What to Do in Barcelona: 18 Travel Tips
The first time I went to Barcelona, I thought I wasn’t going to like the city. I thought it would be a major tourist trap. But that wasn’t true at all. There are so many (free!) sights that make it a special place. I have been there several times now, so I thought it was time to share my best Barcelona travels tips in this extensive travel guide. In this post, I’m going to share what to do in Barcelona including what to see, where to stay, and more!
The Best Places to Visit in Barcelona
Of course I have to start my list of sights in Barcelona with the icon of the city. What the Eiffel Tower is for Paris and Big Ben is for London is the Sagrada Familia for Barcelona. The world famous basilica was designed by Antoni Gaudi, the most important architect of the city. The construction of the ambitious structure began in 1882 and has only stopped during the Spanish Civil War since then. As it looks now, the basilica will finally be ready in 2026. Gaudi, by the way, was so fond of the structure that during the last years of his life he worked on nothing else, lived on the construction site, and was buried in the crypt of the church after his death.
Tip: It costs €17 to visit the Sagrada Familia (including audio guide) and I’d advise purchasing tickets in advance. With that you can also skip the long queues. Reserve your tickets here.
If you also want to visit the church towers, a ticket costs €29 (again including audio guide). Then you do have a very nice view of the city, by the way. Reserve your tickets with tower access here.
If you’d rather not pay, and just enjoy the outside of the church, you can walk around and sit on a bench in a park with a pond. Wonderful place. I think towers look like melting candles, carved with images in their wax. I am always impressed when I visit.
Park Güell is the most famous city park in Barcelona. It is located in one of my favorite neighborhoods (Gracia), and stands out for all its special Gaudi artworks. The most important part of this park is the colorful mosaic staircase with a salamander, but there is so much more to discover. The gigantic park was owned by the idyllic Eusebi Güell, who hired Gaudi for the design. He was inspired by his travels abroad. The park has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1984.
Since 2013, you must may to enter. This is mainly to ensure that it is not too busy. You must therefore reserve a ticket with a predetermined time slot. This costs €8.50 and you can do it here!
If you have not yet had your Gaudi fix, you should go to Casa Batllo. You will find the building on Passeig de Gracia seem to have run out of an absurdist fairy tale. Casa Battlo was built in 1877 and rebuilt by Gaudi between 1904 and 1906. Gaudi was inspired by the sea, from which also the wavy forms, and the mosaic resembling the fish scales. The building is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is worth no less than 70 million euros.
Casa Batlló is currently being restored. You can still visit the building, but you will also learn more about the restoration process. An adult ticket costs € 25 and can be purchased on the official website.
It is the most famous street in Barcelona, and definitely not my favorite because of the tourism and the high cliché content (think: stalls, living statues, pickpockets). The pedestrian promenade is a kilometer long, running from the sea to Plaça Catalunya. The only reason that I think the street is worth a visit is not only to take a look, but also to visit Boqueria and Placa Reial. And of course you see the Columbus monument by the water, which you can climb for a great view.
The most famous covered market of the city is Boqueria, located on las Ramblas. The market is no less than 2,583 m² and everything is being sold. Although nowadays it is especially popular with tourists, the market dates back to the 13th century. Back then it was mainly a meat market, but around 1500 other goods were also sold. The market was only officially recognized in 1856, and in 1914 the iron roof was not ready.
My favorite square in the city is also close to las Ramblas. Placa Reial is a stately square with palm trees that reminds me a lot of Place des Vosges in Paris. You can recognize the square by its yellow / white facades and the restaurants that are located in the arches. On the square you will find two lampposts designed by Gaudi. The square only exists from 1848, because there was still a Capuchin monastery on that spot until 1835. You can eat well here in the evening.
Cathedral of Barcelona (Cathedral of Santa Cruz and Santa Eulalia)
This is one of the coolest churches I have ever visited. The Gothic Cathedral of Barcelona is not to be missed. You can enter for free in the morning and in the evening. You only have to pay (€7) between 13:00 and 17:30, so keep that in mind. There are often long lines, so make sure you get there on time. The cathedral is incredibly large, and what I particularly liked was that it also had a courtyard. In the small paradise with palm trees, geese, and a fountain I forgot that I was in the middle of a metropolis.
Tip: Make sure that your arms and thighs are covered, or bring a scarf to cover yourself.
Parc de la Ciutadella
Rarely have I been so impressed by a fountain as I was in Parc de la Ciutadella. Get off the metro at the Arc de Triomphe (for real!), and walk along the stately boulevard to the park. Let the ultimate relaxation begin there: get a beer, walk through the various parts of the park, and be amazed by the ponds, statues, and, of course, the beast: the monumental fountain Font de la Cascada.
I doubt if I have ever seen a more beautiful statue / fountain / waterfall (seriously … what is it?). I suddenly felt very small seeing all its golden glory in person.
Fun fact: Antoni Gaudi was also involved in the design of these fountains. This is the largest park in Barcelona and dates from 1888. You will also find museums and the city’s zoo in the park. The nice thing is that you will not only find tourists here.
