Barcelona is one of the world’s ultimate city break locations. No matter what time of year you choose to visit Spain’s second largest city, you will find fabulous sights, fine food and a carnival atmosphere. Bursting at the seams with unique experiences, world-renowned works of art, spectacular architecture and sporting excellence, Barcelona is one of Europe’s richest cities and has established itself as a hugely popular global brand. Here are ten things to do in Barcelona:
1. La Rambla
Despite becoming a major tourist hotspot, La Rambla has retained its unique atmosphere and the kilometre stroll from Placa de Catalunya down to the harbour is the perfect introduction to the city. Don’t miss the vibrant and colourful La Boqueria market! Whether you make a few purchases or just absorb the atmosphere, you’ll carry the memory of La Rambla with you long after you leave.
2. City Beaches
In the summer, when the hotels and hostels of Barcelona fill up, the more adventurous tourists like to make the short walk down to the beach to find a comfy resting place. During the day, the beach is alive with people and has an atmosphere to compete with any city beach in the world. Alternatively, you can take a bus or train (about 30+ minutes) to Sitges. Read my post about things to do in Sitges.
3. The works of Antoni Gaudí
Amongst the most striking and memorable sights in Barcelona are the works of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. Some of his masterpieces in Barcelona include Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila and Casa Batllo. Join a tour that covers these Gaudi attractions.
The idea of a building with no supporting walls, made entirely from natural stone seems almost impossible. Take a look at Gaudi’s Casa Mila and it only seems more impossible, with its dramatic curved balconies and wobbly walls.
Parc Guell is a garden he designed and built in the first 14 years of the 20th century. Enjoy Gaudí’s colourful and whimsical creations. A picnic amongst the surreal architecture and animal sculptures of Parc Guell on a sunny day is an experience not to be missed.
4. Catalan food
Barcelona is a true culinary paradise, with a wide array of restaurants serving up delicious Catalan and Spanish food. From Michelin star restaurants, such as ABaC, Lasarte and Xerta, to lively tapas bars and food markets such as La Boqueria, there’s literally something for everyone. If you don’t know where to start, join a foodie walking tour which includes food and wine/vermouth tastings at local tapas bars and taverns.
5. Camp Nou
F.C. Barcelona are regarded by many as one of the finest football (soccer) teams on the planet. If ‘Barca’ have a home fixture during your stay in the city, the match will be an experience to savour. If not, the team’s stadium, Camp Nou, is a spectacular sight in itself and stadium tours are popular for good reason. Note (July 2023): Camp Nou is currently undergoing major renovations and is scheduled to re-open towards the end of 2025. In the meantime, all F.C. Barcelona matches will be played at the Olympic Stadium in Montjuic.
6. Cooking class
If cooking is your thing, sign up for a cooking course where you’ll learn how to make various Catalan specialties. Read about my Barcelona cooking class experience.
7. The magic fountains of Montjuic
In the summertime, up a large hill to the south of the city, a performance takes place that sums up the magic of Barcelona. The spectacular ‘magic’ fountains of Montjuic explode into life in the summer, shooting into the air in an array of colours and lights.
8. Palau de la Musica Catalana
The Catalan art nouveau architect Lluis Domenech I Montaner created this spectacular palace and his manipulation of light and space is life affirming in its beauty. The gargantuan stained glass roof of the Palau de la Musica Catalana is worth a visit on its own merit.
9. Sagrada Familia
Perhaps the most famous building in Barcelona – and it’s not even finished yet! Gaudi never finished the Sagrada Familia but this perpetually changing symbol of modernism is still a sight to behold. The Sagrada Familia is arguably Barcelona’s top attraction so I recommend purchasing skip-the-line tickets in advance.
10. Festes de la Merce
The quintessential Barcelona party is the Festes de la Merce, or “Fiesta Mayor”. It is the largest festival in the city’s busy calendar of carnivals. Typically held in the last week of September, the festival features ‘Gigantes’ – giant figures of noble characters who dance through the streets, ‘Correfoc’ – a procession of fire-breathing dragons, and ‘Castellers’ – huge towers of people who assemble in the Placa de Sant Jaume.
One more tip: Barcelona is an expansive city and the attractions are pretty much spread out across the city. I recommend purchasing the Barcelona City Card which provides free public transportation as well as entrance to museums.
Read other Velvet Escape posts on Catalonia: