Can you spend 3 days in Barcelona and sidestep overtourism? Armed with the right knowledge, of course you can! Here are some tips by Barcelona locals to enjoy an extended weekend off the beaten path and away from tourist traps. All rolled into an easy to follow Barcelona itinerary.
How to Use this Barcelona Itinerary
A few notes from Abi
Avoiding the crowds in Barcelona doesn't just mean heading out to the suburbs and hiding from the key attractions. Day one of this Barcelona itinerary, for example, starts right next to the central Rambla. Later, you'll pass right by the Sagrada Familia.
As is often the case, tourist crowds stay in very small areas. You don't have to venture too far to have an authentic experience.
And if you do want to peel off and see some of the world famous sites like Casa Batlló or the Gothic Quarter? We won't judge! The whole point is to enjoy and explore the world, whichever way works for you.
Now, over to the Spotted by Locals team...
Day 1 in Barcelona
On the first day, you’ll stay more or less in the centre of the city.
You can begin your Barcelona adventure by veering off the famous, overcrowded central Rambla and getting a suizo at La Pallaresa: a cup of thick, hot, sticky chocolate with a small mountain of cream.
This very traditional granja has been serving up locals since 1940. Local Bill likes coming here after a visit to the well known art gallery Sala Parés nearby.
La Nostra Ciutat
It’s never too early to start looking for souvenirs and gifts. Local Gina recommends La Nostra Ciutat, where everything is made by talented local designers and artists.
Here you can get something engraved with the maps of Barcelona’s neighbourhoods, a funny motif or a panot, the ubiquitous, iconic flower patterns found around the city. Gina likes shopping here even for herself!
Plaça Sant Felip Neri
Next: a very small, picturesque square full of good street music that has also served as a filming location for movies such as Vicky Cristina Barcelona: enter Plaça Sant Felip Neri.
It has a dark history that goes back to 1938 and the Spanish Civil War, when a bomb that exploded here dropped by one of Franco’s bombers killed 30 children. It is said that even Gaudí frequented the church here.
Hungry yet? Local Bill recommends Elisabets, which “you could wander past a million times and never realise it’s there”.
One of his favourite spots for meeting friends for good bites after work, its very reasonable prices also attract students and teachers from the nearby university.
Get a jug of beer, some patatas con bolonesa “rabiatta”, a dish of pebrots (juicy hot peppers), morcillo (black pudding - blood sausage) and more and settle in. A fine all-rounder, good before drinks as well as for breakfast.
You won’t have to walk far to reach CCCB, the centre for contemporary culture of Barcelona.
You won’t find permanent exhibitions, so you have to check their program in advance, but rest assured there's something for everyone: in early 2020, their current exhibition was Gameplay, a journey through the history and art of video games.
The one that was on just before that was titled Feminisms and showcased the evolution of the movement since the ‘70s. Local Andia recommends you save some time for the centre’s bookshop.
Good to remember
Entrance to the CCCB cultural centre is free on Sundays after 15:00.
Bar La Principal
Fancy a drink yet? Head over to Bar La Principal, which is one of Andia’s favorite hangouts (and which she admits she was a bit hesitant to divulge).
The highlight here is the vermouth, which is surprisingly good for the low asking price of 2€. Why not order some patatas bravas along with that? Apparently, here they get them just right.
All in all, a cute corner bar that’s very central but routinely overlooked, unless you already know about it.
For the last stop for today, local Ilse recommends Cine Renoir -- here’s your chance to wander into the nearby neighbourhood of Sant Antoni.
This cinema only plays V.O.S.E. movies, that is in the original language with Spanish subtitles (not that easy to find). But what’s as good if not better is the ‘cinema bar’ El Laurel just across the street from Renoir, where they serve some of “the most delicious empanadas in town by far”! They have meal + cinema ticket combos on weekdays.
If you’re feeling like it, you can cap the night off in Raval. Don’t heed the well-intentioned warnings to stay right away -- the locals know best: try Beirut 37, Betty Ford’s or Bar Fidel for one last bocata!
Did you know?
