Whenever I arrive in a new city I always start exploring by just wandering around. So when Boyfriend and I went to Barcelona in Spain for four days in October, that’s exactly what we did.
On our first day in Barcelona, we’d gotten a map of the city at our hostel and with that in our pocket we headed out. Luckily there are many things to do in Barcelona so that you’ll find something interesting on practically every turn you take.
Things to do on your first day in Barcelona
Passeig de Gràcia
We started at the Passeig de Gràcia, which connects the Plaça de Catalunya with Gràcia, a former separate town, but now part of Barcelona.
The most famous buildings in this street are Gaudí’s Casa Batlló and La Pedrera (Casa Milà), but there are plenty of other modernist facades to admire as well.
Passeig the Gràcia is also ideal for shopping, especially as you get closer to the Plaça de Catalunya.
Into Barri Gôtic and Ciutat Vella
As we crossed the Plaça I saw a metro station and an image from eight years before flashed before my eyes. Me coming out of that station with the friend I was traveling with and someone we’d gotten to know there. It was raining.
The most obvious thing to do when you’ve crossed the Plaça de Catalunya, is to walk straight onto La Rambla, but of course we didn’t do the most obvious thing. Instead, we chose the Av. Portal de l’Angel which leads to the Barri Gòtic and Ciutat Vella.
Portal de l’Angel and the small streets of Ciutat Vella are also great for shopping, but as it was just our first day in Barcelona we only entered one tiny store: Happy Pills!
I knew about Happy Pills because a friend of mine had brought some back from Barcelona a couple years ago. I love the concept of this store. You first have to choose a little jar that looks like something you put medicine in. Then you can fill it with candy – and they have loads to choose from. You can really stuff the jars and when you’re done you get to choose a sticker for your jar before you let it weigh and you pay
Besides filling a jar for yourself, Happy Pills also offers different kinds of pre-filled medicine boxes that make for super gifts. At least, I know I’d be happy with some candy! We bought a medium sized jar for ourselves and I bought two small candy medicine jars for my brother and his girlfriend.
Oh and by the way: the candy they sell is actually really good.
We left Happy Pills and just a few meters further was the beautiful cathedral of Barcelona. It was hard to get a good picture because of the amount of people that were there and because the cathedral is so surrounded by other buildings, but this gives you an idea:
We didn’t go in but instead continued our walk all the way down to the water and the start of neighborhood La Barceloneta. From there we followed the water to the beaches. It wasn’t warm or sunny enough to hang at the beach, though.
I really liked La Barceloneta. Cool bars, nice surf shops and an overall relaxed vibe. Walking there you immediately get the feeling that you’re in another place, away from the crowded city.
From Port Olimpic to the Parc de la Ciutadella
We walked on to the Port Olimpic and unfortunately, that’s when it started raining. As our legs had gotten somewhat tired as well, we decided to do a small tour on the touristic bus. We took the Green Route, which makes a loop following the water from Port Olimpic to Fórum and back. It’s a hop-on, hop-off bus, but as it was raining we just took the tour. We were glad we could sit for a while.
We got off at Cementiri del Poblenou, but as it was still raining we decided to skip the cemetery and walk back towards the Parc de la Ciutadella. You don’t see this on the map (at least it wasn’t clear to us), but you can’t access the park anywhere along the Passeig Circumval-lació, which we intended to do, until you reach the crossing with the Av. Marquès de l’Argentera, where the Pg. Circumval-lació becomes the Pg. Picasso (yes, you’re close to the Picasso Museum there!).
When you enter the Parc de la Ciutadella you find the Barcelona Zoo to your right. We didn’t visit the zoo, but we did take a walk through the park which is pretty nice, with wide lanes and a large fountain by Josep Fontserè.
The Arc de Triomf
When you exit the park to the north you just have to cross the street to get to the Passeig Lluís Companys and the Arc de Triomf.
From there we walked back in the direction of the Barri Gotíc and Ciutat Vella, where we wandered through the little streets until we finally reached the famous Barcelona Rambla. It was evening by now and we were both exhausted from our first day in Barcelona, so we walked up La Rambla, had some dinner and called it a night.
Where to stay in Barcelona?
Two of the last places I stayed at on my trips to Barcelona (I’ve been several times and don’t remember them all – woops) were the Novotel and an airbnb.
The Novotel Barcelona City
(You can also watch this video directly on YouTube)
The Novotel Barcelona City lies a bit out of the tourist center and offers all the comfort you can expect from the hotel chain. Check here for prices and availability.
Staying at an airbnb in Barcelona
If you’re looking for an apartment rather than a hotel, I would recommend checking airbnb. Sign up through my link and get a discount on your first stay!
How to get to Barcelona
We flew from Brussels directly to Barcelona. If you’re traveling within Europe and are nearby, you can also consider taking the train.
Other posts about Barcelona
- Casa Batlló: one of Gaudí’s architectural highlights
- Climbing Montjuic
- The Barcelona Aquarium
- Why the Camp Nou Experience isn’t just for football fans
- La Sagrada Familia: is it worth the wait?
We received complimentary tickets for the Bus Turistic from Turisme de Barcelona. This doesn’t change the fact that all opinions expressed are my own. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you book something through them, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting the site!