If you’ve got a stopover in Barcelona on your cruise itinerary, you may be wondering how you’re going to do it justice in the space of just 24 hours. Surely it’s impossible to get a true sense of this culturally vibrant city in such a short time? While obviously you won’t be able to experience everything, the beauty is that so much of Barcelona’s charm is evidenced in the architecture, art, culture and lifestyle that you’ll encounter it by simply showing up.
Tip: Getting around is simple on the city’s excellent public transport. The metro and trams cover everywhere you’ll need to go. A T-Dia one-day pass, which will cover you for the buses, trams and metro, is €7.60.
A Morning of History, Art and Culture
You’ll be able to get a taste of the city’s wonderful cultural heritage by taking in a few key sights. It’s a very walkable area, but when you don’t have all the time in the world then it’s recommended that you make use of the trams or metro.
Start off with the site most tourists want to see: the magnificent Sagrada Familia. Gaudí’s famously unfinished basilica has been dividing critics for over a century, but love it or loathe it, you simply have to experience it for yourself! Perennially under construction (and with much controversy dogging its modern accoutrements), the basilica is awe-inspiring in both scope and its creator’s imagination. (You can read about some of Gaudí’s other work in the city here.)
The Sagrada Familia is open every day from 9am-6pm (later in summer). Admission is €15 for the basic visit and €29 to ascend the tower for amazing views over the city – recommended! Reach it on Lines 2 and 5 on the metro or there’s a tram stop one street away.
The Gothic Quarter is the true heart of the city, where you’ll find an eclectic juxtaposition of ancient and modern architecture creating its unique Catalan charm. Established by the Romans centuries ago, the Barri Gòtic is a confusing tangle of winding streets, boutiques and restaurants, tranquil plaças (squares), and historic buildings – and don’t worry about getting lost because that’s half the fun.
- Plaça Reial – great for people watching
- The Cathedral – and its lovely courtyard, complete with resident geese
- Calle Avinyo – lined with wonderful little boutiques
- Plaça Catalunya – fabulous architecture and filled with locals
- Passeig de Gràcia – designer shopping at its best
There are several metro stops on the streets that border the Gothic Quarter, and it’s also a very easy walk from Las Ramblas.
Palau de la Musica Orfeo Catalana
Within walking distance of the Gothic Quarter (the opposite side to Las Ramblas), the Palau de la Musica Orfeo is renowned for its ornate architecture and gorgeous mosaics. You can enjoy the exterior and the foyer area for free, but a guided tour of the halls is highly recommended – not only for the impressive interiors (which include a glass roof) and acoustics, but also to learn about its important architectural heritage.
The concert hall can also be reached on Line 1 and 4 on the metro. If you want to see the inside you’ll need to purchase a guided tour, €18.
Lunch, Art and Nature at Park Güell
The iconic Park Güell is another of Antonio Gaudi’s legacies to his beloved city. Jump on the metro and head over to the Gràcia or Horta-Guinardó areas at the base of the park to rest, regroup and have lunch before exploring. A couple of local recommendations for lunch are:
- Restaurant La Torreta – right at the base of the park, serving delicious Catalan cuisine. (Carrer d’ Olot, 24)
- Restaurant El Jardí de l’Àpat – with a lovely garden terrace and gorgeous views. (Carrer d’ Albert Llanas, 2)
The collaboration between Gaudi and the park’s wealthy namesake is the personification of Catalan Modernist architecture in action. Originally conceived as a development for wealthy city residents, its failure has been a gift for the locals and tourists who have been enjoying this tranquil green space for more than a century. You can wander around the 3kms of enchanting pathways, gardens, mosaic sculptures and take in fabulous views over the city.
- Pavelló de Consergeria – originally a gatehouse, now the park’s interpretive centre. Fantastic views from the top.
- Sala Hipóstila – the Doric Temple, comprising 88 stone columns. Includes the Banc de Trencadís, an incredible stone construction that serves as a rainwater run-off.
- Casa-Museu Gaudí – the artist’s final home, now a museum containing a collection of his furniture and memorabilia.
- Turó del Calvari – follow the signs that lead to the best views in the park.
- Gaudí’s mosaic sculptures – found everywhere throughout the park.
The park is open every day from 8.30am-6.15pm (later in summer). Admission is €8. There are three entrances and you’ll need to walk for around 15-20 minutes uphill, although there is an escalator available for part of the way at the main Carrer de Larrard entrance.
A Perfect Day Ends With a Perfect Meal
Round up the day before you head back to your cruise chip by enjoying the best of the city’s cuisine in one of two very different ways.
Casa Calvert: A true Barcelona institution, this very upmarket restaurant is set within a Gaudí designed building. It features semi private dining rooms, ‘taula cabinas’ (intimate wooden booths), a fabulously eclectic décor, and fine dining of classic Mediterranean dishes and tasting plates. (Located at Casp, 48. Tel. 93 412 40 12. Booking recommended.)
Tapas 24: If you want to experience the great Spanish grazing tradition of tapas, the innovative Tapas 24 will tickle your taste buds in the most unusual and delightful way. If you could serve up Barcelona on a plate, this is where you’d get it! (Located at Carrer de la Diputació, 269. Tel. 934 88 09 77. Booking not usually required.)
So there you have it: a whirlwind tour of beautiful Barcelona. You may only have had one day, but it was no ordinary day…
How to get to Barcelona City Centre From the Cruise Port
When your cruise docks, getting to the centre of the city to start exploring is easy. If you’re short on time, the most convenient option is to book a private cruise transfer service. Shuttle Direct’s transfers to Barcelona’s city centre from the port can be booked online ahead of time and a friendly driver will be there to meet you at the terminal and take you to wherever you want to go.
There is also a shuttle bus service that runs from the port to the bottom of Las Ramblas, in the city, however the timetable can be sporadic, depending on demand. The T3 PORTBUS shuttle costs €2 one-way.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is a trusted and respected provider of airport transfers throughout Europe and North Africa. We provide a fast, friendly and convenient service from the airport or cruise port of your choice, and our easy to use booking system allows you to make all your arrangements before leaving home. Choose between a private or shared transfer, make an online booking, and let us do the rest.