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Best of Spain (BOS) Alumni - Barcelona Free Time Questions

My husband and I (60s) are taking the Best of Spain tour in September. We are arriving in Barcelona a day and a half early and will also have an afternoon and evening free to plan on our own. Here’s what I’m considering based on research and TA recommendations. I’m looking for confirmation that this is workable or other suggestions. We plan to walk or take taxis to get from place to place.
Friday, arrive at BCN at 1:30 pm. By the time we get through customs and to the Rick Steves’ hotel near Placa de Catalunya, it will likely be check in time. Eat if hungry. If jet lagged, walk to Placa de Catalunya and take the Hop on Hop off bus for city orientation. Or if we are energetic, fit in Palau Guell or La Pedrera before the Hop on Hop off bus.
Saturday morning and afternoon we will visit sites not on the tour. Start with tour of nearby Palau de la Musica. Take cab to cable car for Montjuic and the Miro museum. In the afternoon, visit Palau Guell or La Pedrera if we didn’t on Friday. Meet up with tour at 5 pm then dinner.

Sunday with the tour we visit Barri Gotic and the cathedral, then tour Sagrada Familia. We finish there at 1. After lunch we plan to tour Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau on our way to Park Guell, targeted tour time of 5:15. If we are not too tired, possibly go to Casa Batilo for a concert at 8 pm.

We love panoramic views, history and art museums (but have seen a lot of Picasso elsewhere). Is there a must see that I’ve missed? Thanks in advance for your advice and suggestions.

Posted by
745 posts

"We love art museums (but have seen a lot of Picasso elsewhere)."
Maybe, but you haven't seen the Las Meninas studies - and they, alone, are worth the price of admission at the Picasso Museum. In as much as your "Day 3" of the tour includes a visit to The Prado, where the Velasquez "Las Meninas" is on view - seeing the Picasso studies becomes more urgent - at least in my opinion. If you elect to include the Picasso Museum in your visit, make reservations or you'll never get in.
Here's that link: http://www.museupicasso.bcn.cat/en/

Posted by
19160 posts

I question the utility of the HO/HO buses in Barcelona, having seen a humongous line of people waiting to board at Placa Catalunya in August 2016. There was no bus in sight, and it was clear the entire crowd wasn't going to fit on one bus.

The usual recommedation for fighting jetlag on arrival day is to walk around outdoors. I know I'd fall asleep within 5 minutes if I sat down on a bus on Day 1. Instead, I'd consider a just-show-up walking tour or simply wander around one of Barcelona's picturesque neighborhoods.

I think it's pretty unlikely that you could just walk up and buy tickets for immediate entry to La Pedrera. It's one of many Barcelona sights where hour-long lines are likely and total sell-outs occur frequently. Additional places for which you need to buy tickets in advance are La Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell (no tickets sold at the park) and Casa Batllo. I'd also prebook the tour at the Palau de la Musica Catalana.

I do not know about the current walk-up situation at Palau Guell. It sometimes had a ticket line back in 2016, and the city is getting much heavier tourist traffic now, but it wasn't as bad as Casa Batllo and La Pedrera. Still, touring an indoor sight isn't what I'd recommend on arrival day.

Sunday is going to be a busy day if you finish up at La Sagrada Familia at 1 PM (are you sure you won't want to stay longer?), then need to find lunch and tour Sant Pau (a large site that took me close to 2-1/2 hours) before getting to Parc Guell by 5:15 PM.

Because of the common massive crowding, I consider the Picasdo Museum totally skippable for most visitors. Conditions at the Miro Museum are much more pleasant, but I liked the MNAC even more. In addition to paintings and sculptures it has frescoes rescued from churches in the Pyrenees and an excellent modernism collection focusing on furniture, decorative arts and jewelry. The city has a number of other art museums as well.

Posted by
653 posts

You have a lot packed in for the first few days, but if you can get some rest on the plane, it is doable. I agree with acraven on the Hop-on-Hop off bus. We were in Barcelona in late September 2017 and abandoned our plans to take the Hop-on-Hop off tour, way too crowded.

