As a part of my friend’s Despedida de Soltera (with Spanish accent 😊) last July, I had a great time strolling the stunning city of Barcelona. Since it was my first time traveling in a Spanish country, the first thing that got hold of me was the language. It reminded me of my foreign language teacher. Every time he speaks Spanish, I’m like a leading lady in a romantic movie for some reasons.
If you’ve been following me on my socials, you know I love the outdoors. Clad in jeans and shirt, the summer days were perfect for me to go around the city. During my stay, I noticed that Barcelona was bustling with tourists.
The city has an impressive history, a buzzing nightlife, and a vibrant. The locals are very friendly, and most of them speak basic English. Visitors can feast on the city’s famous seafood while enjoying stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea. Football fanatics will love touring Camp Nou and FC Barcelona Museum, where they can rub shoulders with their favorite players.
The city has something for everyone. Here is my guide to the top 10 things to do in Barcelona:
1. Visiting Barcelona? Don’t miss the enchanting Sagrada Familia!
When visiting Barcelona, the image of Sagrada Familia always comes to mind. I’ve seen pictures of the church online where it looked magical. But those were nothing compared to seeing the structure right before my eyes. It was surreal. I felt like I was dreaming, except I could vividly smell the croquetas being sold in nearby restaurants.
When tourists and locals say you cannot leave Barcelona without paying a visit to the Sagrada, I understand why. It has extraordinarily intricate details especially on its façade. The statutes of the Holy Family capture the essence of the whole architecture- organized chaos that is beautiful, unique, and memorable. Inside the church is as intriguing as the exterior. The nave is inspired by a tree as the pillar, while the branches creep up to the roof.
The Sagrada Familia is the magnum opus of Antoni Gaudi. You can see all the experimental designs of this genius architect here. The construction started in the late 1800s and is still not complete.
I couldn’t put all the words that would describe the place. You have to see it for yourself and be awestruck like me.
2. Go back in time at the Gothic Quarter, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Gothic Quarter is the heart of Barcelona. This historic neighborhood has been the center for commerce and culture since the city’s founding centuries ago. I felt like traveling back in time while passing by many Romanesque buildings, narrow streets, squares, and monuments that were left untouched. It has been declared an area of cultural interest by UNESCO for its rich history and architectural heritage. It’s a very unique part of the city.
While here, don’t forget to visit Las Ramblas. It is a busy street crammed with stalls, street performers, tourists, and locals day and night. Tight alleys filled with restaurants and bars lead off from this main artery to quieter corners of the district. I bought some souvenirs from small shops here. For street foods, I only had a boiled sweet potato for a snack. Not a typical Spanish delicacy, but I liked it. It was sweet and fresh, and the bright orange reminded me of summer.
3. Check Out the local produce at La Boqueria Market
La Boqueria is a food lovers’ paradise. This ancient market (dating back as early as 1217) is overflowing with fresh meat, fish, vegetables, olives, and more. This is definitely the spot to savor your gastronomic experience. There’s a vast selection of tapas bars too; all you need to do is pick your ingredients from the food market, and they’ll whip you up something delicious. The vendors are friendly and insist that I try samples of their items.
The aisles of flowers and plants surrounding its central produce stand add aesthetics to this charming market. The place is near La Rambla and the Gothic Quarter, so you’ll not get lost. If you come to the city and book a place with a kitchen and you love to cook, you will surely fall in love with La Boqueria.
4. See the works of a legend at the Picasso Museum
The Picasso Museum is a tribute to one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. With five locations in the city, this museum spans his entire career. From his early days as a young artist to his final years, you’ll be able to see some of Picasso’s masterpieces at this world-class institution.
This is a museum like no other. It is spread over five palaces that are bursting with the artist’s finest works. It features over 2,000 artworks from various periods and styles, including cubism and surrealism. Although some of his big hitters are not here (‘The Weeping Woman’ is in London), there are still so many captivating items to marvel at. Before visiting the Picasso Museum, I thought Picasso was only a gifted painter until I saw some of his beautiful ceramic crafts here too.
5. Go shopping in the city center via Las Ramblas
I’ve mentioned Las Ramblas before, but I think it deserves its own spot in this blog.
Las Ramblas is the most famous street in Barcelona. It stretches from Plaça de Catalunya to the Christopher Columbus monument at Port Vell. It was originally the city’s main commercial street and is still one of Barcelona’s most popular spots for shopping, entertainment, and leisure.
The street has always been an attraction for tourists and travelers to Barcelona alike. You will have access to various activities such as live performances, human statue art, artists drawing your portrait or caricature, and workshops. The shops are housed in well-preserved old buildings, a reminder of how gorgeous Catalan art is. Go here if you love people-watching, shopping, hanging out in cocktail bars, or wasting a few hours just savoring the city center.
An exciting tip: Erotica Museum (Museu de l’ Erotica) can be found here. This place can be fun if you’re in for something extra and don’t mind seeing interesting toys.
