Your first key for surviving 24 hours in Barcelona is to know that people here do not consider themselves Spaniards, but rather they are Catalonians. Or at least they’re Catalonians first. Don’t go around insisting you’re in Spain or you’ll cause yourself some real trouble! Semantics aside, Barcelona is a really cool city. As you could probably expect from a group of passionate separatists, the city is just filled with uniqueness…unique architecture, unique art, and a unique view of life. And it results in a very vibrant and interesting city, which leaves us lucky travelers with a gem of a city to visit. I’ll advise you against spending only 24 hours in Barcelona, since you’ll only be left wanting more. But if you find yourself with an extended layover here like I did, or something else puts you here with 24 hours in Barcelona to explore, then I’ve got a quick guide here to help you make the most of your time. I personally am looking forward very much to being able to return for a couple of weeks sometime, since I know Barcelona has enough to keep me occupied for at least that long!
24 Hours in Barcelona
0900 Wake up because it’s time to go exploring! Start your day with a cortado and ensaimada (or “tallat i ensaimada” in Catalan!) from a café, a classic Catalan coffee and pastry combo.
0930 Head over to the fountain at Plaza de España. And then make your way up the street and up the stairs to Palau Nacional. From here you’ll see some beautiful views of the city and have the chance to check out the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC).
1000 If it’s Saturday or Sunday the Jardins de Joan Maragall are opening now, behind the palace. Be the first in line to get a look at one of the city’s most beautiful gardens, designed by the Spanish Catalan poet. Otherwise, take some time to explore the MNAC and get a feel for the local art scene.
1130 Take a taxi over to the Mirador de Colom, a giant column beside the waterfront commemorating the famous explorer Christopher Columbus. Walk along the port and take in the cool sea breeze.
1200 Head over to La Rambla, the heart of the touristic part of town, the main street connecting the waterfront to the old town to the new town. Walk up the Rambla and embrace all the hectic energy.
1230 As you get hungry for lunch you have two options here. At the left side of La Rambla, halfway up the road is the Mercat de la Boqueria, an awesome marketplace overflowing with vendors of every variety. Go here if you just want something light to eat while you walk. Or if you’re ready for a full meal, stop at one of the many restaurants along La Rambla for some tapas and paella and sangria. When in Barcelona!
1400 When you’re full and re-energized and ready to go, join up with the free walking tour that leaves from the Placa Catalunya, at the top of La Rambla. At 2pm there’s a tour of the Gothic Quarter, where you’ll hear about the very old history of Barcelona and of Catalonia, and of the relatively brief history of Spain. Here’s where your understanding of Barcelona’s people insisting on being called Catalans will begin to make sense.
1600 By now your tour should be finished and you’ll probably need to pop into one of the bars near by for a quick drink before you do any more walking. Try some of the regional wines, like a rioja or a sparkling cava, that should do the trick!
1700 Recharged with some Spanish juice, you’re ready to head out in search of some Gaudi architecture. Antoni Gaudi, a famous Catalan architect, left his mark on Barcelona in some of its most famous buildings. From Placa Catalunya, head north up to the Casa Battlo, which you’ll notice on your left as it sticks out from its neighbors as an almost cartoon-like impersonation of a building. And further east a few blocks you’ll find the Sagrada Familia, possibly his most famous work, a truly unique cathedral. If you want to see the inside, be sure to book your tickets ahead.
1900 Okay your sightseeing for the day is over, you may now rest your feet and your camera. You covered a lot of ground for one day, so be sure to fill up with some food and wine before going to get some rest. You haven’t seen all of what the city has to offer, but you got a good taste for it in your 24 hours in Barcelona. So I say “Salut!” (cheers!) to that!
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