Barcelona was the best way to wrap up a Spain trip that had not been going as we had hoped. We began this trip in Ronda for a day, before not being able to get a train out of the city to Madrid and having to stay almost a day in Malaga, then grabbed a night bus to Madrid where we spent a little longer than a day, missed out train and had to pay double to get to Valencia where we arrived with an even shorter amount of time than we already had, and finally took a train to Barcelona.
Nothing seemed to be going our way in Spain, but we were excited for Barcelona to be different. And it was. It provided enough to keep us occupied, in awe, and intrigued. There was so much to see in this city and it remains at the top of the list of places we would return to.
We had a list of things we wanted to accomplish with 36 hours in Barcelona and were prepared to make the most of our time in the last Spanish city of our trip through Spain.
36 Hours in Barcelona
- Arrived in Barcelona.
- Visited Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya and Montjuïc to view the city.
- Started the next day at La Sagrada Familia before getting lunch and taking a taxi to Park Güell.
- Visited Güell Palace, Cathedral of Barcelona, and Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar.
- Walked La Rambla, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, Casa Amatller.
What to See in Barcelona in 36 Hours
What We Did
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
La Sagrada Familia
Casa Batlló and Casa Milà
Cathedral of Barcelona
Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar
We began our trip to the National Museum of Catalan Art. We did not enter the museum, but wandered around it to see the wonderful views from the top of the many stairs to the entrance way. From this point you can see into the city and find the Agbar Tower, La Sagrada Familia, and Tibidabo. So many beautiful structures and a preview of what we would visit throughout the next 36 hours in Barcelona.
It is a beautiful place to walk around and enjoy an afternoon in the plaza that surrounds it, the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, and continuing on to Montjuïc to see more of Barcelona from the coast to the city and into the Montjuïc Castle itself.
This is a hill in Barcelona that begins with the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya and extends to the Montjuïc Castle. We started our trip with this one hour walk in the afternoon and enjoyed the views that it has to offer of the coast and the city. Montjuïc Castle is an old military fortress from the 17th century that you can tour if you make it before close like we did not.
With construction started in the late 19th century, this Roman Catholic Church is iconic. Though it is constantly undergoing construction with cranes surrounding it, it is still a must-see in Barcelona. Designed by architect Antoni Gaudi, it is a gorgeous testament to his prowess.
Walking around the exterior is mesmerizing. Entering into this church that plays with light, color, and space like no other is a definite if you were to ever consider any other attraction in the city. Though admission is on the expensive side at about 17 euros and to ascend to the tour at 32 euros, it may be the best use of admission money in Barcelona.
Make sure that you that you book tickets in advance as even in April when we were visiting just before the high tourist season was approaching, it was packed.
Another one of Antoni Gaudi’s wonders wrapped into a park. With panoramic views and buildings covered in mosaics, this park is a great place to enjoy an afternoon while visiting the Gaudi museum within its walls.
Remember how we mentioned that you should purchase your tickets for La Sagrada Familia in advance? You should do the same for Park Güell. We showed up on the day of to enter and it turns out that they were completely sold out and we were not able to get in.
Still there is a great pathway around the entire park that you can walk and peer into anyways which still provides a lot of wonderful looks into more of Gaudi’s artistic vision. General admission tickets are 10 euros.
Just a five minute walk from one another, these two buildings are also designed by Antoni Gaudi. Casa Batlló is a unique architectural design almost looking like it was constructed of bone. Though refurbished several times it is a great place to take a photo from the outside during the daytime and at night when it is lit up. It is now the home of a museum.
Casa Milà was built in the early twentieth century and shows off a wonderful design on the outside. Also another place that looks incredible both in the daytime and at night. You can find it home to different art museums.
We actually skipped entering these two buildings as admission starts at a whopping 25 euros.
Opened in the early 20th century, this is a beautiful floral decorated building that you will likely recognize that is close in proximity to Casa Batlló and Casa Milà. It also exhibits art and you can purchase expensive tickets to tour the building similar to Casa Batlló and Casa Milà. However, we were happy to take lots of pictures outside of it in the day and at night when it is wonderfully illuminated.
Another wonderful example of Gothic architecture in the city, the Cathedral of Barcelona is beautiful inside and out. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona. Construction began in the thirteenth century of this wonderfully designed church. Add it to the list of things to see if you love this style of architecture.
This place is a mansion designed by Antoni Gaudí for Eusebi Güell who was an industrial tycoon. It was built in the later part of the 19th century and holds a small admission fee to enter to take a step back in time and see the gorgeous arrangement and design of the interior. We chose to pay this admission and were not disappointed by the beauty of the interior.
A beautiful church built in the 14th century that you are able to enter and see the wonderful interior. This building is a simplistically designed Gothic Church from the Medieval times that offers so much for your eyes.
