Over 30 million people visit Barcelona per year…and, surprisingly, locals aren’t too happy about it. Believe it or not, leaders in the Catalonian capital are actively working to reduce tourism figures by enforcing strict limits on hotel construction. So, yeah, this Spanish metropolis isn’t the best place to go if you’re looking for a secluded European getaway. Planning out your favourite things to do in Barcelona trip ahead of time is a must if you want to avoid spending your vacation time in lines with sweaty foreigners.
Luckily for you, we’ve put together this sensational list of the top things to do in Barcelona. In addition to detailing each of these attractions, we’ll share a few tips to help squeeze the most out of your voyage to Barcelona.
The Soul Of The City: Sagrada Familia
Even if you know nothing about architecture, you won’t be able to leave Barcelona without memorising the name Antoni Gaudí. Born in Catalonia in 1852, Gaudí had such a tremendous impact on Barcelona that most locals revere him as a saint.
This masterpiece church is the crown jewel of Gaudí’s dreamlike works and symbol of Barcelona, so it is the perfect place to start your Barcelona adventure. You will feel the magic of this masterpiece basilica immediately. If you think the church is stunning from the outside with its extraordinary spires, wait until you go inside. The bright colours, columns blossoming with branches and leaves, and avant-garde animal representations will stay in your minds forever. You can go up to the Nativity towers to get a perfect view of the spires and great views of Barcelona.
Since the Sagrada Familia is the city’s most popular tourist destination, it’s a smart idea to reserve your tickets online before visiting. By the way, if you want to see the Sagrada Familia in its completed form, you’ll have to postpone your trip to Barcelona till at least 2026!
Join The Tourist Hordes In La Rambla
Located in the heart of Barcelona, the pedestrian-friendly La Rambla screams “touristy.” Here you’ll find overpriced cafés, mobs of fellow frenzied tourists, and more tacky touristy gifts than you could fit in your about-to-be pickpocketed purse. But, hey, when in Barcelona, you just have to take a stroll on La Rambla…it’s just, you know, what you do when you are in the city.
OK, it’s easy to poke fun at La Rambla, but there’s a good reason so many people enjoy this lovely 0.7-mile walk. Simply strolling by the picturesque trees and taking in the fabulous murals that dot this street is a neat treat. For those travelling by public transport, keep in mind that the Liceu metro stop is very close to La Rambla.
On a more serious note, please watch out for pickpockets and scam artists when travelling in La Rambla. Unfortunately, Barcelona has earned notorious notoriety in recent years for its preponderance of pickpocketing.
Park Güell: More Gaudí Genius
Eusebi Güell was a super wealthy Catalonian dude who lived between 1846 – 1918. Honestly, the only reason people care about this guy nowadays is that he was bffs with Barcelona’s favourite architect: Antoni Gaudí!
The most famous Guëll-Gaudí collaboration in the Catalan capital is the lovely Guëll Park in the Gràcia neighbourhood (hey, you gotta name the park after the one with the dough, right?). Interestingly, this 42-acre park was initially supposed to be a residential area for Barcelona’s elite. When Guëll and Gaudí ran into difficulties working on the terrain, however, Gaudí just let his imagination soar constructing charming murals, sculptures, and walkways throughout this park.
As you’re sauntering through Park Guëll be sure to take a selfie with the famous lizard statue and tour a few of the original buildings Gaudí designed. Pro tip: for the best view of Barcelona, head to Park Guëll’s southwestern end. You can easily walk to Park Guëll from the Vallcarca metro stop.
Visit the remarkable Casa Les Punxes
Josep Puig I Cadafalch designed the House of Spikes. It is located in the area of Eixample in Barcelona. It has pointed turrets and resembling a medieval castle. Casa Les Punxes is the only Modernist detached house and one of the most emblematic buildings there. Its six sharp-pointed towers, which crown the building, gave it the famous name of “House of Spikes. The visits are in its rooftop, stained-glass bay windows, and beautiful iron staircase. You can discover all the secrets of this masterwork and enjoy wonderful views of Barcelona.
Gaudí Again: The Casa Battlò
Another famous structure in every Gaudí guide is the Casa Battló in the central Eixample area. Like Sagrada Familia, this building has earned UNESCO World Heritage status and is jam-packed with tourists pretty much every day. Yeah, you’re going to want to schedule this attraction well in advance to spare you the headache of waiting in long lines.
The outside of this former residence is supposed to resemble a mythical dragon that was killed by St. George. Be sure to appreciate the impressive details Gaudí put into this outer façade (e.g. scales and bones) before heading inside. As you walk around the Casa Battló, you’ll learn how and why Gaudí built this Modernist masterpiece for the Battló family and get to admire his mosaic works up close. There’s also a fascinating chimney area where you’ll enjoy a smashing view.
