14 Unforgettable Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain
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Barcelona is a city that leaves anyone who visits here dazzled. Not only is it strikingly beautiful with its modernist architecture and Roman archeological sites, but it’s also a melting pot of different cultures and communities.
If you’re looking for a place to party, Barcelona offers that. If you’re looking for beaches, check! If you’re looking for world-class cuisines, you won’t find better in Spain. Needless to say, there are plenty of things to do in Barcelona to leave you in awe.
La Rambla of Barcelona, Spain
As part of our city guides series, we interviewed Mariana Calleja who has been living in Barcelona, Spain since January 2010, after she visited the city, fell in love with it, and decided to stay longer.
Mariana shares with us her insider tips on what to do in Barcelona plus some hidden gems. She also gives us some tips on where to eat, sleep, drink, shop, and explore. But first…
How Long is Enough Time in Barcelona?
Barcelona is a very rich city in many aspects. It has so much to see and do, but also there’s so much culture to soak up as well. Whether you want to hit the beaches, check out iconic Gaudi architecture, or try delicious Catalan food, you need at least 3 days to really see all the highlights.
Why Visit Barcelona?
Barceloneta Beach from sea.
Barcelona is a city that offers something for everyone. Musicians all over the place make my day every day life here vibrant and colourful. Inside the metro, on the streets, and along the beach. To me is like being in a movie every time!
Just walk around Barcelona, there’s magic everywhere, and it’s hard to describe. There is a friendly ambiance. Safety too somehow depends on where you are coming from but still is a safe city to just enjoy day or night. Barcelona is vibrant and intense, yet relaxing and welcoming.
In this city, you get to eat really good food overall. Catalan cuisine is quite exquisite, from main dishes to pastry shops. No matter what time of the year, they always have special delights for everyone. Definitely, a place to come, eat and relax!
Things to Do in Barcelona
Now you know a little bit about why you should visit Barcelona and for how long, it’s time to introduce you to the top attractions in Barcelona! Don’t miss these unforgettable things to do in the capital of Catalonia!
1. Check out the Gaudi Buildings
Barcelona is full of amazing architecture, but nothing quite compares to the scattered works of one of the world’s most famous architects, Antoni Gaudí, throughout the city.
His bold, art nouveau designs have made Barcelona one of the most iconic cities in Europe thanks to such iconic works as La Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera (Casa Milà), and Casa Battló.
If it’s your first time in Barcelona, checking out these unique constructions is an absolute must thing to do!
While he has several works all over the city, many of which are a Unesco World Heritage Site, you simply must check out Park Güell, which has one of Gaudi’s most renowned masterpieces. Winding up the bank above the Market Hall is a dragon made out of split ceramics. You won’t miss it, since it’s also the park’s entrance.
Be sure to head to the nearby Gaudi House Museum at Parc Guell to learn more about his life and inspiration. With Gaudi, every detail tells its own story.
2. Watch a Magic Montjuic Fountains Show
Magic Montjuic Fountains – Image: Shutterstock.com
The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc is located on Avinguda Maria Cristina, below the Palau Nacional on the Montjuïc mountain.
Every Friday to Sunday from October through to April, the fountain reveals a free light and water show. The show takes place from 7pm to 9pm, and is one of the best free things to do in Barcelona at night.
3. Rent a bike and ride along the beach
Promenade of Barceloneta beach
What’s special and unique about Barcelona is that it sits right on the coast. The beaches in Barcelona are clean, well-maintained, and buzzing with people.
You’ll see groups playing volleyball on the soft golden sand, kids playing football, many people swimming and everyone having a good time.
One of the best ways to experience the beach is to rent a bike and cycle along the promenade.
Stretching for 4 kilometers along the coastline, it offers breathtaking views out to sea and over the city. When you need to stop for a break, there are plenty of little beach bars where you can grab an ice cream or enjoy some sangria.
I highly recommend you come to the beach in the evening to see an incredible sunset.
Barcelona Beach Bikes is the place to get your bike rental from – they have an excellent reputation and the bikes are kept in good condition.
