Barcelona is another story, a perfect destination for a vacation! As for myself, I have gone further and chose to live in this amazing city. I would say I love every bit of my time here!
In here, you have a lot to enjoy. But the highlights of a perfect Catalan holiday is the weather, the food, the people, and the landmarks.
You will never get disappointed by the weather and food in Barcelona. The places will surely satisfy you – whether you are a beach person, a bar hopper, or someone who is interested in architecture, the arts and the culture. Barcelona got this all for you! So what do you want more from a city to spend your holiday?
The capital of autonomous community of Catalonia, located in the north-east of Spain, has the largest population in Spain after Madrid.
The main languages used in Barcelona are Spanish and Catalan (including the signs in the streets). It might be difficult for you to communicate in English with locals, however, they are absolutely kind enough to help!
Top 10 must-see places in Barcelona
Let’s start immediately with the top 10 best places to visit in my favourite city.
1. Sagrada Familia
It is impossible to visit Barcelona, without learning about Antoni Gaudi. The Spanish architect who lived from 1852 till 1926 was the man behind the main landmarks of Barcelona. Gaudi with his super unique style created very special works in Barcelona, among of these is his masterpiece: The Basilica de la Sagrada Familia.
Gaudi started working on Sagrada Familia in 1883 and he passed away before he could finish the work. Since then the construction of this masterpiece spans over 130 years and has been under supervision of different architects (the fund for this project is mainly from private donations).
It is said that the construction of this UNESCO World Heritage Site will be completed by 2026 and will be recognized as the tallest church in the world with a height of 172 meters. Gaudi believed that nothing man-made should be higher than God’s art like mountains! And for this reason, the final work will be one meter shorter than the Montjuic Mountain in front of the Basilica.
This most visited architectural magnificence in Barcelona has three façades. Two of which are already completed and the other one is still in progress. The three façades represent the three phases of Jesus’ life.
The Nativity Façade which was completed first and by Gaudi himself, is located to the east which is the side of sunrise, symbolizing Jesus’ birth. The Passion Façade which is way more simple than the Nativity Façade, located to the west (sunset side) representing Jesus’ death. The third one is the Glory Façade which is still under construction and symbolizes the glory of Jesus after death.
Gaudi’s design was very much influenced by nature. You will see many elements representing nature in this glorious landmark, for example the pillars are in the shape of tree trunks and the windows are designed to provide maximum daylight.
When it is completed, it will have 18 towers that are dedicated to Jesus, Mary, the twelve Apostles, and the four Evangelists.
Visiting this monument will last for two hours at least considering the amount of details and of course, taking photographs!
2. La Rambla
With a span of 1.2 km from Plaza Catalonia to Port Vell, La Ramble is the beating heart of Barcelona.
To explore this famous facade, one normally starts from Plaza Catalonia where you can splurge on many accessible stores and restaurants. There are also many stores and kiosks on both sides and on the central pedestrian selling flowers and souvenirs. You can also watch a flamenco show here so always be keen and observant whilst strolling the street!
Apart from the shops, there are also other places to explore such as the following:
- Gran Teatre del Liceu: You can do a cultural tour in this theatre by watching a live show.
- Mercado de La Boqueria: A public market with lots of fresh produce like vegetables, fruits, fish and meat.
- Columbus Monument: This monument at the end of La Rambla in Port Vell was built in honor of Christopher Columbus for his first trip to America.
- Maremagnum: When you reached to the Columbus Monument, you are already at the end of the street, going through the port and enjoying the view, you will reach the big commercial mall called Maremagnum which is open even on Sundays.
Things to take note!
This street is very famous for pickpocketing, but if you manage well, you are going to enjoy a lot walking around. My suggestion is to avoid restaurants along this street as they normally charge a lot for a bad quality food, so explore around and eat your food in a not-so-touristic restaurant.
3. Park Güell
This park was built in the beginning of 20th century – a complex of gardens and Gaudi’s architectural works.
Entrance to this UNESCO World Heritage Site is free. However, once you are inside, you need to buy ticket to visit a part called “Monumental Zone” which includes works designed by the great architect Gaudi. The restricted area is not a big part, so you have access to the rest of the park for free.
Before going to the park check the map to have an idea about the whole vicinity and to plan your route better.
The highlights of the park that should not be missed are the following:
- El viaducto dels enamorats: A special path with amazing stone works, perfect for photography and sometimes listening to live music!
- The terrace: Located in the Monumental Zone of the park, a visit is totally worth it as gives you a fantastic landscape view.
- The salamander: The multi-colored mosaic work known as el drac (dragon) located on the stairs is one of the symbols of Barcelona.
- Gaudí House Museum: This house is the place that Gaudi spent the last 20 years of his life there and of course you can see the object and furniture designed by him.
- The Austria Gardens: Used as a municipal plant nursery, these gardens give you a nice view to the rest of the park.
4. Magic Fountain of Montjuic
Just located close to Plaza España, Magic Fountain of Montjuic is one of the must-see places in Barcelona.
Designed by Carles Buïgas and was built for the 1929 Universal Exposition, this attraction includes Fountain show mixed with light and music. You can find the exact time of the show from the official website.
Tips in visiting the show:
- There is no entrance fee, so you have a perfect show for free.
- To have a better view, you have to come to the place one hour before the show since a lot of people come to visit as well.
- Or you can go to a higher place to have a better view like the stairs behind the fountain.
- Take into account that the activity is open air, so it can be cold at night and during fall and winter.
Before going here for the night show, feel free to explore the neighbourhood during the day by going to these suggested places.
- Right around the corner is the Arena shopping centre (formerly bullfighting ring) where you will have an amazing panoramic view of the city at top floor.
- The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (National Art Museum of Catalonia): Located at the top of Montjuïc hill right after the fountain, MNAC is dedicated to visual art and is famous for its collection of romanesque church paintings.
- Poble Espanyol: Literally “Spanish village” was built for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition, Poble Espanyol is a huge open-air architectural museum. This place is like a Spanish village with restaurants, concert place, theatre, artisan workshops, and a museum of contemporary art.
- Montjuïc Cable Car: You also can have a ride at the Montjuïc Cable Car which gives you a unique experience of watching Barcelona’s coastline from atop.
5. Barceloneta Beach
Coming to Barcelona and not going to a beach?! Impossible!
This very Mediterranean city has many beaches. Among them is the most famous Barceloneta which can be very crowded, thus, prone to pickpockets!
With its proximity to the city centre, you can easily access this beach full of bars and restaurants by metro and bus.
A nice experience when you are in this part of the city is the Segway tour. Book your Segway from the link below.
if you are visiting Barcelona for the first time I recommend you to visit Barceloneta at least for once, as it is close to center and nice. However, some locals would prefer beaches outside Barcelona since Barceloneta can go extremely crowded! So if you prefer less crowded beaches and have no facility to go out of Barcelona, you can move toward the north in the city to have calmer beaches for you to relax and take some sunshine!
6. Gothic Quarter
This is a neighbourhood that I recommend you to visit for so many reasons! This neighbourhood with its very narrow streets gives you the sense of walking in a historic place as it is the oldest part of the city where you can see Roman Wall and amazing Medieval landmarks.
There are quite nice attractions in this neighbourhood to explore. The very famous one is the Barcelona Cathedral or the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia. Established in the 14th century, this place is one of the oldest Cathedrals in Barcelona (yes, much older than Sagrada Família!).
There is a square called Plaza del Rei in this neighbourhood. It is not very famous, so not many tourists, but I recommend you to visit because it is perfect for photography, also a great history behind it (where Columbus met the Royal family about his voyage).
Apart from being historic and full of landmarks, this area is also full of clubs and restaurants. Perfect for walking and spending a nice evening in the old heart of Barcelona. The best time to visit this area is during Christmas season since it is full of local Christmas markets and lights and New Year vibes.
