Full of historical architecture and a vibrant and buzzing nightlife, Barcelona is an entertainment hub for both residents and travellers. It’s world-famous for its enviable sunny weather, beautiful churches, and delicious food from superb Catalan cuisine to traditional tapas and pinxtos.
There’s such a wealth of activities, it’s almost impossible to narrow down the best things to do and see in Barcelona. For those who are short on time, but want a European city with plenty going on, there’s no doubt that this city packs a punch. Here are my recommendations for a perfect 24 hours in Barcelona (or longer, if you have time!).
Stroll Las Ramblas
Visitors flock to Las Ramblas, the most famous street in Barcelona, for its famous La Boqueria food market with stalls offering the best traditional Catalonian cuisine as well as Spanish tapas.
It’s a tree-lined, pedestrianised boulevard that has many restaurants, cafes, bars, green spaces and shops. It’s undoubtedly the best place to soak up Barcelona’s atmosphere, and if you want to enjoy a little shopping, eat a good meal in a nice restaurant, or simply watch the world go by then you’re in the right place.
Walk the Gothic District
If you’re hungry for some culture, then check out the lovely Gothic District, (also known as the Gothic Quarter). Visitors flock here to learn about the city’s long and glorious history and there are plenty of places to delve deep into it, including the Picasso Museum (Museo Picasso), the PlacaReial, incredibly intricate churches, and the modernist architecture of the Palau de la MusicaCatalana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This area is also one of the best shopping destinations in Barcelona with plenty of unique boutiques to explore. The Gothic Quarter is an entertainment hub with endless alleyways to explore and fancy restaurants to sample local and international cuisine.
Visit the Sagrada Familia
Located in the Gothic Quarter, the SagradaFamilia Cathedral has become a symbol of Barcelona, and not just because of its striking beauty. Did you know the construction started in 1882 and is expected to be completed in 2026? Now that’s a labour of love!
I stayed near the Gothic Quarter and explored this imposing masterpiece, brought into existence by the infamous Gaudi. Basic tickets start at 15 Euros, and it’s a good idea to book ahead online, and get there early in the morning as the crowds can be overwhelming, especially in summer.
Do Some Shopping
Passeig de Gracia is Barcelona’s main shopping street located in the heart of the city. From the biggest brand names like Stella McCartney, Prada and Valentino, to more affordable ones like MAX&Co and HossIntropia, you’re bound to find something that suits your taste and budget. Alternatively, spend some time shopping throughout the Gothic Quarter with its many unique boutiques.
Explore the Parks and Gardens
Park Guell stands among the top tourist attractions in Barcelona, and is an absolute must for anyone visiting Barcelona. It’s a public park filled with more of Gaudi’s impressive architecture and gives amazing views over the city. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, and today is kept in good shape thanks to UNESCO’s funding.
Alternatively, Cuitadella Park is just east of the Gothic Quarter and is a great place for a stroll if you like your green spaces. You probably wouldn’t have time to visit both if you only had 24 hours in Barcelona, but depending on where you’re staying, both parks are worth a look.
Hit the Beach
Barcelona is built directly next to long, sandy beaches and it’s easy to see why early settlers chose this spot. San Sebastian is regarded the best city beach in the world to enjoy the sun, swim in the warm sea and meet friends. Don’t expect it to be a quiet spot though, as Barcelona’s sun, salt and sand draw in tens of thousands of residents and visitors every day.
Soak up the Nightlife
Barcelona has a buzzing nightlife with numerous nightclubs, bars, cafes, and restaurants to explore. Having a good dinner is the best way to start off a night out, but don’t be surprised if it seems a little quiet at first. Restaurants don’t get busy until after 9pm, as locals prefer to eat later.
If you’re looking for lively bars and clubs, Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter are the most popular places for tourists to head out for drinks and dinner. And if you really have to get your pub fix, there’re some British and Irish pubs as well.
Where to stay?
Barcelona offers a wide range of accommodation, including budget-friendly and high-end accommodation. If you want to stay in central or downtown Barcelona, I’d recommend the HCC st.mortiz, located two steps from Passeig de Gracia, the city’s main shopping street. It is also close to La Pedrera, one of my favourite Gaudi buildings.
Where to Eat?
There are plenty of well-established traditional restaurants and cafes offering delicious food at a good price, so honestly, the best way to experience the city is to follow your nose and try a little of everything. Personally, I think full-flavoured meat tapas served with Cava is the best way to get the night started, but if you’re a fan of seafood, you’ll be spoilt for choice too!
Cal Pep in central Barcelona that serves the best fresh seafood and Tapas 24 is a busy but pleasant restaurant serving tasty small plates with good service. For a special meal with an incredible view, try Torre D’Alta Mar, which gives 360 degree views of the surrounds. I loved the food, but found the service to be a bit stuffy and pretentious. Still, worth a visit for the views alone!
So these are my recommendations for a great 24 hours in Barcelona. Feel free to leave your favourite places in the comments below!