Last Updated on March 2, 2024

Barcelona is tailor-made for you as a cruise visitor for several reasons. The city and popular tourist areas are within walking distance of the cruise port and with the aid of a great public transportation system, you can so easily explore and see several great attractions.

Barcelona cruise visitors guide

From the architectural marvels of Gaudí to the vibrant bustling street of La Rambla, or the world-class aquarium (very close to the cruise port), and the numerous museums, galleries, coffee shops, and also the nearby beach (you can walk to that too!), the city has it all.

Barcelona is one of our favorite cruise ports worldwide and to help you navigate and plan your visit (or overnight stay) in Barcelona, this guide is for you.

Getting Around Barcelona from the Cruise Port

Navigating Barcelona from the cruise port for a day visit is remarkably convenient, offering various transportation options to explore the city efficiently.

1. Port Transportation Options

Walking: We have always walked from the cruise ship to the bottom of Las Ramblas and it takes about 20 minutes. You shouldn’t have any problem walking but it can depend on what terminal in the cruise port your ship pulls in at.

Valeria and I walk but you can also get a very cheap bus and do the 5-minute ride to the bottom of Las Ramblas (where you’ll find the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus stop, and the aquarium).

Shuttle Services: Many cruise lines offer a shuttle service from the cruise terminal to popular city locations, such as Plaça de Catalunya or near the Gothic Quarter. If you want to save time and get to one of the main attractions quickly and you are not worried about the cost then this is a good option too.

Taxis and Uber: Taxis and Uber are readily available at the port terminals, offering a direct and comfortable means of transportation.

2. Getting Around the City

Montjuic cable car
Montjuic cable car that you can also use

Walking: Many attractions like La Rambla, the Gothic Quarter, and even the beach are within walking distance from each other. Exploring on foot allows for a relaxed and more intimate experience of the city.

Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours: An excellent choice if you are aiming to cover multiple attractions comfortably. These tours offer flexibility, allowing you to disembark at various sights and explore at your own pace.

Bike Rentals: Barcelona is bike-friendly, with several rental services available near the port. Cycling provides a fun and efficient way to explore areas like Barceloneta Beach or the picturesque Parc de la Ciutadella.

Public Transport (Metro and Bus): The metro system in Barcelona is brilliant! :). Trains come often, it’s clean, efficient, and inexpensive. The buses are quite good but I recommend the metro system and there is a stop right at the bottom of Las Ramblas for walking to/from the cruise terminal from the metro.

3. Returning to the Port

  • Ensure ample time to return to the cruise ship. Consider peak travel hours and potential queues for transportation.
  • Note the last departure time of the cruise ship and plan your return journey accordingly to avoid any rush. I know it’s obvious but someone always seems to do this in regards to arriving at the last minute.

Barcelona’s accessibility and range of transportation options make it remarkably easy for cruise ship visitors to explore several attractions within a limited timeframe.

20 Best Barcelona Attractions You Can See in a Day

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
Photo we took when visiting Sagrada Familia

Unlike La Coruna and Bergen (Norway), ports that we’ve also written port reports on, Barcelona has far more attractions than you could ever see in one day.

So it’s worthwhile working out exactly which ones you want to see and having a plan in advance. You can also email me if you want any advice on Barcelona as we lived there for 1 year and we have also visited the city as a cruise tourist many times.

1. Sagrada Família

Estimated Duration: 1.5 – 2 hours.

  • This iconic basilica, a masterpiece of Antoni Gaudí, is a breathtaking mix of Art Nouveau and Gothic styles.
  • If you visit one attraction then it is this one that I recommend including and do, as it’s a truly unique building that is incredibly intricate in design both on its façade and the towering spires.
  • The building has taken over 125 years to build and is still being completed.
  • More info on Sagrada Familia here.

2. La Rambla

Estimate Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours.

This bustling boulevard is a microcosm of Barcelona’s vibrant street life. From street performers to souvenir shops and local cafes, it’s a hub of activity and a perfect spot for people-watching.

Furthermore, you can walk to La Rambla from the cruise port and you are connected at the bottom of La Rambla to the aquarium, and within a short walking distance of the beach and the Gothic area.

3. Gothic Quarter

Estimated Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours.

  • Step into history as you wander through narrow alleys, stumble upon hidden squares, and visit the awe-inspiring Barcelona Cathedral.
  • The area is steeped in medieval charm and historical significance.
  • You might want to pre-book one of the free walking tours of Barcelona such as of the Gothic area.

