A quick objective, if I may – I want you to experience the best things to do in Barcelona as I would do them.
After 10 years living here I’ve soaked up all the art museums, followed Antoni Gaudi through every barrio, and ate and drank everything the Catalans have laid down before me – good and bad.
Let’s break down what to do in Barcelona with some local knowledge.
32 Best Things to Do in Barcelona Spain
1. Stand in Awe of La Sagrada Familia
Just look at any postcard in the city – this is the Barcelona must see.
Sagrada Familia is the crown jewel of Catalan wonder architect Antoni Gaudi’s architectural empire, and one of the most spectacular basilicas in the world.
For those tired of traditional churches you’ll be positively refreshed. The arches of this UNESCO world heritage site are modeled after tree branches, and the stained glass here creates a rainbow effect you won’t soon forget.
Every Barcelona itinerary should start here.
To fully appreciate La Sagrada Familia, make sure you shell out the extra €12.00 and get a Sagrada Familia guided tour – the details you’ll be shown unlock the madness and brilliance of the place.
2. Get Some Fresh Air at Park Güell
Park Guell is a dreamy urban park floating above the city, far from the city center, and was the utopian vision of rich industrialist Eusebi Guell in the early 20th century.
It was originally intended to be 60 luxury homes on the city’s most prime piece of land, far away from the smoke stacks of the city. Only three were built. Today the entrance at Park Guell and its ginger-bread house-like porter’s lodge and emblematic mosaic lizard are a highlight.
At Park Güell, tourists sit on the mosaic benches (remember Vicky Cristina Barcelona?) and take in amazing views.
You can also check out the Gaudí House Museum (La Casa Museu Gaudí) on the grounds.
3. Take an Eventful Walking Tour of the Gothic Quarter
There’s no better way to get your hand on the pulse of the history, the current political situation, and the future of Barcelona than with a 2.5 hour Gothic Quarter tour (video here) with a pro.
That pro is one of the best guides in the business: local Texan Alvaro.
Prepare to be ‘edu-tained’ with secrets of the old city at La Rambla, Boqueria Market, Barcelona Cathedral, Plaça Sant Felipe Neri, Augustus Temple, the Jewish Quarter, and much more.
You’ll also get one of Barcelona’s sweetest snack stops and Gothic Quarter street art galore.
Update (12/01/2022): due to ongoing COVID limitations and a lack of walk ups each tour will require a minimum of two people to run. Please email ahead of time to [email protected] to book.
4. Hit Up a Barrio Festival
When coming up with the best things to see in Barcelona, locals tend to cut off the streets from traffic, put up a stage with live music, and get the wine and music flowing.
The eccentric European block parties that honour patron saints, long-dead political prisoners, and even local green onions are the closest a tourist can get to real Barcelona.
I’ve got a list in my Barcelona events calendar but the biggest two of the year are La Festa Major de Gracia (in August) and La Mercè (in September). You also shouldn’t sleep on Carnival in Sitges every February.
5. Revel in a Rooftop Concert at Casa Batlló
How many world class attractions hold a carefully curated concert series on their spectacular rooftop terrace? Casa Batlló is one of the few.
From June till October the blues, rock, soul, jazz, swing, pop, and flamenco shows under the Barcelona night offer arguably the most intimate and aesthetically pleasing venues for music in the entire world.
Basic tickets include a visit to the house and one drink.
Get there early for a stroll on the famous Passeig de Gràcia, the beating heart of the city’s Ruta del Modernisme.
6. Go for Tapas
Even at Barcelona’s best restaurants it can be difficult to decide what to eat – so why not split 25 things?
These small-portioned savory snacks are ordered in Barcelona’s best tapas bars in rounds of 5 or 6, and are shared by friends over cañas (a small draft beer).
Patatas bravas (pictured) and pan con tomate (crispy bread rubbed with tomato and garlic) are automatic – but pulpo a la gallega (octopus with potatoes and paprika) and gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns) are where dreams are made.
My current favourite place to take visitors in 2022 are gourmet tapa gods Season – I like it so much that I’ve set up a discounted tasting menu.
7. Flirt With Flamenco
The most folkloric Spanish art form grabs your attention with its cante (singing), baile (dance), toque (guitar playing), palmas (clapping), jaleo (vocalizations), and pitos (snapping).
