10 Unique Things to Do in Barcelona
- March 3, 2023
Barcelona, the jewel of the Mediterranean, is a city that embodies the spirit of Spain like no other. From its… Read More
Barcelona is a vibrant Spanish city that is associated with art, architecture, and football, and is a dream destination for many. This article aims to guide you on what to see in Barcelona and where to go if you’re short on time. You’ll be able to experience the city’s unique houses, parks, historic districts, and museums, giving you a comprehensive idea of the lively Spanish and Catalan culture that Barcelona has to offer.
Our guide to the best sights in Barcelona includes a variety of attractions that cater to everyone’s interests. You can stroll through medieval streets and modern avenues, and visit legendary artists’ works, parks, museums, mountains, fortresses, and ancient temples that are seasoned with Spanish flair. Barcelona’s outskirts have plenty to offer, and you can experience everything from stunning scenery to Spanish culture.
The following attractions are highly recommended: Sagrada Familia, Diagonal Avenue, Casa Batllo, Casa Mila, Casa Ballo, Casa Amatller, Passeig de Gracia, Placa de Catalunya, Palau de la Musica Catalana, Frederic Mares Museum, Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, Placa de Sant Felip Neri, Gothic Quarter, Placa de Sant Jaume, Passeig del Born Boulevard, Santa Maria del Mar, Picasso Museum, Chocolate Museum, Arc de Triomf, Parc de la Ciutadella, Castell de Tres Dragons, Barcelona Zoo, Barceloneta, Playa de la Barceloneta, Barcelona Aquarium, Port Vell, Columbus Monument, Maritime Museum of Barcelona, Park Guell, Placa Reial, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Erotic Museum, Mercado de la Boqueria, Museum of Contemporary Art, Placa d’Espanya, CaixaForum, Montjuic Fountain, Poble Espanyol, National Art Museum of Catalonia, Fundacio Joan Miro, Telecommunications Tower of Montjuic, Barcelona Botanical Garden, Montjuic Castle, Monumental Bullring, Sant Pau Hospital, MUHBA Viewpoint, Gaudi Museum, Casa Vicens, CosmoCaixa, Bellesguard, Tibidabo, Temple of the Sacred Heart, Monastery of Pedralbes, FC Barcelona Museum, Port of Barcelona, Colonia Guell, and Labyrinth Park of Horta.
Every city has its must-see places, and in Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia is one of them. We suggest starting your tour of Barcelona’s attractions from here, then exploring the city center. You can see the houses of the renowned architect Antoni Gaudi, ancient cathedrals, cozy squares, and unique museums, and visit the authentic Barceloneta neighborhood.
Sagrada Familia is the hallmark of Barcelona and was originally designed by Francisco de Villar. After a few years, Antoni Gaudi took over and devoted more than 40 years of his life to the temple. The complex construction required his personal presence, and he even lived in a cell at the cathedral for some time. However, the project is so full of symbolism and meticulously thought out that the work will only be completed by 2030. Each facade reflects certain biblical stories, and the towers symbolize the apostles.
Diagonal Avenue is one of the main streets in Barcelona, and it features Casa Milà, the campus of the University of Barcelona, and other buildings with interesting architecture. There are also shopping centers here, so you can spend time here regardless of the weather.
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The House with Spikes, situated in Barcelona, is a massive hexagonal structure with graceful pointed towers positioned at every corner, which is the reason behind its name. Constructed between 1903 and 1905, it has become a significant historical landmark. Visitors can explore the interior by taking a guided tour or using an audio guide to explore independently.
Casa Milà, designed by the renowned architect Antoni Gaudí, is a historical residential building that features an unusual undulating facade and wrought iron railings on the balconies. Despite being a landmark in the world of architecture, the building is still used for residential purposes. Interestingly, when it was first built, the locals were not immediately fond of its unconventional weightiness. Apart from the residential apartments, the building also houses spaces for exhibitions and a museum dedicated to Gaudí’s works.
