Best things to do in Barcelona Spain

Best Things to do in Barcelona, Spain

Julie Spain 10 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, Gaudi, 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.

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 Gaudi. 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 Gaudi’s artwork in Barcelona. I love the inside…for the colors and its incredible uniqueness.  I love it that Gaudi 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

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 Gaudi Masterpiece, Casa Batllo

Casa Batllo is one of Gaudi’s most famous designs. This colorful building sits on Passeig de Gracia, one of the major thoroughfares through the city. If you are short on time (or money) view Casa Batllo from the outside. For those with an interest in Gaudi 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 Batllo website.

Casa Batllo

Casa Batllo Barcelona

Casa Batllo roof

Casa Batllo window

Casa Amatller, Casa Batllo’s close neighbor

Located to the left of Casa Batllo 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 Batllo) 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 Mila aka La Pedrera

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

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

You can purchase tickets to enter Casa Mila. 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 Gaudi 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 are a Gaudi lover, 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 Batllo and Sagrada Familia your main Gaudi visits. There is so much more to see in Barcelona.

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

Palau Güell, Our Final Gaudi Recommendation

Palau Güell, located just off of La Rambla near the Gothic Quarter, is a palace designed by Gaudi for industrial tycoon Eusebi Güell. This one is only worth the visit if you are a big fan of Gaudi 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.


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 Spain


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

Take a Stroll on La Rambla

La Rambla is the main pedestrian thoroughfare through Barcelona. It connects Plaça 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 La Rambla 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 La Rambla but much less crowded.

La Rambla

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

Post updated November 2017.

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

Visit More of Europe’s Great Cities


Best things to do in Barcelona Spain

Comments 10

  1. 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?

    1. Post

      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

  2. 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!

    1. Post
  3. 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!

    1. Post

      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

  4. 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.

    1. Post

      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

  5. 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?

    1. Post

      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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *