Barcelona is the second-largest city in Spain and the capital of the Catalonia region. With so many attractions and activities, it can be hard to decide which things to do in Barcelona first! It has a rich history, a rich culture, and a unique identity that is entirely its own. One of the main draws of Barcelona is its architectural masterpieces, like La Sagrada Familia and Palau de la Música Catalana. The city is also home to must-see museums like Museu Picasso, beautiful parks like Park Güell, fantastic beaches like Barceloneta Beach, and famous tourist destinations like La Rambla.
1. Marvel at the architecture of LA SAGRADA FAMILIA
La Sagrada Familia is one of Barcelona‘s most iconic landmarks. The name translates to “Basilica of the Holy Family,” and the striking building was designed by famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí is known for his trademark architectural style, which combines Art Nouveau with Gothic style to create a truly one-of-a-kind visual experience. La Sagrada Familia was Gaudí’s last masterpiece, and though the church was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, the structure is actually only about three-quarters complete after being under construction for nearly 140 years.
Looking up at La Sagrada Familia is sure to evoke wonder and awe, and no visit is complete without a stop here. The towering basilica, with its lofty and commanding spires, draws the eye upwards. More than three million visitors a year come to stand under its commanding edifice, and the wonders continue as you make your way inside. Here, the massive vaulted ceiling and curving, sinuous architectural details will have you mesmerized. The basilica has a basic entrance fee of €20. Though, you can choose to pay a little extra for an audio tour, a guided visit, entrance to the on-site museum, or to climb one of the towers.
Check In to Ayre Hotel Rosellon, Step Out to La Sagrada Familia
2. Ramble your way down LA RAMBLA
La Rambla is one of the most famous and touristy areas in Barcelona. Though typically avoided by locals, it remains at the top of any list of things to do in Barcelona for visitors. Stretching all the way to the waterfront, this hustling and bustling street is packed with bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, street performers, and numerous historic buildings. Entertainers such as caricature painters and palm readers abound as well, letting you indulge your inner tourist. Coming here is a wonderful way to get acquainted with the over-the-top energy of the city.
One of the best things about La Rambla is that it is a pedestrian street, allowing you to explore at your own pace or sit down and people-watch if you need a break. Traversing the whole street should only take about half an hour or so, depending on the stops you decide to make along the way. This is a great place to pick up some souvenirs to take back home to friends and family. Because La Rambla is located in the heart of the city, it is very easy to make your way to other popular landmarks from here.
Check In to Hotel Lleo, Step Out to La Rambla
3. Stop for food and snacks at MERCADO DE LA BOQUERIA
Even locals and tourists who have been to Barcelona many times come to La Rambla for the famous food market known as Mercado de La Boqueria, located about two-thirds of the way up the street. Inside the market, you will find a grid of numerous stalls selling a wide variety of food and culinary goodies, including fruits and vegetables, cheese, cold meats, fresh fish, fruit juices, wines, and all manner of desserts. There are also numerous bars and restaurants located right inside the market itself so that you can quell any food cravings spurred on by all of the enticing aromas.
Though Mercado de La Boqueria officially opened in 1840, there has been a food market on the streets surrounding this location dating back to 1217, making it the oldest market in the city. The structure that houses the market you see today was constructed where the former Saint Joseph’s convent once stood. Around 50,000 visitors shop for enticing delicacies at Mercado de La Boqueria every single day.
Check In to Hotel Ambit Barcelona, Step Out to Mercado de La Boqueria
4. Do some sightseeing and shopping in the GOTHIC QUARTER
Bordered to the west by La Rambla, the Gothic Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in Barcelona. It dates back to the founding of the city in 15 BC as a Roman military camp. Today, the neighborhood is packed with beautiful examples of Gothic architecture dating to the 14th and 15th centuries – more than anywhere else in the city, and it is easily one of the liveliest places in the city as well. The narrow roads and beautiful plazas are lined with restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops. There is limited vehicle traffic on the labyrinth-like streets, making it easy to get around.
Every nook and corner of the Gothic Quarter is full of charm, and experienced Barcelona travelers recommend ditching your map and allowing yourself to wander for a while. It’s a relatively small neighborhood, and you will easily find your way out again when its time. You’ll likely stumble upon many of the neighborhood’s main landmarks this way as well. However, walking tours are available if you’re interested in learning a bit more about the history of the area.
Check In to BCN Urban Hotels Gran Ducat, Step Out to Gothic Quarter
5. Pay a visit to the BARCELONA CATHEDRAL
The most important landmark in the Gothic Quarter is the Barcelona Cathedral, officially called the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia. Towering over the neighborhood, it was constructed from the 13th to the 15th centuries on the site of an ancient Roman temple. The cathedral then received its final finishing touches in the late nineteenth century, when a neo-Gothic façade was added. Today, it serves as the seat of the city’s Archbishop.
