You’ve got to be kidding. It absolutely worth it, Barcelona is amazing! It has duties of the capital of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain behind Madrid. Known for its world-famous architecture, seaside, art, and cuisine, it is a number one destination for many people.
The city is associated with gingerbread architecture by Antonio Gaudí, the main reference point of Catalan modernism, Picasso’s surrealistic art pieces, and Francisco Goya’s romantic works. It is also famous for fresh-made Spanish paella and Iberian ham with a glass of Rioja with an eye to Mediterranean sunset. And it’s only a tiny part of what you get when traveling to Barcelona.
See also Is Madrid worth visiting?
What to do in Barcelona
Barcelona offers a wide range of tourist attractions. For outdoor enthusiasts, there are some parks and hills to achieve a reward from your Apple Watch. For culture people, the city offers impressive museums and galleries. And finally, for hedonists, it has world-class food and wine at Michelin-rated restaurants and a wonderful seashore to sprawl out on the sand.
In brief, you should try these things in Barcelona:
- See Sagrada Familia
- Go to Montjuic Hill
- Explore La Boqueria food market
- Have a walk in Park Guell
- Grab local food at Barceloneta
- Climb the Tibidabo Hill
- Stroll around Gothic Quarter
- Enjoy tasting menu at 3 star Michelin restaurant
- Take excursion to the Museum of Modern Art
- Visit Camp Nou stadium
Worst things to do in Barcelona
In brief, you’ll have a bad experience if you:
- Don’t have a look at your belongings and forget about pickpockets
- Don’t book the attractions you want to visit beforehand
- Rush through the city’s sights to see them all
- Come with an idea of traveling on a budget
- Stick to your food habits not trying some local dishes
Best things to do in Barcelona
1. See the Sagrada Familia
You will be in awe of this masterpiece made by Antonio Gaudi. The construction began in 1882, and it’s still not finished yet. But believe me, that’s not a big deal! So have a walk inside the temple, climb the towers, listen to an audio guide or walk with a tour guide in person. If you witness the sunset there, it will triple your experience for sure.
Choosing from two towers (Passion or Nativity), I recommend you to take the Nativity tower tour for these reasons:
- Gaudí himself oversaw the construction of this tower before his death
- The sculptures on the side are much more beautiful
- It’s the only tower with an outside bridge that lets you walk to the next building of Sagrada Familia
Buy a ticket in advance online on the website.
Tip #1 If you are under 30 years, you can get a discount if you visit Sagrada Familia on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in the last two hours.
Tip #2 Barcelona Card gives you many discounts and free entrances to the tourist attractions. You also get free rides on public transport, and city guides in six languages. It has a duration of 72, 96, or 120 hours. The price starts from €48, and the kids’ fare is half the price of the adult charge.
Tip #3 It’s safe to drink tap water in Barcelona. So keep your eyes out for a free top-up.
See the metro map of Barcelona with attractions.
2. Go to Montjuic Hill
Montjuic is a 213-meter hill in Barcelona. Depending on your location, you can get there by car, cable car from the Port of Barcelona, or funicular railway from Parallel metro station. On the top of the hill, you will have some breathtaking city views and see the Montjuic Castle.
If you are there only to have an outdoor experience, head to the Olympic Stadium, Greek Theater Gardens, Jewish Mountain, and Barcelona Botanical Garden.
To satisfy your cultural thirst, schedule visits to the Picasso and Joan Miró Museums and the National Art Museum of Catalonia.
Tip Plan at least one day for Montjuic if you want to visit its museums and enjoy a futuristic musical performance of singing fountains in the evening.
3. Explore the foodie in you at La Boqueria Market
La Boqueria is the local food market at La Rambla street where you will find all that you can wish for. A plate of paella, scrambled eggs with asparagus, octopus with grilled vegetables, delicious fruits and sweets, wine, oysters, Spanish cheese, etc. If choosing the food is difficult, you can enjoy sample smaller bite-sized treats (Spanish tapas).
Here are some worthy spots inside the Boqueria Market:
- Bar Ramblero is a must-visit for seafood lovers. You’ll find lots of mouth-watering menu items.
- Another corner, El Quim, is also famous for its seafood. The paella and oxtail risotto are perfect here, and your tastebuds will dance with pleasure.
- Bar Pinotxo is for Catalan food enthusiasts. It is famous for its owner Juanito, an old gent, who has been devoted to his work for more than 50 years already. The bar is not fancy, but the dishes are super tasty. Try chickpeas and morcilla (blood sausage).
