The 10 Best Barcelona Tours to Book in 2018

Barcelona is unquestionably one of the world’s most beautiful and fascinating cities. Handsome medieval churches stand just a few steps from the whimsical, rule-breaking Modernist buildings of local son Antoni Gaudi. The city is full of fine art museums and street performers, massive planned parks and tiny green spaces, high-end shopping boulevards and outdoor neighborhood markets. There’s so much to see and do that it can be a bit overwhelming, so if Barcelona is part of your travel plans, consider demystifying part or all of the city with a planned tour. There are tours to suit all interests and all traveling styles, from traditional hop-on/hop-off bus tours to in-depth walking tours with local experts that explore specific neighborhoods (like the Gothic quarter) or topics (like food or photography). If you’re looking for a great tour of Barcelona, consider one of these, the very best that the city has to offer.

  • 01 of 10

    Hop-on/hop-off tours aren’t the quirkiest or edgiest way to get to know a new city, but they’re comprehensive, easy, and super-convenient, and really do give you a solid understanding of a new place. And when we say comprehensive, we mean it: This company’s comfy double-decker buses travel along three separate loops with 44 total stops and audio commentary in 18 languages. You can sit back in your open-air seats and simply ride, listen, and enjoy the sights of the city as you pass by, or you can use the well-planned route as your personal transportation, jumping off at every stop and exploring. (Probably you’ll want to do some combination of the two, stopping at a few choice stops and enjoying some of the city from the bus.)

    You can choose one- or two-day passes and you have unlimited access to the buses, which begin running at 8 a.m. and finish at 9 .p.m, with approximately a 25-minute frequency between buses at each stop.

  • 02 of 10

    Whether you’re planning a longer trip that you want to start by getting the lay of the land or you’re only in Barcelona for a day or two, this comprehensive full-day tour will give you an amazing in-depth introduction to the city. It’s actually a combination of two separate tours, each with a different guide and a slightly different perspective on the city.

    In the morning, you’ll spend 4.5 hours enjoying a sightseeing tour that combines a bit of walking with some sightseeing from a comfortable motorcoach. Among the highlights that you’ll enjoy: the Plaça de Catalunya, the Gothic Quarter, the Olympic Village, and Montjuic Castle.

    The afternoon portion of the tour is focused on Barcelona’s most famous architect, the inimitable Antoni Gaudí. You’ll learn about his life and his theories on art and architecture while touring some of his most profound creations: the towering Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Park Güell, La Pedrera, and Casa Batlló.

  • 03 of 10

    Barcelona is a famously bike-friendly city, and even if you’re new to urban biking, you’ll be able to enjoy both the destinations and the journey itself on this half-day tour around the city. You’ll begin your day at a bike shop, where you’ll be fitted for a bike (and helmet/child seat, by request) and have a quick safety briefing, and then you’re off.

    You’ll make stops at La Sagrada Familia, Place Sant Jaume, the Arc de Triomf, and La Catedral, among others, and you’ll have time to ask questions and take pictures of each. You’ll also take a bit of time to enjoy Barcelona’s beautiful sandy beach (pack a suit if you want to jump in).

    The distance between stops is short, the pace relaxed, and the landscape quite flat, so even those travelers who aren’t super-fit can enjoy this easy route between many of Barcelona’s most interesting attractions.

  • 04 of 10

    The oldest part of Barcelona, the Gothic Quarter, is fully pedestrianized, so the best (and only) way to see it is on foot. It’s not huge but the ancient streets are a bit twisty and winding and it’s hard to get your brain wrapped around the layout well enough to make sure that you see everything (and, indeed, you don’t always know what you’re looking at once you do find it). That’s where a great tour comes in.

    This two-hour tour takes a stroll through the ancient neighborhood is a fantastic way to get a sense for the deep history of the city as well as the way it has moved into the modern world. You’ll see all of the Quarter’s most famous landmarks, including the Plaça del Rei, the Palatine chapel of Santa Agata, the Roman Temple d’August, the Plaça Sant Jaume, the ancient Roman Walls, and so much more.

    It is definitely a serious walking tour, and the streets are largely cobbled, so comfortable, supportive shoes are a must.
     

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    You can learn so much about a people by learning what they eat (and how they eat it) and this walking tour offers you a glimpse into Spain’s traditional tapas culture. Along with your small group and your expert guide, you’ll visit three of Barcelona’s best tapas bars for a full hour each (taking your time slowly nibbling and sipping is how it’s done!) while your guide explains some of the history of Spanish cuisine; the influences that different cultures have left upon it and the way it has, in turn, influenced the wider world.

