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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

Sagrada Familia

Sightsee

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.

Park Güell Barcelona

Dine

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.

You should always remember to consider your interests when booking a trip

Spa

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.

Beach

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.

Barcelona Beach

Shop

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.

Barcelona art scene

Sleep

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.

Crowne Plaza Canberra Hotel Review

Barcelona

Party

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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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

If you enjoy getting social, you can follow their journey on FacebookTwitterYouTubePinterest and Instagram.

    20 Comments

  1. I often arrange my trip to Israel via Barcelona. 1) It breaks up a long flight. 2) It’s not Paris, where there are often work stoppages (which means indefinite stays int he airport) and 3) I get to partake of the Barcelona sights, sounds, and lodging. Not to mention that the air fare is slightly better, too.

    • Yes, there seems to be some type of union protest / workers strike in Paris every other day, especially with public transport. So Barcelona’s probably a better route from that stand point too – clever thinking!

  2. Oh, 6 hours for Barcelona is really not enough time, so you did well to suggest some awesome things. For me, Park Güell and La Sagrada Familia is a must see. But you’re right, shopping and dining are absolutely fab there too. I’d say, it’s a city to go back to – many times (or simply do several layovers lol).

    • Totally agree, you could easily spend 6 days here, but at least if we get people out of the airport and into the city, they’ll be convinced to return at some point for some more time 😀

  3. I was surprised that you have to book tickets for Park Guell. I thought it was a public park! You have a great list here if things to do during a long layover. Do you suggest using public transportation or would it be better to rent a car, to make the most of your limited time?

    • It is a public park, and you can access a lot of it for free, though to get into what’s called the Monumental Core, which is where all of Gaudi’s architecture is, you have to pay the fee, and it’s very strictly controlled, with specific times on your tickets.

      I think it’s probably much of a muchness between renting a car vs public transport – I would probably go with public transport, because while a car rental sounds like it would save you time, by the time you go through the process of picking it up, getting lost in the streets or missing a turn, trying to find parking at attractions, and then finding a gas station to refill, I think you’re better off time wise choosing public transport.

      Hope that helps!

  4. Fun! I like the looks of Hotel Casa Camper. My stepfather is Spanish and has warned me extensively about the late night feasts. I would definitely love to head to Barcelona one day to stuff my face with tapas and my eyes with Gaudi!

    • I hope you do have the chance to get to Barcelona at some stage Miranda, a great opportunity to experience the culture you’ve grown up with too!

  5. This is a great list for a great city! We’ve been to Barcelona a number of times, and I never get tired of seeing the Gaudi architecture. I adore Park Guell and am always interested to see how La Sagrada Familia has changed since our last visit!

    • Glad you enjoyed the pot Lois! Totally agree that you can never get enough of Gaudi – I’ve not seen anything else like his work in my lifetime, so unique and fascinating! And I agree with you, it would be so interesting to watch as La Sagrada Familia is being built, and witness different stages of its progress before completion 🙂

  6. Wow! Barcelona ~ There are so much to see and do, and the Spanish dishes are amazing! Barcelona is a city that you will want to come back after a layover. I would suggest one more idea – catch a show or a Flamenco performance in town! @ knycx.journeying

    • Totally agree – if you’ve only got a layover, I definitely advocate for getting out and exploring the city, but it will make you want to plan a proper vacation here for sure – there’s definitely something magical about Barcelona!

      Great tip on catching a Flamenco performance – we haven’t done that yet, so will have to plan it into our next trip 🙂

  7. We will be staying in Valencia for a week when we pass through Spain from France to Portugal. Barcelona is 3 hours from there so we will have a day trip. Essentially you are saying not to miss Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, and Park Gruell. For affordable local Catalan cuisine, I hope La Boquería market is the place to go!

    • Fabulous Carol, yes, definitely take in Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, and Park Guell – but plan our your day in advance because if you want to go inside Sagrada Familia and Park Guell you’ll have to get tickets in advance, and they have very specific time slots.

      And you’re absolutely correct – visit La Boquería market for affordable local Catalan cuisine. Have an amazing trip!!

  8. I really want to visit. I was just in Madrid for 24 hours before heading back to the states. So much to see in Barcelona. I would love to check out Las Ramblas.

    • Can highly recommend a trip back to Spain at some point, even if you work in Barcelona as a layover like you did Madrid 🙂 Glad you had a fabulous time in Madrid!

  9. I also like the Picasso museum as a quick stop if you only have one day in Barcelona. I don’t know how, but I missed the Guell Park when I was there!

    • I’ve heard a lot about the Picasso museum, but actually haven’t made it yet – we’ll switch itineraries lol on our next trip we’ll see Picasso, and on your next trip you can take in Park Guell 😀

  10. So much has changed since I visited decades ago. Las Ramblas I recall and of course the Barrio Gotico, Sagrada Familia and the other parks that make Barcelona truly a unique city. You highlighted spas and other aspects that make me think it’s time to schedule a long layover or much better. Spain is definitely calling.

    • Barcelona has definitely seen a lot of change over the past few decades – I would definitely be interesting in hearing your account when you visit again as to how it differs now from when you were last there 🙂

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