With fantastic art and architecture, a rich Medieval history, as well as innovative modern additions, Barcelona is certainly not short of things to do and see. Here, Culture Trip explores 14 of the unmissable things to do if you’re visiting the capital of Catalonia, Spain.
Antoni Gaudí is Barcelona’s most famous and most revered architect and is considered one of the pioneers (along with his contemporary Lluís Domènech i Montaner) of the historical movement known as Catalan Modernism. This movement emerged in Catalonia in the late 19th century and is characterised by natural curves and patterns, asymmetry and dynamic shapes – as seen on many of the most iconic landmarks in Barcelona. Take a tour of sites such as the Casa Batllò, Casa Milà (La Pedrera) or the Palau de la Mùsica Catalana to get a feel for this architectural movement.
Located in El Born, the Picasso Museum was created from a donated selection of Picasso’s work from his secretary and friend, Jaume Sabartés. Picasso was one of the most famous and loved artists of the 20th century, having painted masterpieces such as Guernica. His extensive collection of artworks includes intriguing and engaging paintings, ceramics and engravings, many of which are on display in the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. The building itself is also an incredible sight, set in five Medieval stone mansions, complete with courtyards and characterful staircases.
Located on the coast of the popular neighbourhood of the same name, Barceloneta Beach is Barcelona’s most bustling and touristy stretch of sand and sea. It is a great place to enjoy some fresh seafood in one of many chiringuitos (seaside huts) or seaside restaurants. Visitors to this beach can swim and also participate in a variety of other water sports, with windsurfing and kitesurfing being some of the most popular options. Lively both day and night and easily accessible, this beach is perfect if you still want to be close to the city’s main attractions.
Another of Gaudí’s masterpieces, but unique in itself, the Sagrada Família is his most famous piece of architecture and an icon of Barcelona. In construction since 1882 and expected to be completed in 2026, this piece of art is still evolving, making it a very engaging visit. Not only is it a spectacular feast for the eyes from the outside, with beautiful views from each side, the Sagrada Família also boasts a fantastic museum inside. There is an entrance fee, but it’s worth the price to witness the incredible interior, including the option of panoramas from the tower.
Santa Maria del Mar is Barcelona’s cathedral and the finest example of its expertise in Catalan Gothic architecture, with stunning stained-glass windows and the famous window of Ascension. Also notable for its flat-topped octagonal towers, it is a lovely sight outside as well as inside, where guests can discover the private tombs that give so much character and history to the cathedral. The interior is almost devoid of any imagery, allowing for unhindered admiration of the imposing height of the bare stonework.
This huge public market is one of the city’s most famous tourist landmarks, located around two-thirds of the way up the tourism hub of La Rambla. The first mention of La Boqueria dates back to 1217, and it still stands today as a vibrant and busy market. The grand iron entrance leads into what is one of Europe’s largest and most famous food markets, selling a rainbow selection of fruits, Spanish jamón, saffron spices and tinned fish, among other treats. Visitors can also enjoy something to eat at the famous El Quim de la Boqueria restaurant at the heart of the market.
A prominent hill overlooking Barcelona and boasting fantastic city views, Montjuïc is very popular with tourists. From the top, you can see sweeping vistas of the city and sparkling Mediterranean Sea, but possibly even more exciting is the cable car that takes visitors up to the hill. Montjuïc covers a wide territory and offers many activities, including gardens, a castle with an ominous history, the Olympic stadium and multiple museums.
Camp Nou has been home to the FC Barcelona team since 1957, but it is still a delight for self-proclaimed football haters. The large-scale stadium, covering a surface area of 55,000 square metres (592,015 square feet) and earning its title as the biggest stadium in Europe, is a stamp of pride for football fans. Visit just to admire the scale of the structure, but if you’re lucky enough to be there for a match, don’t miss the opportunity to go. Even for non-football fans, the atmosphere is simply incredible, with the size of the stadium and the passion of the fans making for a buzzing, lively experience.
A park on the northeastern edge of Ciutat Vella, Parc de la Ciutadella was once Barcelona’s only green space. No ordinary park, this idyllic and green haven is perfect for long and tranquil walks and peaceful rowing, and also boasts several attractions, including a zoo and a museum. The bandstand completes this lively yet peaceful park, which attracts residents and tourists alike. Parc de la Ciutadella is an excellent natural alternative to the centre of the city.
One of the city’s most beloved attractions, the Magic Fountain is a spectacular show of light, colour and music that takes place at the base of Montjuïc, in front of the MNAC (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya). The fountain was built for the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition but has undergone numerous upgrades throughout the years, including the addition of music in the 1980s ahead of the 1992 Summer Olympics.
Perched high atop Mount Tibidabo is the Tibidabo Amusement Park, the oldest amusement park in Spain and third oldest in Europe. Go on the rides (some of which offer even higher views of the city below) to feel like you’re experiencing childhood in an earlier time. Alternatively, stop by the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor next door and ride the elevator for a small fee to a tower staircase to get incredible panoramic vistas of the city, sea, hills and mountains beyond.
Barcelona native Joan Miró is one of the city’s most renowned artists of all times, internationally acclaimed for his surrealist, nearly child-like artwork. The Fundació Joan Miró is home to some of the artist’s most famous pieces, many of which were donated by the artist himself, involved at the time in the creation of the foundation. More than just a museum, though, the foundation was designed as a space for artistic and cultural interaction, a legacy continued at the Espai 13, an exhibition space dedicated to the work of emergent contemporary artists. This is one of Barcelona’s most singular artistic experiences.
Considered one of the forefathers of what is broadly known as molecular gastronomy, Ferran Adrià was the head chef of the world-famous three-Michelin-star El Bulli restaurant, located north of Barcelona on the Catalan coast. Named the best restaurant in the world five times by Restaurant Magazine, El Bulli shut down in 2011 before reopening as a culinary ‘creativity centre’ in 2014. Today, Barcelona is home to several restaurants that bear the Adrià name and continue the creative legacy of El Bulli, such as the tapas restaurant Tickets, the Mexican-inspired Hoja Santa or the Nikkei restaurant Pakta, to name a few.
Tara Jessop contributed additional reporting to this article.