Traveling to Barcelona next week - what are some musts?
October 24, 2022 8:07 AM   Subscribe

I've got five days there...

and want to book a day trip. It a toss up between a day trip to Montserrat or one of those "do three countries in a day" trip to France, Andorra and Spain. I'm kicking around the idea of seeing Don Giovanni at the Palau de La Musica as well.

If anyone knows any must-dos, I'd love to hear them. I'm a 49yo traveling solo. I'm all for touristy stuff or off-the-beaten path.

posted by KickTheBobo to Travel & Transportation around Barcelona, Spain (18 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
A day trip to Montserrat is worth it, and won't leave you exhausted when you get back - you could definitely do it in half a day and do something else in the evening. The views are spectacular and there are trails you can go on and hike around.

Totally obvious: Sagrada Familia.
posted by lizard music at 8:19 AM on October 24, 2022 [1 favorite]

The highlight of my trip to Barcelona was when I stumbled into Mercat de Sant Antoni by accident and wound up spending the afternoon there.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:22 AM on October 24, 2022

I was personally underwhelmed by Montserrat. Barcelona is a great city full of thriving life -- great to wander around. And if you like art, this was my favorite thing we did in Barcelona:
posted by egeanin at 8:45 AM on October 24, 2022 [1 favorite]

If you can get to Figueres, the Dalí museum there is amazing. I went as a grouchy teen without a lot of interest in either art or Dalí and came away absolutely entranced.

Trains do seem to run between Barcelona and Figueres (particularly Figueres-Vilafant, the less central Figueres station that's on the AVE [high-speed train] line), and it seems you can also get a coach there from Barcelona, although I went by car when I visited.

If you only do one Gaudí thing in the city itself, even just walking around the outside of the Sagrada Familia is awe-inspiring. It's been under construction since 1882 and isn't expected to be complete until the early 2030s. They've made so much progress on it in recent years; I went in the mid 00s and then again in 2016, and the amount of work they'd done in the meantime was astounding. I've also been to Casa Battló and Parc Güell (the latter twice as well) but was most impressed, both times, by the Sagrada Familia.
posted by terretu at 8:55 AM on October 24, 2022 [2 favorites]

If I went back to Barcelona and had the ability to do a day trip I would 100% go to the Dali museum in Figueres! Heads up that it is closed on Mondays, my sister just got thwarted by this.
posted by babelfish at 8:55 AM on October 24, 2022 [4 favorites]

Another vote for the Sagrada Familia. I can only think of two occasions on which I've willingly (if begrudgingly) stood in a queue that long, and unlike the other, this one was seriously worth it. Yes, you've seen photos. No, they don't compare to being there for real. And the space inside is so huge that it doesn't feel crowded despite the number of people you know full well have entered it ahead of you. Don't miss it.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 9:34 AM on October 24, 2022 [1 favorite]

Right before I went a friend suggested Parc del Laberint d'Horta and it was definitely a highlight of my time there. Nothing too dramatic, but it was a really lovely park and I wandered around and stopped to read a book in multiple different spots while I was there. YMMV, I enjoy spending peaceful time absorbing places while traveling, but I know sitting around reading and relaxing while exploring a new city isn't everyone's thing.

I also came in here to suggest the Dali museum. It's a short, easy train ride there, you get to wander through the cute little town of Figueres and the museum was fantastic. Close enough that you can be back in Barcelona by the afternoon for a siesta and then head back out on the town for tapas.
posted by evilbeck at 9:51 AM on October 24, 2022 [1 favorite]

On the first day I was there I went to the main plaza and took one of those hour long walking tours from a local for about 10 euro. It was a great way to familiarize and figure out what I wanted to check out in more detail later.

I thought Park Guell was fantastic for a beautiful stroll but it's hilly and challenging around there so if you're not physically up for it, skip it.

Another vote for Sagrada Familia. Go inside, it's stunning!
posted by iamkimiam at 10:48 AM on October 24, 2022

+1 for Sagrada Familia. It was not even dried in when I saw it; I had to stand in a long line and was pretty grumpy about it until I was in. I was blown away. I'd also put Parc Guell right up there as a destination. My trip was basically a Gaudí pilgrimage.
posted by adamrice at 10:57 AM on October 24, 2022 [2 favorites]

I am pretty indifferent to the Gaudí stuff, it's a lot of waiting in line, but other people seem to love it. For me, Barcelona is first and foremost one of if not the greatest culinary city in Europe today. The food there is just incredible. Just off the top of my head I'd say don't neglect:

