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Barcelona Itinerary Help

Hi all, I was planning to wait to post my Barcelona itinerary until I had the other half of the trip ready to go for review (Mallorca). However, I just found a major flaw in my plans and would rather get some preliminary feedback versus driving myself crazy wondering if I should go ahead and rearrange our plans. We will be in Barcelona on May 1st and I had planned to visit the Catalan Art Museum this day - but no go - it’s closed for the holiday. We will have spent 4 nights in Mallorca before arriving in Barcelona. I’ve attempted to arrange our Barcelona itinerary to avoid backtracking as much as possible. We will book tickets to the sights well ahead of our visit once we have everything pinned down.

Day 5, Monday April 27th:

  • 1:25-2:20 flight from PMI to BCN
  • Settle into hotel (so far I’ve narrowed in on centrally located “the5rooms” for our stay)
  • Devour Food Tours - Evening Tapas and Wine 6:30-9:30

Day 6, Tuesday April 28th:

  • Palau Guell
  • Santa Caterina Food Market
  • Picasso Museum
  • Explore El Born Neighborhood
  • 7:30 Flamenco at Palau Dalmases

Day 7, Wednesday April 29th:

  • Casa Batllo
  • Casa Mila
  • Explore Gracia Neighborhood
  • Parc Guell (planning to walk up from Gracia at a leisurely pace)

Day 8, Thursday April 30th:

  • Sagrada Familia (earliest tickets available)
  • Hospital Sant Pau
  • Mercat Gotic Flea Market (will take underground from Hospital to Jaume I)
  • RS Barri Gotic Walk

Day 9, Friday May 1st:

  • Palau de la Musica
  • Catalan Art Museum (will take underground from Palau de la Musica)
  • Explore Poble Sec; self-guided tapas tour

Day 10, Saturday May 2nd:

  • Flight home at 3:30 in the afternoon (not sure what we could do this morning besides a nice breakfast)

I would really like to visit the Catalan Art Museum if we can make it work intelligibly into our plans. I liked the idea of combining it with exploring Poble Sec. I am wondering if we should consider flipping Day 8 with Day 9, as both Sagrada Familia and Hospital Sant Pau will be open on May 1. Only thing that wouldn’t work is the Flea Market as it’s only open on Thursdays; however, this is not a must-do, just a wish.

On the other hand, will most of the interesting shops in the Barri Gotic be closed on May 1 (besides for the normal kitsch shops)? However, by this point in our trip, if we have already explored Mallorca, El Born, and Gracia, there’s a chance my suitcase may already be at capacity with souvenirs. And, when talking shopping, I feel like I need to add a caveat - I’m more interested in unique, boutique-y mom and pop shops, not the big, chain department stores.

Lastly, I have a couple of general questions.

  1. Sagrada Familia - should we do the in-person guided tour in lieu of going up the towers? I’ve read conflicting reports in regards to both and I really don’t know which would be better. A real guide can bring things to life, if they are good at presentation. However, an opportunity to go up a tower of the Sagrada Familia is not one you get very often in life.

  2. Do you have any favorite buildings / areas to see lit up at night? Places can often be magical in the evening. How is the Block of Discord? We will already be in some nice areas in the evenings so maybe the point is moot and we just enjoy where we find ourselves.

  3. What’s the latest you think we should be leaving BCN on an airport bus? We could consider splurging on a taxi but I don’t know if that’s really going to save us any time in comparison to the bus. I’m thinking we could squeeze a quick revisit to the Barri Gotic Saturday morning before we leave (if we visit it on May 1 when it’s sleepy).

Didn’t mean for this to get so long - thanks for reading and any advice you may be able to give. :)

Posted by
488 posts

sounds like a fun trip

i thought that casa battlo looked nice at night.

I would do the in person guided tour at Sagrada. We used an audio tour and thought it was just fine.
the airport bus is pretty quick and convenient. if your flight is 3:30, you want to be there by 12:30 at latest. i think it was less than an hour from downtown to airport

I really didn't do much shopping. there are some nice shops in gotic and near the picasso museum, but shopping isn't my thing. I did enjoy window shopping though!

Posted by
17892 posts

I would move things around in order to get to MNAC. Both the modernism collection and the church frescoes are very interesting, even aside from the art. Unless you are bonkers for Picasso, I'd prioritize MNAC, because the Picasso Museum may well be grotesquely overcrowded, in which case it will either take you much longer than anticipated or much less time (if you run for the exit).

If you're tight on time, I think you could consider skipping Palau Guell since you are seeing so many other Gaudi sites. I was glad to see it, but I had more time.

While you can certainly walk up to Parc Guell, I want to be sure you realize it is, indeed, significantly uphill. Parc Guell tickets now include a shuttle bus from one of the Metro stations. You might prefer to walk back to the center of town instead (downhill).

All the Gaudi sites have nice gift shops, though the goods are mostly production rather than handmade.

