A One-Day Guide to Barcelona
While planning our month-long Europe trip, we had one night we needed to fill between Paris and Seville. Looking for a place somewhere between the two, we picked Barcelona. I had never been before and Kevin had only been once over 10 years ago. Our trip was planned around art museum visits, architecture, and beautiful landscapes, so the city built by Gaudí was a perfect choice.
Although we only stayed one night, we had a day and a half to roam around the city and really packed everything in!
How to get around:
This is usually the first thing to figure out when you arrive somewhere new. How to get from the airport, bus station, train station, etc. to your hotel/aribnb. Luckily, there are always taxis waiting at the pick-up area of these places. We flew in from Paris and hopped into a taxi at the airport. The prices are reasonable and all taxis take credit/debit cards.
Uber and Lyft are not used in Spain. Instead, download the app MyTaxi to order a taxi – just like you would with Uber or Lyft. You can pay through the app or with cash/card directly to the driver, but make sure to tell them if you want to pay through the app. You will need to complete the in-app payment (just a swipe across the screen) before you exit the taxi, unlike Uber or Lyft which automatically charges the payment.
Quick little warning – taxi drivers in Barcelona drive like they’re in The Fast and the Furious since they have their own taxi lanes. It was a bit scary, but we got everywhere very quickly (haha!) and got somewhat used to it. Make sure you buckle up!
We walked a lot during this trip averaging 8-10 miles a day. If you enjoy walking, I highly recommend walking around Barcelona instead of taking taxis everywhere. It gives you the freedom to stop and look around, pop into a cafe, and enjoy the outside air. Especially when you’re heading up to Park Güell, which is uphill and narrow – I wouldn’t want to be taking a taxi there, but many people do and there are many available taxis waiting around at the top.
Even though it was a bit chilly in Winter, we felt perfectly comfortable walking around with a couple layers.
Where to stay:
Hotel Praktik Bakery (Baluard)
Everything we booked during our trip was through Airbnb, except Barcelona. We decided to splurge a bit and book a hotel since it was just one night. During my search, I found Hotel Praktik Bakery. I immediately booked it because of how beautiful the rooms were and how unique the concept was.
When you walk in the door, you enter a fully functioning bakery with incredible freshly baked pastries, breads, and more. They even have some sandwiches. Around the corner of the check-out counter is the hotel lobby check-in. There are elevators inside the lobby that take you upstairs to the multi-level hotel.
We chose a room with a balcony and had a (partial) view of Sagrada Família! The hallways all smell like freshly baked bread and it was so lovely to wake up to. The shower was luxurious and the bed was like a giant white pillow. One thing to note is that the rooms are pretty small – we had a room with a single king bed. Our cost for one night in February was $99 total with all taxes and fees.
Things to do:
In a city like Barcelona, there are endless things to do – it just depends on your preference. Neither Kevin or I like to go out and drink, so I can’t give any recommendations on bars or nightlife, but I do have many day-time recs!
What always popped into my head when I thought about Barcelona was the unique architecture throughout the entire city. The interesting wavy buildings and fun designs were created by architect, Antoni Gaudí.
Sagrada Família: The most famous building of his is Sagrada Família, a large church which is still unfinished, is the most visited monument in all of Spain! It is gorgeous from all angles, but I recommend walking through the park across the street to get a view with the pond and greenery surrounding it. You can book a tour to go inside, but we did not.
Casa Milá: Another well-known building by Gaudí, Casa Milá was a private residence until 1984 when it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. You can now buy tickets for a full self-guided tour inside and around the house, which I heard is incredible. We were on a tight budget and did not purchase tickets, but the facade itself was unusual and fun to see. Tickets can also be purchased at the entrance, but are €3 more than if you buy them online.
Park Güell: Also declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Park Güell is unlike any place I’ve been before. Build within a natural park, Gaudí sprinkled his unique architectural design throughout the park creating a Gaudí wonderland. Much of the park is free to walk around, but the most famous area, the Monumental Core, of course can only be visited with purchased tickets. Unlike the other sites, Park Güell had a long line at the ticket booth, so definitely buy online if you’re planning to purchase tickets.
Since our trip was focused around visiting art museums, we knew of one art museum we definitely wanted to visit and plugged it into our GPS and walked the 2 miles there, uphill… in hindsight, this was definitely an opportunity to order a taxi.
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya: The massive building is set on the top of a hill with sweeping views of Barcelona and is a gorgeous spot for sunset. The building itself is stunning with a long staircase leading up to it. Inside it is filled with incredible artworks, sculptures, and even has some rooms that display grand furniture. We were pleasantly surprised at how large it was once inside and ended up power-walking through it at the end because we came just a couple hours before they closed.
I highly recommend this museum if you’re interested in art at all. And if you don’t come for the art, at least come once for sunset over the city.
Where to eat:
Finding a good place to eat in Spain that wasn’t expensive was tough. Barcelona was one of the few places we enjoyed a couple meals and didn’t have to go over budget.
Less than a block from our hotel was an Italian food place we passed by a couple times. It gets great reviews online and has a nice menu so we decided to go here for dinner. The door to enter is low and you have to duck to get inside. Once inside you walk down stairs into the restaurant which is all underground. It has such a great atmosphere and it just felt cool to be inside. The staff was friendly and service was quick.
Most importantly, the food was amazing. I got a mushroom pasta and Kevin got a pizza. We both loved our meals and at the end, the waiter gave us each a limoncello shot just to be nice! It is inexpensive which was exactly what we were looking for and we left happy and satisfied – there are really not many restaurants in Spain that I can say that about.
After getting settled into our hotel, we went out in search of a cheap, yummy restaurant for lunch. La Menudo is just across the street from Hotel Praktik Bakery and had a mixed menu with some Mexican options. I got a veggie burger and some mushroom croquettes which were both good! They have a list of beers on tap if you’re feeling up for some cervezas. They even had a beer from a San Diego brewery that I know!
Hotel Praktik Bakery
If you end up staying here, choosing a place to eat is easy! It’s a great place to take a break and grab a baked good and some coffee. They also have some sandwiches and other lunch food, but what is really amazing is the morning breakfast spread for hotel guests!
We really liked Barcelona and felt like we got to see everything on the “Barcelona” list even though we only had a day and a half. I’m not sure what we would have done if we had more time – there is probably a lot we didn’t get to that we don’t even know about!
Of course I am not an expert on Barcelona and probably spent less time there than most people who visit, but if you have any questions or feel like I’m missing something, leave a comment!