Three Days in Barcelona: Exploring with Marco Polo Guides
Ah beautiful Barcelona, one of the most famous cities in Europe, and the Catalonian capital of Spain. The last time I visited back in May 2014 I ended up bed bound for pretty much all of the entire trip after being horrendously sick for 48 hours, so I was itching to get back and explore the city properly this time, over five years later. Barcelona was the last stop that my sister and I visited on our recent Spanish Interrailing adventure, along with Madrid and Valencia, and it was the perfect place to end our holiday. From Gaudi’s iconic Sagrada Familia and Park Guell to the vibrant St Joseph’s Market and bustling Las Ramblas, Barcelona is a tourist’s haven and offers the perfect city break escape. Along with the help of my trusty Marco Polo Guidebook, here’s what I would recommend you see if you have three days in Barcelona, and what we did during our time there too…
Wander down Las Ramblas
Perhaps the most famous part of Barcelona, and the focal point of the entire city, Las Ramblas is the lively street that is an absolute must see during your visit. Marvel at the street performers, have dinner and drinks in one of the many bars and restaurants, or stock up on souvenirs at the variety of shops on offer. Las Ramblas is busy at any time of day, but comes alive at night when the bars and restaurants stay open late and revellers from the nearby Gothic Quarter spill out on to the street. My favourite part of Las Ramblas is St Joseph’s Market, located right in the middle of the street and at the heart of the action. Inside, you’ll find tonnes of stalls selling everything from organic fruit and veg to sweets, savoury snacks and souvenirs. The bright colours of the fruit, all sold in cute little €1 pots, will mesmerise you as you meander your way through the tiny gaps between stalls, and there’s so much food to choose from that you’ll end up coming back every day for your lunch, just like me and my sister did!
Visit La Sagrada Familia
This place is truly breath-taking and nothing short of iconic. We hadn’t actually booked tickets online before our visit as we had completely forgotten – I got back from Australia the week before so am blaming the jet lag – but we needn’t have worried as our fantastic hotel reception sorted us out with some last minute tickets. We booked the audio tour which was around €30 each and gave us access to all parts of the cathedral. The Cathedral itself is an absolute masterpiece featuring incredible architecture and history, giving an insight in to the life of its famous creator, Antoni Gaudi. Although it is not finished yet, the Cathedral is truly memerising. My sister and I found the audio guides super helpful and I’d definitely recommend these when booking your tickets. La Sagrada Familia is away from the city centre, so it took us a good hour to walk there from our hotel on Las Ramblas, but we did break up the walk with a stop at the Arc de Triompf and a cake break opposite another of Gaudi’s creations, Casa Mila, before catching the metro back to Las Ramblas instead of walking. If there’s one thing you tick off during your three days in Barcelona, make sure it’s the spectacle that is La Sagrada Familia.
Chill out on Barceloneta Beach
One of the most popular parts of the city, Barceloneta Beach attracts thousands of tourists each year and is a great place to relax and unwind after a busy few days of sightseeing. To me, it seems weird to be spending time on a beach when you only have three days in Barcelona, but on our last day my sister and I welcomed the chance to chill out after a hectic week of exploring three Spanish cities in seven days, and walking at least 20km every single day. Barceloneta Beach is a huge stretch of sand right by the marina, dotted with sunbeds, umbrellas and a few beach bars too. It was super crowded when I went, but I think that’s because it was the Saturday of the bank holiday May weekend here in the UK at the time. Having said that, it was a great place to people watch, read a book or listen to music whilst watching the waves lap against the shore, and there were boat rides and water sports on offer in the sea too. We didn’t get chance to take the cable car over the ocean, but I have added that to my list for my return visit next time!
Climb to the top of Montjuic Hill
Something else that we didn’t quite manage to tick off was the Magic Fountain show that lights up the skies after dark on certain months of the year. Located at Montjuic Hill, this is a spectacle not to be missed, although sadly it wasn’t on when we were there as May is the only month (apart from Jan & Feb) that the show doesn’t run – gutted! We did however still walk from Las Ramblas to Montjuic Hill, following the 2-3 hour walking route that was on page 103 our trusty Marco Polo Guidebook, and had such a great time exploring a totally different area of Barca that we hadn’t seen before. We passed the Plaza de Espana along the way which looked like the Campanile in Venice’s San Marco Square. When we reached the summit, the views from the top of the hill were absolutely amazing, and it didn’t feel like we were in Barcelona at all as we gazed over the city below and spotted the mountains in the background. I’d definitely recommend you make a stop here during your three days in Barcelona to see a totally different side to the city!