Since you're obviously very interested in the modetnista architecture, I think you should explore the Ruta del Modernisme website, which will allow you to track down some other modernista buildings (most with only exteriors viewable) during your time in Barcelona.

I flew home from Barcelona in 2016 and needed every bit of the 3 hours I had allowed at the airport. I used the Aerobus, and it was fine. It runs very often. Be sure you know which terminal you need; there are separate buses for T1 and T2.

Posted by
14211 posts

I second all of acraven's advice. Allow at least 2-3 hours for MNAC. There's a reasonably priced cafe inside, good food and house wine. Look at the official Barcelona website for walking tours. The easiest way to navigate the site is to go right to the "buy tickets" section. I've taken both TI and Runnerbean tours - excellent. The TI has a moderisme walking tour that will open your eyes to what most tourists never see! On my last visit I took the Runnerbean Dark Past night tour and highly recommend it. The rooftop tour of Santa Maria del Mar is interesting and has good views.

I didn't find going up one of the SF towers worth the time. I thought the audio guide was enough. You are right to get the first entry of the day, line up 15 minutes or so ahead of time to be among the first in, when it's still relatively quiet and you can get a sense of the grandeur (and get some nearly people-less photos). You can go back out anytime to pick up the audio guide if you opted for it. It's an easy walk from SF to Sant Pau, with a good number of options for a meal or a snack on the way.

Are you "night owls?" Sunset is around 8.45 and typically dinner starts after 9.30.

Posted by
30 posts

At some point I’ll put together a trip report from our recent Spain trip which will include some of our takeaways on things you’re asking. Regarding seeing Sagrada Familia, this was our second time going. The first, years ago, we did with the audio guide and climbed the towers. This time we did the 1 hour guided tour through SF and no towers. Our opinion comparing the two was that the audio guide had been really good and thorough and that we got nothing more out of the guided tour than we had from the audio guide—actually much less. We enjoyed climbing the towers and getting the views of the rooftop architecture up close but it wouldn’t be a don’t miss thing, IMO. One thing that we thought WAS don’t miss is the museum on location at SF. Somehow we did entirely pass it by on our first visit without notice, and made sure to make it this time. It is really detailed and interesting and I would have paid an admission just to see that. Between that and the audio guide we learned tons. Also, for what it’s worth although you didn’t ask, we found Park Guell to be the single disappointment of our entire trip. The monumental zone is under rehab at this point, I’d say 80-90% of what you pay to see is behind tarps or scaffolding. The remaining sections are so crowded with people trying to get a selfie next to anything not behind construction that you can’t even get close enough to see anything. There wasn’t a lot of money or time invested, so we just chalked it up as the one loser in 17 days of phenomenal experiences. If a friend were asking, I would tell them to skip it entirely or place it as their last priority item to try to see. It is possible that many of the repairs will be done by the time you get there, but we still felt that there were better places to appreciate Gaudí throughout Barcelona without the crush of crowds.

Posted by
591 posts

rizell, thanks for the advice! It would be nice to see the Block of Discord and houses at night I think. I window shop much more than I actually buy myself :)

acraven, neither of us are bonkers for Picasso. We do enjoy art though and like exposing ourselves to new things, so we just kind of figured, “when in Barcelona”. But, I am far more interested in the MNAC museum so it makes more sense to prioritize it. As far as walking to Parc Guell, the last destination I have noted for walking in Gracia is to Placa de la Virreina. Would you just taxi from there to the entrance of the Parc? Having not been there before, I don’t have a good grasp of where the steepness starts. Thanks for the tips on the Modernism website and the terminals! I am very interested in the architecture - I work as an interior designer and studied some of this stuff back in college. It’s a treat to see things in real life you’ve read about.

Chani, thanks for all the tips! We can be night owls, but I’ve found that we can’t burn the candles at both ends, at least no more than a day or two. I’d prefer to book our sight-seeing early because I know the crowds will be fewer but if we try to stay up late there’s no way we can do both. I was tempted to do the early morning tour of Casa Battlo but I think I’ll be cursing myself if I do. Sagrada Familia will be our exception to that rule. The TI Modernism tour sounds like it could be good possibility for our Friday afternoon if they are offering it that day...but I did find something else that might be even better. I need advice on that. See my notes on Friday.

Here’s what I’ve come up with for rearranging things:

Day 6, Tuesday April 28th:

  • RS Barri Gotic Walk in morning (including Palau Guell)
  • Catalan Art Museum
  • Explore Poble Sec (self-guided tapas tour)

Day 7, Wednesday April 29th:

  • Casa Batllo
  • Casa Mila
  • Explore Gracia Neighborhood
  • Parc Guell (planning to walk up from Gracia at a leisurely pace)

Day 8, Thursday April 30th:

  • Sagrada Familia (earliest tickets available)
  • Hospital Sant Pau
  • Mercat Gotic Flea Market (will take underground from Hospital to Jaume I)
  • Explore El Born Neighborhood
  • 7:30 Flamenco at Palau Dalmases

Day 9, Friday May 1st:

  • Palau de la Musica (morning)
  • Options for Friday afternoon (Maritime Museum, Parc de la Ciutadella, European Museum of Modern Art, El Encants Flea Market, or Feria de April de Catalunya).

I’m really kind of excited about the idea of Féria de April de Catalunya. It looks like an opportunity for a great cultural event. But, I don’t have a clue of what to expect - I know it’s not traditional to Catalonia but it looks like a cool experience. Seeing as we don’t speak either Spanish or Catalan, do you think we would we enjoy it? Or would we feel like fish out of water?

I’ve read that it’s about a 35 minute bus ride to the Airport. So we will plan on being at Plaça de Catalunya around 11:30 to catch it. Thanks again!

Posted by
591 posts

kjones, I was typing at the same time you were. Thanks for all the great advice, you’ve got me leaning towards doing the SF audioguide and tower in lieu of the guided tour (I’m a glass half-full kind of person so I bet I’ll enjoy myself going up the tower) and I’ll make sure we don’t miss the museum. That’s great to know. I’m hoping Parc Guell will be further along in the restoration works by the time of our visit. It’s always so disappointing to have things under wraps or under scaffolding...sorry that happened to you!

Posted by
17892 posts

I don't want to overstate the climb to Parc Guell, but it's steep enough that there is at least one escalator available to do some of the work. The escalator's located near the intersection of Baixada de la Gloria and Carrer de la Mare de Deu del Coll. It's marked on Google Maps. I hope Enric will come along and give you more information about the route to the park from Placa de la Virreina. I walk a lot and don't have a problem going uphill, but I was glad to see an escalator. I don't know whether there's more than one.

I've checked, and the shuttle bus departs from Alfons X, which isn't particularly close to Placa de la Virreina.

One thing to be careful of at La Sagrada Familia: Once you enter the shop, you cannot return to the church.

Unless something has changed since May, I don't think you'll need to pre-purchase a ticket for Sant Pau. In a city full of pre-scheduled visits, it's nice to have flexibility when you can. So far, no one who has gone there has reported a line of any significance. It is a rather large place, with multiple buildings and pretty grounds. Allow plenty of time. There are some very pretty rooms in the main building, and they're at the very end of the touring route. I spent more time at Sant Pau than at Casa Batllo the first time I went. There's a lot of English-language material about the role of the complex during its hospital years. You many want to pick and choose how much of that your read fully, else it could be a very long visit indeed.

When I took the Modernisme tour in 2016, it ended with a quick visit to the privately-run Museum of Catalan Modernism. We had about 15 minutes in the museum. One would like to have more time than that, but the museum is sort of expensive, so I decided I'd make do with the time offered by the tour. We were allowed to roam around and focus on what interested us the most. I hope that stop is still included as part of the tour.

This webpage indicates that the Ruta del Modernisme guidebook is still being sold at an office on Av. Drassanes that's not far off the Ramblas down near the Port. The book is useful but very heavy, despite being paper-bound. There's also a map with more modernista buildings marked than you'll find on most city maps, and there's a discount card. You can't use the discount card if you're buying tickets in advance, so I don't think the discount card would pay off for you; I don't think you'll have enough time to go to enough of the less well-known sites that don't require pre-booking. I'm mentioning this just in case you are interested in the book. At the time of my visit (2016), the person in the office was very friendly but didn't speak English.

Posted by
14211 posts

I also took the Modernisme tour in 2016. As I recall, the tour included a free ticket to a museum of modernism that may have been the Museum of Catalan Modernism. I didn't have time left in Barcelona to visit it. The tour itself did not go to a museum, it still lasted nearly an hour longer than scheduled - the guide and all the participants (7 of us, all women) were very enthusiastic.

I did go to the office to buy the Ruta del Modernisme book and it is indeed heavy. The office has views of the city and I was so enthused about it, they allowed me to go out onto the fire escape for even better views and some photos. And the woman I dealt with spoke quite good English. I guess it's just a matter of luck.

Posted by
17892 posts

I like what Chani experienced on the tour. I would have preferred to have a ticket to the museum that I could use at any time. And my tour (early August 2016) was just 2 hours. The tourist office should be able to say how they handle the museum these days.

I think I arrived at the Ruta del Modernisme office just before closing time (2 PM). It was obvious that there were usually more people around, but there was just the one person on site at that time.

Posted by
14211 posts

The guide on my tour was studying for her master's in moderisme and extended the tour much beyond the scheduled 2 hours - we followed the standard route, obviously spent more time at some stops and undoubtedly also stopped at places along the way that were of intrest to the guide but not "in the script.". It just depends on who you get for a guide. The guide explained that the TI guides are city employees, can't be fired . . . luck of the draw . . .