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Vista aèria de Barcelona
Foto: Shutterstock Vista aèria de Barcelona

The 30 best things to do in Barcelona

From modernista masterpieces to some truly gorgeous beaches, these are the very best things to do in brilliant Barcelona

Written by
Erica Aspas
,
Jan Fleischer
&
Paula Akpan
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Everyone should visit Barcelona at least once. Everyone. No excuses. The Catalan capital is a bustling city that lives up to its reputation, a thriving cultural centre with brilliant museums, magnificent restaurants and the sort of nightlife that just keeps on giving. Barcelona is brilliant, bombastic, and bloomin’ marvellous.

What are the best things to do in Barcelona? We’re glad you asked because we’ve done the hard yards and put together the ultimate Barna bucket list. You can’t go wrong with this place. 

Best things to do in Barcelona

  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Sagrada Família

What is it? The life’s work of Catalonia’s most famous architect, Antoni Gaudí. 

Why go? To appreciate the nearly 140 years of work that has gone into this (very) quirky basilica. You couldn’t come to Barcelona without marvelling at its contrasting façades, sculpted details and stained glass.

Don’t miss: Though even walking past the building will give you a sense of wonder, you’ll definitely want to head inside to witness all that’s been achieved over the last couple of decades. Plus, check out the crypt, where Gaudí himself is buried.

Discover the best Gaudí works in Barcelona

Explore the city’s most famous street, La Rambla
  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours

What is it? Easily the most famous street in Barcelona, this 1.2km boulevard starts at Plaça de Catalunya and ends at the statue of Christopher Columbus down by the port.

Why go? You’ll be wandering along La Rambla anyway, but we want to point you to some of the best things to see, eat, drink, do, and more. Here they are.

Don’t miss: Since March 2019, there’s been a monument to the victims of the terrorist attack that took place on La Rambla in August 2017. Keep your eyes peeled, as it’s embedded in the ground, just by the Joan Miró mosaic, which you also might walk right over if you’re not paying attention. 

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  • Museums
  • Ciutat Vella

What is it? Barcelona’s very own collection of nearly 4,000 works by Pablo Picasso.

Why go? To see the artist’s formative work and examine how his style quickly evolved, especially between 1890 and 1904. You’ll find everything from his sketches as a young student to rough landscapes to his early forays into cubism.

Don’t miss: The temporary exhibitions are imaginative and thought-provoking. We particularly liked ‘Picasso Discovers Paris’ and ‘Picasso’s Kitchen’.

Discover the best Barcelona museums

 

  • Attractions
  • Ciutat Vella

What is it? A Gothic place of worship for which the foundations were laid in 1298. The finishing touches weren’t made until 1913.

Why go? A visit to Barcelona Cathedral is very special indeed. It took so long to build that you’ll find bits dating back to the 11th century, Nordic-inspired elements on the 15th-century façade and recently reconstructed parts using the same Montserrat stone as the original. Visit the cloister and the crypt, where you’ll see, respectively, 13 contented geese and the remains of the 13-year-old martyr Eulàlia, to whom the cathedral is dedicated.

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  • Restaurants
  • Haute cuisine
  • El Raval

What is it? Restaurants that specialise in traditional Catalan gastronomy.

Why go? When in Catalonia, eat like the Catalans. That means canalons at Casa Agustí, where they carefully guard the secret to their version of this iconic winter dish; moreish capipota with chickpeas at Can Vilaró; and the hearty escudella stew at Ca l’Estevet.

Don’t miss: Head to Dos Pebrots to discover modern Catalan creations based on traditional Mediterranean recipes. It’s run by Michelin-starred chef Albert Raurich.

  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • El Coll

What is it? Another big-hitting Gaudí attraction, Park Güell is a glorious colourfully-tiled park with sculptures, gardens, the lot. 

Why go? Because you can’t get enough Gaudí. And to spend a day outside revelling in the maverick architect’s wacky ideas. 

Don’t miss: Keep your eyes peeled for the immaculate serpentine bench and the figure of a woman ‘hidden’ among the twisted stone columns. And make sure to trek up to the park’s highest point, marked with a cross, for outstanding views of the city all the way out to sea.

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  • Attractions
  • Sightseeing
  • Dreta de l'Eixample

What is it? Officially named Casa Milà and popularly known as La Pedrera, this Gaudí work started as residential apartments and is now home to a cultural centre that hosts art exhibitions and performances.

Why go? The tour shows off a typical apartment from the early 20th century, and on your way up, you can admire classic Gaudí details, like the smooth, wavy bannisters and snail shell-inspired shapes. The rooftop also shouldn’t be missed, for the striking chimney designs and the stellar city views (which take in many other Gaudí works).