7. Casa Batlló
Another masterpiece of Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona which is highly recommended to visit.
Casa Batlló (House of Mr. Batlló) or house of bones (because of the shape), is located in the Passeig de Gracia. Back in the 20th century, it was quite a prestigious neighbourhood and attracting for rich families including the Batlló Family.
After buying the house, Mr. Batlló asks Gaudi to redesign the house in the most creative way possible. So, here we are now with one of the most amazing designs for a house – where Gaudi is known for rarely using a straight line in designing this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Different parts of the house have different attractions for visitors including the noble floor, loft, roof, and the terrace. The exterior facade has been designed in three distinct parts which are integrated and each part resembling a natural element. Gaudi’s design style is extremely influenced by nature and I can say that you won’t regret your visit to Casa Batlló. For purchasing the ticket check the official website.
After visiting the Casa Batlló, you have another opportunity to explore a bit more! Casa Batlló’s four other neighbouring buildings in a row (number 35, 37,39, 41, 43) consisting Illa de la Discòrdia or Block of Discord are five historical buildings with notable and different design, known as the work of five famous architects. For more information about this block you can read this link.
Do you like to experience a spectacular view over Barcelona and get surprised by a church at the top of a hill?! If your answer is yes, you definitely should visit Tibidabo! A bit far from the center (one hour using public transport) the visit to the Tibidabo is totally worth the time you spend to reach there.
Once you are up there you have the Sagrat Cor Church and also Tibidabo Amusement Park. Access to the terrace is free. However, you need to pay if you want to use the rides in the park.
It is interesting to know that the construction of the church lasted for almost 60 years and the crown of the church is a huge bronze statue of the Sacred Heart which was replaced in 1950.
Tibidabo Amusement Park is Spain’s oldest amusement park which is still in use up to this date. If you watched the movie “Vicky Cristina Barcelona“, you might probably easily recognise this park since it was featured in the movie. For buying the ticket of park check this link.
9. Camp Nou
This place is a paradise for football (soccer) lovers and specifically for FC Barcelona fans.
Apart from being home to the FC Barcelona, there are other facts that makes this place more attracting:
- With 99,354 seats, this place is the largest stadium in Europe and second largest in the world.
- In the 1992 Olympics games, Camp Nou was used for the football matches.
There is also a museum that you can visit. It is mainly dedicated to the history of FC Barcelona with a 3D cinema. It is also divided to three sections including a collection of documents and photos on a glass wall that you can touch. The second part is a permanent display of artworks from Dalí, Miró and Tàpies. And the third part is dedicated to the Football Art Collection.
If you are lucky and you plan well, maybe at the time of your stay in Barcelona, you can catch up with watching a match in the stadium. If not, do not worry, you can still do a tour in the stadium. Camp Nou Experience is a tour of stadium and FC Barcelona Museum.
10. Other places to visit
There are still a lot of places to explore in this beautiful city. In this part, I am going to give you a complementary list in case you have more time.
- Arc de Triomf & Ciutadella Park: This one could actually be in the top 10. I strongly recommend visiting this place for at least one hour. Go and explore these two places which are located in front of each other. The live vibe of evening walk here will refresh your soul!
- The Museu Picasso: If you are interested in art particularly, painting, you are in the right place! This museum is dedicated to Spanish painter Pablo Picasso. With more than 4000 artworks, the museum’s building which is a palace inspired from the medieval times is also interesting.
- Montserrat: Located close to Barcelona, this multi-peaked mountain range is a gem for hikers. The highest part of the mountain with 1,236 meters is known as Sant Jeroni. You can read more about Montserrat day trip here.
- La Pedrera: Or Casa Mila, is another of many famous works of Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona. La Pedrera houses the cultural center of Fundació Catalunya. From time to time, there are interesting events like concerts in this building. When you are planning to come to Barcelona, make sure you do not miss a nice event here. And if you visit this house, don’t forget to go and see its rooftop. For skip the line tickets click here.
