What to do in Barcelona
Ever wondered what to do in Barcelona? Fear no more! I’ve collected the best must see’s in the city, along with information about them all. After all, who’s better to give advice than a local?
I am currently living in sunny, beautiful Barcelona and I’m loving it. I get a lot of visitors because Barcelona is a great destination in Europe for a weekend trip or longer vacation, and I enjoy it a lot! After all, missing your friends and family are definitely the hardest part of travelling and living abroad. And missing my dog! Holy sweet mother of Jesus, I miss my dog so bad..
Anyway, getting visitors is a lot of fun and gives me the opportunity to see my city all over again. But first you have to figure out what to do in Barcelona. So here’s my favorite places to take them and things, that I think is a must see when you visit Barcelona.
Gazing up at majestic Sagrada Familia
Let’s start with the obvious. Sagrada Familia is without a doubt the first thing on your must see list and you can’t visit Barcelona without seeing this masterpiece! It’s the most famous and most visited landmark in Barcelona and is designed by Antoni Gaudi, who almost designed half the city.
Sagrada Familia is the unfinished basilisk and has quite an interesting story. It has been under construction for 135 years! The first stone was put in 1882. They aim to finish it in 2026 to mark the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death. They say that 70% of the basilisk is now build. It’s should have 18 towers when finished, all with a special and symbolic significance. The tallest tower will represent Jesus, and the four around it is for the four Evangelists. The tower with a star on top represents Virgin Mary. The 12 other towers represents the 12 Apostles. The tallest tower will stand at 172 meters, intentionally a few meters lower than Montjuïc. This is because Gaudi believed that nothing manmade should reach higher than God’s creations. To read the full history, visit Sagrada Familia’s own website.
The basilisk is pretty just from the outside, but if you want to get the breathtaking view of the inside, you have to organise your visit a little bit, since the line can have a very long wait – up to 4 hours during summer peak! So save yourself a huge amount of time and buy tickets online here. Please be aware that you might need to buy them weeks in advance!
Getting to Sagrada Familia couldn’t be easier, as it’s located right on a metro station of same name. Simply jump on the purple or blue metro and once you come up from the metro, you can’t miss it!
Pro tip: plan your visit on a sunny day to get the full experience. Gaudi intended the colorful mosaic to make the inside of the church look like an enchanted forest.
Enjoying the sun in Park Güell
Another one of Gaudi’s many masterpieces. It’s a stunning park with a beautiful view of the city. And you will probably see a loooot of (especially Asian) tourists snapping one photo after another.
Gaudi intended the park to look like surreal nature and used the nature to inspire him to the designs and sculptures around the park. You can read all about the park here.
The majority of the park is free to enter and walk around in as long as you’d like. But to get to the famous mosaic wall, the two towers and the famous mosaic lizard, you unfortunately have to pay. Like with Sagrada Familia, the line can be insanely long, so I suggest you to buy tickets online in advance – and again, I mean weeks in advance! You can buy your tickets here.
Getting to the park is a bit of a travel, which is honestly why I don’t take many of my guests there, as I’m simply too lazy (I know, I’m sorry). First you’ll have to take the green or yellow metro, then you can either walk from there or try to catch a bus. Since, as I mentioned, I’m quite lazy I also often take a cab, since they’re really cheap here. From Park Güell to Ciutat Vella it should only cost between 5-8€.
I can’t not mention Las Ramblas, even though I dislike it. As a local, I will never go anywhere near Las Ramblas unless I really have to. There’s simply too many tourists and annoying salesmen just trying to sell you touristy stuff. And don’t ever – as in NEVER – eat at Las Ramblas! First of all you’ll end up paying 10 times as much and it’s some of the worst quality food you can find in Barcelona. Just. Don’t.
Anyway, if you’re visiting Barcelona for the first time it’s definitely a must see as well, since it’s world known. Why it is that, I honestly don’t know. But I know that in the medieval times it used to be a river and not a street, which I think is kinda cool! But also a shame that it’s not a river today.
Las Ramblas starts from Placa Catalunya and runs all the way down to the port, where the end of Las Ramblas is marked with the Columbus Statue.
