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Mobile World Congress

Mobile World Congress Barcelona: things to do in your free time

Barcelona, the only city to host the MWC, is bursting with great restaurants, hot clubs, creative cocktails, top shops and more

By Time Out Barcelona Editors and edited by Jan Fleischer
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Welcome to Barcelona! You’re here for the biggest global meeting on mobile technology, the GSMA Mobile World Congress, which takes place in 2020 from February 24-27 in Barcelona’s Fira Montjuïc and Fira Gran Via. But what will you do in your free time? Lucky for you, you’re in one of the most vibrant cities in Europe, and whether you want to spend your hours away from work taking in the sights, dining in Barcelona’s best restaurants or fancy Michelin-starred restaurants, sipping cocktails by the sea, dancing the night away, or unwinding in a relaxing spa, we’ve got you covered. The city is full of things to do, from art exhibitions to concerts to local festivals, and you might even get lucky enough with the weather to enjoy the winter sun on terraces and in squares, and even along the coast at the beaches. Even if you’re only in town for a couple of days, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Barcelona.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Barcelona.

Top sights to see

Santa Maria Del Mar
Photograph: Karl Blackwell / Time Out

Santa Maria del Mar

Attractions Religious buildings and sites Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i la Ribera

One of the most perfect surviving examples of the Catalan Gothic style, this graceful basilica stands out for its characteristic horizontal lines, plain surfaces, square buttresses and flat-topped octagonal towers. There’s also superb stained glass, especially the great 15th-century rose window above the main door. The Santa Maria del Mar also boasts some great real estate. In the heart of the Born district, it’s located amid some of the city’s top bars, shops and restaurants, and it’s a mere stone’s throw from the Picasso Musuem (see below). A great place to start exploring this part of town.

Museu Picasso
Photograph: Juan Ávila

Picasso Museum

Museums Ciutat Vella

By no means an overview of the artist’s work, Barcelona’s Picasso Museum is rather a record of the vital formative years that the young Picasso spent nearby at La Llotja art school (where his father taught), and later hanging out with Catalonia’s fin-de-siècle avant-garde. The seamless presentation of Picasso’s development from 1890 to 1904, from deft pre-adolescent portraits to sketchy landscapes to the intense innovations of his Blue Period, is unbeatable, then it leaps to a gallery of mature Cubist paintings from 1917. The pièce de résistance is the complete series of 58 canvases based on Velázquez's famous Las Meninas’, donated by Picasso himself.

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sagrada familia

Gaudí and Modernisme

The queues at the Sagrada Família can sometimes span more than two city blocks. The wonderful thing is you can appreciate the whole exterior of Gaudí’s life’s work from the street, but if you haven’t got time to visit inside, there are many other Gaudí buildings to get to know in Barcelona. Top among the list is La Pedrera (also known as Casa Milà), situated on Passeig de Gràcia, the city’s huge shopping street. Be sure to visit the rooftop for stellar views and incredible architecture, even in the smokestacks. Also on Passeig de Gràcia, you'll find Casa Batlló, one of the most impressive and admired of all Gaudí’s creations, jutting out of the skyline in a gorgeous splash of vibrant colour. Heading down La Rambla you’ll come to the Palau Güell, Gaudí’s first major commission, and the prelude to another collaboration with empresario Eusebi Güell, Park Güell. In the park, you’ll see for yourself that the fantastical exuberance of Gaudí’s imagination remains breathtaking.

Barcelona Cathedral

Attractions Ciutat Vella

Remember that Barcelona’s Cathedral and the Sagrada Família are two entirely different beasts. The Cathedral is in the centre of town and if you time it right, you can get in for free. You might think if you've seen one European cathedral you’ve seen ’em all, but we are partial to this one. It’s definitely worth a visit, but if you’re not in the mood to go in, at least feast your eyes on the wonder from the outside. Glorious.

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La Boqueria Market

Shopping Markets and fairs El Raval

Thronged with tourists searching for a little bit of Barcelona’s gastro magic, and usually ending up with a pre-sliced quarter of overpriced pineapple, Europe’s biggest food market located smack on La Rambla is still an essential stop. Admire the orderly stacks of ridged Montserrat tomatoes, the wet sacks of snails and the oozing razor clams on the fish stalls. If you can’t or don’t want to cook it yourself, you can eat instead at several market tapas bars. If you visit in the morning, you’ll see the best produce, incluing the smallholders’ fruit and vegetable stalls in the little square attached to the C/Carme side of the market, where prices tend to be lower. But if you come only to ogle, remember that this is where locals come to shop. Don’t touch what you don’t want to buy, ask before taking photos, and watch out for vicious old ladies with ankle-destroying wheeled shopping bags.

Platja de la Barceloneta
Photograph: Shutterstock

The Barcelona beach guide

Things to do

Sure, it’s not quite spring yet, but how bad can it be when there are so many days filled with winter sun in Barcelona? You might not want to take a dip in the Mediterranean, but a walk near the coast to breathe in some fresh sea air and clear your head of technology for a while could be a welcome change. And the great thing about visiting the beach in winter is the sea and sand are about as pristine as you’ll see them all year.

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MACBA
Photograph: Time Out Barcelona

MACBA. Museu d’Art Contemporani

Museums Art and design El Raval

If you’re used to being soft-soaped by eager-to-please art centres, you'll have to adjust to the cryptic minimalism of the MACBA, where art is taken very seriously indeed. Yet if you can navigate the fridge-like interior of Richard Meier’s enormous edifice, accept that much of the permanent collection is inaccessible to the uninitiated, tackle shows that flutter between the brilliant and baffling, and, most important, are prepared to do your reading, a trip to the MACBA can be extremely rewarding.

Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya
Photograph: Pere Vivas

MNAC. Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

Museums Art and design Sants - Montjuïc

One museum, a thousand years of art’ is the slogan of the National Museum, which you can see from the convention centre, and the collection provides a dizzying overview of Catalan art from the 12th to the 20th centuries. The highlight is the Romanesque collection. The display here features 21 mural sections in loose chronological order. A highlight is the tremendous Crist de Taüll’, from the 12th-century church of Sant Climent de Taüll. Even graffiti’ scratchings (probably by monks) of animals, crosses and labyrinths have been preserved. The excellent Gothic collection starts with some late-13th-century frescoes that were discovered in 1961 and 1997, and the modernista collection is also unmissable.

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Fundació Joan Miró

Museums Art and design Sants - Montjuïc

At the convention centre you’re at the bottom of Montjuïc, and if you head up the steps you get to the National Museum (MNAC, see above) and just beyond that a bit is the Fundació Joan Miró. Approachable, light and airy, the museum’s white walls and arches house a collection of more than 225 paintings, 150 sculptures and all of Miró’s graphic work, plus some 5,000 drawings. Miró is shown as a cubist (Street in Pedralbes’, 1917), naive (Portrait of a Young Girl’, 1919) and surrealist (Man and Woman in Front of a Pile of Excrement’, 1935). While you’re there, don't pass up a visit to the open-air sculpture garden.

Camp Nou

Sport and fitness Les Corts

Camp Nou, where FC Barcelona has played since 1957, is one of football’s great stadiums – a vast cauldron of a ground that holds over 99,000 spectators. That’s a lot of noise when the team is doing well, and an awful lot of silence when it isn’t. If you can’t get there on match day but love the team, it’s worth visiting the club museum. The excellent audio-guided tour of the stadium takes you through the players’ tunnel to the dugouts and then, via the away team’s changing room, on to the President’s box, where there is a replica of the European Cup (Champions League), which the team won at Wembley in 1992, in Paris in 2006, in Rome in 2009, in London in 2011, and in Berlin in 2015.

Fill up on great food

The 50 best restaurants in Barcelona

Restaurants Italian

Welcome to the Time Out EAT List, our handpicked ‘best of’ Barcelona City’s food scene. Trying the local cuisine is one of the best things to do in Barcelona, itself one of the world's best cities when it comes to eating and drinking. The locals already know that, and so do the gastronomy pros who, year after year, award Barcelona restaurants with distinctions that raise the city up to the podium of great international cuisine.

9 restaurants near Barcelona’s Fira de Montjuïc

Restaurants

After your intense working days at the GSMA Mobile World Congress, youll want to take a breather in a good restaurant to recharge your batteries with a fortifying meal. Weve selected nine different spots where you can get quality seafood, an Argentinian grill right on Montjuïc, signature tapas, cuisine you can pair with craft beer, and more. All are under the guidance of top chefs and all are very near the Plaça de Espanya venue of the congress.

