If You Only Have Three Days in Barcelona

A reasonable dose of Modernisme and classic Barcelona with a dash of off-the-beaten-path adventures will make three days in the Catalan Capital a cherished memory for even the most road-weary world travelers. A long weekend in Barcelona is plenty of time to get a taste of the city---traditional tapas, regional wines and market cuisine pair nicely with outdoor art, lush green spaces, and a heady mixture of Modernista and Gothic buildings garnished with the occasional Roman ruin.

Pla de la Seu, s/n, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
While the unfinished Sagrada Familia is perhaps Barcelona’s most famous church, its cathedral is Santa Eulàlia, a Gothic church constructed between the 13th to 15th centuries. Its neo-Gothic facade was built over the original exterior in the 19th century. The rooftop features a variety of gargoyles inspired by real and mythical creatures. Salute Barcelona’s co–patron saint, Eulàlia, the cathedral’s namesake, in the crypt, and then move on to the cloisters where 13 white geese frolic in a 14th-century fountain.
Passeig de Gràcia, 92, 08008 Barcelona, Spain
The mysterious rooftop of Casa Mila both charms and haunts visitors. The glorious October sky above frames the organic forms, each sculpted face watching as I creep up and down the rolling ramps. Children can’t resist playing here, and fortunately there are now fences all around. In my mind, I erase all of those pesky safety features to envision the smooth sculptures growing towards the sky from a scrolling sandy field. Once a site for a scene from Star Wars, the rooftop is now a destination for lovers of Barcelona and Antoni Guadi’s “Modernisma” style. When you visit, you’ll learn the secret behind those long vertical faces rising up above the mystical rooftop.
91 Rambla de Sant Josep
Pinotxo, which stands for Pinocchio in Catalan, is a longtime family-owned restaurant in the Mercat de la Boqueria, Barcelona‘s most important central market. Reasonable prices and fresh produce entice tourists and locals for breakfast, lunch, or a quick coffee and fried donut (called a xuxo). Look for Juanito in the bowtie.
Baixada del Monestir, 9, 08034 Barcelona, Spain
This Gothic monastery houses collections from Barcelona‘s City History Museum, but if you’ve got only an hour or so, skip the exhibits in favor of a walk around. Founded by Queen Elisenda of Montcada, the wife King James II of Aragon in 1326, the monastery (or monestir in Catalan) is a welcome oasis after time spent in Barcelona’s hectic city center. Three floors of cloisters frame a beautiful garden crowded with orange trees and palms. In their shade, watch goldfish swim through the green waters of the garden’s central fountain. If you’ve got a bit more time, don’t miss the 14th-century stained-glass windows in the chancel. Opening hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, October through March; they’re extended to 5 p.m. from April through September. Sundays, the monastery is open until 8 p.m., and admission is free after 3 p.m. Get there via FGC, L6; stop: Reina Elisenda.
La Rambla, 65, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Amble down La Rambla, stopping to admire fresh flowers, original artwork, and Barcelona souvenirs at your leisure. Watch living statues come to life when you drop a euro in their cups—most will pose with passersby, for a price, of course. Keep an eye out for the pavement mosaic by Joan Miró at 80 Pla de l’Os and the Canaletes Fountain at the top of La Rambla (across from No. 133), where FC Barcelona fans come to celebrate victories.
C. d'Aristides Maillol, 12, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
Even if you can’t attend a match, you can still imagine the crowds cheering on the home team at the Football Club Barcelona’s stadium, admire a shrine to Argentine superstar Leo Messi and learn about the history of Barcelona’s world-renowned soccer club with interactive displays in the museum. There’s also an indoor ice-skating rink and a massive FC Barcelona store where fans can buy official jerseys and more emblazoned with the team’s name and colors.

Carrer dels Banys Nous, 20, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
L’Arca, formerly known as L’Arca de l’Avia, specializes in recreating historical clothing, especially ball gowns and wedding dresses, but it’s a great place to pick up antique and vintage accessories like lace gloves, Spanish fans, and jewelry, as well as fabrics and housewares. Things here are beautiful, but far from cheap. Of course if you plan on attending a fancy dress ball or getting married, a dress from L’Arca would be an incredible souvenir...
Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona, Spain
One of Barcelona‘s most exclusive streets, Passeig de Gràcia is home to modernista masterpieces like La Pedrera and Casa Batlló as well as the massive luxury storefronts of brands such as Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Mandarina Duck, and Adolfo Domínguez. That said, you’ll also find more affordable shops like Zara and H&M for mere mortals. This is a great place to perch on a mosaic modernista park bench and people-watch. The mix of wealthy locals, fashionistas, and tourists of all shapes and sizes makes it especially entertaining, even for Barcelona.
Carrer de Joaquín Costa, 33, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
The Catalan capital has plenty of places to cozy up with your loved one and enjoy your drink of choice, be it a meaty Tarragona red or a café carajillo—the Spanish spin on Irish coffee. Lean your elbows on the marble tables of Casa Almirall, located in Barcelona’s gritty Raval neighborhood and founded in 1860, while nibbling olives and sipping the house vermouth on the rocks. Alternatively, share a bottle of cava at El Bosc de les Fades, a fairytale forest-themed café inside Barcelona’s Wax Museum off La Rambla. With its soft lighting and bohemian ambiance, Andú (c/Correu Vell, 3) is the perfect place to share cava and light tapas in a homely and intimate setting.
Plaça Comercial, 12, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Inside this 1876 market, you can see the footprint of 18th century Barcelona and read about what life was like before the city’s siege during the War of Spanish Succession. The airy iron and glass market, modeled on Parisian architecture is the largest covered square in Europe and marked the beginning of Modernisme in Catalan architecture. Check out seasonal exhibits or get up close and personal with the ruins on a tour (prior reservation necessary).
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