2 Days in Barcelona: Itinerary & Best Things to Do

Are you planning to spend 2 days in Barcelona?

The cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region is famous for its art and architecture – notably Antoni Gaudí –  sandy beaches, one of the world’s top football clubs, vibrant nightlife and a world-beating food scene. With so many things to do in Barcelona, deciding how to spend your precious few days there can be a tough call.

I won’t lie to you; it’s impossible to see all of Barcelona’s highlights in two days. But this relaxed 2-day Barcelona itinerary will help you make the most of your time in this metropolis without running yourself ragged in the process.

woman at counter in old spanish food shop

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Do you have limited time in Barcelona? If so, check out the best things to do in one day in Barcelona.

A Short History of Barcelona

One of the things that Spain is known for is its rich history and Barcelona is no exception.

Founded by either the Phoenicians or the Carthaginians, Barcino (as it was then known) was claimed by the Romans in the first century B.C. who renamed it Barcelona. The city fell to the Visigoths in the 5th Century who held it until the Moors invaded in the 8th Century.

Catalonia was established by Count Borrell II in the year 988. Eventually, Barcelona became a part of the Crown of Aragon.

The 20th Century heralded an urban renewal programme throughout the city, reaching its zenith with the creation of the world-famous buildings by Antoni Gaudí.

2-Day Barcelona Itinerary: Map

To start you on your way, I have made a map of the sights that you will cover during your two days in Barcelona. Attractions included in day one of this Barcelona itinerary are coloured in red on this map; day two sights are in yellow.

Click on the image for more information.

map showing main attractions included in a 2 day barcelona itinerary
Main attractions for two days in Barcelona. Map data @ 2021 Google (click on image for interactive map)

Two Days in Barcelona: Day 1 – Get to Know the City

One of the things that makes Barcelona one of Spain’s most captivating cities is visiting the treasures left behind from these periods in history. During your first day in the city, you will be transported back through the centuries courtesy of a majestic cathedral, an enchanting Gothic Quarter and elegant plazas.

Port Vell

Your Barcelona itinerary starts at Port Vell, the city’s old port. With its esplanade that is lined with palm trees and public art, this is one of the most picturesque parts of the city. It is also starting point for catamaran cruises along the harbour.

marina with boats and bird flying overhead under blue sky
harbour under clear blue sky with white sculpture in water

Close by is a Barcelona landmark, the Columbus Monument

Jutting 60 meters above the southern end of La Rambla like a giant exclamation mark, this monument to Christopher Columbus was built in 1888 to commemorate the explorer’s first voyage to the Americas.

ornate monument with huge pillar surrounded by sculptures
Columbus Monument, Barcelona

Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter

With its enchanting squares and labyrinth of narrow medieval streets, the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic) is one of the oldest and most charming districts of Barcelona.

man walking along narrow street in barcelona spain

Plaça Reial, the Royal Square, is the first square you’ll stumble upon. Lined with bars and towering palm trees, it features street lamps designed by Gaudí.

square with ornate lamposts and palm trees viewed through arch
Plaça Reial, Barcelona
ornate fountain in grand square under blue sky

On a smaller scale, Plaça del Rei is a charming square where the Catholic Monarchs are thought to have received Columbus on his return from his first New World voyage. 

The ensemble of buildings enclosing the square encapsulates Barcelona’s past. There are remnants of the city’s Roman past, Gothic buildings and a Renaissance courtyard.

shaded plaza surrounded by medieval stone buildings
The charming Plaça del Rei in Barcelona, Spain
two medieval buildings at right angles to each other

Barcelona Cathedral

But it is Barcelona’s Cathedral that is the star of the Gothic Quarter.

ornate gothic entrance to barcelona cathedral with intricate stone carvings

The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia (Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia in Catalan) was built between the 13th and 15th centuries. Highlights of this immense cathedral include a crypt housing the sarcophagus of Santa Eulalia and a 14th Century cloister with orange trees, magnolias and resident swans.

palm trees and exterior of cathedral seen through gothic arch of cloister
Barcelona Cathedral cloister

Make sure that you take the lift to the cathedral’s roof to enjoy panoramic city views.

massive cross on rooftop of barcelona cathderal and skyline of city
View from the roof of Barcelona Cathedral
VISITING BARCELONA CATHEDRAL

Address: Pl. de la Seu

Opening hours: Barcelona Cathedral is open to tourists between 10.30 am and 6.30 pm. It is open for prayer and worship outside of these hours. Further information is here.

