Best Things To Do in Barcelona
Barcelona, Spain balances old-world charm with an affinity for modernism. City blocks filled with iron balconies and cobblestone streets are sprinkled with futuristic apartment buildings designed by Gaudi and Montaner. Warm weather and a rich Catalan culture infuse city markets, tapas bars, and shopping avenues with a vibe that is both trendy and relaxed. Come with us and discover the best things to do in Barcelona.
Use our list of things to do in Barcelona to help plan your trip. For information on the city’s weather, the best time to visit, and where to stay, read our All-About Barcelona Travel Guide.
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BEST THINGS TO DO IN BARCELONA
La Sagrada Familia: Basilica & Climb a Tower
Antoni Gaudi pushed the boundaries of modernism when he designed La Sagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family) in the 1800s. When the Catalan architect was commission to build the church, he designed a structure anchored by three soaring towers: the Glory, Nativity, and Passion. He also dreamed of a light-filled interior.
Gaudi did not live to see the church completed, but the project continued. In 2010, the building was consecrated as a basilica. In 2026, it is scheduled to be completed. Visiting La Sagrada Familia is a must-do activity in Barcelona. Sit in nave and study the intricate detail of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. And, don’t leave without taking an elevator to the top of one of the towers for incredible city views.
Las Ramblas: Stroll, People Watch, Sample Tapas
Las Ramblas is a .8-mile (1.3km) pedestrian avenue that links Port Vell (by the Christopher Columbus monument) to Placa de Catalunya. The wide tree-lined strip is famous for its vibrant atmosphere and mix of people. The tapas bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, and flower stalls that line the boulevard are crowded from late morning until well into the night. Las Ramblas is most charming at twilight when the sun is setting, and the lights begin to twinkle. Stroll, stop to sample some tapas, people watch, and then stroll some more.
Pro Tip: Beware that after midnight, the waterfront end of Las Ramblas is considered to be a red-light district. Also, the highly touristed area is known to be plagued by pickpockets. Go – just hold onto your valuables and clear out before midnight.
Pro Tip: If you don’t like crowds, pop one street over to Rambla de Catalunya (which is similar, but tends to be less trafficked).
Gothic Quarter: Roman and Medieval Ruins
The Gothic Quarter (Barre Gotic) is the historic center of Old Barcelona (Cuitat Vella). The area is a treasure chest of relics and ruins from the city’s Roman and medieval past. The area is especially fun to explore because many of the neighborhood’s winding streets are pedestrian only. While wandering from one ancient placa (square) to the next, visitors will find a charming mix of cultural heritage sites, artisan shops, and Catalan restaurants.
This a great area to schedule a walking tour, or to enjoy a self-guided trek. Some of the area’s highlights include Barcelona Cathedral, Placa Reial, Museum of History of Barcelona, Roman walls and defensive towers, Church of Santa Maria del Pi, and Placa Sant Jaume.
Park Guell: The Serpentine Bench and Epic Selfies
In the early 1900s, Eusebi Guell, a friend and patron of Antoni Gaudi, commissioned him to design a public garden. Today, their Carmel Hill collaboration is a public park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is divided into a Forest and Monument Zone. To tour the Monument Zone there is a fee and reservation system in place. In this area, visitors can view an iconic collection of wavy, ceramic animals and shapes. Visit Park Guell and the Monument Zone to see Gaudi’s exquisite salamander staircase, whimsical serpentine bench, and for the panoramic city views (and selfies!).
Barcelona Beaches: Bike the Boardwalks
With so much history and culture to absorb it’s easy for visitors to forget that Barcelona is a beach town. The city is home to seven beaches. In addition, Port Vell (Old Harbor) is a busy waterfront hub filled with marinas, restaurants, and shops. A great way to take in the Barcelona beaches is to tour the area by bike or scooter.
Port Vell and the beaches are connected by a series of bike lanes and boardwalks flanked by bars, eateries, and views of the Mediterranean Sea. Book a tour or rent a bike and look for Passeig Maritim de la Barceloneta, Passeig Maritim del Bogatell, and Passeig Maritim de Mar Bella.
La Boqueria Market: Savory and Sweet
Barcelona is famous for its streetside and rooftop tapas bars. Nonetheless, at least one meal must be reserved for La Boqueria Market. Off of Las Ramblas, this city hangout is loaded with food, drink, and Catalan atmosphere. The food stalls have gorgeous displays of fish, beef, vegetables, herbs, cheeses, candy, vinegars, and so much more – but don’t let the fancy displays fool you. This is a working market, filled with as many locals as tourists (especially early in the day). It gets quite busy between 10am and 2pm. After your meal, shop for gifts for home.
