A perfect day in Barcelona: things to do in 24 hours

Spain's second city has a lot to see in a weekend break. Here's are the best things to do in Barcelona with your first 24 hours
Placa Reial in summer night. Photo: Shutterstock
Placa Reial in summer night. Photo: Shutterstock

Exploring backstreets, like the Placa Reial, tops our list of things to do in Barcelona on long, lazy summer evenings. Photo: Shutterstock

09.00am: Stroll down La Rambla

Get an early start on 
La Rambla to enjoy 
it under the morning Mediterranean light before the crowds arrive. Pick up your newspaper from a newsstand then pop into La Boqueria market – at its most colourful in the morning – for a proper Catalan breakfast like baby squid and poached eggs at El Quim. This is one of several stalls in the city's biggest food market where it's a treat to pull up a stool and watch the freshest produce grilled before your eyes. 

10.30am: Discover Barcelona's Gothic Quarter

Across La Rambla you'll find the Gothic Quarter. Meander through its shady narrow lanes and palm-filled courtyards. Get the background on today’s Old Town at the City History Museum (MUHBA). The building is a Gothic mansion that was moved stone by stone to this location. Alternatively, break for coffee in the diminutive Meson del Café on Llibreteria.

12 noon: Visit the Santa Maria del Mar church 

Over Via Laietana is the Born district. Glimpse the breathtaking interior of Santa Maria del Mar, or sip una copa de cava on the terrace of La Vinya del Senyor and admire the church facade. This beautiful building is the greatest example of pure Catalan Gothic with unadorned exterior walls, a sober facade flanked by three-tiered octagonal bell towers, and a beautiful rose window over the portal.

1.30pm: Enjoy a typical Spanish lunch time

Get into the local rhythm and have a menú del
dia, three courses at remarkably low rates, in a neighbourhood bar like Rodrigo (don't miss their pre-lunch vermut, an intoxicating house speciality) in Argenteria, or around the Passeig del Born. Another option is to walk 10 minutes to Barceloneta to dine on a truly classic paella on a terrace overlooking the sea at Can Majó.

No list of things to do in Barcelona would be complete without admiring Gaudi's architecture. Photo: Shutterstock

3.30pm: Take a siesta

A gentle stroll along 
the Passeig Marítim towards the Vila Olímpica, pausing for coffee in one of the waterfront xiringuitos (beach bars), is ideal for working off lunch. Then indulge in a taxi back to base for a reviving siesta, essential to keep up the pace until the small hours.

5.30pm: Explore the Eixample

A session of retail therapy in the modernista setting of the Eixample is recommended for all the family. Those who don’t wish to shop can visit a Gaudí building, like La Pedrera or Casa Batlló, or just wander around the area to admire a wealth of decorative details, from stained glass to ceramics, by his contemporaries.

8.30pm: Indulge in drinks and tapas

Relax at one of the many terrace bars in elegant Rambla Catalunya, or try the eponymous cocktail at Dry Martini (Aribau 162), before going for tapas, the perfect dinner, especially when created by top chef Carles Abellan at Tapas 24. You might have to queue, but it's worth it and the bustling atmosphere is absorbing.

10.30pm: Enjoy a night on the town

Round off the day exploring Barcelona 
in style just up the
road at designer club Ommsession (Rosselló 265), part of award- winning Hotel Omm, where you can rub shoulders with the
 sleek and beautiful. Alternatively, catch a cab to Mirablau, halfway up Tibidabo hill, and dance till dawn overlooking 
the city.

Ready to take a trip to experience the best of Barcelona? 

Explore Insight Guides ready-made itineraries online now or talk to a local expert to plan your holiday from scratch