Barcelona, the capital of Spain’s Catalonia region, is known for its famous art collections, Gaudi architecture, and excellent food. Top sights include the Sagrada Família church designed by famous architect Antoni Gaudí. You'll see art by Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró at the modern art museums. Late in the evening, join locals at the tapas bars or take in a Flamenco performance.
The 1.2 kilometers long Las Ramblas is Spain's most famous promenade, often the first landmark that most tourists identify with the city. Las Ramblas (also called La Rambla) is a large boulevard which runs through the heart of the city center.
Las Ramblas runs from Port Vell (near the cruise port terminal) at the southernmost end to Plaça de Catalunya at the northernmost end. There is much to do on the promenade and along the side streets.
- La Boqueria is Barcelona's flagship market and is a great place to pick up the makings for a picnic or stop in to one of the little restaurants toward the back.
- At the bottom of Las Ramblas you'll find the Colon Monument dedicated to the explorer, Christopher Columbus. A small elevator takes visitors up to a very small viewing tower for a great 360-degree view of the city.
- Relax at a cafe, especially late in the evening, and watch the world promenade by.
Barrio Gotico is the Gothic Quarter, where the La Seu Cathedral, Plaça del Pi, and myriad dark, winding alleyways preserve the area's rich medieval heritage. A good first stop is the Museu d'Història de Barcelona (Barcelona History Museum), on Plaça del Rei, which houses exhibits covering Barcelona history from its origins in Roman times until the present day.
The area's narrow medieval streets are now filled with bars, clubs, and Catalan restaurants. The Plaça del Pi, named after the adjacent Gothic church, hosts a weekend art market.
El Born is the site of one of Spain's finest Catalan Gothic churches, Santa Maria del Mar, built between 1329 and 1383. The medieval passageways adjoining it will take you to the must-see Picasso Museum. Barcelona's Picasso Museum has one of the most extensive collections of artworks by the artist. The museum houses 4,251 pieces of art, one of the most complete permanent collections of Picasso's works.
After taking in the museum, visit nearby Passeig del Born, one of the trendiest places for a paseo—an afternoon stroll—in the city and is lined with modern bars and bistros.
Barceloneta is Barcelona's fishermen's barrio. It has the most popular beaches in the city, some of the best seafood eateries, and a magnificent port. At Restaurant Barceloneta, you can enjoy fresh seafood with a view of the docked yachts and fishing boats. For something more casual, try Can Mano where they say the fish is so fresh it's delivered through the back door as you are entering the restaurant from the front. They specialize in taking the freshest fish and then preparing it by frying or grilling with garlic.
El Raval looks, smells, and tastes different. This multicultural hub showcases delicious international cuisine, much of the city's best graffiti, unusual drinking spots, and contemporary art in the award-winning MACBA Museum, the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art in English. This contemporary art museum, situated in the Plaça dels Àngels, offers a range of temporary exhibits such as a John Lennon/Yoko Ono exhibit of sketches and works by Picasso featuring Paris. Every Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m., entry to the museum is free.
Marvel at the Gaudi Buildings
The Eixample district is all about the extraordinary modernist architecture of Gaudi, Domènech i Montaner, and Cadafelch, centered upon the surreally beautiful Passeig de Gràcia. It's also Barcelona's top shopping avenue.
The most famous building in this section of Barcelona is Gaudi's Sagrada Família but other Gaudi buildings you can admire are Casa Batllo and Casa Milá, one of Barcelona's popular modernist buildings called “the stone quarry” due to its organic rough exterior.
Sagrada Familia is the most famous of Gaudí’s works and the church has been in construction since 1892 and might be finished by 2026, it is said. While the church's facade is reminiscent of the gothic style, inside is more contemporary and magical with high, vaulting columns framing colorful stained glass windows and rising up to support an intricately carved ceiling.
Gràcia sees itself as a village within the city, but visit its buzzing Carrer de Verdi and Plaça del Sol and you'll find a vibrant community whose festival in August is one of Barcelona's most unforgettable. For a week in August, the streets of Gràcia are decorated in a neighborhood competition to win prizes.
A theme is chosen by each street such as underwater sea life or hot air balloons. Visitors walk under the canopies of decorations enjoying food stands and special events.
Year-round, Gràcia is known for upscale shopping and vibrant nightlife on Plaça del Sol.
Montjuïc is dominated by the presence of its 17th-century castle, Olympic Stadium, and Royal Palace of Pedralbes. It is also home to some of Spain's finest museums, including the Miró Foundation and CaixaForum.
One of the major tourist attractions in Barcelona is the Montjuïc Magic Fountain. The magic fountain is a spectacular display of color, light, music and water show. Designed for the 1929 Universal Exhibition by the engineer Carles Buigas, the Magic Fountain of Barcelona was restored in 1992 for the Olympic Games.
On schedule, the huge fountain bubbles and spouts cascades of water in a sensational show set to music and lit by a rainbow of colors. The show schedule varies depending on the season but thousands gather at night to see the spectacle year-round.
A funicular ride to the top of Mount Tibidabo provides the best views of Barcelona. Lower down, the Royal Palace of Pedralbes, a residence of the Spanish Royal Family from 1919 until 1931 has a wonderful ceramics museum, and Pedralbes Monastery stores a treasure trove of religious art.