Fruits and veggies in La Boqueria Mercat
La Boqueria Mercat
While you’re strolling down Las Ramblas, make sure to stop by this food market! They have so many delicious fruits, greens, oils, nuts, juices and everything else you can imagine to eat! Unfortunately, the market is completely packed with tourists. You have to fight your way through, with elbows and everything. But make sure to at least try one of their countless fresh juices and buy delicacies till your arms can’t carry any more.
If you should wish, try to get a place to sit in one of their many tapas and pintxos bars. Here you will get some of the best food in Barcelona. When you order something on the menu, they have deals with all the small stands in the market, so they go around to get fresh ingredients for your dish.
Find La Boqueria Mercat just 450 meters down Las Ramblas, from Placa Catalunya and right next to metro station Liceu.
Placa Reial on a cloudy day
Also something you have to see if you’re already strolling down Las Ramblas. Hidden between the buildings, you’ll find a big square. The square is filled with cafes, palmtrees and with a fountain in the middle. Make sure to stop here to eat, drink or just enjoy the surroundings. I suggest getting a table at Ocaña, which is my favorite restaurant there. Find Ocaña in the right bottom corner of the square. It has colorful chairs and tables and a bunch of palm trees out front. If you sit there, I have to insist that you try their Patatas Bravas – they are the best in town, I swear! My mouth’s drooling just by thinking of them..
During the night, Placa Reial transforms into party central, many of the cafes and restaurants have hidden clubs in the back, in the basement or above them.
Find Placa Reial 800 meters down Las Ramblas and 450 meters up from The Columbus Statue at the end of Las Ramblas. It’s located quite close to the KFC on the corner of Carrer de Ferran.
Note: the big street lamps in the square (the ones with “helmets” on), are designed by Antoni Gaudi.
Port Vell and Barceloneta (Barcelona Beach)
Once you’ve finished taking in the vibe at Placa Reial, continue down to the port and take a stroll while you admire the many super yachts, that are docked in Port Vell. Follow the port down to Barcelona beach, Barceloneta. Enjoy an ice cream or eat tapas in one of the many chiringuitos (beach bars) in the sand.
Note: if you’re here during the summer, feel free to tan and swim in Barceloneta, but I suggest taking the train to another beach up or down the coast, where it’s not flooded with tourists.
The fantastic view from Montjuïc
Montjuïc is the smaller mountain south of the city, which has a small castle on top – don’t confuse it with the bigger mountain, Tibidabo, which has a church on top.
When you’ve enjoyed Barcelona beach, you can catch the cable car, which will take you over the port and give you a beautiful view of Barcelona and will end at Restaurant Miramar. I highly suggest to get a table here and either eat or try their sangria, while you enjoy one of the best views of Barcelona!
I came here on my first day in Barcelona, when I first moved here and I will never forget the feeling of sitting there, looking out over my new home and try to place everything in my head.
If you do not take the cable car to Montjuïc, I also suggest to take the Green Line Metro to Placa Espanya, where a view of the other world awaits. When you get up from the metro, you will see two high Venetian towers. Go through them and gaze upon The National Museum of Art (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya). It looks like an old palace and it’s so beautiful! Walk all the way up to the museum and look over Barcelona. If you want, walk around the mountain (follow the signs) and see if you can find Restaurant Miramar.
If you don’t feel like walking all the way back to the museum or taking the cable car to the beach, you can walk almost directly down the side of the mountain from Restaurant Miramar, where you’ll end up in the barrio (neighborhood) Poble Sec, which is filled with many good restaurants.
Looking up at Santa Maria del Mar
You will see this no matter how hard you try not to. It’s simply The Old City of Barcelona and is located right in the middle of everything – and it has everything to, might I add! Okay.. I might be a bit biased, since this is where I live and I could never dream of living in any other part of Barcelona. Maybe Barceloneta, but that would be pushing it, haha!
Ciutat Vella consists of three parts: El Raval, Gothico and El Born. Raval is the left part and starts by Parallel and Poble Sec and ends at Las Ramblas, where Gothico starts. Gotico goes to Via Laietana, where Born starts. Born then goes all the way to Arc de Triomf and Parc de la Ciutadella.
When I first moved to Barcelona, I lived in Raval, but after only a few months I moved to Born. A decision I am more than happy that I took! I feel much more welcome in Born. Even though it had it’s perks of living in Raval – such as great Indian food at any time. But Born is closer to the beach and I live just around the corner from Parc de la Ciutadella!
