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 city illuminated almost permanently by the sun, making it a top tourist destination. Here's a list of the 21 best things to see and do in Barcelona:
1. Marvel at the Sagrada Familia
The jewel in the crown of Spanish architecture and of course a must-see in Barcelona. Its impressive facades will leave you with your mouth open, and are just a sample of what you will see inside, which will give you the feeling of having been transported to a place out of this world.
Read my article on 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 this 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 the views of Barcelona in the background, while discovering a whole series 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 will be sure not to miss any of Gaudí's architectural and sculptural wonders.
If you visit Park Güell in the afternoon, afterwards 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 the architectural genius of Gaudi in La Pedrera
The most important building in Gaudí's oeuvre after the Sagrada Familia, for being a torrent of creativity from the foundations to its impressive rooftop.
Taking 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 neighborhood. You can visit La Pedrera at night, which is a highly recommended experience as there are fewer crowds and the rooftop has impressive lighting.
4. Step 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 Gaudí's architecture and want to discover all his main buildings in the city of Barcelona.
Arrange 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 where you can tour the stadium, access the pitch, 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 trip to Figueras and visiting the Dalí Museum is one of the most popular activities for visitors to Barcelona. The main attraction of the excursion is, of course, the Dalí Museum, designed by the artist himself in a former theater and the site of exhibition of some of his works along with interesting installations and a collection of jewelry created by the surrealist master.
And besides, Figueras has more than just 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 medieval architecture still survives.
As night falls, the stairs of San Martín (in the Pujada de Sant Domènech) acquire a special illumination and become a very nice place to stay a while or take a picture.
8. Go up to Montserrat on a guided excursion
The sacred mountain of Barcelona 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 the city. On a guided excursion to Montserrat you can go hiking, discover an art museum with works by leading 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 a visit to the towns of the Costa Brava from Barcelona a very interesting excursion, where 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 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 the Catalan artists in the museums of Barcelona
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 through 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 such as Paseo de Gracia or La Rambla depart.
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 going to be in Barcelona for a short time or just want to enjoy the Gaudi experience in one 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 orderly urban organization. Therefore, on a bike tour of Barcelona you can see almost the entire 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 Boquería 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 Boqueria Market, it is best to go early in the morning. After the aperitif time (12:00), it is crowded and you may not enjoy a quiet experience tasting the local products.
16. Explore Barcelona's Gothic Quarter
In the historic center of the city, the Gothic Quarter is home to the impressive Cathedral of Barcelona, the 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 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 in 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 at the Parc de la Ciutadella
Before the opening of Park Güell for public enjoyment, this was the great 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 fun like a kid at Tibidabo Amusement Park or at Port Aventura
To rest from so much sightseeing, what better than going to the amusement park of the city and download a little 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 will not be able to ride any of the attractions).
But if you're not afraid of vertigo and are attracted by the thrill of amusement parks, the favorite park for visitors to Catalonia is Port Aventura. Fortunately, you can make an excursion to Port Aventura from Barcelona.
20. Enjoy the sun and the sea at the Mar Bella Beach
Finally, I propose an alternative to Barceloneta, Mar Bella beach. If you want to get away from the tourist and local crowds, garbage and street vendors, Mar Bella beach is a little quieter and less touristy, although it is still a city beach.
There is a general area, a nudist area and a LGTBQ area at 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 capitals of flamenco in Spain along with Madrid and Andalusia. Barcelona is home to some of the most emblematic tablaos in the country, 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. In addition, it is part of Spanish culture and folklore. That is why Unesco recognized it as Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2010.
If you want to spend a night "with duende" in Barcelona watching a live music and dance show, between 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.