If you’re in the process of planning a trip to Barcelona, you already know that the city has so much to offer in terms of things to see and do. Madison and I spent five incredible days in Barcelona and can’t begin to tell you how in love with the city we became. This historic city is a cultural hub and a place of great pride for the locals who call Barcelona home, and visitors are treated to an exceptional experience, filled with hospitality and generosity.
While you can’t really go wrong with any combination of activities and experiences, there are a handful of attractions that rise above the rest as things you absolutely should include in your plans. Not sure what those are? Here are some of the things you truly shouldn’t miss out on when you’re in Barcelona:
SOAK UP THE SUN AT BARCELONETA
Well-loved by locals and tourists alike, Barceloneta is a popular neighborhood and adjacent beach. It’s the city’s main beach, which means it can occasionally get crowded, but it’s the most natural spot to reach from the central part of town and offers plenty of eateries and attractions nearby.
Fair warning – topless sunbathing is a common occurrence in Barcelona, and you’re likely to spot at least one or two brave souls baring it all on the beach. If you’re traveling with kids, you may want to skip over this one and seek out a more family-friendly beach to enjoy.
TAKE A TOUR OF LA SAGRADA FAMILIA
Gaudi designed and worked to build this impressive church until his death in 1926, and the building remains unfinished today. This doesn’t deter visitors from stopping by to admire the structure’s towering edifice and its gorgeous interior. Splurge on tickets to tour the inside if you’re a fan of architecture – the whimsical structure is truly like nothing you’ve seen before. Ticket sales fund the remaining construction of the church, which is projected to be completed around 2032.
ADMIRE SOME ART AT THE PICASSO MUSEUM
If you have an appreciation for modern art, you can’t visit Barcelona without stopping by the Picasso Museum. One of the greatest and most well-known artists of the 20th century, Picasso’s work has had a tremendous influence, and his museum offers a chance to admire a variety of his works – from his most famous pieces to lesser-known paintings.
This museum is a popular spot for many visitors, so it’s smart to purchase tickets online and arrive early.
EXPLORE BARCELONA’S QUINTESSENTIAL STREET, LA RAMBLA
In Barcelona, everyone knows about La Rambla. It’s considered the heart and soul of the city, the place where people go to meet and connect. La Rambla is home to a popular theater, plenty of shops, and a variety of restaurants serving up everything from tapas and local specialties to international cuisine. Plan to spend a few hours exploring, window-shopping, and indulging in local eats.
STEP INTO THE STUNNING SANTA MARIA DEL MAR
This Catholic church boasts a gorgeous interior, filled with tall columns and intricate stained glass designs. Construction began in the 1300s, which earns it a significant spot in the history of Barcelona. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to the interior of La Sagrada Familia, and for those who appreciate architecture, it’s well worth the experience.
GRAB A MEAL IN BOQUERIA MARKET
Love to eat? Who doesn’t?! That’s why everyone needs to make a stop at Boqueria Market. This market opened way back in 1840 and has been selling delicious eats ever since. Today, you can find a seemingly endless variety of fruits, vegetables, and other groceries available for purchase. It’s a real feast for the senses – the sheer number of colors, aromas, and sounds in the marketplace can be absolutely mesmerizing. Grab some food to prepare later on in your vacation rental, or pick up a snack to enjoy on the go if your accommodations (or personal agenda) don’t provide a space to cook.
SIGN UP TO TOUR THE BARCELONA CITY HISTORY MUSEUM
Looking at modern-day Barcelona, it can sometimes be hard to believe that the city was once an old Roman town. You can get a glimpse of this at the Barcelona City History Museum. Visitors are taken underground to tour the remnants of the city that came before Barcelona.
You can spot walls and floors from old Roman homes, walls, businesses, and water pumps, giving a surprisingly detailed glimpse into the past. If you’re a history buff, this museum is one spot you can’t miss.
EXPERIENCE THE GOTHIC QUARTER
This historic sector of town is home to some of the area’s oldest buildings, giving it even more history and charm than the rest of the city. You’ll find an eclectic assortment of coffee shops and cafes, eateries, boutiques, bookstores, and nightclubs to explore, along with scenic plazas perfect for people-watching. Catch a late-night concert on a balmy summer evening in Plaça Reial, one of the Gothic Quarter’s most famous squares, or simply get lost wandering down the charming alleys and narrow streets that give this part of town its charm.
TAKE A TRIP UP TO MONTSERRAT
For an unforgettable day trip, plan a tour of Montserrat. This scenic mountain range is home to Santa Maria de Montserrat, a Benedectine monastery, which holds special significance for the local population. You can take a cable car to the top of the mountain for some awe-inspiring views, take advantage of a few well-known trails to hike and explore, or bring a picnic lunch to enjoy in a scenic spot. The train to Montserrat can take upwards of two hours, but if you’re willing to dedicate the better part of a day to this excursion, you’ll find it well worth the journey.
Barcelona is the kind of city where you can show up, no plans in place at all, and manage to have an excellent time. With beautiful buildings, interesting attractions, world-class museums, and vibrant public squares everywhere you look, it’s easy to see why. Still, if you want to make the most of your trip, you will want to include these top attractions in your plans as you make your way through Barcelona.