Overlooking the Mediterranean, Barcelona is the rebellious sister when comparing Spain’s biggest cities. Admire Gaudí’s unique architecture at La Sagrada Familia, catch the Magic Fountain show in Plaza Espanya and soak in the rays along Barceloneta beach.
Barcelona is somewhere that Mark and I have both visited a few times, but never actually together! It has a lot to offer a traveler: beautiful beaches, mesmerizing architecture and bustling streets. Barcelona is one of those cities where old world meets new world and the outcome is breathtaking! Here is a list of our favorite things to do and see in Barcelona:
Lined with bars and tapas places, it’s the perfect spot to soak up the Mediterranean sun. Although I always believe a place has more to offer than just a beach, there’s something about Barca that requires you to sip on some sangria while dipping your toes in the water. In some cases, you can walk to the beach from certain areas of the city but I recommend taking the metro since it will bring you right there (stop Barceloneta). Even if you don’t plan on spending a beach day, it’s worth grabbing a bite to eat to soak in the views.
Plaza Espanya & Las Arenas
While standing at the heart of Plaza Espanya, in front of you lies the National Art Museum and behind you, the old Bull fighting ring (now turned shopping mall and commonly called Las Arenas). I recommend going to the top of Las Arenas for a great view of the city and Plaza below!
Linking old Barcelona with the newer part of the city, Plaza Catalunya is a home to public events, such as rallies, concerts and festivals.
Las Ramblas & La Boquería
I’m actually not the biggest fan of Las Ramblas but it’s home to one of my favorite markets: La Boquería. I always find that markets give you a taste of a city that you can’t find anywhere else. After you’ve walked the famous strip of shops and restaurants, make sure to pop into La Boquería and grab a fruit smoothie for a snack. (They make them fresh and you pick out the types of fruit you want added!) Be careful to watch your belongings, Las Ramblas is a notorious place for pickpockets.
Magic Fountain of Montjuïc
Located in Plaza Espanya, you can find a large fountain by day–but a magic fountain at night. This fountain dances with music and lights to put on a show every evening in Barcelona. This is a great free thing to do while exploring the city at night!
The Gothic Quarter
One of my favorite neighborhoods in Barcelona is actually in the older part of the city. It reminds me of other Spanish cities like Sevilla or Madrid. Once lost in the streets of the Gothic Quarter, it’s easy to forget you are in such a big city. I recommend grabbing a gelato and strolling the streets to take in all the old architecture.
La Sagrada Familia
Possibly one of this city’s most famous landmarks, you can’t visit Barca without stepping foot inside architect Gaudí’s (still on-going) project. It is unlike any other basilica you will visit in Europe thanks to it’s colorful stained glass and unique exterior. I recommend purchasing your tickets to visit the inside of the Sagrada Familia about a month in advance, to guarantee entrance. Typically the line wraps around the building so it’s better to plan ahead. For more info on tickets, click here. The basic ticket starts at 17 euros but there are a few other options including a guided visit.
While staying with this Gaudí theme, you should also make your way up to Park Güell. Again, prepare to purchase your tickets ahead of time to get the day and time you wish. My first time in Barcelona I was turned away because they were already sold out. If you’re on a budget, there are some beautiful areas of Park Güell that are free to walk around and visit. For information on tickets, click here.
La Pedrera (also known as Casa Mila) is another one of Gaudí’s famous works you might want to check out while in Barcelona. You can buy your tickets online here, or in person if you find yourself with some extra time! For more information on the last three places, check out my previous post on Gaudí’s Barcelona.
Flamenco & Dinner Show
Although I will always argue the best place to see flamenco is in Southern Spain (Granada or Sevilla for example), if Barcelona is your only stop in this country it might be worth it to attend a flamenco show. On my work trip this past summer, we had a dinner & show at Tablao Flamenco Cordobes on Las Ramblas. The food was amazing and the show was very authentic and passionate. To learn more or purchase tickets, click here.
We all know Spain is famous for it’s tapas, but in Barcelona in particular, I recommend finding a pinxos bar to try some regional food! (Pinxos are open faced sandwiches on a stick that is common in Catalan). They’re normally pretty cheap (2-4 euros each) and can be a great snack or light lunch.
Day Trip to Montserrat
About 1 hour outside the city, high in the mountains, you can visit Montserrat Abbey. If you’re in Barca long enough and looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this is the perfect day trip. You can visit inside the Cathedral and hike the trails for free. There are some public busses that will get you here, but also some local tour operators that do day trips, depending on your level of comfort. Check out our separate post about a day trip to Montserrat here.
Bunkers del Carmel
The last time I was in Barcelona, my friend who lives there brought me to the Bunkers del Carmel one evening to catch the sunset. What were once used as military bunkers during the Spanish civil war, is now a spot for locals and tourists alike to take in breathtaking views of Barcelona. This is a bit more off the beaten path and you need to take public transportation to get there (both metro & bus). However, the views of the city are so worth it. We watched Barcelona transform to night. (Even though it was cloudy and there wasn’t much of a sunset, it was one of my favorite things!) You can see the patterned streets of the Exiample region all the way to the sea. If you make the trek this far, I recommend bringing a bottle of wine (or two) to drink while taking in the views.
Hope this info about Barca helped in planning your trip! Stay tuned for more City Guides soon.