Barcelona is a colorful city, full of life and unique for its architecture, gastronomy, and nightlife. Gothic and modernism go hand in hand to form the iconic aesthetics of this sunbathed city, making it a top tourist destination. Here's a list of the 21 best things to see and do in Barcelona:
1. Marvel at La Sagrada Familia
The jewel in the crown of Spanish architecture and of course a must-see in Barcelona. Its impressive facades will leave you in awe and are just a taste of what you will see inside, which will give you the sensation of having been transported to a place out of this world.
Read my article about how to buy your tickets online for the Sagrada Familia, a must if you don't want to waste the day waiting in line. I also recommend going early or late, and whatever you do avoid 10:00 am as that is the time of most guided tours.
2. Enjoy the genius of Park Güell
The iconic space designed by Gaudí is the place to get lost in with views of Barcelona in the background, as you discover a whole host of plastic forms such as sculptures, benches, and towers covered in the artist's signature tile mosaics. With a guided tour of Park Güell you'll be sure not to miss any of Gaudí's architectural and sculptural wonders.
If you visit Park Güell in the afternoon, afterward you can go to watch the sunset at the Bunkers del Carmel, a viewpoint near the park that is very popular with the locals.
3. Discover Gaudi's architectural genius at La Pedrera
This is the most important building in Gaudí's oeuvre after the Sagrada Familia, for being a stream of creativity from the foundations to its impressive rooftop.
Take a guided tour of La Pedrera is a perfect complement to the rest of the architect's works in Barcelona and is a good starting point from which to begin exploring the Eixample district. You can visit La Pedrera at night, which is a highly recommended experience as it is less crowded and the rooftop has an impressive illumination.
4. Go inside Casa Batlló
Because of its location almost adjacent to La Pedrera, it is a visit that is included in many tourist itineraries. Although it is not a must-see attraction, it can be for you if you are passionate about Gaudi's architecture and want to discover all of his main buildings in the city of Barcelona.
Organize yourself to visit Casa Batlló after La Pedrera, as they are very close and you will get the most out of your visit. In fact, you can buy a combined ticket or take a guided tour of both.
5. Camp Nou Experience, a must if you are a soccer fan
If you live for soccer and even more so if you are an FC Barcelona fan, don't miss the Camp Nou Experience in which you can tour the stadium, access the playing field, the changing rooms, and the press room, and also visit the club's museum, where you can recall the great moments of its history and enjoy a space dedicated to Leo Messi.
It is very important to check the opening hours of the stadium and whether it will be open to the public on the day you want to visit, as during match days you may not be able to enjoy the experience.
6. Immerse yourself in surrealist art with an excursion to the Dalí Museum
Taking a excursion to Figueras and visiting the Dalí Museum is one of the most popular activities among people visiting Barcelona. The main attraction of the excursion is, of course, the Dali Museum, designed by the artist himself in a former theater and a place to exhibit some of his works along with interesting installations and a collection of jewelry created by the surrealist master.
And besides, Figueras has more to offer beyond the Dalí Museum. Take advantage of your trip to the city with other visits to points of interest such as the Toy Museum and the Fortress of San Ferran.
7. Visit Girona, a must for Game of Thrones fans
If you are a fan of Game of Thrones, you will love visiting Girona from Barcelona. You will be able to see real places used as filming locations for the sixth season, such as the Arab Baths and the Pujada de Sant Domènech. You will feel like you are inside the city of Braavos and you can also take the opportunity to explore a beautiful city where the medieval architecture still survives.
As night falls, the escaleras de San Martín (in the Pujada de Sant Domènech) acquire a special kind of lighting and become a very nice place to stay a while or take a picture.
8. Climb Montserrat on a guided tour
Barcelona's holy mountain is a place of pilgrimage for believers and atheists alike, for its impressive monastery on the heights from which you can enjoy spectacular views of Barcelona. In a guided excursion to Montserrat you can go hiking, discover an art museum with works by major Catalan artists and pay a visit to La Moreneta, a 12th-century carving of the Virgin Mary.
My advice is to try to visit the Monastery of Montserrat during the week and from 12:30, as you will be able to see the Moreneta and the choir of the Escolania live.
9. Explore the medieval villages of the Costa Brava
The medieval heritage of the towns of Vic, Rupit, Pals, and Calella de Palafrugell among others make the visit to the towns of the Costa Brava from Barcelona a very interesting excursion, in which you can also enjoy the waters of the Mediterranean Sea while discovering the remains of walls, towers and other buildings from the Romanesque period.
By the way, Vic has one of the most beautiful medieval markets in Spain, and it is celebrated during the Puente de la Constitución in December. If you are in Barcelona on that weekend, don't think twice before visiting the town.
If you like the plan, take a look at the post Excursions to Costa Brava from Barcelona where you will find more ideas to spend a great day in the middle of nature and escape from the city for a while to disconnect.
10. Take a tour of Barcelona by tourist bus
Touring Barcelona on a Hop On Hop Off bus is the most comfortable way to enjoy the city without getting too tired. In addition, it is possible to combine the bus tour with a self-guided tour, which makes this experience one of the most interesting if you plan your tours and do not like the typical mass tours for tourists.
A trick that few people know: you can use the tourist bus as a method of transportation during your trip to Barcelona, so you can get even more out of your ticket.
11. Discover Catalan artists in Barcelona's museums
If you want to explore the best museums in Barcelona, you have many options such as the National Art Museum of Catalonia, the Picasso Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona (MACBA), the Joan Miró Foundation, the Antoni Tàpies Foundation or the Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona.
Depending on what you particularly like, you can explore in detail the artistic work of some of the most prominent Catalan painters or if you are passionate about the art of Picasso discover his youthful paintings, something not very common in most major museum collections.
12. Plaza Cataluña, the neuralgic point of Barcelona
You will pass by this central square of Barcelona during your tours, as it is the junction point between the historic center and the most modern part of the city. From it, main streets like Paseo de Gracia or La Rambla start.
Once you visit Plaza Cataluña it will be very easy to orient yourself in Barcelona, and around the square, you can find several points of interest such as the Liceu Theater, the Boqueria Market, the Palace of Catalan Music, and several shopping centers.
13. Take a Gaudi tour and don't miss any of his works
If you want to discover all of Gaudi's main buildings and constructions in one tour, I recommend this tour of Gaudi's works to visit the Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera, and Casa Batllo in the company of an expert guide. If you are only in Barcelona for a short time or just want to enjoy the Gaudi experience in a cohesive tour, this is the tour for you.
Of course, there are many more buildings and works of Gaudí in Barcelona that are not part of the typical tourist tours. I recommend visiting the Güell Pavilions, Casa Vicens, and Casa Calvet on your own.
14. Cycle around Barcelona with a guided bike tour
Cycling through the streets of Barcelona is a real pleasure thanks to its flat streets and its orderly urban organization. Therefore, in a bicycle tour of Barcelona you can see almost the whole city in just a few hours, and it is an alternative experience to the typical crowded tours.
15. Delight yourself with the local gastronomy at the Boqueria Market
Known by the locals as the San José Market, among its stalls you can find fresh produce, places to have a beer, and enjoy the local gastronomy in its purest form.
To visit the Mercado de la Boqueria, it is best to go early in the morning. After the aperitif time (12:00 pm), it is crowded and you may not enjoy a quiet experience tasting the local products.
16. Explore the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona
Right in the historic center of the city, the Gothic Quarter is home to the impressive Barcelona Cathedral, Plaza Sant Jaume, the Jewish quarter, and some major museums. It is one of the most beautiful areas of the city, so I recommend you to take a walk around and get lost in its narrow streets or take one of the guided tours of Barcelona.
The antique market in front of the Cathedral takes place every Thursday from 10:00 am, where you can find a much more genuine souvenir than in any store.
17. Go up to Montjuïc to watch the sunset
One of the most popular viewpoints to enjoy the sunset over Barcelona. You can walk or take the cable car up to the Montjuïc Castle, and be amazed by the spectacle of the Magic Fountain in front of the National Art Museum of Catalonia. Definitely a good way to end a day of sightseeing around the city.
If you have time to spare, I recommend a day trip to Montjuïc and visit all its points of interest, among which are the Olympic Stadium, the CaixaForum, the Botanical Garden of Montjuïc, the Joan Miró Foundation, and of course the Castle.
18. Get away from the hustle and bustle of the city in the Parc de la Ciutadella
Before the opening of Park Güell for public enjoyment, this was the big park where the people of Barcelona went to hang out. It was designed with the Luxembourg Garden in Paris as a reference and was used as the site of the 1888 International Exposition, which was accessed through the Arc de Triomphe. Today, it is a great place to take a stroll and rest from the hustle and bustle of the city.
19. Have a great time at Tibidabo Amusement Park or Port Aventura
To take a break from so much sightseeing, what better than going to the city's amusement park and unload some adrenaline or just take a walk and enjoy the beautiful views of Barcelona from Tibidabo.
You can visit the Tibidabo Amusement Park without paying, which will give you access to the Panoramic Area to see the views of Barcelona (but you won't be able to ride any of the attractions).
But if you are not afraid of vertigo and you are attracted by the strong sensations of amusement parks, the favorite park of those who visit Catalonia is Port Aventura. Fortunately, you can take a excursion to Port Aventura from Barcelona.
20. Enjoy the sun and the sea at Mar Bella beach
Finally, I propose you an alternative to Barceloneta, the Mar Bella beach. If you want to get away from the tourist and local crowds, the garbage, and street vendors, Mar Bella beach is a bit quieter and less touristy, although it is still a city beach.
There is a general zone, a nudist zone, and an LGTBQ zone on Mar Bella beach, so depending on your preferences you can choose to wear a swimsuit or not.
21. Experience a flamenco night in Barcelona!
Perhaps not many tourists know it, but Barcelona is one of the great flamenco capitals in Spain, along with Madrid and Andalusia. Barcelona is home to some of the country's most emblematic tablaos where legendary flamenco artists such as Camarón de la Isla, Carmen Amaya, Tomatito, and Farruco have performed.
Attending a flamenco show in Barcelona is the finishing touch to a memorable vacation in the city. Flamenco is one of the cornerstones of Spanish culture and folklore. That is why Unesco recognized it as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2010.
If you want to spend a magical night in Barcelona watching live music and a dance show, including clapping, guitars, and good vibes, I recommend you immerse yourself in the magical atmosphere of the tablaos flamencos.
To learn more do not miss the post Flamenco Shows in Barcelona where you will find some of the best to see nowadays.