Best things to do in Barcelona Spain

Best Things to do in Barcelona, Spain

Julie Spain 20 Comments

Barcelona, Spain…this is a city that deserves to be on every traveler’s must-see list. Why? Barcelona is a beautiful city. Think Rome meets Paris. This city is spotless, with wide streets, beautiful architecture, beaches, palm trees, cafés, and boutique shopping. Throw in some tapas, Gaudí, and cava, and you have yourself a fabulous destination just waiting to be explored.

We fell in love with Barcelona. For one week Tim and I explored this city and its surrounds, and here is our list of the best sights to see in this awesome city.

Best Things to do in Barcelona

How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (points of interest and restaurant recommendations). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.

If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

Note: This map includes 16 restaurant and rooftop bar recommendations. For more information about these restaurants, read our article Tapas! Tapas! Tapas! Rooftop Bars and Restaurants.

Wander the Gothic Quarter

For us, the Gothic Quarter was one of the highlights during our time in Barcelona. The Gothic Quarter is the old city centre of Barcelona. Wandering its labyrinth of narrow, cobblestoned streets will take you back in time. Go shopping at the small boutiques and pop into the small restaurants for tapas or cava. You could easily spend all day here, but a few hours is all that is needed to get a feel for the Gothic Quarter if you are limited on time.

Gothic Quarter

Sagrada Familia…Love it or Hate it

The Sagrada Familia is a Roman Catholic church designed by Antoni Gaudí. Although it is still under construction, this church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Construction is forecast to be completed by 2026.

The Sagrada Familia, without a doubt, is a place you must visit while in Barcelona. Most love it, some think it is incredibly ugly. The Sagrada Familia is the most unique church we have ever seen.

From the outside, the front of the church looks like a sandcastle that is slowly crumbling into the ocean. Our first impression was not a good one. But once inside, it is beautiful. Modern, colorful, whimsical…like so much of Gaudí’s artwork in Barcelona. I love the inside…for the colors and its incredible uniqueness.  I love it that Gaudí broke out of the mold of how churches are traditionally designed, and came up with this “masterpiece.”

Sagrada Familia Ceiling

During your visit, you have the option to climb one of the two towers. We chose the tower on the Passion façade, hearing that the views over the city centre are amazing. Well, this was a total disappointment. An elevator whisked us up the tower. From the top, our view was through a small window covered with a metal grate. All we could see was the scaffolding from the current construction work. We never saw those epic views that people told us about.

Your other option is to climb the tower on the Nativity façade. This tower looks out over east Barcelona. Whether or not the views are any better, we have no idea.

For those who want to do this, please note, the only way down either tower is via a spiral staircase.

Sagrada Familia Tower Climb

Pro Travel Tip: This is very important! Book your tickets in advance! Without pre-purchased tickets, you risk waiting up to two hours in line to enter the Sagrada Familia. To purchase your tickets online in advance, visit the Sagrada Familia website.

Sagrada Familia

Our Favorite Gaudí Masterpiece, Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló is one of Gaudi’s most famous designs. This colorful building sits on Passeig de Gràcia, one of the major thoroughfares through the city. If you are short on time (or money) view Casa Batlló from the outside. For those with an interest in Gaudí and his architecture, it may be worth paying to enter the house. Tickets are pricey and lines can be long.

This is another site where it is definitely worth purchasing your tickets in advance. To do so, visit the Casa Batlló website.

Casa Batllo

Casa Batllo Barcelona

Casa Batllo roof

Casa Batllo window

Casa Amatller, Casa Batlló’s close neighbor

Located to the left of Casa Batlló is Casa Amatller, another unique building in Barcelona. This building was designed for the chocolatier Antoni Amatller.

Take a peak of the outside (easy to do since it stands adjacent to Casa Batlló) and then enter the building. Inside is a store selling Amatller chocolate. It is delicious!!! We recommend visiting the café and ordering the melted chocolate served with bread. And don’t forget to buy some chocolate to bring home. Yum!!

Casa Amatller

Casa Milà aka La Pedrera

Here is yet another Gaudí work of art. Yes, Gaudí really left his mark on Barcelona.

Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera, is located just a few blocks north of Casa Batlló on Passeig de Gràcia. This was the last civil work designed by Antoni Gaudí and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Casa Milà is another icon of Barcelona but not quite as popular as Casa Batlló. We walked by La Pedrera several times and never saw the queues like we did at Casa Batlló.

You can purchase tickets online in advance for Casa Milà. To learn more, visit the official website.

Casa Mila

Park Güell…One of Barcelona’s Most Popular Sites

Park Güell is one of Barcelona’s most popular sites, but is it worth it? During peak season, expect huge crowds of people here. Entry is limited to 400 people every half hour, which sounds like a lot, but tickets can sell out early in the day. Putting a limit on the number of people makes the visit much more enjoyable, just be prepared to buy your tickets in advance.

Park Güell is another work of Antoni Gaudí and another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s another colorful spot in Barcelona with buildings that resemble gingerbread houses and a long, tiled bench designed to represent a serpent.

Park Guell

Julie in Barcelona

Park Guell View

So, is it worth it? If you want to see more of Gaudí’s designs, yes. If you like visiting parks and natural areas, yes. If you feel like you’d be missing something if you didn’t check this one off the list, then yes.

I am glad we saw it but we did not fall in love with this one. Even with the limit on the number of people, it felt crowded and overrated.

If you are short on time, make Casa Batlló and Sagrada Familia your main Gaudí visits. There is so much more to see in Barcelona.

Pro Travel Tip: If you plan on visiting Park Güell, purchase your tickets in advance. Visit the official website here.

Palau Güell, Our Final Gaudí Recommendation

Palau Güell, located just off of La Rambla near the Gothic Quarter, is a palace designed by Gaudí for industrial tycoon Eusebi Güell. This one is only worth the visit if you are a big fan of Gaudí or want an interesting perspective over Barcelona from the rooftop.

Palau Guell

Palau Guell rooftop

Watch the Sunset from a Rooftop Bar

Rooftop bars dot the skyline in Barcelona. What better way to watch the sunset over the city from a rooftop bar with a glass of cava or wine?

Our two favorites were Alaire Terrace Bar and 360° Terrace.

Barcelona rooftop bar

Tibidabo…Say That Three Times Fast!

Tibidabo is very small amusement park perched on a hillside overlooking the city of Barcelona. This is a great spot to take the kids when you need a break from sightseeing. To get here, you can take Bus 196 or the Blue Tram (when it’s running) to the funicular.

Tibidabo

Sagrat Cor and It’s Amazing View

Sagrat Cor, also known as the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is a Roman Catholic Church located on Mount Tibidabo. Wherever you go in Barcelona, this church, on its perch overlooking the city, can be seen. For one of the best views of Barcelona, come here.

Sagrat Cor sits adjacent to the Tibidabo amusement park. For one of the best views of the city, ascend to the highest point of the church.

Best view of Barcelona

View from Sagrat Cor

Sagrat Cor Barcelona

For us, the visit to Sagrat Cor was a highlight of our time in Barcelona. This was wonderful. The views are unbelievable and there were very few people here. Later, when we shared our photo on social media, many people who had visited Barcelona knew nothing about Sagrat Cor. We highly recommend a visit here, especially on a clear day. Hopefully, you will have just as wonderful of an experience as we did.

Sip Cava or Vermouth at an Outdoor Cafe

Outdoor cafes are easy to find throughout Barcelona, as are glasses of vermouth and cava. Barcelona is in the midst of a vermouth renaissance. It’s found on most menus, and if you want a great place to try it out (and have some amazing tapas) try Bodega 1900.

Cava is Spain’s sparkling wine. Found at almost every bar and restaurant in Barcelona, people usually drink cava at the start of a meal.

Placa in Gothic Quarter

Take a Peak Inside the Barcelona Cathedral

Built between the 13th and 15th centuries, this cathedral sits just to the north of the Gothic Quarter. It’s worth a peak inside if you are in the area.

