Barcelona is now Europe’s sixth most visited city and it’s easy to see why. This super-hybrid haven for sun-seekers, history buffs, architecture nuts, food fanatics, and party animals indulges every tourist tendency like no other.
If you’ve never visited the city before, you’ll know there’s so much to see. First time? This Barcelona guide contains all the things to not miss on your trip. If it’s not your first time visiting the Catalan capital, we suggest reading our 30 insider tips on what to do in Barcelona or watching this video about Barcelona fun facts.
Visit the one and only Sagrada Familia
The first thing on our guide to Barcelona is, of course, the iconic Sagrada Familia. They say good things take time so maybe that’s why this epic Basilica has been under construction since 1882. It’s been called the most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office on the day, however, they are subject to availability and often sell out for the same day. It’s best to book your tickets online before you go. Your ticket will give you an allocated timeslot for when you can enter the Sagrada Familia.
See the glory that is Casa Batllo
This art-nouveau mansion and Gaudi masterpiece has a dragon’s back for a roof and is said to have almost no straight lines. The inside of the building is just as impressive as its facade – the subtle nod to Mother Nature throughout its design makes for some breathtaking moments. Look out for the unique ways that Gaudi has managed to bring natural light through all the floors, and the undulating walls that mirror a calm sea.
The roof of the Casa Battlo is no less than legendary. This is where it gets its nickname The House of the Dragon from. The ceramic tiles on the roof resemble the scales on a dragons back – you can touch them when standing on the roof garden – don’t worry, they don’t breathe fire!
Look down on the city from the majestic Park Guell
The mosaic-covered buildings of Park Guell have come to be the postcard photo of Barcelona, appearing on the front page of almost all Barcelona guide books, and it’s easy to see why! The park itself is remarkably beautiful and has one of the best panoramic views of the city. The best way to reach Park Guell from the city centre is to take a bus (Bus 24) from Placa Catalunya or Passeig de Gracia. Some areas of the park are free, whilst others (the best parts) require you to buy a ticket.
Hit the beach and get a tan
Barcelona’s 7 beaches are a no-brainer for summertime fun – hit Barceloneta for people watching or Nova Mar for something a little quieter. Whist the sea at these city beaches may not be the best you’ve ever seen, their proximity to the city and general atmosphere of the beach makes them a key part of our Barcelona guide, especially in the summer. On your way home, stop off at one of the Xiringuitos (beach huts) on the sand for a sundowner.
Go for a Catalonian craft beer at Fabrica Moritz
150 years in the brewing game has made Moritz a Barcelona institution, so it’s no wonder they’ve kicked it up a notch, opening a restaurant with Michelin-starred chef Jordi Vilà. The Moritz brewery and restaurant in Sant Antoni is a must for any beer-lover. Even if you aren’t a beer drinker, it’s still well worth the visit. The beer is brewed on the lower floor, and everything you taste comes directly from the tanks into your glass.
Ponder over 4000 original Picassos at the Picasso Museum
The Picasso Museum in Barcelona showcases one of the most extensive Picasso collections in the world, with a particular highlight on much of his early work. Picasso spent his adolescent years in Barcelona, and it is the place where he developed his artistic training. The Museum is located in the heart of the Old Town, in the very streets where the young Picasso lived his Barcelona life.
Have afternoon tapas and Vermouth
Though vermouth (vermut in Catalan) was invented in Italy, this spiced wine beverage has become the heavyweight champion of Catalonian drinks. Quality homemade versions can be had for as little as one euro. Served with an olive and slice of orange, this mildly bitter drink is the perfect before-dinner treat to enjoy with some boquerones (white anchovies).
Have a picnic at Turo de la Rovira (The Bunkers)
The highest point in the city hosted anti-aircraft gun platforms during the Spanish Civil War. The Bunkers is now an idyllic spot for a wine and cheese picnic. It’s one of the lesser-known spots in our guide to Barcelona, loved by locals. During the summer months, go well before sunset to bag a good place. Dangle your legs over the edge and take in the unparalleled view of the city.
Grab a fresh snack at La Boqueria Market
Barcelona’s biggest market is found right in the middle of the famous La Rambla. Its central location means that it’s always packed with people, so prepare to elbow your way through the stalls! The selection and quality of ingredients are sensational. Grab a €1 fruit smoothie and get lost in the chaos.
Wind down in Ciutadella Park
Barcelona’s biggest park is a much-welcomed oasis of green for the locals of Barcelona. Home to a zoo, a stunning fountain and a lake, there’s plenty to do here. If you’re travelling with children, visiting Cuitadella Park is a must! If you’re having a romantic getaway in Barcelona, rent a rowboat and enjoy floating around the lake with your other half.
Stuff yourself with paella at 7 Portes
There is much debate about which restaurant serves the best paella in Barcelona. One thing most people can agree on is that the 7 Portes paella is somewhere at the top of that list. They say Picasso ate paella here back when he was a budding artist. The classicly-chic interior is reminiscent of the restaurants’ history. Piano players compose soft melodies while you eat, to really set the atmosphere.
Take a tour of historic Camp Nou
The second biggest association football stadium in the world is home to one of the most historic clubs of all time. A tour at Camp Nou includes access to the Camp Nou Museum where you will be able to See 22 Liga and 4 Champion’s League trophies in the same room. Explore an area solely dedicated to Barcelona’s hero, Leo Messi. Then step into the second stand and take in the incredible panoramic view of the stadium. The museum tour is must-do in Barcelona for any football fan.
Dine in style at El Nacional
Barcelona’s first multi-zone culinary space serves up delicious food using only fresh ingredients from France and the Iberian Peninsula. There are four restaurants and four bars to choose from within El Nacional. Choose from a speciality meat restaurant, fish restaurant, tapas bar or a cafe-style eaterie.
Wander around the picturesque Gracia district
A distinct municipality until annexed by Barcelona in 1897, the neighbourhood’s independent spirit lives on in the form traffic-free streets, family-run shops, and a distinct Catalan feel not found in the rest of the city. The bohemian and artistic atmosphere of Gracia is much loved by the locals, who consider Gracia to be the true spirit of the city.
Grab a bottle of cheap, delicious wine at Xampanyet
This is Spanish fast food at its best and deserves to be on every Barcelona guide. This small unassuming restaurant is tucked away on a side street in El Born with just a few tables so sit at and no reservations being taken. It’s one of the great secret things to do in Barcelona, frequented mostly by locals. You may have to wait for a table, but stay strong! The wait is really worth it. Select a few dishes off the menu and a bottle of cava, and start from there. You’re almost certain to go back for more.