Stories from Spain (Part Two): Barcelona in a Day

streets of barcelonaWelcome to Part Two of our Stories from Spain series. This week, I'm sharing highlights from Barcelona. 

When a store owner in Ulldemolins asked where else we were visiting on our trip, I answered, "Next stop, Barcelona."

"Ah, yes, the crown jewel of Catalonia," she replied.

It is a city renowned for approachable gourmet cuisine, coffee culture, ocean-side views, Picasso's art, and Gaudi's mind-bending architecture. We decided to see how much adventure we could pack into one day. 

sunrise in ulldemolins

A magnificent multi-hued sunrise marked our early morning departure from Ulldemolins. After a serene three-hour drive (and brief empty gas tank scare) on winding roads through olive groves and mountains, we arrived in Barcelona's outskirts where we dropped our luggage at an amazing beachfront campground called Camping Tres Estrellas. The friendly bilingual staff welcomed us with complementary sangria and showed us to our yurt. The minimalist interior had only the most basic amenities, but still provided everything we needed: a place to sleep before our 5 am arrival at the airport. With charming tiny houses, yurts, or tent/RV camping all affordable options, we would absolutely recommend Camping Tres Estrellas.

camping 3 estrellas

After a short stroll down the beach to feel the warm white sand on our bare feet, we took an exciting car ride into the bustling heart of city. Navigating a manual transmission through one way streets and bumper-to-bumper traffic as motorbikes and pedestrians darted across lanes is not for the inexperienced, but at last, we safely made it into a parking garage.


Santa Caterina Market

colorful produce at the santa caterina market in barcelona spain

Lucky for us, we had unknowingly parked just below Barcelona's oldest covered market. Built in 1845 but recently renovated, the Santa Caterina market was an explosion of sensory stimulation. We were enraptured by the buzz of customers shouting out orders, towering displays of brightly colored produce, whole pork legs dangling above stalls, and strong whiffs of fresh-caught seafood. Best of all, most stalls had small bites of their offerings ranging from one to three euros. 

small bites at the caterina market in barcelona

 See our entire Spain Food Gallery 

Gothic Quarter

With full bellies and ear-to-ear smiles, we walked a short distance to tour the maze of narrow streets and plazas that make up the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic), the original center of Roman and medieval Barcelona. 

gothic quarter barcelona spain

gothic quarter barcelona spain

Mercado de La Boqueria

Which led us to another foodie paradise: the Mercado de la Boqueria. This market featured mussels and oysters, saffron and sea salt, and to our heart's delight: olives! 

mixed olives in barcelona (mercado de la boqueria)

 And seeing how all city tours are mostly just foodie tours for us, we made it to a hole-in-the-wall, standing room only Vermouth bar for tapas.

sardines in barcelona

La Sagrada Familia

But alas, a visit to Barcelona wouldn't be complete without at least a pit stop to La Sagrada Familia, a cathedral that's been under construction for over 100 years. 

la sagrada familia

With cranes still towering over the gargantuan structure, La Sagrada Familia is a sight to behold. It is the brainchild of Antoni Gaudi, whose philosophy was to avoid straight lines, since they do not appear in nature. His topsy turvy designs invoke the feeling that one has stepped into fantastical Dr. Suess world designed for adults.  

Seaside Dinner in Barceloneta

After walking over 10 miles around the city, we ended our evening in the seaside neighborhood of La Barceloneta where posh yachts fill glitzy marinas connected to the beach by a long, palm-lined promenade. There are few joys in life more satisfying than dining al fresco at a seafood restaurant alongside the ocean as a salty breeze cools the warm evening air. 

oceanside dining in barcelona

Obviously, with just one day to visit, there were many sights left seen; however, we felt we got the most of culture, architecture, and food during our self-guided walking tour. 

Have you been to Barcelona? What were your favorite things to do and see and eat? Share your memories in the comments!

What We Saw

  • La Catedral and Plaza de Rei in the Gothic Quarter
  • La Sagrada Familia
  • La Rambla
  • Al fresco dining in Barceloneta 
  • El Mercado de la Boqueria
  • Santa Caterina Market
  • Plaza de les Gloriès Catalanes
  • Local Climbing Gear Shop :)

What We Missed

  • Parc Guell 
  • Picasso Museum
  • Casa Batllo
  • Michelin star restaurants 
  • Barca Stadium Tour