Ash
Written by Ash

32 Best Things to Do in Barcelona Spain on Your Next Holiday

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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

tree branch columns and stained glass rose in la sagrada familia barcelona

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.

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the view of the city and sea from the mosaic benches at park guell barcelona

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.

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barcelona tourists on the secrets of the old city tour in with alvaro barcelona hacks

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.

CASA BATLLO MAGIC NIGHTS
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two prawn croquettes with orange saffron mayo served on a tile at paz 19 restaurant barcelona spain

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.

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a vermouth and olives being served in barcelona spain

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.

the chimneys on the rooftop at casa mila la pedrera

10. Check Out Casa Milà (La Pedrera)

Casa Milà (aka La Pedrera) is another surreal mansion right in the heart of some of the best shopping in Barcelona.

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 🙂

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two tourists rent a scooter in barcelona

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!

a view of the pitch at camp nou barcelona

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.

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a man tries out his barcelona bike rental

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.

90 Minute e-Bike Tour
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the exterior of casa vicens barcelona

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.

CASA VICENS
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a student asks a question to the teacher at rack and return wine WSET certification school in barcelona spain

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!

a ton of tourists looking for things to do on the rambla barcelona

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.

a fruit stand at boqueria market barcelona

18. Chow Down at La Boqueria Market

It’s hard not to put La Boqueria Market at the very top of Barcelona’s best markets.

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.

Looking for a meal with market fresh ingredients? Grab the fried eggs with baby squid at El Quim de la Boqueria or get adventurous with the garbanzo beans and blood sausage at Bar Pinotxo.

Not a fan of crowds? Hit the nearby Santa Caterina Market for the same vibe, with less stress.

street art in the raval neighbourhood of barcelona spain

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?

El Raval offers skateboarders, cheap cocktail bars (along Carrer de Joaquín Costa), epic ethnic food, and some of the best museums in Barcelona like the CCCB.

Make sure to walk the famous Rambla del Raval to see Botero’s Cat.

a nighttime showing of the magic fountain barcelona

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.

a poster of the picasso museum barcelona

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.

Make sure to have a coffee at Els Quatre Gats, one of the best cafes in Barcelona and a meeting spot for modernist artists of the time, Pablo Picasso included.

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exterior balconies at gaudi's casa batllo 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.

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flower pots in the barrio andaluz in poble espanyol barcelona

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.

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tourists at the fountain in ciutadella park

24. Gear Down in Ciutadella Park

Ciutadella Park is Barcelona’s biggest urban park, and it’s a great picnic spot for those looking for an outdoor escape but want a break from Barcelona’s best beaches.

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.

a skateboarder takes a jump at macba in raval neighbourhood barcelona

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.

the barcelona cathedral main facade gothic quarter barcelona

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.

a ferris wheel atop tibidabo amusement park barcelona

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.

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the interior of the palau de la musica in barcelona spain

28. Take in a Concert at Palau de la Musica

The Palau de la Musica, a musical palace with golden-age acoustics in the ‘key’ of Catalan modernism, is the best place for music lovers to take in some opera, Flamenco, or even a symphony.

The explosion of colour and chandelier centre piece (pictured) are world class.

If you’re interested in seeing musical performances check out the calendar of events. Another tip? Follow it up with a trip the nearby Santa Maria del Mar church to admire the stained glass windows.

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people enjoying the viewpoint from the bunkers del carmel barcelona

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.

the outside of the dali museum barcelona figueres

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).

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people gather in a gracia square to have coffee and drinks in barcelona spain

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.

a view of the jagged mountains of montserrat near barcelona

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.

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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 🤝

42 comments
  • July 23, 2017 at 7:18 pm
    Christina Odeh
    Thank you so much for all of this information!! We will be staying in Sant Just Desvern, and I am not sure that the travel cards will make sense if we are so far away. We are debating on renting a car or using public transportation. Any thoughts on what attractions might be best for us that aren't too far away on public transportation?
    • July 24, 2017 at 9:33 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Christina, First off thanks for the compliments! Glad I could help :) The good news is Barcelona's Zone 1 coverage extends even beyond Sant Just so you'll be able to use the standard/cheapest transport passes should you like. If you take Tram T3 you can get to Barcelona fairly quickly but it won't get you terribly central. Along the way there unfortunately aren't many attractions. You'd be in good position to visit the Camp Nou Stadium as it's more or less along the tram line. You'll also be able to do some good shopping at L'illa Diagonal. You're also 'only' about 5 kilometers from the attractions at Mount Tibidabo (there's a cool basilica plus a cool retro amusement park and some of the best views of the city). After that though the attractions are slim unless you change to the green line of the metro from the tram at Zona Universitaria. From here on in you can get to most major attractions in about 20 minutes. Calculate about 50 minutes to and hour to get super central. The unfortunate (or perhaps fortunate) thing about central Barcelona is that it's not very car friendly. In fact the city is constantly taking measures to discourage driving. I only really recommend renting a car for big trips outside of the city to the Costa Brava etc. For sightseeing central in neighbourhoods where cars can't go or beaches where parking spaces are impossible this time of year I just don't know. The transport covers so much and is so efficient that I wouldn't recommend the added stress this time of year. That said, I don't know your travel arrangements, with who, what you intend to visit etc. and could be completely wrong. I only wish you could have written sooner so we could have found you some accommodation that's a bit better for sightseeing. That said it's all relative. If you were 50-60 minutes from the centre in a city like London or Paris it'd be no problem. So let's enjoy it anyway! ;) You'll be fine... a little extra travel lets you see parts of the city most tourists don't and lets you rest your feet a little more on transport! Any more questions I am here :) Ash
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