What a long weekend looks like in Barcelona, Spain
A feeling of mystique hangs in the air, and it’s impossible to tell where old ends and new begins. Welcome to Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia whose vibrant charm has inspired artists and maestros for centuries. Treasured for its culture, cuisine, history, and nightlife, Barcelona has everything you could possibly want in a city break. To help you maximize your time in Spain’s most visited city, here’s a detailed itinerary and travel guide for spending a long weekend in Barcelona.
Note: If you can spend even longer than a long weekend in Barcelona, absolutely do it! I lived there for a semester, visiting several times since then, and there’s still so much more to explore. Follow my adventures on Instagram to see more of this enchanting city!
Getting Around Barcelona
Given that Barcelona is fairly spread out, be prepared to navigate the city by foot, bike, public transportation, and taxi. Bring your favorite walking shoes, and expect to walk 8-12 miles each day to discover all the nooks and crannies. *Note: I highly recommend doing a walking tour or bike tour at the beginning of your weekend in Barcelona to help you get your bearings.
Once you arrive at the airport’s train station, I recommend purchasing the “T-10 Pass” for Zone 1. This ticket gives you 10 rides on the metro for only €10.20. What a steal! Currently, Barcelona’s metro operates with the following schedule:
- Monday – Thursday, Sunday, and Public Holidays: 5am to midnight
- Friday: 5am to 2am
- Saturday: Non-stop
If you’re willing to pay extra for convenience, consider getting a Barcelona Card, which gives you unlimited free travel by bus and metro, as well as free entry to museums and other discounts. The 72 hour pass is €46 (€15.33 per day), a bit pricey in my opinion unless you intend to take full advantage.
In addition to the metro, taxis are a convenient way to get around the city. Barcelona must have tens of thousands of taxis, so you’ll likely never have to wait for one. Plus, the prices are very cheap compared to other major European cities.
What can you see in Barcelona in 3 days? Read on to find out!
Day 1: Kicking off your long weekend itinerary Barcelona
Start your day by taking the metro to Diagonal. This is where Barcelona’s two busiest avenues, Avinguda Diagonal and Passeig de Gràcia, intersect. As a spacious thoroughfare, Diagonal is a site where rallies and festivals are held during the year.
Just a few steps north of Diagonal is Gràcia, a quaint neighborhood characterized by narrow streets and charming squares. If time permits and you’re a speedy walker, you could start your day by taking the metro to Fontana instead, and stroll down some of its cozy streets before heading south.
Passeig de Gràcia
From Diagonal, walk down the Passeig de Gràcia, an upscale shopping street. The Passeig de Gràcia is home to some of the world’s most expensive brands. Hence, many people consider it Barcelona’s very own Champs-Elysées.
In addition to its shopping, Passeig de Gracia is cherished for its architecture. The first masterpiece you will encounter is Casa Milà. Commonly known as La Pedrera (“stone quarry”), Casa Milà was built in 1906 by the acclaimed Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudí.
Gaudí’s unconventional architectural style is again seen further down the road at the Casa Batlló. Redesigned in 1904, Casa Batlló’s unusual façade resembles a dragon’s skeleton rather than a 20th century residence. Given the time constraints of your long weekend itinerary in Barcelona, I recommend saving these museums for your next visit.
Plaça de Catalunya
As you continue down the Passeig de Gràcia, you’ll eventually find yourself in the Plaça de Catalunya. Located in the city center, this large square is the heart and soul of Barcelona. It’s where the Ciutat Vella (“Old City”) meets the Eixample (19th century district).
Here, you’ll encounter hordes of tourists and pigeons who flock to its impressive fountains and statues. You’ll also be astonished by the grandiose shopping centers and department stores that enclose the square.
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After checking out the Plaça de Catalunya, consider heading south towards the bustling tree-lined street called La Rambla. This ¾ mile (1.2 km) pedestrian street extends all the way down to the waterfront. Just as a heads up, you’ll likely be shoulder-to-shoulder with other tourists during peak season.
As you walk down La Rambla, you’ll be tempted to eat at one of the outdoor cafes. Don’t do it! These eateries are very touristy and do not serve authentic dishes. Instead, stop by La Boquería, a public market next to La Rambla that sells fresh fruits, meats, and fish. My favorite treat in La Boquería is the fresh mango smoothie, which only costs €1.
Hopefully, this will satisfy your appetite for an hour or so, until you arrive in the Gothic Quarter. *Please note: Be extra careful with your valuables on La Rambla – this street is notorious for pickpocketing.*
After visiting the Boquería, cross La Rambla and head down one of the adjacent side streets. This will bring you to the Barri Gòtic, or Gothic Quarter.
Known for its medieval streets and Roman walls, the Gothic Quarter is one of the oldest parts of the city. My favorite sight is the Barcelona Cathedral, a Gothic masterpiece dating back to the 13th century.
After checking out the Cathedral and Roman walls, you’ll likely stumble across a souvenir shop in the vicinity. My favorite memento from Barcelona is a Gaudí mosaic mug (that I frequently show off in my IG stories). As a rule of thumb, souvenir shops in the Gothic Quarter have better prices than those on La Rambla.
To find a good lunch spot, venture down the quaint side streets near the Cathedral. For a glass of wine and decently priced tapas, I recommend Bodega La Palma. Another great option nearby is Restaurant Sensi Bistro Tapes. When in doubt, use TripAdvisor to find the “right” restaurant.
If this is your first time in Spain, I strongly encourage you to do a tapas tour on day 1. It’s a great way to learn about the different types of tapas and the best places that serve them. Therefore, I recommend booking this experience in advance.
After lunch, head back towards La Rambla, to a square called Plaça Reial (“Royal Square”). Plaça Reial is home to an array of lively restaurants and nightclubs. You will also find unconventional lampposts designed by Gaudí himself. I recommend returning to Placa Reial at night when the square becomes magically illuminated; a must-see during your long weekend itinerary in Barcelona.
From Plaça Reial, head down La Rambla until you hit the Mirador de Colom (“Columbus Monument”). Built in 1888, this landmark commemorates Christopher Columbus, who disembarked in Barcelona after returning from the Americas. For €8, you can take an elevator up 196 feet (60 m) to the top.
As you approach the Barcelona waterfront, you will catch a glimpse of Port Vell. This Mediterranean marina hosts everything from fishing boats to luxurious yachts. Prior to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Port Vell was full of crumbling factories and warehouses. Thanks to the city’s restoration efforts, this complex now contains a world-class shopping mall (Maremàgnum) and aquarium (L’Aquàrium).
Since your long weekend is already flying by, I recommend saving these two attractions for your next visit to the Catalan capital. Instead, consider spending more time exploring the Gothic Quarter and El Raval, a neighborhood on the opposite side of La Rambla. This vibrant district is home to an eclectic mix of local bars, restaurants, and shops.
Dinner time for the Spanish doesn’t begin until around 9pm. However, if you wish to avoid the crowds and eat tapas in peace, you may want to grab dinner a bit earlier. If you already went on a tapas guided tour, you’ll have an understanding of the local delicacies. If you didn’t, I recommend reading Cameron Hewitt’s advice for navigating the Spanish tapas scene. Some of my favorite dishes are the patatas bravas (fried potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce), gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp), and pan con tomate (toast with olive oil and tomato spread). Delicioso!
After dinner, you may wish to go out to a bar or nightclub. After all, Barcelona is known for its vida nocturna (“nightlife”). At the end of this article, I’ve listed a few popular nightlife spots around the city.
Day 2: Gaudí’s Barcelona
Hopefully you didn’t stay out too late last night, as there is a lot of ground to cover today. The focus will be on the acclaimed Catalan architect who I mentioned earlier, Antoni Gaudí.
Born in Barcelona in 1852, Gaudí was the leading artist in the Catalan Modernism movement. Inspired by nature and religion, Gaudí’s architectural designs are visibly ingrained in Barcelona’s cityscape today. Two of his most famous works are Parc Güell and La Sagrada Família.
Begin the day by taking the metro to the Vallcarca stop. From there, you will need to hike 10-15 minutes up the hill to Parc Güell, a top tourist attraction in the city. There are escalators that make this trek easier. Alternatively, you can take a taxi directly to Parc Güell.
Plan to arrive at Parc Güell before 8:30am to avoid the crowds. Given that this a very popular attraction, I recommend buying your tickets online in advance. You can also gain free admission to the monumental area if you don’t mind arriving ambitiously early (between 6-8am). Once inside, you can roam the zone for as long as you’d like. Built by Gaudí in 1914, Parc Güell contains a variety of eccentric buildings, structures, and mosaics. The views overlooking the city aren’t too shabby either.
La Sagrada Família
Next on the agenda, you’ll want to take public transport or taxi to Gaudí’s colossal creation, La Sagrada Família. The construction of this sacred church began in 1882, and it’s still being built to this day. 136 years later! With its Gothic and Art Nouveau façade, the Sagrada Família is a basilica unlike any other in Europe. Be sure to purchase your tickets online in advance. I recommend paying extra for entrance to the towers, which offer stunning panoramic views of the city. The Sagrada Família is a must-visit during a long weekend trip in Barcelona.
After taking a peek inside Gaudí’s sacred church, you’ll probably be ready for lunch. I recommend walking two blocks away to Mercadona (a popular budget supermarket). Nothing beats eating baguette with chorizo on a park bench outside the Sagrada!
Once you’re done with lunch, head to a nearby metro station and ride to the Plaça d’Espanya. This is one of Barcelona’s largest squares, and the site of many intriguing attractions.
Here, you’ll find the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, which was built for Barcelona’s 1929 International Exposition. During the evenings, a brilliant light show brings the fountain to life (check the schedule here). Montjuic, which means “Jewish Mountain” is a hill in Barcelona with beautiful views of the city.
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
In this special square, you’ll also be dazzled by the iconic Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (“National Museum of Catalan Art”). Climb up the stairs or escalator to the museum, and you’ll be awe-struck by the views of the city’s skyline. I recommend saving the inside of the museum for your next long weekend adventure in Barcelona.
Across the street from the Magic Fountain and Venetian Towers, you’ll see a former bullfighting ring that was converted into a shopping mall. FYI – Bullfighting in Catalonia was banned in 2012.
After all the walking and exploring, you’re probably ready to sit down and take a siesta. I recommend finding an outdoor cafe in the Gothic Quarter, El Raval, or Poble Sec to spend the rest of your afternoon. Enjoy a glass of sangria and do some people-watching in an old Spanish plaza.
To cap off your second day, explore the three neighborhoods above. Remember to use TripAdvisor to find an authentic tapas bar (or 2)! Check out the end of my article for bar/nightclub recommendations.
Day 3: Vamos a la Playa
After so much walking and learning during your long weekend in Barcelona, you’re probably ready to hit the beach. After all, a long weekend in Barcelona would not be complete without a trip to the beach. Begin the day by walking or taking the metro to the Barceloneta. This waterfront promenade is lined with seafood restaurants, tapas bars, and cafes.
If weather permits, consider going sunbathing and swimming. The Barceloneta Beach is beautiful, however it can be flooded with merchants trying to sell you beverages, umbrellas, and beach towels. As with other public spaces, be sure to watch your valuables.
Whether you’re looking for R&R or wish to take some good photos, the beach is a must during a Barcelona weekend itinerary.
Passeig de Joan de Borbó
Then, once you’ve re-charged your batteries, grab a bite to eat on the Passeig de Joan de Borbó. Nestled between the beach and the port, this popular street is the best spot in town for paella.
There are 10 restaurants here that have basically identical menus. For only €15-18, you can expect a 3-course meal that includes a beverage, appetizer, paella, and dessert.
Due to the fierce competition among these very similar restaurants, you can get even better deal during off-peak times (i.e. 5pm). Just stroll by El Rey de la Gamba, and the restaurant promoters will offer you a free drink or even a bottle of wine to accompany your meal. This has happened to me on numerous occasions. All you have to do is show interest in their menus, then walk away until they offer you something free to stay.
Parc de la Ciutadella
After your tasty 3-course meal, walk over to the Parc de la Ciutadella (“Ciutadella Park”). This park is roughly ¾ mile (1.3 km) from the restaurant. On the way, consider stopping by the Museu d’Història de Catalunya, a history museum that exhibits Catalonia’s rich heritage.
Once you arrive in the green space, there are several beautiful sites that you’ll want to check out. First, you’ll likely come across the Barcelona Zoo. Founded in 1892, this zoo is one of the oldest in the world. In my opinion, the Barcelona Zoo is pricey and not a priority for your long weekend itinerary. Instead, opt to spend more time checking out the Cascada Monumental and Arc de Triomf.
The Cascada Monumental is an iconic fountain and monument dating back to the 19th century. It was modeled after the Trevi Fountain in Rome, with some artistic alterations by Catalan artists (including Gaudí).
Arc de Triomf
Another place you can’t miss is the Arc de Triomf, the gateway to the northern side of the park. Inspired by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, this brick arch was built as the main gate for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair.
Depending on your energy level, there are a few excellent options to spend the rest of your afternoon. If you’d like to take a siesta break, I recommend finding a bench in the park and relaxing for a bit. The Ciutadella Park is such a serene setting with street performers playing musical instruments in the background.
El Born District
If you’re itching to continue exploring, walk to the El Born district that is adjacent to the park. This colorful neighborhood boasts an array of medieval buildings and modern art. Here, you’ll find many delicious eateries (the best gelaterias in town). You’ll also discover several noteworthy galleries, including the Museu Picasso (“Picasso Museum”). This museum houses over 4,000 works by the famous Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso.
The El Born district is a must during a Barcelona weekend or long weekend itinerary.
