Are you visiting Barcelona on a cruise?
There is no shortage of things to do in the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region. One of Spain’s great cities, Barcelona is renowned for its art and architecture – notably Antoni Gaudi – glorious beaches and a first-class culinary scene.
But what are the best things to see in Barcelona in one day from a cruise ship?
I’ll level with you; it’s impossible to see all of Barcelona’s highlights in this short space of time. But this 1-day Barcelona itinerary will help you make the most of your time ashore.
At the end of the article, you’ll find useful information on getting from the Barcelona cruise terminal to the city centre and how to get around.
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How to Spend One Day in Barcelona
The best way to see Barcelona in one day is on foot. Make the most of your time ashore with my self-guided walking tour.
The total distance from start to finish is 5 km.
To save time, and to ease your aching feet, you can take the metro back from La Sagrada Familia, the final stop on this itinerary. This will bring you to Drassanes station at the southern end of La Rambla.
How much you will be able to see will depend on your time in port. If you have limited time ashore, you will need to sacrifice visiting the inside of one or more of the Gaudí properties on Passeig de Gràcia.
But don’t be tempted to skip visiting the inside of La Sagrada Família; it is extraordinary. And even if you’re not keen on visiting churches, it’s worth visiting Barcelona Cathedral, if only for the views from its roof.
Are you spending more than one day in Barcelona? If so, check out the best things to do in two days in Barcelona.
Visiting Barcelona from a Cruise Ship: Self-Guided Walking Tour Map
To help you on your way, here’s a map with the main sights that you will see during your day in Barcelona. If needed, click on the image for an interactive map with directions.
What to See in Barcelona in One Day from a Cruise Ship
During your day in Barcelona, you will be transported back through the centuries by exploring its enchanting Gothic Quarter, elegant plazas, majestic cathedral and superb Modernista architecture. There will also be time to stop for lunch in one of Europe’s greatest food markets.
The first stop on your 1-day Barcelona itinerary is Port Vell, the city’s old port, which is a short distance from the cruise terminal. This marina, which is lined with palm trees and public art, is one of the most picturesque parts of the city.
Nearby is a famous Barcelona landmark, the Columbus Monument. Rising 60 meters above the southern end of La Rambla, this monument was built in 1888 to commemorate Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas.
Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter
Strolling around the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic) is one of the best things to do in Barcelona in one day. With its charming squares and a warren of narrow medieval streets, this is one of the oldest districts of Barcelona.
Plaça Reial, the Royal Square, is lined with bars and towering palm trees and features street lamps designed by Gaudi.
The smaller Plaça del Rei is where the Catholic Monarchs are thought to have received Columbus on his return from his first New World voyage.
Your next stop is the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia.
Barcelona’s Cathedral was built between the 13th and 15th centuries and has a 14th Century cloister with orange trees, magnolias and resident swans.
For panoramic views over Barcelona, take the lift to the cathedral’s roof.
Lunch at Mercat de la Boqueria
Are you feeling peckish?
Barcelona’s famous Boqueria Market, officially known as Mercat de San Josep, is located on the opposite side of La Rambla from the Gothic Quarter. This maze of more than 300 stalls sells delicious products that typify Barcelona’s cuisine and is the perfect place to stop for lunch.
La Rambla (also known as Las Ramblas) is one of the landmarks that is synonymous with Barcelona. Stretching for 1.2 km through the heart of the city centre, this pedestrianised boulevard links Port Vell to Plaça de Catalunya.
Plaça de Catalunya
You have now reached Plaça de Catalunya, located at the northern end of La Rambla.
Separating the old town and Eixample district, this is Barcelona’s beating heart and is a favourite meeting place for locals and visitors alike.
No one-day Barcelona itinerary would be complete without a smattering of Gaudí’s extraordinary properties.
Two of these – Casa Batlló and Casa Milà – are on Passeig de Gràcia, close to Plaça de Catalunya. Our final stop is the world-famous Sagrada Família, which is a 15-20 minute walk from Casa Milà.
The UNESCO-listed Gaudí properties included in this itinerary are extremely popular. To avoid disappointment, I highly recommend that you buy tickets in advance. This is essential for La Sagrada Familia.
Antoni Gaudi’s one-of-a-kind architectural creations partly define Barcelona and are not to be missed.
Casa Batlló is the first of his two great buildings on Passeig de Gràcia.
Taking his inspiration from the shapes and colours found in marine life, Gaudi created this whimsical building between 1904 and 1906.
Even if you don’t have time to take a peek inside, it is well worth stopping by to admire its façade, which 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, or Casa Milà, is the second Gaudi building on Passeig de Gràcia.
This is an atypical Gaudi building. It has a colourless, stone-like appearance and looks like it has been carved from a massive rock, softened with wavy lines and iron ornaments.
From its rooftop, there is a bird’s eye view over Barcelona and of Casa Milà’s chimneys and ventilation towers, which are artworks in themselves.
Address: Pg. de Gràcia, 92
>>> CLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR SKIP-THE-LINE TICKET WITH AUDIOGUIDE
La Sagrada Família
End your day in Barcelona at the city’s most iconic landmark, La Sagrada Família.
La Sagrada Família has been a work in progress since 1882. Gaudí was still working on it before his death in 1926, aged 73.
The outside of this masterpiece of Modernista architecture features symbolic carvings and is crowned by honeycomb Gothic towers.
Inside, it is an explosion of colour amongst columns shaped like tree trunks, underneath the canopy of a psychedelic forest.
Other Things to Do During a Barcelona Cruise Stop
We all have different tastes and preferences when it comes to things that we like to do in a new city. If these places don’t rock your boat, here are a few further suggestions for what to do in Barcelona in one day.
Walk amongst the sharks at Barcelona Aquarium
The Barcelona Aquarium in Port Vell is one of the best of its kind. Its enormous Oceanarium – a transparent 80-meter-long tunnel – allows you to walk among the sharks, ocean sunfish and many other species.
>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR SKIP-THE-LINE TICKET FOR BARCELONA AQUARIUM
Tour Camp Nou
All you footie lovers out there can take a tour of Camp Nou, home to FC Barcelona and the largest-capacity stadium in Europe.
>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR CAMP NOU TOUR
Take a cable car to Montjuïc
For panoramic views of Barcelona, use the hop-on-hop-off bus or take the cable car to visit Montjuïc, home of the 1992 Summer Olympics.
>>> CLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR CABLE CAR RETURN TICKET
How to Get to Barcelona City Centre from the Cruise Terminal
As Barcelona’s cruise terminal is the starting and arrival point for many Western Mediterranean cruise itineraries, it is important to check at which operating terminal your ship will berth.
Large cruise ships 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 4 km from La Rambla.
Walking to the southern end of La Rambla will take you 25 minutes from Terminal A and 45 minutes from Terminal D.
The Cruise Bus is a shuttle bus that runs between the Moll Adossat cruise ship terminals and the Columbus Monument at the end of La Rambla. In 2021, the fare was 3 euro one-way or 4 euro return.
How to Get Around Barcelona
The best way to visit Barcelona in one day is on foot. However, to return from La Sagrada Familia to the cruise port, your best bet is to take a metro service to Drassanes station, close to the Columbus Monument.
A ticket for an individual journey cost €2.40 in 2021.
If you don’t fancy tackling the city’s metro system, Barcelona’s hop-on-hop-off bus is another option to consider.
A one-day ticket gives you access to two routes that include stops in this Barcelona itinerary and more. An audio commentary is also available.
>>> CLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR BARCELONA HOHO BUS TICKET
Exploring Barcelona on an Organised Tour
But perhaps you prefer someone else to take care of all of the arrangements, you want to benefit from the knowledge of a local guide or you’re looking for something a little bit different? Then why not explore Barcelona’s highlights on an organised activity?
Although your cruise line will gladly provide a shore excursion, often you can do better by using an independent tour operator. Just make sure that you have enough time to make it back on board before your cruise ship sails.
Paella Cooking Experience + Boqueria Market Tour
This is an ideal experience for any foodies. In this 2.5 hour tour, you’ll make sangria and learn how to rustle up an authentic paella, one of the things for which Spain is most famous.
>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR ACTIVITY
Tapas and Wine Walking Tour
Combine wine tasting and grazing on tapas with a 3-hour walking tour through the Gothic Quarter and El Born neighbourhood of Barcelona.
>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR WALKING TOUR
Barcelona Skyline and Beaches Boat Tour
Explore Barcelona from a different perspective on this one-hour boat tour around the city’s coastline.
>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR BARCELONA BOAT TOUR
Take a Barcelona bike or segway tour
Lastly, explore Barcelona on two wheels with this selection of bike tours.
This 3-hour guided tour takes you through the Gothic Quarter, Olympic Port, and Gaudi sites like the iconic Sagrada Familia.
Don’t want to break a sweat? Take it easy and explore the city on this e-bike tour.
Alternatively, get up close to the city’s famous monuments on this segway tour.
Is Barcelona Safe for Solo Travellers?
Spain is not only one of the best places to travel alone in Europe, especially if you are a first-time solo traveller. I would go so far as to say that it is one of the best solo travel destinations in the world.
Staying safe is a priority for female solo travellers. Although Barcelona is considered a safe city, it is notorious for pickpockets especially on the metro and La Rambla.
Just use your common sense. Remain vigilant, keep your belongings close to you and only carry the bare minimum. Use your cruise cabin safe to store valuables.
Is it Worth Going to Barcelona for One Day?
If you are visiting Barcelona on a cruise, the reality is that you will have just a day in town.
Whilst one day in Barcelona will not be enough time to see everything, it will allow you to see many of its major landmarks and give you a good feel for this Spanish metropolis.
If you are disembarking at the port of Barcelona and have an extra day to spare, make the most of your time there by booking a hotel room and exploring this charming Catalan capital over two days.
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