The Perfect 2 Day Barcelona Itinerary

View of Barcelona from Parque Guell during a 2 day itinerary

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Only have 2 days to spend in Barcelona, and wondering if it’ll be enough time to experience this gorgeous cosmopolitan city? I recently visited for the first time during a 2 day stopover, and doubted this would be enough days. Well, I’m here to tell you I’ve never fallen in love with a city so fast, and today I am sharing the dreamy 2 day Barcelona itinerary that left me smitten.

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, a region in northeastern Spain with a unique culture and identity. While Spain is known for bullfights and flamenco, these are not traditionally part of Catalonia’s culture. Rather, Catalonia prides itself on its own national history and Catalan language, and is famous for modernist artists like Antoni Gaudí.

By the time I arrived in Barcelona, I’d already been in Europe for two and a half weeks and was feeling drained.  However, the minute I stepped out onto Via Laietana to grab my first coffee, my energy returned in full force. The city was bustling with life all around me, and I wanted to be a part of it.

My Barcelona excitement only continued from there. With that, here is the detailed 2 day Barcelona itinerary that left me inspired, so that you too can plan an amazing trip. I traveled solo, but was almost always surrounded by couples and friend groups, so anyone can enjoy this itinerary!

The Perfect 2 Day Barcelona Itinerary

stone architecture of Gothic Quarter - Barcelona 2 day itinerary

2 Day Barcelona Itinerary: Day 1

Your first day in Barcelona will have you exploring the Gothic Quarter, following the evolution of Picasso, and eating delicious tapas.

Check In

Copper and green detailed bathroom with wide wooden plank floors of H10 Cubik hotel
King size bed with white bedspread and colorful art on wall behind it at H10 Cubik hotel

It’s no wonder I instantly fell in love with Barcelona, as my hotel was located smack dab in the middle of the city’s historic center. This meant I was only steps away from great neighborhoods like the Gothic Quarter and El Born. In fact, my general excitement about Barcelona began with the hotel itself, called H10 Cubik.

First off, H10 Cubik was bright and modern compared to most of the rooms I’d just stayed in while exploring Greece and Malta. It’s crazy how much you can appreciate good water pressure, high functioning a/c, and turndown service.

However, my favorite part of the hotel was its design, which included geometric details with bright pops of color. I immediately felt immersed into the artistic side of Barcelona. I was also obsessed with the fact that my room came with a Nespresso machine.

Visit a Cafe

Speaking of espresso, fellow coffee lovers will be happy to know that cafes are huge in Barcelona. It’s impossible to walk down the street without passing one, many of which also sell delicious pastries. It was my goal to order a cappuccino and chocolate croissant every day.

On my first morning, I took a walk to Nomad Coffee, which lured me in with its travel vibes and the fact that it was just a six minute walk from my hotel. Before long, I was entering the narrow pedestrian streets of El Born, and my love for Barcelona was only growing. 

Travel Savvy Trip

Always attempt the language, even if you’re just saying hello or good morning. It’s best to know a little Catalan, but Spanish definitely works too. The locals were super patient with me, and would also speak Spanish back.

Although I took five years of Spanish in school, this trip was the first time I ever tried speaking it abroad. Unfortunately, much of my knowledge had been lost, but doing lessons on Duolingo for the past week helped bring me up to speed. 

The first attempt felt slightly awkward, but from there I slowly got better and more confident throughout the trip. After all, the only way to improve at a language is to use it!

Barcelona Cathedral

Tourists in front of Gothic facade of Barcelona Cathedral during 2 day itinerary

I continued into the Gothic Quarter for my next stop: Barcelona Cathedral.  This cathedral was only a seven-minute walk from my hotel, and it came into view the minute I turned onto Carrer del Doctor Joaquim Pou (a mouthful, I know). 

I bought my ticket for €9 right at the door after waiting in a very short line.  That said, I was visiting in late September, which is just after high season. If you visit during the summer months, it’s best to purchase tickets online in advance.

