- Barcelona is an iconic and stunning city of Catalonian culture, art and cuisine.
- The food is delicious and unique, using the freshest seafood and produce options.
- Explore the rich architecture and art of both new and old Barcelona.
With its rich history, iconic architecture and incredible cuisine, Barcelona is one of the most iconic and beautiful cities in the world. Spain’s culture varies between regions, and Barcelona has its own traditions and unique Catalan vibe.
This vivid city is nestled between mountains and beaches, with relatively warm Mediterranean temperatures year-round. With beautiful streets and a lively atmosphere representing both new and old Europe, Barcelona is easy to fall in love with. Whether you’re gazing up at iconic Gaudi-designed architecture or enjoying tapas and drinks, even a few days in Barcelona will create a lifetime of memories.
With so much happening in this city, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the things to do and see. We’ve created a list of 12 essentials to do while you’re visiting Barcelona.
1. Eat Some Tapas
Barcelona is a coastal Mediterranean city and as such heavily features many foods from the Mediterranean diet. You’ll find incredibly fresh seafood and produce options, cooked with many spices and in methods traditional to Barcelona.
Many markets and restaurants offer tapas, which are small portions of dishes and snacks. This is a great way to try many varieties of local cuisine, such as escalivada or croquetas. Make sure to also try Jamon, which is premium air-dried ham with a slightly nutty flavor.
You can’t miss La Boqueria either. This market is located off La Rambla and provides a wide variety of local seafood, meats, produce, cheeses and more. Pick up some fresh ingredients to try making a few Spanish dishes yourself, and make sure to try some of the small snacks and treats to keep your mouth from watering too much as you stroll.
2. Check Out the Tibidabo Fair
Built in the late 19th century, the Tibidabo fair is one of Europe’s oldest amusement parks that you shouldn’t miss if you enjoy classic and whimsical fair rides. Younger visitors can ride the gentle Alaska water roller coaster, or you can take in the views of Barcelona from the Avio attraction where visitors ride in suspended planes.
You can travel to the mountain-topping fair by car or take quaint public transit options. Most travelers opt for the Funicular de Tibidabo, which is a tram that takes its riders for an entertaining and view-filled ride to the top of the mountain.
3. Visit the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
If fair rides aren’t your thing, the top of the mountain also hosts the impressive Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, also called Temple Expiatori Sagrat Cor. This basilica stands almost 1,800 feet above sea level and was a nearly 60-year-long project by Spanish architect Enric Sagnier and his son Josep Maria Sagnier i Vidal. The result is a breathtaking church with both neo-Gothic and Romanesque architecture. An enormous bronze statue of Jesus stands at the top of the church, and the interior features stained glass and a crucifix by Joan Puigdollers.
4. Relax at the Beach
To unwind and relax from all of the exploring you’ll be doing, check out some of Barcelona’s best beaches with pristine water and warm sands. Barceloneta Beach is one of the most popular spots to hang out, with large and lively crowds, ample amenities and plenty of opportunities to try some water sports.
For a more relaxing beach experience, try Nova Mar Bella. This extensive beach provides many of the same amenities as more popular beaches, like restrooms, concessions and beach gear rentals, but without the same bustling crowds.
5. Celebrate at a Festival
Barcelona is known for its many festivals and celebrations, with the streets sometimes feeling like one long party. During the Saint Joan festival, you’ll see an impressive fireworks display to note the shortest day of the year. Don’t forget to try some of the flowing cerveza while you take in the pyrotechnics.
If you visit during the early summer months, you can catch the Primavera Sound Festival with popular headlining acts like Tame Impala and Radiohead. The festival also usually includes extra concerts in various clubs and venues around the city.
6. Stroll La Rambla
Located in central Barcelona, this pedestrian boulevard stretches past nearly a mile of shops and markets. Buskers entertain pedestrians all day, including musicians, artists and even human statues. Although the area is touristy and pricey, finding a spot at one of the many restaurants to enjoy sangria or cerveza even once is a Barcelona must.
7. La Sagrada Familia
This historical monument is one of Barcelona’s most famous masterpieces by Antonio Gaudi and is also where he’s buried. Although technically in construction from 1882 until long after the artist’s death in 1926, this basilica is a culmination of his naturalistic artistic style. It also received a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation in 1984 for Gaudi’s innovation. It features three facades: the nativity facade, the passion facade and the glory facade. Even if you’re not religious in any way, this church is breathtaking and worth a visit.
8. La Pedrera
Another of Gaudi’s famous monuments, La Pedrera or Casa Mila, features modernist stylings. La Pedrera translates to stone quarry, and the building is named that because the architecture styling is derived from naturally waving rock shapes. Like La Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera is a UNESCO world heritage site. If you don’t have a chance to visit it, make sure to check out some of Gaudi’s many other civic architecture works.
9. Explore the Gothic Quarter
To get a sense of medieval Europe, visit the Gothic quarter of Barcelona. Although many of the buildings were built around the turn of the 20th century as a neo-Gothic restoration project, the area itself is still one of the oldest parts of Barcelona. It does include some medieval landmarks, as well as the remains of the Roman temple and walls. Other notable spots include the Church of Santa Maria del Pi and the Museu Picasso.
10. Visit the Barcelona Cathedral
Also known as the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, the Barcelona Cathedral is located in the Gothic quarter as well. Construction on the cathedral began in the late 13th century, with improvements, additions and restorations ongoing today. The seat of the Bishop, the cathedral hosts a choir, beautiful Gothic art and an impactful spiritual experience.
11. See a Museum
For a curated experience of Barcelona’s notable art and history, visit one of the many museums. The Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya displays important works from Catalan modernism to Romanesque religious paintings. A waterfall fountain decorates the front steps and provides a spectacular view of Barcelona. If you’re a football fan, check out the FC Barcelona club’s very own museum. Once used to build galleys, the Museu Maritim de Barcelona highlights Barcelona’s history as a port city.
12. Explore the Outdoors
Outside of city limits is just as beautiful as the city itself. Take a break from the crowds and bustle of Barcelona’s streets to try an outdoor sport or activity. Book a sailing or helicopter tour for a high-end experience, or head to the beaches for surfing and snorkeling. Barcelona is also situated near stunning hiking and rock climbing areas, if you’re looking for some physical activity and spectacular views.