As summer approaches and the golden shoreline of a Mediterranean coastline is waving, one of the coolest places to visit in Europe should be Barcelona. Devouring that tasty tapas before hitting the bustling streets of Barcelona, every corner of the city kept surprising us. A slice of it may take you back to the Catalan empire, while the sprawling nightlife shakes your head and keeps you awake till tomorrow morning.
What’s so special about it that you must visit once in a lifetime? Here’s to reveal an epic compilation of our 15 favorite things to do in Barcelona!
Barcelona – A Medley of Catholicism, Arts, Cuisine and History
Alright – Barcelona is not only famous for football! The city itself has so many stories to tell. The trend of art we’ve never seen. The bustling city square to throw a picnic when the sun is out. The most dramatic cathedral we’ve ever visited, and a budding food scene that delights your taste buds.
Nourished by the wonderful Mediterranean weather, Barcelona always has something for everyone! This coastal city is the pride of Spain, and you always have more than a reason to stay in Barcelona for up to a week. If exceptional soccer and brilliant Gaudí architecture are the frontlines that frame Barcelona’s reputation, the rest of the story is waiting to blow your mind. So buckle up and read on!
15 Must-Try Activities in Barcelona
Catedral de Santa Eulalia de Barcelona
Also called Barcelona Cathedral for short, this majestic holy shrine is the first place you should pay a visit to in Barcelona! The striking façade is flooded with natural sunlight which reflects on the stunning off-grey walls, especially when you capture it against the dramatic blue sky at the back.
An entrance fee is required if you visit the church during rush hours but it’s totally worth it. We spent over half an hour wandering all around the interior, admire the crypt, cloisters, the chapter hall, and even took the lift to the rooftop. This impeccable vantage point opens out to the jaw-dropping view of the city. We just didn’t want to leave!
El Pont del Bisbe
Also known as Bishop’s Bridge, El Pont del Bisbe is a must-see attraction in Barcelona thanks to its breathtaking marble structure. Embellished by improvising Gothic columns, the bridge connects Casa dels Canonges and the Palau de la Generalitat.
This little fine gem is also known as one of the most photographed spots in the whole of Barcelona. Attached with a wonderfully evocative road, the bridge is filled with tourists all over the world trying to capture this overall feel. Something about this place is so authentic to Barcelona. We discovered some gruesome details of skulls and dagger motif adorned along the underside of the bridge, totally awesome!
Arc de Triomf
To us, Arc de Triomf in Barcelona is reminiscent of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe but stands out on its own with intricate decorative finishes and a flamboyant appearance. The gate came to life in 1888 when Barcelona hosted the Universal Exhibition World’s Fair. Today, the gate is still standing vividly against the high blue sky, serving as a dramatic backdrop to feed your Instagram.
If you pay closer attention, the intricate carvings adorned on the red brickwork came out as a majestic statement. Even on a purpose or a random drop-off point by a taxi, Arc de Triomf is still a memorable place to jot down your bucket list in Barcelona!
Plaça de Catalunya
Dominating the core of Barcelona, Plaça de Catalunya is the best place to capture the life of the locals and keep up with all the happenings in town. Separating the two districts of Ciutat Vella and Eixample, Plaça de Catalunya features the monument of Francesc Macià, a Catalan president.
The entire square is bustling day and night, while sunset reframes the beauty of the site even more. It’s tinged by the beautiful buildings and the human flow of Barcelona. You can easily meet up with the locals, get some fresh air, or simply throw a late picnic before sunset to rest your tired bones.
It was a residential building, now it’s a masterpiece! As always, Gaudi’s artworks keep impressing us and Casa Vicens is the most provoking live witness. We loved it far better than we thought it was. The site was brought to life at the end of the 19th century as a summer house – but we would say palace!
From the first impression at the entrance to each of the rooms in the house, everything you see reflects the typical style of Gaudi. From the colorful plaid patterns on the rough stone walls, iron palm leaves, and flowers embellished on the patio, to the warmth and luxurious look of wooden furnishings – Gaudí went way ahead of his time!
Figueres Dali Theatre-Museum
To be honest, this is the most surreal museum we’ve ever seen. Never thought it would be Barcelona to surprise us with such an impeccable display inside out. Dedicated to the talented artist, Salvador Dalí, the museum has been around since 1974 and constructed on the remains of an old theater.
Everything about this place needs a moment of appreciation and thought to fully collect what Dalí was trying to say, rather than rushing things off. We walked through the painting of a nude woman, a closer portrait of Abraham Lincoln to the Cadillac on the inside. As I said, you need to spend a few good hours at the museum, or even better, with a guide, because these arts reveal themselves in a way that exceeds what one’s mind allows!
Basílica de Santa María del Mar
Another must-see masterpiece we don’t want you to miss is Basílica de Santa María del Mar. It took the natives 54 years to finish the entire masterpiece. This antique architecture today is a marvelous Gothic basilica embellished with awe-inspiring stained-glass panels and flooded with natural sunlight.
Basílica de Santa María del Mar took root in the 14th century and was regarded as the church of the poor fishermen. History-wise, the fishermen collected the cobblestone and boulders for the construction. A fun fact to blow our mind is that they said most of the churches built around that time and of the same size took even a century to complete. What was left in our minds is the admirable hardship and devotion that are still singing in the sea today.
Who doesn’t know Pablo Picasso? And right here in Barcelona, we had a chance to learn about the important milestones in his life with a visit to Museu Picasso. Picasso chose Barcelona to reside during his first years as a young artist. Today, Museu Picasso houses over 4200 masterpieces and striking works of art including sculptures, paintings, and engravings. Imagine over 4200 works were created during his formative years!
For that reason, Museu Picasso is proud to be the largest collection of Picasso’s early years. A bit of discovery of what we’ve found: you would see his movement from classic works done in Malaga and Madrid, to the avant-garde trends that he adopted from the French artists.
Barcelona is not complete without La Rambla. Running for over a kilometer, La Rambla emerges from a riverbed to be a romantic, palm-shaded boulevard where we took a long walk when the sun beamed down. La Rambla dominates the heart of Plaça de Catalunya and ends around Port Vell. Dine out from the shaded terraces and watch people winding down the street.
Take a stroll past the contemplative human statues before soaking in the mesmerizing vantage point from the top of the Columbus Monument. No matter how you enjoy it, La Rambla lets you take a step back in time and indulge in the utmost peace with your significant other.
Impressive, just impressive! Casa Batlló may not be the first work of art when someone mentions Gaudí, but it’s definitely one of the most sought-after architectures you can still witness in Barcelona. Its striking exterior provokes an explosive play of colors, which somehow reveals the style Gaudí followed.
More than just a stunning background of your Instagram shot, the house beholds a great extent of stories and information that you can only tell if you have a local guide accompany you. The house has been refurbished several times since its debut in 1904. Today, his improvising mosaic and quirky design still stand the test of time.
Compared to Casa Batlló, Casa Milà is more significant to us since the elaborate stonework is nowhere to be seen. For that reason, it somehow blew our minds and dropped our jaw right the first time we saw it. According to our guide, this impressive and otherworldly work of art depicted the pinnacle of Gaudí’s career.
Casa Milà was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1984. It remains interesting to us that the name itself means “the quarry”, and emerges as a building that embodies nature. The wavy patios, curved walls, and high-cut columns are just speechless!
Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site
The artistic dream already embodied us and it would be a waste if we missed out on Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site. So there you have it! Waking up all of your senses with the impressive features of Catalan Art Nouveau. You will have a huge collection of extravagant domes, stained glass windows, and epic pillars made it hard to believe it was once a hospital.
Make your way around the garden and you will instantly notice why the building came out that way! Everything about the architecture was heavily inspired by the surrounding plants, flowers, and nature. Many decent photo ops to be taken. All in all, Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site is worth a couple of hours for an easy stroll and an insight into an Art Nouveau gem!
Once we hit the park mid-afternoon, it felt as if the world had never changed and we were just the prehistoric wanderers hiding the scorching sun under the triumph of stone arts. The calmness and uniqueness of Park Güell are nowhere to be seen. Their walkways, pillars, fountains, and houses were designed by Gaudí as his response and respect to mother nature.
Quirky as always, Gaudí’s pioneering vision once again impressed us, just like how it will do to you! Imagine sneaking through those columns piercing through like tree trunks, and the high-ceiling arches welcome you to the mystical world behind. Remember to get your tickets ahead of your visit as it’s going to be crowded during the high season!
La Boquería Market
Located in El Raval, La Boquería Market is a must-see for anyone visiting Barcelona. More on a cultural and entertainment side, La Boquería Market is the cream of the crop for those who want retail therapy in Spain. There’s something about the market that wakes up the curiosity and enjoyment deep down inside of our hearts. The local gourmets, the mouthwatering cheese, fresh olive oils, lots of fruits, and a plethora of food and drinks.
Come with an empty stomach because you will be sure hungry when walking around the vendors. We had a blast enjoying our late lunch at El Pinotxo and found out it was one of the most popular vendors on the site. You can also browse through some authentic dried hams and bring some back home for a picnic lunch as well!
Climb the Montjuïc
Alright! We’ve had a lot of good food and now it’s time for some workout! How about working out with a view? If this is what you’re looking for, remember that Montjuïc is always waiting to blow your mind! Combine sightseeing and working out in a day trip, climbing the Montjuïc rewards you with the dazzling, awe-inspiring view over the city once you reach the peak.
Translated into Jewish Mountains, Montjuïc is sat by an ancient, majestic Jewish cemetery at its top. The hike is fairly easy as the elevation gain is naturally flat. So if you’re a beginner, nothing to sweat out for!
We hope you enjoy Barcelona as much as we did! If you’ve never been to Barcelona before, it’s time to bookmark this ultimate collection of things to do right now!