4. Visit the Santa Llucia Christmas Market (Seasonal)
Santa Llucia Fair is a Christmas market.
The Santa Lucia Christmas Market in Barcelona is a must-visit if you’re looking for things to do in Barcelona in December.
This vibrant and festive market is the biggest and oldest Christmas market in Barcelona and takes place outside Barcelona Cathedral (Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia).
Here, there is something for all to see and do; visitors can browse the artisanal stalls showcasing local products or take a gander at the festive decorations lining the square.
Enjoy warm and delicious traditional culinary treats, find some unique gifts for your loved ones, or simply get into that special Christmas spirit while singing along to live carols.
5. Explore the Neighborhoods of Barcelona
Barcelona is a huge city and the best way to really get a feel for the culture, the people, and the way of life, is to just wander around the neighborhoods and soak it all in.
I highly recommend you do this by walking down La Ramblas, Barcelona’s most famous street. This palm-lined pedestrian street is 1.2km long and passes through some incredible neighborhoods, as well as iconic attractions such as Plaça de Catalunya.
Be sure to check out the Gracia neighborhood, a traditional old Spanish kinda neighborhood. It’s filled with little plazas perfect for a coffee afternoon or some beer and tapas. Also known both for its nice nightlife and a family-friendly place.
Of course, no trip to Barcelona would be complete without visiting the Gothic Quartier. This mystique area is perfect for nightlife as well. It has all kinds of bars, cafes, restaurants, and international food options, which makes this neighborhood one of the best in Barcelona in my opinion.
Cozy, alive, and magical.
Raval is a unique and contrasting place. It deserves a good stroll around its authentic and ethnic streets, filled with an incredible mix of Islamic and Hindu cultures all around. It’s great for curious travelers into something beyond the city guides.
Eixample is the modernist heart of Barcelona. It’s ideal for long walks while getting delighted with its great architecture and buildings, including Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, and Casa Milá, the most known Barcelona attractions.
Not to mention the endless number of nice places for eating, having coffee, or just a nice chat.
6. Check Out The Food Markets
Fish in the Sant Josep La boqueria market
Food markets are one of the best things to do in Barcelona! La Boqueria is the touristy one but is a nice place to admire and get the senses to go active. Not on a budget but just watching and smelling is free.
Mercat de Santa Caterina is worth visiting for its unique architecture. Be sure to look up at the wavey roof!
Then, there are local markets such as Mercat de L’Abaceria in Gracia, located in a quite unique old building.
For a unique market experience, the Book Market in Sant Antoni on Sundays is a must-see! And last but not least, just get lost any weekend around El Raval neighborhood, over its cozy Rambla you will find local artisan market stands, away from the city rush.
Any other local markets such as Mercat de L’Abaceria and Mercat de la Barçeloneta are great places to find something to eat. At dinner time, I recommend you head to Ciutat Comtal for quality Catalan food.
7. Try Tapas and Regional Cuisine
No trip to Barcelona is complete without sampling its delicious regional cuisine. Barcelona is famous for its Catalonian food, such as Fideua, which is like a paella but made up of little special noodles and served with a traditional sauce called “alioli”.
In the winter, Calçots are a winner. Your fingers and palate will be grateful forever.
When looking for the best places to try regional food, La Bodegueta has really good tapas with a homemade feeling. Also nice to have some wine and relax inside. Very local.
Not very Catalan but good food around if you go to Arepería La Taguara in El Born neighborhood, inside the gothic quarter. Although it’s Venezuelan traditional food, it’s definitely not on the city guides and for some reason, I can’t explain, you’ll love it too!
I haven’t found another like this on my travels so worth a try.
8. Attend One of The Top Festivals in Barcelona
Barcelona Beer Festival
Barcelona is one of the most lively cities in Europe and it’s because there is always something happening. If you enjoy entertainment and festivals, then this is the city for you. Some of the most unmissable festivals in Barcelona you should add to your itinerary are:
Festa Major de Gracia: an amazing display of community street art for a whole party week!