A typical flamenco recital mixes passion and tranquility with a festive and resistant mood that can bring audience members to tears. The push/pull dynamics of the performers entice and resist simultaneously.
For me, the king of the best flamenco shows in Barcelona is Tablao Cordobes.
8. Have a Vermut
It’s not just a tradition… it’s a lifestyle!
And who wouldn’t like drinking tasty and inexpensive wine that’s fortified with spices and botanicals like cinnamon and chamomile?
It’s one of the great cheap things to do in Barcelona at only €1.50 or so each.
Tradition holds that one must consume (at least) one at la hora del vermú (vermut time, 12 noon) before eating lunch. It’s as sacred as the Spanish siesta so if you’re looking to fit in – drink up!
Don’t be afraid to order this drink (pronounced bear-MOOT) at any time of the day though – just make sure it comes with an anchovy-stuffed olive and a slice of orange.
I go for mine at Quimet & Quimet.
9. Get Lost in the Gothic Quarter
The Gothic Quarter is oldest neighbourhood in Barcelona, dating back to the city’s founding as a Roman military camp in 15 BC. You’ll still see some of the original walls as part of the Barcelona Cathedral.
This is basically an open air Barcelona city history museum.
Most of the area is cut off from cars and that means winding roads and tight alleyways opening up into majestic squares like Plaça de Catalunya, Plaça Reial, Plaça del Pi, Plaça George Orwell, and Plaça de la Seu.
Nowadays it’s a hot spot for some of Barcelona’s best bars.
10. Check Out Casa Milà (La Pedrera)
This unconventional Antoni Gaudi apartment block built for the city’s richest industrialists is without a straight line and more wobbling jell-o than building. From above it’s actually built in an asymmetrical 8 shape.
It’s also possibly the most spectacular roof terrace you’ll ever see with its 28 guardian warrior chimney stacks that are more Darth Vader than anything else!
Maybe they’ve got a holiday apartment for rent on floor 3, doesn’t hurt to ask 🙂
11. Go Full Mediterranean with a Scooter Share
Renting a scooter in Barcelona means freedom.
On weekends there’s nothing better than taking a ride to a sunny hillside or down to Barceloneta beach.
I like using Yego: the stylish electric Vespas unlocked and started with a swipe of an app. You can be up and running in a matter of minutes and their live support is top notch.
Get 15 minutes free riding signing up using this link and the code UZ4CDYSVYJ.
12. Put Down Some Paella
This classic rice dish from Spain was invented by servants using the leftovers from royal banquets – and you’ll feel like royalty by the fork full!
Though technically from nearby Valencia (where the rabbit and chicken version reigns supreme) you’ll find the mixed seafood paella to be the go-to for Barcelona paella restaurants.
For couples visiting Barcelona this is a great option as it’s usually served in portions of 2.
Make sure to scrape the soccarat (toasted, scorched rice) off the bottom of the pan – flavour town!
13. Kick Around Camp Nou
Camp Nou is arguably the most historic football stadium in Europe and home to FC Barcelona.
Visiting the FC Barcelona Museum means living the glory through overloaded trophy cases and an interactive museum offering a Mecca-like experience for football fans.
If you take a Camp Nou tour you can even walk onto the field yourself via the players tunnel, seeing 4 Champions League trophies, sitting in the visitor’s dressing room, and Messi’s Ballon d’Ors.
Here in football season? Football at Camp Nou is out of this world – FC Barcelona tickets are a must.
14. Take an Bike Tour of the City
With all due respect to Amsterdam it’s Barcelona that’s Europe’s most bike-friendly city – with nearly 300 km of bike lanes in the city center and the weather to merit every push of the pedal, you’re gonna wanna saddle up on holiday.
This 90 minute ride through the city’s tops sights like Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló, Las Ramblas, El Born, and La Pedrera unveils the city’s magic in a new light with a friendly, professional, knowledgeable guide.
Each booking includes helmet, insurance, and a bottle of water.
Rides depart daily from Arc de Triomf at 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.
15. Contemplate Casa Vicens
Any self respecting tourist looking to check off a huge chunk of the top things to do in Barcelona will be seeing the Gaudi trifecta: Sagrada, Batllo, and Mila.
But what if you’re such a big fan of the man that you want to go back to his humble beginnings? The only recently available to the public (as of 2017) summer chalet Casa Vicens will get you there.
