Based on most cruise itineraries, your port stop in Barcelona is unlikely to give you more than a day to explore the sights of this amazing city. To maximize the time you have on land, here are five things NOT to do in Barcelona on a one day visit…and some tips on what you should do instead.
1) Don’t queue to get inside one Gaudi landmark…
Antonio Gaudi’s iconic architecture is one of Barcelona’s most intriguing attractions. Consequently, the queues to get a closer look can occupy the best part of a few days, let alone one. People on a tight itinerary often choose one of the sights, usually La Sagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family), and join the lines that can take hours.
Instead see three from the outside
Instead of investing your time at only one of Gaudi’s sights, make a short stop at three of his most famous buildings – La Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila (known as La Padera) and Casa Batlló – and view them from the outside. Gaudi’s works have sufficiently dramatic exteriors that visitors can get a good overview of Gaudi’s quirky gothic style without losing precious time standing in long queues.
Another of Gaudi’s Gothic constructs – Casa Batlló. Photo by Paco CT.
2) Don’t visit Poble Espanyol for a replica of Spain’s past…
Poble Espanyol is a replica of a small Spanish village that was built in the 1920s and is a thriving tourist draw. Arts, crafts and traditional food are available for consumption but one of the main reasons visitors flock to these recast streets is for the famous Flamenco Show that is performed each night. Sadly, your cruise is likely to be departing as the show starts meaning that all that’s left to see is a contrived version of history, albeit a picturesque one.
Instead visit the Gothic Quarter for real history
For a real sense of Barcelona’s past, head to the Barri Gòtic, the Gothic Quarter, which is one of Europe’s largest medieval quarters. Twisting alleyways and a cathedral that was built between the 13th and 15th century provide ample atmosphere.
Explore the Gothic Quarter for a real sense of Spanish past. Photo by Oh-Barcelona.com.
3) Don’t lose time in the gigantic National Art Museum…
Of course, the National Museum of Art of Catalunya merits a visit but the museum is so vast it can end up being one of the only things you see during your brief port call.
Instead whistle through the Picasso Museum
If you’re looking to dip a quick toe in Barcelona’s rich art scene, leave MNAC aside and visit the Picasso Museum. Housed within adjacent medieval palaces, the Picasso collection includes some of the artist’s most famous work and although there are over 3,000 pieces contained within the museum, the building is a manageable size and can be visited at a pace that allows you to see the most iconic paintings and still have time to enjoy other parts of the city.
Manageably sized Picasso Museum. Photo by Alex Grechman.
4) Don’t queue to ascend the spires at La Sagrada Familia…
Another reason people are lured to La Sagrada Familia is the opportunity to ascend the spires for panoramic views over Barcelona. However, with queues stretching for hours during busy periods, you’re advised to get your panoramic snaps from elsewhere.
Instead take in the panorama at Montjuïc
Montjuïc is a natural hill in Barcelona that affords commanding views of the city. Fortress remains are on offer for history lovers while the hill also had a more modern side that includes the Olympic Stadium and the Magic Fountain, which is particularly captivating at dusk. For those who don’t fancy the climb, a funicular is available.
Take in the views from Montjuïc. Photo by nadia_the_witch.
5) Don’t take the hop-on bus to see the city…
Hop-on city buses are a great idea in principle and for many visits the Barcelona tourist bus is worth using. However, with routes taking around half a day to complete without hopping off, you’re better exploring Barcelona’s sites by foot and using the fast and efficient metro service to travel between them.
Instead wander from La Rambla and take the metro for other stops
La Rambla is a great starting point, not far from the ports. As Barcelona’s most famous street, filled with cafes, street performers and craft stalls, La Rambla is the backbone of the city and leads to Plaça de Catalunya, a plaza complete with fountains and sculptures.
Enjoy the cafe culture around La Rambla and Plaça de Catalunya. Photo by notarvis.
At the end of your port visit, make your way back down La Rambla confident you have taken a great slice of Barcelona’s sights in what will have surely been a memorable day.
Which cities have you whizzed through in just 24 hours? Let me know in the comments below.
Main image: La Sagrada Familia, one of Barcelona’s most iconic images. Photo by Zanthia.