Barcelona is probably one of the most alluring cities in Europe. The capital city of Catalonia is popular for many reasons! Just think about the marvelous works of Antoni Gaudí or the breathtaking views from Tibidabo. Or the charming Gothic quarter downtown, and the fabulous seaside. I have prepared an ultimate Barcelona travel guide, that includes the best 16 things to do in Barcelona. Let’s dive into it!
Everything you must know about Barcelona
The capital city of Catalonia is located on the northeastern side of Spain. Barcelona is the 2nd largest city in the country after Madrid, and it’s the 5th largest rural area in the EU, right after Milan. If we’re already discussing the sizes, it’s also one of the largest metropolises on the Mediterranean sea.
Barcelona is a really popular travel destination, being also the home of many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You should know about the city, that it’s one of the fastest developing cities in Spain, and its business district is hosting many multinational companies. All in all, there are a lot of things to see & do in Barcelona!
The ultimate Barcelona travel guide
Barcelona is also a popular base for freelancers and remote workers. How it wouldn’t, when the sun is almost always shining, the city is pulsing, and the party on the beach never ends!?
It’s no question why it wouldn’t be popular. This makes the city even more interesting, as it’s very colorful, and you can meet locals from all around the world. I’ve been considering setting up my new base there as well, but the idea was aborted, after deciding to do that in Italy.
Check out these tours in Barcelona!
The ultimate guide to Barcelona!
To make it easier, use the below table of content if you’re looking for something specific!
- The ultimate guide to Barcelona!
- #1 Basilica de la Sagrada Familia
- #2 Gothique Quarter
- #3 La Rambla, Barcelona
- #4 Barcelona Cathedral
- #5 Arc de Triomf, Barcelona
- #6 Park de La Ciutadella
- #7 Park Güelle by Gaudí
- #8 Bunkers of El Carmel
- #9 Pont del Bisbe, Barcelona
- #10 La Rambla del Mar
- #11 Casa Batlló, Barcelona
- #12 La Pedrera – Casa Milà
- #13 Barcelona Beach
- #14 Gràcia neighborhood
- #15 Plaça d’Espanya, Barcelona
- #16 Tibidabo Hill
#1 Basilica de la Sagrada Familia
I am a very big fan of Antoni Gaudí’s architecture style. Since the first time I’ve been to Barcelona, in 2011, I’ve been obsessed with it. So much that I recognized in the Casper movie, at first sight, the copy of the interior design in Casa Batlló. It’s true check it out!
La Sagrada Familia is one of the most famous churches in the world, and Gaudí’s one of the greatest works. I personally always had a mixed feeling about it. I really, truly love the side that was made by Gaudí. Every time I pass, I have to stop and I can’t believe somebody was capable of creating this miracle.
However, I’m not at all a fan of all the other sides. I can’t get friendly with the fruits on top of the tower peaks. I just can’t see the beauty in it. However the interior is also breathtaking,
La Sagrada Familia is under construction since 1882. When Gaudí overtook the project, he transformed it combining the Gothic and Art Nouveau (Modern Art) styles in his design. He spent the last 12 years of his life dedicated just to this one project. After Gaudí, the Catalan Modernism architecture style was also added to it.
The building with the nowadays architecture is somehow challenging, as the old stones are irregularly shaped. The differences between the old and the new sides are really visible, but I guess this diversity gives its overall beauty.
The Sagrada Familia is still under construction, and it will be for some more time, but it can be visited, the museum side as well.
Despite the controversy surrounding the architectural styles, the Sagrada Familia is definitely a must-see place in Barcelona! And despite my opinion of some parts, I absolutely do think that it’s one of the most beautiful churches in the world!
#2 Gothique Quarter
The Gothic quarter of Barcelona is a really must visit place! I loved getting lost between those confusing old streets. Every time I visit a place that I have a good song to match with, I plug my ears, put my phone away, and I just wander around with my camera. I did this with the same song while visiting Seville.
That’s how it happened in the Gothic Quarter. Listening to Paco de Lucia – Entre dos Aguas over and over again, I didn’t even check the time, or where I am. It turned out I’ve spent wandering in the Gothic Quarter for 4 hours, but truth to be told, I did discover so many beautiful hidden gems!
The Gothic Quarter is like a labyrinth of small streets and alleyways, with cute hidden squares around. Considering that it’s Barcelona’s oldest district, it has an amazing, rich history, and there’s not enough time to discover it all.
Photo gallery of the Gothic Quarter, Barcelona
In Barrio Gótico as you can see, there are so many things to explore. There’s a separate artcile coming soon dedicated just to this neighborhood!
The neighborhood dates back 2000 years, and no matter how much time you’re wandering around, you’ll always discover a new magical square, a hidden garden, or a mysterious alleyway.
Make sure you’re adding to the list the Plaça Reial, and while you’re there, check the lamps on the square. They were one of the first projects of Gaudí. The Gothic Quarter is hosting numerous bars, bistros, lounges, and restaurants on almost every street. Look for hidden architecture masterpieces and stunning shopfronts with beautiful decorations and the latest trends.
#3 La Rambla, Barcelona
La Rambla is Barcelona’s most famous street. A long boulevard running through the heart of Barcelona. It’s featuring on the sides fashion, decor, delicatessen shops, restaurants, and of course you’ll see plenty of street artists as well along the way. La Rambla is on the side of the Gothic Quarter, leading out to the Mirador de Colom (Columbus Monument) at the seaside.
Explore La Boqueria
The most important place you have to visit in La Rambla is the famous market, La Boqueria. It’s been the city’s best market since ever, and it’s a real must, to wake up your senses and savor some local food!
You’ll find fresh fruit, meat, veggies, seafood in there, as well as sweets, tons of crafted chocolate, and fresh juices. I personally always take 2 cups of fresh juices there, it’s almost like a tradition.
You can also try some nice street food, or sip a glass of wine, or gin tonic at a stall. La Boqueria is a must-see in Barcelona!
And you know, happy belly, happy traveler!
#4 Barcelona Cathedral
The official name of the cathedral is the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia. It’s one of the oldest churches in the city, located in the Gothic Quarter, on the Plaça Seu. The Barcelona Cathedral is also the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona.
Dating back to the 15th century (the floorplan is from the 13th century), the cathedral was built in the Gothic style. It’s divided into 5 aisles, while the other two are divided into chapels.
The stunning facade was finished in the 19th century. It’s hard to miss it while it’s dominating the Plaça Seu. The facade is really eyecatching, being decorated with gargoyles, mythical animals, and resident geese.
The inside of the Barcelona Cathedral is absolutely amazing! You’ll need to pay a small fee of €7.00 to enter, but if you have the possibility, I really recommend not skipping this!
Inside the Barcelona Cathedral, there are monuments and chapels dedicated to more than 140 saints. Besides the highly-represented Virgin Mary, you’ll find Santa Eulalia’s crypt in front of the main altar. Eulalia was a local girl martyred in Barcelona during the Roman times.
While you’re in there, you can visit the Chapter Hall Museum, Lepanto’s Chapel, and this beautiful courtyard, which you can walk around the cloisters. There are palm trees, orange trees, magnolias, gooses, and a 15th-century beautiful fountain in the courtyard. It’s definitely a unique experience to have in Barcelona!
#5 Arc de Triomf, Barcelona
Location: Passeig de Lluís Companys, Barcelona, Spain
The triumphal arch was built by Josep Vilaseca I Casanovas. It served as the main entrance of the 1888 Barcelona Universal Exhibition. The arch is leading to the Park de la Ciutadella, where the World Fair was held that year.
As for the design, it is a Neo-Mudéjar construction, which I personally adore! An article is scheduled for the Mudéjar architecture, which will include the Neo-Mudéjar style too!
The Arc de Triomf’s unique brickwork, featuring sculptures and decorative fishes has become one of Barcelona’s iconic landmarks. It’s North from the Gothic Quarter, really close to the Park de la Ciutadella.
#6 Park de La Ciutadella
Imagine the Park de La Ciutadella as the Hyde Park in London, the Villa Borghese in Rome, or even Central Park in New York. It’s the greenest oasis in the city, with big spaces for walks, picnics, and just spending time out relaxing. There’s also a lake you can rent a rowing boat on.
Besides the above-mentioned activities, there are plenty of things to discover in the park. You can find here the zoo of Barcelona, the Catalan Parliament, the Zoological Museum, the Museu d’Art Modern, and the Geologia Museum.
One of the highlights of the park is the fountain near the lake, called Cascada Monumental, designed by Antoni Gaudí. A perfect piece guarded by dragons, at the front of the water basin. Gaudí was using the dragons quite frequently in most of his designs, by the way.
#7 Park Güelle by Gaudí
Guell Park is a highlight above all. When we’re talking about the things to do or see, this is in the top 3 things to see in Barcelona! It is Antoni Gaudí’s one of the most famous works. It is located on El Carmel hill. The park system composed of gardens and architectural elements opened to the public in 1924.
Park Güell was commissioned by Eusebi Güell who wanted to create a stylish park for Barcelona aristocracy. The park is composed of amazing buildings with colorful ceramic tiles, walkways near and around fascinating sculptures, stone structures, and colonnades.