Raval is home to La Boqueria Mercat and the world famous Bar Marsella. It has many alternative shops, so take a walk and make sure to find your way by the MACBA (Museu d’Art Contenporani de Barcelona), where you can see local skaters show off their tricks.
In Gothico you’ll find all the touristy things, such as the Cathedral of Barcelona and Placa de Sant Jaume, which is where the Town Hall of Barcelona is located. During the weekends and holidays, there’s often different activities or stands with food or antiques. Find them in front on the Cathedral and sometimes in Placa de Sant Jaume.
In Born you can find another food market, called Mercat de Santa Caterina. You can spot its wavy, multi-colored roof when you stand in front of the cathedral. The food stands in this market closes pretty early, around 15:30 most days.
Born is also home to Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar. Also known as the Cathedral of the Sea from the book of same name, written by Ildefonso Falcones. Here I have to strongly advise you to take a glass of wine at La Vinya del Senyor. That’s my favorite wine bar in the whole city! Nothing beats sitting at one of their outside tables, with a glass of wine, gazing up at Santa Maria del Mar. Do it! You won’t regret it!
Arc de Triomf and Parc de la Ciutadella
At the end of Born, you can find Parc de la Ciutadella, the biggest park in Barcelona. See if you can find the big gold fountain in the middle of the park. And be on the lookout for the wild parrots! I kid you not, we have wild parrots roaming the streets of Barcelona. Small green ones and they make so much noise, so if you can see them just follow the loud squeaks.
I swear, I am in this park at least once a week, either running, going for a walk or chilling with friends. One of our favorite weekend activities is to have a picnic in the park, where everyone brings a little something. If you look between the trees it looks like people are practising for the circus. Many will be practicing line dancing, juggling and other performance arts. Parc de la Ciutadella really has its charm.
At the end of Parc de la Ciutadella, you can find Arc de Triomf, which in my opinion beats the one in Paris! Just the whole settings with the long path and the many palm trees leading up to it. It’s so beautiful! I live right next to it, so I take a lot of photos of it. I take a photo almost every time I walk by it (which is almost every day), simply because it’s so beautiful, haha!
Beautiful Casa Battló at sunset
Passeig de Gracia, Casa Battló and Casa Mila
Starting at Placa Catalunya, you find shopping heaven! With the Apple Store on the corner, Passeig de Gracia runs all the way up to Avinguda Diagonal. It’s a broad street with shops on both sides. At the beginning of Passeig de Gracia you can find more affordable stores, such as Zara, H&M, Bershka and so on, and also my favorite shop &Other Stories, which I am so happy that they have in Barcelona! But further up the street you’ll find stores such as Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and other stores in that class.
On the left side of the street, you’ll notice an odd looking house with a lot of tourists outside. That’s Casa Battló, which is designed by Gaudi. Buy tickets in advance if you want to visit. You can buy tickets here.
Further up the street, you can find another odd looking house – Casa Mila (La Pedrera), which is also designed by Gaudi. Today Casa Mila houses a culture center, but you can also go visit.
View from the church on Tibidabo
You can’t miss noticing Tibidabo. It’s the big mountain behind the Barcelona, with a church on top and visible from practically anywhere in the city. A thing you can’t see is that it also has an amusement park on top!
It has an amazing view, so it will be the trip up there worth it! The first “floor” of the amusement park is free, but you have to buy a ticket to explore the rest of the park.
How to get there: The easiest way is to take the train (L7) from Placa Catalunya to Avinguda Tibidabo and take bus 196 to Placa del Doctor Andreu – you can’t miss the stop, most of the bus empties and the bus turns around. If you’re not too keen on the bus, you can also catch a blue vintage tram from Avinguda Tibidabo, which costs 5.50€ per person. From Placa del Doctor Andreu you have to take another tram/funicular up the mountain, which takes you directly to the park and costs 7€ per person.
These are all the thing I take my visitors to see. I change them a bit according to each visit, also for my own sake, so I don’t see the same every time. I’ve for example seen Sagrada Familia more times than I can count, because you can’t visit Barcelona without seeing it.
Do you have any places you think I have to see? Leave a comment or shoot me an email 🙂