4. Take a walk in Park Güell
Park Güell is another beautiful sight by Antoni Gaudí, built between 1900 and 1914. It combines nature and architecture in perfect harmony. The area was originally intended as an urbanization project in a park of 18 hectares. However, they built only 2 of the 60 planned establishments, one of which was inhabited by Gaudí and today is the artist’s House Museum.
Everything in this park has Gaudí’s stamp, from the access staircase to the Greek theater square supported by 86 columns. In truth, absolutely everything in this space is worthy of a fantasy story. I highly recommend visiting the park if you want to know about the work of the famous Catalan architect.
Tip If you plan to get to the park using the subway, be prepared for at least a 20-minute uphill walk. If you have difficulty climbing stairs, better take a taxi or bus. You will find information at the tourist office in Plaza de Catalunya.
5. See Barceloneta at sunset
Barceloneta is one of the city’s oldest and most famous beaches. You can find it in the neighborhood of the same name, near San Sebastian beach and next to Somorrostro beach. It is not only travelers’ favorite spot but also one of the most traditional leisure areas for the locals.
The beach was remodeled during the 1992 Olympic Games, and now it is a perfectly accessible beachfront. Its central location and easy public transport access make it a favorite place for many people.
I recommend you visit Barceloneta at sunset to get a fabulous panoramic view of the W Barcelona Hotel, the Mapfre Towers, and an amazing Goldfish sculpture by Frank Gehry in the Olympic Port.
You can also see the sculpture “A room where it always rains,” located in the Plaza del Mar in Barceloneta. It was built for the 1992 Olympic Games by Juan Muñoz, and the work represents a gallery of railings with five bronze figures inside.
Note Barceloneta beach is clothing optional.
6. Climb the Tibidabo Mountain
Tibidabo mountain is the highest peak of the Sierra del Collserola, the range that surrounds Barcelona. Over 500 meters high, the site offers the best views of Barcelona and many entertainment alternatives for the whole family.
If you are traveling with kids, drop at the Tibidabo amusement park. It is the most emblematic amusement park in Barcelona and one of the oldest in the world. Its attractions entertain children from 0 to 99 years old 😉. There are the fabulous roller coaster, the Ferris wheel, the flying chairs, and the interactive water fountain.
Very close to the park is the Expiatory Temple of the Sacred Heart, a curious church visible at night from any point in the city.
This neo-Gothic complex consists of a lower crypt and a church on an upper level. It is on this level, after climbing a staircase, where you can get the incredible views of Barcelona.
7. Walk through the Gothic Quarter
Barcelona may seem a perfectly planned city architecturally, but this is not always the case. The Gothic Quarter, one of the city’s most distinct and beautiful neighborhoods, comprises many narrow and labyrinthine medieval streets.
The Gothic Quarter is one of the main tourist attractions of the city of Barcelona for its aesthetics, its monuments, and historic buildings, and for its social life, both night and day.
It is also the oldest part of the city—some of its streets cover the remains of the ancient Roman city.
This is a place that invites you to walk through it, to get lost in the narrow and winding streets, to rest from time to time in a square, and to have a drink in some of the bars.
8. Enjoy the tasting menu at a 3-star Michelin restaurant
Barcelona has plenty of restaurants where you’ll enjoy the dishes and drinks for every taste and budget. If you are a fancy-food lover, you’ll love one of the sophisticated restaurants the Michelin Guide marks.
Check out 19 best Michelin star restaurants in Barcelona article.
At the moment, there are 19 Michelin restaurants in the city, and two of them have 3 stars (out of 3)—Abac Barcelona and Lasarte Barcelona.
The first one, Abac, is located in the hotel of the same name and serves modern Catalan cuisine made of local products. The tasting menu consists of traditional cuisine and avant-garde concepts. The cost is $250, which is worth every cent. You will also enjoy the peculiar serving of dishes and excellent service.
The second one, Lasarte Barcelona, takes up residence in the Monument Hotel. Here you’ll find contemporary-style meal solutions. The tasting menu goes for $280 and is meticulously selected so that you can try all the dishes and not feel heaviness or hunger. At the end of the dinner, the chef comes to each table, thanks for visiting, and asks for feedback. If you want to touch haute cuisine — this is the place for you.
Tip #1 In Barcelona, expect to tip 5% for a good service and 10% for a great experience. Some restaurants include tips in the check.
Tip #2 Drinks are not included in the tasting menu at such restaurants. There could be a glass of aperitif, but you will have to pay extra for the wine pairing and even for the water.