Construction began on the cathedral in 1298, and it continues to receive updates and renovations in present day. Though the cathedral is open to tourists, it is still used for daily religious services.

Views over the tile rooftops from Barcelona Cathedral

Visitors can expect to find a vast stone interior with a really high ceiling, as well as beautiful chapels and paintings to admire. However, my favorite part of the visit was taking the elevator up to the roof. The sweeping views over Barcelona took my breath away.

Picasso Museum

Row of paintings in gallery of the Picasso Museum

The next stop of the day was the Picasso Museum, which is a six minute walk from Barcelona Cathedral back to the El Born neighborhood.  To be honest, I’ve never been a huge art museum person, but I knew I couldn’t miss Picasso while in Barcelona. 

Picasso spent nine years of his adolescence in this city, where he went to school and further developed his talent. Picasso ultimately formed a deep connection to Barcelona, which inspired him to continuously donate his artwork to the city throughout his life. The museum feels personal and as much about the man as it is about the art.

Once again, I purchased my ticket for €12 right at the door, after a ten minute wait.  To avoid queuing, you can also purchase tickets in advance here.

Once inside, the staff directs visitors through each room, ensuring that guests view Picasso’s artistic eras in order. I loved how each gallery illustrated the process of Picasso coming into his own as an artist. It was a rare glimpse into the mind of a genius.

Tapas Walking Tour

Group of adults sitting at tables in restaurant during tapas walking tour - Barcelona 2 day itinerary

After a short afternoon break to rest and grab a sandwich from a cafe, it was time to head back out for my tapas walking tour. I met the small group of around 13 or 14 people at 6pm at Plaça de Sant Jaume. 

From there, we hit the town, making three stops for tapas in the Gothic Quarter and El Born neighborhoods. This included shareable locals plates, like Catalan tomato bread, a potato omelette, octopus, and pa amb xocolata for dessert.

The second stop at Bodega La Tinaja was my favorite, being a cozy wine bar full of character. Here, we ate delicious cheese and charcuterie and sipped two Spanish wines. I adore charming wine bars, and would come here all the time if I lived in Barcelona.

By stop number three, I was thoroughly enjoying the diverse group of fellow travelers around me. This included two friends from Ireland, a couple from Denmark, and a couple from Germany.  I was the lone American at the table, but I didn’t feel out of place at all. 

Grab Drinks

The fun continued after the tour, when I went with the group mentioned above to grab some drinks. At the suggestion of our guide, we first tried Paradiso, but the wait was too long. However, you should still consider visiting this award-winning cocktail bar, as it’s considered one of the best in the world.

That said, our next choice, Dr. Stravinsky, also came highly recommended for cocktails. I had an amazing time simply being out in Barcelona, and chatting with really cool people.  This was one of the highlights of my stay, and it never would have happened if I didn’t do the tapas tour.

After one drink, I headed back to my hotel for the night.  It was after dark (around 10pm), so I kept my wits about me, but didn’t feel unsafe on the lively, well-lit streets.

Want to know what I spent on this trip? Read about my Barcelona trip cost here.

2 Day Barcelona Itinerary: Day 2

View over Barcelona from Parque Guell - 2 day Barcelona itinerary

On day 2 of this Barcelona itinerary, you’ll tour two famous modernist sites designed by architect Antoni Guadí: Park Güell and La Sagrada Familia. This native Catalan artist created unique buildings in Barcelona that made him practically synonymous with the city.

I chose to book this guided tour, since I had a feeling I’d struggle to fully understand these sites on my own. This ended up being wise, as Gaudí didn’t skip any details. The tour was a bit pricey at around $106, but well worth it!

A quick note: La Sagrada Familia is a religious site, so be sure your clothing covers your shoulders and knees before entering

Take the Metro

The meeting point of my tour was at Park Güell, or a two and a half mile walk from my hotel.  Therefore, it made much more sense to try my hand at the metro, which leaves frequently and costs €2.40 per trip. I’d already ridden the metro in Paris, Rome, and London by this time, and felt confident I could figure Barcelona’s out too.

