Tapas. Museums. Otherwordly cathedrals. Avant garde art and architecture. Wine. Did we mention the tapas? Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain and the center of Catalan history and culture. It’s also one of our favorite cities to eat and drink our way through – the last time we visited Barcelona, we arrived at the airport for our flight home still drunk from the night before (true story).
But in between stuffing our faces with cones of manchego and acorn-fed iberico ham, we spent most of our time in Barcelona exploring on foot! Our favorite part of town is the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona’s historic center – we fell in love with Barcelona while exploring its tall, narrow alleys. And only sometimes got lost.
Because we’re unreliable tour guides who spent half of our trip to Barcelona consume alarming amounts of Cava and the other half getting totally lost, this tour was written by Practical Wanderlust’s Head of Email Marketing and Affiliate Marketing Natalie Collins, Barcelona resident, avid city explorer and fellow Cava lover. Take it away, Natalie!
Table of Contents
Psst: Looking for more things to do in Barcelona during your trip? We’ve got a post about our favorite food & wine tour in Barcelona, which we highly recommend – take a look here – as well as where to stay in Barcelona! We also have more posts on travel in Europe here.
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Wandering the streets with your phone in your hand is not the best way to enjoy the city so we have created a handy printable version of this walking tour with maps and detailed step by step directions to help you navigate the winding labyrinth of streets in Barcelona!
Before you set off on your tour you need to pack and prepare! Barcelona isn’t the year round hot, sunny destination you may think of, Lia and Jeremy visited in the colder months and after living here I can tell you that it gets super cold and super hot, so prepare for the season!
It will also be helpful to prepare a few Spanish phrases, Barcelona is in Catalonia, a Spanish region with a history of independence claims from the Spanish state, true Barcelona locals are often fiercely Catalan and Catalan is their first language, Spanish second and English comes somewhere after that if needed. So you will do better with either a basic grasp of Spanish or even some Catalan, don’t just assume you can get away with English, although most touristic places do speak English!
Pickpockets are also a big problem in Barcelona, this walking tour avoids the worst places you are likely to encounter thieves but it is better to be safe than sorry. Don’t leave your phone on a table, don’t travel wearing an expensive looking watch and keep your bag either tied to your chair or on your knee. Always be vigilant!
When to visit Barcelona
Catalonia experiences all 4 seasons really beautifully, I thoroughly enjoy having Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter each with their own special charms.
Spring is when the acacia trees bloom throughout the city, you will see carpets of tiny yellow or purple flowers from the trees. There are several on the street outside my apartment and during Spring it is like a rainfall of yellow flowers. It makes the streets look even more colourful and beautiful! The weather is also wonderful in Spring, it is warm but not too humid and sweaty, you can explore the city in a light jacket, some days with just a t-shirt and it is the perfect time to enjoy terraces outside bars and restaurants without having to battle to find shade.
Summer is hot and humid, July can be a little quieter at the weekend from a local perspective as most people escape the city, and in August they leave the city for the whole month where possible. August is SWEATY. Temperatures are usually at least 90F and humidity is high. It’s kinda painful to walk around in if you are not used to heat and humidity. But the city is great fun in the summer, terraces are busy, the beach is booming and everyone enjoys the summer spirit.
Autumn gets cooler again and like Spring is a much more enjoyable temperature. The leaves start to change and we can start to dig out our favourite knitwear and cute boots. There is a little more rain but not cold and usually hard and fast showers.
In September there are also a lot of festivals including La Merce which is one of the biggest celebrations of the year. You will visit Basilica de la Merced in the tour which is part of the history of the festival. It is always good to check your dates against public holidays in Barcelona, the Spanish are known for a lot of holidays and a lot of things are closed so watch out for those! You can check here for public holidays in Barcelona.
About the Barcelona Self-Guided Walking Tour
I first visited Barcelona in 2009 and after marvelling at the beautiful churches, the stylish marina and stylish people, I swore I would live there one day. Eventually, 11 years later, mid pandemic I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to leave where I had been living in Morocco and finally made the move with my adopted street pup Zina. (Unlike Lia, I am not known for my trip planning or structuring my big life decisions)
On day 3 of trekking the streets, looking for a place to live, I hungry cried in my hotel room and decided I needed to actually stop off to eat, drink and enjoy my new home. (Shoutout to the wonderful staff at Hostelin Gran Via for being the friendliest faces I could have wished for during my transition, also shoutout to Lia for writing a book on how to travel without crying in your hotel room).
