things to do in barcelona

In 2016, 8.36 million international visitors descended on the streets of the Catalan capital of Barcelona. They came for the wine, the tapas, the Sagrada Familia, and so much more.

Barcelona is one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, and it’s particularly popular with young people.

The city’s effortlessly cool, laid-back vibe is matched only by the sheer number of things to do in Barcelona. Whether you’re into mainstream sites or off-beat music, you’ll find it here in the twisting streets of this ancient port city.

Are you making the city your next vacation destination? Here are 10 of the best things to do in Barcelona.

1. All Things Gaudi

Antoni Gaudi’s architecture dominates the Barcelona skyline, and there’s nothing else on earth quite like it.

The buildings dot the city and provide an interesting walking tour of Barcelona as a whole.

Don’t forget to add these buildings and spaces to your tour:

  • Casa Mila (Provenca, 261-265)
  • Casa Vicens (Carrer de les Carolines, 24)
  • Park Guell
  • Sagrada Familia
  • Casa Calvet (Carrer de Casp, 48)
  • Colegio Teresiano de Barcelona (Carrer de Ganduxer, 85)

Look out for Gaudi’s incredible eye for nature. How many wonders of the natural world will you spot in the Sagrada Familia?

2. Hit the Beach

Barcelona has an incredible food scene, nightlife, and of course the world-class list of museums and cultural hotspots.

The city is also an epic beach destination with some of the continent’s best urban beaches.

Visit the three-mile strip of beach that transports you to seaside tranquillity without leaving the buzzing atmosphere of the city.

Choose from the busy beaches within walking distance of the Gothic Quarter or hop the bus out to some of the northern beaches where you’ll have more space to stretch your legs.

3. Wander the Gothic Quarter

The Gothic Quarter, or Barrio Gotico, is at the center of the oldest part of the city. Though, the buildings here now date primarily to the 19th and 20th centuries. It stands as a contrast to the grand architecture of the Renaissance and the hip skyline of the twentieth century.

Come here to get lost. Unlike the rest of the city’s wide boulevards, the streets here remain a labyrinth. Step into boutiques, sit down with a glass of sangria, and don’t forget to spend time taking it all in.

4. Free Museum Nights

The bulk of Barcelona’s museums charge admission. While the museums quality is some of the finest in Europe, checking out one of the city’s free museum nights will save you cash and allow you to mingle with the locals who mark these evenings on their calendars.

Before you buy your tickets, look out for the destination’s free evenings. For example, Museu Picasso is free from 6 to 9:30 p.m. on Thursdays. It’s also free all day on the first Sunday of the month.

5. Shopping, Shopping, Shopping

By number five, you already have more than a week’s worth of activities planned, but you shouldn’t miss out on the city’s shopping scene.

La Rambla is the city’s most famous street and holds a fair few of the recognizable brands that you might find in your shopping mall at home. It’s dotted with flower stalls, kiosks, and street artists and capped with the Boqueria Market.

It’s also home to almost every tourist who comes to Barcelona and seemingly all 8 million of them at once.

Come here once for the experience, but if you want to shop like a local, avoid La Rambla and instead stick to:

  • Rambla de Catalunya
  • Carrer de Pelai
  • Diagonal Mar
  • La Diagonal

And of course, don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled wherever you go. The incredible art scene produces unmissable boutiques and galleries that you won’t find on the main shopping streets.

6. Eat at Mercat de Santa Caterina

Tourists flock to La Boqueria on La Ramblas. You can skip the tourist trap and head to Mercat de Santa Caterina.

This market is for the locals and is much smaller than La Boqueria. Expect to hear more Catalan than English and be prepared to rub elbows with old women out doing their shopping — literally.

7. Visit Carrer de Les Aigues

By now, you’ve traipsed across the city, but you’re not done yet.

Look up, and you’ll notice that mountains surround Barcelona. Your path there is the Carrer de Les Aigues. 

The so-called “road of the waters” is a nine-kilometer path that takes you out of the busy city and into the green lung of Barcelona and some of the best panoramic views in town.

8. See Something Stunning at MACBA

An often overlooked museum (for the international crowd) is the Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA).

You’ll find exhibitions from local arts and global sensations. It doesn’t matter if you prefer mixed media, music, poetry, or performances, there’s always something to see here.

9. Learn Catalan Culture

Your map says Barcelona is in Spain. However, the globe tends to neglect that Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, a thriving province with a commitment to seeking independence from Spain and once again ruling itself.

Get in touch with Catalan culture, history, and food to experience something extraordinary. A few good options include:

  • Museu d’Historia de Catalunya (museum)
  • Tuset Restaurant
  • BCN Languages (Catalan language classes)

Who knows? By the time you leave, you may find yourself a new convert of the Catalan independence movement.

10. Go to a Festival

Barcelona plays host to some of the best (and most well-priced) festivals in Europe.

From music to arts to film, you’ll find it all here, and there’s no more enchanting time to visit the city.

Come in May/June for Primavera Sound — the home of some of the hippest artists around the world.

The Sonar (or the International Festival of Advanced Music and Multimedia Art) is another banger scheduled in July each year. It’s the place to be for vinyl aficionados, aspiring DJs, and even kids.

Alternatively, arrive earlier in the year to experience the city’s magical Carnaval de Barcelona at the start of Lent.

You Won’t Run Out of Things to Do in Barcelona

Whatever you love, you’ll find it in the beating heart of Catalonia. From food culture to world-class to museums to time on the beach, our list includes just ten of the hundreds (read: thousands) of things to do in Barcelona.

What’s next on your travel bucket list? Click here for even more inspiration.

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