8 Hours in Barcelona, Spain

Explore architectural wonders, savory Spanish cuisine, timeless history and more.
by 1925

Barcelona is just one of the iconic coastal destinations in Spain.

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Barcelona is one of Spain’s most vibrant cultural hubs, a place where a variety of influences can be found in 2,000-plus years of history, art, architecture and more. It’s no wonder this stunning coastal city draws travelers from around the world looking to experience all it has to offer, from its striking landscape of mountains and coastline to flavorful cuisine and a unique blend of Gothic and modern architectural gems like the renowned Sagrada Familia basilica by famed architect Antoni Gaudi.

What’s more, Barcelona is also the perfect place to take a cruise because you can see and do plenty in town and then visit other iconic destinations in the Mediterranean, like Nice, France, and Florence, Italy. With a range of sights and adventures to enjoy, anyone can easily spend a day or several—before or after a cruise—in this must-see city. Wondering where to begin? We’ve highlighted a variety of popular and lesser-known spots and experiences for inspiration.

Read on for the many ways you can spend time in Barcelona:

Architect Antoni Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia, an unfinished cathedral designed in 1882, is an iconic landmark in Spain. It’s slated to be completed in 2026.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

If you’re seeking to experience architecture, sports and culture …

Hit the Highlights

Time it takes: 3 hours

Recommendation: Wear walking shoes.

Thousands of years of history, art and culture can be seen in work from well-known artists, like Pablo Picasso’s masterpieces in the Picasso Museum, Antoni Gaudi’s iconic architecture, marketplaces, castles, monuments and more. On a Royal Caribbean excursion, you can take in the city’s highlights from the comfort of a coach bus. The guided journey will lead you through popular places throughout the city, such as Passeig de Gracia, one of Barcelona’s major shopping and business centers; and Mirador de l’Alcalde gardens on Montjuic hill, a botanical park that features multiple terraces, a unique mosaic pavement and a spectacular view of the city below.


Get to know Gaudi 

Time it takes: 4 hours

Recommendation: Bring your camera.

Known for his use of mosaics, color and unconventional designs, Antoni Gaudi is one of the most lauded architects of the 20th century. He lived in Barcelona for much of his career, and a guided excursion is a great way to see his work in the city he called home. You’ll discover several of Gaudi’s most famous masterpieces, like Park Guell, a 40-acre park of gardens and sculptures inspired by nature; and La Sagrada Familia, a magnificent basilica he designed in 1882 and worked on up until his death in 1926. The building is still under construction, and once it’s complete, it will have as many as 18 towers—some of which will be over 500 feet tall.


Visit FC Barcelona

Time it takes: 4 hours

Recommendation: Don’t forget to wear the team colors—red and blue.

One of Spain’s most fun and beloved cultural institutions is football—soccer in American terms. If the closest you’ve been to Spain’s legendary teams is your TV screen, go for an experience to immerse yourself in the sport and the history of FC Barcelona. The adventure will take you to the popular team’s Camp Nou stadium, the largest of its kind in Europe. You’ll also get to walk the venue’s multimedia and interactive space that showcases the team’s achievements as well as its beloved coaches and players.


One of the most quintessential Spanish treats, sangria is chilled wine infused with fruit and spices.

Credit: iStock

If you want delectable food and drink…

Shake Things Up With Sangria

Time it takes: It depends on the class.

Recommendation: Wear clothes you don’t mind getting splashed—just in case.

Learn how to make your own sangria—red or white wine that’s mixed with fruits, other alcohol and spices, and served over ice—at a class hosted by locals. Various places offer hands-on experiences that will cover the history of this beloved drink and the many recipes you can try: combinations like oranges and brandy or peaches and brown sugar. And, if you’re looking for a snack to go with it, there are classes that also serve tapas. A traditional type of meal in Spain, tapas are small hot or cold plates like olives, cured meats and cheeses, and steamed mussels.


Explore La Boqueria Market

Time it takes: It’s up to you.

Recommendation: Bring your own tote or shopping bag.

In the center of Barcelona on the popular street known as La Rambla, there’s the very popular market called La Boqueria—an institution since 1836. Peruse 200 stalls operated by local vendors that sell a variety of products, from local cheeses, fish from the Mediterranean Sea, pastries and olives to art and materials. Also check out the market’s delicious and creative fast-casual restaurants and tapas bars, such as El Quim de la Boqueria or Bar Pinotxo, for a bite on the go.  


Take a Walk on the Sweet Side

Time it takes: It’s up to you.

Recommendation: Churros can be dipped in hot chocolate, dulce de leche and coffee with milk.

The Gothic Quarter is the historic heart of the old city of Barcelona. Among buildings from the 19th and early 20th century—as well as the remains of a Roman wall and medieval landmarks—you’ll find churros, a delicious Spanish dessert, and hot chocolate. There are many cafes that serve this traditional dish along the quarter’s Carrer Petritxol, known as the “churro and chocolate street.” Churros are soft on the inside, fried golden-brown on the outside and coated in cinnamon sugar—some even come with filling, like dulce de leche. As you wander the area with sweet in hand, also look out for other notable sites like the Barcelona Cathedral and Aguilar Palace.


Opened in 1905, Tibidabo amusement park thrills guests with more than 30 rides as well as restaurants and other attractions.

Credit: iStock

If you’re seeking adventure …

Take a Trip to Tibidabo

Time it takes: It’s up to you.

Recommendation: Walking around Tibidabo is free, and it offers some of the best views of Barcelona.

Tibidabo is an amusement park located atop a mountain of the same name and across some 14 acres; it’s the ultimate spot for travelers looking for a thrill. There are activities for all ages, like street theater and Tales Castle, an interactive fairytale castle with hidden secrets, magic rooms and characters from timeless stories. Go for a spin on the park’s famous Ferris wheel and the Avio plane flight simulator, a ride on a replica of the first aircraft to fly from Barcelona to Madrid in 1927. Want to keep your feet on the ground? You can also catch inspiring views of the city in the Panoramic Area, where you’ll be more than 1,640 feet above sea level


Glide on a Segway

Time it takes: It’s up to you.

Recommendation: Stay on clear paths and avoid rocky terrain.

Exchange your walking shoes for a Segway to mix things up. Dozens of local companies host half- and full-day Segway adventures through many of Barcelona’s most well-known sights, like the historic Marina Port Vell (the Old Port)—where many cruise ships dock—the Museum of Catalan History and the most popular beaches. Another must-see spot is the 75-acre Parc de la Ciutadella, a natural oasis in the heart of the city that’s home to a lake, the Parliament of Catalonia, the Geological Museum and more.


Hike through History

Time it takes: It’s up to you.

Recommendation: Bring a packed lunch for a trailside snack.

In 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, the Bunkers of Carmel were built atop the hill of Turo de la Rovira. Overlooking the city at 859 feet above sea level, today, the bunkers are known for offering one of the best 360-degree views of Barcelona. It’s a reason why locals frequently hike the 30-minute trail to get there. Montserrat Natural Park is another of the cultural hub’s most beautiful places to trek. Designated a national park in 1987, the park encompasses parts of Llobregat, the second longest river in the region, and the Pyrenees mountains that stretch across 300 miles.


For more of Barcelona’s culture, cuisine, history and beauty, you can find Royal Caribbean cruises to get you there and other destinations in the Mediterranean and Europe here.