It's hard to cover all that Barcelona has to offer in only half a day. In a city so rich in history and full of innovative design, delicious food, avant-garde architecture and a thriving nightlife, you could spend days on end here and still not take it all in.
However, if you only have a few hours to spare and want to try and 'sum it all up,' then two neighborhoods worth checking out are Barcelona's most historic Gotico and its 'newly' created Eixample. This is a great way to see the city's progression from old into 'new'; what many people don't know about Barcelona, is that it's a city renowned for its well done urban planning and is often used as a model for how to properly foster and design city growth.
Sagrada Familia — Photo courtesy of La Sagrada Familia
Start in Ciutat Vella (Old City) where the Gothic Quarter is located and stroll through the narrow alleyways and windy streets that make up this exciting and charming 'barrio' (neighborhood). The Gothic Quarter is known for its cathedrals, boutique shops, city ruins and quaint courtyards. Plaza Sant Felipe Neri is definitely worth a visit and you can see remnants where bombs struck during the Spanish Civil War. If you go inside the Neri Hotel, right around the corner from the Plaza, check out their intimate rooftop terrace which is a relaxing place to grab a drink or a cup of tea.
After spending a few hours in the Gotico, walk, bus or metro to the top of Plaza Catalunya, which is the start of the Eixample neighborhood. Eixample, literally meaning 'expansion,' is the part of the city created in the late 19th century. Gaudi's gorgeous buildings line the main street of Passeig De Gracia and it's not rare to find people staring up at Gaudi's Casa Batllo, mouths wide open at all hours of the day and night.
To the right of this neighborhood, a short walk or metro ride away is the famous church, the Sagrada Familia. And if you're not a Gaudi lover or Modernist buff, the church is still definitely worth a trip, even if you only gawk at it from the outside.
Once you're finished, go for some delicious tapas at Tapas 24 or La Pepita, both in the Eixample. If you want to head back to the Old City, Passieg Del Born has excellent terraces as does the Gothic Quarter behind the correos (post office).