So thanks to my meltdown I discovered that the best way to discover the Catalan capital is definitely on foot. As one of the most popular cities in Europe, Barcelona’s city center is always crowded with tourists. But arriving mid pandemic I had the privilege (and luck!) to explore sans tourists, Zina and I have spent entire days strolling around the city, gawking at buildings, and stumbling across hidden gems, many of which are in this self-guided walking tour. You’ll visit the streets of Barcelona’s old centre, see places of cultural significance, marvel at Gaudi and stop off at the best places for coffee, food, tapas, and cocktails.
The route I’ve laid out is about 8 miles long, depending on which optional detours you choose to explore. The tour is in sections so you can plan in bite-size pieces (Maybe I did learn some trip planning from Lia after all!) but I recommend allowing yourself at least 3-5 hours to complete the whole thing.
The best option would be to make a day of it to stop off to eat, drink, wander the food market, visit the museums, relax in a park, and soak in the Barcelona-ness of it all. I’ve also incorporated evening drinks into the tour for those of you who want to stick it out for the full day.
So are you ready to start your Barcelona walking tour? Let’s begin!
Heads Up: To make your exploring easier, we’ve created a Google Map of the self-guided walking tour route that you can download to your phone and use offline while you’re in Barcelona! You’ll find it embedded at the bottom of this post. We recommend bookmarking this post to refer to along with the map.
El Born: The Medieval Neighbourhood
To start off the walking tour you begin at Arc de Triomphe, this is not only a beautiful piece of architecture but the train station nearby connects to most of the city by train or the metro system, so no matter where you are staying it’s easy to get to. But before taking in this giant red structure you’ll want to grab some coffee.
Head to Passieg de Lluís Companys to the right of the Arc (the right side if you are facing the Arc) to the first block of shops to El Nostre Pa. This bakery is part of a 150 year old family baking dynasty and makes the most incredible breads and pastries, it is not unusual to find a queue on weekends! They make great coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice, so grab your beverage of choice and a delicious croissant to go, ready to start your walk!
Arc de Triomphe was built in 1888 as the gateway to the Universal Fair which was held in nearby Parc de Ciutadella. The side facing Passeig de Sant Joan is decorated as Barcelona welcoming the nations to the fair, and the side facing the park shows medals being presented to participants. At the top of the Arc is the 49 shields of the regions in Spain with the shield of Barcelona in the centre. It’s a pretty impressive piece of architecture and is where we start your stroll towards the park.
As you walk down the grass edged Passeig Lluís Company, which is lined with beautiful elaborate green lamp posts, you will see street artists, fitness classes, musicians and always a guy blowing giant bubbles for kids to play in. I love getting a coffee on a Sunday morning and sitting here listening to the saxophone player and watching bubbles in the sunshine.
As you walk along be sure to look at the Palacia de Justicia on the left, this is the home of the provincial courts and is classified as Cultural Asset of Local Interest in the Inventory of Catalan Cultural Heritage, there are always buff Mossos (Catalan police) guarding the doors but they don’t mind if you stare (at the building)! The building is made up of domed towers and an impressive arched entrance way, it was built as a stand alone monument and it certainly lives up to the aim!
As we reach the end of Passeig Lluís Company, cross the road and head through the large gates of Ciutadella Parc, stroll through the greenery and bear left through the middle towards the fountains and lake in the centre. The fountain and surroundings were designed by Gaudi during his time at university and is just the first piece of Gaudi’s architecture you will see on this tour!
When you reach Gaudi’s fountain you will see a gazebo to the left, this is known as La Glorieta de la transexual Sonia, and despite being built in 1884 this was renamed in 2013 in tribute to the memory of Sonia Zafra Rescalvo who was murdered here in 1991 by neonazis. It is now a meeting point for the LGBTQ+ community and is where aerial artists, dance groups and musicians practice most days. Naming the structure in memory of Sonia was a huge step for LGBTQ+ rights in the city and a plaque was placed in honour of all retaliated gay, lesbian and transexual people.
The surrounding park is worth a stroll on a sunny day, the gold fountain is particularly impressive, and if you are in need of more coffee the kiosk cafe serves pretty decent coffee. You can also get a glass of local bubbly cava here if you feel like starting early, no judgement!
