Barcelona is one of the most iconic and lovely cities in Spain, and there are plenty of amazing things to do as well as activities that are off the beaten path.
It’s a city where urban life meets beach culture. You will feel alive as you take tapas and sangria in the late hours of the evening only to salsa dance till morning comes up.
Barcelona, a city where culture and partying go hand in hand, where football is on everybody’s mind, and the Catalan pride flows through everything.
Barcelona Spain City Guide Why You Must Visit
Barcelona is for most people THE PLACE to visit – shopping, sun, partying – Barcelona really has everything.
We both have been there before, and it was great to come back and see everything from a different perspective a few years later. If you are traveling to Barcelona Spain see our video and Barcelona Spain City Guide.Spending 24 hours in this city is intense, but you really get the best of all worlds.
In many Barcelona Spain city guide books list top Picks for a day out Barcelona, Exploring Barcelona by Car – Barcelona Day Trips or to spend a fun weekend.
Best Things to Do in Barcelona
Barcelona is not just for experiencing Spanish culture, but it is full of amazing architecture from the famed artist Gaudi. You can visit many of his monuments across the city from the vast Park Guell to the immense Casa Barllo.
If you’re wondering what to explore in Barcelona Spain, this list is a great jumping off point.
La Sagrada Família
A good start of the day is visiting the masterpiece of Gaudí, La Sagrada Família. The catholic church has been under construction since 1882, and is currently scheduled to finish in 2026.
What’s interesting about the church is the variety of design. So many different architects with completely different thoughts.
The present design is based on reconstructed versions of the lost plans as well as on modern adaptations.
Seeing this is something you wouldn’t want to miss, and the best time to see it is in the morning around 8.30, when you will find the morning light giving you the opportunity for the best photos! 😉
However, neither of these two things have anything on La Sagrada Familia. This cathedral was started by Gaudi and to this day it is still not finished.
However, it is still one of the most impressive and modern churches in all of Europe. The Biblical images etched into the stone of the church are incredible.
You can even climb to the towers of the church and over-look all of Barcelona.
Admire the amazing architecture along Passeig de Grácia. This is also the major shopping street, so if you can afford some shopping you’ll find some awesome shops.
But as a backpacker, you do best in just doing some window shopping – it’s actually quite nice as the shops are designed really cool with modern designs, ponds and aquariums inside.
On this street you can also see Casa Batlló by Antonio Gaudí, which is my favorite house. Being built over a century ago (1877) it’s still modern and “before” today designers.
Another building by him is Casa Milá, one of the few buildings open for the public!
Barcelona Coffee and Newspapers
Have a cake and “cafe con leche” at Café d El´Opera, a café with history dating back to the 18th century.
You get that old musky feeling sitting at this café which is a favorite by locals, but lately talked about more in Barcelona Spain city guide books as well.
Find it in the middle of La Rambla.
Wander Through Las Ramblas
Las Ramblas is one of the most popular districts in Barcelona. Wander through the winding roads and enjoy some of the best people watching in all of Spain.
Here you can find the freshest food, and melt in with the locals who come here to shop their groceries, or enjoy a coffee.
Have a ball, but remember to watch out for pickpockets. Drop by the mercato La Boqueria on the way and buy some fruits and stuff for a picnic by the harbor later in the day.
The Fundacio Joan Miro
If you love to climb, you can’t miss the Fundacio Joan Miro. This hill is right near the middle of the city and is chock full of amazing art.
You can easily spend the entire day marveling at the art that you will find here.
The Santa Maria del Mar
The Santa Maria del Mar is one of the most beautiful structures in all of Barcelona. It’s an architectural miracle full of impressive design and plenty of stained glass.
Visit this wonder and you get a glimpse of some very masterful stone craftsmanship and some incredible glass work.
Check Out Some Amazing Art
You will not run into any shortage of art in Barcelona, but one place that you don’t want to miss is the Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya, which is known for its galleries of Romanesque art and some of the rarest masterpieces in the world.
It is truly not to be missed on your trip to Barcelona. Pick up a Barcelona Spain city guide book so you don’t miss anything.
Peek on Picasso Paintings
Visit the Picasso museum, the most popular museum in Barcelona, and for a good reason. It is the most extensive collection of Pablo Picasso, and the museum is beautifully put in 5 medieval palaces.
You find over 3, 500 works, and it includes all from old school books his “blue period”.
Visit Barcelona’s Beaches
Barcelona has some of the most amazing beaches in the world because they are full of life and fun. Enjoy the sun and surf, and then head to the local beach side restaurants for some amazing Spanish cuisine.
Siesta in the Sun
This will not be in many Barcelona Spain city guide books. Walk along the harbor with a gelato, sit down by one of the benches or at the beach and have the lunch you bought from the market.
If you have brought your swim wear along then you can go for a quick dip – but don’t put your head under the water, you can get bad eye infections from it… trust me I know 🙁
Wander around the Old Barrio
Check out Barri Gótic, the old part of town, and do some shopping in the boutiques. Many of the building date back from medieval times and all the way to Roman settlement.
Wander along these winding streets and soak up the feeling of old Barcelona. If you haven’t had enough of churches you can have a look into the Cathedral of Santa Eualia.
Bow Tie Bartenders and Cocktail Expertise
Have a cocktail at Barcelona’s oldest bar “Boadas” (since 1933), a hang out place for famous people like Hemingway and Juan Miró.
The bar is just off la rambla (Carrer del Tallers 1), but could be quite tricky to find since it’s very discreet with its red little door, showing no sign of being a place where the bartenders wear bow ties…
They don’t have a menu, and don’t expect a website any time soon under this century…
Have some tapas at La esquinica, a favorite by the locals with good quality for a good price. Be there before 9pm if you want to avoid standing in a long line waiting for a table.
It’s quite a bit away from La Ramblas, but you can get there with metro, get off at Vilapicina or Virrei Amat. The restaurant is in the middle of Fabra I Puig street.
Price range between 10-20 Euro.
El Bosc de les Fades
Sip on a sangría when wandering through the rooms in “El Bosc de les Fades”, a pub design from fairy tale. It’s part of the Wax Museum, and inside there are big sleepy hollow trees, caves, waterfalls and fairy figures.
I really liked the place since it was pretty special, and the atmosphere is great. You find it in the south end of La rambla, Passatge de la Banca, 5, next to the Wax Museum.
Bar hop in Barri Gotic and El Born
Time to check out some more bars.
There are so many bars to choose between in Barcelona, and you will probably end up in a completely different bar than planned, but hanging around in Barri Gotic and El Born areas are probably the best.
Party all night long
The bars are lined up one next to the other down by the harbor and beach and you can party all night long until the morning.
In the shopping center Maremagnum there are quite a few bars and dancing, it doesn’t give you a very authentic feeling but is a lot of fun.
Maremagnum is half a shopping center and half a nightclub center, and there is everything form Techno to Salsa dancing in the clubs and pubs lined up next to each other in the mall – other fun clubs are Catwalk and Baja beach club.
Catwalk has two floors, R&B upstairs and techno downstairs. The vibes are totally different between the two stories, and so are the people on the floors.
Downstairs they have robotic go go dancers and the place looks more hip, while you can find that Latin vibe on the second floor.
Baja beach club is a fun club for backpackers and single people. The location is awesome, right on the beach, and it’s not very sophisticated with topless bartenders and relaxed dress codes.
If you like dancing to the good old hits that everyone sings along with the lyrics, this is the place for you. Another bar where travelers and backpackers meet up is Travel Bar.
This is the meeting point for those who have arranged barhopping, which is a pretty hectic drunken party group wobbling from pub to pub during the night.
A hill with the best view over Barcelona, with restaurants and a quite special theme park. The fun park is the oldest in Barcelona, and is a lot of fun since many of the attractions go over the steep hill.
Like when sitting in those spinning chair, it goes over the edge! The theme park retains most of the original rides, some of which date to the early 1900’s.
Check out the view when swimming in the Olympic pool. Remember to bring some food and towels along!
After a dip in the pool visit the fortress or a café and enjoy some more of the view. However, the most fun is probably the ride up there in the cable car.
First time visitors to Barcelona will more often than not head straight for Las Ramblas and when hunger strikes, to restaurants on said street or on those leading just off it.
Those in the know however, wouldn’t dream of it, and instead of heading down from Plaça Catalunya will head directly up from it, into the swanky neighborhood of Eixample.
Here you can find a stretch of blocks lined with fabulous cafés and restaurants where locals while away a few hours over a glass of wine, some top notch tapas or a slap up meal!
Carrer d’Enriq Granados is one street in particular that’s not to be missed for some great local dishes.
When the stars come up, those in search of a night out full of artistic fancy, bo-ho ambiance and a crowd of cool cats head to Carrer de Joaquin Costa in the riotous neighborhood of Raval.
Love it or hate it, the once red light district of the city has made of lot of effort to spruce itself up lately and is now home to some fantastic bars.
Quirky, colorful, unique, and perfect for those who’d rather gossip than boogie, this is the ideal place for a bit of nitty gritty Barcelona.
There are endless tours available around Barcelona these days, cycling tours being particularly popular at the moment. But how about breaking free from the others and discovering the city by yourself.
There are some great companies such as Green Bikes, which offer rentals on an hourly, daily or even weekly basis for very reasonable prices.
You can hire yourself a pair of wheels and enjoy a leisurely tour of the Catalan capital’s beautiful neighborhoods, pausing where and when you like and discovering Barcelona off the beaten track.
Cycle straight past the others and head into the unknown world of the wonderful, real Catalan capital.
If you’d rather have a guide to explain the sights, but are still looking for something a little bit different, companies such as Steel Donkey Bike Tours offer some really good trips around the lesser-known attractions of Barcelona.
They can tailor a tour to you, and often stop for snacks at some local hangouts, too.
This one’s great for a true taste of the real Barcelona.
Gràcia is perhaps Barcelona’s ‘coolest’ area, with an endless supply of vintage and curiosity shops, quirky cafés and snazzy eateries.
Think smoothies, think carrot cake, think cute squares surrounded by unique bars and shops selling anything from yoga mats to trinkets and you have Gràcia sussed.
Full of young people, this pretty neighborhood has a lively atmosphere and a truly arty, cosmopolitan vibe.
Despite its proximity to the city center however, Gràcia is generally undiscovered by tourists and has a village-like, local feel to it, ideal for a wander and a wonder!
There are so many different types of shops and areas, all from the big shopping complex El Corte Inglés and fancy luxury shops to little boutiques in the street corners.
Shopping is great along the Passeig de Grácia, but I have to say that I enjoy the streets in Barri Gotic more:
Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol, Carrer de la Portaferrissa and Carrer de Ferran are my favorites, and should definitely be in the top list of things to do in Barcelona.
Wander The Streets
Getting lost in the maze of alleyways is one of my favorite things to do in Barcelona, because you’ll be guaranteed to stumble upon something special.
Barcelona is like candy for the eyes, it’s a beautiful city with so many old amazing buildings and streets, just wandering these narrow little streets, admiring the architecture as well as visiting some churches is something you can spend a whole day doing.
The style is pretty but still rough and ‘worn’, and I really like that.
You’ll also find that Barcelona has some of the most impressive architecture in Europe, with Casa Milá, Casa Battló and the world famous church Sagrada de familia, by the praised artist Antoni Gaudí.
Also make sure you visit Park Güell, a very special garden complex with architectural elements by the same artist.
Explore the Old City
Barcelona’s Ciutat Vella (“old city” in Catalan) incorporates all of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, including the labyrinth of streets that make up beautiful Barri Gòtic, the Gothic Quarter.
This atmospheric neighbourhood boasts some of the most impressive Gothic architecture in Europe, with narrow lanes leading to fountains, pavement cafés and quaint squares.
Visit the Camp Nou
Barcelona is a sporty city, having hosted the 1992 Summer Olympics and some of the 1982 FIFA World Cup, but it’s best known for its football team: FC Barcelona.
Fans can’t miss a visit to the club’s home, Camp Nou, which is the largest stadium in Europe – remember often games are later in the evening so you can enjoy dinner beforehand!
And if you’re more interested in seeing where the Olympics took place, head to the city’s other big stadium: Estadi Olímpic Lluís Company’s, perched on a hill overlooking Barcelona’s harbor.
A free and fun event that goes on every evening of the week, the magic fountain at montjuic is a lovely way to finish a day in Barcelona and one of many popular Barcelona attractions for people of all ages.
Accompanied to classical music, the fountain puts on a show with lights and water moving in beautiful shapes to the music.
Finally, another beautiful artistic place to relax and rewind, Park Güell is a favorite among both locals and tourists.
Designed by Gaudi, this park which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was actually planned to be a private and exclusive residential garden city with 60 houses on the grounds.
The plan failed due to lack of interest, and in 1923 it was donated to the council and became the public park we can now enjoy.
If you’re looking for a Barcelona holiday rental there are many cozy ones to choose from in the area around Park Güell.
It’s a popular area as the park is a nice breathing spot where you can go for your morning run or relax after a full day of sightseeing.
Barcelona Spain City Guide Infographic
Barcelona Spain is a fabulous destination for tourist’s European Trip seeking a cosmopolitan experience. Its long history united with the many diverse cultures that shaped its growth make it a fascinating place to explore.
Wandering through its ancient, winding streets, it’s easy to speculate that perhaps mythical Hercules really did found the city. Kudos to him if he did.
Barcelona sits on a particularly lovely piece of real estate overlooking the Mediterranean.
In every niche, Barcelona Spain skillfully balances the traditional with the cutting edge.
You’ll still find the 13 white geese in a cloister at the Barcelona Cathedral, but you can also dance the night away at the Antilla BCN Latin Club.
If your salsa and merengue aren’t up to snuff, be sure to hit the Antilla on a night when they’re giving dance lessons. Barcelona Spain boasts a fabulous Metro underground train system, but it’s a wonderful city for walking too.
Perhaps the best walking experiences happen along Las Ramblas. Start at one end at the Plaça Portal de la Pau, which features a monument to Columbus, and make your way to the Plaça de Catalunya, which is widely considered to be the city’s heart.
As you ramble, take in the portrait painters, the flower sellers and the fabulous cafes with mouthwatering menus. Eat and drink to your heart’s content. A weekend in Barcelona will guarantee anyone to have a great time.
Barcelona has something for pretty much everyone, from incredible architecture; golden beaches; tasty tapas; world-famous night life; historic cobbled streets; top museums; and Spain’s most successful football club – it really is a MUST-SEE place for everyone to visit.
Wrap all of this up in some warm Mediterranean rays and a good-time atmosphere and you start to get a picture of what Barcelona is all about.
Also the many low cost flights and cheap Barcelona hotels have really brought down the costs for a weekend in Barcelona, away in the Catalan capital, allowing more and more travelers to enjoy Spain’s most exciting port city.