If you are up to doing something a bit different, I would suggest a food tour. My husband and I actually took a cooking class and market tour, but that doesn't fit your time frame on your first day. We have used Devour tours throughout Spain and loved the mixture of history and culture with food. Here is the link: https://devourbarcelonafoodtours.com/. There may be something that fits your schedule.

As for the Picasso Museum, I agree with Blue439, I loved the Picasso Museum ( and we went on free museum day--so super crowded). I have been to the Picasso Museum in Antibes, plus seen Picasso's in museums around the globe and this was the first time, I truly understood the evolution of his genius. Las Meninas studies are a great prelude to your visit to the Prado. Even my husband who really did not want to go to this museum (not a huge Picasso fan), like to see the progression of Picasso as an artist and came away with a much greater appreciation of the stories Picasso was trying to tell.

Enjoy the tour and Barcelona.

Sandy

Posted by
134 posts

Hello Lynn,
My husband and I took this tour in 2014 and loved it! We too arrived in Barcelona a couple of days in advance. I would suggest, as others have mentioned, the best thing to do after checking in would be to walk around. I would recommend walking Las Ramblas down to the waterfront. It is so interesting with lots of shops and restaurants, and at the waterfront there is a small Maritime Museum that we really enjoyed. Our scrapbook is linked with Rick's Tour section if you are interested in looking at our trip experience. It is under William and Theresa Barr. I hope you will enjoy this Tour as much as we did.
Teri

Posted by
38 posts

I went on this tour a few years ago and it was great! We didn't have our first full day walking tour until the afternoon, due to scheduling problems, so its best to stay flexible. I regretted missing La Merce festival that was going on in the city when I was there. I guess it's not everyone's thing, but I went back the next year just to see it. Its a religious festival that would only happen in Spain. There are human pyramid shows, folk dancing, concerts, giants parades and my favorite- fire runs! There may be actual religious things about it but I didn't attend any of those. It's Sept. 20-24 this year. Your hotel probably has a little brochure with the scedule of events.
https://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/events/la-merce/barcelona-la-merce.html
Enjoy!

Posted by
6740 posts

You will be dealing with a nine hour time change so expect jet lag your first day, especially in the afternoon.
Museo Picasso- we enjoyed seeing the progression of his art from when he was quite young; his paintings were much more realistic in his youth.
Definitely visit Museo Miró including the fun sculptures up on the roof. You can see the effects of the Spanish Civil War on him through his art. Great panoramic views from Montjuic which also has several sites from the Barcelona Olympics. If lines are horrible at HOHO or cable car, take a taxi up to the top as you do not want to miss this view or Museo Miró.

Posted by
1650 posts

This is all great advice above; I would just add that if you do want to go to La Pedrera then consider doing the Eixample walking tour described in the RS guidebook rather than just staying on the main wide street. You get a taste of a more local market than the Boqueria and a more local basilica than the ones on the regular itinerary. Also, imho the dining options there north of the plaza are not a great value - do some sleuthing instead.

Posted by
376 posts

I was on the tour in June and I enjoyed a walk down La Rambla to the end, then got on the metro at the Drassanes stop, bought a T-10 metro ticket and took the metro one stop to Paral-lel. Got off and there was the funicular, right there, used the T-10 ticket and got up to Montjuic. Enjoyed the Joan Miro museum, but even more, I loved the Catalan Art Museum - please don't miss it! Then walked down through the Expo grounds to the Espanya metro station and took it back to the Catalunya station, right by our hotel. Don't know if you're staying at the Catalonia Portal de l'Angel Hotel - it's great.

I really enjoyed taking a paella making class with "The Paella Club", one of the really fun things I did on this trip. And another great thing was a Culinary Backstreets food tour. I took the Bodega, Barcelona Barrio Tradition tour - excellent!!!

Right next door to Casa Batilo is a great little salad and sandwich place and juice place. Walk through the lobby of Casa Amatller and through the chocolate area and there it is. A back terrace surrounded by greenery. Perfect small meal and great fresh juice!

Be sure to use your RS guide, there are so many tips that made my trip easier. I did go to Park Guell (easy shuttle included in the ticket to and from the metro station).and to Sant Pau Hospital (easy to get to by metro).
Have fun! This was a great tour. There are so many treats along the way. Who is your guide?