6. Experience the unique Park Güell
The Park Güell was designed by Antoni Gaudí in 1900. It is a small public park located at the top of Carmel Hill. It features terraces, stairways, and architectural elements such as a bench or mosaics that have become an icon of the city. This is a place of discovery, where the structures meander through Mediterranean vegetation and hidden corners.
From the outside, it looks like a giant playground for grown-ups, but Gaudi’s Park Güell is much more than an architectural delight. The park is also a social and cultural center that has been visited by locals and tourists for over one hundred years. Listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, you know that when you visit this place, you’re in for something special.
I’ve seen images of the lizard mosaic in many postcards and books. I was ecstatic when I saw it here.
7. Be holy at the Barcelona Cathedral
The Barcelona Cathedral doesn’t have the hype of the Sagrada Familia, but it is still worth visiting.
When you enter the church, it’s as if you’ve entered a different world. It has a towering and luminous interior, along with an opulent façade that was added in the 19th century. The design is reminiscent of medieval architecture with a bit of Nordic flare. The cathedral is known for its labyrinthine layout, making it one of the most impressive cathedrals to explore in Europe.
The present building was constructed from 1482 to 1597 and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. It is the largest Gothic cathedral and the only one with five aisles.
The Barcelona Cathedral was once the tallest church in the world, but it isn’t just about height. This church features stunning stained-glass windows and intricate sculptures dating back to the 11th century.
Whether you’re religious or not, the charm and grandeur of the place are simply divine! If you like old churches, I suggest that you also visit Santa Maria del Mar.
8. Casa Batlló is a feast for the eyes!
It took no less a figure than Antoni Gaudí and his disciple Josep Maria Jujol to design Casa Batlló. Interesting facts because I could see some of the design’s semblance with Park Güell. The finished building is an explosion of colors and shapes: flowers, gargoyles, and sea monsters–all emerge from the walls like the twisted nightmares of a mad scientist.
This gothic-style building has been featured in many TV shows, movies, and music videos. The building was commissioned by Count Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi in 1884 and designed by Antoni Gaudí as a home for the Batlló family. Today, visitors can tour the entire house or just see the cathedral-like architecture from the outside.
9. Stroll at Parc del Laberint d’Horta
Located in the Horta-Guinardo district, this is one of Barcelona’s few large green spaces. It is an enthralling place to explore, with fantastic views over the city and quick access to other attractions such as Park Güell, Casa Batlló, or El Capricho. It is enormous and has been kept up very nicely over the years. It is a great place to go for a walk, take pictures, relax on a bench, and listen to birds.
Without a doubt, the labyrinth is the park’s main feature. It is a maze consisting of elaborate spins of thick foliage. I was impressed by how well it was maintained and was lucky enough to walk through it at dusk when the light inside had turned golden. Afraid of getting lost? Don’t worry; there are helpful signs to lead you back out.
10. Enjoy the city view from Montjuïc, a remnant of Spanish Civil War
Montjuïc is a hill located in the Sants-Montjuïc district of Barcelona. It is home to many notable sites, such as the National Art Museum of Catalonia and the Montjuïc Castle, which was built for the 1929 International Exposition. Atop this hill sits the Magic Fountain, which shoots water 150 feet into the air accompanied by classical music.
There are many ways to reach the top: by foot, funicular, and cable car. Montjuïc has a long history and was deeply influenced by the Romans, who built a military fort on its summit. You can find remains of Roman baths, walls, and old camps here. Nowadays, you can see different monuments and buildings of art along with magnificent views over Barcelona from the highest point of the city.
As a final note…
You will be surrounded by culture, history, and art museums in Barcelona. There is so much to do here for anyone. And since it is a relatively small city, you can easily walk from place to place. Whether you are looking for a party, an activity, or a more cultural experience, there are many things to do in Barcelona. We hope you enjoyed my list of Barcelona attractions. If you’ve been here before, let me know how’s your trip like.
It depends on what you like to do there. I love going out, and I don’t mind the sun, so summer (July to August) was perfect. Summer is also a good time to catch a free walking and food tours (think about Paella cooking class). If you like sightseeing & museum hopping, between September to October is great. If you’re on a budget, visit the city around January to February.
Barcelona has a modern and well-maintained public transport system. You can catch buses, trains, metro, trams, and city bikes. Metro Barcelona opens from 5am until midnight from Sunday to Thursday, 5 am until 2am on Fridays, and all night on Sundays.
While there, I had a couple of cab rides, and the drivers were polite and friendly. They taught me how to converse in Spanish, which was helpful.
Mealtime in Catalans is later than most of us. They have their lunch between 2-4 pm. Lunchtime is an important part of their day, so many shops close at this time.
Unfortunately, no. You have to smoke in dedicated places only. Hotels are allowed to reserve 30% of their rooms for smokers. Book a smoker-friendly room at hostelstobook.com so you will not have a problem.
I would suggest looking at your bill first. If there’s already a service charge, that is as good as the tip. But if you don’t mind tipping more, I’m sure the servers will love that.