4. Mercat de la Boqueria

Valeria in Mercat de la Boqueria
Valeria in Mercat de la Boqueria

Estimated Duration: 30 minutes – 1 hour.

  • Wonderful market and it’s on Las Ramblas (roughly in the middle on the right as you walk down the street towards the cruise port).
  • With stalls brimming with colorful fruits, fresh seafood, and local delicacies, it’s a paradise for food enthusiasts and photographers alike.
  • Official website for the market

5. Casa Batlló

Inside Casa Batlló
Here I am inside Inside Casa Batlló enjoying the designs of Gaudi

Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours.

  • A testament to Gaudí’s genius, this architectural gem stands out with its colorful facade and dreamlike interior.
  • Each corner reveals intricate details and organic forms.
  • More on Casa Batlló

6. Parc Güell

Inside Parc Güell
Valeria in Parc Güell at the Casa Museu Gaudi

Suggested Duration: 1.5 – 2 hours.

  • Gaudí’s imagination comes alive in this lovely park.
  • Wander among mosaic sculptures, admire the serpentine bench, and enjoy panoramic views of the city.

7. Barceloneta Beach

Barceloneta Beach
Here I am on Barceloneta Beach

Suggested Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours.

  • A slice of Mediterranean paradise, where you can relax by the sea, take a dip, or indulge in some beachfront dining.
  • I have suggested one to one and a half hours so that you have time to walk the length of the boardwalk but you can of course spend all day on the beach if you want.
  • It’s close to the port and easy to get to and it is a very nice wide sandy beach with plenty of bars and restaurants nearby, in case you get hungry or thirsty.

8. Montjuïc Hill

Estimated Duration: 2 – 2.5 hours.

  • Home to the Magic Fountain, Montjuïc Castle, and sweeping views of the city, this hill offers a delightful blend of history and nature.
  • Also, enjoy a wonderful panoramic of Barcelona and the port area and Las Ramblas area from atop the hill.
  • A great place for photos and a chance to get the cable car.

9. Picasso Museum

Estimated Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours.

  • Delve into the early works and creative evolution of Picasso, showcasing the genius of the renowned artist’s formative years.
  • Excellent museum and highly recommend it. Learn more here on the Museum website.

10. Santa Maria del Mar

Estimated Duration: 30 minutes – 1 hour

  • Admire the grandeur of this Catalan Gothic church, a magnificent example of medieval architecture.
  • Within walking distance of the port and near Las Ramblas and the Barri Gotic area.

11. El Born Cultural Center

Estimated Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours.

  • Housed within a former market, this cultural center presents exhibitions that offer insights into Barcelona’s history and heritage, providing a glimpse into its past.

12. Poble Espanyol

Estimated Duration: 1.5 – 2 hours.

  • An open-air museum showcasing Spain’s architectural diversity with replicas of buildings from different regions. It’s a cultural immersion in a single space.

13. Casa Milà (La Pedrera)

Suggested Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours.

  • A UNESCO-listed building, La Pedrera is an architectural marvel. Explore the unique facade and rooftop adorned with surreal sculptures.

14. Barcelona Aquarium

Suggested Duration: 1.5 – 2 hours.

  • It’s one of the best aquariums we’ve visited in Europe
  • Expect to see a vast range of species including sharks
  • Official website

15. Hospital de Sant Pau

Estimated Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours.

  • A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this modernist gem boasts stunning architecture and a history as a hospital until recently, offering a unique architectural journey.

16. Barcelona History Museum (MUHBA)

Estimated Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours.

  • Discover Barcelona’s past through archaeological finds and exhibits spread across various locations, providing a comprehensive view of the city’s evolution.
  • Learn more on the MUHBA

17. Tibidabo Amusement Park

Estimated Duration: 2 – 3 hours.

  • Enjoy vintage rides, panoramic views of Barcelona, and a mix of nostalgic and modern amusements atop Mount Tibidabo.
  • This is a little further outside the centre of Barcelona so you might in truth be best off focusing on the more central attractions listed in this top 20. If you have kids with you though then this attraction might suit you.
  • Official website

18. Plaça d’Espanya

Estimated Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours.

  • An expansive square showcasing the Font Màgica (Magic Fountain) and surrounded by impressive buildings, it’s a hub of cultural events and stunning evening light shows.

19. Güell Palace (Palau Güell)

Esimated Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours.

  • One of Gaudí’s early masterpieces, this palace exhibits the architect’s distinctive style with its innovative design elements.