The park is full of green parakeets, you will hear them squawking and flying around in little flocks, they are perfectly friendly and can actually be fed by hand, often they will stand on the railings around the lake and people will feed them as they line up and wait!
After weaving through the park we exit through the side entrance and cross Passeig de Picasso into the centre of El Born barrio. If you need a refreshment and kiosk coffee wasn’t your thing, head a little to the left onto Avinguda del Marquès de l’Argentera to Lulu’s for excellent coffee, matcha latte’s and delicious homemade bakes.
Then walk back through to Passeig del Born, the main plaza in this old part of the barrio, at one end of the plaza is El Born Centre for Culture de Cultura i Memòria which is housed in the old El Born Market. The centre is now a place to bring together the memory of local and national events, it is also an archeological site with the ruins of streets that fell under siege in 1714. Entrance is free if you wish to stop off.
Passeig del Born transforms into a popular party street after sunset (perfect for catching some of Barcelona’s best nightlife), it also has some cool bars that are open during the day, but we’re going to circle back here later for those of you with stamina!
At the other end of the plaza is the medieval Basilica Santa Maria del Mar, which you might know from the best-selling book and Netflix-series, Cathedral of the Sea. It was built in the early 1300s at the height of Catalonia’s maritime prominence and is a wonderful example of Gothic style architecture. You can visit the church and climb the tower by purchasing tickets inside, check timetables online. You can also book a guided tour of the Basilica and the roof, which offers amazing views over the city.
From here walk down the narrow Carrer de Montcada past a random palm tree nestled between the buildings and head to Museu Picasso. This museum holds one of the most extensive collections of Picasso’s art including illustrations from his childhood and paintings of Barcelona from his arrival to the city in 1895. There is also the Jamais gramophone that was gifted to Picasso by Óscar Domínguez, which has a foot coming out of it! It is a huge museum but well worth taking the time to visit, you can get tickets here.
After so much culture you will likely be starving and ready to rest your feet, so trust me here, the detour is worth it. Walk on down Carrer de Montcada straight across Carrer de la Princesa and take a right at Capella d’en Marcús, a 12th century Roman chapel which is one of the oldest in the city. I have never seen this chapel open but it’s nice to stop for a moment to admire from the outside!
Walk down Carrer del Carders and keep going straight, you will also pass one of my favourite cocktail bars Porteño which I do recommend you come back to in the evening!
Keep going through Plaça de Sant Agusti Vell, which is another roosting place for parakeets and sounds like you are walking through an aviary. Head across the plaça and down Carrer del Portal Nou until the end, where around the corner on your left is 65 Degrees. Grab yourself a table in the beautiful floral-print-inspired interior and get ready for the most delicious brunch.
If you are a classic bruncher the eggs benedict with duck fat roasted potatoes are delicious, or if you want to be super fancy the smoked birds nest is a posher take on breakfast eggs with pulled pork and is served in a smoke-filled cloche as it arrives at the table. Now is also definitely the time to sample your first (or second!) cava of the day with a cava bellini.
This is the end of the first leg so eat and enjoy before hitting the next part: important buildings!
Important Buildings and Gaudi
After relaxing into comfortable chairs while stuffing yourself with delicious food and cava it’s time to hit the road. Go left through Carrer d’En Cortines and take the first right onto Carrer dels Ocells.
Cross the street, walk straight through to Plaça de Sant Pere and head down Carrer de Sant Pere Més Alt, towards the end you will see Palau de la Música Catalana, which the first time I stumbled across this on my way home from the fruit shop I said words my mum would slap me for. It is INCREDIBLE.
The building is art nouveau and was built in the early 1900s in what is known as the Catalan Renaixença (rebirth/renaissance) era and is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Palau is a concert hall and is also open to the public for tours, if you catch a tour at the right time (Saturday mornings in particular) you will see the orchestra practicing, so tour and a show!
Photo cred right Flickr
From here take a right onto Via Laietana and head up into Urquinaona, which is a large square and crossing point for a lot of traffic so watch out! You’ll walk across Urquinaona (say it enough and you might be able to pronounce it, I still can’t!), take a left down Ronda de Sant Pere and then a right onto Passeig de Gràcia.
This main street is pedestrian friendly and is also where all the big designer shops are, stroll along, window shop, watch the fancy people and just have a good ol’ stare at the incredible buildings along here. Barcelona is a mix of not so pretty modern buildings and incredible intricate architecture so be a tourist and stare!
