Situated on Spain’s northeastern coast between the mountains and the blue waters of the Mediterranean, Barcelona is capital of the Catalonia region and one of the top destinations in Spain.
Barcelona is full of character with narrow cobbled streets, buzzing food scene, shops and nightlife. Known for its beautiful architecture, the city is rich in art too and intrinsically linked with Coudi, Miró and Picasso. There are so many fun things to do in Barcelona, with something of interest for everyone and is the perfect destination all year round.
“Most people who visit this special city, find themselves drawn back there time and again”
1Get lost in Barri Gòtic (the Gothic Quarter)
Barri Gòtic (the Gothic Quarter) is the perfect place to start your exploration of the city with its numerous narrow medieval streets. This is the oldest part of the city and there is a surprise around every corner as the twisting lane suddenly opens up into an attractive square.
Some squares worth visiting in the Gothic Quarter:
- Plaça Reial – line with bars, restaurants and street performers, great for an evening out too.
- Plaça de Sant Felip Neri – tranquil square knowns for his tragic history and remembering the Civil War.
- Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol – charming square with an art market and farmers market on certain days
- Plaça del Pi – lined with antique shops, old bars and cafes
Barri Gòtic’s most photographed and famous sight is the El Pont del Bisbe also known as the Bishop’s Bridge- which was built in 1929 for the Barcelona International Exposition. Get lost in this charming part of Barcelona, relax in one of the many cafes, stumble upon Calle Avinyó street which is popular for its local boutique shops.
On Sunday’s the squares become really popular with street performers or couples dancing the salsa and it is easy to appreciate how Barcelona earned its reputation as the city that never sleeps!
One of the best ways to explore the city is on foot and if you need a guide try the Barcelona Free Walking Tour
2Indulge in Barcelona’s Food Scene
One thing that draws people back again and again to Barcelona is the food scene. As well as having 20 Michelin starred restaurants, Barcelona has numerous traditional family-run restaurants serving tapas a variety of small dishes served in five or six courses to be enjoyed with friends at a leisurely pace over drinks.
The most popular dish in the city is Paella. Take a look at where to the best Paella in Barcelona here.
For a very special foodie experience, it is well worth visiting La Boqueria Market which is situated just off Las Ramblas. La Boqueria is the largest food market in Europe – and one of the oldest as it dates from medieval times and has been in its current location for 200 years! This popular food market is Barcelona is laden with vendors selling luscious fruit, vegetables, cold meats and local cheeses around the walls.
If you looking something a little more trendy and shots for your Instagram feed take a look at Barcelona’s Trendy Brunch Hotspots.
If you would really like to learn more about Catalan cuisine, there are several food tours. Our favourite is the Food Lovers Company
3Watch the Sunset from Sagrat Cor and Tibidabo
If you are seeking a rather special and memorable experience while in Barcelona, head to Tibidabo. Situated high on hilltops above the city, Tibidabo is home to the world’s oldest amusement park, the church of Sagrat Cor perched on Mt Tibidabo ( honestly, this church will make your jaw drop ) and possibly the best sunset viewpoint.
Spend the day exploring the area and enjoying the amusement park or head to Tibidabo early in the evening, take a bottle of Spanish wine or chilled cava (sparkling wine) with you and find a suitable spot to sit, watch the sun go down and thousands of light across the city slowly start to twinkle in the inky darkness as the city lights up. It is sheer magic.
How to get to Tibidabo from Barcelona:
– From the main street Las Rambla, head to Catalunya station.
– Take S1 (towards Terrassa Nacions Unides or S2 line (towards Sabadell Parc del Nord) Change at Peu del Funicular
– Take the Funicular from Vallvidrera Inferior which will take you to the stop from where shuttle buses run straight to the amusement park and church
4Explore Sagrada Familia
Barcelona is home to many of Antoni Gaudi’s masterpieces, but one that is a must-visit is Sagrada Familia. The work of art has been under construction since 1882. For many years after the architect’s death, work stopped on the magnificent cathedral, but now with more than 70% of the work is completed, the end is in sight. The cathedral is impressive in size and once its spires are completed, they will be the tallest in the world.
Of all the amazing artwork and cathedrals in Barcelona, Sagrada Familia is definitely worth going inside. The ceiling of the nave is impressive and the light from the stained glass windows creates a stunning rainbow effect.
Other famous artworks worth visiting: Museu Picasso, Park Güell, Casa Milà
5Stroll around one of the many parks
Most popular park: Ciutadella Park is one of the most popular parks in the city, it covers more than 30 acres in the heart of the city with the Cascada fountain, a boating lake and even the Barcelona zoo.
Park with the best views: Tibidabo and Montjuïc are situated high on hilltops above the city. Park Guell also stands high above the city with panoramic views and has many pieces of Antonio Gaudí’s characteristic work including mosaic benches and a huge mosaic model of a lizard at its entrance.
Parks away from the crowd: Parc de Cervantes and Parc del Laberint are some of the oldest parks in the city, great spots if you are looking the escape the tourist crowds.
Others parks include: Diagonal Mar Park second biggest, Parc de Montjuïc, Parque Güell – well known for Antonio Gaudís masterpiece.
6Spend an afternoon at Parc de Montjuïc and enjoy the Magic Montjuic Fountain in the evening
Photo: Adriano Aurelio Araujo
Montjuïc Park which is home to the Magic Fountain, Montjuïc castle which is only reached via the cable car, Museu d’Art de Catalunya, Olympic Stadium as well as Poble Espanyol. It is one of the fun things to do in Barcelona, and you can easily spend the whole day exploring Montjuïc Park.
The Magic Fountain at Montjuic is more than 90 years old and during the summer months (June to September) dancing fountains show takes place from Wednesday to Sunday, but the rest of the year just Thursday to Saturday. There are two shows a night that last about 15-20 minutes with a break in between the next show. Given the hillside location of this park, it also makes Montjuïc Park a great viewpoint for sunset over Barcelona.
7Soak up the rays at the beach
Of course, holidays are the time to relax and Barcelona has some fantastic beaches for simply stretching out on the sand. The coastal promenade stretches for miles and it can take more than an hour to walk its length to Diagonal Mar. The most popular and busiest beaches are those closest to the city including Barceloneta and Sant Sebastia If you up for heading a little further, the beaches to the east such as Nova Icària and Bogatell are quieter and less crowded.
8Explore Port Vell
If you enjoy being by the water, a popular place, especially in the early evening, is Port Vell, the waterfront harbour area of the city. Simply enjoy a walk along the boardwalk, take in the buzzing atmosphere. The promenade is lined with bars and restaurants, it offers a completely different vibe to that of las Ramblas,
There are bars and restaurants strung along the promenade and these become popular at about 9.00 pm. – the time most locals eat.
Port Vell is home to one of Barcelona’s hidden gems: Terrassa de les Indianes, a hidden gem of a rooftop cocktail bar often goes unnoticed as it located inside a museum. Take our word on this recommendation, once you are inside you will have the most gorgeous views overlooking Barcelona marina. This is also a great spot to watch the sunset, expect chilled out, good vibes all around.
9Find the Carmel bunkers for epic views over the city
The Carmel Bunkers, as the name suggests are former wartime bunkers. Located on a hillside, this spot in Barcelona offers some epic views of the city. Given its hillside location, it is one of the best spots which offer panoramic views of the city, along with Tibidabo. This viewpoint is a popular hangout spot with the locals, especially around the sunset time.
These bunkers are completely free to access and allow you to get to the very edge (be careful!). To get to this viewing point you need to climb the Turó de la Rovira hill but the views on offer are completely rewarding.
10Stroll down La Rambla and discover Plaça Reial along the way
The best thing to do is to get unpacked and pop on a pair of comfortable shoes and just plan to take a leisurely stroll soaking up the atmosphere. A good starting point is to enjoy a stroll down Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s most famous pedestrianised street which is lined with plane trees and interesting shops. There is a happy bustle of people of many nationalities, numerous tempting shop windows, street traders and colourful street entertainers. At the top end of Las Ramblas is Plaça de Catalunya – a popular meeting place with its huge impressive fountains and at the other end is the coast and the famous Columbus monument.
11Escape the city and head to Mountains Of Montserrat
Montserrat is the perfect day trip from Barcelona. Offering a complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city, this mystical place is just 25 mins ( 45km ) from the city centre. The main attraction here at Montserrat are the dramatic mountains, serene views and the Monastery. The Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey is located 1,000m above sea level, a 7-minute funicular will take you straight to the top or if you are feeling a little more adventurous you can follow the hiking trail. Montserrat is also a great picnic spot with views near Barcelona.