When you enter the parks, between the two stairways, you’ll see Gaudí’s beyond magical dragon sculpture, that’s also covered in colorful tiling. As you arrive at the top of the park, from the terrace, you’ll get to see a beautiful panorama above the city of Barcelona.
Entrance fees for adults are €10.00, and you can get your tickets for the Guell Park online, to not be stuck in lines.
#8 Bunkers of El Carmel
There’s no place to see a sunset as amazing as from the bunkers of El Carmel. This is a viewpoint at the top of Turó de la Rovira, from where you can see the whole city of Barcelona.
It was built during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. The bunkers of El Carmel were used as part of an anti-craft battery to defend against the fascist attackers. It also housed a number of guns at that time. These were taken away under the Franco Regime, and during this period, the bunkers served as shelters, while the city was also facing extreme poverty.
Today, it’s the best place to watch a sunset in Barcelona. While the last rays of the sun color the city and the skyline, seeing those symmetrical, straight streets of Barcelona, running all the way to the sea, is just fabulous!
No wonder why it is getting more and more popular among us, visitors as well! Rumor says that the locals in the neighborhood don’t really appreciated these ultimate guides to Barcelona that include the El Carmel too. Basically, the environment is changing for people living there, as more tourists show up.
#9 Pont del Bisbe, Barcelona
El Pont del Bisbe, in English it would be Bishop’s Bridge. It was built as part of the Barcelona Exhibition I have mentioned earlier, in 1929. The bridge is hidden in the Gothic Quarter on C. del Bisbe. Another site I missed years ago, but this time I made sure I’ll find it!
The Pont del Bisbe was designed by Joan Rubió I Bellver, who’s been suggesting to beautify the Gothic Quarter and replace all non-Gothic buildings with Neo-Gothic ones. This was rejected, however, the Pont del Bisbe got to be done.
If you’re facing the Barcelona Cathedral on Plaça de Seu, taking the alleyway on the right-hand side of the cathedral, you’ll see the bridge shortly in front of you. Pont del Bisbe is linking Palau de la Generalitat to La Casa dels Canonges. It’s a highlight of the Barrio Gotico and one of the must-see places in Barcelona!
#10 La Rambla del Mar
La Rambla del Mar is on the sea-seaside, steps away from Mirador the Colom and the street of La Rambla. In 2011, we’ve been staying close to the Rambla del Mar, and we went out there every single day for at least a coffee, to sit near the sea and admire the city.
The Ramble del Mar is giving an exquisite view on Montjuïc, and the lower section of the Gothic Quarter. It’s basically a wooden walkway, that’s leading out to this small peninsula in the harbor.
You’ll find a shopping mall, with some restaurants and cafes on both sides with an outside terrace. Also, you can see from there the famous W Hotel, and the other side of the harbor, leading to the beaches of Barcelona.
#11 Casa Batlló, Barcelona
Located on Passeig de Gràcia, 43, Barcelona.
Casa Batlló is my personal favorite piece of Gaudí’s works across Barcelona. For me, this piece of architecture represents the unbelievable endless human creativity. The perfect example of how a person with the right tools can create the most unbelievable pieces that he visioned.
The design of Casa Batlló, as along Gaudí’s architecture, we recognize it as part of the Modernisme or Art Nouveau style in the broadest meaning.
It was remodeled and redesigned in 1904. Gaudí had assistance for this project, by name Josep Canaleta, Joan Rubió, and Domènec Sugrañes i Gras.
Casa Batlló is open 360 days a year, and there are tickets available online such as the tickets you can get with Smart Guide. You can have some insights into the beautiful interior with this virtual tour in Casa Batlló.
#12 La Pedrera – Casa Milà
Location: Passeig de Gràcia 92, Barcelona.
Another beautiful work of Gaudí. When we are looking at the things to see in Barcelona, his name is all over the place, I know. But what he created was fantastic, and he basically made all the must-see landmarks in Barcelona. So, let’s dive into another piece!
Casa Milà is known as La Pedrera or “The stone quarry”, a reference to its unconventional rough-hewn appearance. It was designed again in a combination of Art Nouveau and Modernist style, spiced with the architect’s endless imagination. It was his last residential project built between 1906-1912, commissioned by Pere Milà.
The building is now visitable, hosting exhibitions as well. Casa Milà is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. If you’re looking to visit, check here for tickets to one of the must-see things in Barcelona.
#13 Barcelona Beach
One of my new favorite places to see in Barcelona! Honestly, La Barceloneta is a major reason I can’t wait to be back again to the Catalan city.