Casa Mila (Casa Pedrera) & Casa Batllo: Gaudi Masterpieces
On Passeig de Gracia, there are two Gaudi modernistic masterpieces that are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Casa Mila (La Pedrera) and Casa Batllo are just down the street from each other. We suggest you choose one to tour.
Casa Mila (1912) was built as an office and residential building. Its nickname is La Pedrera (the Quarry) due to its grey stone façade (meant be evocative of the wind and the waves). Casa Batllo (1906) is well-known for its colorful façade, undulating roof, and skeletal structure. These unique, light filled, nature-inspired designs are likely to be different from anything you have seen before.
Montjuic Castle: Cable Car to a Castle
Montjuic Hill is a Barcelona neighborhood that was revitalized for the 1992 Olympics. The area is home to several museums, parks, and sporting venues. A much-visited heritage site on the hill is the Montjuic Castle. The castle is a 400-year-old military fortress that has stood watch over the city since 1604. To get to the Montjuic Castle, ride the Teleferic de Montjuic (cable car). For a fee you can tour the castle’s museum, gardens, courtyards, and ramparts (for all-encompassing city views).
Flamenco: Attend a Flamenco Show
While in Barcelona don’t miss the opportunity to see a Flamenco show. The Flamenco dance originated in the Andalusia region of southern Spain, and it is now an artform that is intrinsic to Barcelona’s cultural nightlife. The Flamenco dance is characterized by intense beats, emotion, and sensual expression. There are several well-reviewed shows in the city. We attended the Tablao de Carmen on Las Ramblas for an evening show. On a small stage, the small company was larger than life. We loved it.
Barcelona Cathedral: Gothic Architecture and Geese
Barcelona Cathedral (Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia) is an imposing neo-Gothic structure. The cathedral dates back to 1298. From the narrow lanes of the Gothic Quarter, approaching the main entrance of the cathedral is quite dramatic. Once inside, the cathedral offers several unique features such as central choir seats, Saint Eulalia’s Crypt, and cloisters teaming with geese. While touring the church, take an elevator to the roof where there are exceptional views of the cathedral’s spires and Gothic Quarter roofs.
Placa Reial: Dinner and Music Under the Stars
In the early 1800s, Barcelona was in need of an elegant square and the stylish Placa Reial (Royal Square) was established. In the center of the square is the Fountain of the Three Graces. The square also features streetlights designed by Antoni Gaudi and swaying palm trees that soften the formality of the area. Visitors and locals flock to the porticoed outdoor restaurants, bars, and clubs surrounding the square. Visit Placa Reial after the sun goes down for a relaxing dinner and some music under the stars.
Montserrat Abbey: See the Black Madonna
Take an excursion outside of the city to the sacred site of Montserrat Abbey. About 45-minutes outside of the city, the trip begins with a train ride up a mountainside. The destination is a Benedictine abbey sitting some 4,000’ above the valley. Disembarking, enjoy exploring a small mountain village. The highlight of the trip will be a visit to the Santa Maria de Montserrat Basilica to visit the abbey’s “Black Virgin.” Many companies offer tours to Montserrat Abbey; if you book, we highly recommend reserving one that includes the train ride.
El Born: Wander and Window Shop
If you need a break from touring, plan for an afternoon of shopping in the El Born neighborhood. Its location is an old part of the city with narrow streets and architecture similar to the nearby Gothic Quarter. However, in this neighborhood you will find more retail than ruins. Strolling the lanes of El Born you will discover shops selling textiles, jewelry, crafts, glassware, fashion, leather goods, and more. The merchandise and marketing are upscale, but the ambiance is bohemian. Wander, window shop, and hunt for a treasure in El Born.
Placa de Catalunya: Find a Festival
Placa de Catalunya is the beating heart of Barcelona. There is always something happening in the big, bustling square. On almost every weekend there is a market or craft fair set up in the square’s interior. Often, you will find buskers and street performers entertaining here. If by chance there is no festival or market on hand, feed the pigeons or shop the perimeter of square. The area is full of big-name fashion outlets and retail chains.
Adéu (Goodbye) from beautiful Barcelona, Laura and Randy
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