With an €18.00 price tag this is probably the cheapest way to experience Gaudi’s genius – and the lush garden, terracotta tiled rooftop, Catalan art, and Turkish and Oriental influenced Noble Floor will make you glad you did.
16. Get a Degree in Wine
Anybody can drink the stuff, but how many get educated at the same time? You’ll do that on your way to a Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) certification right here in Barcelona.
You’ll get globally certified on production methods, regional differences, and how to taste wines to separate contenders from pretenders.
The knowledge at Rack & Return and their guru Fintan is amazing.
Just make sure you study for the test!
17. Walk Las Ramblas
Las Ramblas is Barcelona’s most famous street and one of those top places you should visit at least once in your lifetime. Start at Plaça de Catalunya and walk the whole way down to the Columbus Monument.
Here you’ll find an explosion of bars, street performers, and souvenir shops.
While this is in fact tourist trap central you can cut to the chase by finding Gaudi’s lanterns in the picturesque square Plaça Reial.
In Pla de l’Os you’ll find a brilliant pavement mosaic by Joan Miro – the site of the city’s old gate.
18. Chow Down at La Boqueria Market
The quality of the fruit, meat, and fish here will amaze you and its infectious energy is something to be seen: don’t leave before trying one of their delicious €1.00 smoothies.
Not a fan of crowds? Hit the nearby Santa Caterina Market for the same vibe, with less stress.
19. Get Cultured in El Raval
For those looking to truly discover the city you need to see a bit more than just the main attractions and postcard streets – so why not do it in Barcelona’s most unique and diverse neighbourhood?
Make sure to walk the famous Rambla del Raval to see Botero’s Cat.
20. See a Magic Fountain Show
If you’re looking for free things to do in Barcelona this is it. This enchanting magic fountain and light show uses 3620 water jets and 4760 lights to create over 7 billion combinations.
The show is set to beautifully choreographed music ranging from classic to swing to modern hits. Just make sure you gauge the wind before picking your spot – you might get soaked!
Magic Fountain shows go Thursday to Saturday (Sunday in high season) and you can get all the info on my article on Barcelona’s Magic Fountain Show.
21. Peep the Pablo Picasso Museum
The Barcelona Picasso Museum is arguably the most important Picasso museum in the world.
If you’re looking to fill up an afternoon, especially when it rains, you can start with over 4000 permanent pieces of his art. Here it mostly showcases the early years of the world-renown artist when he was based in Barcelona.
22. Admire Casa Batllo
A colourful mosaic mansion whose every last detail down to the doorknobs was designed by Antoni Gaudi. Visiting Barcelona without at least passing by modernist landmark Casa Batllo is criminal.
Here it’s a constant ode to nature with jaw bone balconies, mushroom-shaped smoke vents, and tropical fish based radiators.
The ceramic tile shards on the facade (a style known as trencadis) were taken from broken cups at local factories to create a unique colour play.
This contemporary art casa also has the best gift shop in Barcelona for Antoni Gaudi goods.
23. Discover Spain at Poble Espanyol
Visiting Poble Espanyol is what to do in Barcelona if you want to see all of Spain in one afternoon.
Built for the 1929 World’s Fair, this mock Spanish town has 117 full-scale replica buildings representing the architecture of all 15 of Spain’s regions.
Here you can see the emblematic white streets of Andalucia, Pre-Roman Austurias, and all sorts of Castillian classics.
It also has over 20 artisan craft shops for some great jewelery, handbag, and glass shopping.
24. Gear Down in Ciutadella Park
At Parc de la Ciutadella you’ll find a ton of open space, the zoo, and a great artificial lake for rowboat rides.
I also suggest heading up La Cascada (pictured) which is a fountain loosely based on the Trevi Fountain in Rome. From here you’ve got a bird’s eye view of the park’s personality – which also includes a ton of musicians, street artists, and the odd marijuana brownie salesman.
25. Marvel at MACBA
The contemporary art museum.
If you want things to see in Barcelona you’ll get it with over 5000 pieces from well known 20th century artists. Check out the mesmerizing photography, sculpture, painting and more.
Discounts can be had by buying the Articket BCN museum discount card.
26. The Barcelona Cathedral
It’s almost impossible to miss this imposing building during any casual walk through the Gothic Quarter.