Taking the funicular to the top of the mountain is a popular activity with visitors and families will love the little amusement park at the top. It was built in 1889 and some of the rides date back to that era.
You take the Tramvia Blau vintage streetcar halfway up the mountain and then catch a funicular to the summit. At the top, there are magnificent views.
See a Flamenco Show
While in Barcelona, take in a show by some of Spain’s foremost musicians and dancers, and enjoy some tapas or a meal as you watch. Flamenco has its origins in the folk music of Spain and was influenced by Spanish, gypsy, and Moorish instruments and styles. Most of the top flamenco venues in Barcelona offer two or three shows a night. At the Palau del Flamenc, performances are on a theater-style stage and the audience has a choice of eight different meal options including tapas.
Located on the famous La Rambla boulevard, the Tablao Flamenco Cordobes is one of the most popular venues in Barcelona. With an authentic cave-like hall where artists perform, the sound of the flamenco here is pure and authentic.
If you are a fan of sparkling wine you'll love Catalan cava, which is fermented in the bottle just like Champagne. Can Paixano, aka La Xampanyeria, is probably the most highly regarded place to drink local cava. This cava bar is popular with both locals and visitors and is a place to purchase a bottle or two as well as taste. Order some tapas or a ración (small portion) of food with your bubbles as is the expectation at this relatively inexpensive bar.
See Barcelona at your own pace on a one-day or two-day hop-on hop-off tour on a red modern double-decker bus. This tour is an easy way to get around Barcelona and see the sights as there are two different routes covering all the main attractions including Las Ramblas, the Port Olímpic beachfront promenade, and Sagrada Familia.
Book your pass online and go to one of the route stops to hop on the bus. If you want to get a fantastic city overview, book both loops and settle in for a great sightseeing trip. There is an audio commentary on what you are seeing as you travel that you can hear by using headphones. If you hop off, don't worry about how long you can visit an attraction as the buses come by every 15 minutes.
See More Gaudí Work at Park Güell
The Park Güell is a public park system with gardens and architectural elements on Carmel Hill. In 1984 UNESCO declared the park a World Heritage Site. One of the most impressive Gaudí projects in the city, the park is very popular and an admission fee is charged (the Gaudí House Museum is additional).
The park, which was once a planned neighborhood, was commissioned by Eusebi Güell in 1900. He and Gaudí planned a gated community for Barcelona’s elite. Originally there were to be 60 homes built but the concept didn't attract buyers and only two were built. The project was abandoned in 1914, and in 1922, the city turned the land into a public park. Even so, it is impressive to explore. There are buildings, walls, and Gaudí creations that attract crowds of visitors.
Enjoy the Art of Joan Miró
Located on Mount Montjuïc, Fundació Joan Miró was established in 1968 by the Catalan artist himself to make his art more accessible to the public. The museum houses more than 10,000 of his famous works. In this beautiful white building, you'll find the work of Miro and some of his contemporaries such as Alexander Calder—see his fountain of moving mercury.
Hang Out at the Beach
Barcelona’s seaside district, Barceloneta, is a fun place to fly a kite, kick back and relax in the sand, wade in the surf, and buy from the souvenir hawkers. You can walk the docks to watch the fishing boats come in and if you want to enjoy Catalan seafood with a view, head to nearby Restaurante Barceloneta.
See a Soccer Game
Soccer fans love to cheer on Barcelona’s home team, Futbol Club Barcelona (“Barça” for short). Camp Nou, the soccer stadium, seats nearly 100,000 spectators. If there is no game scheduled, you can take a guided tour of the stadium, which includes the “players’ tunnel” leading to the field, the locker room, and a visit to the museum. For an additional price, there are game day tours.
Relax in Parc de la Ciutadella
Parc de la Ciutadella, a lush 19th-century park built over the previous site of a military citadel, is made for relaxation. You can find a bench in the shade or take a rowboat out on the lake. The Cascada fountain, a Neoclassical work designed by Josep Fontserè with two tiers, a monument with an arch, and central Venus statue is a must-see.
Enjoy Music at The Palace of Catalan Music
Barcelona's beautiful Palau de la Música Catalana is an amazing example of Catalan art nouveau. Built by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, the palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The interior is stunning and features mosaic pillars, intricate sculpture work, and sparkling stained glass windows and a massive skylight. The Palace of Catalan Music is a marvelous place to hear the symphony, international musical acts, and traditional Catalan music.
If you can't get a ticket to a performance in the palace, you can take a guided tour which is offered daily. Tours take place every 30 minutes and last 55 minutes. Tickets are available on the Palace of Catalan Music's website.
Small groups can learn about the ingredients and prepare paella, drink wine, and have an authentic cooking experience with Marta, a good host, cook, and instructor—all in her own top floor Barcelona apartment.
While Paella is a Valencian rice dish from the east coast of Spain adjacent to the city of Valencia, it is popular in Barcelona because of the availability and love of seafood in the Catalan capital.
See Sardana Dancing
The Sardana is a traditional Catalan folk dance symbolizing unity where participants dance in a circle holding hands. As more people join in, the circle gets bigger. There are two main groups who organize Sardanas at the Pla de la Seu—you'll find the dancing on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings.