Today: Top 10 best things to see & do in Barcelona
Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and famous for Gaudí and other Art Nouveau architecture, Barcelona is one of the world’s greatest, trendiest and most visited cities. The Catalan capital draws tourists to its famous sights, like the Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell, and Casa Batlló and La Pedrera. Sun-drenched beaches also make a fine backdrop to a walk along the modern seafront, a drink on a rooftop terrace, a lazy afternoon in spacious parks such as Parc de Montjüic or Ciutadella, and exploration of the Olympic village. A hub for new trends in the world of culture, fashion, sports, and cuisine, Barcelona combines the charm and slower pace of its old town with the avant-garde vibe and fast pace of more modern neighborhoods. On top of that, the city is also home to a wide range of fabulous luxury hotels. Here’s my selection of the best things to see & do in one my favorite city’s in the world, Barcelona.
What is your favorite spot in Barcelona? Leave a comment.
I made a one hour long YouTube video with a walking tour in Barcelona, which you can watch here:
La Rambla is exactly 1.2 km (0.7 mi) long and nearly everyone who visits Barcelona walks along it. La Rambla was laid out in 1766, following the contours of the city’s medieval city walls. The locals took it to their hearts straightaway. In a city of narrow, winding streets, the Rambla was the only space where everyone could stroll and spend their leisure time. Gradually, the convents disappeared and florists, street artists and newsstands set up there premises here. La Rambla features several see landmark buildings, such as the greatest theatre of Barcelona’s opera, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, the Palau de la Virreina and the spectacular Boqueria Market (more on that below).
Barcelona’s main arteries converge on the Plaça Espanya, the city’s most monumental square. In 1929, Josep Maria Puig i Cadafalch was commissioned to design the plaza for the International Exhibition. The plaza became the gateway to the fair and the architect Jujol designed the sculpturally rich, ornamental fountain in the center. At the entrance to the Avinguda Maria Cristina, two tall towers – which are replicas of Saint Mark’s campanile in Venice – stand guard over the square. The view from here is unbeatable: the Palau Nacional is silhouetted against the sky, with the Magic Fountain below it. This is probably one of the most beautiful and spectacular places in Barcelona.
Built between 1906 and 1912, the Casa Milà occupies an entire corner of the Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona’s Eixample. Antoni Gaudí created an astonishing modernista style building, set out around two interior courtyards which provide the flats with ventilation and light. The façade resembles the moving sea, the waves interacting with the seaweed-motifs on the wrought-iron balcony railings. The Casa Milà was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. Three areas are open to the public: the dreamlike attic space, with is brick catenary arches; the rooftop, where the chimneys recall the silhouette of warriors rising up among the dunes of the desert; and finally a period apartment.
- Official website: Casa Milà – La Pedrera
The Barceloneta is a triangular spit of land located between the old harbor on one side and sandy beaches on the other. The neighborhood, with its narrow, rectilinear streets, was once the home of fishermen, people associated with the fishing trade and the metal industry, but is now one of the city’s most visited and popular districts. In 1988, in pre-Olympic days, the decision was taken to demolish the old beachfront restaurants, known as xiringuitos, and public baths, heralding a process of opening the city up to the sea and the modernization of an area which now offers first-class beaches as the main attraction for its visitors. Strolling along Barceloneta’s seafront boulevard on a sunny day is one of the best things to do in the city.
The Picasso museum Barcelona is a key reference for understanding the formative years of Pablo Picasso. The Malaga-born genius of the young artist is revealed through the 4,251 works that make up the permanent collection. Furthermore, the Picasso museum, opened in 1963, also reveals Picasso’s deep relationship with Barcelona: an intimate, solid relationship that was shaped in his adolescence and youth, and continued until his death. The museum has a particular emphasis on Picasso’s works from his formative years, but also features the extraordinary Las Meninas series, works from the Blue Period, as well as an extensive program of exhibitions which complement the permanent collections.
- Official website: Picasso Museum
Antoni Gaudí undertook a radical refurbishment of an existing building in Barcelona’s elegant Passeig de Gràcia dating from 1875 to create one of his boldest works: Casa Battlo. The casa’s marine-inspired facade has been created using recycled materials, stone, glass and ceramics. The discs of multicolored glazed-ceramics and broken shards of stained glass, placed with precision, depict flowers and water lilies and play with the reflections of the sunlight. Inside the Casa Batlló, you can visit the mezzanine, see the ceramic skylight, and be wowed by the rooftop with its colorful mosaiced chimneys. An explosion of creative freedom where Gaudí spared no effort in creating a functional and modern house.
- Official website: Casa Batlló
The center of medieval Barcelona, today’s Gothic Quarter (‘Barri Gòtic’), still forms the core of 21st-century Barcelona. Its maze of narrow streets and squares is steeped in the city’s past and present. Highlights in the Gothic Quarter include the seat of the Catalan Government, the magnificent Cathedral (with its cloister) and other Gothic churches, including Santa Maria del Pi and Sants Just i Pastor. Near the Plaça de Sant Jaume is the old Jewish Quarter, the Call Jueu, with its endless narrow streets, where some remains of the ancient synagogue still survive. The Gothic Quarter’s most photographed spot is Bishop’s Bridge, which was built for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition.
La Rambla’s history is the Boqueria Market’s history. The first of Barcelona’s local markets was opened on Saint Joseph’s day, on the 19th of March 1840, after four years of work on the land that was up until then occupied by Saint Joseph’s convent. Marquis Campo Sagrado, Catalonia’s general captain, started to establish the rules for this traveling market in an area that became a large square after the convent was gone. With time the Boqueria Market of Barcelona transformed itself in a modern market. It incorporated the gas illumination and the metal cover was finished in 1914. Nowadays, the third and fourth generation of sellers proudly show the oldest and most complete food market of Barcelona.
- Official website: Boqueria Market
No work by Gaudí better encapsulates the perfect harmony of nature and architecture than Park Güell. Initially designed as an English-style garden city, it eventually became Barcelona’s most unusual public park. Park Güell was an attempt to create a housing estate in a natural setting in the old village of Gràcia: an ambitious (but failed) property development project commissioned by Gaudí’s patron, Eusebi Güell. Gaudí’s characteristic vivid imagination is revealed in the different elements that amaze visitors from around the world. The parc’s famous flight of steps, with a dragon covered in colored broken-ceramic pieces, leads to a hypostyle hall, an impressive space comprising 86 columns. On top of this hall is an enormous plaza, lined by a curving bench, which offers phenomenal city views.
- Official website: Park Güell
The giant Roman Catholic basilica is thé landmark building of Barcelona and, though incomplete, a UNESCO World Heritage Site attracting roughly 2.5 million tourists every year. Designed by genius architect Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926), the Sagrada Familia project that has been under construction since 1882. At Gaudi’s death, less than a quarter of the project had been completed. The construction is progressing slowly – as it relies on private donations – and is now expected to be completed by 2028. When finished, the basilica will feature 18 towers and be the tallest church in the world. While the intricate exteriors of the Sagrada Familia draw plenty of attention, the interiors are just as spectacular and impressive.
- Official website: Sagrada Familia