Barcelona highlights are many and varied, which is exactly why this city in Catalonia is such a hit. With around 300 days of sunshine per year, Barcelona offers beautiful beaches, rooftop bars, fabulous food, and some of the most arresting art and architecture to be found anywhere in the world.
If you’re looking for things to do in Barcelona, read on for 20 top recommendations. Whether you prefer Picasso to Gaudi or would rather wander around a park than jostle for space at a popular landmark, there’s something in this glorious Spanish destination for everyone.
Discover iconic cathedrals, a picturesque cable car ride, a modern mural made from thousands of photos, and one of the planet’s most famous footballing icons. Barcelona boasts far more than its fair share of fantastic – and fantastical – attractions. Which will be your highlight?
For a more personal experience of the key attractions in Barcelona, book a private sightseeing tour.
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20 best things to do in Barcelona
1. Casa Batlló & Casa Milà
As some of Gaudi’s most notable works, Casa Batlló and Casa Milà are two Barcelona landmarks no visitor wants to miss. Both are located on Passeig de Gràcia, which is one of the city’s most prestigious addresses and a hub for shopping, dining, and business.
Casa Batlló’s striking façade is a curvaceous, mosaic-clad monument to Modernism. Some say its structure resembles skulls (the balconies) and bones (the pillars). The colours of the ceramic decoration, meanwhile, call to mind the ocean.
Casa Milà is also singular in design and is constructed from roughly-hewn stone. Hence it is often referred to as La Pedrera, which is Catalan for ‘stone quarry’.
2. Arc de Triomf
Barcelona’s answer to London’s Marble Arch and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris is the Arc de Triomf. Located at the end of Passeig Lluís Companys, the Spanish arch is deeper and richer in colour than its rivals, being made from red brick.
Though perhaps somewhat lesser known among Barcelona attractions, the arch is a fine example of classical architecture. Discover its intriguing and somewhat symbolic details and decorative touches. It was originally built for the Universal Exhibition in 1888, hosted by the city.
3. Barcelona Cathedral
In terms of places to visit in Barcelona, the Gothic Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia is often overshadowed by Gaudi’s La Sagrada Família. Yet it is just as arresting a sight. Work on it began at the end of the 13th century, where a Roman temple formerly stood.
The cathedral is located in the Gothic neighbourhood. It remains at the heart of city life for many locals, a significant number of whom attend Mass here weekly or even daily.
For the three million who visit each year, key highlights of Barcelona Cathedral include the Baroque and Gothic altarpieces, the sepulcher of Saint Eulalia, and the cathedral’s accomplished choir.
Top tip: If you visit Barcelona Cathedral, be sure to get a rooftop ticket to experience spectacular views across the city.
4. “The World Begins with Every Kiss” Mural
Originally intended as a temporary piece, this mural near the cathedral looks like a pair of people kissing when viewed from a distance. At closer range, though, it’s possible to decipher that the artwork is made up of thousands of photographs printed onto ceramic tiles.
As the mural is close to the Gothic cathedral, it’s easy to combine the two during a day’s sightseeing. It’s a must for any fans of street art. Plus, seeing people’s intimate images used in this way makes for a moving experience as well as a cultural one.
5. Mount Tibidabo
As the Serra de Collserola’s highest point, Mount Tibidabo looms over the landscape at over 500 metres. As such there are magnificent sweeping views over the city and coastline from its summit.
At the top, the Tibidabo Amusement Park and Sagrat Cor church are also worth stopping for. To get to Mount Tibidabo, you can take the funicular from Plaça Doctor Andreu. Or there are several bus routes serving the area.
6. Parc Güell
On Carmen Hill, Parc Güell is for many one of the essential things to do in Barcelona. As well as Gaudi’s lavish, rather grandiose creations, the park is another Barcelona hotspot when it comes to impressive city vistas.
Occupying a site that stretches for over 17 hectares, the park is a place for relaxation, exploration, and outdoor activity. There are kids’ play parks, seating and tables dotted around the site, where colourful and fanciful Gaudi works can be seen at every turn.
Top tip: Aim to arrive for when it opens to the public at 09:30 (only locals are allowed in from 07:00-09:30). The park gets really busy, so try to beat the crowds if you can.
7. Take the cable car up to Montjuïc Castle
As long as you have a head for heights, the Montjuïc cable car ride up to Montjuïc castle is one of the most fun things to do in Barcelona. The 750 metre route affords those taking the trip breathtaking views over the city, where you can look out for key icons such as La Sagrada Familia.
The castle is a hilltop fortress dating from the mid 17th century. The small entry fee is well worth paying to explore the site located at more than 170 metres above sea level. On the return cable car trip, there is also an optional stop at the Mayor’s viewpoint, Mirador de l’Alcalde.
8. Magic Fountain
Also in the Montjuïc area is the Magic Fountain. Dating from the late 1920, this showpiece was fully restored in the early 1990s and comprises an illuminated watery spectacle set to music. By day it’s a pleasant ornamental sight, but it’s after dark that this dazzling and sizable water feature really comes to life.
The Magic Fountain is capable of displaying around 7 billion unique sequences. So even frequent visitors are highly unlikely ever to witness the same one twice.
9. Parc de la Ciutadella
Parc de la Ciutadella offers visitors to the popular city a chance to chill and take some time out from the round of Barcelona tourist attractions. You can hire a rowing boat to take out on the lake here. Or go for a long stroll while marvelling at the historic buildings, which include the Castle of the Three Dragons and the neo-classical Geological Museum.