Admission cost: In 2021, the adult ticket price was €9

Mercat de la Boqueria

Barcelona’s famous Mercat de la Boqueria (Boqueria Market) is on the opposite side of La Rambla from the Gothic Quarter.

illuminated fish stall in market

Officially known as Mercat de San Josep, this municipal market is a warren of more than 300 stalls offering delicious products that are typical of Barcelona’s cuisine. This is the perfect place to stop for lunch.

three people at food market stall

La Rambla

Second only to La Sagrada Familia, La Rambla is the landmark that most tourists identify with Barcelona. Also known as Las Ramblas, this wide pedestrianised boulevard runs for 1.2 km through the heart of the city centre, from Port Vell at its southern end to Plaça de Catalunya at its northern terminus.

people walking along tree lined pedestrian boulevard in barcelona spain
top of ornate lampost

Whilst walking its length is one of the most popular things to do in Barcelona, I am not a fan. At busy times of the year, it is uncomfortably rammed with tourists, it’s pickpocket central and the southern end verges on the seedy after nightfall.

If you are looking for a relaxing and sedate Barcelona experience, La Rambla is not the place to come.

Plaça de Catalunya

Located at the northern extremity of La Rambla, Plaça de Catalunya is Barcelona’s beating heart.

massive empty plaza flanked by two large buildings under blue sky

Separating the old town and Eixample district, this square was opened by King Alfonso XIII in 1927 and is a favourite meeting place for locals and visitors alike. Six sculptural groups around the plaza represent the four Catalan capital cities, wisdom and labour, and there is also a monument to Francesc Macià, the president of the Catalan Government.

Barcelona Itinerary Day 2 – Gaudí’s Fantastical World

Day two of your Barcelona itinerary is dedicated to one very important man: Antoni Gaudí. His whimsical, one-of-a-kind architectural creations partly define Barcelona and are not to be missed.

The Gaudí properties included in this itinerary are on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. As they are extremely popular, I highly recommend buying tickets in advance.

Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló is the first of two great buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí on Passeig de Gràcia.

exterior of casa-batllo with mosaics and curved balconies
The whimsical Casa Batlló, an essential inclusion to a 2-day Barcelona itinerary

This colourful masterpiece was remodelled for Josep Batlló, a wealthy aristocrat, between 1904 and 1906. Gaudi took his inspiration from the shapes and colours found in marine life and its façade is covered with mosaics that are reminiscent of fish scales. 

The wavy and curvy design – no sharp angles here – is continued inside with exceptional details, including beautiful stained glass windows and colourful tiles.

Address: Pg. de Gràcia, 43

>>> CLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR SKIP-THE-LINE TICKET WITH AUDIOGUIDE

La Pedrera (Casa Milà)

La Pedrera is the second of Gaudí’s creations on Passeig de Gràcia.

curved stone exterior of la-pedrera building in barcelona

Its original name is Casa Milà, taken from the wealthy Milà family for whom the architect designed the home. But the name Pedrera, meaning “quarry” in Catalan, was used locally to describe the building because of its stone-like appearance.

It’s easy to understand why this name stuck. Unlike other Gaudi buildings, it is devoid of colour and looks like it has been carved from a massive rock, softened with wavy lines and iron ornaments.

Like Casa Batlló, you’ll be hard pushed to find a right angle inside. Natural shapes dominate and the stairs leading to the entrances of the apartments wind along the walls.