Also spot the lamp posts as you walk, these were designed by Modernist architect Pere Falqués i Urpí who was the architect of the city between 1889 and 1914. The lampposts are mosaics designed to reflect the light and also natural sunlight during the day and are just some of the incredible lamp posts around the city.
After staring a lot you will eventually hit Casa Batlló, which was designed by Antoni Gaudi, (a famous Spanish architect known for his neo-gothic, art nouveau, and modernisme style), and is considered as one of his masterpieces. Casa Batlló is also known as ‘the house of bones’ due to its rigid façade and organic structure.
As many of Gaudi’s buildings are, there is no set style, it is a mixture of interwoven lines, ovals, mosaics and concrete sculpture, the roof is a colourful tile which is said to represent the back of a dragon, with the cross at the top representing the sword of Saint George plunged into its back.
You can visit Casa Batlló for the 10D experience, which includes an immersive art show, moving paintings and tours of the Gaudí Dome and Gaudí Cube. Casa Batlló is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, just one of the 9 we have in Barcelona, y’know, casual.
Left photo cred by Stefan Roks on Unsplash Right photo by Anna Murzilon on Unsplash
So sticking with the Gaudi theme we need to hit the most important one of all, Basílica de la Sagrada Família, to get to here we are going to cheat on the walking tour a little, you can walk there but it will add a mile or 2 to your walk, so instead we take the metro.
Take the metro at Passeig de Gràcia, you will need to take the L1 heading to Badalona Pompeu Fabra, metro tickets can be purchased in the station at machines that also work in English so it’s quick and simple! The journey to Sagrada Família station will take 11 minutes.
- Travel Tip: If you plan to take the metro, bus, rail, or funicular a few times while you are in Barcelona I recommend buying the Hola Barcelona travel card which covers the duration of your stay for unlimited rides on all transit – it will make getting around very simple!
When you exit the metro you will step out right in front of Sagrada Família, this church has been in construction since 1882 and STILL isn’t finished yet, they say it will be finished in 2026 and big progress was made in 2021 with a structure to support the tallest section, the tower of the Virgin Mary added but it remains to be seen if they will hit the goal.
The Basílica has been delayed many times, the pandemic halting construction most recently, it was also hit by revolutionaries during the Spanish Civil War where they destroyed many of Gaudi’s original plans. It then took 16 years to piece together his model so construction could continue.
Gaudi believed no building should be higher than God and the highest spire will reach no higher than the nearby Montjuïc hill which can be seen from every point in Barcelona. While building the Basílica, Gaudi was asked about the time it would take to complete, to which he replied, ‘my client is in no rush’.
Take your time to walk around the Basílica, sit in Plaça de la Sagrada Família or Plaça de Gaudi on the other side and marvel at the structure. Wait around until you hear the bells, they play unusual music and Gaudi intended them to be powered by the wind blowing and directing the airflow down the bell towers. There are 12 bell towers to represent the 12 apostles, all different heights as not all apostles were equal (to Gaudi!).
Sagrada Família was the first place I headed when I arrived on my first visit to Barcelona and was also the first place I walked with Zina on our first day after moving here. She hated the bells, but for sure humans will enjoy them.
You might now be getting a little hungry again, so I’ve got you covered! Depending on what you are in the mood for you can pick up Spanish treats here. Either head up Avinguda de Gaudí directly up from the Basílica and go to Creps Barcelona for savoury crepe or galettes or for something sweet head around the corner of Plaça de la Sagrada Família to Churrería Sagrada Família. If you opt for churros, get them to take out and sit in one of the plaças while you stuff your face with delicious fried dough dipped in chocolate, Spanish style.
If you prefer to experience Spanish cafe culture, sit outside on the terrace at Creps Barcelona, hunch over your coffee and watch passersby as you enjoy savoury goodness. My favourite is the serrano ham and emmental cheese or if you’re feeling meat free the spinach, tomato and brie is gooey goodness. Opt for either creps which are made the traditional way with milk and wheat flour, or try the galettes which are gluten free and made without milk, both are equally delicious but the galettes are slightly firmer.
It may also be time to indulge in an Aperol spritz, made with cava of course! In Spain there is zero judgement on how early you start drinking, on my morning dog walks I witness perfectly respectable adults drinking caña (small glass of beer) with their breakfast, so do as the locals do!
When you’ve had your fill it’s back to the metro and back onto Passeig de Gràcia where you will walk down to Plaça de Catalunya for the next part of your journey, the Gothic Quarter!
The Gothic Quarter
Plaça de Catalunya is the heart of Barcelona and the hub of the city. When my friends and I head there we say we’re going into town, despite living just a 10 minute walk away! It is where the old city meets modern-day Spain. It was officially built and urbanized in 1902, and since then it has served as a central meeting point for locals, political protesters, and flocks of pigeons.
Today, Plaza Cataluña is the central hub of Barcelona, brimming with fountains, artwork, statues, theaters, and restaurants both inside and around the square. Once you’ve wandered around the plaza and successfully dodged at least 8 overweight pigeons, it’s time to continue to the next stop on the walking tour.
Cross the square and head to its southern corner, where you’ll find the start of Spain’s most famous street: La Rambla. La Rambla is a walking street with limited access to cars and a wide central pavement, so it’s a perfect place for long, self-guided … walking tours. Like this one! As you wander down the street you’ll pass shops, cafes, plant stands, and souvenir stalls amidst towering green trees.
After just a few stops you’ll reach an ornate drinking fountain in front of a H&M store. This is the Font de Canaletes, where raving fans of Futbol Club Barcelona come together to celebrate their club’s victories. According to local legend, drinking water from the fountain – said to be the best water in the city – means you will return to Barcelona one day!
The inscription on the front of the fountain reads “if you drink water from the Font de Canaletes you will always be in love with Barcelona. And however far away you go. You will always return.” Awwww! Obviously, you have to drink from this fountain. Unfortunately, local legend does not discuss whether drinking the water will help you meet either Shakira or Shakira’s sexy futbol husband, but might as well do it anyway just to be safe.
After your refreshing and contractually binding fountain drink, continue down La Rambla until you reach Palau Moja, The Catalan Heritage House. This manor house was built in 1774 by the Marquis of Moja in the old medieval part of the city. Many important people in Catalonia’s history lived here until a fire in the 1970s severely damaged the building. It was later acquired by Generalitat of Catalonia and renovated to become the heritage house for Catalan culture. It is worth stepping inside for a visit to discover more about the history of Catalonia, you can also pick up traditional Catalan goods such as local wines and eat Catalan dishes in the on-site cafè.
Leave the palace and continue on down La Rambla until you reach the most famous food market in Barcelona, Mercat de la Boquería.
I know you haven’t walked very far since your last meal, but I hope you’ve worked up an appetite, because this is an excellent spot to get a snack! All your senses will be tingled by the colorful fruit salads, fresh fish from the Mediterranean Sea and authentic tapas bars where both locals and tourists have a quick bite while doing their groceries.
- Insider Tip: Inside the market, we recommend visiting El Quim de la Boqueria, an all-time favorite for tapas and traditional Spanish snacks. Try some local Catalan dishes here like the fried eggs with baby squid. It might sound weird, but it’s a totally delicious Barcelona specialty! If you’d rather take a snack to go and eat while you walk, just grab a delicious and inexpensive paper cone filled with manchego cheese and Iberico ham.
Leaving the market you again ramble a little further down La Rambla until you hit another Gaudi creation, Palau Güell. This ornate building was completed in 1888 for the industrialist Eusebi Güell, and features many of Gaudi’s outlandish designs. Horse carriages would enter the building through the front iron gates which are decorated to look like seaweed and horsewhips. Inside is a receiving room which is overlooked by small windows from the main house area, this is where the household could view their guest before greeting them to ensure they were dressed accordingly. The main party room has a beautiful tall ceiling where small lanterns were hung to give the appearance of the night sky. As with all of Gaudi’s designs, there are details hidden everywhere, the Palau is definitely worth a visit!
From here it’s time to rest your feet, have a drink, and maybe another meal! This is Spain after all so regular grazing is expected! So now we head to a beautiful Plaça (square) just off La Rambla, Plaça Reial, it is easy to find off the left side of La Rambla and almost opposite Palau Güell. The plaça is surrounded by beautiful old arched buildings and edged with restaurant terraces, and in the center is a huge fountain.
You should also look out for the lamp posts in the Plaza, the city commissioned Gaudi following his studies. There are 2 of his lampposts here, both with red detailing and the Barcelona coat of arms. On top of the lamps there are wings and winding snakes to represent Mercury, the Roman God of Commerce, representative of industry in the city.
