Greetings, Internet Stranger and welcome to a perfect one day in Barcelona itinerary! So you’re looking to spend a perfect one day in Barcelona itinerary and you’ve already seen The Picasso Museum and the Parc de la Ciutadella? What to do? What to do?
Well, how about a one day in Barcelona itinerary that sticks to La Sagrada Familia, aka one of the greatest landmarks in the world, in the morning and then moves to some amazing tapas in the evening. Does that sound good to you? Then let’s not waste any more time!
One Day in Barcelona Itinerary
Where to Stay?
Barcelona can be a brutal city for a traveler on a budget, especially with all the amazing fine dining restaurants. Because I wanted to enjoy wonderful activities like the Sagrada Familia and the Tapas Lovers tour, I decided to save money by saying at Pension Portugal.
Pension Portugal was ideal for someone who wanted to spend as little money as possible on lodging. The room was cool, even in the Catalunian summer, the location was crazy convenient right near Las Ramblas, and I even had my own bathroom and wifi in the room.
One Day in Barcelona Itinerary
What to Pack?
- A great pair of sandals that will take you from a morning of great architecture to a late night of yummy tapas.
- Comfy boots so that you can keep wandering around to find those tapas even if it rains.
- A cell charger so you can keep your cell phone charged for a full one day in Barcelona itinerary of sightseeing.
- A great sunscreen that’s also a spray so you can stay out under the Spanish sun all day and not get burned.
- The best travel adapter so you will be able to use American/Australian/British devices in Spanish electrical outlets.
- My favorite guidebook to Barcelona
- Barcelona, by Robert Hughes, which gives a great biography of Gaudi, so you’ll know all about him before visiting La Sagrada Familia.
- And if you want to know more about Gaudi, you can always dive deeper with Gaudi: The Complete Works.
One Day in Barcelona Itinerary
Morning: Visit La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia is the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty of Barcelona, which is to say it is absolutely the one iconic must-see sight in the city. If you only have three hours in Barcelona due to some extremely poor planning on your part, this is the place you must see. DO IT!
And if you only have a one day in Barcelona itinerary, this should be first on your list. The famous Barcelona architect Gaudi, who was also a devoutly religious Catholic, devoted his final years to the designing and building of La Sagrada Familia.
Sadly, he only lived to see about a quarter of it finished because he died by being hit by a tram and wasn’t treated right away because his clothes were so raggedy that people thought he was a beggar. So this is an important lesson to wear fancy clothes because it might save your life some day!
Fortunately, La Sagrada Familia did not stop construction because of Gaudi’s death. In fact it is due to be completed in 2026, which is only about 140 years after La Sagrada Familia started construction. I think that’s about the same length of time it took us in New York City to build the 2nd Avenue subway line.
But since we plan to spend all morning at La Sagrada Familia, you’re going to need a few guidelines. I’ll help you out with…
Approximately top 5: la sagrada familia
1) Breakfast at Xocoa
Xocoa is a wonder emporium filled with every kind of chocolate treat you can imagine. It’s the perfect place to start our one day in Barcelona itinerary.
The woman behind the counter was friendly and spoke excellent English, but I honestly don’t think she had to be. The chocolate displays in the window are so beautiful I’m sure the staff could heap abuse on its patrons and still do business.
I happily downed a latte and a chocolate croissant because that is the world’s best breakfast. The pastry was flaky and delicious and the chocolate filling was perfectly on point, but now I am kicking myself for not ordering churros and chocolate instead because that is more authentically Spanish. Learn from my mistakes, Internet Stranger!
2) see the birth facade of la sagrada familia
Of course you should spend most of your time at La Sagrada Familia exploring the amazing architectural details. Begin with the exterior facades. There are three facades to the church: the Birth Facade, the Passion Facade, and the Glory Facade, the last of which was not available for viewing when I was there.
Let’s start appropriately enough with the Birth Facade.
The Birth Facade of La Sagrada Familia, as you can see, has all the messiness and beauty of a fabulous ice cream cake that is just starting to melt. It is covered with intricate floral and faunal motifs, which is appropriate since this facade celebrates the birth of Jesus and the beauty of creation.
There are also many sculptures showing Gaudi’s interpretation of famous scenes from the Bible. Whether or not you are religious, as long as you are biblically literate it is an educational challenge to go around and see if you can identify which story from the Bible is being expressed in each scene.
3) get depressed at the death facade
The Death facade of La Sagrada Familia, which did not begin construction until well after Gaudi’s death, is exactly the opposite of the Birth facade. There is not even one intricate floral motif to be seen. The lines are all severe and the ornamentation is appropriately austere.
It’s fascinating how effective the difference between the two facades of La Sagrada Familia was. I was so excited and exuberant about exploring the details on the Birth facade, but I only felt depressed when staring at the harsh faceless lines of the Death facade.
What on earth will the Glory facade look like? Perhaps gazing upon it will make all our heads explode!
4) check out the stained glass windows
As much as I loved the facades of La Sagrada Familia, the highlight of the church is the interior. Gaudi wanted the columns to look like trees, so the churchgoers would feel like they were worshiping in nature.
He certainly succeeded on these grounds! I felt as soon as I stepped inside that I was wandering into some great glass and marble forest.
You must go in the morning so that you can catch the light coming in through the windows because the effect is breathtaking.
No one photoshopped these colors! The power of glass and sunshine alone made them! It’s like Gaudi was anticipating Instagram when he designed this church.
5) Lunch at Cafe Viena
I recommend walking to La Rambla, which is the giant, gorgeous, unavoidable main drag in Barcelona for lunch. Unfortunately there are a million bad cafes along this route because the area attracts so many tourists. Fortunately, Cafe Viena is a rare exception on this street that will not disappoint.
The best reason to come here for lunch is to get the ham sandwich. A writer for the New York Times called this porcine marvel “the greatest sandwich in the world”, and you’re not going to argue with the New York Times, are you? Just plop down at the adorable lunch counter, order your thinly sliced ham on your toasty roasty bread and blissfully chow down!
24 Hour Tip
You must buy your ticket to La Sagrada Familia in advance online, especially if you are going during the high season. I cannot stress this enough. If you don’t buy your tickets in advance, you’re going to wait on line all the live long day and you are going to be so unhappy. Please listen to the seriousness in my tone of voice and heed my warning.
One Day in Barcelona Itinerary
Afternoon: Explore Historic Barcelona
Now that we are back at La Rambla and have eaten our lunch, it’s time to continue our one day in Barcelona itinerary by exploring all the small hidden gems that Barcelona has to offer. We will visit some sacred geese, we will see even more Gaudi, and I might get murdered by a fictional ghost. It’s all par for the course when you see…
Approximately Top 5: One Day in Barcelona Itinerary
1) Visit the Museu d’Historia de Barcelona
Did you know that there were tons of Roman ruins in Barcelona? Neither did I! But I felt super psyched to visit them as soon as I learned of their existence because I’ve been obsessed with Roman history ever since I bought a copy of I, Claudius at a flea market for ten cents at the age of thirteen.
The Roman ruins in the museum are all underground of course, so after you buy your entrance ticket and peruse a few Roman artifacts above ground, you will follow a trail downstairs and find yourself flitting about a ruined Roman ghost town.
24 Hour Tip
Be sure to pick up the audio guide because it will help keep you informed about the purpose of each ruin when it was in its unruined state. For example, you might look at a pile of crushed stones and broken vases and think it’s just Roman junque, but then your audio guide will tell you its the vats where Romans used to keep urine so they could do their laundry. (That’s 100 percent true.)
Then you will follow the path further and further underground until you come to a little chamber where there is almost no light. If you’re anything like me, you will take a picture here even though you know it’s totally pointless.
This looks like a deleted scene from The Blair Witch Project. I was very concerned that the ghost of Inigo Montoya might try to push me down this well, but then I remembered that he would be more likely to attack me with his sword.
2) See the Barcelona Cathedral
The Barcelona Cathedral is of course an example of Catalan Gothic architecture, so you can expect it to have high arched ceilings, stained glass windows, and the like. It’s one of the most famous buildings in Barcelona, so it definitely needs to be part of your one day in Barcelona itinerary.
The Barcelona Cathedral also contains many beautiful statues of saints, but it’s very hard to see them because they are kept behind bars in various side chapels.. However, I think there’s something evocative about the images you get of peering at the saints’ statues through the bars. This one is my favorite.
Once you are done photographing the statues of saints like they are being imprisoned, of course you should go on the roof! Any church worth its salt in Barcelona has a spectacular roof view!
And I’m sure the Medieval Spaniards would be happy to know that it was all worth building their cathedrals so high so now girls from the New World can come over, take a lifting machine up to the roof, and put photos of the view on Instagram.
24 Hour Treasure
My favorite part of the Barcelona Cathedral is the Cloister which is an enclosed garden inside the church that is home to 13 white geese. Apparently the 13 geese are for the age of Saint Eulalia at her martyrdom, according to Lonely Planet. Has no one told the Cathedral that this is an unlucky number? I’m a little concerned.
Don’t try to pet these geese. They look like they might bite.
