Barcelona is a city pulsing with energy, vibrant in culture, rich in history and humming with a way of life that radiates passion in its every move.
When taking trips to Barcelona the cobbled streets bustle with enthusiastic chatter, the salt air breezes in off the promenade and you get the immediate sense there’s much to discover here.
Whilst planning your trip you’ll find that you’re never short of things to do in Barcelona. It’s more a matter of knowing where to start. Here’s a line up of 10 things you have to do to really get to the heart of Barcelona and experience all that this magical city has to offer.
If you’re sticking to the city fringe and beach promenade then one of the top things to do in Barcelona is to explore by bike. It’s a great way to enjoy sightseeing in Barcelona, plus a ride along the beachfront, dipping in and out of the shade of the towering palm trees really is a true Barcelona experience.
Plus, you’ll be able to bike until you find the perfect spot on the beach, rather than hit heat fatigue walking and getting stuck in the throng of crowds at the start of the beach. You’ll also be saving a good penny or two on public transport and taxis.
2. Pound the pavement
While grand in reputation, Barcelona is a beautifully petite city. Cosy alleyways connect in a labyrinth of cobbled sidewalks and sunny plazas that open out onto the seaside promenade or the hugging green hills behind. Experiencing all of this by foot really really is the thing to do in Barcelona.
Walking the streets you won’t miss out on the circus performing buskers, street food, hidden backstreets and it allows for impromptu stops for just one more glass of Cerveza.
3. Hit the beach
With a city already so rich in culture, vibrant in energy and diverse in experience, the beaches really are the piece de resistance of Barcelona. By far, one of the best things to do in Barcelona is to hit the beach.
Barceloneta Beach is the first, identified by the large cube like sculptures, although the most touristic of you will be privy to drumming buskers, mojitos and sangria on demand, plus a line up of delicious seafood restaurants to sample.
If you have a bike or are able to catch the train you can also explore other, less busy beaches such as Bogatell, Caldetes Beach, Nova Icaria Beach or Ocata Beach. All in all prepare to lay back, relax, bronze and drink a good few afternoons away on the beach while visiting Barcelona.
4. Drinks with a view
Standing on a rooftop terrace in Barcelona, looking out over the city and beach with a perfected cocktail in hand really is something to behold. You’ll often stumble across hosted parties at hotel rooftop bars that are always worth brushing up your charm and talking your way into as well.
A few favourites are Sky Bar, Meliá Barcelona Sky or the Silken Diagonal Terrace where you can catch a view of the city by night and a close up look of the glowing Torre Agbar building which is definitely one of the top things to see in Barcelona.
5. Get your Gaudi on
Glorious Gaudi made his home in Barcelona and the fruits of his creative mind can be witnessed all over the city. Visiting these sites is an absolute must on your list of things to do in Barcelona.
Of course, the stand-outs are his yet to be completed cathedral La Sagrada Familia and Gaudi Park (Parc Güell), where you not only get to wander through a maze of colourful mosaics and fantastical stone structures, but also get to enjoy a view out over the city.
But don’t skip out on visiting other areas where his works live. Some of the top places to visit in Barcelona are the residential homes of Casa Vicens, La Pedrera, Casa Calvet or Casa Batlló, the Parc de la Ciutadella fountain and the Colonia Güell church. These are all top places to visit as part of your Barcelona experience.
Food is central to every facet of Barcelona’s way of life. While eating one meal you’re already planning the next. This is because, well, there’s just so many delectable things to tick off your ‘to try’ list.
The local Catalan cuisine is Mediterranean-inspired and infused with spices that show off the area’s produce. Think cured Jamon, seafood feasts of fresh oysters, mussels, calamari, fish and beyond, tapas of the infamous patatas bravas and Padron peppers and of course paella!
A late night empanada, pastry pockets filled with meat and cheese or vegetables, always hits the spot too.
When in Barcelona sampling the drinks list of local fame is absolutely mandatory. Refresh with a glass of Cava, a sparkling green wine locally produced in Catalonia.
Or settle in for an afternoon session with a jug of fresh sangria. Vermouth is also not just a drink to be mixed in Barcelona. Here it’s enjoyed straight and you’ll find vermouth on tap in most bars! Hunting out a Vermouth tasting while in Barcelona is also well your worthwhile.
8. Stroll the markets
All of this talk of food and drinks brings us to an ultimate thing to do in Barcelona. Exploring the markets and walking streets. Start with a stroll down La Rambla, perhaps the most famous street in Barcelona.
Lined with trees, street stalls and high street stores alike you’ll also encounter the most popular food market, La Boqueria Market, as you go.
Other markets that are worth stepping out for are the Sant Antoni Market, a larger food market that’s frequented by more locals than tourists, the Mercadillo de la Plaça de Sant Josep art markets and flea markets such as Mercat Del Encants where you’ll find second-hand treasures galore.
From its founding times of Phoenicians and Carthaginians to the Roman occupation, the Spanish Reconquest, the christening of Barcelona and the birth of Catalonia, this city has been an active centre of conquests and political movements since its origin.
More recent times have seen the flourishing of music, arts and culture with the likes of Gaudi, Picasso and Salvador Dali holding influence over the artistic history of Barcelona. A few top recommendations for places to visit in Barcelona when exploring the history are the Gothic Quarter, Archeology Museum of Catalonia, the Picasso Museum, and of course the Palau de la Música Catalana, one of the world’s most spectacular concert halls.
10. Speak to the locals!
Barcelonians are a passionate people. Proud of their culture and so forward in their manner many tourists find locals in Barcelona a little hard to handle. But if you put in the effort to connect with them you’ll find they’re some of the most friendly, helpful, interesting and vibrantly alive people you’ll ever encounter.
So there you have it. A comprehensive list of Barcelona’s things to do, see, taste and experience. Enjoy!