Museu d’Història de la Ciutat de Barcelona
If you want to learn more about the history of Barcelona, then you should go to this museum, which is about the history of the city, from Roman times to the present. I thought it was super interesting! You end up in ancient excavations of fish factories and wine breweries, and you learn about the history of the city and how the population lived there. I have rarely seen such old excavations (from around the year zero), and found that very cool.
Tip: This museum can be visited free of charge on Sundays after 3 p.m. or on the first Sunday of the month.
If you want to alternate your city trip with a few hours on the beach, then it’s best to head to Barceloneta, which is about a kilometer long. By the way, in addition to the beach, you also have one of the nicest neighborhoods in Barcelona of the same name sitting on the border. It is a former fishing village. There you will find many restaurants and terraces. I found the beach quite busy, but the sea nice and warm. And make sure that someone always stays with your things because it is a popular place for bag thieves.
The Plaça de Catalunya is the heart of Barcelona, and a place where many roads and bus / metro lines meet. It is a great area for shopping, given the large amount of stores and shopping centers that you will find here. On the square you will find eight statues that were made for the 1929 World Exhibition. The square has been open since 1927.
Mont Monjuïc is one of the nicest places in Barcelona. It is an oasis of peace and greenery in the otherwise bustling city. You can find the hill on the south side of the city, and from the top of the hill you have a great view. The climb is quite easy from Placa D’Espanya, but you can also take the cable car.
If you come from the square, climb the (roller) stairs to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, perhaps the most important art museum in the city. On top of the hill you will also find the Castell de Montjuïc fortress, several museums, restaurants, a swimming pool, gardens, parks, and a cemetery. In 1992 a large part of the Olympic Games took place on this hill.
Fun Things to Do in Barcelona
Festa Major de Gracia
When I was in Barcelona for ten days in 2014, one of the absolute highlights was that we could take part in Festa Major de Gracia (apart from my firework phobia then). The neighborhood party always takes place in August, in the Gracia district.
I spent an entire afternoon there, strolling through the neighborhood, drinking vermouth on a square with an orchestra and even spotting the mayor of Barcelona (!). The party is characterized by the many decorated streets, and don’t think of a simple flag or balloon. No. This is Disney World material, people. Streets in complete themes, where hundreds of liters of glue have gone through to create all beautifully colored papier-mâché decorations. Magic.
Platja de Catalunya
If you are in Barcelona in the summer, then you’re lucky and can take part in the open-air cinema. “Cinema Lliure a la Platja” shows independent Catalan films (with subtitles!) On a screen on the beach. So watch your film with your feet in the sand. How local do you want it? Take a cardigan or a blanket with you, because it can cool down enormously in the evening.
My happiest memory of Barcelona is the one time I visited Font Magica, stood at the very front, and felt the drops of water fall on my skin as the music swelled. And I was happy. Really happy.
Let me explain what it is: a magic fountain, namely. This fountain, the largest in Barcelona, was built for the 1929 World Exhibition. You can find them on Placa D’Espanya, and several times a week the fountain is part of a free light and water show. Make sure you are on time, because it is always busy. Find the exact times and dates that the show will take place here.
Monastery of Montserrat
Well, this is outside of Barcelona but it’s really worth a day trip, I thought. If you like a mysterious monastery, hidden high in the mountains of Catalonia, then you will like this. It is a Benedictine abbey by the way, and a place of pilgrimage, which is located at an altitude of 720 meters, which gives it a fantastic view of the surroundings.
You can reach the monastery relatively easily by train and cable car. A ticket costs €7. Make sure you dress properly.
Visit the nice neighborhoods
Perhaps the most fun thing to do is simply stroll through the neighborhoods of Barcelona. My favorite neighborhoods are Born, Gotic, and Gracia. All nice in their own way. You can see more of my favorite neighborhoods in Barcelona here.
Try all the free tapas
Did someone say free food? Yes! There are still bars in Barcelona that serve free tapas with an alcoholic drink. And tell yourself, wouldn’t it be rude not to try that?
What’s the weather like in Barcelona?
Let us also consider the climate in Barcelona. Barcelona has a Mediterranean climate with warm summers and mild winters. That’s why it’s best to visit the city in spring or autumn, for example. If you want a city trip with mild weather, winter is also recommended, although you should not expect to be able to lie on the beach in your swimsuit. I personally find the summer months very hot in Barcelona, and not ideal for exploring a city.
The best hotels in Barcelona:
If you are still looking for a nice hotel in Barcelona, then I also have a handy article for that. In the article below you will find my tips for the 11 best budget hotels in Barcelona. All very hip, centrally located and for a nice price. Can’t miss so!
What are your best things to do in Barcelona?
General Travel Tips
- For accommodation, I always check Airbnb or Booking.com for the best prices.
- If your insurance at home doesn’t cover travel, you may want to look into SafetyWing for an affordable option.
- I always recommend checking Get Your Guide for the best tours in Europe.