Monday, May 27, 2024

15 Best Things To Do in Barcelona, Spain


In this post, I’m going to share with you my top things to do in Barcelona.

Barcelona is a city of contrasts. It’s edgy and raw, yet artistic and sophisticated. It’s a place that’s home to a complete melting pot of cultures, yet remains uniquely its own.

It’s also a city blessed with world-class restaurants, incredible architecture, a thumping nightlife scene, and a gorgeous coastline.

With a great public transport system to shuttle you between the many neighbourhoods, and wide, pedestrian-friendly streets, getting around Barcelona is a breeze. 

The city really does have a vibe of its own and there are endless things to do in Barcelona to keep you busy. 

Having spent 10 days in Barcelona with Nick, we were able to sufficiently scratch the surface and discover a lot of all this destination has to offer. Without a doubt, this is now one of my favourite cities in the world. 

With that, let’s get started with this list of the 15 best things to do in Barcelona.

1. Join a Walking Tour

This is one of the best activities in Barcelona for when you first arrive. 

Walking tours are available in pretty much every major city in Europe, and by joining one, you’ll be able to orientate yourself immediately, while checking off some city highlights along the way. 

You can join a free tour with companies like Sandemans, whose guides will take you through a few of the neighbourhoods in Barcelona, and show you many of the city’s must-see sights. 

These walking tours are “free”, but they operate on tips (€5-10 is sufficient). Since they’re such a low price, you may find that many people wish to join your preferred trip too. 

A better option is to join this highly rated walking tour experience, which has a limit of just 7 guests. Together with your knowledgeable and comical guide, you’ll visit the Old Town ‘Ciutat Vella’, the Gothic Quarter ‘Barri Gòtic’, and ‘El Born’.

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While you’ll certainly see the main sights, the best part of the walking tour is that you’ll also gain local insight into the city; including the dos and don’ts, the best places to eat, and more. 

2. Check Out Antoni Gaudí’s Work

You really can’t visit Barcelona without checking out the gorgeous work of Antoni Gaudí. You literally couldn’t miss his masterpieces if you tried.

Sitting in stark contrast next to the more typical modern architecture and the beautiful, but less exotic-looking Catalan Gothic buildings, is the works of 20th-century genius architect, Antoni Gaudí.

Entrance To Gaudi’s Park Guell

Most of his buildings are based on naturally occurring organic shapes, curves, and bends. While normal buildings have pointed archways, sharp corners, and functional columns, Gaudí’s appear to be built in celebration of the connection between man and Mother Nature.

Two Gaudí buildings that you can’t miss while in Barcelona include La Sagrada Familia – a structure still under construction more than 130 years later, and the Barcelona Cathedral – this is my favourite piece in the city.

Other must-sees include Parque Guell, Casa BatYo, Casa Mila, and Casa Vee-sens.

A great way to cover all of Gaudi’s work in one go is to join this Introduction to Gaudi experience, which is only $20. You’ll visit 7 of Gaudi’s masterpieces and learn interesting information about the artist and his architecture along the way. 

☞ SEE ALSO: The Cost of Living in Spain

3. Stroll The Beach Boardwalk at La Barceloneta

The Barceloneta beach area of Barcelona is gorgeous. With a wide boardwalk known as Paseo Marítimo which follows the coastline for about 4 kilometres, it’s the perfect place for a long stroll by the sea.

You’ll find a few cool restaurants and bars that have tables spilling out onto patios right on the sand, and there are always people making sandcastles, swimming in the water, (during summer months), and enjoying the sunshine.

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We ended up visiting the Barceloneta area after already being in the city for a week, and we couldn’t believe how beautiful it was, or that we hadn’t visited sooner!  

Depending on which neighbourhood in Barcelona you’re staying in, you can visit Barceloneta on foot, by bus, or by taking the metro to Metro stop “Barceloneta”, (Yellow Line, L4).

SEE ALSO: A Guide To Barcelona For First-Timers

best things to do in Barcelona

4. Get Lost in El Born

The Barrio of El Born is a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets, medieval buildings, and beautifully ornate Churches and Basilicas.

In this neighbourhood, you’ll find cafes and boutique stores by daylight, and cocktail bars and samba by night. You can visit El Born any time of day and it’s always fun and exciting, but it takes on a whole different vibe at night.

If you have time, try to venture here at least once during the day, and once at night, when the street lamps light up the stone buildings, giving them a golden glow.

Considering he lived here from the age of 15, it’s not surprising that you’ll also find some artistic works by Pablo Picasso in El Born, particularly in the Picasso Museum.