With your last night in Barcelona approaching, you may feel anxious about your upcoming departure. To end your long weekend in Barcelona on a positive note, return to your favorite neighborhood and spend the last few hours cherishing the special memories made.
Where to stay in Barcelona
The best way to maximize your long weekend in Barcelona is by finding an accommodation in a central location. Fortunately, you will find reasonably priced hotels and Airbnbs within reach of the major sites and metro stops in Barcelona. I recommend narrowing your search to the following four locations (ordered by price):
The Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic) of Barcelona is in the heart of the city. While it is the best location for a long weekend trip in Barcelona, it is also the priciest. My favorite hotel in this area is the Hotel Colón, a four-star property located directly in front of La Catedral de Barcelona (the 13th century Gothic Cathedral). Prices can be as low as $115/night during the off-season, and as high as $300 during the peak summer months.
La Rambla and El Raval
There are many decent accommodations on the side streets connecting to La Rambla, Barcelona’s famous pedestrian shopping street. During my long weekend getaways in Barcelona, I often book an Airbnb in the El Raval neighborhood within a 5-10 minute walk of the Liceu metro stop. The streets west of La Rambla tend to have better deals than the eastern side, which touches the Gothic district. (Click here for a $40 credit on Airbnb).
Sant Antoni/Poble Sec
The Sant Antoni and Poble Sec neighborhoods are cheaper and less touristy than El Raval and the Gothic Quarter. These districts are very multicultural and authentic, where you will find some of the best tapas and bars in town.
If you’d prefer to stay closer to the beach, there are several reasonably priced accommodations between the Barceloneta and Ciutadella Park.
If you are willing to walk 15 minutes to the beach, I recommend staying at the Hotel Santa Marta. This hotel is very affordable, costing as low as $30/night during the off-season and $100 during the peak summer months. It’s also a 15-minute walk to La Rambla and a 5-minute stroll to the Ciutadella Park. As a result, the Hotel Santa Marta is the perfect launch pad during a long weekend getaway in Barcelona. (Here’s my TripAdvisor review of this property).
Barcelona nightlife recommendations
Barcelona is well-known for its nightlife scene. Here are a few popular bar and club suggestions in Barcelona: (Salud!)
- Boadas Cocteleria (bar): Founded in 1933, Boadas is the oldest cocktail bar in Barcelona. As a result, you will be captivated by its classic charm. Boadas has a cozy atmosphere, and it’s conveniently located along the Ramblas. Definitely add this to your Barcelona itinerary!
- L’Ovella Negra (bar): Reasonably priced bar that sells pitchers of beer and jugs of sangria. There are 2 locations in the city – one near La Rambla and another near Marina.
- Dow Jones (bar): A lively bar where drink prices fluctuate throughout the night like the stock market. From time to time, the market “crashes” and the drinks become very cheap.
- Opium Barcelona (night club): Located along the beach, Opium is the most famous club in Barcelona and a must-see during a long weekend trip. Specializing in electronic dance music, Opium is for a younger crowd.
- Sala Razzmatazz (night club): Situated in the Poble Nou district, Razzmatazz is the largest venue in Barcelona with 5 concert halls. As a result, you’ll hear a variety of rock, pop, and electronic music in each of its spaces.
- Eclipse (bar/club): Perched 26 stories above the city, Eclipse is a fancy lounge and night club. Therefore, be sure to check the dress code requirements and make a reservation in advance.
Barcelona day trips
If you wish to cover even more ground during your long weekend in Barcelona, consider doing a day trip. Barcelona is situated in the heart of Catalonia, so there’s a lot of cool places to visit nearby. Here are some cool day trips from Barcelona that I recommend:
Montserrat: This clifftop monastery is just a short trip from Barcelona, and it’s well worth it for the beautiful scenery. Take a cog railway and cable car to the top for epic views over the valley.
Costa Brava: Enjoy Barcelona’s coastal region at any of the following beach spots: Aiguablava (Begur), Tamariu (Palafrugell), and Platja Fonda.
Girona: A beautiful and colorful city northeast of Barcelona. It’s known for its well-preserved old town and medieval walls.
Maximizing your long weekend itinerary in Barcelona
I hope this guide is helpful for planning your long weekend itinerary in Barcelona. A day trip is simply not enough to experience all that Barcelona has to offer. I recommend spending at least a weekend, if not a long weekend in Barcelona, to cover all the main sights and attractions.
Once you arrive, you’ll be enchanted by the city’s architecture, history, cuisine, and cultural charm. If you aren’t able to check off all of these sights, don’t fret! After visiting Barcelona once, you’ll have the insatiable appetite to return again and again.
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