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Next week in Barcelona on very short notice

First time poster .....

Suddenly my company needs me in Barcelona for a conference on Oct 16-20 and I have some vacation days to burn 😀 so i will arrive in Barcelona a week early on Friday ( yes, in less than 48 hours). Have been booked in a hotel near the market and La Rambla. This was all decided earlier today.

This is all terribly short notice and hence no advanced planning. My idea is:

Friday: arrive, get settled, let brain catch up, explore La Ramblas, market, Placa Catalunya near hotel

Saturday: take "devour Barcelona" tour 10:30-2:30, and finish letting brain catch up.

Sunday, Monday: explore Barcelona (Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo, Bari Gotic, etc). Wander and explore neighborhoods, put education from "Devour Barcelona" into action with tapas, etc.

Tuesday: day trip to Monserrat (hike down if weather is good) or to Figueres . Stop in Girona on the way back to Barcelona or is that too ambitious?

Wednesday : Explore more Barcelona

Thursday : reverse of Tuesday.

Does this make sense? I have not purchased any tickets yet for trains or admissions. My understanding is that the trains to Monserrat and Figueres are regional and can be bought day-of-travel without penalty -- yes?

Do I need to book Sagrada Familia or the Dali museum in advance, since is October?

Yikes, I have never done a trip like this with no planning, but I could not turn the opportunity down. All help Is greatly appreciated. I will be reading tour books en flight, but that will be a bit late ....

Husband is being a HERO staying home to kid and dog sit. He suggested I post here for help.


Posted by
650 posts

I was in Barcelona in July. I took a daytrip to Montserrat and bought tickets right at the train station, no need to book in advance. Check out this helpful website:
I printed all relevant pages and brought it with me.

I purchased Sagrada Familia tickets from the TI in Placa de Catalunya the day before my visit, that way I skipped the very long lines waiting to get in.

Hopefully Enric (he is from Barcelona) will see your post and advise. He was a big help to me in planning my Barcelona trip.

Have a great time!

Posted by
125 posts

The Picasso Museum and a walking tour of the Gothic part of town are worth your time, as well as a tour of Musica Palau.

Posted by
2259 posts

Elizabeth, lucky you! I have not yet been to Barcelona, but will be spending over a week there in April 2016, and have been doing lots of advance research. One idea I found that might interest you is this: Viator has a day tour from Barcelona, 11 hours from 8:30 am departure until around 7:30 pm arrival back in Barcelona), that includes motor coach to Figueres (Dali Museum and free time in the town) and Girona (guided tour of the old town, plus free time) for about US $87. I think it would be hard for me to accomplish all that on one day on my own, given connections of transport, advance ticket to the Dali Museum, etc. Also, coach transport should include some scenery and relaxation. The cost for all that seems reasonable. I know Viator is generally a middleman not a tour operator, but I have not found any local company offering that same tour schedule. You might check that out -- just google "viator barcelona figueres girona".

Posted by
7124 posts

DAY 1 (Fri+Sat) Ramblas & Bari Gotico
Metro to Placa de Catalunya, Barcelona’s main square
Explore the Ramblas from top to bottom taking side diversions
On the right C. d’Elisabets to the museums MACBA and CCCB (check for current exhibits)
Further down to La Boqueria markets
Left side thru the Gothic Quarter via Placa del Pi & Placa de Sant Felip Neri to the Cathedral
Placa del Rei and the wide Placa Sant Jaume flanked by official buildings of the city and state
Head down the shopping street C. De Ferran returning to the Ramblas at the Liceu opera house
Further along and left to Placa Reial, harmonious enclosed square with palms trees & Gaudi lanterns
And then Palau Guell (Gaudi) off on the right
Finally the port and the column with Christopher Columbus gesturing towards the new world
Metro Drassanes is close by

