72 Hours in Barcelona + Helpful Tips

A photo of me in a pastel coloured striped dress outside Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Thinking of jetting off to explore the sights of Barcelona? Here’s how we spent 72 hours in this vibrant city…

This was my first ever city break. I’ve been abroad numerous times, but had never jumped on a plane and visited a European city.

This trip was all about celebrating Ian’s 30th birthday! We headed off on the Thursday afternoon, flew to Barcelona… heard the EasyJet announcement I’d asked them to make on the plane to say happy 30th birthday to Ian, which he absolutely loved…ha! ..and then enjoyed our first evening in Barcelona.

We stayed in Barcelona for 3 nights at the Eurostars Ramblas hotel on the bustling La Rambla strip – this was booked as a package with Thomas Cook.

Our hotel was lovely and we’d happily recommend it if you wish to stay in the heart of everything on La Rambla. It’s fresh, clean and modern looking and had everything we needed. The room was great and had all the essentials such as air con and a hotel room safe.

La Rambla is certainly a bustling area, so be prepared for the hustle and bustle of this area, especially at night. It’s a wonderful area filled with shops, cafes, restaurants and bars.

Magic Fountain Barcelona

Magic Fountain Barcelona

Magic Fountain Barcelona

Magic Fountain Barcelona

1st day (Thursday evening)

When we arrived, it was Thursday afternoon. So after checking into our hotel, we thought we’d tick off one evening event straight away… The Magic Fountain.

The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc is located at the foot of Palau Nacional (or National Palace to you and me), which is that beautiful building you can see in the background of the images above.

Music is played, lights enhance the water display and huge crowds sit and stand around the fountain to watch the show.

The fountain show is free to attend and the operating hours depend on the time of year. In the summer (May to September) there are 5 shows a night every Thursday to Sunday inclusive – 9pm, 9:30pm, 10pm, 10:30pm and 11pm. Each show lasts 15 minutes. It’s definitely worth a watch considering it doesn’t cost a penny and I’m so glad it was recommended to us by others who had visited Barcelona. Just be careful if you stand downwind as you may get a little spray of water… but that’s all part of the fun I think!

After the Magic Fountain show, we started to walk back to our hotel… (which, as a heads up, is quite a walk). We stumbled across a random outdoor street rave of some kind along the way, which was fun for the few moments we spent there… we still have no idea what it was about! And then we headed back to La Rambla and enjoyed a couple of huge (double the size as expected!) alcoholic drinks… so be wary if you see a drinks offer, they might give you the next size up if you don’t clarify the exact size you want… they were very yummy though and it was nice to sit, chill and people watch on La Rambla.

Sagrada Familia Barcelona

Sagrada Familia Barcelona

Sagrada Familia Barcelona

Park Güell Barcelona

Park Güell Barcelona

Park Güell Barcelona

2nd day (Friday)

The second day was Ian’s 30th birthday! So I hung up some bunting and gave him a present of some Spanish banana cake, whilst he opened his cards.

On this day we hopped on the Bus Touristic (the best way to get around! Full details at the bottom of this post) and headed over to the Sagrada Familia. This building is the most iconic building of Barcelona. Designed by renowned architect Antoni Gaudi.

We booked tickets for the Sagrada Familia in advance before flying to Barcelona, which is really easy to do on their website. We’d recommend going in the afternoon around 2-3pm(ish) as this is when the light shines through the beautiful stained glass windows – the colours you see are so gorgeous.

The design of this building is simply stunning, you could stare at it for hours and discover something new to look at each time you look up at it. The amazing thing is… the building is still not complete! It’s continuously being built upon, hence all the cranes you see in the photographs. The structural work is due for completion in 2026 and the decoration in 2032. Incredible considering the construction commenced in 1882.

We also booked to go up the Nativity tower, this is the one where you can cross the bridge at the top to the other side and then walk down. So if you want to enjoy the views up high across Barcelona, we really recommend opting for this tower when you book tickets as the other one doesn’t have a bridge for you to cross. The other one (the Passion tower) does have views across the other side of the city though, so the choice is yours.

After visiting the Sagrada Familia, we grabbed a really quick lunch in a small but very nearby restaurant called Aitor. It’s a tapas restaurant, so naturally I had chicken nuggets and chips… please don’t judge me. I think I just fancied something plain after the sickly fry up we had for breakfast that morning…

The Bus Touristic came in handy once again, as we took a ride up to Park Güell. Park Güell is another creation of architect Antoni Gaudi. The park is lush and green and features many stunning buildings, structures and statues – as well as his famous mosaic benches. It’s definitely well worth walking around. Again, we bought tickets for this online before we flew out to Barcelona – you can book them on their website *here*.

For dinner that evening, my parents very kindly emailed to say go somewhere nice for dinner and we’ll pay seeing as it’s Ian’s 30th. They are pretty good those two! So we walked around and ended up in La Poma, which is along La Rambla, where we enjoyed tapas, paella and tiramisu.

