Ten Things to Do in Barcelona

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Decorative front of Barcelona Port building
Architecture, museums, food, festivals, and more in Barcelona, Spain

(Last updated October 2020)

Barcelona, Spain is one of the top tourist destination cities in the world. Located on the Mediterranean coast, it is the capital of the autonomous community of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain. Founded as a Roman city, it has a rich cultural heritage. Good public transportation, along with walking and cycling paths, make exploration easy. There is much to see and do in the city.

1. Tour La Sagrada Familia

Ornate stone facade of Sagrada La Familia in Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia is one of the top tourist attractions in Barcelona, Spain. Building of this church, designed by architect Antoni Gaudí , began in 1882 and continues today. Buy tickets online in advance to avoid line-ups. A guided tour or purchase of audio headsets is recommended to gain a fuller appreciation of this masterpiece.

2. Check Out Gaudí Architecture

Front of mulit-coloured Gaudí designed Casa Battló with curved balconies

La Sagrada Familia is not the only Antoni Gaudí work to see in Barcelona. The architect most associated with Barcelona, left a legacy of interesting and unusual buildings. There are public works of art and building facades to be seen throughout the city. Casa Batlló (shown in the photograph), Casa Mila, Palau Güell, and Casa Vicens are open to the public to tour.  offer tours. A visit to Park Güell is well worth it.

3. Explore Barcelona Architecture Beyond Gaudí

Ornate facade of Els Quatre Gats building in Barcelona

Barcelona contains architectural gems beyond the works of Antoni Gaudí. In 1999, the city received the Royal Gold Medal for architecture. Although best known for the colourful, free-flowing Modernisme style, many architectural styles can be found in Barcelona.

4. Visit Museums

Sign for Picasso Museum on the brick wall of its exterior

Barcelona has many museums to choose from. Pablo Picasso spent his formative years in Barcelona. The Pablo Picasso Museum houses one of the most extensive collections of his artwork. I spent a couple of very enjoyable hours there. Joan Miró was a Surrealist painter, sculptor, and ceramicist born in Barcelona in 1893. The Fundació Joan Miró is dedicated to his work. The Bullfighting Museum of Barcelona is housed in the Monumental Building, where bullfighting events took place prior to Catalonia’s 2012 ban on bullfighting. The Barcelona City History Museum narrates the history of the city and contains underground Roman ruins. For something a little different, the Chocolate Museum provides a journey through the origins of chocolates, its spread in the world, and its medicinal and nutritional value.

5. Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Plate of paella with shrimp and mussels

One of the great joys of travel is tasting an area’s cuisine. Tapas are Spanish appetizers or snacks. Tapa bars are found throughout Barcelona, some of the best offering food at crowded, stand-up bars. In some, you will order from a menu. In others, the selection will be on display at a front counter and/or passed out on trays by waiters. In this case, each selection will contain a toothpick. At the end of the evening, you pay according to how many toothpicks are on your plate.

Seafood is popular, as is cured ham, which is often served on its own as an appetizer. There are shops selling nothing but varieties of ham. Many restaurants offer paella, a saffron-flavored Spanish dish made with varying combinations of rice, vegetables, meat, chicken, and seafood, each restaurant creating a slightly different version. Arroz negro is a traditional Catalonian dish of squid and rice, prepared in a similar manner as paella.

Wash it all down with a glass of Cava, the Spanish sparkling wine produced mostly in the Catalonia region. Or, perhaps, some sangria.

A glass pitcher of sangria with two filled glasses beside it

6. Take in a Festival

Traditional dancers in white and red with sticks at the Gracia Street Festival parade in Barcelona

Festivals take place throughout the year in Barcelona and surrounding area. Check out what’s on during the time frame of your visit and join the party.

I was there in August and took in the Gracia Street Festival. Streets in the Gracia district compete to win the prize of being the best decorated street. There are also concerts and shows.

Parrots and other overhead street decorations at the Gracia Street Festival in Barcelona
Street decorations in Gracia
Acrobats forming a human pyramid at the Gracia Street Festival parade

The opening evening parade included human acrobats, folk dancers, giant wooden figures (Geganters), marchers in old-time military dress firing arquebus muskets loaded with blanks, and a correfoc. A correfoc is a fire run and has been described as a frenzy of pyromania. Groups of horned devils dance through the streets, brandishing tridents that spout fireworks, followed by fire-breathing dragons. I don’t believe safety regulations would allow this anywhere in Canada or the U.S., but it was fun to see. The atmosphere was definitely festive.

Correfoc (fire run) at Gracia Street Festival parade
Correfoc (fire run) at Gracia Street Festival parade

7. Discover Street Art

Painting of a woman's face on a metal shop shutter in Barcelona

The city of Barcelona is a contemporary art gallery. Walls, streets, doors, and even power boxes are covered with expressions of urban art. Walk around and discover the works on your own, or take one of the organized street art tours.

8. Wander Through the Gothic Area

Narrow street lined with old brick buildings and a bridge between them in Barcelona Gothic area

The Gothic area is the birthplace of the city, where the ancient Romans first built the city. It is easily explored on foot. It’s an area of grand squares and narrow streets. You’ll find Roman ruins, twelfth century buildings, and lots of atmosphere. Here you’ll also find Barcelona Cathedral, a centre of Christian worship since the fourth century, the current building dating from the fourteenth century.

9. Walk Las Ramblas

People walking down the Las Rambla broad promenade in Barcelona

For more than a century, the walk down the tree-lined pedestrian boulevard of Las Ramblas has attracted tourists and locals. You’ll find cafes, stalls selling everything from flowers to candy, street performers, and interesting architecture and side streets.

10. Relax at the Beach

Barcelona beach with people sitting under umbrellas in the sand

Barcelona has over 4 kilometres of beach, seven individual beaches, on the Mediterranean Sea. Barceloneta Beach is the busiest beach, closest to the centre of the city. Mar Bella Beach is the nudist beach.

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Ten Things to Do In Barcelona, Spain - this European city has so much to experience: art, history, architecture, beaches, museums, great food, festivals. #Barcelona #Spain

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  1. Great post. Barcelona is really amazingly beautiful. I love the beach and the food.

  2. happy to me have short time working in here and near by this famous architect design, so amazing with the architect in Barcelona

  3. I’ve only been to Barcellona once and since I was working during the day I missed most of this stuff. I did get to sit outside in cafes with a carafe of Spanish wine and that’s the first thing I think of when Barcellona comes to mind. Your images and descriptions make me anxious to go back.

    1. Ken, It sounds cool to be sent to Barcelona on business, but it’s too bad you didn’t have time to explore the city. However, you did experience the ambiance with Spanish wine at an outdoor cafe. Hope you get back someday.

    1. Carol, your comment prompted me to look up information on the word “gaudy.” You are not alone in wondering if it came from the artist Gaudi. However, it turns out the word was used well before he was born. Barcelona is worth being on your “to do” list. I loved it and would like to return.