Barcelona is a city which needs little introduction. It’s one of the most bustling, charismatic and popular tourist destinations in Europe. The Catalan city, on Spain’s north-west coast, draws in around 27 million tourists every year.
With a stunning coastline, booming creative scene, thriving nightlife, bags of history, pretty architecture and delicious food, it’s easy to see why. There is so much to do in Barcelona and when planning a short break, it’s easy to be over faced with the number of famous sites and things to see.
We’ve streamlined the process for you, so you can hit the ground running on your visit, while also avoiding the large queues and tourist traps, which come with a large city like this.
Join us as we discuss the best things to do in Barcelona…
11 Best Things To Do In Barcelona
Sagrada Familia is one of the most unusual and jaw-dropping architectural projects in the whole of Europe, designed by world famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. Construction began on the UNESCO World Heritage site back in 1882 and still to this day work continues.
Its striking design makes it not only a living museum of Gaudi’s work, but also ever changing, as new elements of the church are added. Our top tip is to get there early in the morning, beat the queues, and visit this beautiful site before the hordes of tour groups arrive.
The exterior is a sight to behold, but you can also explore inside for a fee and go up to the top of church in an elevator, with views across the city.
Planning to visit the Sagrada Familia?
Get the regular admission ticket to skip the lines and explore Barcelona’s most-visited landmark at your own pace with an informative audio guide.
Since we’re on the topic of Gaudi, it would be rude of us not to mention some of his other sites around Barcelona. The architect and designer, who died in 1926, is one of the most innovative and celebrated to have ever lived.
And you can’t go far around Barcelona without spotting some of his work – there are numerous other hugely impressive sites around the city. Casa Batllo, in the heart of Barcelona, is a large mansion house, now museum, which was renovated by Gaudi back in 1904.
It’s a stunning example of his work and ingenuity. You can also watch concerts on the roof of the building in the warmer months, a lovely way to spend an evening in a stunning setting.
Want to Discover Casa Batlló?
Casa Batlló, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in an immersive experience. Explore one of Gaudí’s masterpieces while learning all about his inspiring life.
Now let’s talk about food. On Barcelona’s large pedestrianised street, La Rambla, which runs from the centre of the city, all the way down to the beach, you’ll find a thriving food market called La Boqueria.
It’s a feast for the senses with stunning local fresh produce, along with many small restaurants, set among a network of passage ways.
It operates year-round and is a wonderful place to grab some tasty grub at lunch-time. Do as the locals do and enjoy an ice-cold beer from one of the stalls and wander around until some food takes your fancy.
Top tip – be careful of your pockets and bags in this area, the network of alleyways are a haven for pickpockets. Keep your bags tight to you and keep expensive possession hidden away.
#4. Camp Nou
We’ve already talked about one important Barcelona religious site in Sagrada Familia, but the Camp Nou is the city’s cathedral of football. The Camp Nou is the home of FC Barcelona and one of the largest football stadiums in the whole of Europe. It’s a feat of engineering, holding close to 100,000 people, and often selling out.
FC Barcelona is one of the most decorated football teams in European football history, with many legends of the game having worn the club’s red and blue shirt – including Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff – among many many more.
Watching Barcelona play is a bucket list moment for many football fans and it isn’t impossible to source tickets, but tourists can find themselves paying way over and above the recommended retail price. Our top tip – only buy from official channels, don’t buy from resale websites.
There’s also a fantastic football museum on site, which celebrates the history of this legendry football club.
#5. The art of skateboarding
This might not be an obvious one for some, but Barcelona is a Mecca for skateboarders. The city’s liberal attitude towards skateboarding in public places and the city’s innovative design and layout, makes it an urban playground for skateboarding.
Some of the world’s best skateboarders live in Barcelona as a result and many thousand skate tourists are drawn to the city every year from all over the world.
Some of the city’s sites have legendry status in the sport, including MACBA, the city Museum of Contemporary Art. Every day 100s upon 100s of skateboarders practice in a big public square outside the museum, with some of the world’s best often seen in the area.
After you’ve been to look at the art, relax with a beer in the square, which is often thronging with life, and watch skateboarders at the top of their craft.