Don’t miss: Casa Milà is the only place you can find a Gaudí interpretation centre, so don’t gloss over it. This is where to find out how his most famous works were conceived and built.

  • Things to do

What is it? There’s some 4.5km of coastline within Barcelona’s city limits, giving you plenty of options and as much beach time as you need.

Why go? You may fancy getting in touch with nature, or maybe you want to play volleyball, swim in the Med or do any number of activities with the word ‘surf’ in them. Or perhaps you’re keen not to go home without the perfect tan.

Don’t miss: Many of the city’s beaches feature beach bars (called chiringuitos), where you can take a break from the sun and sit in the shade with a cool snack and a refreshing cocktail. At night they turn into great little party venues, with spot-on music and even better vibes.

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Visit the MNAC and its Romanesque art collection
  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Sants - Montjuïc

What is it? Catalonia’s national art museum.

Why go? Get a complete overview of Catalan art from the 12th to the 20th centuries. The highlight is its Romanesque collection, featuring one of the biggest collections of paintings on wood in Europe. The museum’s modern art floor boasts sculpture, painting, photography, posters, video pieces and decorative arts, going up to the 1950s.

Don’t miss: The climb from Plaça d’Espanya up to the museum is worthwhile, as this side of Montjüic offers still more fantastic panoramic views of the city (and the MNAC is pretty striking in itself, too).

  • Attractions
  • Dreta de l'Eixample

What is it? One of two Gaudí wonders, originally built to house apartments, on Passeig de Gràcia in the city centre.

Why go? To admire the dazzling colours, wavy architecture, eye-catching balconies, gorgeous rooftop, and a fabulous augmented reality tour.

Don’t miss: If you’re a fan of live music, get your ticket for a Magic Nights concert; and if you miss this series, bear other special dates in mind, such as when there are mapping projections onto the facade, or on April 23, for Saint George’s Day, when Casa Batlló always dresses up in something special.

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  • Shopping
  • Markets and fairs
  • El Raval

What is it? Barcelona’s best-known municipal market.

Why go? All your senses will be wowed – by the colours of the fresh produce, the smells of the open kitchens, the hollers of the garrulous vendors, the feel of shoppers thronging around you, and the tastes... of pretty much everything you get your hands on.

Don’t miss: Elbow up to one of the bars if you can and enjoy a meal made with produce that doesn’t get any fresher. Try Quim de la Boquería, Bar Central or Bar Pinotxo.

Discover the best markets in Barcelona

Stroll through the Gothic Quarter
  • Things to do

What is it? The Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) is part of Barcelona’s Old City, along with the Born, the Raval and Barceloneta.

Why go? To wander through the narrow medieval streets and quieter squares and get to know the history of central Barcelona. Be sure to visit the Barcelona Cathedral, Plaça del ReiPlaça Sant Jaume and the Jewish Quarter (see number 16).

Don’t miss: Stop by Plaça de Felip Neri, one of our favourite squares in the centre. We cherish its small size, incredible history and sense of calm (unless the local school’s just been let out).

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens

What is it? Everyone knows Barcelona has beaches, but don’t forget about the mountains.

Why go? For exceptional views. Climb up to Tibidabo, Collserola or Montjuïc to take it all in, and don’t panic – when we say climb these mountains, we mean via funicular.

Don’t miss: Thrills for kids and adults alike at Tibidabo amusement park, wine and olive oil tastings, lunch at Can Calopa (in Collserola), and a lovely stroll through the botanical gardens on Montjuïc.

  • Museums
  • El Gòtic

What is it? The Jewish area in Barcelona, in the Gothic Quarter, bordered by the streets Call, Banys Nous and Sant Sever, and Plaça Sant Jaume.

Why go? As you wander through this neighbourhood, you’ll no doubt gain a better appreciation for the lives of Jewish people throughout Barcelona’s history. A visit to MUHBA El Call can enhance the experience, too: you can see artefacts such as ritual lamps and gravestones, as well as the ‘Salomó ben Adret de Barcelona (1235-1310). El triunfo de una ortodoxia’ exhibition.

Don’t miss: Barcelona’s synagogue, one of the oldest in Europe.

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  • Shopping
  • Fort Pienc

What is it? One of the oldest second-hand markets in Europe.

Why go? Once you’ve taken the necessary time to appreciate Fermin Vazquez’s undulating reflective roof, get down to the business of shopping. A seemingly endless number of vendors populate the flea market, and we recommend you take your time exploring what’s on offer. You’ll find everything from esoteric knick-knacks to more functional sewing machines and bicycles.

Don’t miss: If you plan to spend the afternoon here, don’t pass up the chance to enjoy the market’s plentiful food options.

  • Attractions

What is it? An impressive feat of iron architecture that enjoys protected status from the Catalan Department of Culture.

Why go? This structure was designed by Josep Fontserè and built in the late 19th century. It has a cage-like iron exterior and towering brick columns. Used as a huge party space for the 1888 International Exposition in Barcelona, it now houses a conservatory where plant species from nearly two dozen countries flourish under the arches.

Don’t miss: Take a breather in the spectacular botanical garden, bearing in mind it’s only open on weekdays from 8am to 2pm.

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Enjoy beachside paella at La Mar Salada
  • Restaurants
  • Mediterranean
  • La Barceloneta

What is it? The seaside neighbourhood of Barceloneta serves up some of the city’s best paella.

Why go? Finding decent paella can be a struggle in central Barcelona, but Barceloneta is home to restaurants that get it right more often than not. La Barraca, La Mar Salada, Can SoléCa la Nuri and 7 Portes are some of our faves.

Don’t miss: Of all the options on the menu at 7 Portes, we recommend the seafood paella parellada. And at La Mar Salada, the de senyoret rice with razorfish, monkfish and prawns.

  • Restaurants
  • La Barceloneta

What is it? This is where to go for terrific tapas in Barceloneta.

Why go? At La Cova Fumada, they don’t concern themselves too much with interior design or style, but you shouldn’t either because that has no bearing on the quality of the food. It’s said they invented the spicy potato and mince meat bomba, but they also serve wonderful grilled sardines and artichokes, cod fritters, fresh fish, and all manner of other seafood dishes.

Don’t miss: Try and tease out their renowned bomba recipe between bites. They haven’t spilt the beans yet, but you never know.

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  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Gràcia

What is it? A less touristy way to discover Catalan modernism.

Why go? Whether you live in Barcelona or are visiting, you might think you’ve seen all the modernista sights in town: the Sagrada Família, Casa Milà (aka La Pedrera), Casa BatllóPark Güell... but you might be surprised to know you ain’t seen nothing yet. The Institut del Paisatge Urbà has put together a list of 2,200 buildings that are either 100 percent modernista or have modernista elements. If you haven’t got time to see them all, we can recommend Casa VicensHotel EspanyaCasa Thomas and Casa Planells for starters.

Don’t miss: Casa Vicens only opened its doors to the public for the first time in 2017. It was the first major architectural assignment Antoni Gaudí ever received.

  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • La Sagrera

What is it? Barcelona’s first museum of urban art.

Why go? This is not a collection of painted walls torn from streets and buildings but rather a space where more than 20 artists have come to splash original pieces directly on the exterior of Nau Bostik. In addition to works by renowned muralists (Sixe Paredes, Sheone, Sebastien Waknine, BToy, Fasim, Manu Manu, Sam3, and more), Bostik Murals offer their walls to students and artists from other disciplines who want to try their hand at murals.

Don’t miss: Be sure to check the website before you go: graffiti art is ephemeral even here, and if you don’t want to miss a piece you’ve heard great things about, the website will let you know if it’s still there or not.

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Get your fill of viniculture at Can Calopa
  • Things to do

What is it? A winery and bodega right in actual Barcelona.

Why go? Can Calopa is a 16th-century farmhouse with vineyards over three hectares. Since 2010, Can Calopa has been managed by the L’Olivera cooperative in collaboration with the social project Vallbona de les Monges, whose work includes offering homes and work to young people with psychiatric disabilities. The winery produces around 8,000 bottles of Garnacha and Syrah red wine a year.

Don’t miss: Wine and olive oil tastings. That is what you are here for, after all, so embrace your inner oenophile and get tasting.

Discover the best Barcelona wine bars

 

  • Restaurants
  • Gràcia

What is it? From the oldest in the city to the most modern, all of these temples of vermouth share a passion for the fortified wine.

Why go? What’s referred to locally as ‘vermouth hour’ has long been a tradition in Barcelona, though it’s seen a surge in popularity recently among younger people. Hundreds of bars around town now serve their own homemade variety with the usual accompaniments of sardines, olives, crisps and the like to whet your appetite before lunch. Some of them have been around for nearly a century, like El XampanyetBar Castells and La Vermuteria del Tano. Others are more modern yet take pride in keeping the tradition going, like Balius in Poblenou.

Don’t miss: Keep your eyes open for neighbourhood vermouth routes, where you can sample from several bars, often with special prices and offers on tapas.

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Catch a performance at Liceu opera house
  • Music
  • Music venues
  • El Raval

What is it? The Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona’s opera house.