However, ascending to its roof is the highlight of a visit to Casa Milà. In addition to the bird’s eye view over the city, the chimneys and ventilation towers are artworks in themselves.

Address: Pg. de Gràcia, 92

>>> CLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR SKIP-THE-LINE TICKET WITH AUDIOGUIDE

Park Güell

Visiting Park Guell is like stepping into Gaudí’s wonderland.

curved wall made from ceramic tiles overlooking cityscape
Park Güell, Barcelona

Between 1900 and 1914, Antoni Gaudí designed Park Güell at the request of Eusebi Güell to create a luxury residential park on an unused plot of land in the northeast of Barcelona.

The park’s focal point is its vast main terrace, surrounded by a long curved bench in the form of a sea serpent decorated with colourful tile mosaics. From the terrace, there’s a prime view of the flamboyant buildings of the park’s main entrance.

For me, the park’s highlight was its Hypostyle Hall or Hall of a Hundred Columns, inspired by the Greek town of Delphi. It only has 86 columns but who’s counting?

series of columns in a room
Hypostyle Hall, Park Güell, Barcelona

From Park Güell’s high-point, a stone hill with three large crosses (El Turó de les Tres Creus), there are panoramic views of Barcelona, including Gaudi’s magnum opus, La Sagrada Família.

VISITING PARK GUELL

Opening hours: The park is open all year round from 08:00 to 21:00 (the monumental area has a different timetable)

Entrance fee: Although entry to most of the park is free, to access the monumental area of Park Guell must pay an entrance fee.

In common with the other Gaudi sites in Barcelona, Park Güell is very popular. Entry slots each day are limited to 400 people every 30 minutes. To avoid disappointment and long queues to get in, book your ticket online before you visit.

Don’t make my mistake and avoid visiting on a Sunday when it felt like half of Barcelona had descended on the park.

Getting there: Take Metro line L3 to Lesseps station and follow the signs from there.

>>> CLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR SKIP-THE-LINE TICKET

La Sagrada Família

Your 2 days in Barcelona ends on a high note, at La Sagrada Família.

On the outside, this masterpiece of the post-modern world features intricate and symbolic carvings and is topped by iconic honeycomb Gothic towers.

four towers and intricate carvings around entrance to La Sagrada Familia Barcelona

Moving inside, expect an explosion of colour amongst columns shaped like tree trunks, underneath the canopy of a psychedelic forest.

orange light through stained glass windows

La Sagrada Família is famously uncompleted, a work in progress since 1882. Gaudí was still working on it before his death in 1926, aged 73.

VISITING LA SAGRADA FAMÍLIA

Opening hours: The Basilica of the Sagrada Família is open every day from 9 am to 6 pm. On 25 and 26 December, and 1 and 6 January, opening hours are from 9 am to 2 pm.

Admission cost: In 2021, it costs 26 euro to visit the Sagrada Família.

Getting there: Sagrada Família is served by the L2 and L5 lines of the Barcelona Metro system.

>>> BUY YOUR SKIP-THE-LINE TICKET FOR SAGRADA FAMÍLIA WITH AUDIOGUIDE HERE, OR WITH A GUIDED TOUR HERE.

More Things to Do in Barcelona in 2 Days

Some of these items in this Barcelona itinerary don’t rock your boat or perhaps you have more time to spare? If so, here are a few suggestions for things to do in Barcelona.

Visit Montjuïc

Located at 73 metres above sea level between Plaça Espanya and the port of Barcelona, Montjuïc hosted the 1992 Summer Olympics. From its lofty height, there are great views of the city.

To get to Montjuïc hill, catch the 150 bus, use the hop-on-hop-off bus or take the cable car.

>>> CLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR CABLE CAR RETURN TICKET

Crowning the hill is the magnificent Palau Montjuïc, the setting for light show which takes place on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. To bag a good spot for the free Font Màgica de Montjuïc – or Montjuïc Magic Fountain arrive at least one hour before the show starts.