#6. Eat local food
Many tourists visit Barcelona and expect tonnes of tapas restaurants to be dotted around the city’s streets. And although you will find tapas spots to eat at, tapas aren’t a Catalan dish.
Understanding Barcelona’s history is import – the city is the largest in the Catalonia, an autonomous community, which has fought throughout the years to break away from Spain and return to being independent.
As a result, they have their own cuisine and can sometimes fiercely fight against Spanish dishes like tapas. So, make sure to get some of the local traditional tasty food.
Pan Catalan is an absolute staple here, often eaten for breakfast – its thin crispy bread layered with crushed tomatoes, olive oil and salt. Delicious. Escalivada is another simple, yet beautiful dish – roasted red peppers, eggplant and onions mixed together.
They also take charcuterie very seriously and you can find excellent hams and salamis in this area.
Arros negre is another very popular dish, which is shared with friends or in big family groups – similar to paella, it’s a black rice dish, which is given its colour by squid ink, and filled with lovely sea food.
#7. Exercise at the beach & get your cycle on
You might feel quite heavy after a few days of munching your way around Barcelona, so getting a little sweat on won’t go a miss. Fortunately, Barcelona has you covered for that.
The city’s beach is full of people exercising year-round – with many sports facilities on the sand and along the large promenade which runs north along the coast.
It’s also an incredibly cyclable city, due to its largely flat geography, with a great network of cycle lanes.
Our top tip – try and minimise your use of the busy metro system, which can be crowded and stiflingly hot in the summer. Get out on a bike instead.
#8. Street art and graffiti spotting
Barcelona is an incredibly creative place and although it has many incredible art galleries and exhibition spaces, we think some of the best work is out on the streets. The city is one of the most painted in the whole of Europe and you can’t go far without seeing colour oozing out of the walls.
From full building commissioned jobs, to bucket loads of illegal graffiti on the side of vans, trains, metros and all-over public spaces – it’s a joy to walk around.
Some of the best hotspots for street art include the El Raval and Poble Nou districts of the city – where you can see works by some of the world’s most famous street artists.
Get out there and get spotting – what’s more, it’s absolutely free.
#9. Craft beer
Barcelona has a growing reputation in the world of craft beer. The city’s is awash with incredible craft beer bars and the city is home to one of Europe’s most decorated and famous craft breweries, called Garage.
It’s a paradise for beer lovers, with many taprooms by world famous brewers situated in the city, including the Danish Mikkeller, but there are also smaller operations cropping up on almost a daily basis.
Bar hopping is an absolute must while visiting Barcelona.
- Freddo Fox
#10. Life by the harbour
The area around Barcelona’s harbour is buzzing with life throughout the year and it’s a great place to kick back and relax on one of the many warm days in the city.
Take in the rays and watch the yachts leave the harbour or do as the locals do and roller skate or skateboard in one of the lovely waterside public spaces.
If that’s not for you, why not visit the local aquarium, wine and dine at a harbourside restaurant or take a cable car from the harbour to the hillside Parc de Montjuic.
The area is a central hub of activity in the city and isn’t a place to be missed.
People come from far and wide to take in Barcelona’s nightlife. The city has a booming music scene and the city has a packed events calendar as result with gigs and DJ events on almost every night.
You can see world famous musicians play in the city or get lost in cavernous, underground, techno nightclubs. It’s a city which dances way past sunrise on weekend nights and if you’re looking for a party, you’ll always find one in Barcelona.
Barcelona is quite rightly one of the most popular destinations in the whole of Europe. It draws in millions of tourists every year who come to see the city’s world-famous sites and soak in its creative bustling vibe.
It’s easy to see why it’s so popular, with more than 300 days of sunshine, a pumping nightlife, beautiful dining scene, a large beach and world leading attractions. But there is more to the city than just the headline tourist sites.
We have tried to give you a flavour of both, in our best things to do in Barcelona guide, and hope you’ll now visit the city and soak up both the touristy and the authentic side of the city. Now get out there and get dancing, tasting and drinking your way around one of Europe’s most popular city destinations.