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Americans who only have two weeks annual vacation have a habit of cramming too much vacation into too little time. I’ve done it myself, and I’m sure I’ll do it again, but that doesn’t work well in a lot of locations. Barcelona is one of those cities that you’d need weeks to see thoroughly, but what if you only have a day or two? Here’s how to make the most of a short trip to Barcelona.
Include a Variety of Activities
The best way to feel like you’ve seen all of a city even though you’ve barely scratched the surface is to sample a variety of things: gothic beauty at Santa Maria del Mar basilica, Gaudi’s modernism at Casa Pedrera, and daily life in Gràcia. If you can, mix things up with walking tours, self-guided museum visits, and even hands-on classes.
Plan a Siesta
It can seem counterintuitive to include downtime in your travel schedule when you already have limited time to see everything, but a siesta is part of Barcelona’s schedule. Live like the locals and spend an hour sipping coffee at a café or chatting over a glass of wine with your friends. If you still want to feel like you’re touring, stroll the beach at Barceloneta.
Map It Out
I love aimlessly wandering through a city, but when you’re short on time, you can fit more in simply by grouping your attractions in an efficient order. Prioritize what you want to see and then circle them on a map. When you visualize it, you’ll quickly see what’s near each other. Overlap your plans with tourist bus routes or a public transportation map so you won’t get lost!
Go Out at Night
Just because it’s dark out doesn’t mean your day in Barcelona is over. Barcelona’s nightlife is a vibrant part of the city, and you need to head out to capture the city’s full essence. Locals usually eat dinner around 10 p.m., and bars and nightclubs are open long after that. Want something more low-key? Don’t miss the Montjuic fountain show.
Save the Day Trips for Next Time
There are some really cool places within an hour or two of Barcelona: Montserrat, Sitges, Figueres, and more. They’re all worth adding to your bucket list, but if you only have a few days, stick to the city itself. Not only will you save time in transportation but you’ll also have a great excuse to return to Barcelona in the future.
Don’t Pinch Pennies
Sometimes spending a little can make a big difference. Barcelona is one of the cheapest cities in Europe, so you might have a little left over to splurge on tickets that let you skip the line to popular tourist attractions. Look for Barcelona hotels that will put you in the heart of the city, even if they cost a little more than commuting in. And by all means, eat at one of Barcelona’s many great restaurants.
There will never be enough time to experience all of Barcelona, but even a short trip will be memorable if you plan smartly. Enjoy the brief time you have, but prepare yourself: you’ll definitely want to go back.