The works of Antoni Gaudí, including Parque Güell, Palacio Güell and Casa Mila in Barcelona, have been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
Recommended reading: Fun Things to do in Barcelona; Papier Mache Festivals and Beyond
Day 2 in Barcelona
Move on to the second part of this 3 days in Barcelona itinerary by heading to the coast and the old industrial neighbourhoods of Poblenou.
Rambla basically means "main street", usually with a wide pedestrian zone in the middle. So as you might imagine, there's not just THE one Las Ramblas you're already familiar with -- there are many, in different barris (neighbourhoods).
The one in Poblenou is a favourite of local Carlos, and while most people come here from La Diagonal, he prefers approaching the other way, up from Bogatell beach.
On it, you’ll find yourself under two canopies -- one formed by the tall plane trees and another by the umbrellas strewn out by the cafés.
Enjoy taking in the neighbourhood atmosphere and choose a place for breakfast or coffee. Carlos recommends Caffe Blú if you’re looking for something a touch quieter. Don’t be surprised if you stay there half the day, though. You’ve been warned!
El Tio Che
Next, you can try a horchata at El Tio Che, an ice cream parlour that has existed since long before Poblenou was as cool as it is now, when it was the beating heart of Barcelona’s industrial sector.
Horchata is a drink made of water, sugar and tiger nuts, and what better place to taste it than at one of the classics? Get in line, pick your ice cream or horchata and get back to exploring.
Maria Aguiló Street
Mariá Aguiló street runs just parallel to the Poblenou Ramba. Here you can find independent shops and businesses frequented by the locals, like an organic parfumier, one of the best fishmongers in town and grocers who know the customers by name -- or Nollegiu, a bookshop/cultural centre where you can enjoy talks, music or a coffee while you’re browsing your favorite authors. Feel free to say hi to Xavi from Carlos.
Are you a fan of graffiti and street art? Barcelona has its own scene, as any self-respecting major metropolis in the world, and you can find one of the big legal walls on the corner of Pallars & Ciutat de Granada.
Don’t be surprised if you meet artists from Britain or from other corners of the world at work.
Parc del Centre del Poblenou
You can also head over to Parc del Centre del Poblenou, a secluded green space covered in willow trees and playful structures that, while it’s no Parc Güell, does further underline the fact that Barcelona is a world-class example of civic design, even when it comes to lesser known spots.
Almost time for lunch, and you could say there are almost too many options in the area. Aching for something vegetarian? Try Aguaribay. Feeling like a juicy Uruguayan steak? La Malandrina is only a few blocks away.
You’ll be aching for a whiff of the afternoon sea breeze by now. Of course you can walk along the beach of Poblenou at your leisure, but Base Nautica stands tall among the legions of xiringuitos and bars on the sand.
This small sailing club makes the difference by being open all year round. The demographics seated at the tables comprise a healthy mix of visitors, resident expats and locals.
The music is at the right volume and it’s quiet enough to read a book.Ideal for a beer while enjoying the beach vibe.
Whenever you’re ready, set out for La Barceloneta, past Port Olímpic. There, you can grab some tapas at Bitacora Barceloneta (another of Carlos’ favorites -- “small but perfectly formed).
Eager to sink your teeth into Barcelona by night? Just to the north you’ll find the barri of El Born, a great choice for some evening fun.
You can follow Ilse’s choice, Guzzo -- a beautiful arty space that’s mix between a restaurant and a music club that specializes in groove, jazz and latin -- or Diobar, Andia’s favorite, also a restaurant, but where there’s a different party or music event in the basement almost every night; from Balkan to Tango nights or their “World Stage” on Saturdays. Of course, you can try both and see which best catches your fancy.
Razzmatazz is tonight’s final destination. Many locals, including Cristófor, consider it the best music club in Barcelona. Bands such as Arcade Fire, Blur, Aphex Twin, Wolf Alice and more have performed here.
It’s also the biggest club in the city, with five halls with distinct music styles each and a capacity of more than three thousand.
Cristófor guarantees it’s one of the best picks to enjoy the city’s night scene, even more so on the weekend.
If you’ve arrived here too early (yes, it’s more of a night owl haunt), L’ Ovella Negra Poblenou is a huge bar just two streets away you can drop by in the meantime.
