Greetings, Internet Stranger! So you want to have a perfect Barcelona itinerary with the Picasso Museum? Well, that shouldn’t be too difficult. Picasso is one of the most famous artists who ever lived, and who wouldn’t have fun spending the morning gazing on his most glorious masterpieces?
But we will do so much more than look at women with cubes for faces! We will check out modern art, climb to a dizzying height, meet a rude waiter, and eat 15 different things–at least! Well, I will eat them. You will just look at my pictures from the safety of your home, drool, and wish you were in Barcelona.
Where to Stay?
Barcelona regulates the tourist industry pretty carefully. So most of the hotels are in the “tourist neighborhood” near La Rambla. I was on a tight budget in Barcelona, so I enjoyed my stay at the Pension Portugal. There was free wifi, a private bathroom, and the location was perfect. But I’m sure you would enjoy any hotel with good reviews in the same area if your budget allows for something more expensive.
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Barcelona is hot in the summer, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, if you’re American or from the UK, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with American or British plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
Morning: Explore La Ribera
I always like to leave a big park like the Parc de la Ciutadella for the end of an itinerary like this Barcelona itinerary. First, we will explore some cultural attractions. Like El Raval, La Ribera is one of the neighborhoods in the Old Town in Barcelona, and therefore it is filled with delicious restaurants, traditional markets, and fascinating architecture. If you think you can handle a day that starts with chocolate pastries and Picasso and ends with wine, cheese, and flamenco, then La Ribera is for you!
Approximately top 5: la ribera
1) Breakfast at Mercat de Santa Caterina
The Mercat de Santa Caterina is a perfect place to grab a quick breakfast. The market is just as notable for the dramatic undulating waves of its roof as it is for its fresh produce, ham, and fish. So of course you could make a meal out of a perfectly ripe piece of fruit or too. But this morning, I presume you are like me (and if not, please explain yourself) and you will want to snack on a pastry instead of something disgustingly healthy.
There are many freshly baked pastries available in the Santa Caterina. I picked up this tasty looking chocolate twist for about 1 Euro and I was good to go!
The pastry was perfectly flaky and melted in my mouth. The chocolate was rich and sweet, but not too sweet. The chocolate in Barcelona is really outstanding. I strongly suggest making the sacrifice and eating as much as you can!
2) Visit the Picasso Museum
The Museo Picasso is an extraordinary collection of many of Picasso’s most famous works. Sadly, no photography is allowed inside the museum, so I will have to do my best to recreate the experience by painting a portrait with my words (and a little help from free images off of Wikipedia).
24 Hour Tip
The best way to experience the museum is as a three hour lesson on Picasso and the development of his unique artistic vision. It’s like getting a complete art history college course for free! Well, not for free, for about eleven Euros. But you get the point.
For the full experience, get the audio guide and explore the collection in chronological order. This way you will truly be able to see how Picasso’s style progressed from his early works as a child prodigy to his more experimental phases like the Blue Period, the Rose Period, and of course his Cubist works. You’ll even get to see some of his experiments with making ceramics.
24 Hour Treasure
My favorite works in the collection were Picasso’s many paintings deconstructing and reimagining the legendary painting Las Meninas by 17th century Spanish artist Diego Velasquez. Here is the original by Velasquez:
And here is one of Picasso’s many reinterpretations of Las Meninas:
It’s amazing how it is recognizably the same composition as Velazquez’s painting, though at the same time it is obvious that the work is done by Picasso. I believe that the most important requirement for being a great artist is having a special way in which one sees the world. The Picasso Museum has many examples of Picasso’s unique vision, especially his interpretations of the human face and body. If you are an art lover, there is no excuse for not stopping here!
Passadis Del Pep
Before we go to the Parc de la Ciutadella, we’re going to want to eat a lot of calories. That way we can walk them off in the park. That’s just science.
Passadis Del Pep is one of those fabulous, atmospheric restaurants inside a building with no sign at the entrance with stone walls, tables with fancy white tablecloths, and waiters with impeccable manners that every traveler is always hoping to discover in Europe. Delightfully for an adventurous eater like me, it has no menu. Instead, the waiters just bring out to you what is fresh for the day.
Ordinarily I do not like to have a large meal for lunch because it makes me sleepy. But in Spain I felt that a big lunch was appropriate because presumably one would want to take a siesta not long afterwards. Also this giant meal was delicious, and I regret nothing. I did not photograph the free-flowing cava, but believe me that it was there.
24 Hour treat: Pa Amb tomaquet and ham
My meal started with some scrumptious pa amb tomaquet (bread with tomatoes) and some gorgeous sliced ham. I probably could have ended here and been happy with my lunch.
It continued with a fresh lentil, chicken, and tomato salad. There are literally no things on this earth I like as much as a fresh tomato.
24 Hour Treat: Catalan seafood
Now it was time for the parade of seafood to commence! I started with some salty and garlicky sea snails. (That’s a bed of salt, not rice. Don’t eat the salt. I don’t know why it’s there.)
Then there was a dish of tiny clams called coquinas. They are tender and redolent of the sea, but be careful when eating them because you have to use your fingers to pick them up and you’ll get olive oil on yourself. The waiters will bring you a washcloth, so don’t be shy!
As a cleanser, I was brought these pleasantly spicy pimientos de padron. I love peppers, so I ate the whole plate!
24 Hour Treasure
Up next was a squid, which was my favorite course of the meal. You know how squid can sometimes be overcooked and then tough to chew? There was done of this here. The squid virtually fell apart in my mouth. Some people don’t like seeing their food’s head, but I don’t mind. I’m no hypocrite! I know that’s an animal that died to feed my belly and I am unashamed. (PS. The tentacles are very tasty too.)
Then I had two different kinds of prawn: one with a tomato based sauce and one without because clearly one kind of prawn is just unacceptable. I didn’t eat the heads because it seemed gauche, but I totally would have done so if the waiter had told me to.
But what would a meal be without a main course? Mine was a rich and creamy seafood stuffed crepe. The seafood filling and cream sauce blended together in a perfect smoothness, especially since the crepe was so thin I could hardly feel it. It seemed a mere tissue designed to prevent the seafood filling from spilling into the cream and erupting into chaos.
24 hour treat: crema catalana
Did I have room for dessert? What a silly question! Dessert was the very traditional crema catalana, which is like creme brulee, only a little less pretty because it’s not necessarily served in a ramekin. Don’t worry, it’s just as tasty.
Finally, I was given a choice of one of three liqueurs for an aperitif. My choices were limoncello, whiskey, or grappa. I don’t drink whiskey for lunch unless I am actually in Ireland, so I chose the grappa. It had the just the fiery strength to put me in a really good mood for an hour and then make me fall asleep.
Passadis Del Pep is expensive, but it is definitely worth it given the quality and quantity you are served. I highly recommend it if you are looking to try some classic Barcelona seafood.
4) Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar
Santa Maria del Mar is an astounding example of Catalan Gothic architecture. I freely admit I’m just quoting what I’ve read in Lonely Planet here because I don’t know what Catalan Gothic architecture is supposed to look like. But that’s not going to stop me from taking wild and rapturous guesses! We know it is Catalan Gothic because of its columns and high arched ceilings…
It has a large rose window…
Plus the church is in Catalonia and that makes it Catalan Gothic. Voila! Actually, if stained glass and arches is enough to make something Gothic, then Santa Maria del Mar is as Gothic as a Hot Topic employee.
24 Hour Treasure
You must take the tour that gets you to the roof. The tour is offered every day at 2, 3, and 5:15 in English. On weekdays, there is an additional tour at 1 PM.The price is only 8 Euros, which is a great bargain because you get a church tour and a glorious view of Barcelona in one. Presto!
Isn’t that a beautiful Catalan Gothic view? (I still may not be 100 percent clear on what Catalan Gothic means.) And finally the Parc de la Ciutadella awaits!
24 Hours: Barcelona Itinerary
Afternoon: Parc de la Ciutadella
I’m a big believer in finding a good place for rest and relaxation at some point in the late afternoon/early evening. You’ve had a long and busy Barcelona itinerary of interpreting Picasso, eating sea snails and drinking cava, and exploring the mysteries of Catalan Gothic architecture. So you deserve a rest in the gorgeous Parc de la Ciutadella.
…Oh, you want a little more instruction than that? You’re very needy, Internet Stranger. But I aim to please, nonetheless.
Approximately top 5: Parc de la Ciutadella
1) smell the flowers
The Wifi in the Parc de la Ciutadella is free, which is nice if you don’t have an international data plan. But can’t you stay off your phone for just a few minutes, Internet Stranger? Learn to stop and smell the flowers!
2) see The greatest fountain of all time
My favorite thing in the Parc de la Ciutadella is this fabulous (and I use that word in the RuPaul sense) gaudy fountain. It’s possible that it is a Gaudi fountain as well since some people think the architect may have worked on it as a young man.
Some people think this fountain is too tacky. Those people are wrong. With the shooting sprays of water, triumphal arch, and myriad gold neoclassical statues, this fountain is exactly the right amount of tacky. Plus you can walk up the staircases at the sides and take pretty pictures of the water.
See! Lord Poseidon approves of this fountain too.
That pretty little waterfall cascading down the moss is just a bonus.
3) leave the Parc de la Ciutadella and dine at La Vinya del Senyor
We have a show to attend this evening, so there’s no chance you’ll be having a big dinner out. I don’t do big dinners and shows on the same evening since that one time I did a food tasting and wine pairing on the same night and got sick at the Metropolitan Opera.
Instead, if you’re still hungry after that ginormous meal you had at lunch, why not stop at a charming wine bar called La Vinya del Senyor right outside Santa Maria del Mar? You were there earlier today, so it’s shouldn’t be hard to find.
I was presented with a little attitude when I came in to order and said, “Una por favor”, meaning one woman. The bartender yelled at me, “One what?” and I was a bit taken aback. Fortunately, he left, I presume to go and be rude to his girlfriend and was replaced with a nice waitress who served me a delicious glass of rose and a cheese plate.
One of these cheeses was of course Manchego, the king of Spanish cheeses because even though Manchego, like Don Quixote, comes from La Mancha, you can find lots of it in Barcelona. One of the other cheeses was a creamy goat, and I forget what the third was. I mostly just remembering slathering pieces of bread with them, topping my creation with nuts or some of that sweet fruit jelly, and then gulping the whole shebang down. I probably should work on being a little classier when eating cheese in a wine bar!
If you want dessert afterward, or alternatively if you can’t even fathom scarfing down wine and cheese, why not try some ice cream?
4) get ice cream at La Campana
They are more well known for their nougat candy, but I thought their crema catalana ice cream was pretty outstanding, especially since the flavor is really burnt sugar + egg custard. You’re welcome to try the nougat, if you want, though. I won’t stop you.
24 Hours: Barcelona Itinerary
Evening: Palau de la Musica Catalana
Gaudi gets all the press, but he actually wasn’t the only famous architect in Barcelona. One of the other most renowned Catalan masters of the art of architecture was Lluis Domenech i Montener, and the Palau de la Musica Catalana was his most famous creation.
Domenech i Montener was an important figure in the Catalan Art Nouveau movement, also known as
Modernisme”. As far as I can tell, this style is characterized by being extremely ornate and pretty. so I already prefer it to say, Italian Futurism.
You can take guided tours of the Palau, but I wanted the full theatrical experience, so I bought a ticket to Historia del Amor, which is the Palau’s regular opera and flamenco show that usually runs about once a week at 9:30 PM.
People in Barcelona will be eager to remind you that flamenco is not authentically Catalan, but there are sometimes flamenco shows in clubs in Barcelona, and anyway, the music hall itself is about as Catalan as it gets.
Before your show starts, you need to walk around the building and take in all the magical architectural details.
With Catalan Modernisme, it’s always fun trying to interpret the intricate details that decorate the exterior of a building. Are those meant to be heads on sticks in the middle there? How many different kinds of flowers are decorating those poles? Are those supposed to be flowers decorating the bases of the column too? How long did it even take to build this majestic creation and did building it drive someone mad?
The show itself was a fantastic experience, though since I was sitting in the cheap seats it was easier for me to experience the opera singing than the complexities of the DANCE. I especially admired the intense emotion that the performers put into their singing. I am not naturally inclined to overt expressions of emotional intensity, but I admire those who are able to pull it off with style. And after a day of walking in the Parc de la Ciutadella, it was nice to sit while others danced.
Further Reading: Barcelona Itinerary
Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Barcelona? Then let me help you get started with some great books about the city. I like Lonely Planet’s guide to Barcelona. The chapters are divided into neighborhoods, which makes the book easy to use when it comes to planning purposes.
Barcelona by Robert Hughes is an excellent introduction to the history of the city. You’ll learn about everything from its ancient beginnings to modern changes in the city. You’ll be an expert on Barcelona by the time you’re done reading.
If you’re more interested in fiction, The Shadow of the Wind is a thrilling and mysterious read set in Barcelona. It will make you fall in love with the city and with reading.
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Barcelona. If you want to add a Barcelona itinerary with La Sagrada Familia, click here. And if you’d like a Barcelona itinerary with Gaudi architecture and the Palau Guell, try this one.