DAY 2 (Sun) Gaudi & Modernism
Metro to Sagrada Familia for Gaudi’s masterpiece, still under construction – PREBOOK TICKETS !!
Walk down the Av de Gaudi to Europe’s largest Art Nouveau site, the hospital complex of Sant Pau
Metro across town to Diagonal and on to the Passeig de Gracia for Casa Mila (Gaudi)
Walk down Barcelona’s majestic boulevard to crazy colourful Casa Batllo (Gaudi)
Casa Amatller is next door and the Loewe store on the corner is in Casa Lleo i Morera
Finish at Gran Via – Metro Passeig de Gracia is closeby

DAY 3 (Mon) El Born & Barceloneta
Metro to Arc de Triomf
10 min walk to Palau de la Musica Catalana – PREBOOK TICKETS !!
Through the revitalised area of El Born to the Picasso Museum – PREBOOK TICKETS !!
On to Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar and then into the Parc de la Ciutedella for a relaxing circuit
Past the historic railway station, Estacio de Franca to the old fisherman’s village, Barceloneta
The ‘D’ shaped W Hotel stands at the port entrance
Walk the other way along the beachfront towards Frank Gehry’s glimmering ‘Fish’ sculpture
Finish at the Hotel Arts and Port Olimpic – Metro Ciutedella / Vila Olimpica is close by

DAY 4 (Wed) Park Guell & Montjuic
Start your day at Gaudi’s fantasy like Park Guell – PREBOOK TICKETS !!
Metro to Placa d’Espanya
Les Arenes, once the bullring, now housing shops & restaurants (fighting is banned in BCN)
2 large towers opposite and the Av de la Reina Marina Cristina towards the Palau Nacional
This area of exhibition space was the site of a Universal Expo in 1929
(Barcelona had Olympic visions way back then but the Spanish Civil War put them on hold)
Caixa Forum and Mies van der Rohe Pavilion are both worth a look
Escalators to the Palau and the MNAC museum, well worthy of a visit
The Anella Olimpica (Stadium, Palau St Jordi, Communications Tower) is laid out behind
Now back down the hill to the excellent Miro Museum (Fundacio Miro)
Piscina Municipal, the spectacular venue for Olympic diving is close by
Along Av. Miramar to the teleferic up to Montjuic Castle, or the funicular down to Metro at Parallel

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you everyone.

I really do not like the thought of of booking tickets and therefore having little flexibility, especially if the entry is timed. And I am locked in. I hate regimentation.

Can I get a reasonably short line if I arrive at about opening time and buy a ticket on sight?

In particular for sagrada familia w/o towers and for Picasso museum.

Posted by
14246 posts

La Sagrada Familia I will pass on to you the excellent advice I got here - buy a ticket for the first entry of the day (9 a.m.). I just looked at the website - the first date that they are still available is Oct. 14. Be in line 15-30 minutes before that and you'll be among the first to enter the church and you'll have time to take nearly people-less photos and to enjoy it inside while it is quiet and peaceful. After that, it fills up and the noise level gets pretty high. Choose the ticket with the audio guide. BTW you can enter the church, then go back out to the kiosk to pick up the audio guide. It's a little confusing to follow. There are 2 entrances, one is used for prepaid tickets, the other for on-the-spot tickets. The audio guide starts at the "on-the-spot" entrance.

I was in Barcelona in February, which is truly low season. The lines at La Sagrada Familia were long, as were the lines for the other Gaudi buildings. I'm not a Gaudi fan, so I skipped them. La Palau de la Musica should go on your list. It's only by guided tour and you should buy a ticket in advance. In February there were no lines for tickets (I stayed across the street, so I would have seen them) and I was able to buy on the day.

Figueres/Girona Consider Larry's suggestion. I could not work out a good schedule to spend a lot of time at the museum and still have time for Girona, but maybe in October, with more daylight, it would be possible on your own. I decided to see Girona and save Figueres for another time and have all the time I want to linger in the museums.

There is a big TI near the Cathedral. (There may be others, I didn't look) They offer walking tours. The one I took was very good. I would start with one or two of those to get oriented. You can get more info on their website.

Barcelona is somewhat spread out and street traffic is often slow. Download a metro map and familiarize yourself with it. It's a very good way to save time and energy. Buy a travel ticket (T10 gives you ten rides, including buses) at a machine. It will save you money even if you don't use all the rides.

Posted by
7124 posts

Unfortunately you do need to prebook Palau de la Musica Catalana, as Chani says, otherwise you will miss out.
If you plan to start one day at Sagrada Familia, then you will save time for sure by booking ahead, instead of waiting in line. Picasso Museum and Park Guell you may get by without, but be prepared for a wait.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you. It looks like Sagrada Familia has plenty of availability at 9:15 most days so that is fine -- no pressure to decide before I get on my plane later today, so time to read books on the plane. QUESTION: in the UK and Mexico it was often not a good idea to visit a cathedral on Sunday because of services etc. Is Sunday a good or bad day for La Sagrada? Would Monday be better?

It also looks like Palau Musica has plenty of availability, so again no panic in booking a ticket today. More time to get ducks in a row.

I have not found the Viator tour Larry mentions but am still looking. It makes sense, and the. Do Monsarrat on my own. I may ask about Figueres etc at the TI tomorrow afternoon or at the hotel.

then I need to stare at budgets and pick carefully: part Guell, Casa Batllo or ?

Looks like the Picasso museum has free admission in the latter part of Sunday afternoons. My brain can only take about 2 hours in a museum so that is fine. I also want to see the Catalunyan dancing on Sunday ...

Still reading as fast as I can while giving DH all the kid instructions -- who needs to be where and when -- to survive the coming week ;-)

Thank you!

Posted by
2259 posts

Elizabeth, the Viator tour I mentioned is actually called the "Girona, Figueres and Dali Museum Day Tour from Barcelona". You should be able to get to the listing through the web site. If you take it, please report back, OK?

Posted by
650 posts

I visited Sagrada Familia on a Sunday morning. It was crowded, but not because of any services going on. The services are held downstairs.
I hope you looked over the Montserrat information as the logistics can be confusing if you have not done much research. Finding the ticket booth in the station can be a bit daunting. Ask for directions if necessary.

Posted by
52 posts

We visited Sagrada Familia first thing in the morning, without a ticket and the lines/crowds were okay. Also really enjoyed Casa Batlo, I think it is often open in the evenings so it might be an option for one of your nights. Would recommend the audio guide for both. La Ramblas and Boqueria (market) were visited often and the market is a great place for a quick meal to go. Also recommend Montjuic which offers a great view of Barcelona. You should have great weather for sightseeing and Barcelona is perfect to just wander and enjoy the city.

Posted by
650 posts

Elizabeth, let us know how you are faring in Barcelona. I hope you love it as much as we do.

Posted by
7 posts

Just a quick note before I head off to Montserrat for the day.

It has been extremely crowded as this was a national holiday weekend. The agent at the Picaso Museum said that it was the worst (busiest) Sunday he had seen in many months.

Sagrada Familia was mind blowing. On Sunday I purchased a timed ticket for 0915 Monday (2 euro service charge - that's fine). I spent about 2.5 hours in/around the buildingand then to take a mental break I made the mistake of stepping into the shop, and they would not let me return to the basilica. They said I had exited SF by entering the shop. (The only sign said "exit through shop" but it turned out that the exit was as soon as you went into the shop, not when you left the shop on the street side. I was so frustrated!). I suppose I could have stood in the ticket line and purchased another ticket ....

Wandering around is interesting. There is a problem eating because most of the meals are very social with food to share so I have not tried to do tapas etc for one. So far I have eaten lightly at the hotel, or take out sandwiches and today before heading out I will stop at the Market to get a picnic lunch.

