The Best Things to Do in Barcelona
The world goes crazy for FC Barcelona and its legendary athletes. But let’s show some love for the city itself. Barcelona is a cosmopolitan capital overflowing with brilliant art and architecture. It is also one of the largest metropolises on the Mediterranean. As a result, the city is a fun and diverse place. Among the best things to do in Barcelona are enjoying the nightlife and experiencing the city’s rich, artistic expression.
When you travel to Barcelona, take your time. I would recommend three or four days for your stay. That way you can hit everything on the list. If you do plan to see FC Barcelona, add on an extra day so you can properly enjoy the game.
16 Best Things to Do in Barcelona
Out of all the amazing sights and experiences in Barcelona, 16 stand out above the rest. But rest assured. This list only scratches the surface. No doubt, you will find your own favorite spots in Barcelona once you start exploring the quaint, city streets.
Barri Gòtic (The Gothic Quarter)
Given its central location, Barri Gòtic is a great place to start your adventure in Barcelona. The Gothic Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in the city. It features narrow, weaving alleys filled with Roman and medieval architecture.
But don’t let the history fool you. Barri Gòtic is still a lively area packed with shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs. Come for the history, and stay for the nightlife.
Don’t bother trying to navigate the alleyways. It’s a confusing place, and your GPS might not work with all the densely packed buildings. But the neighborhood is small, and you’ll probably end up at one of the main sights.
One of these sights is the Barcelona Cathedral, a towering, gothic church. The building may be outshined by other cathedrals in Europe, such as the Duomo in Florence. But the cathedral, and the Gothic Quarter as a whole, are just a small taste of the extraordinary, architectural masterpieces to come.
Compared to the narrow and winding streets of the Gothic Quarter, Las Ramblas is massive and open. The pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare runs straight through the city, and is a hub for tourists and locals alike. There are numerous shops, outdoor cafes, and restaurants to visit.
During the day, buskers and street performers fill Las Ramblas. At night, the street comes alive with its numerous bars and clubs. So whether you want to shop, stroll, eat, or party, Las Ramblas is one thing you can’t miss in Barcelona.
One of the absolute best things to do in Barcelona is see the Sagrada Família. This Roman Catholic church is the work of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. Get used to hearing his name. He was a mad genius of architecture, and his work is proudly shown all over the city.
Although incomplete, Sagrada Família is already an incomparable masterpiece. There is no other church in the world that even remotely resembles it. From the outside, you’ll see towers of immense size and detail. Three façades are also prominent on the exterior. They represent the nativity, the passion, and the glory (i.e. the path to God through death and judgment).
Once you enter the church, you are greeted to a colorful forest of columns. There is religious significance with the interior shaped into a Latin cross, and statues and stained glass depicting religious figures and scenes. But Sagrada Família is simply a feast for the eyes that anyone can enjoy.
You absolutely should buy your tickets ahead of time. If you don’t, you will be forced to wait hours in line. So check out their website and book your tickets ASAP.
Another of my favorite Gaudí creations is Casa Batlló. The home is often called the House of Bones because its organic structure has a certain skeletal quality. In my opinion, the building is too colorful and quirky for the skeleton comparison. To me, Casa Batlló looks more like a fantastical creature masquerading as a home.
In any case, you should definitely come check out the inside of Casa Batlló. Much like the exterior, the home’s interior is full of colorful stained glass and mosaic tiles. The structure has almost no hard edges. Everything is fluid and organic. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.
Again, I highly recommend buying your tickets ahead of time. Visit their website for more information.
Hit the Beach
The beach is only ten minutes from the center of Barcelona, so why not catch some sun and some surf? Many beaches in Europe are rocky or pebbly. But not here. Barcelona has soft, golden sands.
You can head to any of Barcelona’s beaches, such as Barceloneta Beach or Playa de Bogatell. They’re free to enter. You just need to pay for any facilities or umbrella rentals.
A day on the beach or exploring the city will leave you hungry. So one of the best things to do in Barcelona is visit La Boqueria, a famous market just off of Las Ramblas. Inside you’ll find butcher’s shops, delis, bars, and vendors with fresh fruits, vegetables, and seafood.
If you want to plan your visit, you can visit the market’s website. But I recommend following your nose and your stomach. La Boqueria is full of delicious goods. Find something new and get your first taste of Barcelona’s vibrant culinary scene.
Casa Milà was the last private residence designed by Antoni Gaudí. This fantastical creation has been nicknamed the Stone Quarry because of its rough, rocky appearance. The nine-story structure is actually made of two buildings organized into a wobbly figure 8.
The stunning, stone façade is what Casa Milà is known for. But go inside for an architectural paradise. Skylights, carved oak furniture, spacious patios, courtyards, painted walls, funky chimneys. Like all of Gaudí’s masterpieces, his strange, biomorphic style is a wonder to behold.
Park Güell is a park that blends architecture and nature in a fantastic way. As you might have guessed, this is another one of Gaudí’s projects. Like most parks, Park Güell is a peaceful, green reprieve from the bustling city. Locals and tourists alike come here to relax.
