Planning a trip to Europe? Then Barcelona is a city that should definitely be included in your itinerary! Whether it’s for a week-long vacation or a stopover spanning only a couple of days, you’re in for an awesome time! Of course, Barcelona is most often associated with their famous football club, but beyond the likes of Lionel Messi and the Nou Camp, there’s so much more to experience, from the amazing architectural marvel that is the Sagrada Familia to delectable paellas and tapas, the possibilities are endless!
Having said that, you’re probably wondering where you should start. Don’t worry, I’m here to help you with that! Here are the top 15 things to do in Barcelona for an unforgettable trip!
1. Visit the architectural masterpiece known as La Sagrada Familia
A majestic work of art by Antoni Gaudi that has been under construction since 1882, Sagrada Familia is a must-visit whenever you are in Barcelona. In fact, you can probably see this towering structure even before you go near it from the city centre!
The basilica is expected to be completed in 2026 (barring any more delays), but this historical landmark is already open to the public all-year-round. Every inch of this marvel is covered with highly intricate designs and sculptures, illuminated by sunlight that pours in via the beautiful stained windows. Words are not enough to describe how beautiful this basilica really is. You really must see it with your own eyes.
As expected of an iconic landmark like this, expect Sagrada Familia to be crowded on most days of the week, especially during the summer, which is the peak holiday season in Europe. So, make sure you plan ahead! There are several types of tickets that you can book online to skip the queue, so make sure you check the official website here! Tickets with an audio guide are highly recommended.
You can also visit other works by Gaudi throughout the city, such as the elegant Casa Milà and the whimsical Casa Batlló not too far away.
2. Take a stroll through the beautiful Park Güell
Apart from creatively-designed buildings, you can also admire Gaudi’s genius by visiting Park Güell, about 15 minutes away from Sagrada Familiaby car. While most parts of the park are free for visitors to roam about, the Monumental Zone is ticketed. But even without entering the Monumental Zone, there is plenty to appreciate and admire.
There are unique “gingerbread cottages”, mosaic serpentine benches, and colonnaded footpaths among other things. Combined together, these colourful elements paint the park like a scene straight out of a fairy tale! Most importantly, from its elevated position, you can also enjoy an amazing view of the city below!
Apart from fantabulous views and Insta-worthy spots, the Gaudi House Museum is also located within Park Güell. To make things even better, you can actually purchase a dual ticket that allows you to visit both the museum and the aforementioned Sagrada Familia!
3. Experience the colourful chaos of Las Ramblas
The most famous street in Barcelona, Las Ramblas is the go-to place for tourists and locals alike. It is a pedestrian-only boulevard that stretches about 1.2 km. During the day, it is filled with street performers, museums, monuments, restaurants, cafes and artisanal boutiques. Take your time strolling along this gorgeous street, and enjoy all the fun and quirky things you can find along the way.
At the south-end of Las Ramblas, you’ll come across Mirador de Colom (Columbus Monument). If you have the time, make sure to head into the monument, and take a lift up 60 meters for an amazing view of the surrounding.
4. Treat your tastebuds to a fiesta at La Boqueria Market
Speaking of Las Ramblas, along the way, you’ll definitely pass by La Boqueria Market. This historic market actually started in 1217, with no more than a handful of stalls selling fresh meat. Overtime however, this humble establishment evolved into the bustling market that it is today. Being the most popular markets in Barcelona, you can expect huge crowds in this market, especially in the afternoon, but for good reason.
Apart from fresh local produce, you can find a lot of tantalising food like seafood platters and tapas, as well as amazing wine and beer. If you have a sweet tooth, there are also shops selling a wide assortment of candies and popsicles that are both colourful and tasty. Basically, La Boqueria Market is the place to visit for an epic gastronomic experience.
5. Get lost exploring the Gothic Quarter
While you’re in the area, why not take a slight detour and explore the Gothic Quarter? It’s just right beside La Ramblas, and it’ll be a huge miss if you skip this one. Gothic Quarter is the oldest part of the city, and you can find plenty of hidden gems within. Walking along the narrow streets of the Quarter, you might even feel like you’ve been siphoned back to ancient Roman and medieval times
Some of the must-visits in the area include Barcelona Cathedral (or Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia) that was built between 13th and 15th centuries, Placa del Pi which is a quiet little square surrounding the church of Santa Maria del Pi, and El Call, an old Jewish quarter that is filled with dark history. Of course, there are also a lot of restaurants and bars that you can visit if you get hungry while exploring.
6. Let your creative mind flow at the Picasso Museum
You’ve most likely heard of him, and probably might have seen some of his works too. But if you’re keen to learn more of Pablo Picasso’s life and his artwork, then you’ve gotta visit the Picasso Museum near the Gothic Quarter. Housing a permanent collection of more than 4,000 artworks, you can learn and understand how Picasso grew up over time and how his life experiences affected his art. Even if you’re not a fan of art, you’ll be sure to have a good time here.