Sant Joan: the shortest night of the year must be lived on the beach over bonfires, good friends, and endless fireworks in the sky.
Festes de Gracia in August is a must-see!
Sant Jordi: on April 23rd, a special event takes place: red roses and books take over the city entirely, celebrating the defeat of the dragon by Sant Jordi, saving the princess and giving peace to the whole town from the dragon’s menace.
If you’re visiting in the summer, no doubt you’ll stumble across a live music event or some street performers out showing off their skills, even without looking for it.
9. Take a Day Trip to Montserrat
Montserrat even though it’s touristy, is an amazing place to visit. Located in Spain’s northeastern region, this stunningly beautiful mountain region is filled with an abundance of religious monuments, breathtaking landscapes, and fascinating history.
Its first inhabitants date back to prehistory, while the iconic monastery, one of the most famous landmarks in the city, has called Montserrat its home since the 10th century.
Be sure to check out Santa Cova (a small cave thought to be where the Virgin Mary appeared), or admire the incredible mountain views.
Adventure seekers should also make sure to hit up some of Montserrat’s famous hiking trails – you can’t beat those majestic mountains! With all that Montserrat has to offer, it’s the perfect day trip from Barcelona.
10. Take a Day Trip to Tarragona
arragona Amphitheatre in Spain – A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Tarragona is an incredible port city just outside Barcelona. With thousands of years of history that go back to the Romans, it’s no wonder why there are so many amazing sights to explore here.
The Tarragona Cathedral is known for its stunning Gothic architecture combined with a bit of Romanesque influence.
Then head over to the Amphitheatre of Tarraco and be brought back over 2,000 years into time for a close-up look at some Roman Ruins.
Be sure to explore the Ancient Necropolis and count the countless tombs that are scattered around the grounds.
Of course, no trip would be complete without checking out what the Mediterranean coastline has to offer.
Tarragona has multiple beaches around it that make a great spot for soaking up some Spanish sun and even enjoying some water sports like diving and sailing.
With amazing Roman ruins and a gorgeous stretch of coast, and definitely not as crowded as Rome, it’s an interesting place for a day trip from Barcelona.
11. Check out the Picasso Museum
Entrance to Museu Picasso Museum
One of the most famous Spanish artists is Pablo Picasso. You can learn all about the formative years of his life through a well-curated and intimate exhibit at the Picasso Museum.
The museum contains 4,251 pieces in its permanent collection, some of the most notable are the series Las Meninas from 1957 and some older pieces from 1917.
Since it opened in 1963, the museum has been dedicated to showcasing the fascinating life and works of one of the world’s most recognisable artists.
12. Admire The Beauty of Palau de la Música Catalana (Palace of Catalan Music)
The Palau de la Música Catalana is a concert hall that was built by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner in 1908. Its unique design is one of the most striking works of Catalan modernista style in the city. It’s most famous for its stunning stained-glass windows, which not only line the walls but the ceiling as well.
Originally intended for Orfeó Català, a choral society that was a leading force in the Catalan cultural movement, the palace quickly became one of the most treasured buildings in Barcelona.
In 1909, it won an award from the Barcelona City Council as the best building built in 1908, and in 1997, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Today you can visit to watch a variety of musical performances.
13. Learn About Football History at Camp Nou Stadium
Football fans should not miss this exciting attraction in Barcelona. Camp Nou, which is also known as Spotify Camp Nou for sponsorship reasons, is Barcelona’s football stadium and home to the FC Barcelona.
This huge stadium can seat nearly 100,000 and is the largest stadium in Spain and the third largest football stadium in the world.
Tourists can now tour the stadium and visit the Barcelona museum and learn all about the history of the football club and its legendary players, such as Kubala, Cruyff, Maradona, Guardiola, and Ronaldinho.
On a guided tour of the stadium, you not only explore the stands but some behind-the-scenes areas such as the visitors’ changing room and the tunnel onto the pitch, the television studio, the press room, and the commentary boxes.