20. Park de la Ciutadella

Estimated Duration: 1.5 – 2 hours.

  • A serene oasis in the city, featuring lush greenery, a lake with rowboats, the Barcelona Zoo, and notable monuments including the Cascada fountain.

Shopping in Barcelona as a Cruise Visitor

If you are doing a cruise only, one of the great benefits of course is that you can do lots of shopping without worrying about excess baggage rates like you would if flying (unless doing a fly-cruise).

In Barcelona, you can find just about anything you want from the top-end stores and brands to interesting souvenirs. Here’s a brief guide to make the most of your shopping and souvenir hunting:

1. La Rambla and Gothic Quarter

  • What to Find: La Rambla, a bustling boulevard, offers a mix of souvenir shops selling trinkets, local crafts, and Barcelona-themed items. Nearby Gothic Quarter features artisan boutiques.
  • Highlights: Look for traditional Catalan pottery and local artisanal products. Don’t miss La Manual Alpargatera for authentic espadrilles.

2. Mercat de la Boqueria

  • What to Find: This vibrant food market isn’t just about gastronomy; it offers stalls selling local delicacies like spices, chocolates, and packaged goods, perfect for edible souvenirs.
  • Highlights: Grab some Spanish spices, chocolates, or beautifully packaged local treats as unique and flavorful gifts.

3. El Born District

  • What to Find: Trendy boutiques and artisanal stores offering handmade crafts, jewelry, and unique fashion pieces.
  • Highlights: Explore Carrer dels Mirallers for independent boutiques, or visit Born Street for designer stores and local artisan shops.

4. Passeig de Gràcia

  • What to Find: High-end designer stores, fashion boutiques, and luxury goods.
  • Highlights: Even if luxury shopping isn’t your goal, strolling along Passeig de Gràcia offers glimpses of iconic architecture like Gaudí’s Casa Batlló.

5. Barcelona Markets

  • What to Find: Beyond La Boqueria, various markets like Mercat dels Encants or Mercat de Sant Antoni offer diverse goods from antiques to clothing.
  • Highlights: Hunt for vintage finds, unique antiques, or rare collectibles for distinctive souvenirs.

Tips

  • Timing: A few markets and smaller shops might close for siesta around midday, so plan your visits accordingly.
  • Local Crafts: Look for handmade crafts, including leather goods, ceramics, and local artwork for authentic souvenirs.

Food and Dishes to Try in Barcelona on Your Day Visit

Ice cream in Mercat de la Boqueria

Even though you can eat as much as you want on the cruise ship, it can still be worth trying a snack or some local delicacy, just to add to your overall travel experience.

It’s a chance to experience some traditional Catalan flavors and other foods sold locally. Here are some things you might want to try:

1. Paella

While not originally from Barcelona, this Spanish rice dish is a beloved staple. Seek out authentic versions with seafood, chicken, or rabbit in saffron-infused rice at local eateries.

2. Tapas

Indulge in the art of sharing with small plates showcasing a variety of flavors. Patatas bravas (spicy fried potatoes) and Spanish omelet (tortilla española) are classic tapas favorites.

3. Ice cream

On Las Ramblas whilst visiting Mercat de la Boqueria, why not grab an ice cream in a flavour such as Maracuya (my recommendation) or Dulce Leche.

4. Fideuà

Similar to paella, this dish substitutes rice with short noodles, cooked in a flavorful seafood broth and served with an assortment of seafood.

5. Escudella i Carn d’Olla

A hearty Catalan stew featuring meats, vegetables, beans, and pasta. It’s a comforting dish traditionally enjoyed during the colder months.

6. Crema Catalana

Indulge in this Catalan version of crème brûlée – a luscious custard topped with caramelized sugar, offering a perfect finale to a meal.

7. Fresh Seafood in Barceloneta

Visit Barceloneta for a seafood feast. From grilled fish to seafood paella, indulge in the freshest catch served along the coastline.

8. Cava

Don’t miss out on Spain’s sparkling wine, Cava. Enjoy a glass at local bars or bodegas, often paired beautifully with tapas or seafood.

9. Chocolate

Chocolate in la Boqueria

Also in la Boqueria market on Las Ramblas, you might want to taste the chocolates or buy some to take back to the ship. Our favorites were the Delice Bon Bons and the Zurich Bon Bons.

10. Vermut

Embrace the vermouth culture in Barcelona – a pre-meal aperitif best enjoyed with olives, almonds, or other small bites.