Posted by
14246 posts

There is a large tapas bar called Orio opposite the Santa Caterina market. Santa Caterina is where the locals shop more than La Boqueria where most of the tourists go. Santa Caterina is cheaper. At the Orio, seating inside is at long tables with high stools, so you might get into conversation with someone. They put out the tapas buffet-style. Big selection, both hot and cold. You choose what you want, and pay by the piece when you've finished. This was the last stop on the tapas tour I took and since it was close to my hotel, I returned on my own a couple nights later.

Posted by
650 posts

Enjoy Montserrat. It is an awesome experience and it was my favorite time spent in Barcelona.
Also try to catch the Magic Fountains if you can. It is very enjoyable.

Posted by
7 posts

Montserrat was very interesting -- and with my TransMonserrat ticket (metro, R5, aeri tram, and two funiculars for 29.3 euros very affordable). Regarding the change from metro to R5 at Placa Espanya, I simply went up to the plaza after exiting the metro and strolled around the plaza counterclockwise until I found the entrance down to the R5. Lots of signage there too for Montserrat and a TI rep in the station!

I skedaddled out of Montserrat mid-afternoon as heavy thunderstorms were building. Got back to Boqueria market to get some super provisions as the skies opened. Tomorrow it is supposed to rain until midday,but I hope to go to Parc Guell in the afternoon.

Chani, thank you for the tapas recommendation. I will try it tomorrow -- right now it is pouring rain.

Oh, and regarding the crowding, one local I spoke with as we sheltered from the rain said that between Barcelona becoming so popular, cheap flights within Europe and no border controls so Europeans travel a lot now, and more global (especially Chinese and Indian) tourists, it is a bit like the ski slopes that accommodate more skiers (because the demand is there) by installing high speed four and six person lifts. So they get more and more people to the top of the mountain, but the quality of the experience is greatly diminished. He also said that Barcelona has imposed a moratorium on new hotel building while they try to figure out how to handle the masses of tourists now coming.

Posted by
2557 posts

Ahhhh... I believe I'm too late to bring anything to the discussion now.... sorry!

Posted by
7124 posts

The nuance of language - how disappointing for you.
A sign "NO RE-ENTRY PAST THIS POINT" would avoid any ambiguity.

Posted by
1865 posts

If you'd like to get out and enjoy tapas, then followed by a full meal, get in touch with Matthew at Food Lovers Tapas Tour:

My husband and I took this tour in March, when we were in Barcelona. Our group (of maybe 8) along with the guide visited 3 different places (two tapas restaurants....local type) and then a third restaurant, where a full meal was served. All wine/adult beverages were included, and the guide explained the local food traditions and what we were tasting. You will NOT go away hungry.

You can do a quick check on Trip Advisor to to see photos of what the typical group looks like, and some of the dishes they try:

If I were in Barcelona by myself, I sure would sign up for this tour. A fun evening out (in a very safe way) with a fun group of well-educated people. Our group had mostly Americans and Canadians, but very interesting well-traveled people. I would guess that the average age was low 40s, but one young lady was younger and 3 were older. Most of the people in our group were single (or traveling solo), one mom/daughter, and us (a couple).

Not inexpensive, but when will you be back to Barcelona....and you will remember the special evening for a long time!

Posted by
7 posts

Than you everyone for the helpful replies.

Upon rereading my posts it sounds like I am only complaining -- about my own ignorance in leaving SF early (entirely my fault), about the crowds, about the difficulties of eating solo in a culture where eating is a social event. And I do so appreciate your help navigating these frustrating challenges.

But there is so much that is fabulous, and when you discover it, you realize it has nothing to do with the "tourist" agenda.

On Sunday I watched the dancers on the cathedral plaza, but was truly drawn to the musicians: the band consisted of five trumpet-like horns of various sizes, a piccolo/ tambour player, a string bass player, and to my complete delight, four players of double-reed instruments: two oboes and two ...English horns? Bass oboes? I stood next to the musicians with my back to the dancers most of the time, mesmerized.