Barcelona cathedral

Take a Stroll through Parc de la Ciutadella

If you need a break from the streets of Barcelona, or like to explore parks, the Parc de la Ciutadella is a great place to visit. This park is located near the Gothic Quarter. Gravel paths wind through the park, lush with palm trees and tropical vegetation.

Parc Ciutadella

See the Arc de Triomf

Sitting just to the north of Parc de la Ciutadella is the Arc de Triomf. Maybe not is impressive as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, but it still is worth a quick visit. This arch was the main access gate for the 1888 World’s Fair.

Arc de Triomf

Tapas! Tapas! Tapas!

This is a must-do! Tapas are small, savory plates of food, usually eaten as snacks or as a meal. There are tapas restaurants in abundance throughout Barcelona. Try as many as you can while here! The best part of eating tapas…being able to order an assortment of delicious treats to sample.


Read more: Tapas! Tapas! Tapas! Restaurants and Rooftop Bars


La Bomba

Watch a Game at Camp Nou

Camp Nou is the official football stadium of Barcelona and the largest stadium in Spain. It is the home of FC Barcelona. Watch a game or tour the stadium and visit the museum. For more information, click here. 

Don’t Miss La Boqueria

La Boqueria is a large market in central Barcelona. It’s a tourist landmark and worth a visit. It’s a great place to go shopping for fish, fruit, fresh juices, and an assortment of foods. There are also small tapas restaurants that are excellent. We recommend Pinotxo Bar and El Quim de la Boqueria.

Pinotxo Bar

La Boqueria

Tim shopping

Take a Day Trip

If you have the time, you can take some excellent day trips from Barcelona. Visit Montserrat, a mountain range with amazing views, Girona, a medieval, delightful small town to visit, or Tarragona, a small town known for its Roman ruins.

Montserrat

Montserrat Spain

Girona

Girona Spain

Santa Maria del Mar

This cathedral is located in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona. It’s free to visit and worth a quick stop.

Santa Maria del Mar

Enjoy the View from Bunkers of Carmel

For another fantastic view of Barcelona, visit the Bunkers of Carmel. These abandoned aircraft defenses are now one of the most popular spots to watch the sunset.

Take a Stroll on Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas is the main pedestrian thoroughfare through Barcelona. It connects Plaça de Catalunya with the Christopher Columbus monument. Tourists and locals can be found here and expect it to be busy!!

As a visitor to Barcelona, it’s worth walking on Las Ramblas for a few blocks. But we think wandering the twisting lanes of the Gothic Quarter is much more interesting. Another nice street for strolling is Rambla de Catalunya…similar to Las Ramblas but much less crowded.

La Rambla

Palau de la Musica Catalana

This gorgeous concert hall is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Designed in modernista style, it was constructed between 1905 and 1908. You can take a tour or attend a musical performance here. Learn more on the official website. 

The Magic Fountain of Montjuic

This fountain puts on a display of color, water, and music several nights a week, depending on the season. People who watch the show rave about it. Unfortunately for us, we missed the showtime.

Montjuic Fountain

Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

This is the national museum of Catalunya art from the 19th and 20th centuries. We never made it inside but for art lovers this makes a great stop while in Barcelona.

Barcelona art museum


Are you visiting Barcelona? Feel free to contact us or comment below if you have any questions!

More Information for Your Trip to Barcelona:

Planning a trip to Spain? Read all of our articles in our Spain Destination Guide.

Visit More of Europe’s Great Cities

 

Comments 20

  1. I love your review! Its truthful & informative 🙂 My husband & I will be touring Spain for our first year anniversary. We will be in Barcelona & definitely in Girona as we are HUGE Game of Thrones Fans. Thank you for your blog. We will most likely be using buses are they are frequent & fast .

  2. Hey guys, I love reading about your adventures and your photos are amazing. Headed to Barcelona in May with wife, three daughters and son in law. Can you recommend the best part of town to stay for five nights? Also, how did y’all get around? Local transit, bus, taxi, UBER, feet? Hard to tell the scale of distances, say from Parc Guell to Sagrada Familia. Thanks so much!