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La Barra de Carles Abellán
Photograph: Maria Dias

Barcelona restaurants with Michelin stars

Restaurants

Barcelona continues leading the way in cutting-edge, international cuisine. In the wide range of quality restaurants in the city, 22 stand out above the rest: those that have the honour of receiving one, two or three Michelin stars. If your wallet allows and you want to pay tribute, here's the list of Barcelona's 22 star-studded restaurants. Enjoy!

Barcelona’s top tapas bars

Restaurants Spanish

There are menus listing tempting tapas just about everywhere you turn the Catalan capital. The choice can be overwhelming, and nowhere else but Barcelona boasts tapas in such variety – but this can apply to quality as well as the dishes on offer. Here are the restaurants, cafés, bodegas and tapas bars serving the best mini-meals in Barcelona.

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Barcelona’s best paellas and rice dishes

Restaurants Spanish

Finding a truly good paella in Barcelona can be complicated, especially these days when anyone with a handful of rice, a jar of broth, and a picture of the dish outside their tourist-trap establishment can claim to have the best paella in town. Dont worry, you dont have to go to Valencia to taste this traditional dish. Barcelona does paella right, and our list of 16 of the best restaurants for paellas and rice dishes will guide you in the right direction.

El Bar
Photograph: Cristina Reche

Patatas bravas: the best in town

Bars and pubs

We dare to pick the best places in Barcelona to get this popular tapa of thickly cut and fried-to-perfection potatoes piled high and served with a spicy (by Spanish standards) sauce. Purists will opt for recipes passed down from generation to generation served in bars like granddad recommends, while many will discover new and innovative formulas that are just as delicious in their own right.

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Let’s do brunch

Restaurants

At weekends youll find many of Barcelonas restaurants and bars open for business well before midday, and enjoying a brisk brunchtime trade. So, from hangover restoratives to fancy breakfast feasts, dig in to Time Outs guide to the best brunches in town.

Ramen in Barcelona

Restaurants

Unlike the pre-packaged noodles you remember from your uni days, ramen is actually a dish that requires more skill and dedication than just slapping together some ingredients and pouring a cup of boiling water over them. While it is a humble dish served and eaten quickly, its simmered slowly and can be enjoyed as a delicacy. Get in on the local ramen boom at these Barcelona restaurants. Chopsticks at the ready!

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Cat Bar
Photograph: Maria Dias

Vegetarian delights

Restaurants Vegetarian

We pick out some of Barcelonas best vegetarian restaurants. Not just for vegetarians, these places serve up mouth-watering, healthy food day and night.

Schmooze with booze

The 20 best bars in Barcelona you can’t miss

Bars and pubs

If theres one thing Barcelona has a surplus of, its bars. Every neighbourhood in the city boasts such an immense offering that deciding where to meet for a drink can be a daunting task. To help you make your decision, whether your tipple is wine, beer, vermouth, or a cocktail, we’ve come up with this list of the 20 best bars in Barcelona. Our Food & Drink editors have taken into account everything from high-end innovation to cosy seating and lighting, with flavour and value for money always high on the list of musts.

Hotel 1898 (La Isabela)
Photograph: Tina Schmechel

The 11 best rooftop bars in Barcelona

Bars and pubs

Great weather calls for being outdoors, and what better way to enjoy being outside than relaxing drink in hand at one of the best rooftop bars in Barcelona? Though the city is laden with things to do, heaps of great restaurants and cocktail bars, a never-ending list of attractions and an unparalleled music scene, nothing quite beats its sunny terraces with breathtaking panoramic views in the warmer months. Feel on top of the world and explore Barcelona from an entirely new perspective, fear of heights be damned.

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The Black Lion
Photograph: Iván Moreno

Best craft beer bars in Barcelona

Bars and pubs

Barcelona is getting a reputation as one of the top cities in Spain (and, dare we say, beyond) for craft beer. Even some in beer-proud Madrid will tell you that Barcelona is the place to be for great brew. This is a city with such huge aficionados of craft beer that they make that special combo of water, malt, hops and barley their cause – to the extent that there are tours of breweries, social networks devoted to craft beer, and you can even use apps like Untappd and websites such as BeerAdvocate, and RateBeer to seek out the latest barrel or bottle, including both local and imported products.

The city’s top cocktail bars

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars

Sample some of the finest bespoke cocktails in Barcelona, and meet the citys most daring mixologists. Whether your taste is for the red-velvety classic interiors and old-fashioned drinks as your nan likes em or if you prefer a more modern ambience with your one-of-a-kind tipple, weve got just the place for you.