Explore the Gothic Quarter
I really loved this area of the city, and we spent almost every evening there during our stay having drinks and indulging in some people watching! There are plenty of bars and restaurants around and the Quarter is super lively. With its tall palm trees, decorative fountain and ancient buildings, this place feels like a mini oasis right in the middle of the busy city. Just off from Las Ramblas, the Quarter is easily reached from all areas of the city and is best explored on foot, but you will also find tourist bikes being offered left right and centre if you prefer to be shown around by someone else. Right around the corner is the gorgeous Catedral de Barcelona, with its gothic architecture and stunning interiors. It’ll cost you 7 euros to get in, but don’t forget to head up to the top of the roof for a small fee of €3 where you’ll be rewarded with incredible panoramic views over the entire city, and you’ll even spot La Sagrada Familia in the distance.
TOP TIP: Page 29 of my Marco Polo Guidebook informed me that entrance to the cathedral is free Mon-Fri 1pm-5:30pm, Saturdays 1pm-5pm or Sundays 2pm-5pm, so head there between those times if you’re on a budget. Ladies, make sure you cover up as you won’t be allowed in if you’re wearing shorts and a vest top, as I found out! (they sell scarves at the entrance for €1 though so you can purchase one of these if you don’t want to go back to your hotel room and get changed).
Where to Stay
We treated ourselves to a top 4* hotel for our three days in Barcelona as we wanted to round off our Spanish interrailing adventure in style, but there are plenty of other budget friendly options too. I’ve previously stayed in the 2* Meson Castilla, right at the top of Las Ramblas, and that was in a great location although the rooms were pretty small, and a bit dated. There are plenty of hostels to choose from if you’re backpacking, and I’ve heard that Safestay and Generator are both good picks. For something more luxurious, I would wholeheartedly recommend our beautiful hotel, Eurostars Las Ramblas, which was at the heart of the action on the city’s most famous street. We had a balcony room overlooking Las Ramblas and could people watch til our hearts content. The huge rainforest shower was amazing, the beds were super comfy and we couldn’t fault the staff! Other top hotels include the W Barcelona and the H10 Casanova. Barcelona is a huge city, and you can hop on the metro at any time if you want to save your legs, but most hotels are really centrally located so you’re never too far from everything, no matter where you stay.
Where to Eat
My sister and I ate out every night of our stay, and we certainly picked some fantastic restaurants! On our first night we headed to the marina but couldn’t find any restaurants that weren’t stupidly overpriced, so we made our way over to Catedral de Barcelona and ended up eating right next to it, in a gorgeous restaurant called Taverna del Bisbe, which served the most amazing tapas. On our second night we stayed close to home as we had done so much walking and didn’t fancy venturing too far from our hotel, so we just ate at one of the casual restaurants out on the terrace in the middle of the street, where we had incredible paellas and cocktails the size of our heads – they were €20 each but they were amazing! Our last night took us to the Gothic Quarter where we dined at Restaurante Rossini , the most authentic Italian that could’ve been right in Tuscany if you didn’t know you were in Spain! The food was amazing – the calzone’s were like enormous pillows that we struggled to finish – and we popped over to one of the nearby bars afterwards to watch Liverpool FC knock out Barcelona in the semi final of the Champions League which was certainly a night to remember! If you’re staying on Las Ramblas I would recommend eating anywhere along there or in the Gothic Quarter, but if you’re staying a bit further afield there are plenty of other fantastic bars and restaurants to choose from too.
These are just a few of the top sights to see during your three days in Barcelona, but as the city is so huge, you could easily spend a week there ticking off plenty more landmarks. You can probably tell that I absolutely adored visiting La Sagrada Familia, and it was beyond my wildest expectations, but I loved discovering the Catedral de Barcelona too and was pleasantly surprised about how much I enjoyed it! Next time I visit I would like to take the cable car over the sea, head over to Park Guell and stop by the Magic Fountains for one of their iconic evening shows… I guess that gives me plenty of reasons to come back! Have you ever been to Barcelona before?
NB. This post was sponsored by Marco Polo Guides but all words, thoughts and images are of course my own.
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