20 great things to do in Barcelona

Find passion in all the city has to offer: festivals, cuisine, art, culture, architecture and more!

Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta

When you're travelling, especially if you're short on time, you really want to make the most of your destination so you go home feeling like you haven't missed anything and that you've really got a feel for the place. Sure, it can be a challenge, so we've worked to pare down all there is to do in Barcelona to 20 of the musts. If you can't get to them all, you can always come back.

1

Discover the city on foot

Barcelona is a big city, but it's the perfect size to discover on foot. Spend a day away from the metro and the tourist bus, and take your time strolling around and stopping to recharge with some of the city's great gastronomic options. If you're in the mood for visiting some of the most impressive buildings and parks, you'll want to see all the Parc de la Ciutadella has to offer as well as the Parc de Joan Miró, and the Montjuïc castle, but there's also a Barcelona you won't find in guidebooks. Get off the beaten path and head up to Horta, get to know the charm of the Sant Andreu district, see a lesser-known side of the Eixample and take in breathtaking panoramic views.

If your legs are more up to the task than your feet, you can also see the city by bicycle. Of the numerous ones around town, we've weeded out 10 routes in the city and surrounding areas for you to discover Barcelona while you pedal, whether you're a lifelong cyclist or still wobbling about without those extra wheels in the back.

And if you're a runner and won't let yourself miss a day even during your holidays, we've got an option for you as well.

2

Explore Gaudí and modernisme

Without a doubt, one of Barcelona's top attractions for tourists (as well as for those who live here) is admiring the city's modernista architecture, and the works of Antoni Gaudí in particular. Just walking around you'll come across various examples of Gaudí's work throughout the city, be they civil or religious buildings. The most famous are the Sagrada Família, impressive both outside and in; Park Güell, a space that's out of a fairy tale and emulates an English garden city; and La Pedrera. But don't miss the opportunity to visit other Gaudí buildings that sometimes occupy smaller space in guidebooks, such as Palau Güell, Casa Batlló, Casa Vicens and (if you have time to venture a bit outside Barcelona) the crypt of the Colònia Güell, in Santa Coloma de Cervelló.

But Gaudí wasn't the only modernista architect who left his mark on Barcelona. Also worth a visit are Casa Amatller and the Palau de la Música, works by Puig I Cadafalch; Casa Lleó Morera, designed by Domènech i Muntaner; and Casa de les Terrades. Another example is the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, a World Heritage Site and whose gardens are an oasis in the bustle of the city.

3

Hit a high note in concert

Barcelona has its fair share of live music venues, such as Razzmatazz and Apolo, but the city boasts some wonderful concert halls as well. The Gran Teatre del Liceu is a survivor in splendor, decorated with gold leaf, plush red carpets and ornate carvings. Don't shy away from checking out the programme, as tickets are not always as expensive as you might think, and it's a space that's definitely worth a visit. Then there's L'Auditori, a sleek space with a capacity for 2,400 concert-goers, and not just fans of classical - they also host jazz and world music performances, among others. The Palau de la Música Catalana is celebrated for its modernist architecture and for the sheer number of concerts it hosts. Barcelona is also home to several international music festivals, including Primavera Sound, the Festival Internacional de Jazz de Barcelona, Sónar and Cruïlla, among others.

4

Picture the city of Picasso's youth

Picasso's Barcelona, where he spent his early years, was beautiful and vibrant. Follow the footsteps of the artistic genius as you visit the landmarks that shaped his youth. Walk down C/Reina Cristina and then cross over to number 3 on C/Mercè to see where his family lived, though the building was later destroyed. If you need to make a stop along the way, head to Els 4 Gats, where artists, including Picasso and Salvador Dali, gathered at the time to chat, eat dinner and have meetings about art. Finally, visit the Museu Picasso itself, a gallery that houses works from Picasso's formative years.

5

Fill up on tapas, pintxos and vermouth

Pintxos, in essence, are Basque tapas - plates of bite-sized goodies served atop a piece of bread - and they're also a culinary trend in Barcelona. Tradition calls for you to pick at the food with toothpicks, and at the end of the night you will be charged for the number of toothpicks that you have used. One of the best places to give them a try is Euskal Etxea, where you can get stuck in to ham empanadillas (a type of pie), pintxos made of chicken tempura with saffron mayonnaise, melted provolone with mango and ham, or a mini-brochette of pork. But lest you forget, there are many more pintxos places in town as well.

But if what you really want are tapas, your options multiply - traditional, elaborate, places where patatas bravas are the stars of the menu, and tapas bars to go to if a good beer to wash them down is a priority. Some of the essentials are Quimet i Quimet, La Esquinica or El Jabalí.

And of course, everything tastes better accompanied by a good vermouth. The weekends (or when you're on holiday) are ideal because there's more time to do a vermouth crawl, as is the custom, with a bite to eat as you sample the various types. But really any time is a good time to try the vermouth of the house in classic bodegas such as Bar Calders, La Pepita and Bar Electricitat.

