Barcelona combines everything that is most charming about Mediterranean cities – a relaxed pace, months of endless sunshine, unbeatable food – with the cultural and design clout of almost any city in the cold north. City’s to-do list is as plentiful as its sunny days but here we gathered a capsule edit of attractions listing the utmost best things to do in Barcelona for the time-smart traveler.
Let’s have a look at the best things to do in Barcelona:
This is where to begin your adventure through Barcelona and the dreamlike works of Antoni Gaudí.
When the foundation stone of the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família was laid in 1882, it’s unlikely that anyone involved anticipated that the construction of this church would take well over a century to complete. Construction still continues today and its completion is scheduled for 2026, a date symbolic of the centenary of Antoni Gaudí’s death.
This monumental basilica is known in Spanish as “el Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia”, which literally translates to the “Expiatory Temple of the Sacred Family”.
The Sagrada Família combines several architectural styles including Catalan Modernism, Art Nouveau and Spanish Late-Gothic, but Gaudí’s masterpiece defies these kinds of definitions when you look up open-mouthed at the ceiling of the nave.
Climbing up the stairs within one of the towers can be intimidating, but it is highly recommended but it is highly recommended if you like to enjoy the colorful details covering the basilica.
A priority pass could be very usefull to skip the long queues which can take up to 1,5 hours.
Park Güell is an almost make-believe landscape: home to Barcelona’s famous mosaic lizard—the image on a thousand postcards—plus spiral towers that look like fairground slides. It is one of the masterpieces of the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, who projected it in 1900. Inaugurated as a public park in 1926, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, reconizing its patrimonial and cultural value as a symbol of modern architecture, being one of the biggest exponents of Gaudi’s modernism.
A twin flight stairway and the dragon decorated with mosaic of ceramic tiles, the Catalan style known as Trencadís, welcome the visitors once in the park and are a key representative of Gaudí’s work.
Walk up the twin flight stairway and you will get to the Hypostyle room. An astonishing crafted interior composed of 86 columns of Doric order which remind of trees will discover you an inner world plenty of details on the main hall.
Stunning outside, unimaginable inside! It’s easy to see why Casa Batlló has been likened to Claude Monet’s Water Lilies: Covered in shards of stained glass, it sometimes appears blue, then green, then shimmering like the glassy layer of a lake. Textile industrialist Josep Batlló commissioned Gaudí to design this home after seeing what Gaudí had done with Park Güell. Influenced by nature, Casa Batlló has no straight lines (because they don’t exist in nature, said Gaudí), stone pillars that contort like animal bones, and a tall, ocean-blue stairwell that’s very Jules Verne. Like all of his work the inside and outside of Casa Batlló has that sinuous quality, and dazzling attention to detail.
Take the mushroom-shaped fireplace on the noble floor, which like a cosy grotto was designed for couples to warm up in winter.
Of course Barcelona is not the only romantic destination in Europe but there are many more; check our full guide for the most romantic cities in Europe.
For any food lover, La Boqueria in Barcelona is a pilgrimage destination. Originally dating back to the 1200’s it’s labeled as one of the top food markets in the world.
From beautiful fresh seafood to meats and jamon, to fruits and vegetables galore, to spices, nuts, and dry ingredients, you can spend hours browsing through the colorful walkways of La Boqueria.
In addition to all the ingredients available there are dozens of tapas bars, and cafes and restaurants where you can stop for a delicious bite to eat. Or like we do, you might as well get yourself full by tasting many different types of jamons, at one of the counters.
If you want to beat the crowds go there early in the morning around 8am, as it gets very crowded about lunchtime hours.
Fundació Joan Miró
In the middle of Montjuïc, in Barcelona, under the shade of the trees, the white volumes of the Fundació Joan Miró do not go unnoticed. Just like Gaudí, Joan Miró was a quintessentially Catalonian artist, and a visit to his museum will give you a more vivid picture of Barcelona’s spirit and style.
In its interior, the museum holds more than 14,000 pieces by the surrealist painter, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics and tapestries. One of the most important aspects of the Fundació is that it preserves nearly all Joan Miró’s preparatory sketches, with more than 8,000 drawings, invaluable material for understanding the work of the artist.
The collection was originally created with a donation from Joan Miró himself and has since grown with donations from family, friends and collectors.
Through the Foundation’s collection, you can take a journey through the artistic life of Miró. Starting with his early paintings with their clear influence of Impressionism, Fauvism and French Cubism (Chapel of Sant Joan d’Horta and Portrait of a Young Girl). Progressing on to his fully surrealist phase (The Bottle of Wine) and his well-known collages (Homage to Prats). And ending with his works on the Civil War (Man and Woman in Front of a Pile of Excrement) and his paintings of the constellations.
But the museum is not only notable for the work it houses but also for its architectural and museological concepts. Miró wanted to open a foundation that would look to the future, that would not become a temple of collectors’ objects but rather a place of discovery and debate. And with this objective, he asked the architect Josep Lluís Sert to construct a building with its own personality. The result is a piece of architecture that serves as the perfect showcase for the work of the artist.
Although a bit far from city center, this was by far the most satisfying museum experience in Barcelona. Therefore we would truly recommend the experience for especially modern art enthusiasts.
Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic)
The Gothic Quarter in Barcelona is a beautiful, enchanting area filled with history. This medieval quarter is a quaint, traffic-free world where almost every architectural detail seems frozen in the Middle Ages. Imposing Gothic buildings with magnificent facades have stood the test of time, and amazingly narrow pedestrian streets show the wear on their smoothed-down cobblestones. Street musicians find quiet courtyards where the acoustics are perfect for playing melodies of classical Spanish guitar. Many of the quarter’s little squares have pleasant outdoor cafés, and children often use the uncrowded plazas for impromptu football games. As if the atmosphere itself is not enough of a draw, the Gothic Quarter is packed with cultural attractions and fun things to do.
Make sure you don’t miss Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar, one of the most emblematic buildings of the Catalan Gothic, built in the XIVth century with a purity and unity of style that is very unusual in large medieval buildings.
BONUS – Casa Milà
Also known as La Pedrera, as the front of the building looks a bit like the face of a quarry, Casa Milà was completed in 1912 and is another emblematic Gaudí building.
It’s one of several of Catalan modernist works to be UNESCO listed and was the fourth and final Gaudí building on Passeig de Gràcia.
Architects will appreciate the contemporary innovations here, including the self-supporting stone facade and underground car park.
It was designed for the industrialist Pere Milà i Camps to be his family home, with apartments for rent on the upper floors.
The coherence between the design of the building and Casa Milà’s furnishings is a real joy to see, and it’s all from a time when Gaudí was at the top of his game.