It’s actually also the biggest pub in Barcelona. Originally, it was an industrial warehouse from 1908. Now, its vivid ambience will make your night. No harm in just staying here and not going to Razzmatazz at all if you’re not feeling like it!
Recommended reading: 21 Unusual Things To Do in Spain
Day 3 in Barcelona
For the third and final day of our little Catalunian adventure, we will make an eclectic choice of spots around the city for you to pick ‘n’ mix and create your own perfect day.
Let’s begin with some Gaudí. La Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell and La Pedrera are all the most obvious (and overcrowded) options, but follow Cristòfor’s tip and you’ll find one of Gaudí’s many rare gems scattered around the city: the 8-metre-tall arch Portal Miralles.
Parc de las Aigues
Another frequently overlooked gem is the Parc de las Aigues, often used as a jumping off point for visitors to Parc Güell.
Part of a private ornamental garden in the 19th century, it used to be closed to the public. Now you can freely enjoy its winding paths, shaded enclaves and mini botanic garden. Ideal if you’re coming back from The Bunkers of Carmel (where you can get some of the best 360-degree views over Barcelona) or if you are in Garcia and want a change of pace.
Nau Bostik is an edgy events space in La Sagrera, not as well known an ex-industrial barri as Poblenou but still an awesome example of how conversions of industrial spaces should be done. In this former glue factory you’ll find the monthly edition of Barcelona’s Vintage Market, Eat Street food festival, and other neighbourhood events and trendy gatherings.
Another such space is Fábrica Lehmann in Eixample, a creative point that has brought together twenty artisans and entrepreneurs in an old toy factory, among them a photographer, architects, a bookstore and a restaurant.
If you’re aching for nothing more than a cup of quality coffee to enjoy in peace to help you take it all in, Chicha Limoná is for you.
Simple, fresh, light and airy, located in the middle of Passeig de Sant Joan (not far from Sagrada Familia), it’s ideal for work together with a piece of carrot cake. Their coffee is provided by well-known Nømad Coffee.
Lovers of international cuisine should definitely not miss Espai Mescladís in El Born, a restaurant that’s part of a social project that helps integrate immigrants (mainly from Morocco and other African countries) through social work and giving them employment and an opportunity to cook for anyone interested! All food is organic, sustainable and fair trade.
Goliard, on the other hand, is one of the best value restaurants in Gràcia given the presentation, the efficient service and the quality of the food -- mainly modern takes on classic Catalan and Spanish dishes. It’s a very popular spot with local office workers, so be there before 14:00 to avoid the lunchtime rush.
Yurbban Trafalgar Hotel Rooftop
Want another 360-view that’s closer to the center? Then you should visit the Yurbban Trafalgar Hotel Rooftop, just 5 minutes from Urquinaona station. Great city views and a cocktail in hand -- what more do you need to enjoy a luxurious, picturesque sunset?
Another hidden gem in the centre of the commotion is cave-like Bar 7, literally just a couple of alleys off Plaça Real. It’s a breath of fresh air among all the tourist traps surrounding it.
If you come here by yourself, be sure you will be leaving having made new friends or at least having shared a conversation with a local or another curious traveller.
Finally, how about an English-language theatre in Barcelona? It might sound like a tourist trap itself, but there’s a surprising number of Anglophone actors living and working in the city, and Tinta Roja is a regular venue for improv comedy events.
Despite the professional theatre setup, it is officially an Argentinian bar, so they also have tango and milonga events. All in all, an exceptional pick for going out with or without friends -- and very friendly staff.
Recommended reading: This La Rioja Itinerary is Exactly What You Need
For more local favourites in Europe, the Middle East and North America, check out Spotted by Locals.
Barcelona Travel File
Locals tend to use public transport and a good pair of shoes to get around. But you can, of course, switch to a taxi if you're getting tired.
Don't be fooled. Barcelona is hot, humid and beachy in the summer. But the winter is cold, the wind creeping through those gorgeous streets like a malevolent phantom. Check the weather in advance and dress accordingly!
Catalunya is a fascinating region. If possible, make time to see the nearby medieval city of Girona (around one hour a way) and head into the mountains to see great landscapes and passionate culture.