And if you’re lucky, there are some days that the museum offers free admission. Be sure to check the official website for more information!
7. Enjoy the scenic Magic Fountain of Montjuïc
While fountains are not usually a major attraction on its own for most people, the Magic Fountain in Barcelona is a majestic exception. This massive fountain operates via 3620 water jests circulating 2,600 liters of water every second in the 3.1 million litre pool with a maximum water spout height of 52 meters! There are also 4,760 lights that illuminate the fountain at night. Visit during the night when the water show is usually on for an absolutely breathtaking experience!
Before visiting, it’s best for you to check the showtimes ahead so that you can catch the fountain show. Check out the website here.
8. Climb up Turó de la Rovira for an alluring view
From the top of Turó de la Rovira hill, you can get an amazing 360° view of the city of Barcelona. At an altitude of 257 meters, you can see as far as Mataró to the north and Castelldefels to the south. Yet, good views are not the only things you can find here.
The hilltop is actually an abandoned bunker that was once used during the Spanish Civil War. After the war, the bunker was occupied by people that mostly came from other parts of Spain. However, in 1992, the neighbourhood was moved and the bunker has remained empty till today. A little exploring around can lead you to some remnants of the said neighbourhood.
9. Bar hop at Passeig del Born
Passeig del Born is a promenade connecting the El Born Market and Santa Maria del Mar. Here is where you can find amazing restaurants and bars at any time of day! What makes this street even more interesting is the row of 14th-century buildings that exude a charming medieval vibe which you can enjoy while enjoying your drink. Passeig del Born used to be the site of the Holy Week processions and carnivals; and the surrounding region, El Born used to host tournaments and jousting matches.
Now, Passeig del Born is a lovely and lively spot for locals and visitors to enjoy some good food and drink.
10. Bask in the Catalonian sun at the beach
The beaches of Barcelona often stretch for miles, and they are very near to the city centre. The most popular and lively one is Barceloneta Beach, where there will be tons of visitors, restaurants and bars. You can even play a game of volleyball too. But if you long for some peace and quiet, you can just walk to other beaches, as most of them are interconnected. In the day, you can laze around on the beach. In the night, you can join an exciting party!
Oh, and since the beaches are facing east, you can get quite an amazing view of the sunrise. Definitely worth waking up early for.
11. Set sail at Port Olimpic
Port Olimpic was built in 1991 in conjunction with the 1992 Olympic Games as the city needed a site for sailing competitions. Now, it is one of the top attractions in the city for locals and tourists. Other than the usual bar and restaurants, there are plenty of water activities for you to enjoy.
Barcelona Municipal Sailing Centre also offers various courses on water activities such as sailing, windsurfing, and paddle surfing. You can learn something new and have loads of fun at the same time!
12. Take a trip to Gracia
While Gracia is a part of Barcelona, it sure doesn’t feel like one. For one, it feels more relaxed, funky, bohemian, and some might even say that it’s the hipster part of the Catalonian capital. Apart from the different vibe, Gracia is also where you can find plenty of picturesque architecture, such as Casa Vicens. With less tourists, you can also take the time to relax at the lovely squares around the area and watch the day go by. However, do take note that, due to the lack of tourists, you will likely also not find any menus in English here.
If you happen to visit in August, you’re in luck because that is when the Festa Major is in full swing. It’s an annual week-long festival where the streets are decorated with amazing and quirky art installations, scrumptious street food, and live bands! It’s definitely one of the most anticipated festivals in Barcelona. Make sure to check the official website for the latest updates.
13. Spend a day in the mountains of Tibidabo
Another out-of-city spot that is worth visiting is Tibidabo. The tallest mountain in Barcelona at a height of 512 meters, you can easily spend almost an entire day here. It’ll be a nice place to get some fresh air and a change of pace during your stay. Relive your childhood days at one of the world’s oldest amusement parks at Tibidabo Amusement Park, while getting an amazing panoramic view from the top of the ferris wheel.
Visit another majestic religious site at Sagrat Cor that combines a mixture of neo-Gothic and Modernist style architecture, or be one with nature at the Natural Park of Collserola. To make this place even more interesting, you can catch a funicular ride to the top by funicular, which will also offer you some spectacular views en route.
14. Explore everything during the 48H Open House
The 48H Open House is a one-of-a-kind event that is held annually in October. During these two days that celebrate the architecture in Barcelona, more than 200 buildings across the city that are usually closed to the public or have entrance fees are open for free. The ultimate aim of this event is to increase the public appreciation and knowledge of the architecture in Barcelona. Some of the highlights include the interior of the Magic Fountain, MNAC, and Santa Maria del Pi.
Check out the official website for more information.
Barcelona has a bit of everything that you can possibly long for in your travels, so it is definitely suitable for all kinds of travellers all year round. So pack your bags, get your camera, and plan your Barcelona escape now!