Park Güell utilizes a system of ecological gardening to bring out the best of the natural ecosystem. Here you’ll find a wide variety of plant species from olives and carob to magnolias and wisteria.
And of course, look out for Gaudí’s works. You’ll see colorful mosaics, stone terraces, and looming columns. They are picturesque in themselves, but the park also offers great views of Barcelona. So come by to take the whole city in.
Camp Nou is a fantastic football stadium home to FC Barcelona. Holding a whopping 99,354 seats, Camp Nou hosts millions of fans every year. With those numbers, chances are you know someone that has gone to see an FC Barcelona game.
Football fans in Spain are incredibly enthusiastic. Just sitting among them is an experience in itself. But if you’re a true football lover, Camp Nou is a sports mecca.
Check out what games are playing during your visit. You can purchase your tickets through the FC Barcelona website.
Plaça de Catalunya
Plaça de Catalunya is a large square at the center of Barcelona. Here the old city meets the new city. So it’s a key location that you’ll probably stumble upon whether you mean to or not.
The plaza has a lot of history itself. There used to be several theaters, restaurants, and cafes around the plaza where writers and artists frequented. But the vast majority of these were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. Café Zurich is one of the notable exceptions.
Plaça de Catalunya usually serves as a meeting place and a transportation hub. So it’s not a landmark that will take a lot of your time.
Museu Picasso is a famous art museum that houses a humongous collection of works by Pablo himself. If you are a fan of Picasso’s paintings, visiting his museum is definitely one of the best things to do in Barcelona. They have over 4,000 of his works!
This is the best place to see the progression and variety of Picasso’s artistic style. From Pablo’s Blue Period to his Crystal Period, you can see how he developed as an artist and ponder over the curious strokes of his brush.
Fundació Joan Miró
Although Picasso is a masterful artist deserving of fame, he doesn’t necessarily represent the local spirit and style of Barcelona. For that you should go to Fundació Joan Miró. Joan Miró is a distinctly Catalonian artist that set up his fundació to encourage contemporary art in Barcelona.
Inside is a collection of paintings and sculptures by Joan Miró and others. Another great feature of the museum is the building itself. Joan Miró worked closely with the architect to ensure the venue and the art within played off each other perfectly. As a result, the experience is better than most other museums you’ll find.
Montjuïc means Jewish mountain and refers to a prominent hill in Barcelona. The hill saw exciting developments when it hosted the 1929 World Fair and 1992 Olympic Games. One of these developments was the Palau Nacional, a palace that now houses the National Museum of Catalan Art and the Magic Fountain.
Another prominent feature of Montjuïc is the Montjuïc Castle. The higher altitude made this a great location for the castle to defend the city. Ironically, the castle was used to bomb the city during the 1842 insurrection when Barcelona rose up against the Madrid government. Cursed history aside, the castle still offers a great location for tourists to view the city.
Gràcia is a vibrant neighborhood in Barcelona that’s worth visiting. It wasn’t actually part of Barcelona until the 20th century. As a result, it still boasts a small town feel. There are plenty of narrow, winding streets and charming, little squares.
Despite its cozy atmosphere, Gràcia is young, chic, and lively. There is a multitude of independent shops, cafes, and bars that draw people to the area. But Gràcia especially comes alive during the Festa Major in August. Think of Festa Major as a giant street party packed with music, art, and crazy traditions. If you can bear the heat of summer, August is the perfect time to visit.
Palau de la Música Catalana
Palau de la Música Catalana is a concert hall like no other. Throughout the year, you have the opportunity to enjoy performances by symphonies, operas, and folk musicians. Music lovers will have an easy time finding something to please them.
And like the rest of Barcelona, Palau de la Música Catalana features architecture of a uniquely Catalan identity. The building was constructed by one of Gaudí’s contemporaries with careful attention to the necessities of a fantastic musical venue.
Taste the Food
Like its neighbors France and Italy, Spain is a culinary capital of the world. Some of Spain’s dishes are world famous and an absolute essential when you visit the country: paella, gazpacho, churros, etc. But while in Barcelona, you should try some of the local favorites.
To name a few, here are some of the traditional Barcelona dishes:
- Bombas – La bomba is a reference to the homemade grenades used by Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War. It’s a potato croquette formed into the size of a tennis ball. Traditionally, bombas are served with two sauces: a white, garlic aioli to symbolize the white fuse of the grenades and a spicy, red sauce to reflect the explosion.
- Mató – Mató is a soft Catalonian cheese made of goats’ milk. It has a gentle sweetness reminiscent of ricotta. Many Catalans eat mató for dessert with a drizzle of honey and sprinkle of walnuts.
- Crema Catalana – Essentially, this is creme brûlée. Crema Catalana is a vanilla custard with a crackly, sugar crust. Supposedly, the Catalans invented this delicious treat first. But I’m not sure the French would agree.
Whatever you choose to do in Barcelona, you are sure to have a good time. But first you will need a place to stay. So check out the best hotels in Barcelona to find the best accommodation for you. And if you’re heading to Spain, you should also check out what Madrid has to offer. It’s another one of my favorite cities in the world.