You’ll find Casa Battlò close to the Passeig de Gràcia subway station.
Swim With Sharks At L’Aquarium Barcelona
If you’re travelling to Barcelona with the kiddies, then you’re going to want to schedule a few hours at L’Aquarium Barcelona. Even if you’ve forgotten everything from Spanish 101, you should be able to guess what this attraction is all about. Yeah, no trick questions here; “aquarium” really means “aquarium” in English.
Located a 10-minute walk from the Barceloneta metro station, L’Aquarium houses over 10,000 different animals in approximately 1.3 million gallons of water. The highlight of any visit to this aquarium is probably a walk through the massive 260-foot tunnel that specialises in marine life from the Mediterranean region.
If you’re not a super scaredy cat, then consider booking an up-close-and-personal “Shark Experience” while visiting L’Aquarium. For those who’d rather not swim with sharks, take a peek at L’Aquarium’s website for other less scary activities that will be going on during your visit.
Munch On Tapas All Night Long
Nobody’s really sure how tapas started, but the most popular theory goes like this: King Alfonso XIII was really hungry in Andalusia, so he decided to eat the piece of cheese (gasp) that was placed on top of his wine glass (double gasp). A little explanation is necessary: back in the day, bartenders would often put a slice of cheese over a wine bottle to ward off dust and bugs. This cheese was known as a “tapadera” and wasn’t intended to be eaten; but, you know, once the king does something, everybody has to copy. Thus, “tapas” was born.
You won’t have any difficulty finding tapas at bars and restaurants throughout Barcelona. Usually, you’ll have to be a bit aggressive to work your way into these packed, smoky bars and get your order filled by a bartender. If you feel intimidated by the wide selection of dishes available, try to contact a waiter and ask them for assistance.
A few typical tapas in the Catalan region include the simple pan con tomate (bread with tomato, salt, and oil), anchovies with vinegar and garlic, and deep-fried croquetas. If you’re looking for the most well-established Barcelona tapas bars, then take a peek at these old Barcelona tapas haunts: Can Culleretes, Els Quatre Gats, and Can Pineda.
Even More Gaudí Glory: Casa Milà
For those who haven’t tired of Gaudí architecture yet, the UNESCO-recognized Casa Milà is calling you! Only a 5-minute walk from the Casa Battlò, Gaudí’s Casa Milà has earned the nickname “La Pedrera” (English: Stone Quarry) due to its distinctive wavy design. Even as you walk inside, you’ll have a difficult time finding “normal” straight lines in this former apartment building.
Just like the Casa Battlò, Casa Milà has plenty of educational exhibits and a marvellous rooftop garden. If possible, schedule a trip to Casa Milà later in the day to take advantage of the nightly light show.
Be impressed by art at the Fundació Joan Miró
Perched on Montjuïc, Fundació Joan Miró was founded by the quintessentially Catalan artist, Joan Miró. He wanted to make his abstract are more accessible to the people. Today there is a large collection of his masterpieces, including drawings, paintings, and sculptures. His 10,000 masterpieces follow Miró’s entire career and are housed in a modernist building. His huge tapestries and the exterior sculptures on the roof terrace will amaze you. You get to see the best collection of works, from Miró’s Surrealist paintings to his Dada-inspired works. Wit visiting his museum, you will experience a more vivid picture of Barcelona’s style.
Grab A Few Snacks At La Boqueria
Sagrada Familia may be the heart of Barcelona, but La Boqueria market is unquestionably Barcelona’s tummy. Since at least the 13th century, this area on Las Ramblas has provided locals with the highest quality produce, seafood, and meats. Yes, it’s a bit touristy nowadays, but you can still find glorious grub all throughout this area.
Officially known as Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, this market is an ideal place to savour the flavours of authentic Catalan cooking. If you don’t see something that tantalises your tastebuds in the dozens of street vendors, then you’re bound to find something appetising at the restaurants that dot this area of the city. La Boqueria is open between 8 AM – 8:30 PM every day and is a short walk from the Liceu metro stop.
The distinctive and elegant glass and iron roof you will see dates from 1914, but the market is one of the oldest in the whole of Europe. Therefore, it is an educational experience and an iconic sight in one. Whether you want to take in the sounds and sights of a lively urban market or just do some shopping, it is real amazement. This market is not just a place to buy groceries – it is a dining hot spot. With its artful and abundant display of the finest seafood, cheeses, charcuterie, vegetables, and fruits you will be amazed. The market’s infectious energy is something you must feel when in Barcelona.
Attend a concert at the stunning Palau de la Música Catalana
As Gaudí, Lluís Domènech i Montaner left his mark on Barcelona with creating the Palace of Catalan Music. This outstanding concert hall demonstrates there is more to the modernist movement than Sagrada Familia. It is covered with mosaics and tiles, boasting an extravagant facade.