Couple that with some great wine bars and restaurants and you have one of the most eclectic and exciting barrios in the city. For a quaint and fun wine bar, I recommend Bodega del Born, and for excellent cocktails and an experience in itself, the Paradiso speakeasy.

5. Explore the Gothic Quarter

The Gothic Quarter is yet another charming medieval neighbourhood in the city of Barcelona. I’ve now listed three of the city’s coolest neighbourhoods in this article, but the fact is, this is only a small selection of the barrios that this city has to offer.

The Gothic Quarter is Barcelona’s jewel in the crown of historical barrios. Dating back more than 2,000 years, it’s an area full of narrow back streets, towering churches, quiet alleyways, great restaurants and bars, and some of the city’s most fascinating history.

Artisans sell leather and jewelry near La Sagrada Familia, while flower stalls and street-food vendors line the busy avenue of La Rambla.

A great way to explore the Gothic Quarter, (Barri Gòtic), is by joining a Barri Gòtic walking tour. Together with Juliana, you’ll wander through the historic center learning about the history, culture, and dark secrets of Barcelona. At the end of the walking tour, (in true Catalonian style), you’ll share a glass of sangria together. 

Enjoy the Gothic Quarter – you’ll be amazed at every corner you turn in this captivating maze of narrow streets and alleys. 

2ABG12R The bridge on Carrer del Bisbe in the Barri Gotic, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

6. Join a Paella Cooking Class (One of the Best Things to do in Barcelona!)

We booked this paella cooking class during our trip to Barcelona and it was easily one of the best experiences we’ve enjoyed to date. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Barcelona for couples, friends, and foodies.

Even though Pallela is originally from Valencia, (further south in the region), it’s still a popular dish throughout Catalonia.

During this cooking class, Chef Lucia, (who’s worked in both Gordan Ramsay’s and Jaime Oliver’s kitchens), walks you through the steps to create one of Catalonia’s most famous dishes; the delicious paella.

While cooking in pairs at your station, you’ll be served ice cold, bubbly cava, (the Catalan style of sparkling white wine), relish in chatting with other guests, and learn professional cooking techniques from respected chefs.

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The cava doesn’t stop flowing and you can have as much, or as little, as you like.

What’s especially great about this experience is that you get to cook the dish from start to finish, as opposed to other cooking classes which have everything prepared for you, and you basically just watch the meal being completed. Not here! You do it all, and get to enjoy your creation at the end.  

I really can’t recommend this enough. Not only is it a great cooking class, but you get to tick two things off your list of things to do in Barcelona; drink cava and eat paella. Book the paella cooking class here.

7. Go Out For Tapas and Pinchos

Pretty much everyone knows about tapas – the famous Spanish appetizer plates – but have you heard of the smaller, bite-sized snacks known as pinchos?

Pincho literally translates to “thorn” or “spike” and refers to the toothpick that you’ll find holding together every pincho you eat.

There are plenty of places in Barcelona to get both tapas and pinchos, but Poble Sec in particular is the place to be for the abundance of bars that line the street here.

We joined this tapas/pinchos trip which took us to 5 different pinchos bars where we sampled nearly a dozen different small dishes. You’ll learn about tapas culture and tidbits about Barcelona. Plus, how to properly pay for pinchos at a bar, (spoiler: you keep your toothpicks and pay per “stick” on the honour system).

I won’t give it all away by telling you about the tasty tapas we sampled, you’ll have to book and discover for yourself. We really enjoyed the pinchos experience and felt like it was a must-do in Barcelona to get the night started.

best things to do in Barcelona

8. Wander Around El Raval Barrio

El Raval is a vibrant multi-cultural barrio in the heart of Barcelona. Although this area is considered a place in Barcelona to take caution of, these days there’s a lot of gentrification going on, and it’s now better known for being an edgy, bohemian area.

During our trip to Barcelona we spent a day exploring El Raval and enjoyed experiencing this other side of the city. Rather than medieval architecture and broad, leafy streets, we found buildings that looked a bit rougher around the edges, interesting street art, and lovely community gardens.

El Raval is actually home to some of Barcelona’s top museums and restaurants — don’t miss Cañete Bar, or Dos Palillos.  

9. Be Wowed By a Drink at Paradiso Cocktail Bar

Paradiso cocktail bar is an institution in Barcelona, and for good reason. This is probably the coolest secret bar we’ve ever been to and that’s no understatement! 

To enter the bar, you have to already know about it because it has a hidden entrance through a walk-in freezer door in the back of a deli, but despite their attempts to keep this place a secret, pretty much everyone who lives or visits Barcelona will be drawn here at some point.

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The prices in this bar aren’t cheap, (around 15 euros for a cocktail), but neither is the booze that they use, or the way they prepare them.

From steaming wooden logs topped with crispy deep-fried ants, cachaca and passion fruit, to dry ice gins and smoked tequila cocktails, this place puts a whimsical spin on every drink they serve.

The bartenders at Paradiso are really friendly and patient as you order the drinks, making this a very approachable speakeasy. If you like a good drink, shaken or stirred, I highly recommend that you add this incredible bar in El Born to your Barcelona itinerary. 

best things to do in Barcelona

10. Go Sailing

Sailing is one of the best things to do in Barcelona on a hot afternoon, or to enjoy the sunset in the evening. 

Hop aboard this sailboat and cruise up the coast to enjoy views of the city’s shoreline. Some of the top sights include Sagrada Familia, Tibidabo, Montjuic, and Diagonal Mar.

The sailboat can hold up to 12 guests, but the captain typically only books it for 7 – 8 people to ensure you’re comfortable. Bring your bathing suit if you wish and enjoy a dip in the sea. 

Safety equipment, local snacks and drinks, (cava, white wine, beer, soft drinks, water), are included. Learn more about this Barcelona sailing excursion.

11. Walk La Rambla and Shop at La Boqueria Market

La Rambla is a wide, tree-lined pedestrian-only street that stretches for 1.2 kilometres from Plaça de Catalunya in the centre of the city, to the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell.

It also forms the boundary between the Gothic Quarter to the east, and El Raval to the west.

Here you’ll find dozens of shops, as well as flower stands lining the street. During the high season, La Rambla can be packed, but it’s still a cool place to come for a stroll.

When you’re on the Rambla, keep an eye out for Mercado de la Boqueria. Boqueria literally translates to “place where goat is sold” in Catalan, but there’s much more here than just goat meat.

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This is one of Barcelona’s best markets, selling everything from meats and cheeses, to wines, fruits, handicrafts, and pastries. It was actually voted the best food market in the world by CNN.

The market is open on Monday to Saturday, from 8:00am to 8:30pm. Each of the stalls in the market is numbered, so once you have your favourites, you can always return.

With an average of 40,000 visitors coming to La Boqueria every day, it’s no surprise that this is another place that gets crowded in the city, but if you’re a foodie, you really must find time for it.

best things to do in Barcelona

12. Sandwiches With a Side of Cava

One of the best places to visit in Barcelona before going out for a late night is Can Paixano. This bustling, small shop serves nothing but a few tapas, sandwiches, and cava, (Spanish sparkling wine).

Order at the bar and take your sandwich to go, or stay awhile with the locals, holding a glass of bubbles in one hand, and your sandwich in the other!

My recommendation is the sliced sausage squished between a soft hamburger bun with melted cheese… and a few glasses of cava, (of course). 

Prices are very reasonable at around €1.50 – €3 for everything. Can Paixano is open from noon until 10:00pm, and is closed Sunday and Monday. Find it here on the map.

13. Visit the Vineyards

It’s no secret that Spain is famous for its wine. And luckily, during your trip to Barcelona, you won’t have to go far from the city to visit vineyards and taste some fantastic wines. 

Located just 35 minutes by car, or 45 minutes by train, is the famous Penedés wine region. 

During this fun wine experience, you’ll visit two wineries and taste some premium wines or cavas. Plus, you’ll receive a snack at each stop. While driving between the wineries, (in a vintage Mehari!), you’ll learn about the region, grape growing, and more from your guide. 

After the winery visits, your host Neus will prepare a picnic in the vineyards, complete with local foods and more wine, (as many glasses as you want…). 

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If you chose to arrive by train, Neus will be waiting for you at the Sant Sadurdí d’Anoia train station to whisk you away into the countryside. 

Don’t miss this highly rated experience just outside of the city. If you’d rather have a private trip for two, Neus can arrange it. This is one of the most romantic things to do in Barcelona for sure. 

best things to do in Barcelona

14. Watch Some Dancing (or Join in)

One of the best things to do in Barcelona on a Sunday is to visit the Plaça de la Virreina and watch some lindy hop dancing! You’ll find this square in the Gràcia neighbourhood, (which in itself is a great place to visit in the city).