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      Hello Jimmy. We stayed near Placa de Catalunya. We stayed at 2 hotels and the H10 Catalunya Plaza Boutique was our favorite. It’s centrally located, you can easily walk to the Gothic Quarter, along La Rambla, and to several of the Gaudi sites. To get around, we did a combination of walking, the metro, and taxis. We did not use Uber and I am not sure if it is available in Barcelona right now. Barcelona is huge and it would be a very long walk from Parc Guell to Sagrada Familia. We did use the taxi to get us to and from Parc Guell and to the funicular for Tibidabo, but other than that, it was mostly metro our our own feet. Cheers, Julie

  3. Hi! I will be traveling with my 17 yo daughter in July and we are looking at Spain, Lisbon and Morocco. We loved your itinerary for Paris, London, Amsterdam and enjoyed it thoroughly this summer. I didn’t see one as a robust or detailed for Spain. I am wondering would it be overly ambitious to try to do Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Lisbon and Morocco (spending about 3 days in each town and a bit longer in Morocco). If I am being overly ambitious, what you recommend we keep and ditch so we can make the best of our stay in Spain? We definitely want to keep Morocco on our list, so that isn’t one want to remove, but I didn’t see any visits there on your site. Any insight you can provide on our plan will help. We are not tied down to a length at this point. We are thinking 2.5-3 weeks of just pure travel.

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      Hello Joy. So far, we have only been to Barcelona in Spain. We have not been to Morocco yet (came very close to going this February but changed our plans for something else…but I am familiar with Morocco from our research). Morocco looks amazing. I would give Morocco 10 days of your itinerary if you can. You could go Casablanca to Fez/Chefchoen to the sand dunes and end in Marrakech to hit the main highlights. If you can do 3 weeks total, that gives you another 10 days in Spain/Portugal. You could either do 5 days in Barcelona and 5 days in Lisbon (and do day trips from the cities), or use that time to go Barcelona – Madrid – Seville. But trying to squeeze in Lisbon will be too much. We are hoping to get to Morocco by the end of 2019 but I know that won’t help you for this trip. 🙂 If you have any other questions, feel free to write in again. Cheers, Julie

  4. Hi your review is phenomenal and very helpful. I have a question that hopefully you guys can guide me . I would be in barcelona 5 days but 3 full days , can i do La sagrada familia, Casa Battlo and the Park Guell all in one day. I plan to do use a full day for Montserrat monastery and the other day for the Temple of the Sacred heart of Jesus and Costa brava . Thanks for your help and if you guys can recommed or have any tips please share .

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      Author

      Yes, you can visit all three of those sites in one day but it will take some advance planning. For all three places you can buy advance tickets. I highly recommend doing this to save time from waiting in line. Of the three, if there is one you prefer to visit as “crowd-free” as possible, book your tickets for the first available time slot of the day. From there, visit the next closest site. Personally, I recommend seeing Casa Battlo at opening time. This is a small place and it’s nice to walk through it before it gets filled with people. The Sagrada Familia and Park Guell are much larger and sharing the space with lots of people is not that big of a deal. When booking your tickets, make sure you allow enough time for transportation and lunch. In this post, we have links for booking your tickets to all three spots. We also have info on visiting Montserrat if you are interested, but we have not been to Costa Brava yet. Enjoy Barcelona! Cheers, Julie

  5. Thanks for great recommendations! Rooftop bar seems perfect for romantic evening 🙂 The picture with a view over Cala Mila (if I’m correct) was taken from Alaire Terrace or 360 Terrace?
    I’m currently preparing for trip to Barcelona, we won’t have much time to see everything so debating between Tibidabo and Bunkers del Carmel for good city views. Have you seen the Bunkers? It seems like a popular spot right now, when I was in Barcelona few years ago I didn’t heard about it. We’re thinking about having a picnic there, if the weather is still good in November.