Barcelona’s culinary landscape offers a delightful mix of local specialties and Spanish classics, inviting visitors to experience the city’s culture through its diverse and delicious dishes.

Getting to Barcelona if You Are Starting Your Cruise Here

Starting your cruise in Barcelona offers several convenient options for arriving in the city:

By Air:

  • Barcelona-El Prat Airport (BCN): A major international airport well-connected to various cities worldwide. From the airport:
    • Taxi or Ride-Sharing: Directly to the cruise port for convenience.
    • Airport Shuttle Services: There are several good airport shuttle services. The one I always use in Spain personally and that has always worked well is Solhop.
    • Public Transport: Aerobús or metro (L9 Sud) connects the airport to the city center, followed by taxi or other public transport to the port.

By Train:

  • Sants Estació (Barcelona Sants Train Station): Major railway station offering connections to several national and international destinations.
    • Taxi or Ride-Sharing: Directly to the cruise port.
    • Metro or Bus: Public transport options are available from the station to the port.

Pre-Cruise Accommodations:

  • Hotels: Barcelona offers various hotels in proximity to the cruise port. One or two of these hotels sometimes provide an airport transfer service (check when booking).
  • Airbnb or Vacation Rentals: Alternative accommodation options might also be conveniently located near the port.
 

Tips:

  • Arrival Time: Plan to arrive in Barcelona a day or two before your cruise departure to avoid potential travel delays.
  • Port Directions: Familiarize yourself with the exact cruise terminal and its location within the port area.
  • Port de Barcelona: Comprising several terminals, ensure you have the correct terminal information to avoid confusion on embarkation day.
  • Luggage Handling: Confirm with your cruise line about luggage drop-off procedures and porters’ assistance.
  • Cruise Line Services: Some cruise companies may offer pre-cruise hotel packages or transfer services from specific points in the city.

Packing Essentials for a Day in Barcelona

Packing for a day trip in Barcelona when on a cruise

Wondering what to pack for a day out in Barcelona? This list might help:

1. Comfortable Walking Shoes

This might seem obvious but I include this as you might find that you do a LOT of walking when you are in Barcelona, as so many attractions are close together and easy to walk between.

We always seem to walk a lot every time we are in Barcelona so make sure you have your favorite walking shoes or sandals on.

2. Sun Protection

In Barcelona, I recommend carrying sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to shield yourself from the Mediterranean sun.

3. Small Day Bag or Backpack

A compact bag to carry essentials like a water bottle, camera, map, guidebook, and any purchased souvenirs.

4. Reusable Water Bottle

You can easily buy bottled water in Barcelona but why waste money? You will need to stay hydrated and it is very often warm or hot in this city.

Tip: You can find drinking fountains in some public areas for refills.

5. Travel Documents and Cash

Carry your ID, passport (if needed), cruise ship card, and some local currency (Euros) for small purchases or unexpected expenses.

6. Umbrella or Rain Jacket

Be prepared for unexpected showers, especially in the cooler months or during the occasional rain in Barcelona.

7. Language Guide or Translation App

A pocket-sized language guide or a translation app can be helpful for basic communication, especially if you’re not fluent in Spanish.

8. Reusable Shopping Bag

Useful for carrying any souvenirs or items purchased during the day without needing additional plastic bags.

Bonus: Example 5 – 6 Hour Schedule Example

I have had several people emailing me asking me to suggest a 5 to 6 hours cruise visit schedule for their trip to Barcelona so here’s what I would do:

Morning:

  1. La Rambla: Start your day with a stroll down this iconic boulevard. It’s lively, full of street performers, shops, and cafes.
  2. Boqueria Market: Adjacent to La Rambla, explore this bustling market for a quick breakfast or to pick up some local snacks. Try the chocolate, ice cream, or enjoy a coffee.

Mid-Morning:

  1. Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter): Wander through the narrow streets, visit the Gothic Cathedral, and admire the medieval architecture.
  2. Picasso Museum: If you’re an art enthusiast, consider a quick visit to this museum showcasing Picasso’s early works.

Lunchtime:

  1. Tapas Experience: Enjoy a traditional Spanish lunch at a tapas bar. There are many great spots in the Gothic Quarter or nearby.

Afternoon:

  1. Sagrada Familia: Head to Gaudi’s masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia. While you might not have time to go inside, it’s worth seeing the exterior – a true architectural wonder.
  2. Park Güell (Optional): If time allows and you’re interested, visit Park Güell to experience Gaudi’s whimsical designs and enjoy panoramic views of the city.
Paul Symonds