14. Check Out The View from Bunkers del Carmel
Barcelona cityscape from a viewpoint in Bunkers del Carmel
The Bunkers of Carmel is a panoramic viewpoint that offers a 360º view of Barcelona. It’s most famous as a viewpoint, but it was also a Spanish Civil War bunker that housed anti-aircraft guns.
Check out a bit of Spanish defense history and watch the sunset over the beautiful city it once protected.
Best Time to Visit Barcelona
Barcelona is a very weather-friendly city all year round. Summer is not extremely hot and winter is not extremely cold.
Of course, the best seasons would be in the Spring and November when the weather is at its most comfortable.
The shoulder season is from late March to April, and from late September to October. This is when you see the fewest amount of tourists, but fair warning, it’s still busy.
There are a few rainy days throughout the whole year and even in winter, you get sunny days with deep blue skies.
Getting To and Around Barcelona
Fountains and historic columns and the mountain of Tibidabo
Barcelona is a great place in terms of location and transportation. Getting there is easy in any way: car, train, bus, airplane, or ship. You choose!
The airport is well located and well connected to downtown with bus and train service, all on a budget and in good timing. We recommend you take the Aerobus as it’s the fastest way to the city from the airport.
Vueling Airline is one good low-cost company that arrives in BCN from lots of destinations. Just to mention one. But definitely, BCN is a VERY well-connected city with the world, so no trouble here!
When it comes to exploring the city, the Barcelona Metro is the way to go. It connects pretty much everywhere and is the easiest and most economical way to get from A to B.
Barcelona is also very walkable if you don’t like spending too much time on trains. However, the best thing would be to organize each day during your visit around one neighborhood. This way you can enjoy walking, taking in the views, and the local feeling while going on your own feet.
Where to Stay in Barcelona
Anywhere close to La Rambla and Paseo de Gracia are good spots since they are close to the transport system. Look for accommodation anywhere around the street called Passeig de Gracia and/or Plaza Cataluña-Las Ramblas if it’s your first time, as this puts you close to many top attractions in Barcelona.
For budget accommodation in Barcelona, Safestay Passeig de Gràcia is in a great location and has a social vibe. They offer plenty of activities for travelers so you will never be lonely in the city.
You’ll find plenty of hostels around Plaza Cataluña and Passeig de Gracia that are reliable.
If you have a mid-level budget for accommodation in Barcelona, check out Sercotel Caspe Hotel which is in a good location and has top-class service.
For luxury hotels, you won’t find much better than Casa Fuster Hotel, which is like staying in a castle! The hotel is simply beautiful and is located in a central location near many top attractions.
Tips for Visiting Barcelona
To make the most out of your trip and to find some hidden gems, here are some final tips for you:
For tea lovers, you might not want to miss El Salterio Tea House, in the gothic quarter.
Ciutat Comtal is one great spot for tapas & montaditos. Really good food all year round. Very popular among the Catalan community.
As always a good idea to try eating at the local markets, where any food will be 100% fresh and tasty!
Keep an eye on your belongings, especially in touristy areas. Pickpockets are common in Barcelona.
Book tickets for attractions in advance to skip the line and avoid massive queues.
Use the Aerobus from the Airport as it’s the fastest way to the city.
The most popular tours and attractions in Barcelona:
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Barcelona
Barcelona has given me life experiences, more than just travel.
It has given me a dream come true, a life, a home away from home, a new language and culture, and new friends too.
But above all, it has given me a base to do my whole travel dream, to move around, and to learn more.
There is so much to see and do in Barcelona, I hope this guide helps inspire you and gives you some ideas to help you plan your itinerary.
Mariana Calleja is a costarican travel blogger based in Barcelona since 2010 with her travel and life partner, both curious for experiences involving the five senses in a conscious way. Check out her blog “Travel Thirst” and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
More Travel Tips for Spain
Are you planning on visiting other parts of Spain? Then you may find the below resources useful!
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Do you have tips on things to do in Barcelona? Let us know in the comments!