6

Climb up the magical Montjuïc

Montjuïc mountain is the perfect place for a leafy stroll with great views, but it does take a bit of legwork to get up there, so it's less populated by tourists. But don't let that deter you. Aside from the natural surroundings and spectacular vistas, you'll find buildings from the 1992 Olympic Games, including the Palau Sant Jordi and the telecommunications tower designed by Santiago Calatrava. If you're feeling full of beans and you get to the top of the hill, you can check out the Olympic stadium and the Jardi Botànic. Plaça Espanya, at the foot of Montjuïc, is the most common access point to the mountain, and where you can also visit the Pavelló Mies van der Rohe and the CaixaForum cultural centre.

Walk through the Laribal gardens, designed by French landscape architect Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier; visit the Tres Pins nursery, where plants are grown for gardens and municipal parks in the city; and tip your hat to the bronze statue of the Italian poet Dante Alighieri in the square of the same name.

7

Walk on the arty side

In Barcelona, taking a walk in the park is not only a way to relax, it can also lead you to discover some great art. Get up and get out for a walk around the lush gardens of the Teatre Grec and then head over to the Fundació Joan Miró, one of the largest museums in the world and home to a collection of over 225 paintings, 150 sculptures and graphic pieces by the Spanish surrealist painter, along with a number of works by his contemporaries.

Listing all the museums and art galleries in the city would take quite a bit of time, but one of the jewels is the MNAC (Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya), with pieces that represent Catalan art from the Romanesque period to the mid-20th century.

If smaller rooms are more your speed, stop in to the Palau Robert - it's free in, has some great exhibitions and the building itself is worth a gander. Also pay a visit to some of the smaller but influental galleries throughout the city, some of the most prestigious of which are ADN, Joan Prats, Galeria 3 Punts and Toni Tàpies.

8

Revel in the Raval

Like Paris, Barcelona also has a literary flavour. Many a writer has been inspired by the lower Raval, which was once called the 'Barrio Chino', a name coined by an American journalist due to its underworld feel in the 1920s. Haunted by drifters and prostitutes (and, more recently, hipsters and their ilk), the seedy ghetto forms a strangely glamorous setting for Jean Genet's existential novel The Thief's Journal (1949) and provides the backdrop of the civil war novel The Palace (1962) by Nobel prize­-winner Claude Simon and The Margin by André Pieyre de Mandiargues (1967), which was made into a film.

But the Raval is so much more. It's a place where local businesses thrive, including shops like Les Topettes, Chandal and Fusta'm; it's also about urban culture, music and good food, the likes of which you'll find in Bar Kasparo, Lo de Flor and Dos Palillos.

The Raval is also where you need to go to get some of the city's essential culture nourishment, including the CCCB (Barcelona's contemporary culture centre, which hosts exhibitions, conferences and more), the MACBA (the city's contemporary art museum), the Biblioteca de Catalunya (library) and the refurbished Filmoteca arthouse cinema.

9

Get to know the city's history

When visiting a new city, it's always good to learn a bit about its history in order to understand its architecture, its art, what makes it tick, and something of the character of its people. As an international city, Barcelona is full of diverse cultures and heritages, and with every step you take through its streets, you'll stumble upon some of its history.

You can get an idea of ​​this historical wealth at the Museu d'Historia de Barcelona (MUHBA) where the historical heritage of the city is preserved and put on display in the MUHBA's various locations (most importantly those of the Plaça del Rei, the Call, the Temple d'August, and Refugi 307), the brand-new Born Centre Cultural, the Columnas de Adrian (Pillars of Hadrian), the royal shipyards of the Museu Maritím, the various shelters that were built to survive the Civil War, the modernist Illa de la Discòrdia (Block of Discord, noted for its four modernist buildings on Passeig de Gràcia), and the Fossar de les Moreres, which was once one of the historical cemeteries near the Santa Maria del Mar church and is a war memorial for those who lost their lives during the siege of Barcelona (1713-1714).

10

Chow down fresh seafood

No one leaves Barcelona without sampling the seafood. The city toasts the fine and luxurious Galician restaurant Rias de Galicia in Poble-sec, as well as Cachitos in the Eixample, for their fantastic assortment of seafood. Cal Pep in the Born is known for its trifásico, a mélange of fried whitebait, squid rings and shrimps, and exquisite little tallarines (wedge clams). The Barceloneta restaurants La Mar Salada and Can Solé display a spectacular haul of fresh seafood every day, which is likely to tempt you if you're piscatorially inclined.

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Comments

38 comments
Mark P
Mark P

Always wanted to visit Barca and will be for the first time in August as the wife and I have chosen it as the "venue" for our 15th wedding anniversay celebrations! :-)


Flights form England were a tad more expensive than anticipated, but got a feeling it will be totally worth it. Booked in for 4 nights and compiling a list of things to see and do, the magic fountain is aparantly 5 minute walk from our hotel. Heard nothing but good reports from friends who have visited before.