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      Author

      The photo with the view of Casa Mila is Alaire Terrace Bar, located in Hotel Condes de Barcelona. And I have not heard of the Bunkers. Funny how there always seems to be something new to see. 🙂 It looks there is a nice view from the Bunkers. I really can’t compare the two, since we have not done the Bunkers, but seeing the view from Tibidabo was a big highlight for us. In my head it would be hard to beat that view. For the best view from Tibidabo, ride the ride that is a long arm with a bucket (similar to a hot air balloon basket) on either end. You get on at the bottom, then you slowly get rotated to the top, for a bird’s eye view over Sagrat Cor and Barcelona. It’s not a thrill ride (it’s slow, like a ferris wheel) but if you have a fear of heights you could have a hard time with this ride. But that’s how I took the cover photo for this post. Cheers, Julie

      1. We are definitely going to visit this bar 🙂 Thanks for the tips about Tibidabo! I do have a fear of heights but if the view is worth it I think I can overcome it 😀 I hope we have enough time to go to Tibidabo and Bunkers too.
        Anyway, thanks for all the recommendations and useful information about Barcelona. We will use them during our visit for sure 🙂

  6. Julie your blog is a wealth of information. Traveling at the end of August to Barcelona, would you recommend purchasing a Barcelona City Pass or any type of pass? Also would you suggest a tour for Montserrat or it’s easy enough to do on one’s own?

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      Author

      Sometimes passes are worth it. Included in the cost of some passes are hop on hop off bus tours and sometimes walking tours. If you plan on doing these, then the pass is worth it. If you don’t want to do this, then it is probably cheaper to buy all of your tickets as you go or in advance. It takes a little work, but you have to price out the card and price out the activities you want to do. Then you will know if the pass is worth it. For Montserrat, it’s simple to do it on your own. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out our post on Montserrat. And Girona makes a nice day trip too! Cheers, Julie

  7. Im so glad to have stumbled upon your website and travel blogs….I to live to travel, travel to live and am heading to Spain and Portugal next month. Your tips are extremely helpful. Also enjoyed your Dolomites information – as that is next on the list! – I look forward to following you and your adventures!

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      Author
  8. Hi,
    Really enjoying reading your posts. Is there anywhere you haven’t been?! Headed to Barcelona later this year (and also to San Sebastian). Have a very special dinner reservation in Girona at 9pm which will last until 12 or 1. So I know we need to spend the night there. Any recs? Should we take the high speed train and rely on a taxi to/from dinner/hotel? Many thanks!

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      Author

      We took the high speed train between Barcelona and Girona and it was very easy, and we booked it the day of our travel. Using the taxi to get around Girona would be convenient, although Girona is small enough that you can walk everywhere, depending on where you stay and the location of the restaurant. I think it would be best to stay the night in Girona. I personally cannot recommend any hotels in Girona but check Trip Advisor – that’s who we use to find our accommodations. Cheers, Julie

  9. Important for visitors, particularly from Australia and the USA to take note of the different eating times in Spain. Dining at 11:00 PM is quite the thing, while lunches also usually start and finish much later than in our Countries. Arriving at a restaurant at 6:00 PM and hoping to enjoy a dinner is likely to be a disappointing experience. You might be lucky to be served, but the restaurant will be near empty and the usual lively atmosphere of dining in Spain completely missing. Spanish people enjoy their delicious meals and like to take their time to consume it. The advantage of dining late is is allows more time to explore the place you are visiting.

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      Good point. They do eat very late…it took us a little bit to get adjusted to this. It helps to take an early afternoon siesta, so that going out to dinner at 9 or 10 pm doesn’t feel so late. And the next day, breakfast in some places is offered until 1 pm! Cheers, Julie

  10. Love your site ~ great info! There seems to be so much to see in Barcelona ~ we will be in Barcelona for only 2 1/2 days ~ Oct. 1-3 ~ what would you suggest we do in that amount of time?

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      Author

      Yes, there is a lot to do! In my opinion, the must see things are wandering the Gothic Quarter (this takes at least half a day, including time for a meal), the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo, and eat as many tapas as you can. We loved the view from Tibidabo. Make sure you book your tickets for the Sagrada Familia and Casa Batllo in advance, it saves time but will cost a little extra money to reserve your spots in advance. If you really want to take a day trip out of Barcelona, I liked Girona a little more than Montserrat (but both are wonderful). Cheers, Julie

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