- Maritime Museum: Located at the end of La Rambla, this huge interesting museum is dedicated to the history of navigation and Spanish Navy.
- Palau de la Música Catalana: This concert hall with 2200 seats is another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Barcelona. Apart from the special architecture of the building, the Palau concert hall, has the unique specialty of using totally natural light during daytime because of having stained-glass on walls and arches.
Free museums in Barcelona
Barcelona is not like London or Paris with lots of free museums to visit.
The very general option is during the first Sunday of each month when admission to visit the museums is free.
In addition to the first Sunday of each month, there are also days that some of the museums’ entrance is free of charge. Here is the free admission days of five important museums in Barcelona:
- Museu Picasso: Thursdays (from18.00 to 21.30) and Open Door days: 12th February, 18th May and 24th September.
- Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya: (located in Montjuic) is free of charge on Saturdays (from 15:00) and 18th May and11th September.
- Museu d’Història de Barcelona (MUHBA): is free on Sundays (from 15:00).
- Museu Marítim de Barcelona: is free on Sundays (from 15:00).
- Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB): is free on Sundays (from 15:00).
There is another option which is known as ArticketBCN. Articket is a pass of €35 for entering to the 6 art museums of Barcelona including permanent and temporary exhibitions for 12 months. You can buy the Articketbcn from here. The included museums are: Picasso Museum, Fundació Joan Miró, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Fundació Antoni Tàpies, and Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art.
What to see in Barcelona in 2 days
1 Early in the morning head to Casa Batlló, after visiting this site including the Block of Discord right next to the Casa Batlló, move toward Plaza Catalonia which is a 10-minute walk. From Plaza Catalonia start exploring famous La Rambla street and on the way take a look on Mercado de La Boqueria and at the end Columbus Monument and Maremagnum. In the evening, you can go to Gothic Quarter and can also visit Cathedral of Barcelona.
Looks like a lot of things to do for the first day, no?! But don’t worry, these all are very close and some on the way.
2 You want to get a bit of rest from yesterday tiredness? Then go to La Barceloneta beach in the morning and if you are travelling in summer time, you are lucky, so take a sun bath too! After beach morning, with 20 minutes walking you will reach Ciutadella Park and Arc de Triomf. Enjoy your lunch in this vivid area. Take a rest by visiting the Sagrada Familia, the master piece of Gaudi. You can reach this with half an hour walking or with metro line 2 (purple) for 15 minutes.
What to see in Barcelona in 3 days
3 If you have one day extra, you can use the 3rd day for visiting Park Guell. It’s big so it will take a bit of your time, in the evening, have a Camp Nou Experience!
What to see in Barcelona in 5 days
4 Ok, so you have more time to explore Barcelona. This day definitely should be dedicated to the neighbourhood of Plaza Espania where you have Montjuic, Poble Epaniol, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, and Arena Shopping Center. All very close to each other. Take it into account that Montjuic is very nice by itself but would be perfect if you plan in a way, to see the Magic Fountain Show of Montjuic. Check the time of the show from here.
5 As always I would say, that you can take a rest at this day or go back to the places you like the most from other days of exploration. If you are in a mood for visiting a new place, Tibidabo or Montserrat are the best options for a day trip.
Barcelona Pass provides you the facility to enter many sightseeing places. If you ask if it is worth it or not, I should say it depends on your plan. If you are going to visit a lot of things that you need to pay the entrance fee, I think it is worth it. Here you can buy your Barcelona Pass.
- You save a lot of of your time from queuing at the entrances of museums and other tourist attractions.
- It includes the entrance to most important places.
- You can use it for public transport.
- It is much cheaper than buying separate tickets.
- You can buy the Barcelona Pass for 2, 3 or 4 days, which starts from the moment you use it for the first time.
Public Transport in Barcelona
Public transport network works very well in Barcelona. You have an easy access to everywhere in the city!
Public transport includes: Metro (subway), bus, tram and ferrocarrils (train), suburban railway (Rodalies), and taxis.
