How to See Barcelona While Cruising
I was fortunate enough to visit Barcelona several times while working on a cruise ship. It's a major port for many cruise lines, so if you happen to be visiting Barcelona while based on a ship, this is a great itinerary to see the most popular sites on your own.
First off, getting to downtown Barcelona from the cruise terminal is easy. It's a really, really, long walk. So you're best off taking the bus that runs frequently between the berths and drops you off right at the Columbus Monument at the bottom of The Ramblas, Barcelona's pedestrian thoroughfare. Taxis are also available, but unless you've got a large group, the bus is cheaper and just as quick.
Starting at the waterfront, I like to start my walk via The Ramblas to the Placa de Catalunya. The Ramblas is filled with people and the boulevard is lined with shops, restaurants, and hidden gems such as this music store I ran across. There's even a row of pets to buy as you near the Placa.
I have two favorite stops along The Ramblas. First is La Boqueria, a produce market that also has cafes and stalls of edible souvenirs (such as olive oil). It's a great stop for lunch, I like to select a freshly squeezed juice at the entrance and make my way to the very back of the market where there's this vegetarian stall that serves a delicious falafel pita sandwich that comes with a very generous portion of paella.
On the other side of The Ramblas from La Boqueria, is a side street that will take you to Granja La Pallaresa, a charming chocolate café recommended by Rick Steves as the place to enjoy churros con chocolate. I tried it once, and would always go back when in Barcelona. You can't believe the joy a hot, greasy churro will bring you with a thick cup of chocolate. They do have limited hours, so be sure to time it right.
Once I reach the Placa de Catalunya at the end of The Ramblas, (you can't miss it...central plaza with fountains and statues) I like to hop on the metro to take me to one of Barcelona's most iconic sites, Sagrada Familia. To get closest to Sagrada Familia, you'll need to transfer lines, but it's easy to nagivate.
Sagrada Familia is famous, as the construction is still incomplete. Gaudi worked on the church for 43 years before his death in 1926, and the work continues today. Over the years that I stopped in Barcelona, I did see progress.
Unfortunately, every time I made my way out to Sagrada Familia, something happened to deter me from ever going inside. First it was a fire, the next time was Palm Sunday, and the list goes on. One day, I will tour the inside of this church! The lines are usually long, and there is an entrance fee. If you're pressed on time while exploring Barcelona, you may have to decide between the church, Gaudi's apartments, and the Picasso museum.
After seeing Sagrada Familia, I usually hop back on the metro from the direction I came and get off at the Passeig de Gracia which takes me to the area known as the Block of Discord. Here are two buildings designed by Gaudi, Casa Mila and Casa Batllo, along with other colorful Modern facades that are interesting to look up at stare at. You can tour inside Casa Mila and Casa Batllo if you so desire.
Usually once I've made it that far in my day, I have to head back to the ship for work. It's not unusual for cruise ships to dock two days in Barcelona, so you can go visit the many incredible sites that I've missed. But if your time is limited like mine, this itinerary will give you the can't miss highlights.