The exterior of the Barcelona Cathedral is a beautiful sight, with arched windows, stunning lattice detailing, and tall pointed spires. Make sure you look all the way up to the roof, which features a wide variety of different gargoyles made to look like various animals and mythical creatures. Inside, the atmospheric building cathedral houses 140 statues of different saints, gold furnishings, and a stately alter. When you are finished looking around inside, head over to the cathedral’s cloister. Here, you will find a tropical garden and 13 geese dedicated to the memory of the martyr Eulalia, from whom the church’s namesake is derived.
Check In to Bed and Breakfast Fashion House, Step Out to Barcelona Cathedral
6. Watch a game or take a stadium tour at CAMP NOU
Camp Nou is a different type of Barcelona cathedral: it’s the kind devoted to soccer. This 100,000-seater stadium is the largest in all of Europe, and it is sure to astound visitors, even if you’re not a fan of the sport. If you are a soccer fan, then consider checking if there is a game at the stadium during your visit. Nothing can compare to the energy of passionate Barcelona fans cheering for their home team. Stadium tours are also available, and the ticket price for a basic tour is €26 when purchased online and €29.50 at the box office. The price includes a tour of the stadium and a visit to the on-site museum. You’ll even get to walk out onto the pitch! Note that stadium tours are not offered on days of matches, so make sure you check the schedule.
Check In to Hotel Madanis Liceo, Step Out to Camp Nou
7. View Picasso’s early work at MUSEU PICASSO
Before he went off to Paris to revolutionize the art world, Pablo Picasso spent his younger years in Barcelona. The city’s Museu Picasso is one of the most important Picasso museum’s in the world. You won’t find the artist’s most famous works here, but the museum houses a collection of over 4,200 pieces of his earlier paintings, sculptures, and engravings. The displays are spread out over five medieval castles and chronicle Picasso’s work from his earliest pencil drawings as a young boy to paintings from his time in Barcelona. It is a unique experience to see the development and evolution of one of the world’s most celebrated artists in just the space of an afternoon.
It is recommended that you set aside several hours to fully take in all of the fantastic displays. Even if you aren’t much interested in Picasso or art museums in general, a trip to Museu Picasso is one of the most highly recommended things to do in Barcelona for any traveler. The museum is open every day of the week except for Monday. A ticket price is just €12 for general admission, and a reduced price of €7 is available for students and seniors.
Check In to Hostal Operaramblas, Step Out to Museu Picasso
8. Enjoy a serene moment at the BASILICA OF SANTA MARIA DEL MAR
When in Barcelona it is a given that you will see numerous cathedrals. In addition to La Sagrada Familia and the Barcelona Cathedral, make sure you also visit the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar. This lovely church is arguably one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in the city and features harmonious and symmetrical proportions that are a joy to look at. The church exemplifies such a pure style because it was built in just 55 years, a quick amount of time compared to the multiple centuries needed to build other famous landmark churches. Construction was finished in the year 1383.
While the exterior of the church has a heavy and imposing presence, the inside evokes a feeling of light and airiness. Its columns are set 43 feet apart, allowing for plenty of space and abundant, unobstructed daylight. One of the most striking features of the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar is its stunning stained glass windows. Much of the original interior structure is unchanged, but the ceiling has visible scorch marks from a fire that broke out during the Spanish civil war and lasted for 11 days. Nevertheless, the sturdy church has withstood many tests of time.
Check In to Hotel Curious, Step Out to Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar
9. Lounge, swim, and eat at BARCELONETA BEACH
Aside from its numerous cultural and architectural draws, Barcelona is located right on the beautiful Mediterranean Sea and offers many beaches where you can enjoy the views and the water. The most popular stretch of sand in the city is Barceloneta Beach. On a hot day, there is nothing better than taking a cooling dip in the water and relaxing on the sand. The beach is lively and boisterous, with numerous vendors that sell everything from drinks and snacks to massages. Beach and water sports abound, including beach volleyball, beach tennis, windsurfing, kitesurfing, and more.
There are also great on-site amenities, including bathrooms and changing rooms, at Barceloneta Beach. You can easily rent lounge chairs and umbrellas as well. It’s best to show up early if you want to claim a good spot and ensure that rentals are still available! If you start to feel hungry while at the beach, just head to one of the many beachfront cafes and restaurants that offer fantastic views and equally fantastic fresh seafood.
Check In to Hotel Santa Marta, Step Out to Barceloneta Beach
10. Spend a whimsical afternoon in PARK GÜELL
Park Güell, like La Sagrada Familia, was also designed by the famous architect Antoni Gaudí. The park was commissioned by Eusebi Güell in the early 20th century and was originally intended to be a housing community for the wealthy. When it was discovered that the land didn’t provide adequate building conditions, Gaudí went ahead and designed a park instead. And what a park it is! Park Güell is one of the most magical places in the whole city. Covering an area of 42 acres, it is known mainly for the large, serpentine benches and accompanying mosaics, from which you can take in panoramic views of Barcelona and the ocean.
Gaudí’s distinctive style is seen throughout the park. The architectural elements blend seamlessly with the surrounding environment, working with, rather than against, the terrain. The fun and whimsical welcome centers even look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book! Note that entry into Park Güell requires a ticket, which costs €10 for adults and €7 for children and seniors. The price is definitely worth this unique Barcelona experience.
