A Contrarian Plan for Visiting Barcelona and Skipping Spain

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American tourists in particular fall into the trap of trying to do everything when they travel. It makes sense: after a long, expensive flight from home, you want to make the trip worthwhile. A one-week trip to Spain might include Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, and even another stop or two.

Don’t do that.

When you arrive in Barcelona, stay a while. Once you’re there, you’ll understand. Barcelona is a fascinating city, and you can only begin to see it all if you give it the time it deserves. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, a region completely different from the rest of Spain. Since it feels and acts like its own country, you might as well treat it as such.

Once you’re in Barcelona, you should obviously carve out time to see the main tourist attractions (they’re famous for a reason!). Stroll La Rambla and plan on staying awhile with a glass of wine and people-watching. Street buskers will keep you entertained even if the tourists passing by don’t! In this same area, the famous public market La Boqueria is a great place to pick up ingredients for a picnic lunch. Evenings at the Magic Fountain are a relaxing way to end your day as you enjoy choreographed fountains set to music and colored lights.

montjuic fountain barcelona

Photo by Chasing Amber via Trover.com

My favorite part about Barcelona — and what makes it truly unique — is the Gaudi architecture throughout the city. Houses like Casa Battlo and La Pedrera are open for tours so you can see the unique touches that make his architecture over the top. La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona’s famous unfinished cathedral, is also open for tours, and seeing the work in progress inspired by Gaudi is intriguing in a different way. However, if you only visit one Gaudi attraction, make it Parc Guell. This free outdoor park is whimsical, colorful, and fun! You can easily spend an entire afternoon walking around and getting close to the details.

parc guell barcelona

Photo by Asier Garcia via Trover.com

Barcelona is also the perfect launching off point to tour the rest of Catalonia. Montserrat, a monastery in the Pyrenees mountains, is interesting for both its religious significance and gorgeous outdoor setting. Costa Brava’s lively beach resorts are popular in the summer; Sitges is only about 35 minutes away by train and has beaches, coves, and seaside restaurants. Figueres, north of the city, pays homage to Salvador Dali at the huge Theatre Museu Gala Salvador Dali, a draw for art lovers.

figueres dali museum

Photo by claudiagoesabroad via Trover.com

In between these activities, you can also enjoy the amenities of all great cities: restaurants to suit every mood and budget, world-class museums, and comfortable Barcelona hotels. If you’re planning on staying for several nights, it’s worth looking into Airbnb, so you have space to spread out while experiencing the city like a local. Choose an address that fits your personality, whether you’re near nightclubs that are open until the sun comes up or near fine dining for luxe dinners. Barcelona truly has it all.

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4 thoughts on “A Contrarian Plan for Visiting Barcelona and Skipping Spain”

  1. I agree, but would say do 2 trips. Barcelona stands on its own as a trip but Madrid-Granada-Cordoba-Seville is an amazing trip as well. Both have a totally different feel, and both are equally amazing. The cool thing about Spain is it is close, cheap (relatively) and easy to get to on miles! We can’t get enough of Spain, it is on our permanent rotation..

    1. @clayd333, You’re right – the rest of Spain is great too but zooming around isn’t the best solution IMO. I think you could easily plan 3-4 trips and still have enough to do 🙂

  2. Wow, great timing article. My girlfriend and I are planning a trip to Spain for 10 days and trying to decide how long to stay at each place. Madrid already got cut.

    1. @Marc, With 10 days, you have time to move around a bit…I’d recommend a minimum of 2-3 nights in every location though (3 nights for major cities, 2 will work in some smaller areas).

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