20 unmissable things to do in Barcelona
Barcelona seems to find its way onto most people’s itineraries… and for good reason. It has a vibrant food scene, fantastic art and architecture, great Mediterranean weather and beautiful beaches. And it’s simply a great destination for a weekend trip!
Barcelona is a fantastic city but usually gets very crowded during the summer months. Many sightseeing places and the city center get packed with people and you’ll have better to keep away from those places during peak season (July/August). I have listed for you our top 20 Barcelona highlights providing a perfect mix of “must seen spots” and hidden places known only by locals.
In the map below you can find our best addresses and itineraries of Barcelona.
1. SPEND A DAY AT THE BEACH
We really love Barcelona during the off-season, when beaches are empty. Already in March the temperature is very pleasant and you may have a nice walk and lunch at the Barceloneta beach. You can rent a bike and enjoy a cruise along the beach in direction of the Port Olímpic. The restaurant close to the beach are great to have lunch and enjoy the fantastic view.
During summer months, beaches in Barcelona are always packed with endless people and are really and crually lacking. If you want to spend a relaxed day at the beach, follow the locals and head to one of the beaches near Tarragona, called playa de la “Roca Plana” and the “Cala Fonda” (called Waikiki Beach by the locals).
To get there you need to walk 20 minutes but it’s definitely worth the effort and you will feel like at the Costa Brava or in Menorca. Don’t forget to pack enough water and food for the day (there is no bar/restaurant around).
The easiest way to get there is by car. You have many car rentals in the center of Barcelona, like Avis or Europecar. The price for a day rental is around 40 Euros depending to the season.
Park your car near La Mora Beach in Tamarit (Tarragona). This is the closest place where you can park. Then it’s a 20 minutes walking to the “Roca Plana” beach or 30 minutes walking to Waikiki beach.
Check out the itinerary in our map below.
2. Sagrada familia, park güell, casa vicens – visit Gaudí’s incredible work
The architecture in Barcelona makes this city unique. Its wide range of modern and traditional architectural style, standing side by side throughout the city, is creating a beautiful balance between old and new. Antoni Gaudí is Barcelona’s most famous architect and has given the city some of the most incredible and distinctive buildings. He worked on all his creations until the smallest detail, integrating into architecture a whole series of hand-crafted works of which he himself mastered the techniques to perfection: ceramics, glassmaking, ironwork, carpentry.
His most incredible and famous work is the Sagrada Familia. The construction still started in 1882 and is actually planed to be finished in 2026. Here you can watch an impressive 3D video on how the Sagrada Familia will look once finished.
- Better to buy your tickets online to avoid long queues. You have different ticket option and guided tours which you can book directly on the official website.
- The Sagrada Familia opens at 9 am everyday and it’s surely when there is the least number of people.
- If you are planning to go on top of either of the towers, keep in mind that children who are less than 6 years of age are not allowed.
3. Stroll through the narrow streets of Gothic District
The Gothic Quarter, or Barri Gòtic, is a dense web of historic buildings and shady atmospheric squares located between Las Ramblas and Via Laietana, and has formed the central part of the Old City since Roman period. The Gothic District is full of character but also is one of the most touristic aeras in Barcelona and can get very crowded during the high season in July and August. Nevertheless, it is a nice district to stroll through the very narrow, winding streets and explore the amazing medieval architecture.
Some of the classic sightseeing spots in the Gòtic neighborhood are the Portal del Bisbe (Bishop’s Gate), the Cathedral of Santa Eulàlia, Plaça Reial or Plaça de Sant Jaume.
Here are our top picks for the Barri Gòtic:
Eat/Drink: The Gothic District is a very touristy area and definitely not the place where you find the best restaurants of Barcelona, most of the restaurants are tourist traps or uninspiring fast foods. But if you are in the area and hungry, we recommend you 2 traditional restaurants.
Bodega La Palma | Carrer de la Palma de Sant Just, 7 | 08002 Barcelona
El 4Gats | Carrer de Montsió, 3 | 08002 Barcelona
4. Try out some real good tapas
Barcelona is heaven for all foodies and one of the world’s best cities when it comes to eating and drinking. The offer is varied and of high-quality, from the neighborhood Tapas bars that’s been around forever to the more than 30 Michelin stars restaurants.
In the map below we have listed our favorite restaurants.
5. Visit one of Barcelona’s covered Food Markets
La Boquería is no doubt one of Barcelona’s most famous tourist attractions. The fresh ingredients and cooked foods available are impressive and it’s a culinary icon of Barcelona. There are a couple of well known legendary tapas bar within La Boqueria ( El Quim De La Boqueria or Bar Pinotxo) where you can eat while being surrounded by the busy market environment. If you visit during high season try to come early in the morning or visit one of the less known markets. The Santa Caterina market or the Mercat Sant Antoni are a good alternative.
6. Visit Barcelona’s great museums and expositions
In Barcelona’s museums you’ll also find plenty of collections that span from medieval period to the 1990s. Here is a list of our favorite art museums:
- Museu Picasso – The museum features over 3,500 works of art by Picasso, one of the larges Picasso Collecion in the world.
- Fondació Joan Miro – A museum dedicated to his work, the Fundació Joan Miró was created by Miró himself and built in collaboration with the architect Josep Lluís Sert.
- MACBA – Museu d’Art Contemporani – Every weekend, the MACBA offers an ongoing program targeted for families, which combines tours of the exhibition galleries and workshops
- MNAC – Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya – The MNAC collection includes what is believed to be the largest collection of Romanesque art in the world.
- CaixaForum – Is one of the city’s architectural jewels lesser known. This cultural center has 4 art expositions, an auditorium for special shows, workshop and movies for kids
We also recommend two great Science Museums:
- Cosmo Caixa – offers an amazing experience for everyone interested in science and nature. You can see live experiments in physics, geology, biology and mathematics. The highlight is certainly the “Underwater Jungle,” a 1000 square meter greenhouse with real crocodiles and 30 meters high trees behind the ceiling-high glass.
- Museu Blau – The massive blue triangular shaped building is an architectural masterpiece of Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. The Museu Blau features a permanent exhibition called “Planet Life”, which covers the progress of our planet from the beginning to our days.
7. Get lost in the Park del Laberint d’Horta
This is Barcelona’s oldest garden which is situated outside the crowded city center among the hills of Horta district. It’s one of Barcelona’s best kept secrets and a great spot to spend a relaxed family afternoon. The highlight of the gardens is, of course, the neoclassical-style labyrinth standing at its center. Apart from the labyrinth, the park also has a large playground, an outdoor/cafe bar, picnic areas, and gorgeous landscaped gardens to contemplate.
Entry price: 2.50 Euros (cash only)
Opening hours: December to February, daily from 10am-6pm; March and November, daily from 10am-7pm; April and October, daily from 10am-8pm; and from May to September, open 10am-9pm.
Laberint d’Horta Park | Passeig dels Castanyers, 1 | 08035 Barcelona
8. Explore the mount Monjuic
Montjuïc is a great place to escape the noisy city life and relax in the many green areas and parks. Possibilities are wide on the small mountain of Montjuïc and it is easy to find a quiet place for a picnic. We reveal our best addresses for Montjuic here in another dedicated article.
9. Design, fashion & street food at Palo Alto Market
Palo Alto Project started with the idea of transforming an old factory into a space that brought studios and creative professionals’ workshops together. Today, it’s the most popular street market in Barcelona with live music, workshops for kids, fashion & design stalls and insanely good food trucks. Make sure you won’t miss it. It takes place the first weekend of every month.
Palo Alto Market | Carrer dels Pellaires, 30 | 08019 Barcelona
10. Relax in the Parc de la Ciutadella
When you need a rest from the bustling city take a walk through Barcelona’s most famous Parc de la Ciutadella. Locals love to organize picnics here, play table tennis, practice yoga or to have their kid’s birthday parties, while tourists come to soak up the atmosphere.
11. Visit the trendy El Born District
El Born is one of Barcelona’s trendiest districts, located between the Ciutadella Park and El Gotic. It’s a very historical district in the heart of Barcelona, an old craftsmen area in the past. Nowadays, it’s filled with nice restaurants, trendy bars and concept stores. It’s also home to some famous places as the Palau de la Musica Catalana, Barcelona’s most stunning concert hall or the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar.
Here are our top picks for El born:
Casa Lolea | Carrer de Sant Pere Més Alt, 49 | 08003 Barcelona
Bornisimo | 08003 98, Carrer de Sant Pere Més Baix | 08003 Barcelona
Tinycotton | Passeig del Born, 7 | 08002 Barcelona
Gidlööf | Passatge Mercantil, 1 | 08003 Barcelona
12. Take a Ceramic or Mosaic class
Barcelona is a great place for creative people. The city offers a large range of courses in different artistic domains. Here are two of our favorite addressses:
Atuell Ceramic | Carrer del Montseny, 45 | 08012 Barcelona | Spain – Open from Mon – Fri, 18.30 – 21h.
Mosaic Course by LÍVIA GARRETA | Carrer de Pere Serafí, 39 | 08012 Barcelona
13. Watch a movie under the stars
During summer months, the Sala Montjuic takes place in the garden of the Castillo Montjuic. This popular outdoor cinema starts always with live music. Friends and families gather together for a picnic, to listen to music before movie session begins. Don’t forget to reserve your tickets in advanced here.
14. Enjoy a swim with a view
15. Explore Barcelona’s most bohemian district
Gracia is our favorite district in Barcelona. It’s a very bohemian area, home for young families and working artists which has retained a village feeling. In the crowded summer months this area is a much more pleasant than the stuffed neighborhoods near the sea. We have dedicated an entire blog post on Gracia and reveal our best addresses. Find out more here.
16. Get the best view of Barcelona
Barcelona is one of the cities that has quite a few things you can only experiment here. Like the Tibidabo Amusement Park, on top of the Tibidabo mountain or the carretera de les Aigües with an incredible view on the city. Find out more in our special Tibidabo post here
17. Have fun at a Summer Open Air or Street Festivals
There are so many things to do in Barcelona during summer! Eeach district has its own festival but the most extravagant is far and away the Festa Major de Gracia. The residents transform streets into pirate ships, rainforests and Jurassic landscapes depending of the given theme. You can find over 600 activities, from concerts to ‘sardanes’ and bouncy castles for kids.
18. Bargain in one of Barcelona’s Flea Markets
“One man’s garbage is another man´s gold”. That´s the main philosophy of the Flea Market Barcelona, which is organized monthly in the streets of Barcelona. Here is the link for the upcoming markets: Fleamarketbcn
Barcelona’s Encants Vells is the largest second-hand market and one of the oldest in Europe. You can find everything from rare antiques, second-hand books, ornaments, cameras, furnitures and clothes.
19. Try Calçots, the Catalan green onion
Calçotada is something that is completely unique to Catalans; it is a grand celebration, a winter barbecue where the calçots are packed tight on a grill – it’s a type of spring onion crossed with leek. You peel off the outer skin and then dip them in a delicious Romesco sauce accompanied with all type of grilled meat . The Calçotada menu runs from November to April, whilst the spring onions are in season.
Here are 3 restaurants where Calçotada is served in and outside of Barcelona. Don’t go without reservation.
20. Go to see a movie in the charming cinema Verdi
The movies in Barcelona are mostly spoken in Catalan or Spanish. The Cine Verdi is one of the few cinemas where you can watch movies in the original version. It’s a small and charming independent cinema situated in the Gracia district .
Cinema Verdi | Carrer de Verdi, 32 | 08012 Barcelona
Things NOT on our list:
La Rambla is still on the lists of many tourist guides and travel blogs and we don’t really know why! It’s a pedestrian street packed with tourists and sellers of cheap trinkets. Restaurants on Las Ramblas are overpriced and serve low quality food. Better to stay away and to enjoy some more authentic spots in Barcelona.
The Beaches during peak season:
From June to August, Barcelona’s beaches are over crowded with annoying tourist and the sea along is very dirty. You won’t find many locals at the Barceloneta beach during Summer months. If you like to spend a day at the beach, go to Tarragona, Sitges, Castelldefels or the Costa Brava.
Flamenco comes from the south of Spain, from Andalusia and is not a Catalan tradition. In Barcelona, Flamenco shows have mainly appeared in response to tourist’s expectations.
Shop at Z*** & Co.:
Prices are even lower in Spain due to small transport costs but the quality remains the same, cheap & low. We prefer to buy in small local shops where you can find nice and unique designs. Check out El born or the Gracia district where you can find many local design shops.
Check out all our best addresses in the map below (we update our maps regularely).
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