How to Visit Barcelona in a Week

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La Pedrera, Barcelona
La Pedrera, Barcelona (Image: Jillian Downer)

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain. It is located in the northeast region of Spain on the Mediterranean coast and is a city rich in history, heritage and pride. Barcelona was founded as a Roman city and this history shows in it splendid architecture that seems to challenge even the oldest cities in Europe. Barcelona plays host to many a popular tourist attraction, from the art of Picasso, Miro and Dali to the architecture of Gaudi and Montaner. While a visit to Barcelona will have your days packed full of things to see and do, there’s is something unique about Barcelona that has even the busiest vacation steeped in relaxation and comfort. Here’s how to not only visit, but enjoy Barcelona in just one week.

Things You'll Need

  • Barcelona city map
  • Barcelona metro map
  • Metro card
  • Guidebook
  • Spanish/English dictionary
  • Passport
  • Money (in Euros)
  • Credit card

Get accommodation. Depending on the time of year, Barcelona can be pricey. If you can’t afford a hotel, there are a million hostels that offer both private and shared rooms. One of the best and most affordable ways to stay, however, is by renting an apartment. Many families rent out their apartments during the summers and these places are often much more affordable than hotels. Check out loquo.com or craigslist.org for vacation apartment listings.

Buy a transportation card. The metro and bus system in Barcelona is easy and convenient. A T-10 gets you 10 rides on all the transportation systems, including the metro, bus, funicular and the trains within the first zone. Go online or talk to a ticket agent for information on other card options. The metro runs from 5 AM to midnight every day except Saturday, when it runs all night. For late night partying, the NIT buses run from Plaza Cataluyna in the city center to all parts of the surrounding areas. Taxis are fairly inexpensive for late night travel as well.

Spend a morning in Parc Guell. Parc Guell is north of the city center on one of the highest points in Barcelona. Here is where Gaudi transformed a park into a fairy tale land, complete with architecture that resembles Hansel and Gretal’s gingerbread house and abstract sculptures of the sea. You’ll get some of the best views of the city from here. Go early to beat the crowds and plan to stay a few hours. Bring a lunch and picnic in one of the parks many admirable viewing points.

Get out of the city. One week in Barcelona doesn’t afford you enough time to do a lot of day trips, but you should try and get at least one in while you’re here. Sitges and Girona are all relatively close by train or car. Sitges offers 6 miles of beaches and a rich town full of architecture and history, while Girona offers all the history and shopping without the beaches. Take a tour or garb a map and explore them on your own.

Get well acquainted with Gaudi. Barcelona is the city of Antoni Guadi. His mark has been left on the facades of buildings all over the city, but maybe his most famous creation, La Sagrada Familia, stands out the most. La Sagrada Familia has been under construction since 1883 and is nothing short of unique. Its remarkable carvings douse the entire structure and the undergroud museum gives you a sneak peek at the great mind behind this incredible design.

Do something touristy. A trip to Barcelona wouldn’t be complete without a stroll down Las Ramblas, which is Barcelona’s most famous street. Running from the bottom of Placa Cataluyna to the sea, Las Ramblas is a pedestrian street filled with street performers, flower stalls, artists, cafes and a wave of people. Take it all the way down to the port where you’ll have a great view of the sea and the famous Colom, a monument of Christopher Columbus.

Visit the museums. Barcelona is easily the city of museums, but on a whirlwinf tour, you won't have time to se them all. Make time for, arguably the best, museums in Barcelona and go to the Picasso Museum, the Miro Museum and the CCCB. The Picasso and Miro Museums are natural choices, this being the city that gave birth to three of the most famous artists in the last century, but the CCCB or Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona is a little known gem near the MACBA. Make time for all three. They are all worth it.

Walk north on Passeig de Gracia toward Casa Batillo and take some postcard shots of the mansion that Gaudi designed. Don’t bother going inside here though, head up the street a few blocks to La Pedrera, another of Gaudi’s creations. Pay for the entrance here and get to the roof. If you’re in Barcelona in the summer, check out the summer jazz and cocktail nights at La Pedrera.

Visit Parc Monjuic. Parc Monjuic has a little bit of everything and you’re bound to find something that you love here. Monjuic is home to the Olympic village from the 1992 Olympic Games and is still home to many of the venues stadiums, including the dive and swim complex. At the top of Monjuic you’ll find the old Fort, which will afford you 360 degree views of the port and city below. Go on a hike or visit the old Spanish city replica at Poble Espanyol.

Visit Plaza Espana. Plaza Espana is the castle-turned-museum that lies at the foot on Parc Monjuic. The museum is worth a look, but it’s much too large to try to cover in a short vacation. Make sure to stay for the Magic Fountain show at Font Monjuic, which runs from 9 to 11 PM each weekend night during the summer. This water and light show is a must-see, but it draws a huge crowd, so get there early or plan on being very patient.

Get lost in the old city. The Gothic Quarter and El Raval neighborhoods are where you’ll find the cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways and ancient architecture. It’s virtually impossible to plan your path in these old streets, which were not built on the grid system, so put away your map for a few hours and see where you end up. The best way to explore the old city is by stumbling onto hidden treasures and unknown gems.

Hop on the metro and head toward Encants, which is in North Eixample. Encants is just 4 stops from the city center, Passeig de Gracia, and is where you’ll find one of the best and biggest open air markets in Northern Spain. The Encants market is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturdays and is a village of crafts, shoes and jewelry as well as everyday household products like faucets, mattresses and tools. Grab a bag of churros from the churreria stands (10 for EUR 1) and snack while you browse the millions of goods.

Head to the beach. It wouldn't be a Spanish vacation, if you didn't spend some time at the beach and Barcelona sits on miles of beautiful beach front coast that is lined with white, sandy beaches. Barceloneta, just in front of the city center, is the most popular beach, but you’ll be better off heading to a less busy beach. Just north of Port Vell, you’ll find beautiful sandy beaches that are still busy, but not nearly as busy as the main city beach at Barceloneta.

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