Another iconic work of Antoni Gaudí, Casa Batlló stands out with its unique decorations, such as mosaics on the facades, colored tiles on the roof, and streamlined and curved shapes that make the building seem to be dancing. Its interior is just as impressive, with stunning stained glass, furniture made of “softwood,” and colorful ceramic tiles. It’s recommended to visit the building in the morning to avoid crowds. Casa Batlló is open every day, but visitors should check the opening hours.
Casa Amatller, also known as Casa Amatller, is a building that combines Moorish, Dutch, and Spanish neo-Gothic styles in its architecture. The facades feature murals, sculptures, balustrades, and other decorations. Currently, the building is undergoing restoration work, and visitors are not able to explore its interiors.
Passeig de Gràcia, known as one of the most expensive streets in Barcelona, was once an ordinary rural street until the 1820s when it underwent major improvements. The street was widened, and stylish buildings were constructed, along with curved benches and streetlights. The place soon became popular among the aristocracy and remains a favorite spot among locals and tourists.
Plaça Catalunya is one of the main squares in Barcelona where two of the city’s districts and avenues converge. The square features a fountain and several monuments and is a popular meeting place, always bustling with crowds. The square host’s periodic festivals and city events, so it’s worth checking the schedule beforehand.
The Palau de la Música Catalana is a concert hall located in Barcelona, featuring images of great composers on its facade. Built between 1905 and 1908, it quickly became the city’s main concert hall. The hall’s lighting is mainly natural, passing through not only the windows but also a glass dome. The building also hosts conferences and exhibitions, and daily tours are available for visitors to explore.
The Frederic Marès Museum is housed in a historic building that was formerly a women’s monastery from the 18th to the first half of the 20th century. The sculpture museum was opened in 1946 and named after its founder collector. The exhibition is divided into three main sections: antiquity, the Middle Ages, and modern times, as well as the Sentimental Museum. Visitors can see works from ancient Greece, Carthage, and other religious items on the first floor. The second floor features works of art from the 15th to the 19th centuries, including sculptures, paintings, and icons. The Sentimental Museum is considered the most interesting part, displaying everyday objects from different times, such as clocks, tobacco boxes, binoculars, toys, and even lottery tickets.
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Barcelona. Built-in 1459 on the site of an old 4th-century basilica, the cathedral underwent periodic repairs for several centuries. Visitors can admire the architecture from the outside and go inside to enjoy the decorations and numerous stained-glass windows. The cathedral also houses the sarcophagus with the remains of Saint Eulalia, an ancient image of Christ, and a 14th-century altar.
Plaça de Sant Felip Neri is a small square located in the Gothic Quarter, hidden among narrow streets. It features the 18th-century church of Sant Felip Neri and an octagonal fountain that represents the “symbol of life.” Visitors can take a break here and experience the atmosphere of old Barcelona.
The Gothic Quarter offers visitors a chance to experience medieval Barcelona, with old streets and buildings from the 14th and 15th centuries coexisting with modern restaurants and clubs. The neighborhood boasts small squares, cathedrals, the Bridge of Sighs between two buildings, remnants of the Roman wall, and several museums to visit.
Plaça de Sant Jaume, located in the Gothic Quarter, is named after the church of Sant Jaume and an ancient forum. Visitors can see the government building and town hall on the square, and on Sundays, learn the local dance of Sardana. The square also hosts festivals and events.
Passeig del Born is a small old boulevard that has existed since the 14th century, with some buildings preserved from that time. In the 16th century, the place was associated with executions during the Inquisition, but it later became a place for holidays, such as knight tournaments, fairs, festivals, and carnivals. Visitors can take a walk here and see the medieval Santa Maria del Mar church. At night, the boulevard comes alive with numerous popular bars.
Santa Maria del Mar Church was built in the 14th century in honor of the victory at Sardinia, with “marina” in its name. The church features stone columns, bell towers, a rose window, and stained glass, creating a sense of monumentality. While the interior is decorated simply, its atmosphere has made it one of the most popular tourist destinations.
