‘My travel diary: Three days in Barcelona’ post was first published on Culture Tourist on December 6th 2016, and updated on March 29th 2022.
I went to Barcelona without any expectations. In fact, I was so busy before my trip, I hadn’t prepared for it at all. I just needed a few days off and some quiet time with my family. My plan was to just get some sun and enjoy Spanish food and lifestyle. However, this vibrant city made me fall in love with it instantly.
Three days in Barcelona
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Although you can spend much more time there, here is a three days in Barcelona guide. It consists of some Barcelona highlights and must-sees. But also some hidden gems you shouldn’t miss in Barcelona.
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Where to stay in Barcelona
During my three days in Barcelona, we rented an apartment in a historical building dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. It was located in the Dreta de l ‘Eixample neighbourhood, which I strongly recommend as an area to stay in Barcelona.
We were located between some of Gaudi’s masterpieces; Casa Batllo, Casa Mila and Sagrada Familia. The whole area was urbanistically planned in the mid-19th century to provide a high living standard to a then growing city. All the crossroads are forming octagons, so you can easily recognise the area on the map. It’s also home to many great cafes and restaurants, and not far from the city centre.
⤷ TIP: Dreta de l ‘Eixample neighbourhood is an excellent location for anyone who would like to explore Gaudi’s work while in Barcelona. If you’d like to learn more about him during your stay in Barcelona, join this Gaudi walking tour.
First day of my trip to Barcelona
La Rambla and La Boqueria Market
After checking in at our apartment, we decided to go straight to the city centre. We walked over La Rambla towards Barcelona’s port. Although I heard some negative things about the most famous street in Barcelona, it wasn’t so bad at all. La Rambla has a reputation for being packed with people and is also quite popular among pickpockets. But, probably because we were there during the low season (in December), it was very quiet and pleasant to wander around it.
Actually, I loved it very much because of La Boqueria Market. A local saying is, if you can’t find something on La Boqueria, it’s not worth eating at all! All the food at the market looked so fresh! The variety of fish and seafood was incredible. I loved fresh smoothies (sold for one to two euros only) and a snack box filled with Spanish ham Jamón. During our three days in Barcelona, we would often get there and get ourselves a nice fresh snack.
⤷ TIP: Barcelona is among the most popular cities to visit in Europe. So, if you want to experience the city without many tourists everywhere around you, plan your trip during the low season (between November and March).
At the end of La Rambla street, you’ll find a statue of a man who changed the city’s history – Christopher Columbus. We can argue now if his discovery was beneficial for Barcelona or not, but it was definitely important.
Nowadays, his statue symbolically marks the entrance to the port of Barcelona. It’s a fascinating place, home to some beautiful modern architecture and numerous yachts. I enjoyed strolling around it and am definitely recommending it as a place for a lovely evening walk. It’s also a lively area with many people hanging out and spending their time together. We enjoyed watching a group of skaters practising their escapades.
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We finished our day with a nice dinner in one of the restaurants in a close-by Barceloneta neighbourhood. While eating some tapas and drinking red wine, we enjoyed the view of the port and sea.
Second day of my trip to Barcelona
Sagrada Familia is stunning!
I can’t decide which one I liked more: the illuminated interior or the exterior with statues that obviously inspired George Lucas for some of the characters in the Star Wars movies. It is an incredible place, without any apparent references in historical architecture. I couldn’t stop wondering where did he found inspiration for it.
The most amazing was the feeling I had while inside. I felt like a small medieval peasant standing in one of the French Gothic cathedrals, feeling God’s presence in it. It was like I left the world outside and entered some sacred place. Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece is a Gothic cathedral of modern times.
TIP: Get your Sagrada Familia online ticket in advance on a link here.
Guided tour through Barcelona
The only activity we planned before our three days in Barcelona was the city walking tour. Luckily we were in a small group and had a fantastic guide Lowri. She was knowledgeable and friendly and really tried to adjust the tour to our interests.
Lowri explained the history of Barcelona, Catalonia and the Spanish civil war to us so well. She also took us to some traditional sweets tasting and explained the origins of some funny characters we saw at the Christmas market. I can’t recommend the tour more, so here is the link if you’d like to book it yourself!
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Lunch in the oldest guest house in Barcelona
Barcelona is well known for its excellent foodie scene. So, enjoying that part of the Spanish culture while visiting Barcelona is definitely a must.
What I usually do is ask locals for recommendations. Our lovely tour guide gave us a great restaurant recommendation – La Bona Sort. Not only does it have amazing food, but it is also located in the oldest guest house in Barcelona, dating back to the 15th century.