    They’ll also help illuminate the Spanish and Catalan people’s relationship with food: The way it is centered in both daily life and in special celebrations, and the dramatic difference between bar culture here and in much of the rest of the world. On a less-heady front, you’ll also simply enjoy lots of different tastes of lots of different local specialties: olives, Spanish ham, cheeses, little open-faced sandwiches of all kinds, and more, plus wine — plenty of wine. The insights you pick up will help you order tapas throughout the rest of your trip, both in terms of knowing which foods you enjoy and the etiquette of ordering and sharing these little plates.

  • 06 of 10

    Barcelona is so beautiful that it practically begs to be photographed. But whether you’re a total newbie with a camera or something of an old hat, there’s always room to improve your photography skills, and what better place to do it? This tour takes a small group of participants (maximum 12) on a slow half-day stroll through some of Barcelona’s most interesting neighborhoods and landmarks, including the Born Cultural Center, several Gaudí buildings, La Boqueria market, and the MACBA contemporary art museum.

    Along the way, your professional photographer guide will help you further develop your eye, frame shots, play with exposures and shutter speed, use natural light to your best advantage, and more. They’ll also give you some insights into the artistic and architectural history of the city. The tour is appropriate for DSLR users as well as those who are just using a camera phone. 

  • 07 of 10

    Antoni Gaudí’s creations are so beautiful, so fantastical, so incredible, but also overwhelming on their own. The buildings are impossibly complex, bearing everything from massive architectural features that seem to defy physics to tiny hidden symbols that easily escape notice. Having an art history expert on hand ​Barcelona you make sense of these on the face (and make sure you don’t miss anything super-cool) is invaluable.

    This tour also offers travelers insights into Gaudí’s influences and personal development as an artist -- among several other stops, you’ll see the Casa Vicens, one of his earliest works, as well as those that he designed once he was an established visionary. Further, you’ll get a sense for the art and architectural zeitgeist of his time and have a look at some of the very obvious influence he had on the rest of the art world.

    The tour ends at his most amazing and most enduring piece: the still-unfinished Sagrada Familia, the sandcastle-like church that continues to reach closer and closer to the sky. You’ll receive skip-the-line entry and your guide will take you up one of the towers for a spectacular view of the surrounding city, as well as offer insights into both the interior and exterior of this absolutely awe-inspiring building.

  • 08 of 10

    If you’re a history buff, particularly one who enjoys lesser-known history, or you have any interest at all in Jewish history or culture, do consider this off-the-beaten-path walking tour of Barcelona’s historic Jewish Quarter.

    This neighborhood in the Ciutat Vella (Old City) is one of the city’s earliest and there’s much that can be learned about Judaism in general and even, broadly, the development of the City of Barcelona by digging into the deep history of this specific community. Your walking tour includes a visit to one of the oldest synagogues in Europe and the house of the famous Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (known as the Rashba).

    As you stroll through the old city, your guide will point out the former locations of a number of Jewish buildings and monuments, as well as some engraved Hebrew words on stones that can be seen in surprising places. You’ll also visit a recently-rediscovered medieval mikveh (Jewish ceremonial bath) and learn a bit about how historians, archaeologists, and religious experts are still uncovering clues to Barcelona’s past. 

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Barcelona’s patron saint is Saint George (Sant Jordi) who famously slayed a dragon, so dragons have been a theme for local artists and architects since ancient times, and the city is full of them: more than 1000, in fact, from gargoyles to stained-glass windows and beyond.

    This tour engages children with a scavenger hunt that teaches them to look for hidden details on their travels while also teaching them about the extremely cool history of dragons. They’ll learn how European and Asian folklore looks at dragons very differently, discover the way attitudes about (and beliefs about) dragons have evolved through history, and simply how to become an engaged traveler and urban explorer.

    Though the tour definitely centers children, their accompanying adults will also get a kick out of the history and mythology on display here, as well as plenty of tidbits about the history of Barcelona itself.

  • 10 of 10

    Though modern Barcelona feels almost like a modern fairyland, with its beautiful buildings and abundant greenery, much of the city’s history is downright gruesome. Barcelona was at the heart of the Spanish Inquisition and saw years of torture, violent anti-Semitism, and even executions in the name of Orthodoxy and control.

    Suspected witches were burned at the stake at various times throughout history, and criminals were often subject to gory or unusual punishments in many different time periods. Barcelona was also the hub of what would become one of history’s largest genocides, with Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand directing Columbus and his contemporaries to conquer and enslave the “New World.”

    And, of course, there were other incidents of suffering throughout the years: wars, pestilence, and good old-fashioned murder. This tour highlights all of this and more on an eerie two-hour nighttime walk through the historic center of the city. Fair warning: this one may not be appropriate for very small children, though tweens and up will likely find it enthralling.

Our writers spent two hours researching the best Barcelona tours on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 50 different tours overall and read over 100 user reviews (both positive and negative). All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.