The Barcelona Cathedral (not to be confused with Sagrada Familia) is neo-Gothic church is notable for its gargoyles and domestic and mythical animal rooftop. It is dedicated to the co-patron Saint of Barcelona – Santa Eulalia – who was martyred by the Romans in 303 AD.
A must see is the cloister that is home a small garden with orange and almond trees, a pond, and 13 geese – one for each year of life lived by Eulalia.
27. Rides With a View at Tibidabo
Of all the fun things to do in Barcelona this is the only one at the top of a mountain.
Tibidabo offers some incredible views from the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus church – not to mention the super geeky retro amusement park with 100 year old Ferris Wheel that’s the perfect spot to visit with family.
Get up their with the super, almost San Francisco-like Tramvia Blau for extra extra effect.
28. Take in a Concert at Palau de la Musica
The explosion of colour and chandelier centre piece (pictured) are world class.
29. Get Elevated at Turó de la Rovira – “The Bunkers”
The highest point (560 feet) above metro Barcelona was once an anti-aircraft bunker defending the city against Spanish Civil War bombings.
Today it’s a great museum, lookout point, and picnic spot with an insane panoramic view and a great option for budget conscious Barcelona nature lovers. For young adults this is the weekend hangout spot.
It’s probably my favourite thing to do in Barcelona on Sunday.
Grab bus 22 from Plaça Catalunya and get off at the last stop.
30. Take a Trip to the Dali Museum
The Dali Museum is a fantastic museum dedicated to the surrealist genius Salvador Dali – it actually finds itself 140 km from Barcelona in his hometown of Figueres.
It’s a can’t miss for fans of the man and insanity in general.
Two favourites here are the Spectre of Sex Appeal (1932) and The Basket of Bread (1945).
31. Sit and Sip the Squares of Gracia
One of Barcelona’s best neighbourhoods is full of cool décor bars, quirky shops, and street musicians.
The bohemian atmosphere makes it the top place for people watching or a coffee or beer in squares like Plaça del Sol, Plaça Vila de Gracia, Plaça de la Virreina and Plaça de la Revoluciò.
If you’re really looking for stuff to do in Barcelona with very little effort, head to an outdoor spot with homemade tapas to enjoy life at your own pace – I recommend Sol Soler.
The vibes here are as local as it gets.
32. Get up to Montserrat
Nature offers a great escape from the urban hustle at 1236 meters: the highest point in the Catalan Lowlands. At Montserrat you get the most breathtaking jagged mountains around.
Some highlights are the Benedictine monastery and its Black Madonna statue, while the less religiously-inclined usually head to the Sant Jeroni lookout.
If you’re not up for the mountains there are a ton of other Barcelona day trips.
Top Things to See in Barcelona FAQ
What are the best things to do in Barcelona?
Visitors usually construct an itinerary that includes the top attractions in Barcelona, some of the city’s natural wonders, and a few visits some culinary hot spots.
If we had to boil it down to just a few choices, we would select Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, the Gothic Quarter, the beach area of Barceloneta, and a nice round of tapas and paella for food.
What are the must see things to do in Barcelona?
If you’ve only got just a short time, the two must see attractions in Barcelona would be Sagrada Familia and Park Guell.
What are the best outdoor activities to do in Barcelona?
The top things to do outdoors in Barcelona include visiting the lookouts at Montjuic Hill, the Bunkers, and Park Guell. Visiting the city’s many rooftop bars like Hotel Pulitzer and Sky Bar at the Grand Central Hotel are also a good idea.
Finally, a trip to the city’s beaches and walks around the Gothic Quarter, Gracia, and El Born are definitely in order.
What is Barcelona famous for?
The city of Barcelona is famous for its distinctive, and arguably superior architecture due to a modernism movement lead by starchitect Antoni Gaudí.
It’s a bustling, multicultural city where the urban is in a constant flirtation with nature. It’s a place where large, vibrant street festivals and blaring, state of the art cocktail bars compete with tranquil, rural hill walks and introspective museum evenings.
It’s culture, nature, and good taste shacked up in a warm Mediterranean climate.
Looking for Things to Do in Barcelona?
If my list of top Barcelona activities wasn’t enough then let me know – I’m usually quick with a suggestion.
Also don’t be afraid to join the Barcelona attractions discussion by giving me a like on Facebook and then joining my group I’m Off to Barcelona – here you can ask any questions and chat with thousands of Barcelona travelers.
Looking forward to hearing from you before your Barcelona holiday 🤝