There are a lot of restaurants in the plaza so it can be overwhelming, I’ve tested a few and by far my favourite is one of the corner restaurants, Ocaña. This place is flamboyant and fabulous but still totally peaceful for an afternoon aperitif. Indulge in some local tapas, a glass of cava or another Aperol Spritz. Try the Berenjena Rebozada con miel de caña (fried aubergine in cane honey), it is ridiculously delicious, I can, and have, munched a whole portion by myself. You should also get locally scrumptious Fritura de Chanquetes Frescos which is calamari, crevettes, and tiny fish fried and tossed in seasoning; I eat this almost every time I order tapas and this is one of the best places I have had it. Add traditional Pan con tomate (bread with tomatoes) and padròn peppers (salted mini peppers, not spicy!) to balance out the fried dishes.
After resting and indulging it’s time to get back on your feet, so head back onto La Rambla and keep walking straight to the bottom to Rambla de Mar. Just before you cross the main road, Passeig de Colom, to get to Rambla de Mar take a note of The Monument of Christopher Columbus, this 60ft high column is at the site of where Columbus arrived back to Spain after his first trip to the Americas. It depicts Columbus pointing to the New World and holding a scroll in the other hand. So you can look in the direction he is pointing and wave back home!
Rambla de Mar is a short diversion that you will need to circle back on but it makes for a great photo opportunity on a sunny day, this Rambla is a wooden walkway and bridge over the marina linking to the shopping center Maremagnum. It is a tourist trap but worth a little wander over to sit on the edge with your feet dangling towards the water.
From here we loop back onto Passeig de Colom again and turn right to walk along a little, as you reach Soho House take the second left after and turn onto Carrer del Boltros and you will reach Basilica de la Merced, this ancient building in its current state was built in the late 1700s but was adapted from an original construction in the 13th century. The architect that completed the building in the 1700s is the same architect to complete Palau Moja.
The basilica was unfortunately partially destroyed during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, a wooden carving of the Virgin de la Merced was knocked from its place, the urn of Santa María de Cervelló was disturbed and several artifacts and paintings were destroyed. The priest at the time sought the help of la Generalitat, who helped salvage remaining items of importance, which were then hidden. The basilica is a testament to the pride in local architecture as it was sympathetically rebuilt following the war and restored to its former glory. The Order of la Merced is an important part of Catalan history and in September the huge festival, Le Merce is held every year with fireworks across the city.
We continue on the sombre path and meander through the Gothic Quarter, walk along Carrer d’Avinyó onto Carrer dels Banys Nous and then right onto Baixada de Santa Eulàlia. Baixada de Santa Eulàlia turns slightly left and becomes Carrer de Sant Sever. Follow this along and you will then reach Carrer de Sant Felip Neri and Plaça de Sant Felip Neri. While wandering there are plenty of options for photo stops, browsing shops and independent art galleries, just enjoy the Gothic surroundings!
Plaça de Sant Felip Neri is a beautiful little square in the heart of the old Jewish Quarter (El Call) and is full of important history for the city of Barcelona.
Until the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), this area was a cemetery. The holes you can still see in the wall are scars from Italian bombs of January 30, 1938, which killed 42 people. Most victims of the bombings were children at school, who were hiding in the Felip Neri Church basement to shelter from the unexpected air raid. In this quiet little square you will find the church and next door, the school. Take a moment here to pause and reflect on this tragedy – and the many victims of violent, hateful fascism.
After a sobering moment, it’s time to continue onwards to our final steps of the tour.
Right: Lia & Jeremy attempting a cute pose in front of the Bishop’s Bridge. Luckly, this spot is so photogenic it’s hard to mess up this shot!
Final steps & Cocktails on Gothic Rooftops
From Plaça de Sant Felip Neri head onto Carrer de Montjuïc del Bisbe to the Carrer del Bisbe. Turn right and continue straight, and you’ll head right underneath the famous Bishop’s Bridge, Pont del Bisbe. This is one of the most famous photo ops in Barcelona, so you definitely won’t be the only one stopping to admire this beautiful Gothic arch. Once you’ve snapped a photo, turn right onto Carrer de Santa Llúcia to be greeted by Catedral de Barcelona. This is one of the most important religious buildings in Barcelona alongside Sagrada Família and was constructed between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. The building is typical Gothic architecture with lots of towers and gargoyles and animals adorning the roof and façade.