The Green Line will bring you closest to Park Güell at the Vallcarca stop. Tickets can be purchased before departure at any station. After the metro, you’ll have an additional twelve-minute walk with much of it uphill.

For navigating the metro, I’ve found Google Maps to be immensely helpful time and again.  It lays out exactly what line you need, as well as the nearest station.  The app also lists every metro stop before your destination, so you can easily keep track of how close you are.

If the metro is not your style, you could also grab a taxi that will save you even more walking. My total journey on the metro combined with walking took around thirty minutes.

Park Güell

Girl sitting on colorful bench overlooking Barcelona during visit to Parque Guell

The tour commenced at the entrance to Park Güell.  From there, our guide led us on a one and a half hour walk through Gaudí’s colorful park filled with whimsical design elements.

When construction of Park Güell began in 1900, the plan was to build 60 homes for wealthy families. The park’s high elevation over the city meant residents would have views over Barcelona out to the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, difficult conditions caused a lack of interested buyers, so only two mansions were ever built.

Pink mansion surrounded by palm trees at Park Guell - Barcelona 2 day itinerary

After the project was abandoned in 1914, the twelve hectares of Park Güell essentially became a large garden, and later a public park. It didn’t take long for visitors to Barcelona to fall in love, and the park became a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984.

Today, Barcelona residents can still visit for free, with tourist access prohibited from 7 to 9 am and 6 to 10 pm. Between these times, tourists can visit by booking a timeslot in advance. A general adult ticket costs €10, which was already included in the price of my tour.

Ornate columns designed by Gaudi at Park Guell

Once inside Park Güell, you will get to see the great detail of Gaudí’s vision for this park, including ornate benches, curvy archways, and incredible tile work. Of course, you can also take in the park’s amazing views over Barcelona. My guide was kind enough to take photos for me, and he did a great job!

Before leaving for La Sagrada Familia, our group took a 30-minute break, where we could enjoy the park’s cafe or explore some more.  We then boarded a bus that would transport us to our next stop.

La Sagrada Familia

First completed facade of Sagrada Familia cathedral - Barcelona 2 day itinerary

Next it’s time to visit Gaudí’s most famous masterpiece in Barcelona: La Sagrada Familia. After getting off the bus, it didn’t take long before the basilica was towering over us.  The architecture was more stunning and giant in person than I could have imagined.

One curiosity of La Sagrada Familia is that it is not yet finished. In fact, construction has been going on since the 1880’s. This is due to a myriad of reasons, including the large expense of the project, insufficient funding, and tumultuous political climates over the years. Gaudí himself only lived to see one bell tower completed before his death in 1926.

Our tour began with the Nativity façade, or the one that was being constructed during Gaudí’s lifetime.  I was thankful to our guide for explaining the high level of detail incorporated into the architecture, and how much of it was inspired by nature. Notable elements include the basilica’s beautiful doorways, sculptures of turtles supporting large pillars, and a Christmas tree suspended high in the air.

turtle sculpture supporting a column at La Sagrada Familia
Passion facade on La Sagrada Familia

The dramatics did not end there. The interior was just as astounding, with an impossibly high ceiling and colorful stained glass reflecting vibrantly onto the light stone walls. We ended facing the Passion façade, which was completed in 2018 with a much more harsh, austere feel compared to the Nativity façade.

Recent plans called for completion of La Sagrada Familia by 1926, or one hundred years after Gaudí’s death. Unfortunately, these have been pushed back due to the global pandemic. However, a visit to the adjacent museum after the tour will show you drawings and scale models of Gaudí’s complete vision for the basilica. 

colorful stained glass lighting in La Sagrada Familiar during 2 day Barcelona itinerary

La Rambla

One of the most famous streets in Barcelona is La Rambla: a pedestrianized thoroughfare between the Gothic Quarter and the El Raval neighborhoods. The stretch is about .8 miles long, running from the Columbus Monument to Plaça de Catalunya. While I personally did not visit La Rambla during my 2 days in Barcelona, I still suggest it for your itinerary since it’s a popular spot that’s easy to visit.

