Layovers can be a pain when you’re traveling, especially when you have somewhere important to go. But if you plan your layover strategically, you can often use this to your advantage and see two cities for the price of one!
Barcelona is a popular stopover for flights en-route to Europe, so if you have a layover of 6 hours +, use the following suggestions to seize the day.
How to Make the Most of a Layover in Barcelona
You’re in a new city, why not take the opportunity to do some sightseeing! With a mix of modern and classic architecture, and a kaleidoscopic cultural scene, there are plenty of things to see and do in Barcelona, even if you only have a day.
One of Barcelona’s biggest attractions is the Sagrada Familia. Designed by Antoni Gaudí, this is one of the most famous churches in Spain, an unfinished masterpiece which began construction in 1882 and is scheduled to finish in 2026. Book tickets in advance if you want to tour inside.
Gaze at more of Gaudi’s amazing architecture as you make your way along Passeig de Gràcia. Don’t miss the Casa Batlló with its “tiny mosaic tiles and mask-shaped balconies and topped with a shimmering roof of lizard-like scales”.
And while it’s a little out of the way, consider visiting Park Güell; a great public park where you can enjoy a green space surrounded by modernist art. The highest point in the park offers wonderful panoramic views over Barcelona. Like Sagrada Familia, you should book your tickets in advance.
Barcelona is one of the world’s best food destinations, and while you can bounce from one Michelin star restaurant to the next, you don’t have to seek out fine dining to eat world class food.
You can find Catalan cuisine in casual settings all over the city at very competitive prices. Tapas bars from Michelin-starred chefs are popping up left, right and center, and beach-side shacks and street food stands are serving some of the best bites in town.
A local favorite for coffee and cake and is Café d El´Opera, a café in the middle of La Rambla with history dating back to the 18th century. The hectic La Boquería market is another local favorite, where you can find fresh fruit, fish, vegetables and other local foods.
Keep in mind that in Spain they eat late. While lunch in most countries is usually around 12 noon you might not find a place open to eat before 2 pm here. And likewise in the evenings, Spaniards tend to take dinner later at the night, mostly after 9 pm.
If traveling has truly taken it’s toll, why not spend time relaxing at a spa? While you can pamper yourself at a spa in the airport itself at Terminal 1, Barcelona has many relaxing spas, and there are several wellness centers tucked away in hidden alleyways or inside stunning hotels.
One of our favorites is 43 The Spa. Located on the 43rd floor of the iconic Hotel Arts, with spectacular panoramic views of the beach from the treatment rooms, this spa has a solid reputatoin as one of the leading spas in Europe.
The spa offers treatments from the prestigious luxury skincare brand Natura Bisse, a favorite of many beauticians around the world, as well as massages, and a water circuit which includes a hydromassage pool, saunas, steam rooms, and ice fountains.
Tired from your long haul trip, and just want to chill out on the beach? You’re in luck! Barcelona’s beaches stretch for a massive 4.5km and offer an array of free activities.
From basking in the Spanish sunshine to mixing with the locals over a game of beach volleyball, you’ll never be short of things to do at the beach. You could even bring along a picnic and save money on dining out if you want to.
If you’re taking this route, make sure you’ve packed appropriate beach gear (like a towel, suntan lotion etc) in your carryon.
Be mindful not to blow your whole travel budget before you reach your main destination, but Barcelona is a fabulous city for shopping, and the most important market in Spain.
Women’s fashion is particularly well represented in Barcelona, and all major international brands have stores here. Popular Spanish brands you should keep an eye out for include Mango, Zara, Massimo Dutti, Custo, Desigual, and Adolfo Domínguez.
The pedestrian friendly Passeig de Gràcia is the most famous shopping street in central Barcelona, and this is the perfect location to mix your shopping with sight-seeing, or taking a break for some coffee or tapas at a local cafe. Most shops are open from 10am 8:30pm, and you shouldn’t be surprised if they close between 2pm and 4.30pm for siesta.
If you’re hoping to catch a sale, winter sales generally start around the second week in January and last until the end of February. Summer sales usually run from July 1 to the end of August.
If you find yourself with an overnight layover, or you’re jetlagged and just want to nap, you can either sleep at the airport (a facility called Premium Traveller is available at Terminal 1), or organize Barcelona Airport Taxi Transfers to take you to a hotel.
Barcelona has a huge range of hotels for every budget, though if you’re looking to make the most of your time we recommend a hotel located on or near the iconic La Rambla, which will allow you to take in some quick sightseeing before heading back to the airport.
Our favorite hotel is the four-star boutique Casa Camper Hotel Barcelona. If you’re looking for a budget alternative, we recommend Hotel Curious. Located with spitting distance of La Rambla and Plaça de Catalunya, Hotel Curious offers a five-star location for a fraction of the cost of neighboring hotels.
Want to make the most of your Barcelona layover? If you’re in the mood for a party, Barcelona is renowned for it’s thriving nightlife, and you have a huge range of options from cocktail bars, nightclubs, cafes and hotel bars.
For the best clubbing in Barcelona, Sala Apolo has become the number one club space for indie Barcelona, and concert hall for label-free gigs. Razzmatazz, Moog, and Luz de Gas are other popular nightclubs.
If you’re in the mood for a calmer scene, visit one of the jazz clubs at Placa Reial, or check if there is a concert on at Palau de la Música Catalana. Head to Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter if you’re looking to find the heart of Barcelona’s nightlife, or El Born for a slightly more sophisticated scene.
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