Check In to Catalonia Park Guell Hotel, Step Out to Park Güell
11. Admire more of Gaudí’s work at CASA BATLLÓ and CASA MILÀ
To round out your tour of the most famous landmarks designed by Gaudí, head to Casa Batlló and Casa Milà, which are located just a six-minute walk from one another in the center of Barcelona. If you are going to see one, you should definitely make your way to the other.
Casa Batlló is an apartment block that you have no doubt seen on postcards while exploring the city. Gaudí was commissioned to give the building a facelift near the end of the 19th century, and he drew his inspiration from the sea. Casa Batlló is perhaps one of the best examples of his style, featuring a sinuous exterior with beautiful vibrant colors and no straight lines. Though there is an entry fee of €25 for adults and €22 for children, students, and seniors to go inside, visitors highly recommended it.
Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera, was completed in 1912 and is another one of Gaudí’s iconic architectural masterpieces. Like Casa Batlló, you won’t find many straight lines or right angles in this apartment building either. “La Pedrera” translates to “The Quarry,” which is a fitting name for the fortress-like structure. Inside, you can take an elevator up to the rooftop to admire the undulating chimneys and city views. A general admission ticket to Casa Milà costs €24 for adults and €18.50 for students and seniors.
Check In to NH Collection Barcelona Gran Hotel Calderon, Step Out to Casa Batlló and Casa Milà
12. See a concert or go for a tour of PALAU DE LA MUSICA CATALANA
Palau de la Música Catalana is a beautiful concert hall and an iconic example of Catalan Art Nouveau. It was built by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, a contemporary of Gaudí, and completed in 1908. The outside of the concert hall is covered in intricate mosaics and tiles, but it is the stunning interior that is featured in all of the travel brochures. Inside, the 2,138-seater hall bursts with color and is complete with shimmering chandeliers and intricate sculptures. The highlight is the stained-glass skylight, an absolute feat of engineering at the time it was constructed. The skylight lets in enough sunlight that daytime performances don’t require artificial lighting. You can catch a concert at the Palau de la Música Catalana during the concert season from September to June, or you can go on an hour-long day tour. Ticket prices for tours are €20 for adults and €11 for students.
Check In to Palau de la Musica Apartments, Step Out to Palau de la Música Catalana
13. Experience the rides and views at TIBIDABO AMUSEMENT PARK
Located on a mountaintop, Tibidabo Amusement Park is perched high above the city. It is the oldest amusement park in the entire country and the third-oldest on the continent. Opened in 1905, many of the park’s original rides are still in use, giving the park a charming retro style. Due to its location, Tibidabo Amusement Park offers sweeping views over the city, and many of the rides will take you even higher. You can also go to the nearby Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor) and pay a small fee to go up the tower for the best vantage point in all of Barcelona. The park is very popular with families and fun for couples and friends traveling together as well. Tickets cost €28.50 for adults and €10.50 for kids, and you can skip a lot of the crowds if you come on a weekday.
Check In to Gran Hotel La Florida, Step Out to Tibidabo Amusement Park
14. Make your way to the top of MONTJUÏC
Montjuïc is a broad hill with a large, flat top that overlooks the harbor immediately below. It is a major draw for tourists both for its wonderful views and for important landmarks, like the Castle of Montjuïc. There were once many more fortifications on top of the hill due to its strategic location, but only the castle ruins remain to this day. You’ll also find lush and beautiful landscaped gardens to explore, and a tour of the castle is a very interesting and informative experience as well.
There are a few different options for getting up to the top of Montjuïc. One is to ride a cable car from Barceloneta Beach. The trip lasts 10 minutes and provides amazing views of the seaport. Another way is to take the funicular, which connects to Barcelona‘s metro system and takes only five minutes to make its way up the hill. Located right next to the funicular is the Montjuïc cable car, which you can ride directly to the Castle of Montjuïc.
Check In to Hotel Miramar Barcelona GL, Step Out to Castle of Montjuïc
15. Catch a show at the MAGIC FOUNTAIN OF MONTJUÏC
Magic Fountain of Montjuïc is the site of an evening light, water, and sound show. The large and enchanting fountain has over 4,700 lights and more than 3,600 water jets that are choreographed to music to create an astounding spectacle. It is located at the base of Montjuïc, making it the perfect stop after a day of exploring the hill. Designed by Carles Buigas, the fountain was built in 1929 for the Great Universal Exhibition and had its very first show on May 19 of that year. The project was initially seen as too ambitious to be completed in time, but it was an instant hit that has now been enjoyed by millions and continues to be one of the most well-loved things to do in Barcelona today.
Catching a show at the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc is easily one of the best free things to do in Barcelona. Note that show times change throughout the year. During the summer, from the beginning of June until the end of September, the show takes place from Wednesday to Sunday. It is held on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings from March to May and again from October until January 5. The show is unfortunately closed from January 6 through the end of February for the winter.
Check In to Catalonia Barcelona Plaza Hotel, Step Out to Magic Fountain of Montjuïc