The Picasso Museum in Barcelona was opened in 1963 while the artist was still alive, featuring 574 works at the time. Today, the museum’s collections include over 3500 works, providing detailed information on Picasso’s period of creativity from 1890 to 1917, as well as other stages. In addition to paintings and print graphics, the museum houses a collection of ceramic products donated by Picasso’s wife.
The Chocolate Museum in Barcelona is a must-visit for chocolate lovers. Visitors can learn about the history of chocolate in Europe, and the manufacturing process, and see huge chocolate figures. The museum also has a souvenir shop and a small coffee shop where visitors can try delicious chocolate products.
The Arc de Triomf in Barcelona was built in 1888 and served as the main entrance to the World Exhibition. Visitors can see sculptures called “Barcelona Welcomes the Nations,” “Reward,” “Allegories of Agriculture and Industry,” and “Trade and Art” on the arch, decorated with coats of arms of Spain and its provinces. Passing under it leads to Ciutadella Park.
Ciutadella Park (or Citadel Park) was founded in the second half of the 19th century on the site of an old fortress. The park features preserved medieval buildings and newer ones, with part of the territory dedicated to the zoo. Visitors can walk along paths and around the lake, see an unusual cascading waterfall with a sculptural composition, and visit landmarks such as the Arc de Triomf and the Three Dragons Castle.
Built for the 1888 World Exhibition, the Three Dragons Castle was one of the first modern-style buildings in Barcelona. Despite this, the castle’s design features classical elements, such as white tiles on facades with images of people, animals, and plants. The castle originally housed a restaurant and now hosts the Zoological Museum.
Founded in 1892, the Barcelona Zoo is home to over 300 species of animals and about 400 species of plants. Visitors can explore the zoo on foot, by bicycle, or by tram, with the area spanning over 13 hectares. The zoo participates in research projects, and environmental events, and provides a place for leisure.
To truly feel the spirit of Barcelona, head to the old Barceloneta district. The neighborhood features beautiful streets, restaurants, a sandy beach, and a well-equipped promenade in 1992. Visitors can easily reach other attractions from Barceloneta, such as squares, churches, and museums.
Part of the Barceloneta neighborhood, Playa de la Barceloneta is the oldest beach in Barcelona. The beach boasts warm and clean water with a gentle entry into the sea, making it ideal for children. Visitors can also enjoy playgrounds, bars, sports areas, and a bike path. The beach has a well-thought-out infrastructure, including toilets, showers, and the possibility to rent loungers and umbrellas.
On the second day of your trip, explore the sights of Barcelona that make the city unique. Visit Port Vell, the Royal Square, the National Art Museum of Catalonia, and other interesting places. Additionally, take some time to visit standard tourist attractions such as the botanical garden, the aquarium, and the old fortress. With so much to see and experience, new discoveries are guaranteed!
The Barcelona Aquarium is one of Europe’s largest, home to over 450 species of animals and 11,000 individuals. Visitors can enjoy a walk through a tunnel surrounded by marine creatures, and view fish, mollusks, corals, predators, poisonous animals, octopuses, and deep-sea fish. The aquarium also features a separate section where visitors can learn about the process of evolution and see Arctic penguins. At the end of the tour, children can have fun taking photos with sea creature figures, climbing into a bathyscaphe, and riding on attractions included in the ticket price.
Port Vell, the oldest part of Barcelona, has been renovated and refurbished, making it one of the city’s most interesting attractions. Visitors can see cruise ships and take a trip on a small boat. The waterfront features a large shopping center, a cinema, bars, restaurants, and a pedestrian path.
The Monument to Columbus in Barcelona features a 7-meter sculpture of the discoverer on top and was erected in 1888 to honor the World Exhibition. Visitors can take a lift to a small hall inside the 60-meter tower for a bird’s eye view of the city center. On the pedestal of the monument, bas-reliefs depict important personalities related to the history of Christopher Columbus.