Really looking forward to it! :-)

Tom T
Tom T

In Barcelona there are a lot of things what to do! One of the most popular sightseeings are La Pedrera and casa Batllo on Paseo de Gracia, don´t forget taste spanish tapas with sangria or clara (it is beer with fanta limon).

laura M
laura M

Barcelona is the place where you can live whole your life! If you are looking for the perfect place for shopping it is Paseo de Gracia street! Here you will find the last collections of popular designers! In the evening it is perfect place to find the good restaurant for dinner!

christian C
christian C

About Barcelona, I love walk aroundPaseo de Gracia. Paseo de Gracia is considered as the most fashionable and the most popular shopping street in Barcelona! On Passeig de Gracia there is a huge number of museums and landmarks, such as Casa Batlló that is breathtaking! Love it! 

Larissa L
Larissa L

Where is the Camp Nou? The best thing in Barcelona is football!

joss m
joss m

Totally fell in love with Barcelona.... going there for a second visit in April. The best things i did while visiting were...

- Walking around Parque Guell and taking in the views

- The best Tapas experience i had http://www.tossabcn.com/en/

- If you want something a bit different try Foto Ruta a creative tour experience http://www.foto-ruta.es and an original way to see the city


Isaac M
Isaac M

Nice info, Barcelona offers a variety of activities for everyone,  I love Barclona for my the best city of the world.


nabin t
nabin t

Hi there, we are visiting Barcelona for the first time. like to go for vineyards tours. any tips? appreciated! also we are vegitarian would like any recommendation. thanks nab

Natasha K
Natasha K

Barcelona is one of the most unique places I've ever traveled!

Oscar S
Oscar S

Barcelona is sucha a Beautifull city. I've been there more than three times. Recently I discovered a place near las Ramblas called "La Rumbeta". We spent the night drinking sangria and listening to Rumba Catalana Songs wich make us stand up, dance and vibrate. I highly recommend that place to everybody.

wdwa
wdwa

GO THERE, SPAIN ECONMENY IS CORRUPT - METHINKS ITS CHEAP! ME CHEAPSKATE :D

natasha
natasha

woooow! tht was great and useful

Zhami
Zhami

I don't see the Camp Nou in Barcelona's highlights! That surprised me a little bit

Amber
Amber

I like this website it worked good and gave me the information that I needed

Tom
Tom

Barcelona has a lot to offer a tourist. Sadly it also offers many very professionel thiefs. Keep your hands on all your luggage items if travelling via Sants station in Barcelona.

BARBARA L
BARBARA L

@Tom  We were in Barcelona in 2007 and you're right. Hold on to your purses, camera bags, etc. My wallet was stolen while I stopped along Las Ramblas looking at postcards. Certainly NOT a good way to begin a vacation. Also a word of caution when you're in restaurants: Do NOT place your purse or camera bag on the floor or the back of your chair. It will not be there when you leave & restaurant owners will not help. We met more than 20 people at the police station filing police reports for stolen items---in restaurants, train stations, walking/sightseeing, etc. This is definitely not an issue in the USA.

karen
karen

Barcelona - YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Angela
Angela

I am so excited to be visiting Barcelona next year. Your blog has been helpful tool as I've been gathering ideas as to what to see and do once we are there. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this historic, beautiful city.

Eva Dominguez
Eva Dominguez

Amazing sitting in a balcony overlooking old cathedral

Naima
Naima

Great article

gem
gem

i love Barcelona - and what a great list!!!  I have been to Barcelona many times for day trips and am planning a longer trip soon and this this has been a great help thanks!!

vivian
vivian

things to do in barcelona

Tyron
Tyron

Good tips!! In addition if you want to be in a good restaurant in Barcelona, I recommend Tenorio, I was dining with my girlfriend and the food and service was amazing.

Evan Berkland
Evan Berkland

It was the best news I have read in 2 years I hope you come and see these places

Jinxxy
Jinxxy

Awesome list! Does anybody else have any suggestions for a teenage couple on their first holiday away from the parents? :)

Michelle
Michelle

I heard that the people in Barcelona are so friendly. I don't think any of your arguments against them are valid... Maybe you experienced people with bad mood and cheaters. You can't generalize ;) I LOVE BEIRUT/ I LOVE BARCELONA (honestly, the rudest people are in Paris :P)

Davy
Davy

Useful sight

ks
ks

nice

Lasse
Lasse

Wonderful city....marvelous architecture.....great weather........ but the worst people in Europe.......

sam
sam

well

Jaci
Jaci

I agree with many of these but what about Gracia, the nightly fountain show or Parc Guell?? All AMAZING things that, in my opinion, are MUST SEES when you go...

billy bob joe
billy bob joe

i would like to say that your gay hearts are pretty funny. i have been there before and that is nothing like 'em.

Trees
Trees

Just back from a long weekend in Barcelona & did a few of the things recommended on this list, very helpful. Found a great restaurant, Sedna on Passeig Colon. Highly recommend the Paella and Steak there, amazing and at reasonable prices!

jcool
jcool

Barcelona!!!!