The Parc’s grounds are also home to the Catalan Parliament, the city zoo, and the Modern Art Museum. Plus, there is an attractive winter garden and the Umbracle, a site dedicated to the culture of big tropical plants.
10. Parc del Laberint d’Horta
Parc del Laberint d’Horta is another of Barcelona’s most memorable green spaces. Designed in an Italianate style, this fabulous park is the city’s oldest garden. It’s packed with neo-classical touches as well as artistic flair.
There’s lots to discover at Parc del Laberint d’Horta, including small but perfectly formed squares, a cypress maze, waterfalls, and folkloric sculptures. A renovated historic home, Torre Soberana can also be found here. This dates from the 1300s, and was reimagined in an Arabesque fashion during the 20th century.
11. La Boqueria market
La Boqueria is a foodies’ paradise and the place to pick up a picnic for any afternoon you plan to take in one of Barcelona’s fine parks. The covered market can be accessed via La Rambla.
Inside, visitors rub shoulders with locals as everyone pores over local produce. From cured meats and pungent cheeses to fresh seafood and plump Spanish olives. The market offers a feast for the senses, as well as the most discerning palate.
12. Port Vell
Commencing at the end of La Rambla, Port Vell is a waterside harbour area with lots to offer the visitor. The glittering yachts moored in the harbour can be a most envy-inducing sight, and the area is also home to a large statue of Christopher Columbus.
A timber boardwalk leads to Maremagnum, a large modern complex that houses the aquarium, a range of restaurants and retail outlets, and a cinema. The port was created prior to the 1992 Olympics, breathing new life into an area formerly occupied by abandoned warehouses and factories.
13. La Sagrada Família
Of all famous landmarks in Barcelona, Gaudi’s masterpiece is probably the best known. Yet to this day it remains incomplete, despite the fact that work commenced in 1882. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, La Sagrada Família worth arriving early if you want to explore the interior before the crowds descend.
It is well worth venturing inside to see the sunlight streaming through the colourful stained-glass window from above. The basilica is also especially noteworthy, as the angled pillars that support its roof were built to resemble woodland with daylight spilling through the gaps between the trees.
14. Visit the beaches
Often overlooked, purely due to the plethora of beautiful things to see in Barcelona, spending a day at the beach can make a refreshing change from exploring the city’s monuments and green spaces.
The city itself has close to three miles of golden sands. Barceloneta, the most famous beach, occupies a little over 400 metres of this. It’s a popular spot for sunbathing, swimming, strolling along the promenade, and participating in watersports such as kitesurfing and windsurfing. The beach huts also serve up delicious edible treats.
Other great Barcelona beaches include peaceful Nova Icària, squeaky clean Bogatell Beach, lively Sant Sebastià and spacious Mar Bella.
15. Picasso Museum
Arguably the most significant artist of the 20th century, the Picasso museum proves that Barcelona isn’t only about Gaudi. There is a vast permanent collection of the creator’s works here, with over 4,000 pieces on display.
Picasso lived in the city during his teens. The Barcelona museum catalogues the artist’s progress throughout his formative years particularly well.
16. Stroll through the Gothic Quarter
Close to the Las Ramblas area, Barcelona’s bustling Barri Gòtic comprises a maze of medieval streets thronged with stylish bars, smart eateries, lively clubs, laid-back cafes, and lots of stalls.
It’s the place to be after dark, as well as by day if you want to sample street food or snap up unique items made from leather or one-off pieces of jewellery.
There is an art market held every weekend in the Plaça del Pi. The Museum of the History of Barcelona is also located in the Gothic Quarter.
17. Camp Nou
Fans of the beautiful game will not want to miss Camp Nou, home to Barcelona FC. Europe’s largest stadium opened in 1957 and can accommodate close to 100,000 people. While it’s the fourth largest football stadium on the planet, it’s quite possibly the most famous.
Barcelona FC have won numerous European titles, while the stadium has played host to many football tournaments. These include the Champions League, the Olympics, and the Cup Winners’ Cup, as well as regular La Liga games.
18. Day trip to Montserrat
Montserrat is a mountain range and national park north west of Barcelona. The train trip from the city takes around an hour, and the area is also home to a Benedictine monastery. This is positioned on a lofty mountainside site. As such, it affords those who venture up here awe-inspiring views over the landscape.
Other things to do in Montserrat include spotting native flora and fauna in the national park, seeing the Black Madonna in the basilica, and exploring the art museum.
19. Palau de la Música Catalana
A UNESCO listed world heritage site, Palau de la Música Catalana is a concert venue in Barcelona. Architecturally it’s a masterpiece, and the hall can hold over 500 people. Equipped with state-of-the-art audiovisual technology, the acoustics can be adapted to suit various music genres as well as speech.
Seeing this working music hall can be one of the top things to do in Barcelona for any fans of culture and architecture, as well as music.
20. Eat Tapas
Sharing an array of small tapas dishes while sipping local wine is a must for many who visit Barcelona. Or if you’re travelling solo, then it’s just more for you to enjoy! If you want to avoid the tourist traps, visit El Xampanyet, which tends to be packed to the rafters with locals. While El Nacionel is a more glamorous place popular with tourists – but understandably so.
Both offer outstanding food, and El Xampanyet also serves up its very own Cava by the glass as you sit at a marble table or lean against a blue-tiled wall.
On the prestigious Passeig de Gracia, El Nacionel is well known in gastronomic circles and has four bars and an equal number of dining areas. These include La Taperia, where you can try some of the city’s finest small sharing plates.
Do you have any other recommendations for things to do in Barcelona? Let me know in the comments or get in touch on social media! In the meantime, discover hotels in Barcelona or book a private sightseeing tour.
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