. However, it was generally served in a large portion. For smaller tapas, I loved “jamón Ibérico” (cured ham) and “pimientos de padron” (small, hot peppers).
A plate of octopus and potato covered in red paprika.
Enjoying a pulpo a la gallega tapas.

Day 2: See the Works of Gaudí

Stop #1: La Sagrada Familia

No Barcelona visit is complete without seeing an architectural masterpiece by Antoni Gaudí, the most influential Catalan artist in modern Spain. La Sagrada Familia, an eccentric temple, is the most famous of all of Gaudí’s work.

  • Duration: You can expect to spend 1-2 hours in La Sagrada Familia if you do the self-guided audio tour. If you visit during the high season, you might have to budget an hour of waiting in line.
  • Cost: The entrance fee starts at ~$27 which includes a self-guided audio tour. The price increases to ~$32 for a group tour and ~$43 to visit the temple’s towers.
  • My take: I had visited dozens of temples by this point in my Europe trip and La Sagrada Familia is by far the most breathtaking one.

La Sagrada Familia is almost always crowded, so book your tickets in advance. Visitors have had to book weeks in advanced during the high season. If you don’t want to wait in line (which can be an hour long), you can pay a premium to skip the line.

A cathedral's interior rooftop with eccentric and very detailed carvings and decorations.
The interior of La Sagrada Familia.
Stop #2: Tapas at Vinitus

A 25-minute walk from La Sagrada Familia, Vinitus is an amazing tapas restaurant that has a standout Burnt Saint Teresa torrija (bread pudding). Their staff are helpful and very willing to help you with recommendations.

  • Duration: Expect a long wait at Vinitus. Avoid peak lunch and dinner hours to shorten your wait to less than 30 minutes. Once you’re seated, service is relatively fast for Barcelona.
  • Cost: I visited twice and averaged $27 per meal here, but could have brought the price down to $20 had I been sharing plates and not traveling solo.
  • My take: Their tapas were incredible, but it was their Burnt Saint Teresa torrija that made me go back a second time within four days.
A bread pudding with a burnt sugar crust.
The Burnt Saint Teresa torrija at Vinitus.
Stop #3: More Gaudí

After lunch, you can visit another of Gaudí’s work. Alternatively, you can skip to stop #4 and return to this afterwards if you need an architectural break (which is what I did). From Vinitus, you can visit:

  • Casa Batlló. A 3-minute walk from Vinitus, Casa Batlló is an eccentric Gaudí house enhanced with optional VR experiences. I thoroughly enjoyed my solo, self-guided tour here. The entrance fee starts at ~$30 online and increases to ~$35 at the box office.
  • La Pedrera-Casa Milà. A 10-minute walk from Vinitus, La Pedrera is another one of Gaudí’s home masterpieces. The entrance fee is ~$27 and the internet’s consensus seems to be that Casa Batlló is a better value than La Pedrera for what you get.
  • Park Güell. A 20-minute metro ride from Vinitus, Park Güell is one of Gaudí’s most popular and iconic landmarks, so tickets get frequently sold out during the high season. The entrance fee is ~$10.50 and you can see parts of it from outside the park if you don’t want to pay.
A flat building with elaborate and eccentric decorations and balconies.
The exterior of Casa Batlló.
Stop #4: La Rambla

From one of Gaudí’s work, you can walk or metro down to La Rambla (the starting point is Placa de Catalunya), a pedestrian-only, wide boulevard filled with stalls, flower shops, artists and more. It’s a tourist hot spot with a lot of energy in some parts.

  • Duration: You can spend 1 to 3 hours walking around La Rambla and checking out stalls.
  • My take: While on La Rambla, make sure to stop by Mercado de La Boqueria before they close at 8:30pm to get some fresh fruits and snacks. The market is cash-only.
An open-air market where a vendor is selling watermelon and other fruits.
Stopping for some fresh fruit in Mercado de La Boqueria.

Day 3: Go Outside Barcelona

All-Day Stop: Montserrat

After two days of exploring Barcelona, consider taking a day trip 1.5 hours outside of it by visiting the popular Montserrat and hiking one of the many trails there.

This Montserrat day hike guide outlines how to visit and hike a moderate loop with a panoramic view.

The blog author standing at the edge of a mountain with mountain peaks in the background.
Hiking a moderate loop in Montserrat.

Day 4: Visit Bonus Neighborhoods

Stop #1: La Barceloneta

On your last day in Barcelona, start in La Barceloneta, an older and more local neighborhood that used to be inhabited by fishermen and is now located next to the popular Barceloneta Beach. Enjoy the beach and eat more tapas at La Cova Fumada or Barceloneta restaurant if you can get a reservation.

  • Duration: La Barceloneta is big enough and has enough different things to do that you can spend a half day or full day here.
  • My take: My favorite part of Barceloneta was walking through the older, local and quieter streets of the neighborhood that are starkly different from the more tourist, trendy streets of El Born. I also spent an hour in the Museum of the History of Catalonia, which has an exceptional self-guided audio tour.
A set of European buildings with balconies.
Walking around La Barceloneta neighborhood.
Stop #2: El Poble-sec

After La Barceloneta, head over to El Poble-sec area to walk around and sightsee. You can walk 2.5 miles there or take the metro to Espanya station. At Poble-sec, you can:

As of March 2023, Barcelona is going through a drought so the Magic Fountain shows are on pause at the moment.

An intricate building at the top with a large fountain at the bottom.
Looking at the Montjuïc Fountain.

Where I Stayed in Barcelona

Here’s where I stayed in Barcelona and my thoughts on the accommodation.

Factors to consider:

  • Walking distance to different neighborhoods. I wanted to stay in the center of Barcelona to easily access different neighborhoods, so the Gothic Quarter area was ideal for me. I also liked being near Mercado de La Boqueria for quick snack stops.
  • Price and luxury tradeoff. The center of Barcelona is expensive, especially during high season, which is when I visited. Mid-range hotels were $80-$100 a night. Since I was traveling solo and didn’t have someone to split a room with, I opted for a cheaper room in an Airbnb.

Where I stayed:

Hotel: I stayed at an Airbnb room in Gothic Quarter and paid $54/night. This was my first time staying in a hostel-style Airbnb room.

  • Pros: The host was helpful, flexible and knowledgeable, the place was clean and the location was great. I had access to the living room and balcony which was nice for taking a break from sightseeing.
  • Cons: Since it was a cheap place for its location, I only rented a room and had to share bathrooms with up to 6 other people, which sometimes was extremely inconvenient.
A view of European buildings from a balcony with lots of plants.
The balcony view from my Gothic Quarter Airbnb.

If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

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