Inside, there are playful Muse sculptures and stained-glass representations of music and nature, surrounding the main stage. The hall has 2,138 seats. Its interior bursts with pattern, texture, and color, and culminates in a skylight. You can go on a day tour or better still, catch a concert during the concert season (September to June).
“Beach Bum” At La Barceloneta
Fun fact: Barcelona’s famous Barceloneta Beach is entirely human-made. City officials only decided to create this stretch of sand when Barcelona was chosen to host the 1992 Summer Olympics.
Measuring about 3 miles, Barceloneta is now considered one of the finest (and most popular) beaches in Europe. Once you see the golden sand the radiant Mediterranean waters for yourself, you’ll see why so many sun-starved Europeans flock to this beach annually.
Due to Barceloneta’s prominence, it’s highly advised you stake your territory as early as possible to enjoy a full day of sunbathing. You’ll find plenty of amenities, cafés, and restaurants in Barceloneta, but be prepared to pay a pretty penny for those pretty views.
Museum of Chocolate
The Museum of Chocolate is, unsurprisingly, a particular highlight for families with kids. The museum exhibition traces the history of chocolate from King Montezuma of the Aztecs, all the way to modern times. Stunningly accurate choco-sculptures of Barcelona landmarks, such as Gaudi buildings, bullfights and even Lionel Messi. The entrance fee includes free chocolate, while you can also watch sculptors at work in the Escola de Pastisseria.
Walk Back In Time At The Barri Gòtic
Yeah, Gaudì is great and all, but what about experiencing historic (i.e. pre-Modernist) Barcelona? If you’ve been asking this question throughout this article, then your patience is about to be rewarded.
The best place to step back into Barcelona’s long past is in the Gothic Quarter, aka Barri Gòtic. Although it’s named after the medieval era, this region of the city dates back at least to Roman times. It’s here you’ll find the 13th-century Cathedral of Barcelona, which some consider one of the best-surviving Gothic structures in Spain. Other highlights on a trip to the Barri Gòtic include the politically significant Plaça ant Jaume and the trendy Plaça Reial.
Oh yeah, and there are a few important Gaudì destinations in the Gothic Quarter. For instance, the palace-like structure Palau Güell was built for the same tycoon that commissioned the Güell Park. You can also visit the Plaça Sant Felip Neri, which boasts a 14th-century church that Gaudì was headed towards when he was tragically killed by a tram in 1928.
The Hidden Photo Op: Bunkers del Carmel
It makes sense that the Bunkers del Carmel have one of the best panoramic views of Barcelona. After all, these bunkers were built during the Spanish Civil War to protect the city against aerial invasion. Thankfully, these bunkers serve a more peaceful purpose nowadays: welcoming selfie-taking tourists.
Although these bunkers are well known to locals, they haven’t caught on with too many international tourists. For this reason, the Bunkers del Carmel are a superb destination for people who want to enjoy a great view of Barcelona without huge crowds.
Access is completely free, but watch your step as it can be a little bit dangerous at times. The views from up here though, look absolutely stunning, you can see across the entire city, including once in a lifetime views of the Sagrada Familia. Head up there for the sunset/sunrise which dazzles the city in a bright orange light
You’ll find this lookout point near the Parc del Guinardó, which is about a 15-minute walk from the El Carmel metro station.
Marvel at Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC)
The National Museum of Catalan Art is one of the country’s greatest museums. Located in Montjuïc, inside the grand palace Palau Nacional, this museum displays many Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces. In this museum, you can marvel at a thousand years’ worth of art. It is even home to the famous portrait San Pablo by Diego Velázquez. The Romanesque collection sets this museum apart since records the pre-Gothic early stages of Catalan religious art.
Learn About Barcelona in The History Museum
Long before Messi and his gang were the trademarks of Barcelona, it was just a Roman settlement called Barcino. In the Barcelona History Museum (Museu d’Història de Barcelona) in Barri Gotic, you can walk over its ruins in a 4000 square meter site. Remnants of buildings such as temples, plazas and shops are still very visible, telling their own story of Barcelona in time.
On the upstairs level of the museum, you will have the chance to admire some of the most important parts of Barcelona’s renaissance, such as the Santa Agata chapel. The Gothic Salo de Tinel has a history of its own, as it is where Christopher Columbus first informed Queen Isabella about his discoveries. It was also the HQ of the Spanish inquisition. Quite unexpected, eh?