The Barcelona Maritime Museum features an unusual exterior and a fascinating interior with a collection of sea transport, figures from the bows of ships, maps, navigation instruments, and recreated cabins. This museum is interesting not only to maritime enthusiasts but also to anyone interested in the history of sea transport.
Güell Palace was the brainchild of Antoni Gaudí and served as his debut project. Commissioned by Count Eusebi Güell, the palace was a playground for Gaudí’s architectural imagination, with intricate facades and mesmerizing interiors that took years to complete. After the count moved out, the palace changed hands and eventually became the property of the “Friends of Gaudí” society.
The Royal Square is a tranquil oasis in the heart of bustling Barcelona. The square boasts elegant buildings, lush palm trees, and plenty of seating areas to relax and take in the ambiance. It’s a favorite spot for tourists and locals alike, who come to admire the beautiful architecture, snap photos next to the fountain, or enjoy a coffee in one of the cafes. The square also hosts exhibitions and events throughout the year.
The Gran Teatre del Liceu is the main opera venue in Spain and has hosted some of the biggest names in the industry, including José Carreras and Montserrat Caballé. With its stunning interiors and world-class performances, it’s a must-visit attraction for any lover of opera. If you’re short on time, you can take a daily tour of the theater, which lasts less than an hour.
The Erotic Museum in Barcelona is a one-of-a-kind attraction that explores the history of eroticism through various mediums. The collection features around 800 exhibits, including archaeological finds, paintings, and photographs created by both historical and contemporary figures. The museum is divided into several thematic sections that cover everything from the Kama Sutra to the cultural history of eroticism in different countries.
Boqueria Market is a vibrant and colorful destination that showcases the best of Spanish and Catalan cuisine. The market has been in operation since the 13th century, offering an incredible selection of fresh meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables. You can also find exotic delicacies like truffles and foie gras. Even if you’re not planning to buy anything, a visit to the market is a must to experience the unique sights, smells, and sounds of a traditional Spanish market.
The Museum of Contemporary Art features a striking appearance and an impressive collection of art created from the latter half of the 20th century to the present day. The exhibition comprises works by both Spanish and Catalan artists, as well as international artists. The museum is open every day except Tuesdays, but it is better to check the exact schedule for the day.
Spain Square is the largest square in the city and home to notable landmarks such as the Magic Fountain of Montjuic, the Venetian Towers, and the National Museum. Visitors can explore the nearby neighborhoods by climbing the grand staircase or relaxing in the nearby shopping center, which is situated in an old bullfighting arena. The shopping center also features an observation deck on the roof.
The CaixaForum Cultural Center in Barcelona provides a glimpse into the lives and works of various artists, as well as featuring collections of ancient and contemporary works. Visitors can view exhibitions of works by renowned artists like Rodin, Turner, and Henry Moore, among others. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions that change every 2-3 months.
Built in 1929, the Magic Fountain of Montjuic still captivates locals and tourists alike with a spectacular water light show. The fountain’s 3,620 jets perform a breathtaking dance set to musical compositions. From May to the end of September, the show starts no earlier than 9 pm, while at other times of the year, it starts at 8 pm.
The Spanish Village is an open-air museum that showcases different architectural styles from various regions of the country. The village features 117 buildings spread across nearly 50 square kilometers. Visitors can immerse themselves in Spanish culture by trying on clothing from different eras and regions, purchasing textile and leather products, and enjoying gastronomic delights like fresh olive oil and sangria.
The National Art Museum of Catalonia was established in 1990 by merging two museums of art. The museum is housed in a building that was opened for exhibition in 1929. Here, visitors can see frescoes dating back to the 10th-13th centuries from Catalan churches, as well as collections of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque art. The museum also has a considerable number of works in the Modernisme style, as well as photographs, engravings, coins, and more.
The Joan Miro Museum opened in 1975 during the lifetime of the Barcelona avant-gardist and surrealist artist. Here, visitors can see not only works by Miro but also exhibitions of other contemporary artists. The full name of the foundation, the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art, says a lot about what’s going on in the world of art today, so anyone interested can get an idea of what’s happening.