Wander around the plaza and visit the Sant Joan de Gràcia church before stopping at one of the cafes to enjoy the dancing. Even if you can’t visit on a Sunday, pop by Plaça de la Virreina for a drink.  

15. Make Your Own Shoes

This is one of the more unique things to do in Barcelona that you won’t want to miss. Create your own pair of traditional Catalan espadrilles, (handmade shoes), as a special memento for you to keep from your trip to Barcelona.

Meet up with Luis and his wife Kathe, who are the founders and artisans of Handmade Barcelona. They’ve been making shoes for years while running this ethical brand of handmade traditional shoes from Cataluña. 

Rather than simply buy a pair of shoes, why not make your own?! 

During this shoemaking experience with Luise and Kathe, you’ll meet at their workshop in the Gothic Quarter to learn how to make your own espadrilles, and customize them to your liking. They also have some cava available if you get thirsty. Learn more and book this memorable experience here

best things to do in Barcelona

FAQs About Visiting Barcelona

Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about a trip to Barcelona.

Is Barcelona safe? 

Barcelona has a pretty bad reputation for being a pickpocket haven.

Be mindful of your belongings while walking around the Gothic Quarter, Las Ramblas, and major tourist sights… especially when walking at night. Keep an eye on your pockets, purse, and backpack. Be mindful in restaurants, and don’t leave your belongings on the ground, or your phone on any tables.

When in doubt, just take taxis or Ubers at night as they’re very affordable in the city. Having said all of that, we spent more than a week in Barcelona and had nothing but positive experiences. 

What should you not miss in Barcelona?

While you won’t be able to see everything, in Barcelona you won’t want to miss seeing Antoni Gaudi’s work, (especially La Sagrada Familia), making (and eating) paella, going on a tapas tour, and simply wandering around the various neighbourhoods to soak up the atmosphere. 

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What should I NOT do in Barcelona? (Things to Avoid)

Don’t expect people to speak English in Barcelona, don’t flaunt your valuables, don’t buy things from vendors on Las Ramblas, don’t join in any street games, don’t over tip, (5-10% is fine), and don’t eat at touristy restaurants where the menu is in English — go for the authentic food!

Is 3 days long enough in Barcelona?

Yes, 3 days is enough time in Barcelona. You may not be able to, (or want to), visit any of the sights outside of the city like the wineries at this time, however, with 3 days, you’ll be able to cover all of the main sights and enjoy a lot of the wine and tapas bars!

Where to Stay in Barcelona

There are many incredible neighbourhoods in Barcelona, each with its own atmosphere. To be able to best enjoy all of the Barcelona attractions and cool things to see, here are some great areas to stay:

1. Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic)

This is the heart of Barcelona and it’s about as central as you can be. The famous pedestrian street, La Rambla, separates the Gothic Quarter and the edgier El Reval. El Born neighbourhood also borders the Gothic Quarter. 

There are numerous places to stay here, have a look at this spacious 3-bedroom apartment, this chic Southeast Asian inspired loft, or this deluxe apartment.   

2. El Born

This is a gorgeous barrio with medieval architecture, numerous restaurants and bars, boutiques, and a large park. There are lots of apartments and accommodations here. Have a look at this modern apartment, or this cozy studio with a balcony.

3. Eixample

This is a more upscale area of Barcelona with lots of luxury shops and accommodation. Rather than narrow, cobbled streets like in the old town, you’ll find bright, open avenues. This neighbourhood is home to one of Barcelona’s most popular attractions, Sagrada Familia.

This gorgeous penthouse apartment is a good option, as is this two-bedroom apartment, and this apartment with a pool and garden.

4. Gràcia

This is a more residential area, which feels like a town within the city of Barcelona. This is where we stayed during our trip and found it to be a great local area filled with authentic bodegas, (wine bars), restaurants, and quieter streets. It’s also really close to another of Gaudi’s creations, Park Güell.

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The accommodations in Gràcia are more affordable than other areas of the city, and you’re just a quick walk or metro ride away to the best things to do in Barcelona. Have a look at this highly rated apartment in the center of Gràcia and this beautiful apartment with a rooftop terrace.

Now You Know The Best Things To Do in Barcelona

There are so many fun things to do in Barcelona, it’s truly one of the best cities, not just in Spain, but in all of Europe. Get ready for fantastic food, welcoming people, interesting architecture, and epic nightlife. 

Barcelona is a city for all types of travellers, plus it’s also a great place to live as a digital nomad and is one of the top places to teach English — it really has something for everyone. I hope this guide to the top things to see in Barcelona helps you plan your trip.

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