Stroll Along Carretera de les Aigues
La Carretera de les Aigues is an easy hiking trail offering some of the best views of Barcelona. Located on the 8,000 hectare Collserola National Park, it is a perfect way to catch some peace and quiet, away from the noisy downtown. The 9km Carretera de les Aigues (Road of the Waters) footpath is not only a great place to exercise but also, a great chance to catch some beautiful panoramic views of the city.
Carretera de les Aigues takes its name from the water pipes that used to transport water from the peak over at Sant Pere Martir all the way down to the city. The path used to be the service road for the maintenance of the water pipes. Nowadays, it is a popular spot for locals and very few tourists, so if you want to do something else than running up and down Las Ramblas, it’s worth a visit.
Learn About the Young Picasso in the Picasso Museum
Although Pablo Picasso was originally from Malaga, he spent some of his early years in Barcelona as an apprentice before moving to Paris. In the Picasso Museum (Museu Picasso), you can find a vast collection of the artist’s early and seminal work. There are not many famous paintings here, but you can trace Picasso’s development through 4500 of his pencil drawings, landscapes, sculptures and portraits.
While Picasso’s work is definitely the biggest attraction in this museum, the five renaissance buildings that comprise it (Palau Aguilar, Palau Baró de Castellet, Palau Meca, Casa Mauri, Palau Finestres) are impressive in their own right. Each one of them is built in a Gothic Civil Catalan style and follow a particular architectural pattern, sharing a courtyard and an exterior staircase.
Grab A Bargain at the Mercat dels Encants
You’ll probably be told this is one of the oldest flea markets in Europe, Although we are not too sure if that’s precisely true, it’s undoubtedly one of the biggest. Open four days a week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday from 9 am to 8 pm, this is certainly one of the best places to grab a bargain in the whole of Barcelona. Just remember, you can’t take a sofa back with you on the plane!
Day trip to Santa Maria de Montserrat Monastery
Barcelona is an exciting city, but it doesn’t take long before you see all the staple tourist attractions. The Montserrat Monastery is only a couple of hours away from Barcelona and offers a first-class chance to escape the city. The dramatic Santa Maria monastery is perched atop the Montserrat mountain and has been a place of worship and pilgrimage since the middle ages.
Apart from the unique setting, the biggest attraction for visitors is the 1000-year old statue of La Moroneta (the Black Virgin). According to legend, the sculpture was carved by St.Luke himself and was brought to the monastery for safekeeping. You can reach the top by foot or by using one of the two funiculars that can carry you to the top.
• Nearest transport: take the FGC train from Plaça de Espanya metro to Montserrat Aeri and then take the cable car up to the monastery. Alternatively, get off at Monistrol de Montserrat, one stop after Montserrat Aeri, and take the Cremallera de Montserrat (mountain railway). It takes approximately 1 1\2 hours to get to Montserrat from Barcelona.
Take the Aeri del Port cable car from Barceloneta to Montjuïc
Most people have heard of the famous Parc de Citudella, situated close to the Arc de Triumph, but for our money, the Parc de Montjuic is just a better and less busy place to spend your time. Situated on a small hill overlooking the city, it is easily connected to Barcelona by two cable cars and a funicular. The park contains plenty of interesting sights, from one of the world’s most picturesque swimming pools to an old fortress and at the base of the park, the fantastic Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.
Enjoy some History at the Monasterio de Pedralbes
Nestled towards the top of the city, far away from the hustle and bustle of the centre, this historic monastery is certainly worth your time. Founded in 1326 it’s surprisingly still currently fulfilling its original purpose with a small community of nuns living in an attached building. A perfect place to just spend a quiet afternoon marvelling at the historical architecture and fabulous old paintings.
Find the Perfect Beach in Castelldefels
This is an open secret amongst the residents of the city of Barcelona that the main Barcelona beach is pretty rubbish. So, if you head just 25 minutes down the coast by train, you’ll find one of the most magnificent beaches in the whole of Spain. This golden sand beach stretches for over 10km from the airport all the way to the mountains, and it’s not hard to see why this is the home of many of Barcelona’s football stars. Messi has his large house here, tucked away high up in the hills.
Skateboard around MACBA
Situated in the heart of the at times rough and ready neighbourhood of Ravel, is the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. This often has some fantastic events on, including our favourite from 2018, a Stanley Kubrick exhibit. Outside MACBA is a large park that is famous for skateboarders and hipsters alike, who come to practice their tricks and hang out during the long warm summer nights. Grab a beer from the local shop and join in on the fun, everyone here is very welcoming, and someone always brings a speaker, chill out and enjoy the evening.
With an art collection since 1945, this museum is also the perfect place to see Catalonia and Spain’s most renowned contemporary artists and their emerging talent. Check out the mesmeric photography, painting, sculpture, and more. The white building with its striking glass stands out against the nearby buildings. From the highest floor, you will get a fantastic view as well.
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