Take a tour of Camp Nou

This is one for you if you are a football fan or wish to become better acquainted with an important part of Spanish culture. Camp Nou is home to FC Barcelona and is the largest-capacity stadium in Europe.

>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR CAMP NOU TOUR

Visit Barcelona Aquarium

Located in Port Vell, the Barcelona Aquarium is one of the world’s most important marine leisure and education centres dedicated to Mediterranean undersea life. Its star turn is the massive Oceanarium, whose transparent 80-meter-long tunnel makes it possible for you to walk among the sharks, ocean sunfish and many other species.

>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR SKIP-THE-LINE TICKET FOR BARCELONA AQUARIUM

Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya

Celebrating 1,000 years of art in Barcelona, Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya is home to a collection of nearly 300,000 pieces of art.

Address: Palau Nacional, Parc de Montjuïc

Museu Picasso

Displaying 4,251 of Picasso’s works, including those from his Blue Period (1901–04-, Museu Picasso is home to one of the most important paintings by Picasso in the world. The museum is located in the trendy El Born district. Which is packed with cafes and bars.

Address: c/ Montcada, 15-23

Casa Vicens

Built between 1883 and 1885, Casa Vicens was the first house designed by Antoni Gaudí.

Address: Carrer de les Carolines, 20-26

>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR SKIP-THE-LINE TICKET FOR CASA VICENS

Palace Güell

Not to be confused with Parc Güell, Palau Güell is a mansion designed by Gaudí for the industrial tycoon Eusebi Güell. Built between 1886 and 1888, this is also UNESCO-listed.

Address: Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 3-5

Palau de la Musica

Designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, Palau de la Musica is a jewel of Catalan Art Nouveau. Self-guided tours of this fully functioning music hall, likened to a giant Faberge Egg, are available.  

Address: C/ Palau de la Música, 4-6

>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR SELF-GUIDED TOUR OF PALAU DE LA MUSICA

Sant Pau

Also designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, Sant Pau is the world’s largest Art Nouveau complex. This UNESCO World Heritage site started life as a hospital complex before becoming a space for events and meetings in 2009.

Address: Carrer de Sant Quintí, 89

>>> Perhaps you are spending a long weekend in Barcelona and are searching for a day trip from the city? The historic city of Tarragona is an easy day trip from Barcelona by train and has oodles of charm and show-stopping sights.

man cycling along medieval street
Tarragona is an easy day trip from Barcelona

Plan Your Weekend in Barcelona

woman walking past ochre coloured colonnaded building in barcelona spain

What is the best time of year to visit Barcelona?

Barcelona is busy with tourists year-round but the best time of year to visit is from May to June or during autumn (fall) when temperatures are balmy – you are looking at the low to mid-70s 
 
Avoid visiting Barcelona in the height of summer when the mercury hits the 80s and it can be stiflingly humid. I made this mistake once; I won’t make it again.
 
Winters in Barcelona are mild with highs in the 50s.

What is the currency in Barcelona?

Like most of Europe, Spain uses the Euro (€). Although cash is widely used, most places accept major credit cards. Check here for live exchange rates.

Is tipping expected in Spain?

Although tipping is welcomed in Spain, it is less common than in other countries. 

Tips are not expected in informal places, when ordering a coffee or a drink for example. In restaurants, a 5 -10% service charge is usually added to your bill. However, it is common practice to add a small tip (5%) on top of this.

Getting to Barcelona

How to Get to Barcelona from the Airport

Barcelona’s international airport (El Prat Barcelona Airport) is located 13 km southwest of the city centre. The easiest and cheapest way to get from the airport to Barcelona city centre is to use the Aerobus service.

This express bus service connects both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 with Plaça España or Plaça de Catalunya. The Aerobus service runs every 5-10 minutes and the journey time is 35 minutes.

If you are travelling in a small group, a taxi may be a better option. Expect to pay from 30 euro for a one-way fare.

How to get to Barcelona from the Cruise Terminal

The terminal at Barcelona is the starting and arrival point for many cruises along the Mediterranean. As there are a number of operating terminals, it’s important to check where your ship will berth.

