The full title for this post should be: “How to Avoid the Crowds in Barcelona…Kind Of.” Because the fact is, Barcelona has more than its fair share of tourists. Which makes sense, because it’s easily one of the most beautiful (and surprisingly clean) cities we’ve been to.
If you haven’t noticed by now, we’re not a fan of crowds. Or standing in long lines. Or waiting longer than we have to. It’s the main reason why we book everything we can ahead of time and pack only carry-ons whenever possible.
So if you’re like us, or you just want to see as much of Barcelona as you can without getting held up in masses of tourists, here are our best tips for avoiding the crowds and still seeing the highlights that you went there to see
When it comes to getting around Barcelona, the public transportation is great. The Hola Barcelona travel card provides unlimited journeys on public transport in Barcelona for consecutive periods between 2 days (48 h) and 5 days (120 h) from the time it is first validated. If you buy the unlimited cards, travel to Barcelona – El Prat airport is included as well as metro, bus (TMB), urban railway (FGC, Zone 1), Montjuïc funicular, tram (TRAM), and regional railway (Rodalies de Catalunya, Zone 1).
If you buy the Hola Barcelona Card online, there is a 10% discount. After purchasing online, all what you have to do to obtain your actual travel card is stop at any metro station and enter the code you received via email into the ticketing machine.
If possible, it is best to plan your activities to avoid the morning and evening rush hours.
There are two main reasons that tourists come to Barcelona — and Park Güell is one of them. The Monumental Zone is the main attraction, which is the area covered in mosaic tiles, and there is a fee required to enter. Tickets can be purchased online in advance and have an assigned time. We recommend arriving early, so that you can walk through the free entry zone of the park before you enter the Monumental Zone.
To avoid the largest crowds, visit the park early in the morning. This is also a good idea to avoid the harshest sun rays, as there is little to no shade in the Monumental Zone.
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia is a large, unfinished Roman Catholic church in Barcelona — and the other main reason why tourists visit Barcelona. It was designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, who is also responsible for the Monumental Zone in Park Güell.
Just like with Park Güell, it’s advisable to buy tickets well in advance to avoid the long ticket lines and to ensure you can get into the Basilica at the time that works best with your schedule. You can choose to either just visit the Basilica, or to visit the Basilica and go up one of the finished towers. You can only visit one of the towers — the Nativity tower or the Passion Tower. The Nativity Tower was the one we went up, and it is the older of the towers — completed during Gaudí’s lifetime. It’s important to note that although there is an elevator to take you up the tower, the descent is a windy, long staircase.
To avoid the biggest crowds at La Sagrada Familia, try to either visit first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon. We found that it worked out well to visit Park Güell in the morning and La Sagrada Familia later in the afternoon, which left us plenty of time to do other sightseeing in between.
Parc de la Ciutadella
Barcelona’s biggest park provides a welcomed green relief from city life and the sun especially on hot, sunny days. It has a small lake, a fountain and wide grass areas where you can sit, relax and enjoy a day at the park. You can also find the Barcelona Zoo and the Parliament of Catalonia in Ciutadella Park.
Castell de Montjuïc
One good way to avoid the crowds in Barcelona is to check out some of the less popular attractions. Castell de Montjuïc is an old military fortress dating back to as far as 1640. Visitors can enjoy a 360º view of the city, harbor, and Mediterranean thanks to the privileged location of the Castle, on top of Montjuïc hill.
The Castle is away from the hustle and bustle in the city center, so crowds are more manageable even though it can get crowded here as well during certain times such as the first Sundays of the month and other Sundays after 3pm when admission is free.
Mercado de la Boqueria
One other area that we definitely recommend checking out is the Mercado de la Boqueria, an indoor market with tons of fresh food. It’s great for lunch but gets extremely crowded, and it’s difficult to find a place to sit. We recommend grabbing some hand-held food items that you can eat as you go.
Have you ever been to Barcelona? How did you make the most of your time there? What other tips do you have for avoiding the crowds in Barcelona?