Combining culture and history with sandy beaches and a Mediterranean climate, it's no wonder Barcelona is one of the most popular European city break destinations. The coastal Spanish city has it all and then some, with breathtaking architecture and delicious food just two of the big factors that keep tourists coming back year after year. Three days is the perfect amount of time for a visit, allowing you the opportunity to tick off many of the major sights and still find time for to catch some rays on the beach. Read on for our ultimate 72-hour itinerary.
Morning: Pay a visit to the Sagrada Familia and Las Ramblas
As one of Barcelona's most famous landmarks, it's no wonder Sagrada Familia is also one of the busiest. Beat the queues at the basilica by arriving early in the morning; first entry is at 9am. It's best to buy your ticket in advance to save money and select your own time slot, ensuring you don't miss out on the chance to explore the Gaudi masterpiece, which is still under construction over 90 years after his death. Book your tickets here.
Sagrada Familia is one of Barcelona's most popular landmarks
After your visit, take the Metro or a leisurely two mile walk down to Las Ramblas via Plaça de Catalunya, a central square lined with shops and cafés. Take in the bustling atmosphere of Las Ramblas' lively promenade, complete with countless street performers and entertainers. Drop in for a fresh juice at La Boqueria, the city's oldest and most famous market, or go for lunch at El Quim De La Boqueria, an authentic Spanish restaurant that only uses ingredients that are sold within the market.
Afternoon: Climb the Columbus Monument and visit the Maritime Museum
At the end of Las Ramblas you'll approach a statue of Christopher Columbus, the famous explorer responsible for opening up the Americas to European exploration. The statue is both a monument and tourist attraction, which you can climb up for views across the city and a great aerial view up the bustling Las Ramblas. If you have an interest in the city's history, you'll love a visit to the Maritime Museum, which has an extensive collection of ships and boats, as well as a permanent exhibition showing the maritime history of Catalonia.
Get aerial views down Las Ramblas from the Christopher Columbus monument
Alternatively: you could take a relaxing boat tour from the marina. After a busy morning of exploration on foot you'll be able to rest your legs and refresh with a drink while on a scenic tour off the Barcelona coastline. A number of boat tours operate from the port, with different tour lengths and routes depending on what you want to see.
Evening: Dine by the Marina
You'll find a number of authentic Spanish and seafood restaurants around Marina Port Vell, making it a great spot for a leisurely dinner. Get your evening underway with drinks at 1881 per SAGARDI, a rooftop bar and restaurant on the fourth floor of the History Museum of Catalonia (Museu d'Història de Catalunya) which offers scenic views across the marina and is a great place to unwind with a glass of cava or gin and tonic as you watch the sun go down.
Morning: Take a trip to Park Güell
Park Güell is another of Gaudi's most famous creations
Park Güell is another of Gaudi's most famous creations, located to the North of Barcelona and accessible via bus, Metro or taxi. Book your ticket in advance for entry to the outstanding park, which has numerous Instagram-worthy monuments including the Dragon Stairway and Nature Square, which is known for its colourful mosaic tiling and offers incredible views back across Barcelona. Then get the Metro back into the centre of Barcelona and stop for a tapas lunch at one of the many street-side cafés before heading to Parallel metro station for a busy afternoon of exploring.
Afternoon: Ride up to the old Olympic stadium and take the cable car to San Sebastian beach
At Parallel station you'll be able to take a short funicular railway halfway up Montjuic Mountain, where you will find the old Olympic installations of Palau Sant Jordi arena, the Olympic stadium and the Barcelona Olympic pools and diving pools. Although it has been over 25 years since Barcelona hosted the 1992 Olympic Games, the structures are still popular tourist attractions and are well worth a visit.
After exploring the area head back to Montjuic to take the port cable car down to Barceloneta beach. For around 11€ you can take a short eight minute ride down to the beach, with incredible aerial views over the port and Barcelona coastline. But if you want to take photos, try to be among the first or last on board for the best unobstructed views.
Get incredible views from the port cable car
Alternatively: if you still haven't got your fix of famous artwork visit the Museu Picasso, which houses one of the most extensive collections of artworks by Pablo Picasso, and reveals the artists relationship with Barcelona.
Evening: Enjoy a night out at Port Olimpic
Get dressed up and head to Port Olimpic for a night out at one of the cool lounge bars like CDLC or Shoko, where you can sip cocktails on the beach terraces before moving inside to dance when the sun goes down. If you're after something even livelier, head to a club like Opium or Pacha, both of which are open until 6am.
Morning: Have a leisurely brunch and explore the shops
After a late night you may well want a slower start on your third and final day in the city. Brunch is becoming increasingly popular in Barcelona, and there are few places better than Brunch & Cake by the Sea, in a handy location just a short walk away from the marina and beach. Once you've refuelled, take a walk out to Maremagnum, the distinctive shopping centre that sits out into the water at the end of a wooden pier. Here you'll be able to get some retail therapy and pick up some souvenirs from your trip at shops like Bershka, Stradivarius and Mango.
Alternatively: football fans won't want to miss a tour of Camp Nou, the home of FC Barcelona. Book tickets in advance here to explore the stadium and museum at your leisure, or pay more to get the players' experience tour, which takes you around the areas reserved for the players.
Afternoon: Enjoy your last few hours relaxing on the beach
The beach is the perfect spot to unwind for a few hours
Where better to culminate three busy days in Barcelona than relaxing on the beach? Whether you're in the mood for trying your hand at paddle boarding or simply fancy soaking up the sun with one last glass of sangria, you'll find lots to keep you entertained for a few hours.
Where to stay in Barcelona:
W Barcelona: This is one of the most attention-grabbing hotels in Barcelona, with a great location on the Barceloneta beachfront. This luxury hotel has a spa, infinity pool and nightclub, as well as fantastic views over the city. Book a room from £263 per night.
H10 Port Vell: Enjoy amazing views of Port Vell at this four-star hotel, which has its own plunge pool and sun terrace, modern rooms and a handy location for exploring. Rooms from £85 per night.
How to get to Barcelona:
You'll find non-stop flights from major UK airports including Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and London daily. Flights take around 2hr 15minutes with airlines like Ryanair, easyJet and Vueling.