4 Days in Barcelona, Spain

Four of our highlighted locations for Barcelona, Spain.

We visited Barcelona in Spain for 4 days and managed to visit quite a few tourist attractions and try out some of their cuisine. Though many of the spots are geared towards tourists, of all the stops in Spain (including Madrid and Seville) and Portugal (Lisbon and Sintra), Barcelona was hands down our favorite. In comparison, Barcelona in the city center where we visited was safe and well maintained and clean. The people were all very accomodating to tourists who spoke mostly English, which basic High School understanding of Spanish.

We were in Barcelona during October of 2017, so right in the midst of the Catalonia Independence protests. We saw major friendly marches from both sides, but left for Madrid via train before Spain had officially made their decision to remove the region's leaders, which I assume will make matters worse.

Attractions We Visited in Barcelona

A list of the tourist attraction we visisted while in Barcelona. I did organized them in order of my favorites, not in the order that we visited them. I took notes while I was there on my thoughts and what might be useful for those visiting Barcelona for the first time.

Las Ramblas (more on Las Ramblas at TripAdvisor)

  • Awesome street to walk down, night or day.

  • Lots of shops on the side of the road, but they seem mostly ignored.

  • Very wide pedestrian walkway lines with shops, food, and street entertainment.

  • After walking down about halfway, it does begin feeling like a tourist trap.

  • Tons of people making it a busy, but also somewhat serene walk.

  • There are police armed with large machine guns, though we did visit about a week after an unsanctioned Catalonia succession vote and there was previously a truck terrorist attack.

  • Hotel warned us of professional pick-pocketers in the crowd, so be careful of our belongings.

Casa Batlló

  • Probably one of the more technologically advanced tours I’ve visited.

  • Limits the number of people that may enter, so a reservation online is highly recommended.

  • Comes with an audio tour, but the audio tour is what sets this apart.

  • Using Augmented Reality (AR), the audio tour is on an iPhone which uses AR to overlay the area on the screen with what experts think the rooms may have looked like. Be sure to point your audio guide around the room to get a better look.

  • Gaudi’s work is outlined throughout

Gothic Quarters

  • One side of Las Rambla is the Gothic Quarters.

  • Original archetectures from ancient times including the narrow cobblestone roads.

  • Shops and restaurants still operate out of the area.

  • Narrow cobblestone streets not designed for cars. The occasional car does pass, but it’s uncommon. Get your camera ready.

The Sagrada Familia

  • One of the nicer bascilicas I’ve visited in Europe, likely because its still under construction and slated to finish in 2026.

  • Much of the architecture has the look an feel of some of the ancient bascilicas, but with modern touches like built in lights, elevators, and very clear/new looking stain glass.

  • Absolutely amazing, you should visit.

  • Tour to the top is an elevator ride up, from there you cross a bridge and make your way down. There isn’t much to see at the top except for views from atop of the Bascilica.

  • There are lots of people, but isn’t as nearly as crowded as the churches in Rome or Vatican. Sagrada Familia let people in on a schedule.

  • Our online reservation included admission, a ride to the top, and an audio guide.

  • Started being designed by Gaudi, but when he was killed in a car accident in 1926, it was continued by others artists in his style and slated to be completed in 2026 (100 years after his death).

Palau Güell

  • Admission was 12 Euro per person, but comes with a free self-guided audio tour

  • No problems with buying tickets at the location. We did not need to make reservations or purchase tickets ahead of time.

  • Well worth it for a Palace built for Guell and designed by Gaudi.

Park Güell

  • 7 EURO admission, which can be purchased ahead of time.

  • You must enter within 30 minutes of your reservation. We had problems flagging down a cab since our hotel was in the misdt of the Catalan Independence protests.

  • There are maybe 2-3 major sites to see in the park with pictures opportunities at each stop. But none are nearly as fancy as Sagrada Familia or other Gaudi museums.

  • Located atop of a hill, so there is a decent view with views of the city and small sliver of ocean.

