Barcelona is a fun European city. The capital of Catalonia. It's beloved for its modernist architecture, delicious food and plenty of entertainment. If you have a long layover in Barcelona, or if you're passing through, you'll have time to explore the city centre in a day.
We've put together a 13 km route to the main attractions in the city
It starts at the Sagrada Familia church and ends at Montjuïc Fortress. Along the way, we will see famous Gaudí buildings, the Casa Milá and Casa Batlló, the Palau de la Música Catalana, Santa María del Mar Cathedral, La Rambla, the Columbus monument, the shopping centre Las Arenas and the magical fountains.
To get to the start of the route from El Prat Airport, take the Metro at either terminal and travel to Sagrada Familia station on the purple line. A single-ride ticket costs €4,6.
A list of 10 attractions on our 13 km day trip itinerary to Barcelona:
1. Sagrada Familia
The Sagrada Familia is the city's most famous landmark, the world's longest-running building and the project of Barcelona's star architect, Antoni Gaudi. The Cathedral has been under construction from 1882 until the present day.
Get around the Cathedral to admire its three facades:
The Nativity facade
The Nativity facade on the pond side is detailed and sombre, created during Gaudi's lifetime. The Passion facade conjures up associations with Star Wars for many. The unfinished facade of Fame plans to show the history of mankind from Adam and Eve to the second coming.
Inside the building, there are a lots of lights and branching columns that turn the temple into a mystical forest. Tickets start at €17. To avoid standing in a long queue, I suggest you buy one in advance on the official website.
2. Casa Mila & Casa Batllo (Casa Batlló)
Casa Mila (Casa Mila) and Casa Batlló (Casa Batlló) are residential buildings by Gaudí. Both houses are undulating, looking more like a sea sponge than an urban building. Gaudi's architectural works are impressive.
The cost of admission to Casa Mila and Casa Batllo:
Casa Mila ticket with audioguide costs €22
Casa Batlló: €25.
For current ticket prices and schedules, visit the Casa Mila and Casa Batlló websites. The Casa Batlló offers an augmented reality video guide: you point the device at an object, original interiors appear on the screen and a fire "lights up" in the fireplace.
3. Palau de la Música Catalana
The Palau de la Música Catalana, another Art Nouveau building, is Europe's only concert hall with natural light. The interiors are opulent, with shimmering coloured stained-glass windows, sculptures of Valkyries, Pegasi and a mosaic ceiling imitating the sky with a golden sun. You can go to a concert with classical performers, pop music, jazz or just a guided tour.
Cost of admission tickets to the Palau de la Música Catalana:
A ticket costs €15 without a guide and €20 with a tour group.
4. Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral
Santa María del Mar Cathedral is a Catalan Gothic cathedral with sharp towers, narrow windows and intricate stained-glass windows.
Admission is free.
Open weekdays from 9:00 to 13:30 and 16:30 to 20:00, and 10:00 on weekends.
5. La Rambla
La Rambla is a famous pedestrian walkway extending from Plaça Catalunya Square to Barceloneta Beach.
Take a stroll down the Rambla to see living statues and a mosaic by the artist Juan Miró next to the Boquería market, listen to street musicians, and enjoy the atmosphere of festivity and happiness. Beware of the pickpockets in the crowds and the prices of souvenirs from local vendors are ungodly high.
6. Monument to Columbus
The Columbus Monument is a 60 m high monument erected at the end of the 19th century. It stands at the entrance to the Old Port where the explorer's ship docked after his first voyage to America. For €6 you can take the lift inside the column and climb to the viewing platform right under Columbus' feet.
7. Take the Teleferico del Puerto cable car
The Teleferico del Puerto cable car takes tourists to the top of Montjuïc hill. The ride takes about 10 minutes and offers beautiful views of the city along the way. The nearest cable car station to Columbus is called Miramar.
Prices for entry tickets to the cable car station vary:
A one-way ticket costs €11
Return trip: €16.5
The cabins leave every 15 minutes. Cable car website
If you decide on a one-way ride, skip the next two points on the itinerary: Las Arenas and the Magic Fountains. The walk to Montjuïc (at the top of the cable car) can be long: 1-2 hours minimum.
8. Las Arenas
"Las Arenas" is a shopping centre converted from a bullring. The last time bullfighters fought bulls here was in 1977. Bullfighting is now banned in Catalonia, but its former magnitude can be appreciated inside Las Arenas.
Under the dome of the building, there is a vast observation deck with a great view over Plaza España. There is a lift outside the building that takes tourists upstairs for €1. If you go inside the shopping centre, you can go up to the same roof in the visitor lifts for free.
9. Magic Fountains
The Magic Fountains are cascading, or tiered, fountains where there is a light and music show every weekend evening. Entrance to the show is free. The colours and sounds of the musical fountains will please even the snobs.
10. MNAC, the National Museum of Catalonia
Nearby you'll find escalators leading up Montjuïc hill and to the stunningly beautiful building, the National Museum of Catalonia (MNAC). The Museum de Arte Nacional de Catalunya MNAC showcases hundreds of works by artists ranging from medieval frescoes to contemporary installations.
MNAC entrance fees:
Admission is free on the first Sunday of the month and Saturdays from 3 PM.
Other times: €12.
Montjuïc is a 173 m high hill. There's plenty to see and do there. Montjuïc is worth a stroll through the botanical gardens and parks. We particularly like the unusual cactus park: among the tropical plants, it feels like you're in Africa or Asia. And it's easy to lose your head over the scents.
12. Montjuïc Fortress and Military Museum
At the top of Montjuïc stands the ancient fortress that houses the War Museum with medieval cannons and military uniforms. In the summer, there is an outdoor cinema on the fortress patio. Films are shown in their original language with Spanish subtitles.
Entrance fees to the military museum on Montjuïc:
A visit to the military museum costs €5
Open cinema ticket: €6.5
Renting a cinema chair costs another €3.25
Barcelonans usually bring plaids and wine and combine watching a film with a picnic. You can book tickets for the film here.
13. The pools at Bernat Picornell
The pools at Bernat Picornell (The Piscines Bernat Picornell) are still on the hill, you can swim and relax in the colourful public pools of Bernat Picornell.
Entrance to the pools costs €6.50
Lounge chair: €1.
14. View the walking route in Barcelona on Google Maps:
13 km walking route around Barcelona: