When we traveled to Barcelona, we had just over 3 full days to experience the city. There was so much to see that we honestly could have spent more time there! Even if you only have a day in the city, I do recommend seeing Barcelona.
We arrived on Sunday morning. After our Uber into the city and our breakfast, we decided to head to the Gothic Quarters. The Gothic Quarters reminded me of Hogsmead or Diagon Alley from Harry Potter. The streets are narrow and full of little shops. The architecture is gorgeous and gothic, of course. Be aware that although the streets look like walking paths, cars and mopeds and come flying through at any time. We stumbled upon the Cathedral of Barcelona (Catedral de Barcelona), which is open from 12:30am to 7:45pm for tourist. If I remember correctly, you had to pay a couple dollars to enter. If you weren’t wearing sleeves or pants, they would have you wear a shawl or scarf around your body. The cathedral was truly stunning with many advocations (ornate scenes that depict religious events and figures). We stood in a long line to go up the elevator to the roof, where you walk on scaffolding. The view of the whole city was amazing! I definitely recommend.
We kept walking through the city and found Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, another stunning cathedral. Near there, we stumbled upon the El Born Centre de Cultura. It is located inside the El Born Market, which was opened in 1876. Inside are the ruins of Barcelona houses and street of the 1700s before the siege of 1714. They have nice bathrooms so take advantage. Right across the street from the El Born CCM is Ciutadella Park. There’s a zoo in the park we didn’t get to visit and a beautiful greenhouse, which wasn’t open at the time. Walk about and explore the park because there is architecture, fountains, and statues that are breathtaking. Check out the Parlamento de Cataluña and the Cascada Monumental. The latter is a massive fountain. Probably the largest most extravagant fountain/statue monument I’ve seen. Be aware that there are many people trying to sell things on the sidewalks around the city. At this location, a man shoved a piece of coconut in my hand and then demanded I pay for it.
Right down from the park is the Arc de Triomf (different spelling from Paris’). It was the main gate for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair. Street performers dance around the arc. From there the rain seemed to be coming! So we walked to somewhere for dinner and then headed back for the night. Oh! Over in that area of town is also the Picasso Museum. The lines were wrapped around the building so we didn’t go in but I think tickets are €12.
Our second day, we woke up early and headed up the mountain to Montjuïc Castle for our 10am time slot we booked in a day or so in advance. I would recommend riding the bus (bus numbers 50 and 55) or the funicular railway up to the Montjuïc cable car and then just taking that up right to the castle. It is a €5 charge to enter the castle where you just get to roam around. You aren’t able to go inside unfortunately, but you get to go on the different levels of the roof and see the fort and moat. Sunday after 3pm, entrance is free and every first Sunday of the month is free all day. Although I was disappointed we couldn’t go inside the castle except on some specific private tours, the views and experience was amazing. The castle is really gorgeous and you can see the Mediterranean and cruise ship ports well.
From there we went down the cable car, down the funicular railway, on a few metros, up another funicular railway, found the bus, and rode all the way up to the Tibidabo cathedral. There stands a cathedral next to an amusement park. It’s odd but it’s interesting. We paid inside to go up the elevator to the top. There are a few levels where you can look out. You can climb steps all the way to the top, right under Jesus. There you have a 360 view of the whole city. You can see Montjuïc Castle on its hill by the water on the other side of the city. Inside and out, the cathedral is gorgeous. I love that it’s two-toned; it's one cathedral built on top of another.
To finish out the day, we rode the funicular back down to the mountain and went to the Magic Fountain and the National Art Museum of Catalonia (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya). To me, it looks like a capital building versus a museum. The Magic Fountain has light shows Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 8pm to 9pm. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see it. A cool thing about Barcelona: there are many outdoor escalators. That’s something I don’t see in the US. There it’s like “have a lot of steps - you think you’re gonna die? Bam! Here’s an escalator to take you all the way up this hill.” It’s handy. So there are a few escalators to take you from the fountain up to the museum.
The next day we went to Milan and didn’t get back until late, so Wednesday we slept in some. Then we got up and went to the Sagrada Família. Make sure to book tickets ($18/pp) far in advance for this. We did not, so we just checked out the outside. There were hundreds of people crowded around this cathedral, which has been under construction for 137 years. Right next to the cathedral is the new FC Barcelona’s gift shop and museum. There are also many souvenir shops in the area if you are looking for anything.
From there we took the metro to see Casa Milá and Casa Batlló. If you aren’t already aware, Google Maps has wonderful metro directions. I also recommend downloading the city you are staying in offline, so if you don’t have Internet, you can still get around like you do. These houses were beautiful. More works of art from Antoni Gaudí, who also designed Sagrada Família and Park Güell. You’re able to go into the houses and they offer tours as well. The last thing we did that day was Park Güell. Part of the park you can go in for free but if you want to see the rest and the bench, you have to pay about €8.5. It’s totally worth it. Our time slot was 6:25pm, which meant it was getting darker and the rain was approaching. Another annoying aspect about getting to the park is that it is a walk away from the metro and requires a hike up this large hill. Thankfully there are a couple outdoor escalators (see what I'm talking about?). The park has cavern-like areas and then you go up to the top to the bench, made of tiles of beautiful colors.
Our last day in Barcelona, we just went to the post office and tried to speak to them in Spanish and send a letter back home. If the weather had been warmer, we would have checked out the beach. And if we had more time we would have gone to more markets. Instead we had to head back to the airport.