The closest of these terminals is at Port Vell (the Old Port) at the southern end of La Rambla. However, many of the terminals are located further away from the Ramblas and you will need to figure out the easiest way to get to the city centre.

Chances are that you will be arriving on a larger ship that will dock at the Moll Adossat terminals (Terminals A, B, C and D). Terminal D is the farthest away of the four quays and is approximately over 4 km from La Rambla.

Making the journey on foot will take you 25 minutes from Terminal A and 45 minutes from Terminal D.

The Cruise Bus(also known as the Blue Bus or Portbus) is a shuttle bus that runs between the Moll Adossat cruise ship terminals and the Columbus Monument at the end of the La Rambla. In 2021, the fare was 3 euro one-way or 4 euro return.

How to Get Around Barcelona

person holding a barcelona metro ticket

The easiest way to get around Barcelona is to use the city’s metro system.

A ticket for an individual journey costs €2.40 in 2021.

If you intend to take more than five journeys on the metro or buses, consider buying a T-Casual ticket. For €11.35 you can take ten journeys with Zone 1 of Barcelona’s public transport system.

Alternatively, a Hola Barcelona card is a tourist travel pass that gives you unlimited travel over 48, 72, 96 or 120 consecutive hours.

>>> CHECK PRICES & BUY YOUR HOLA BARCELONA TRAVEL PASS HERE

Barcelona also has a hop-on-hop-off (HOHO) bus.

You can choose from a one or two-day ticket and access two routes with stops that include stops in this Barcelona itinerary and more. There is also an audio commentary available.

>>> >>> CLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR BARCELONA HOHO BUS TICKET

Where to Stay in Barcelona

Barcelona is flush with accommodation to suit all travelling styles and budgets, from backpacker to flashpacker and beyond.

Luxury Hotel

Seventy Barcelona

This is one of the best hotels in which I have stayed in recent years. In a fabulous location in the Gracia district, this brand new hotel has comfortable and well-equipped rooms, a wonderful bar and terrace and a rooftop swimming pool. Customer service is also first class.

bed dressed with white linen in hotel bedroom
women sitting at bar in an upmarket hotel

>>> CHECK ROOM RATES & MAKE A RESERVATION HERE

Here are a few other options that I have found to suit other budgets and styles:

Mid-range

Yeah Barcelona Hostel 

This doesn’t look like any hostel that I have stayed in. Located in the Eixample district, a 10 -minute walk from La Sagrada Familia, all rooms come with an en-suite bathroom and there is an on-site bar. Reviews are stellar.

>>> CHECK PRICES & MAKE A RESERVATION HERE

Budget

Sant Jordi Hostels Rock Palace

This rock music-themed hostel also in Barcelona’s Eixample district features a rooftop terrace with an outdoor pool. Cheap breakfasts and dinner deals are offered as well as fun activities.

>>> CHECK PRICES & MAKE A RESERVATION HERE

>>> None of these places take your fancy? Then discover other great accommodation choices in Barcelona here.
a peaceful square with large tree and outdoor cafe

Is Barcelona Safe for Solo Travellers?

As a whole, Spain is not only one of the best places for solo travellers in Europe, especially if you are travelling alone for the first time, but it is also one of the best solo travel destinations across the globe. It has a rich history, a vibrant cultural scene, buzzing nightlife and well-developed infrastructure.

Keeping safe when travelling alone is a key consideration of female solo travellers. Whilst Barcelona is generally a safe city, it is infamous for pickpockets especially on the metro and La Rambla.

Remain vigilant, keep your belongings close to you and use your hotel safe to store valuables.

Are 2 Days in Barcelona Enough?

Two days in Barcelona will allow you to explore its major attractions and try some of the region’s best food and wine. However, this is one of with much to see and do and deserves longer than a weekend stay.

But on the plus side, this will give you a good reason to make a repeat visit to Barcelona.