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Barcelona - Relaxed Approach

Hi All - In 2 weeks a family group of mine will be departing Barcelona for a week long Mediterranean cruise and then arriving back to port on the following Sunday morning. On Monday the group is dispersing and my husband and I will have 4 solid days to roam the city on our own. We've both been to Europe before and I tend to get heavy into schedules, details and planning but this time around we really don't have an "itinerary" for Barcelona.

We certainly plan to see the big sites, but really we are just going to walk, eat and see what we find as we go. Is this a terrible idea? Maybe I should find a happy-medium and do a little planning in advance? Or maybe there are just some "must book ahead of time" things that I should definitely be doing now. Please let me know your thoughts - TIA!

Posted by
3789 posts

Perhaps plan a list of sights, but some, like Sagrada Familia want to be booked ahead. For some sites, you might want to review your admission options as booking ahead allows you to skip the long lines and/or enter when you want. I think it would at least pay off to make a short list of sites, check out the benefits of a museum/tourist card and decide from there....or plan one thing per day and just wander and do as the whim takes you the rest of the day.
Barcelona seems to be one of those places you may want some planning....but if you are going to return and focus on it, then this might be your test drive of letting serendipity happen.

Posted by
439 posts

Book time for the Sagradia Familia, it is a beautiful building. Placa de Musica (spelling is way off) was also worth seeing. We were on a tour for the Picasso Museum, I don't know if you needed to book for that. If you like soccer, see who they are playing, if it is a big rival (Real Madrid), you will need to book ahead, if it is a smaller team, you can pick up tickets on the day.

Posted by
19395 posts

My city-visit planning normally consists of just noting what I want to see and each sight's opening hours, but Barcelona has a bunch of sights for which you may be stuck in very, very long lines if you arrive without a ticket. Or you might not be able to get in that day at all. Basically, if it's the Picasso Museum or a major Gaudi sight (La Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, Casa Batllo, Casa Mila/La Pedrera), you should try to buy tickets at least one or two days ahead of time. (The Picasso Museum might need to be booked a bit earlier; it tends to be unbelievably mobbed and should be skipped if you aren't interested in Picasso's work.) I bought all my tickets after arrival, but I was in the city for 10 days and had a lot of flexibility. For the sake of convenience, I got the purchased-in-advance tickets from the tourist office under Placa Catalunya, which charges an extra 1 euro per ticket. But you can buy online if you prefer.

La Sagrada Familia requires a separate fee if you want to ascend one of the towers, and that comes with a separate entry time. The T.O. only handles the basic entry fee, so if you want to see one of the towers up close and personal, you should go elsewhere for La Sagrada Familia tickets. Booking the tower about 1 hour after the church should be about right.

The Palau de la Musica Catalana can be visited only on a tour or to attend a performance. English-language tours are pretty frequent.

I know nothing about the Camp Nou Experience (soccer-related) but wouldn't be surprised to hear that it sells out early.

Other than the above (and you probably will only be interested in a few of them), Barcelona is great for wandering around. You can make a spur-of-the-moment decision to go to Montserrat, Girona, or one of the beach towns if you decide you'd like a change of scenery. There's tons to keep you occupied in Barcelona, however. I loved walking around the city, observing the exteriors of a bunch of modernista buildings that are not open to the public.

I recommend that you stop in at the tourist office under Placa Catalunya at your earliest convenience. It has an unusually large number of English-language brochures on display for self-selection. You may run across something that aligns with a special interest of yours.

Posted by
73 posts

There are some sites that will allow you more flexibility for a fee. Casa Mila (La Pedrera) has a "Premium Ticket" you can purchase online for 7 euro more that allows you to skip the line without reserving a specific day and time. The Barcelona ArtTicket allows you to skip the lines at 6 museums including the Picasso, but the cost is about 3 times the normal Picasso ticket so likely only worthwhile if you're interested in some of the other 5 museums. Similarly other passes like the Barcelona Card tend to be more expensive for most travelers but do have some line skipping privileges. I'm sure there are other things like these for many sites (Rick Steve's books are great with tips and Google also helps).

Personally, I would be more interested in picking some times for your top picks and working around that, but it's your vacation and only you know what would make it perfect for you and whether that's worth extra fees. Have a wonderful time in Barcelona!

Posted by
2353 posts

That is exactly how we did Barcelona the first time - loved every minute! We are returning for a second visit this year and "plan" to do much of the same!

Standing in line waiting to see some "thing" is not my idea of a good time. We will likely spring for skip the line ine tickets for SF this visit but other than that we'll just enjoy the city.

Posted by
9 posts

If you have a more relaxed approach to Barcelona I think that is ideal, it's truly such a beautiful city and my favorite days are strolling around. The way i would do it is light planning, so I would find the major attractions you would want to see like the Sagrada Familia, which is a must and you can buy tickets in advance, and then I would plan to enjoy the rest of the day around the neighborhood. Also you can enjoy a lot of Gaudi's architecture walking around such as on the passeig de Gracia where both the Casa Batilo and La Pedrera reside, you can choose to either take the tours or skip them and enjoy the city more. I would also consider some off the beaten path Gaudi architecture such as Casa Vicens (which is being restored) or Torre Bellesguard. I would definitely stroll along the beach it is just so beautiful, and in parc de la Ciutadella you can stroll away. Definitely get lost in the Gothic quarter off the ramblas, or any of the neighborhoods such as El Raval and El Born. I think strolling and eating your way through Barcelona is a brilliant idea, but if you want to do anything more touristy I would book tickets in advance.

Posted by
7124 posts

With four solid days, and with a desire for a balance between the big sights and 'getting lost' exploring different neighbourhoods.

Day 1
BOOK a first up visit to ...
•Sagrada Familia
Then get lost exploring ...
Eixample (Passeig de Gracia, Casa Mila & Casa Batllo)

Day 2
BOOK a first up visit to ...
•Palau de la Musica Catalana
Then get lost exploring ...
Bari Gotico (Cathedral) and walking the Ramblas (Boqueria markets & Placa Real)

Day 3
BOOK a first up visit to ...
•Picasso Museum
Then get lost exploring ...
El Born (Basilica Santa Maria del Mar) & Parc de la Ciutadella

Day 4
BOOK a first up visit to ...
•Park Guell
Then get lost exploring ...
Montjuic (MNAC & Miro Museum) & Barceloneta

Posted by
646 posts

djp_syd, you just described my favorite way of traveling any large city with crowded sites.

Posted by
34 posts

Thank you all for your thoughts! We are about a week away from leaving and I certainly took your advice. I purchased advanced tickets for Sagrada and the Picasso Museum. The guys in the family are also going to an FC Barcelona game on Sunday night so they have tickets for that as well. My husband and I are also doing a little half day tour of the country side by horseback so that should be fun ... and something a little different :)