Barcelona is famous for its party scene, sun, sea, football and quirky architecture; but there’s plenty more to see in the city all year round. From trying tempting Catalan cuisine to Picasso’s early work, here’s our top 10 things to do in Barcelona.
Buzzing Barcelona has plenty of things happening all year round, with festivals and parties seemingly every weekend. Whenever you visit there’s bound to be some sort of celebration on, but these are the top 10 year round things not to miss when visiting the Catalan capital.
1. La Sagrada Familia
This eccentric Basilica is one of the icons of Barcelona skyline and is truly unique, with its high towers and cranes (it’s still being built) visible from all over the city. It was begun by Gaudí in 1866 (he died while still working on the project and is buried in the crypt) and is expected to be finished within the next 20 years. There are five towers, a central cross of 170m still in construction, and brightly coloured stained glass inside casting different light at different times of the day. Don’t visit the towers if you’re afraid of heights – there are some great views of Barcelona!
Tickets for Sagrada Familia can be bought online to avoid the queues here
2. Catch a match at Camp Nou
The football fans out there will no doubt know the name already, but Camp Nou is home to Barcelona football team, known simply as Barca. Football is close to religion in the city, and despite there actually being 2 teams, this is the one that draws the crowds. You can tickets to matches at the official website or at the many stalls on Ramblas or in the tourists offices. It’s a great experience to see a match live, even if you’re not a fan. Beware, for the big derby matches such as against Real Madrid, tickets aren’t cheap! Buy tickets here
3. Stroll down Las Ramblas
It’s not the flower and bird market that it used to be but Las Ramblas still retains some charm. Begin at Placa Catalunya and pass along the pedestrianised area past shops and market stalls. The famous Boqueria market is on the right, by the Miro mosaic in the pavement. Towards the bottom of Ramblas there are artists showcasing their paintings and many performance artists and human statues towards the port. There are also many restaurants and cafes to sit and watch the world go by (but many tourist traps and pickpockets too).
4. Go see some Gaudí
Famous for his colourful creative architecture and the famously elaborate and still unfinished Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudí is the city’s most famous and influential architect. The Quadrat d’Or (Golden Square) on Passeig de Gràcia in the shopping district is known for works by other architects including Domènech i Montaner and Puig i Cadafalch, but it is Casa Mila and Casa Batlló that are the favourites.
Gaudí’s Casa Mila (or La Pedrera) was built in 1906 as a house and is now UNESCO preserved. It’s famous for its art nouveau style and dreamlike surreal chimneys on the rooftop. Nearby is Casa Batlló – a modernist masterpiece by Gaudí built for the Batlló family with a balconied facade and modernist rooms inside. Don’t miss the colourful tiled chimneys on the roof terrace. If you buy tickets online you can skip the queues.
5. Barcelona Beach
The beach at Barcelona is heaving all summer long, but it’s a great place to catch some rays, grab some paella or stroll up and down. There are bike lanes, rollerblading, boats to take out, paddle boarding, kayaking, or just plain sunbathing. As the signs say – put on plenty of sunscreen and drinks lots of water. Failing that there are plenty of bars and clubs towards the end of Barcelonetta beach including Shoko and Pacha.
6. Eat local food
Barcelona has plenty of international cuisine and also from other regions in Spain, but while you’re visiting you should try some traditional Catalan food. There is plenty of great fresh seafood from the Mediterranean so grab some tapas by the beach – or a paella. Although originally from Valencia paella is a big favourite in Barcelona, where many Catalan dishes are rice based. There is also plenty of good deserts to try, including Crema Catalana.
Barcelona has some great little shops, with boutiques full of ‘made in Barcelona’ clothes, bags, leather accessories, hats, scarves, shoes, everything! It’s a great place to shop, and the smaller boutiques in the Old Town are open late in the evening and also on Sundays. For the upmarket designer shops head to Passeig de Gracia above Placa Catalunya where you can find international labels.
8. Olympic Park and Montjuic
The hill at the edge of Barcelona’s waterfront is known as Montjuic and along with being home to the castle on the top, various parks and the botanical garden, it is also where the 1992 Olympic Park is situated. The views from the top are incredible and you also visit the stadium, pool and many of the other facilities which are open to the public. The open top tour bus also goes up the hill if you want a passing glance. Find out more here
9. Boqueria Food Market
With colourful fresh produce and plenty of tempting treats, don’t miss a wander around Boqueria food market. There are plenty of Catalan traditional foods here to buy from dried fruits to paella spices that are easy to take home, but it’s also a favourite of Barcelona restaurants who buy their fresh fish and produce here early in the mornings. There are also some great market stalls for grabbing tapas, cooked fresh in front of you from the displays. Try the famous El Quim stall or El Pinotxo and find out about its history from the chatty owners. Find out more about the market here
10. Picasso Museum
The museum in the Medieval neighbourhood of Born is set in an old palace in one of the oldest streets in the city. There are 4,251 works in the collection which is based on Picasso’s work early in his career while he live in Barcelona. It’s got an impressive amount of rare works and is a must see for any fans. Book in advance if you an to avoid the long queues. Find our more or buy tickets online here
Stay at Equity Point Hostels in Barcelona