- Insider Tip: Make sure your shoulders are covered before entering the Cathedral. While you’re admiring the stunning interior, don’t miss out on the beautiful garden and the thirteen white geese, which symbolize the age of Eulalia when she was horrifically killed in 304 as a martyr and became Barcelona’s first patroness.
- Photo Op: Just a few meters from the cathedral you’ll find El Beso, a huge mosaic kiss consisting of four thousand photos. The piece is constructed by a Catalan artist who wanted to create a wall of freedom, love and happiness. A perfect spot for a cheesy and romantic selfie with your lover, don’t you think?
Now we have concluded the admiring architecture and sombre parts of the tour! If you still have stamina left in you it’s time to experience the second best thing to do in Barcelona, terrassa drinks! The options can be overwhelming but don’t worry, my extensive research has you covered!
So from the Cathedral you walk across Plaça Nova onto Avinguda del Portal de l’Àngel which is lined with high street shops such as H&M, Zara and Mango. Keep going and turn right onto Carrer de Montsió to find one of the oldest and maybe even the most famous bar in Barcelona Els 4Gats This is where Picasso often came for a drink and even had his first exhibition (check out the menu that was designed by the Spanish artist!).
You could stop here for an arty drink and pretend you are a starving cubist artist or you can keep going to Rooftop Ohla for rooftop cocktails in the midst of Gothic architecture. To get there turn left onto Carrer de n’Amargós and then right onto Carrer Comtal, the doorway to Ohla is a funky looking hotel with eye-like mirrors covering the front of the building. Take the elevator to the top to be greeted with a rooftop pool, laidback seating and cool cocktails.
Their signature cocktail is a twist on the classic Brazilian Caipirinha, theirs is made with ginger and passionfruit and is really zesty and delicious. Enjoy while overlooking the rooftops and listening to cool poolside tunes. I recommend staying here a drink and to get a different view of the architecture from the rooftops, then hot foot over to my favourite rooftop bar in the city, which has by far the best views.
Right: Looking across the marina at Museu d’Història de Catalunya with 1881 per Sagradi at the top
Zip down Via Laietana towards the marina and you will hit the Museu d’Història de Catalunya, go under the archway in the middle to the fancy concierge desk to be shown to the elevator which will take you to 1881 per Sagradi. It is fancy and you are escorted as you arrive at the top. But don’t worry about the dress code, as long as you are presentable you will be fine. From here you have a view of the marina, and out to the Mediterranean Sea, you can also see back across the city, truly the best view in Barcelona.
Sip on a curado mule, which is a tequila based twist on the moscow mule or a signature Fiero 1881 for a taste of local cava. The photo opportunities here are endless and this is one of the few places in Barcelona where you can get a good view of the sunset. Toast the end of your day and the start of your evening!
Depending on the season you are visiting it will get a little nippy up here so it’s time to head back into El Born to Passeig del Born and test out of those bars you walked past in the morning. This tends to be my stomping ground and for the purposes of this tour, I have thoroughly researched many of the bars and cafes in the area. You are welcome.
My favorites are:
- Cafe Bar Mudanzas – This speakeasy style bar is tucked down the side of Passeig del Born on Carrer de la Vidrieria and offers incredible cocktails in a laid back atmosphere. I love a citrus based drink so always opt for the Magatzem Escol, garnished with delicate white flowers. Taller people beware if you visit the bathroom, it is styled like an old wooden train carriage and is a slight stoop for those over 6 feet. But it looks cool and authentic so we embrace it…!
- La Vinya del Señor is an amazing wine bar in front of the Basilica Santa Maria del Mar, perfect for a romantic break, where you can try all kinds of Spanish wines (there must be literally hundreds of them here) with traditional tapas on the side. As a solo non romantic person my favorite thing here is really good cava and cacao covered salted almonds. I have a wonderful friend who is so clued up on wine and cava it scares me a bit. So when we visit here she tells the sommelier what she likes, even down to the minerals in the soil the vines are grown on (apparently that’s a thing) and he recommends a delicious cava, don’t ask me which one, that’s his job. I actually met this friend my first weekend in Barcelona at this bar when taking a break from my tearful apartment hunting. My dog greeted her and we became friends from there!
- Porteño Cafe Bar – I discovered this place during the winter when they were serving takeaway Glühwein, the bar staff greet you like family which during my first lonely pandemic months in Barcelona was very welcome! The Argentinan owner has created a blend of Barcelona with Buenos Aires in this tiny but fun-filled bar. Try literally any cocktail, they are all amazing, I especially like the Paloma Spritzer for its grapefruit zing. If you are peckish they also serve food until around 10 pm, grab Nachos con Queso and Queso Manchego to snack on from the tall stools around the bar.