La Rambla is full of energy, with lots of visitors strolling, watching street performers pose as human statues, and dining on terraces. You can even find a mosaic on the ground by artist Joan Miró. The downside is that many of the shops and restaurants tend to be overpriced tourist traps, and pickpockets love to frequent this area.

The biggest reason why I didn’t at least give it a stroll is that I was sooo tired after three weeks in Europe. After hearing how crowded and touristy La Rambla tends to be, I didn’t feel inspired to expend the energy.

Instead of La Rambla, I took a walk for chocolate cake from Bubo at the recommendation of my tapas tour guide. I felt zero regrets.

Eat Paella

Pan of paella next to plate with serving of paella at restaurant

Although paella technically originates from the Valencia region of Spain, you can find local variations of the dish throughout the country. Therefore, it is essential that you try some while in Barcelona.

Although I was feeling lazy on my last evening, I decided to do one last fifteen minute walk for paella. My destination was 7 Portes, a classy restaurant sitting just outside the waterfront Barceloneta neighborhood. I wished to dine on their lovely front patio, but with no reservation, I had to settle for inside.

However, I easily looked past this once the paella arrived, and I took my first delicious bite. The dish came served in its traditional pan, which is typically meant for sharing.  However, I wasn’t upset to have this flavorful paella to myself, especially the little piece of lobster.

I couldn’t take leftovers, so (despite my efforts) I sadly had to leave a few bites behind. The paella at 7 Portes was definitely worth one last walk through Barcelona, though, and was the perfect cap to my trip.

Departure Day

Beautiful terrace in front of Catalan seafood restaurant with colorful lights and streamers

The next morning, it was time to head back to Barcelona-El Prat Airport.  One of the staff at my hotel was able to hail me a cab outside, which I greatly appreciated.  The ride back to the airport cost about 30 euros and took just over twenty minutes.

I found that I was able to move through security and customs fairly quickly. This was nice because it gave me time to enjoy some airport lounge access with my Priority Pass. Free lounge access is one of the best travel perks that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card!

• • •

This trip showed me that a 2 day Barcelona itinerary is enough to have an amazing experience in this city.  While upon my arrival I was tired and ready to be home, I felt rejuvenated as soon as I stepped outside my hotel.  It’s no wonder that Barcelona has been a source of inspiration to many artists for centuries.

I’m definitely craving a return trip ASAP, as I want my husband to see this amazing place! Are you thinking of visiting Barcelona soon?

The ultimate 2 day Barcelona itinerary for first-timer's.  All the best things to do in Barcelona, Spain for an epic trip, like Park Guell and Sagrada Familia.  This Barcelona 2 day travel guide will make sure you get the most out of your time in this gorgeous city.  Includes Picasso and Gaudi sites, the Gothic Quarter, tapas and paella!
The ultimate 2 day Barcelona itinerary for first-timer's.  All the best things to do in Barcelona, Spain for an epic trip, like Park Guell and Sagrada Familia.  This Barcelona 2 day travel guide will make sure you get the most out of your time in this gorgeous city.  Includes Picasso and Gaudi sites, the Gothic Quarter, tapas and paella!
The ultimate 2 day Barcelona itinerary for first-timer's.  All the best things to do in Barcelona, Spain for an epic trip, like Park Guell and Sagrada Familia.  This Barcelona 2 day travel guide will make sure you get the most out of your time in this gorgeous city.  Includes Picasso and Gaudi sites, the Gothic Quarter, tapas and paella!
The ultimate 2 day Barcelona itinerary for first-timer's.  All the best things to do in Barcelona, Spain for an epic trip, like Park Guell and Sagrada Familia.  This Barcelona 2 day travel guide will make sure you get the most out of your time in this gorgeous city.  Includes Picasso and Gaudi sites, the Gothic Quarter, tapas and paella!

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