What We Missed
Palau de la Música Catalana
Casa Vicens Gaudí
We really felt like we got to do almost everything that we had wanted to accomplish while in Barcelona. This place was the next on our list though and we just did not have enough time to get it done.
This is the massive mountain that towers over Barcelona with the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and an amusement park. It seems like the perfect place to spend an entire day, as it is a little bit away from the city center.
A large and beautiful green space within the city if you are looking for a place to relax in the sun. It has the Barcelona Zoo on one side of it and the Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona that was built by Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas as the main access gate to the 1888 Barcelona World Fair.
This is a concert hall in the city that is a beautiful architectural piece and is a great place to see a musical or concert performance if you happen to be interested in spending some of your budget on this.
We would have loved to see an FC Barcelona game. This is their home stadium that is a little bit outside of the city center. Definitely take advantage of seeing one of these games and soak in the atmosphere of game day if you have a chance.
If you are going to Park Guell, try to add this to your itinerary for the day. This was the first house that was designed by Antoni Gaudi that is now turned into a museum.
Thousands of pieces of Picasso’s art displayed in this museum makes it one of the most extensive collections of the artist and one of the most interesting museums that the city has to offer.
Where to Eat in Barcelona
We actually did not keep track of the different places that we ate while in Barcelona and cannot recall the places we ate. When you walk around places for hours on end you tend to find some hidden tapas restaurants or patisserie places that you pop in to to grab a bite to eat. That is what we did at least.
We did find some great recommendations on where to eat in Barcelona here.
Where to Shop in Barcelona
Arenas de Barcelona
La Rambla is a main tourist shopping strip lined with trees that stretches from the coast through the Gothic Quarter into the city center. An entrance to the Mercado de La Boqueria where you can find a public market with local foods from La Rambla. This strip makes for a lovely walk on a beautiful sunny day.
This was the first place we visited when we arrived in Barcelona. It is a former bullring turned into a shopping mall with an elevator to a top viewing platform. It was a good place to go for typical shopping mall perusing. It is where we visited Orange to get our SIM cards charged up for our time in Barcelona.
We did take the elevator to the top for a small admission, but you could skip this and get a better view at the National Museum of Catalan Art, though you would miss the view of looking at the museum which is quite spectacular.
How to Get Around Barcelona
We walked nearly everywhere we went in Barcelona. It was the perfect walking city to find hidden gems and to wonder at the beautiful architecture that the city has to treat your eyes. We definitely recommend taking a taxi to a certain area if you are in a rush and just walking the rest of the time before moving on to the next area. We went to the Gothic Quarter and walked around to our content before moving on to another area like La Rambla and continued to walk around to our heart’s content.
How to Get to Barcelona
We used a train to get from Valencia to Barcelona. Trains in Spain are certainly not inexpensive. However, our train from Valencia to Barcelona did come in below 100 euros each one way.
Barcelona also has an airport that is not far from the city. We used this airport to fly out of the city at the end of our trip.
Buses run to Barcelona through various cities in Spain. We love to use Rome2Rio to find out the best way to get from one destination to another.
Where to Stay in Barcelona
We stayed just a fifteen minute walk down the street from La Sagrada Familia in an AirBnB. Our host was extremely kind and welcoming. However, if we did return back to Barcelona we would stay closer to the city center. It was a little bit out of the way and a fairly quiet walk home at night away from the main crowds of the city.
We always prefer to stay somewhere within walking distance to a major tourist attraction of the city. However, fifteen minutes down the street of La Sagrada Familia was a little bit too far considering it was in the direction of a quiet and dark living area.
Best Time to Visit Barcelona
We visited Spain in the middle to end of April. It seemed like the perfect time to go as the weather was becoming more enjoyable and the busy tourist season had not yet begun. This would last another month lasting from April to the beginning of June before the high season approaches. Another good time to visit would be late September when the high season comes to a close to early November before it begins to get cold again.
Barcelona stole our hearts. It was a perfect way to end our not so successful Spain tour. From the moment we arrived in Spain it seemed like things were not going our way. As luck would have it, the final city on our trip really made our attitudes swing in the right direction.
From the moment we looked out at the city from Montjuïc to the time we spent wandering the streets of La Rambla, Barcelona never ceased to amaze us. It remains one of the few cities we would definitely visit again to spend more time getting to know it better.
This is the problem with traveling fast. You really do not get to spend the time you may want in a place. Though you do get to see a lot of cities, sometimes it is nice to just sit back and enjoy a city without being in a rush. That is what we did at our next destination in Lisbon, Portugal.
We would love to hear about your experience while in Barcelona or to answer any questions you may have about your future trip. Leave a comment below!
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Check out more from our experiences in Spain here.
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