  • Of all the attractions, this might be the only one didn’t have any audio tours or guided tours.

Castell de Montjuïc

  • Not really castle, but rather a fort.

  • Most of the interior of the castle as of 2017 is still under renovation, and therefore not accessible to the public. They also recently found markings inside the prison which they’re carefully excavating to see if any of the prisoners that mysteriously disappeared can be identified.

  • Some nice views from the general admission.

  • If you pay extra for the guided tour when you purchase admission, they take you into a couple of places not available to those only with general admission. You see the water cistern and get to go up the tallest tower at Montjuic Castle, where you get an amazing 360 degree view of the surrounding city and water.

  • You can take the Metro, and then up the cable car to avoid walking uphill to the Castle.

  • Initially a fort, later turned into a prison where many people were executed.

  • No audio tours.

Olympic Park

  • Free to enter and look around.

  • It’s not very populated with tourists, but possibly because there isn’t much to see except the fountains they kept active. Walking around, it wasn’t obvious if there was a ticket office for admission to go into the buildings. That being said, it’s still quite impressive that so much of this Olympic Village was preserved.

  • It’s a 10-15 minute mostly flat walk from Montjuic Castle cable car station.

Camp Nou

  • Home of FC Barcelona

  • There is an optional audio tour that can be purchased. Compared to many of the other museums, this audio tour is very fancy (on an iPhone), but the menus are complicated making it difficult to follow. It’s a bit of information overload. That being said, it provides nice commentary as you’re walking through different parts of the stadium, but not very useful when going thru their museum.

  • You get to see all the trophies they’ve won, which is quite a few. Along with autographed items.

  • Later, pass through to the views from the top, changing room, interview room, official interview room, and then field level (though not on the field).

  • Lots of opportunities to purchase memorabilia, plus photo stops along the way.

  • Ends in a gift shop.

  • Very touristy, but a must stop because FC Barcelona is such a popular team.

Palau de la Música

  • An hour guided tour of one of the most famous theatres. Where countless artists have performed.

  • This theatre is privately owned and funded by supporters.

  • Tour through the small theater, resting room, as well as the main theatre.

  • Enjoy the sounds of their massive organ pipes in action while sitting in the theatre.

  • Get the history behind the building and the ins and outs of the theatre in a guided tours. You cannot freely walk through and you are always accompanied by your guide.

  • Admission includes a guided tour.

Casa Milà (La Padrera)

  • Another one of the Gaudi’s works.

  • Admission included an audio tour, which I found difficult to follow because finding the numbers through the house was challenging.

  • Take an elevator to the roof, which is without doubt the most impressive part of the tour. Because it is on the roof, it does get warm.

  • The next stop is the attic, which is also an amazing art with high ceilings.

  • The remainder of the tour is a tour of how the living quarters were split up.

  • Today, La Padrera is still occupied by renters throughout the building and businesses at the bottom.

Plaça d'Espanya and The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc

  • Not much to see here, in my opinion, this can be skipped.

  • Magic Fountain isn’t active all the time, so check the times. It is dependent on season.

  • A longer 20-30 minute walk from the Olympic Village to this center.

  • A nearby mall has access to restrooms, food courts, and shops. This mall was much more popular than Maremagnum Shopping Center.

Maremagnum Shopping Centre

  • Typical mall with food, shops like you’d see in back in the States.

  • Complete tourist trap, even worse than walking down Las Rembla.

  • We visited on a Saturday and the place was not crowded.

  • First floor bathroom (officially labelled with mall signage as “The Loo”) is requires money to use, but bathrooms on 2nd and 3rd floor are free.

  • There are some nice dining options on the top floor and roof, but again the place is pretty quiet.

Hotels we Stayed at in Barcelona

Catalonia Square Hotel

  • Nice, but also smaller hotel in terms of the total number of rooms.

  • Clean room with mot furniture up-to-date in good working order.

  • Acceptable water pressure in showers. Has a rain showerhead and a regular showerhead, both of which could be used at the same time. There was not a bath tub.

  • Windows open to outside, but don’t seal properly, so was a bit noisy during the day, but not as big an issue in the evening.

  • Free Wi-Fi, but limited speed to browsing the internet. Slow upload of photos.

  • No limit to number of devices that can connect to Wi-Fi.

  • No free breakfast, costed 20 EURO in Oct, 2017.

  • Free coffee (Nespresso Machine) and tea in room.

  • Complimentary bottle of water in room per stay.

  • Easy access to La Rambla

  • About two blocks from one of the Aeropuerto shuttle from Barecelona airport.

  • Odd, but the power outlet at the desk is controlled by the main power switch, so when I turned off the lights at night, the outlet also failed to charge my cell phone and camera.

  • Free afternoon snacks around 2pm for hotel residents like cold noodles, clear broth soup, desserts, sandwiches, water, soda, juice.

Food and Drinks We Enjoyed

La Boqueria

  • Located right off Las Rambla, this is an open air market selling uncooked seafood, vegetables.

  • Also sells drinks and pre-cut fruit ready to eat on the go.

  • Some restaurants with seafood where you sit bar style. I bit cramped, but tasty.

  • Many of the items here are over-priced, but it’s an experience dining in the middle of all the action.

Cal Pep

  • Tapas Bar

  • Seated like a bar in front with some seated tabled spaces in the back.

  • Delicious food

  • With one bottle of wine for 4 people, we spent around 148 EURO for 7 dishes shared plus a bottle of white wine.

  • Our waiter at the bar suggested we order 6 tapas, and he just ordered some for us, some appetizer, some entree sized items, and some desserts. Some basic tapas and some nicer ones. There wasn’t a menu at the bar, which was an interested experience.

  • The bar waiters were very entertaining the best they could be, as they didn’t speak much English.

  • Highly recommended restaurant, but be prepared to wait in line if you don’t make the first seating because this style of dining can take hours.

Tapeo

  • Dinner here, we made a reservation the night before in person. It’s fairly close to Cal Pep.

  • Has much less of a seafood focus, but instead is a wide selection of other food. This restaurant complements Cal Pep which is mostly seafood.

  • With a reservation, we got a table (instead of bar seating), which is more ideal for conversation for our group of 4.

  • With many dishes we ordered off a menu and a bottle of red wine, we got 162 Euros for 4.

  • Not as long a line at Tapeo compared to Cal Pep.

Disfrutar

  • A Michillen rated restaurant (1 star), so expect that typical price for their set menu.

  • The menu is just a description of the meal, and the rest is pre-determined by the kitchen.

  • Don’t expect a meaty meal, but rather and artsy meal with rich flavors.

  • Though it’s not my ideal cup of tea, it was nice experiencing it.

  • I got the Famous Classic, which was around 120 EURO per person. Everyone at the table has to decide on the same one.

  • There’s lots of server attention with live preparations of several of the dishes.

Other Events in Barcelona

Catalonia Independence

  • Morning of, we saw many people headed towards Plaça de Catalunya.

  • We overheard from others we were travelling with who were trying to get back to the hotel that even when they tried cutting in along the side of the building, people were packed like sardines.

  • Loud chanting, but mostly peaceful.

  • Lucky to experience part of how the Catalonian’s feel about being part of Spain and what the people. Saw whole families (some with young kids) heading out with flags.

  • How organized it was. Saw many heading into hotels and onto buses as we were headed back to the hotel around 3pm

In Spain, we visited Barcelona, Madrid, and Granada (day trip). In Portugal, we visited Lisbon and Sintra (day trip). We traveled in October 2017 and had mostly sunny and hot days. Here's my thoughts on our first time to both Spain and Portugal.
  1. 4 Days in Barcelona, Spain
  2. 4 Days in Madrid, Spain
  3. 3 Days in Seville, Spain
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