Bar del Pla
La Cova Fumada
Quimet i Quimet (maybe old hat by now but still incredible)
Disfrutar (you probably can't get a table without a few months advance booking, sadly, but it's also very expensive, but amazing)
Rocambolesc for molecular-gastronomy applied to ice cream.
Restaurant Estimar for amazing seafood. Pricey but you can actually get a table here unlike many places in Barca.
posted by dis_integration at 11:38 AM on October 24, 2022 [2 favorites]

Agree with all the recommendations of dis_integration except Bar del Pla, which I find to be just ok (I lived a couple of blocks away for ten years and owned three bars within a couple of blocks of there, and I've been many times). Nothing wrong with it, just not stand out. For variety and friendly service, and for atmosphere, I preferred Bormuth. It's the same kind of mass market, don't break the bank dishes to share, and a decent selection of local beers.
Don't miss the markets - La Boqueria has good places to eat but can be overwhelming as in the last 5 years or so it has converted largely to catering to tourists. Try Mercado Santa Caterina for a more manageable experience where you won't be drowned by tourists.
If you really want to get filled up, try one of the tapas tours, I can't recommend Adler Marlow highly enough, for any kind of excursion. There are lot of tours run by or hosted by people who've just arrived in the area - Adler Marlow has deep roots there and they are incredibly committed to great experiences (I have no financial interests - it's owned by a guy I've known in Barcelona since he was barely in his twenties).
Please feel free to memail me, I lived there for more than 15 years altogether and it was my base from 2003 until the pandemic.
posted by conifer at 2:10 PM on October 24, 2022 [8 favorites]

I've upvoted the FIgueres comments, not so much because I'm a huge Dalí fan, but because the museum is unusual and interesting, and spending time in Figueres is a really nice different experience from Barcelona. Have lunch there. Montserrat is not even on my top ten, and I've spent lots of time in Catalonia. Barcelona is a big city and you can easily spend a week just exploring the city, getting into the less touristic corners.
An alternative to Figueres could be Girona. I find it incredibly beautiful and very suitable for a day trip, maybe including one night, if that is possible.

You have to stay up all night and have churros with hot chocolate at the harbor in the morning at least once.
posted by mumimor at 2:17 PM on October 24, 2022

The Picasso Museum there was a great surprise because it's his very early work. It's housed in 5 adjoining medieval palaces. We didn't make reservations and had to wait in a lengthy line but it was worth it. I'd make reservations to avoid that. You'll see Las Meninas (after Velasquez). Picasso had strong connections to Barcelona and was involved in the choice of buildings for the museum.
posted by lois1950 at 4:36 PM on October 24, 2022 [1 favorite]

The Joan Miro museum --- featuring that artist. For the location, the architecture, and the contents. (I found the linked website kind of confusing and cluttered, it doesn't do the place justice, but it does tell you how to get there etc.)
posted by JonJacky at 4:51 PM on October 24, 2022 [3 favorites]

I was pretty meh about Montserrat, although I don't really remember why. I think because although the setting is beautiful, there isn't much to do there. I was not impressed by museum at all and I'm don't remember seeing the basilica - it might've been closed.

As a museum person, I did really love the Museum of the History of Barcelona in the Gothic Quarter. Top of my list, along with all the Gaudí stuff we did.

Along with Sagrada Familia and Park Güell, I enjoyed the tour of Casa Milà.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 6:31 PM on October 24, 2022

Along with many sights already mentioned, we recently really enjoyed a Culinary Backstreets food tour in Barcelona.
posted by MeadowlarkMaude at 11:06 PM on October 24, 2022

Assuming you'll get to the usual sights (markets, Rambla, Olympic Village, Gaudi - Sagrada Familia & Casa Batlo & Park Guell) on one of your other 5 days, definitely visit the Dali museum.
posted by gakiko at 12:00 AM on October 25, 2022

The monastery and museum at Montserrat aren't much, but for hiking it's one of my favourite places, there are so many interesting routes, and if you're into scrambling you can have a lot of fun there. If you go midweek at this time of year you can have the place to yourself.

Andorra for just one day is a lot, it's a long drive, you have to pay the toll to go through the tunnel (each way) and you wouldn't have much time to do any interesting hiking once you're there before it's time to return.

The Dali museum is nice, and visiting the Palau de la música is well worth it

If you're going to be relying on trains be aware there are some strikes planned by Renfe workers in the next few weeks. (The train to Montserrat is operated by FGC so won't be affected.)
posted by gregjones at 12:01 AM on October 25, 2022

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