I loved everything there, from the interior and how they decorated the old house with modern details to the service. They were so kind to us visiting with a toddler. However, the food was absolutely the best part! It was so delicious, we decided to have lunch there the next day, too.
Picasso Museum in Barcelona
What I liked the most about the Picasso Museum in Barcelona was the building in which it is located. It is an old medieval town palace with elegant windows and thin pillars. What I didn’t like so much was its collection. The museum hosts Picasso’s early and very late artworks. Making it a pretty small collection of relatively unknown paintings.
Early works are interesting because you can see a great talent he was showing already as a young 14-year-old student. ‘Blue phase’ is also fascinating, together with some of the painted ceramic pieces from his later phase. The rest of the collection would be interesting for the true Picasso admirers. Still, I would suggest visiting the Picasso Museum in Paris for the rest.
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Third day of my trip to Barcelona
The last day of my three days in Barcelona was reserved for the work of one of the most famous architects of all time – Antoni Gaudi. Since we stayed in the Dreta de l ‘Eixample area, his famous buildings were located just a few steps from our apartment.
One of the benefits of staying in a residential neighbourhood was that we could experience local life. We went to a charming little restaurant next to our building for breakfast. It was so lovely to have breakfast surrounded by the people from our neighbourhood, listening to the Catalan language and eating delicious jamón.
These small, everyday situations, when you can actually experience local life, rather than just run from one sight to another, are what travelling is all about.
Gaudi’s Buildings in Barcelona
After exploring Sagrada Familia, I started to be curious about Antoni Gaudi and his life. So, an evening before, I read everything I could find on the internet about him. Especially about his childhood interest in nature and how that reflects in his architecture.
After an excellent breakfast, we took a walk to see two of his very famous buildings, Casa Mila (La Pedrera) and Casa Batllo. Both houses have a unique appearance and Gaudi’s clear signature on them. But, they are so different from one another at the same time,.
However, both have in common that they are so different in shape and decoration from the buildings around them. But somehow, they fit in perfectly. That was something so fascinating to me. I could sit in front and observe them, discovering every single detail and wondering where did Gaudi found his inspiration, for hours.
As you could already guess, one of my favourite things to do while travelling is meeting locals and learning more about everyday life in the destinations I’m visiting. That’s why, in the afternoon, we visited another interesting residential area in Barcelona – the Gràzia neighbourhood.
It is a vivid place filled with life. Since we were there on Saturday morning, many people went to the market or were having coffee with friends. We also sat on a terrace of one of the cafes there, on a small square with a church in its centre.
The whole area gave us the feeling of a Mediterranean town, with coloured facades, orange and lemon trees and clothes drying on the balconies. However, that Mediterranean spirit could be felt the most in the happenings on that small square. In front of an old stone church, people enjoyed the sun, drank their coffee with friends, and discussed the Barcelona-Real Madrid football match that had happened a day before.
But then, some details I could see next to that Mediterranean lifestyle gave me a feeling of the strong personality Barcelona has. The Star Wars-inspired street art, Art Deco floral decorations on facades or Catalonian flags proudly displayed on many balconies were just some of them. Barcelona is a city with a soul!
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If we haven’t got enough of Mediterranean sense while walking around the Gràzia neighbourhood, then climbing those stairs to come to Park Guell definitely put us in the mood. Luckily they installed some escalators there, which help get to the famous park.
After seeing Gaudi’s church and residential buildings, I wondered whether he could still surprise me with his park design. And he definitely could! It is incredible to see how Gaudi blended nature with architectural design. Also, how he combined the park’s location with a beautiful view of the city. The massive terrace from which you can see Barcelona and rest a bit on its benches is decorated with small pieces of painted ceramics, which he started to use a lot on his buildings.
I really love city parks, and they are always telling you a story about the spirit of the city and its residents. With its colourful decorations, mild air and the beautiful smell of flowers, this one represents Barcelona so well.
⤷ TIP: I visited the park during the wintertime when it wasn’t busy at all. However, if you’re going to be there during the high season, buy your tickets in advance.
Getting lost in the streets of the old town
After lunch, in now already my favourite restaurant in the city, we went to the old town area again. It was Saturday afternoon, and many people went for a walk around the city. Numerous street musicians and performers were in the streets, as well. It was so lovely to spend our last evening in the city, by listening to music, buying some Christmas decorations and just getting lost in the old streets of Barcelona.
Barcelona is such a charming city I loved so much. It’s filled with art, culture, history and incredible heritage. Moreover, it’s filled with life! And that’s why it is one of the best cities to visit in Europe. Hope this three days in Barcelona guide will help to plan your trip, as well. Have you been to Barcelona?
Cover photo by Square Lab on Unsplash