What to do in Barcelona
A weekend in Barcelona is not long enough to explore this beautiful city. There are so many things to see and places with delicious food to visit or just wander the streets. We will definitely go back to see more of this city.
If you want to not only see Barcelona, but also Madrid, Seville and Granada, check out this 10 day Spain itinerary.
Here you find the things you must do when visiting Barcelona for the first time. Or are you looking for more unusual things to do?
But first, a little bit of history.
The oldest part of Barcelona was founded on top of a Medieval Roman settlement. Some parts can still be seen today in the city.
This part is characterized by a maze of small narrow streets, alleyways, and cozy squares. At the beginning of the 19th century, Barcelona needed to expand. This expansion, Eixample, uses a grid-iron pattern. This can be clearly seen when you study a map of Barcelona. Sagrada Familia, for example, is located in this “new” part of Barcelona.
Do a free walking tour
And this brings us to the first thing you must do when visiting Barcelona: a free walking tour. It is the best way to learn more about the history of Barcelona. We participated in a tour with Free Walking Tours BCN and our guide Fran was so enthusiastic: history has never been that interesting. Walking around the Gothic quarter, Fran talked not only about history but also about current politics of Catalunya. A must if you want to learn more about the city you’re a visiting.
Visit Sagrada Familia
This was, without a doubt, one of the highlights of our trip.
The Sagrada Familia is the most beautiful piece of architecture designed by Antoni Gaudi (in my opinion). Construction started in 1882 and it is thought that it will be finished by 2026.
If you think the exterior of the church if spectacular, wait till you see the inside. It is not your ordinary church.
You can also visit the museum where you can gain more insight into Gaudi’s work and the Sagrada Familia itself.
It is advised to book your tickets online in advance. When we visited the Sagrada Familia, everything was sold out on that day.
Visit Park Guell
Another one of Gaudi’s masterpieces. It is a public park composed of flowers, gardens & architectural structures. To visit the core of the park, you must pay. And the same holds as for the Sagrada Familia: book your tickets in advance if you want to visit it.
Gaudi used a lot of mosaics to decorate all the architectural designs. The main attraction of the park is the main terrace. It is encircled by a long bench that has the form of a sea serpent.
Try to visit the park early in the morning or later in the evening, not only to avoid the crowds but also to avoid the heat. The park is located on top of a hill and there are a number of stairs in the park itself.
Montjuic is a hill overlooking the harbor of Barcelona. Its name is referred to as “Jewish Mountain” in old documents and remains of a Jewish graveyard have been found here. You can go to the top of Montjuic by using the Funicular de Montjuïc from Paral.lel subway station. From there you can take the cable car Telefèric de Montjuic to the top. The latter gives the most amazing views of the city and the harbor.
Several fortifications are at the top of the hill, of which Castle of Montjuic can still be visited. It is dated back to 1640 and played important roles during a few battles.
On a sunny day, you have a beautiful view of the city. We wandered around the Castle of Montjuic to see the fortifications and have some good views of the city. But I wouldn’t recommend visiting the castle if you are not interested in history. You can better spend your time by exploring more of Monjuic.
Visit Casa Battlo & Casa Mila
Casa Battlo and Casa Mila are two building in the center of Barcelona designed by Gaudi.
Casa Battlo is acknowledged as one of his masterpieces. Locals call it Casa dels ossos (House of Bones) because of its skeletal structure. Like in Park Guell, Gaudi used a lot of mosaics made of broken ceramic tiles here as well. Much of the façade is decorated with it.
Casa Mila or La Perdrera (The Stony Quarry) was built between 1906 and 1912. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. The façade consists of large blocks of limestone which were cut to match the ideas of Gaudi. They were then raised to their desired location and matched to the pieces around them to follow a continuous curve.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit them, but it is definitely on our list for our next visit to Barcelona. But just looking at the outside of those buildings, shows the talent of Gaudi and his vision. Like in Park Guell, the use of colors, materials, and shapes is amazing to see.
Eat at Mercat de la Boqueria
La Boqueria is a large (very popular) public market with an entrance from La Rambla.
Note to everyone: La Boqueria is not open on Sundays :(. We planned on visiting the market on Sundays but unfortunately, it isn’t open on that day.
We had some amazing food at different tapas restaurants around the city that made up for it.
Stroll on La Rambla
La Rambla is the most popular street in Barcelona and connects Plaça de Catalunya with the Christoper Columbus Monument at Port Vell.
It also is the border between Barri Gothic quarter and El Raval. You find a lot of restaurants, bars and tourist shops here. As well as a few food stalls selling ice cream or churros.
If you are hungry, I would advice to not eat in a restaurant at La Rambla. There are so many restaurants in the little streets all over Barcelona that serve better food for a much better price.
I have to admit, that I expected much more of La Rambla. I didn’t like the cars driving at the outside of the street, it made it very loud and busy.
What not do do
I can also give you some advice on what not to do while in Barcelona: take the hop-on-hop-off bus. We used this bus in a lot of other cities and thought it was the best way to get around. But in Barcelona, it was a disaster. Because the first bus was leaving later than we would have liked (we had a reserved ticket to Park Guell), we decided to first take the subway and then the bus at Park Guell. We used the app, but the stop wasn’t shown correctly on it, so we lost a lot of time. When we then finally boarded the bus, it took forever to go from one place to the next: so many traffic lights. We regretted it almost instantly that we bought a ticket for 2 days. If you are not in a hurry, it can be easy to take it. But if you want to visit a lot of places during your weekend, I would advise taking the subway: easier and cheaper.
Did you already visit Barcelona? And did you love it as much as we did?