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Barcelona’s best wine bars

Bars and pubs Wine bars

Its always the right time to for a good glass of wine, and you dont have to be an expert to enjoy one. Just head to these top wine bars in town and they'll help you pick out a grape that suits your taste.

Cosy bars in Barcelona

Bars and pubs

If youre the type who thinks of comfort before all else, leave those tight jeans in the shop and settle in to some Barcelona bars that will help you feel cosy and relaxed. Whether you fancy a drink with your sweetheart or with friends, if youre after a craft beer, a cup of tea or a place where you can tantalise your taste buds with creative cocktails, this group of bars offers all that, plus the bonus of a soft and sumptuous sofa area. Why not flop down and sink into the cushions on your next night out?  

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Vermouth: the happiest hour

Bars and pubs

Vermouth hour has never fallen out of fashion in Barcelona, but in recent years the tradition of gathering with friends to share an afternoon aperitif, and the usual side dishes, has garnered a new generation of devotees and plenty of proprietors only too happy to accommodate. Time Out brings you the modern, as well as the classic, temples of vermouth.

Bars in Montjuïc & Poble-sec

Bars and pubs

Find the best drinking spots in the Montjuïc and Poble-sec area, very near the MWC venue in town. Whether you want a few pintxos with your drinks, a bit of lunchtime music with your vermouth, a bar that also serves slow food, something with a terrace to sit outside, or to be surrounded be gorgeous interior decoration, there's something nearby for you.

Let it all hang out in Barcelona clubs

Where to go clubbing

Clubs

Weve taken the temperature of Barcelonas nightlife to find ten of the hottest clubs: places that bring together the best music and the liveliest scene so you'll head home late, happy and exhausted.

The best nightlife in Barcelona

Nightlife Alternative nightlife

Nightlife in Barcelona is as wild as you want it to be, and you can find a club night, session or party every night of the week at the best clubs in Barcelona. Whether it’s a weekly club night you find you can’t skip, a monthly session you keep marked in your calendar, or an irregular party that you simply must plan your holidays around, you’ll find them on this list. There’s a beat to suit every mood here: techno, disco, house, hip hop, rock, dubstep, reggae... you get the point.

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Live music in Barcelona

Music

Barcelona is a city brimming with music. Concert halls, bars, and big clubs invite all kinds of acts to their stages, from freshly pressed indie bands to globally famous international superstars. Check here to see what's on during your stay in Barcelona – maybe youll even stick around longer to see a favourite band or discover a new act.

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Anti Karaoke Sidecar
Photograph: Naria Caamano

Karaoke: nine spots to sing your heart out

Nightlife

Get the drinks in, pick a song and start belting: we’ve rounded up nine spots in Barcelona where you can tackle karaoke, so you’ve got no excuse not to join in on the great fun that is embarrassing yourself in public.

Pick up treasures to take home

Fusta'm (English)
Photograph: Maria Dias

The 27 best shops in Barcelona

Shopping

Our favourite shops in Barcelona are beautiful spaces with soul and well-selected products, that go for local brands, have history, and know a thing or two about good design. You can find a host of shops with famous brands along Passeig de Gràcia, but keep your eye out for smaller names and lovely boutiques in Carrer de Verdi in Gràcia, and in the Born and Gothic Quarter. Weve rounded up some of our favourites where you can pick up clothes, books, footwear, gifts, accessories, flowers and plants and more. Discover them for the first time, or go back for seconds.

Ballut Concept Store
Photograph: Maria Dias

Original Barcelona souvenirs and gifts

Shopping Gifts and souvenirs

Unlike a stroll along La Rambla suggests, Mexican hats, flamenco outfits and bull figurines dont have much to do with Barcelona. To make sure you go home with something a bit more creative, weve selected 12 shops where you can get a grasp of the real Barcelona and buy something authentic and unique for your loved ones back home (and for yourself).

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The best of Passeig de Gràcia

Shopping

Shopping along Barcelonas biggest shopping street, the grand Passeig de Gràcia, means being right in the heart of the centre of town, where youll be taking in a breathtaking modernist building one minute, and the next dodging others out for a walk, in a hurry to get somewhere, or doing their own spending. From the biggest brand names to the most affordable, from the exclusive shops to those open to everyone, youre bound to find a treasure to carry home that suits your taste and fits your budget. 

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