One of the greatest things about Barcelona, is that it's a city big enough in that you’re constantly discovering new hot spots and out of the way places, yet it’s small enough in that it usually doesn't take longer than 20 minutes to get from point A to B, whether it be via taxi, metro, bus or on foot, depending on where you’re going. This makes it extremely easy and inviting to explore and delve into the many aspects of Barcelona’s rich history, unique culture, avant-garde designs and renowned architecture.
If you want to take in as much as you can in Barcelona in a day, venture from the old into the new and see how the city has evolved throughout the centuries. A great place to kick off the morning is by traipsing through some of the most historic neighborhoods, specifically the Gothic Quarter and the Born. If you're into art, the Museu Picasso in the Born, features a small and select exhibit of some of the artist’s most unique works. If you're planning on hitting up the museum, the easiest way to avoid the lines is to buy tickets directly from the internet. If you're less of a museum goer and want to become acquainted with the very local culture and off the beaten path areas, head into the windy streets of the Gothic Quarter and discover the oldest neighborhood in Barcelona. The Gotico is as rustic as it is charming and whether or not you know where you're going, you're bound to stumble upon boutique shops, cool out of the way local hangouts and tons of medieval courtyards surrounded by gorgeous, centuries-old architecture. A few 'must-sees' in the Gotico include the famous Cathedral located right off via Laietana and Portal de L'Angel, as well as the 'Call', the old Jewish Quarter where you can also visit the tiny, synagogue, which today acts mostly as a museum with the occasional religious service.
If you're up for a morning snack and want to try a very typical Catalan dish, order Churros and Chocolate at any of the Spanish bars or restaurants. This is a very traditional snack and an excellent pick-me-up, after having walked around for a few hours.
When you’re done exploring the Old City head towards La Rambla, one of the busiest and most famous walkways in the world with an average of 150,000 people strolling along it daily. It's one of the most eclectic and lively strips featuring everything from caged pigeons to gelato stands and street performers sitting frozen, with their pants down on makeshift toilets. This is a great place to bring kids and can provide for hours of entertainment. Be sure to keep your purses close and your pockets zipped on this street, as it is known to be pickpocket central.
While you’re strolling along La Rambla, stop at the Boqueria, Barcelona’s most well known market where locals go to buy their daily fresh food. If you’re not into markets, it’s still worth a glance at the many overflowing food stalls full of cured meats, manchego cheeses, wide variety of seafood and vegetables and fruits. If you’re hungry, walk towards the back of the market where the food is half the price compared with the stands closer to the front.
As you continue walking up La Rambla you’ll arrive at Plaza Catalunya where you'll embark on Barcelona’s ‘newer’ areas, including the Eixample (Catalan for expansion). Barcelona's modernist period thrived between 1890-1910 and when you emerge from Ciutat Vella (old city), you'll see the incredible buildings of Antoni Gaudi, Lluis Domenech i Montaner, amongst the works of many other modernist masterminds of the time. A few key buildings to check out, even just from the outside, include, Casa Batllo and La Pedrera, both situated on Passeig de Gracia. This is also a great place to take a leisurely stroll as its streets are wide and there are plenty of high-end shops. Parallel to Passeig de Gracia is another nice place for quality shopping. Rambla Catalunya is one of Barcelona's more elegant walkways, full of designer stores and nice restaurants. It's an ideal place for tapas and drinks on one of the many patios lining the walkway; Piscolabis Restaurant in particular, located closer to the top of Rambla Catalunya, has delicious tapas.
After spending some time in the Eixample, another definite ‘must-see’ is Gaudi's main architectural gem, the Sagrada Familia. This gorgeous Roman Catholic Basilica began construction in 1882 and is still being built today; set to be completed in 2046. It's truly a breathtaking visage and whether or not you feel like going inside or just gawking at it from the streets, a day in Barcelona would not be complete without a visit to this landmark.
Depending on time and how much energy you have, if it's a nice day out, a fun way to spend the late afternoon is to head to another one of Gaudi's creations, in Park Guell. Featuring the longest bench in the world and Gaudi's tiny little house where he lived for many years, the park is a free and enjoyable place to take picturesque city views, read a book while relaxing on the grass or listening to music that is usually being played by a group of hippies or students picnicking in the park. A good trick, if you want to avoid the very long uphill steps to enter the grounds, is to take the green metro line and get off at the Lesseps stop (instead of Valcarca). This way you can enter through the back of the park and make your way towards the front and then take the steps down as you leave. Of course if you're looking for a good work out then walking up will totally get the thighs burning.
Once the sun starts to set, it’s time to get ready for Barcelona’s always thriving and never-ending nightlife. Even if you’re not up for anything too intense, find a cool locale and go for either tapas or a more luxurious sit down dinner. As Barcelona is highly regarded for its impressive culinary scene, there is no lacking for excellent places to eat, no matter what type of food you’re craving. The Born has several great options and on the main strip, Passeig Del Born, there are plenty of bars and tapas joints which are always lively and full of energy, so you can eat dinner and just hop next door or around the corner to keep the party going. A few other places if you’re up for clubbing or even some live music venues are in Plaza Reial where there are several clubs and bars, all within close proximity of each other. If you’re looking for late night venues along the beach try Shoko, Opium Mar or CDLC, all slightly more upscale and open until 7 in the morning. And then of course if you’re still kicking once the sun comes up, there’s always the ‘afters’, where you'll need local insider information in order to find out exactly which metal door to knock on, in which random alleyway and with what secret password.