These bars should easily take you into the wee small hours of the morning where you can retire to your accommodation, stuffed full from a day of eating, slightly buzzed from the delicious cava and cocktails, and aching from all the walking. If you made it the whole day out, bravo! You have the staying power to suit the Spanish social life and you should make plans to live here a little while. As pretty much every non-Spanish person I know did after their first visit to Barcelona…
What to Pack for Barcelona
You will be doing a lot of walking on this walking tour and likely your whole stay in Barcelona so pack comfortable shoes. Lia and Jeremy have whole posts about their favorite women’s travel shoes & men’s travel shoes as a real deep dive into footwear research.
Here are the essential shoes we recommend bringing with you on your trip:
- Teva Sandals (his & hers): When it’s hot, Lia and Jeremy pretty much wear these shoes whenever they’re not hiking. They are comfortable and rugged enough to walk for miles comfortably. I am in the Viakix camp and will happily trot around the city with these as my go to comfort sandal.
- AllBirds Slip-On Shoes (His & hers): For days when you don’t want to wear your sandals, these are the perfect everyday travel shoe. They’re lightweight and breathable, perfect for hot weather – and the sole is made from merino, which means it takes a lot for them to get smelly and you don’t need to wear them with socks! These are the shoes we typically wear on city days and travel days.
With those shoes stuffed into your suitcase (don’t worry, they’ll fit) you’ll be more than covered for all your adventures!
Throughout the year there are likely to be rain showers. There are very few in the summer but the winter can be fairly rainy and usually when it rains it’s a real downpour! But if you’re prepared, rain on a trip is no big deal (and honestly, we love a good excuse to spend more time in museums and bars, ok mostly bars… and hide from the rain).
If you’re not prepared, it can be super irritating as you are dashing between places, causing you to cancel fun activities and even smelling up your bag with wet clothing. Yikes!
Here are the essentials you’ll want to bring to prepare for rain:
- Ultra-Light Rain Jackets (His & Hers): Our favorite rain jackets are some of the best jackets for travel. They’re ultralight and pack down into nothing so they’re easy to carry around in our day bags each day just in case, and they’re incredibly water repellant.
- Travel Umbrella: This teeny travel umbrella is incredibly lightweight, teeny tiny, and even has a handy carrying case in case you need to fold it up and shove it back in your bag. Despite its small size, it does its job well, and it dries quickly when it’s done! That said, it’s not like .. the most STURDY umbrella – super high winds will definitely turn it inside out. But we love it because it’s so small and lightweight that we just leave it permanently in our day bag and forget it’s there until we need it, and we’re always glad to find it again!
Just keep those rain essentials in your day bag each day, and you’ll never be caught unprepared in a rainstorm!
Bring a Money Belt & Bra Pocket as carrying a wallet in your pocket is pretty much an open invitation for pickpockets. Stash your cards and cash away in harder-to-reach places, like underneath your clothing, instead! Jeremy wears a money belt on every international trip & Lia wears her bra pocket … every day. Yes, even at home. It’s just so convenient! I have stopped carrying a wallet since I moved here and just carry my cards. I rarely use cash so it’s easy to tuck a card somewhere snug.
Barcelona Self-Guided Walking Tour Map
To help you plan your walking tour route, we’ve created a map of the entire itinerary. We recommend saving the map to your phone so you can access it offline in Barcelona, and bookmarking this page to refer to as you go!
If you didn’t catch enough of any one particular Barcelona highlight on our itinerary, we strongly recommend revisiting them to explore more on your own!
Are you ready to strap on your walking shoes and hit the streets of Barcelona? Which stop on the self-guided Barcelona walking tour are you most excited to visit? Drop us a comment below!
By the way, if you’re planning a trip to Barcelona we highly recommend adding a food & wine tour to your itinerary. Food tours combine our favorite activity (eating) with our favorite way to see a city (walking)! We’ve got a post reviewing our favorite food tour of Barcelona – take a look.
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Wanting to spend more time in Barcelona? Check out this five days in Barcelona itinerary! Looking to go on a longer trip to Spain? Check out this Malaga and Costa del Sol itinerary – you’ll be booking your flight ASAP! If it’s your first time in Spain, check out what you need to know before traveling to Spain!