Posted by
2265 posts

Lynn, the BOS Tour is wonderful, I’m sure you will love it. Of course, the tour short-changes Barcelona, which has at least a week or more of top things to do and sites to visit. Clearly you’re doing your research, and you are already identifying your top choices. I skipped the Ho-Ho bus, and also the Picasso Museum. I love Picasso’s cubist work, but understand this museum focuses on his early more realistic work and is very crowded. I did enjoy the very nice and modest-sized Museum of World Cultures right by the Picasso Museum. Not everybody’s cup of tea however. The Miro Museum is fine, if you like a lot of his work,I found it tiring after a while, but I found the nearby MNAC wonderful, especially the ancient frescoes. The nearby evening Dancing Waters is fun, and free, if it is happening when you are there. I booked in advance from the US both an English tour of the Palau de la Musica Catalana and a Flamenco concert in that wonderful venue. If you go to the Palau Guell, while beautiful it is quite austere and dark, and the Guell family found the same, and eventually built a new home out by the Park Guell. At the Palau Guell, you walk up through several floors which can get tiring. I almost gave up before reaching the roof. Fortunately I persevered, because the roof was very colorful and the highlight for me. it appeared that Gaudi designed a Palau as the Guell family wanted, but had free reign to do his own thing on the roof. As you are thinking, I followed the visit to Sagrada Familia by walking up 15 minutes to the Sant Pau hospital complex for an English tour at 1:15. A little rushed, but worthwhile. The tour group was very small (3) and was very helpful in understanding the beautiful complex. Amazing that it was endowed and built as a hospital for the poor. Finally, I also really enjoyed a food tour and used Taste Barcelona.

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks everyone for your wonderful, detailed advice! I will digest it and make some preliminary decisions, while providing some flexibility. When we get back, I plan to write a trip report to let everyone know how it turned out.

Posted by
8 posts

Teri. Thanks so much for the pointer to your 2014 scrapbook of the Best of Spain tour. I feel like I've just been on the tour! Such great photos and I can see that you had a terrific time.

Posted by
1553 posts

You could get the Articket BCN (https://articketbcn.org) which covers the Miro and Picasso museums (and 4 others) but importantly lets you skip the line. I also I loved this Picasso museum for the focus on his earlier work which I had seen little of. You can also purchase your Casa Mila tickets ahead of time and skip the line.

If you do go strolling jet lagged, keep your wits about you and make sure valuables are stowed safely away. Two of my tourmates on this tour were pick pocketed on the first day (they had their wallets in back pockets). On my "must see" list is the amazing La Boquiera market. But note is not open on Sunday, so make sure you visit on Saturday morning. Personally I'd go there on your arrival day if you're doing a walkabout (open until 8:30 p.m.) and then go back when it opens at 8 on Saturday to see them setting up. It's also fun to walk down La Rambla in the early morning - I saw all the street performers setting up, having coffee, visiting with friends.

Since it looks like you're interested in Gaudi, there are some fun online maps that show the location of modernisme architecture is located in Barcelona. I used it to chart out a self-guided walk one afternoon and ended up spending a lot of time looking for a cool bee-shaped door knocker...neat neighborhoods!

Posted by
8 posts

Here's the scaled back plan:

Friday. After we check in around 3-4 pm, we plan to do Rick's Ramblas Ramble, with a stop at La Boqueria Market, and go as far as we have energy for. Take a taxi back to the hotel and eat nearby.

Saturday. I have a reservation for a self-guided tour of Palau de la Musica at 9:00 (in case we can't fit in a concert). We'll take a taxi to Montjuic Castle then make our way down, perhaps by cable car to the Miro Museum, then the Catalan Art Museum, past the fountains to Place d'Espana and catch a taxi back to the hotel to meet with the tour at 5.

Sunday. The tour goes to Sagrada Familia, ending at 1. We'll walk quickly to Sant Pau for an anytime self-guided tour (reserved) since it closes at 3, then get a snack, and head to Park Guell guided tour, reserved for 5:15.

We could have used 2 more full days, but we'll plan to return someday to see the rest. Thanks to all of you for your help.