Barcelona has 4.2km long sandy beaches, with 4 main beach areas. One of these is the most popular, previously mentioned La Barceloneta. There are plenty of things to do along the beach, as well as on the sideboard. Also, there are plenty of pubs, bars, and restaurants all around.
Some other beaches to explore are, the Icària Beach, with plenty of cocktail bars and beachfront terraces. You can go to Mar Bella Beach which, heads up, is a nudist beach. There are sides down to the W Hotel, that are nudist areas, but nobody passing by really cares.
Along the seaside, you can rent a bike, or an electric scooter and stroll around, enjoying the sunshine, under the palm trees. You can also roll on a bike tour with stops on the beach. If there’s one urban seaside in Europe I really think it’s amazing, that’s in Barcelona for sure!
#14 Gràcia neighborhood
Soon I’ll be posting my travelogue about Barcelona, where I’m going to dive in a bit more into those nights in Gràcia. Also, in my Barcelona Itinerary you can find out which are the best bars, and restaurants, suggested also by locals! However, the ultimate guide to Barcelona wouldn’t be complete if I’m not adding THIS.
Gràcia is a stylish, safe neighborhood, with beautiful buildings, cozy streets with orange trees along with them, and vibrant squares with big outdoor spaces to sit for some fun night with delicious tapas and drinks!
This neighborhood reminds me of the Brera Design District in Milan. The art, the culture, the beautiful buildings, and amazing food can be found here. Plus, the great nightlife! An ultimate guide to Barcelona isn’t complete without Gràcia!
Along the cute streets, it’s a shopping heaven, with adorable storefronts. Gràcia is also the home of plenty of ecological shops in diverse industries! The Gaudí House Museum is also located in this neighborhood, as well as the Guell Park.
While you’re there, definitely visit the charming Plaça de la Virreina, and definitely try to approach from Carrer de Torrijos, which street on both sides is framed with trees, giving a charming overlook to the square.
For great tapas make sure to visit Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia in the evening!
#15 Plaça d’Espanya, Barcelona
Plaça d’Espanya is one of Barcelona’s most important squares. And also probably the most beautiful one! It was built on the occasion of the previously mentioned 1929 International Exhibition, held at the foot of Montjuïc, in the Sants-Montjuïc district.
Plaça d’Espanya is one of the city’s biggest squares, designed by Josep Amargós. It is the junction of several major roads. It’s leading to the Palau Nacional, which houses one of Catalonia’s finest museums, the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.
The fountain at the center of the square was designed by Josep Maria Jujol, a collaborator of Antoni Gaudí, while Miquel Blay designed the statues. The buildings were designed by Nicolau Maria Rubió i Tudurí.
The show of the Magic Fountain starts in the evenings at 8 pm. And this time is also great to see the square in the orange sunlight. The Plaça d’Espanya is magnificent when dancing in the sunset! Especially at the Venetian Towers.
You can also visit here Parc de Joan Miró – previously known as Parc de l’Escorxador, and the Arena de Barcelona bullring. This was built at the beginning of the 20th century, in Moorish revival style. Today it’s functioning as a large shopping center.
#16 Tibidabo Hill
Tibidabo is another of the beautiful viewpoints in Barcelona that you must see! The hills of Barcelona are surrounding the Tibidabo, with the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor on the very top. It’s a stunning church of the 20th century, completed in 1962.
The Tibidabo mountain, as I said offers an incredible panoramic view above Barcelona. You can get up there with a funicular (cablecars) which you need to pay €7.50. If you do include the Tibidabo Amusement Park in the schedule, the funicular ticket is just €4.00.
For the theme park, with a breathtaking panorama, you can get your tickets online right here! The Tibidabo mountain is one of those things to see in Barcelona, that is somewhat out of the way. If you’re on a short city break, there isn’t too much time for amusement, but for 1-2 hours, just for the view, it is possible to schedule it in!
Things to do in Barcelona – A perfect 3-day Barcelona Itinerary
You’re looking for a planned itinerary, so you can make sure to not miss anything in Barcelona? Make sure to check out my Barcelona 3 days itinerary! You’ll find some tips on getting around, accommodations, restaurants, and daily itineraries! You can also read my birthday story in Barcelona, which was poisoned by the outbreak of the pandemic.
Beyond the 16 things to see and do in Barcelona, here are some other articles for Spain!
I really love Spain! While I’m mostly writing about Italy on this blog, Spain is holding the second place both on the blog and in my heart. Beyond the Ultimate Guide to Barcelona, here are some other Spanish destinations to read about. Mostly you’ll see articles about Andalusia!
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