3) Find the Gothic Bridge
The Gothic Bridge has, sadly, nothing to do with trolls or goats, nor does it go over water. It crosses Carrer del Bisbe as shown above.
It’s even more beautiful in close up!
4) Ramble around las ramblas
This is the most famous street in Barcelona, so you can’t miss it. Enjoy all the funny little ice cream and candy shops on the way, as well as the many men who sell whistles called pitos that make indescribably weird noises. How is this a lucrative business? Who buys these whistles?
Also, don’t miss the Miro mosaic cleverly hidden under the feet of all the tourists who cross Las Ramblas each day.
5) Visit La Pedrera
La Pedrera is more properly known as Casa Mila because it was designed by Gaudi for the Mila family. However, it is known as La Pedrera, or “the quarry”, because apparently there was such a big mess of stones left on the sidewalk during its construction that the neighbors became frustrated and started saying it looked like a quarry, and the name stuck.
La Pedrera is not nearly as crowded as the Picasso Museum or La Sagrada Familia, but I still suggest buying tickets in advance, so that you don’t lose out on the entry time you want. We don’t have any time to waste on our one day in Barcelona itinerary for standing on line! Just keep in mind that the last admission is 5 PM.
During the tour, you get to explore five floors of the house. This is magical because you are allowed to see all the whimsical touches that Gaudi added to the building, from the view of the sky from the lobby….
to this fabulous umbrella stand.
24 Hour Treasure
As with the Palau Guell, the most exciting part of La Pedrera is the roof. Gaudi covered the rust red roof of Casa Mila with his signature “phallic thingimabobs”. The ones at the Palau Guell resemble Christmas trees, but these ones call to mind the heads of knights that have been stuck on pikes.
These were my favorites because they were made with crushed champagne bottles, and I simply love champagne, darling.
Just be careful not to stay on the roof too long because you might start to hear the heads talking to you, and that is Cause for Concern.
One Day in Barcelona Itinerary
Evening: Tapas Lover Tour
The Tapas Lover Tour is the perfect way to finish our one day in Barcelona itinerary. It seems pricey, but it really ends up being an excellent value because all the food, water, and alcohol is included.
Josh, our guide, was a friendly young Spaniard bursting with enthusiasm about the local cuisine. You have to reserve in advance, but it’s easy to do just by clicking this link!
There are three stops along the tour. The first was at a trendy bar where local Barcelonians might come for snacks and drinks after work. We ate some delectable sliced cured meat, fluffy tortilla de patatas, that omnipresent bread with tomato, and croquetas.
Croquetas are fried balls of ham and batter, and I I approve because the only thing better than ham is fried ham. I am sorry that I didn’t take pictures for you because at this point in the evening I felt too embarrassed to take pictures of my food in front of strangers. But eventually cava would melt my worries away.
24 Hour Treat
Our next stop was a more traditional Barcelona seafood tapas restaurant, the kind that has soccer on the television and checkered red and white tablecloths.
Here we ate tender octopus with potatoes, two kinds of clams: regular and razor clams, and fat, juicy prawns with their heads on. (I like to look my food in the eye before I bite into it.) It goes without saying that there was bread with tomato and wine too.
Our final stop was the sit-down dinner at a more upscale restaurant. We started with a couple of traditional tapas like patatas bravas and croquetas. But then came out something unusual: bone stuffed with a kind of rich, meaty, bone-infused concoction.
And it was exactly in the midst of eating this bone dish that I became drunk enough to take pictures of my food.
Next came the main course, which was a steak that literally came sizzling to the table. Don’t touch! It’s still hot!
Finally there were two desserts. The first was a light, “fluffy as a cloud shaped like a lamb” cake with vanilla ice cream and caramel. Yum!
24 Hour Treat: A Mystery Dessert
The second dessert was the more unusual, though. Pop quiz, hotshot. What do you think this is?
Whatever you guessed, I’m sure you’re wrong. It’s a chocolate omelette with Pop Rocks on top. I knew as soon as I bit it that Pop Rocks were involved, but it didn’t taste like Pop Rocks at all.
It just seemed like a very rich chocolate crepe with a fizzy surprise on top. This was my favorite dish of the meal just because I’ve never had anything like it. It was a perfect end to the one day in Barcelona itinerary.
There! I hope I’ve convinced you that the Tapas Lover Tour is worth the price with all the food you get. And on my next one day in Barcelona itinerary, I will take pictures of all the food without needing a drink.
That’s a Perfect One Day in Barcelona Itinerary!
What would you do on a one day in Barcelona itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Barcelona? And how drunk do you need to be to start taking pictures of your food? Please leave your thoughts below!
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 have a one day in Barcelona itinerary.