9. Go to the Museum of Modern Art
The MACBA (Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona) is by far the most modern contemporary art museum in Barcelona and one of the most important institutions of its kind in Europe.
It houses one of the world’s largest collections of present-day art (more than 5,000 works) and is only a 5-minute walk from several metro stations.
The exhibitions change every 3-6 months. Also, the museum hosts a permanent collection. Most likely, you will love the Short Century collection. It narrates Barcelona’s relationship with art and involves famous and less known artists. There are different periods on display: Spanish Civil War, Pop Art, Revolution, Feminism, and Minimalism.
Tip #1 Free entrance is every Saturday after 4 PM (you save €11). Kids under 14 are always free of charge.
Tip #2 Download the free audio guide app while inside. And if you don’t take along earphones, you can buy some at the front desk for €0,50.
Tip #3 There is free Wi-Fi.
10. Visit Camp Nou stadium
Camp Nou was built in the 1950-s and is now the home arena of one of the world-famous football clubs, Barcelona. It’s also the largest stadium in Europe, with a capacity of nearly 100,000 spectators.
You can walk around the stadium, see the press conference zone, changing rooms, and buy some decent clothes or souvenirs at the club store (which is really huge!).
Visit the FC Barcelona museum to see various old relics and trophies, football kits, and interactive walls displaying the most spectacular moments from matches.
What to see in Barcelona map
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Barcelona safe for tourists?
For sure, yes. However, be aware of pickpockets, especially on the metro, overcrowded streets, and cafe’s outside terraces. Besides, keep an eye on unofficial sites with the extra commission while booking excursions online. And one more, make a copy of your passport and carry it with you instead of the original.
Is Barcelona expensive for tourists?
Well, it depends on which country to compare with. It’s the most expensive city in Spain, but if you come here after any Scandinavian country or Switzerland, it will be cheap mostly everywhere.
When is it better to visit Barcelona?
The high season is from May to the middle of September. The best time for the trip is the beginning of May or late September and early October. It’s not so hot outside to visit all the attractions. Anyway, Barcelona is lovely to see all year round. An off-season trip to Barcelona will give a buzz to fewer tourists and comfy weather without heat.
What if I don't know Spanish?
It’s not a problem at all. In the city center, you will often hear English speech. For sure, you can have some phrases in Spanish ready at hand for greetings or some small talks at the market or cafe. But be prepared that many more things are written and pronounced in Catalan, not Spanish.
Is "siesta" a thing these days?
You’ll hardly find a place closed at a midday break in the city center. But remember that some outside stores can have a siesta time break. Also, August is when many places are closed due to vacations, and most stores are closed on Sundays. So don’t postpone urgent bargains to the last day of the week.
Non-touristy things to do in Barcelona
There are plenty of unusual things to do in Barcelona with less people around you. Here are some of the ideas.
- The Carmel Bunkers viewpoint, one of the most hidden gems in Barcelona
- Maze of Parc del Laberint d’Horta, the oasis to escape from the city
- Outdoor Cinema at the Montjuic, a giant pitch turning into the open-air cinema on selected summer evenings
- Sant Antoni Flea Market, a collection of world-famous outlets for fashion queens
- Castelldefels Beach with ambient water, located 18 km south of Barcelona
- Kayaking tour of Costa Brava
- CosmoCaixa, an interactive museum with exhibitions dedicated to science from nature to space
- Ciutadella park, a quiet green spot in the city
- Torre Bellesguard, a calm alternative to more popular Gaudí works
- Trencadis mosaic workshop at Park Guell
- Rambla del Poblenou, a more peaceful, kids- and pet-friendly street than touristic La Rambla
- Mercado Santa Caterina, a little food market for the locals
You can also climb the top of Basilica of Saints Justus and Pastor and enjoy that non-touristy city views (just ask the caretaker of the basilica, and pay something around €5). See on the map.
Barcelona is a must-go for architecture enthusiasts, nature and art lovers, food lovers, and all who value various experiences in the city and locations nearby.
Here you’ll witness the unique architecture of Gaudi, climb the mountains with a bird’s eye view of the city, relax on the beach, admire pieces of art and have a fancy dinner at a 3-star restaurant. Well, isn’t it a perfect match for a one-week journey?
If you have less time, check out the article about 5 things to do in Barcelona in one day.
Thanks for reading, and please leave your comments below!
Hello, my name is Nadia. I usually write about traveling (there are so many places to fit all the lifestyles), relocation (finding a job overseas or moving without losing an income), and living in a foreign country (adapting to a different culture and mentality).