Wandering and getting lost in the Bari Gotic I came across a small child play park on Monday afternoon, and sat in the sun watching families of many generations play together. I couldn't tell who was having the most fun. No one was engrossed in a smart phone.: they found the children and the other adults more interesting than Facebook. Imagine that!

On late Sunday morning along the marina I found a row of food vendors under white awnings, with red and yellow signs saying "Sabor a Catalunya" (or something very similar). Oh, my! The figs! And a "Cana chocolate" makes a mere "pan au chocolate" seem limp and tasteless. Good thing for my hips that I have not found the cana chocolate elsewhere!

Have you seen the "professional" sand sculpture builders on the beach? Some of the structures are amazing: Imagine what would come of Dr. Seuss, Antoni Gaudi and Salvador Dali sharing a bong! And in 24 hours it is gone.

The brick basin & flame memorial to Catalunya's September 11 heroes and victims, next to the Passiag Born, is simple, elegant and moving if you reflect on the history. Very quiet: I think most tourists don't notice it.

I take delight in how some shopkeepers -- especially older, especially in small food shops -- light up with a smile if you enter and say "Hola!" before proceeding and "gracias" as you leave, instead of ignoring them as so many people unfortunately do. They smile with their entire faces and their eyes.

And I am feeling like an "art expert" now :-). I recognized a statue on the plaza at Montserrat was by the same sculptor who made the statues on the Passion Facade of SF. I like his style immensely, even though I cannot spell his name by memory: Subriach?

Life exploring Barcelona is very good, despite my stumbles. Thank you!

Posted by
2557 posts

Hi Liz,
Sardana is both the music and the dance at the same time. It's the national dance of Catalonia & it's something very embedded in Catalan culture from a tender age, especially in rural Catalonia as you can see in this competition in Balaguer. The one you saw in front of the Cathedral is performed every Sunday (except in summer) and the dancers are regular folks, not professional dancers. For a professional exhibition you can see this old video form a performance at the Barcelona auditorium. Sardanes (plural) are played in most Festes Majors -annual festivals celebrated in each city and town in Catalonia. Many of the sardanes have lyrics, some related to mundane daily life stuff, some about love and loved ones, but many about remembrance and also patriotic Catalan themes. This short video shows a visual history of this dance/music. If you wonder why they're singing in French it's because what the French call "Pays Catalan" are territories in the south of the current France that used to be part of Catalonia but were lost in a 17th century war against the French, yet obviously the people of the region have maintained their Catalan heritage very much alive.

The music band, called a "cobla", is normally (although not necessarily) formed by 12 instruments played by 11 musicians. Four of those are typical Catalan instruments: tenora, tible, flabiol and tamborí, and some of the other instruments in the cobla are contrabass, trumpet, trombone and flugelhorn. The tenora and tible are two types of shawms, while the flabiol is a woodwind musical instrument and the tamborí is like a tiny drum. Also, sometimes it may include a gralla but that's an instrument more typical in the bands accompanying the castellers (human towers). It's important to notice that during the construction of the human tower the music points the members of the "colla" (group of castellers) that are building it up how the process is going, which stage is the construction in, etc since, as you can imagine seeing the video, the members in the different levels don't have a general view of the whole process and for it to succeed it has to be a coordinated group effort. The gralla is also a typical instrument of the bands accompanying the groups dancing El ball de bastons (an ancient ritual weapon stick dance) performed in Festes Majors. Btw, as you can see despite being an ancient war ritual we don't discriminate women, hahaha!

And since you mentioned you particularly liked the music, I've chosen a few popular ones, from different styles and very patriotic ones: La Santa Espina, La puntaire, L'Emigrant, and an instrumental compilation of some other ones. Also, this is an interesting symphonic version from some popular sardanes that the London Symphony Orchestra interpreted in homage to our national dance during a visit to Catalonia in 2008.

Well, sorry for this long dissertation on sardana, what a bore, huh?, lol!