Montjuïc Cable Car

Castell / Castle of Montjuïc

3rd day (Saturday)

On the Saturday we made use of our Bus Touristic tickets again and enjoyed a route that took us around even more of Barcelona. The great thing about the Bus Touristic is that you’re given headphones and they provide you with an audio tour. So when you’re passing key buildings and areas the tour will tell you all about what you can see. Definitely get a seat up the top of the open bus if you can, you’ll then have a great view of the buildings and areas of interest.

We jumped off when we arrived at the Montjuïc Cable Car station and took a cable car up to the top, where the castle of Montjuïc is. We didn’t opt to go in the castle, but do check that out if you would love to visit inside. We just had a lovely walk around the outside and enjoyed the views across Barcelona.

Later in the day we headed to one of the many beaches Barcelona has to offer. We went to one which was a little further along from the area we stayed in. It was so lovely to spend a couple of hours sunbathing there. It’s strange but brilliant to have a beach on the edge of a city.

The one thing I didn’t enjoy about the beach though… was the toilets. They were horrible. Probably one of the worst, if not the worst toilets I have ever used. Not that you have much choice, but you have been warned. That being said, the beaches themselves were very clean and well maintained – not what you’d expect adjoined to a thriving busy city.

That evening we fancied a pizza for dinner. We went on a walk in search for dinner and came across El Beso y La Lluna in a little square in the back streets a little walk away from La Rambla. Here we enjoyed a nice big pizza al fresco style. It was lovely!

4th day (last day!)

On the last day we simply enjoyed strolling around the streets of the Gothic Quarter and taking it all in. There are so many little alleys to turn down and explore, so much to see. You certainly won’t get bored in Barcelona.

 

Here’s a little roundup of our top tips, things to see and places to eat…

What to do…

The Magic Fountain – a free and fun spectacle.

Sagrada Familia – simply stunning, intriguing and easy to book tickets online. We recommend 2pm-3pm to enjoy the light flowing through the windows, and the Nativity tower to be able to cross the bridge at the top and enjoy amazing views of Barcelona.

Park Guell – a great place to learn more about architect Gaudi’s work.

Mont Juic – a fun cable car ride, great views and a castle to visit too if you wish! If you happen to take the Bus Touristic this will take you around the grounds that were used for the Barcelona Olympics and the Barcelona Football Club, which was all very interesting to see.

The one thing we missed out on was the food market, as we’d planned to go on the Sunday but unfortunately a lot of shops and the market itself were closed on that day. So if this is top of your list, keep this in mind.

..and remember to just simply explore! On the hours you have spare between visiting specific places, wonder around the streets. Soak up the narrow side streets, stumble across new places and amazing architecture. I’m sure you’ll come across some amazing sights. We had a walk around and ended up seeing lots of people singing and dancing right next to the Catedral de Barclona (Barcelona Cathedral). I also came across a some very nice fashion stores too and treated myself to a new bag.

 

How to get around…

We walked… a lot. However, this is the beauty of this city, there’s plenty to explore and you’re bound to see amazing architecture down every road. The architecture is what gives Barcelona its charm.

We highly recommend getting tickets for the Bus Touristic. Tickets are 30 each for one day or 40 each for two days. We opted for the two day option, so that we could use it go get around to the various places we wanted to visit. The buses run on loops around the city – the map will show you the different loops the buses do, it’s so easy to understand and use them to get around. They were so frequent too, you only have to wait 5 – 10 minutes at the bus stop for the next bus to arrive – so good!

Not only are the buses really easy to use, they also provide you with a guided tour. Everyone is given headphones to allow you to listen to the guided tour recording – which is available in a multitude of languages. It’s so informative and tells you all about the beautiful buildings and places you pass by – great for spotting the awesome and unique buildings designed by Gaudi.

Just as a little heads up… Keep an eye on your belongings as I have heard from a few people that Barcelona on the whole can be a little bit of a hot spot for pick pocketing – just like anywhere busy and bustling I guess. Not that I saw anything happen whilst over there. Personally, I wore a cross body bag where the zip when zipped up is towards the front so I could easily keep an eye on it. I also took my little lightweight scarf with me everywhere to use as a shoulder cover up – when not in use I just tied this round the bag near the zip, so no one could easily get to my zip. Just keep your wits about you as you usually would.

Breakfast at Real Tapas Barcelona

Breakfast at Real Tapas Barcelona

Breakfast at Real Tapas Barcelona

Where to eat…

There were so many different places, however we did struggle at times to find free tables in the busiest areas, so McDonald’s along La Rambla came in helpful for those moments where we needed a quick bite to eat.

On the first morning we had a fry up style breakfast and it left us feeling a little queasy as we made our way to the Sagrada Familia. However, we really recommend trying Real Tapas on La Rambla for breakfast as it was lovely and much better than the fry up we had. We liked it so much that we headed back there on the Sunday morning (our last day), as we knew we’d get a good breakfast. They provide healthy options as well as a delicious continental breakfast.

The other places we mentioned above include…

Aitor – a little tapas restaurant right near Sagrada Familia

La Poma – along La Rambla

El Beso y La Lluna – a little walk away from the La Rambla strip, perfect for al fresco dining

 

So there you have it, our guide to spending 72 hours in Barcelona. I hope you found this post useful! Barcelona is such a beautiful and vibrant city, with so much to see and do.

Next stop… Cuba!

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