Types of tickets useable for tourists:
- One travel ticket: That you can only use for one journey and it costs 2,20€ for 1 zone.
- T-10 card: It costs 10,20€ and is for 10 journeys and multi-personal. It operates in the Integrated Fare System which means you can use it in different modes of transport (bus, metro, tram..).
- T-50/30 card: Individual travel card with 50 journeys in 30 days and also operates in the Integrated Fare System.
My recommendation is a T-10 card. Handy and cheap for spending some days in Barcelona and using different modes of transport. Download Barcelona metro map from here.
** Normally metro is open from 5 am to 12:00 am. Fridays and nights before public holiday till 2.00 am and Saturdays 24 hours.
There are more than 100 bus lines in Barcelona covering the whole city. If you are using the bus, it is better for you to board from the front door and leave from the back door. You must validate your ticket (you can use your integrated metro card) in the bus.
Aerobus is a bus service that operates between Barcelona center and the airport. It runs from 5:30 am to 12:30 am and it costs 5,90€ for single ticket and 10,20€ for return ticket (you must use the return ticket in 15 days). There are night buses to airport covering the hours that Aerobus doesn’t operate. NitBus N17 between Terminal 1 and Pl. Catalonia and NitBus N16 between Terminal 2 and Pl. Catalonia.
There is another option for tourists to commute in Barcelona called “Hola BCN” that is a day ticket with an unlimited use of metro, bus, tram and suburban trains (Rodalies, Zone 1). It has the options of 2, 3, 4 or 5 days. It also includes the metro ride to and from the airport. You can purchase Hola BCN from here.
When is the best time to visit Barcelona?
The answer is always! There is no extreme cold or hot in Barcelona! According to the weather you are going to enjoy a lot whenever you come to Barcelona. There is always a nice breeze in the air.
Of course, sometimes specially in spring and fall, it is rainy and you have to take your coat on winter but never an annoying cold. In summer also there are some hot days which people take advantage to go to the beach and enjoy the Mediterranean Coast.
Apart from the weather, there are special days in Barcelona that you will enjoy more. There are a lot of festivals during summer days and Christmas time. The highlights that shouldn’t be missed are:
- Sant Joan (23rd/24th June): This takes place in the evening of the longest day of the year. And they celebrate it with fireworks. I mean a big firework! Everywhere fires and bangs! In addition to fireworks and music, in this day they serve a very delicious and special cookie known as Coca.
- Festa Major de Gracia (Mid-August): As I said before, during summertime in Barcelona, there are many festivals. One of the most famous festivals is Festa Major de Gracia which is a district festival and lasts for a week. They decorate the whole neighbourhood with papers and ornaments.
- Sant Jordi (23rd April): This is a very interesting festival. In this very special day, if you walk in the city you will see Barcelona with a rose (either giving or getting)! According to an old story in this day men are supposed to give a rose to women (mother or wife or any woman) and women to buy a book for men.
- Epiphany (5th/6th January): After Christmas and New Year holiday on January 5th/6th they celebrate the arrival of the three kings. This tradition, which is almost forgotten in other countries, is still very popular in Spain.
- Festa de la Merce (the week ending to 24th September): This is phenomenal! One week of celebrating with different activities in different parts of the city. From human tower, to giant humans. And the best part is the last day. A big fireworks displace (like New Year’s fireworks) in Magic Fountain located close to Plaza Espania. Absolutely amazing experience! In addition, on 24th September you have the option to visit most museums for free!
- Primavera Sound Festival (May/June): This is a big popular music festival which normally takes place at the end of the spring. For this event you need to book the tickets, much time in advance.
What should I take on my trip to Barcelona?
Swimsuit! Swimsuit is a must for Barcelona specially in spring and summer and even early fall.
Then an umbrella just in case it rains.
Apart from all of these things, I should tell something very important. Barcelona is very famous for pickpocketing, especially in tourist places. So be very, very careful about your stuff!
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