Why go? The Liceu is a true landmark. For about a century after its inauguration in 1847, the Liceu was the epicentre of Barcelona’s artistic, social and political life. After a fire in 1994, the main hall was remodelled in the style of its 1909 renewal, with some improvements.

Don’t miss: More than just an opera house, the Liceu also hosts ballet performances and concerts. Keep your eyes peeled for ticket offers at very affordable prices.

  • Museums

What is it? This hilltop is home to an anti-aircraft battery built in 1937 when Barcelona was the target of hundreds of bombing runs a day during the Spanish Civil War.

Why go? Referred to as ‘the bunkers’, the area is an important part of Barcelona’s history and Catalonia’s resistance to Francisco Franco’s forces during the war. In the 1950s and the following immigration boom, the area was occupied by slums and other run-down housing. Years later, when the dwellings were abandoned, locals fought to preserve the site as an important historical monument.

Don’t miss: Once you’ve had a look around and appreciated the history here, be sure to take some time to simply sit and enjoy one of the best views you’ll find in Barcelona. If you’re there at sunset on a clear day, even better.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i la Ribera
  • price 1 of 4

What is it? What was once a four-decades-old bar called Gimlet has been transformed into an uber-cool hangout whose name and décor are inspired by Raymond Chandler’s Detective Philip Marlowe.

Why go? You should come to appreciate the elegant surroundings and try a Gimlet just like Marlowe drank, or a perfectly balanced signature spin on the Gold Standard served in a chilled martini glass.

Don’t miss: Treat yourself to La Mirada de Marlowe. What’s in it is between you and your bartender, and it is based on your personality.

Discover the best bars in Barcelona

 

Go on a nighttime excursion through Poblenou and Montjuïc cemeteries
  • Attractions
  • Sants - Montjuïc

What is it? A tour with or without a guide through Barcelona’s cemeteries.

Why go? Cemetery visits make for an unusual (and often spine-tingling) way to get to know a city. But graveyards don’t have to be gloomy – instead, consider their artistic value. In Poblenou and Montjuïc, the largest cemeteries in Barcelona, you can find graves in an array of architectural styles, funerary art and works by renowned artists.

Don’t miss: The nighttime excursions into the Montjuïc (in March) and Poblenou (in October) cemeteries.

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Feed the pigeons in the Plaça de Catalunya
  • Attractions
  • Public spaces
  • Dreta de l'Eixample

What is it? The largest, most central square in Barcelona.

Why go? You’re bound to find yourself in Plaça de Catalunya at some point, whether to get the metro, hop on a regional train, visit the tourist information centre or just stand in the middle of that star and feed the pigeons. You’re surrounded by plenty of shops, including the massive El Corte Inglés department store and El Triangle shopping complex, as well as bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, tour bus stops, hotels and... more pigeons.

Don’t miss: Admire the gorgeous fountains (fingers crossed they’re on when you’re around), and don’t forget to pay a visit to ‘The Goddess’ statue, a copy of the original by Catalan artist Josep Clarà.

Discover out-of-bounds architecture during 48h Open House
© Òscar Fernàndez

28. Discover out-of-bounds architecture during 48h Open House

What is it? Two days (usually at the end of October) when dozens of buildings in Barcelona normally closed to the public open their doors for all to explore.

Why go? This is a fantastic chance for architecture buffs or anyone who likes to snoop around places they’re usually not allowed to check out private and out-of-bounds spaces, like the interior of the Montjuïc Magic Fountain.

Don’t miss: Definitely check the website before you head out, as each space has a different slot when you can visit, and you’ll likely find queues. There are guided tours in many locations, but be aware that, like the website, the tours might not be in your language of choice.

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  • Attractions
  • Sant Martí

What is it? Throughout the year, Barcelona hosts some of the biggest and best music festivals in Spain and Europe.

Why go? If you have the budget (and energy), we challenge you to go to the three most popular music festivals that Barcelona hosts through spring and summer: Sónar, Primavera Sound and Cruïlla. Each has a different focus and vibe, but they all have something in common – there’s nowhere else you’d rather be.

Don’t miss: As well as the stellar line-ups, which include many legendary and up-and-coming international acts, the festivals also put on other free concerts and parties around the city.

  • Shopping
  • Barcelona

What is it? The spirit of Christmas embodied in a single shop. With its origins in Germany, Käthe Wohlfahrt sells traditional, hand-crafted ornaments and decorations.

Why go? For those moments when you need a little festive spirit in your life.

Don’t miss: The objects made specially for the Barcelona shops, including glass blown in the shape of the city taxis, chimneys from Gaudí’s Palau Güell, and a Black Virgin (as seen in Montserrat).

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