The Montjuic Telecommunications Tower in Barcelona can be considered a work of modern art. It was built in 1991 and serves two functions: as a telecommunications tower and as a giant sundial. It’s interesting to walk around the tower from all sides, as it looks different from each angle.
The Barcelona Botanic Garden is known for its distribution of plants by geographical zone. Visitors can feel as if they have traveled to Australia, Africa, the United States, the Canary Islands, and other parts of the world just by walking through the park. The garden also features rare and endangered species of flora, so a visit is interesting no matter what. Garden staff also engage in scientific activity, research, and experimentation.
Montjuic Castle, one of the main attractions of Barcelona, was founded in the 17th century. The castle has survived many battles and uprisings, it was captured and recaptured and was even a prison for a time. Since 2007, the Montjuic Castle has been owned by the state and has been open to visitors.
If you have some extra time in Barcelona, consider visiting some of the city’s outskirts. These places are further from the center but definitely worth your attention. Here are some unique and fascinating attractions to add to your list.
The Monumental Bullring in Barcelona was constructed in 1914 for bullfighting events. Today, the sport is banned in this part of Spain, and the Monumental is a museum. A ticket includes a visit to the museum and the stands, where visitors can learn about bullfighting history and see photographs and memorabilia. The museum also features “Fashion in Bullfighting,” an exhibition showcasing embroidered clothing and decorations.
The San Pau Hospital is a medical city that consists of 48 buildings and landscaped areas. The construction of this architectural complex took nearly 30 years, from 1901 to 1930, and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can explore the buildings and areas accessible to patients and guests, including the museum. The hospital operated from 1401 to 2009 and still functions with separate departments for men and women.
MUHBA is an excellent observation deck in Barcelona that is relatively quiet, even in peak season. It provides an excellent view of the city and the sea, but visitors must climb several hundred steps to reach the top. Once at the top, the view is breathtaking, and it’s a great spot for photos.
The creation of Park Guell began in 1900 when Eusebi Guell bought land to create a garden. It features reinforced slopes, roads, pavilions, and an array of fascinating elements such as gingerbread houses, a large concert hall with excellent acoustics, a bookstore, and a house museum of the famous architect Antoni Gaudi. Visitors can relax by the fountain, walk the paths and take pictures of the incredible views. The park also boasts the first “junk collage” path made from dish shards and tiles.
The Gaudi Museum is a historic building where the famous architect Antoni Gaudi lived for some time. The museum showcases Gaudi’s personal belongings, furniture, and works of art. The layout and interiors of the house demonstrate Gaudi’s exceptional talent. The museum also includes a fine arts section where works by Miro and Picasso are on display.
Casa Vicens is one of Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces. The building was designed as a summer residence for the industrialist Vicens and is renowned for its intricate decorations inspired by nature. Although the house is private property, guided tours have been available since 2017, and visitors can admire the magnificent interiors and exteriors.
CosmoCaixa Museum is a science museum that offers visitors an extensive collection of scientific knowledge. It features a wide range of scientific achievements, various devices, and working models that make learning science fun and inspiring for people of all ages.
The Bellesguard Tower in Barcelona was constructed in 1909 and is renowned for its stunning architecture and stained glass windows. The tower is part of a house that is open to visitors. Inside, visitors can see impressive interiors and climb to the top of the tower for a breathtaking view of the city. A garden next to the house provides a perfect spot to relax after the tour.
Tibidabo Mountain is the highest point in Barcelona, and from its summit, visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the city. It features the Temple of the Sacred Heart, a theater, cinema, restaurant, and museums. Even if you’re not interested in the attractions, the view alone is worth the visit.
The Temple of the Sacred Heart, topped with a figure of the Savior, was built in 1961 and includes a church and basilica. Visitors can explore the temple’s interior, climb to the terrace and upper dome for breathtaking views of the city, and take stunning photos.
Founded in 1326, the Pedralbes Monastery is a well-preserved Gothic-style architectural landmark. Two of its three floors are open to visitors, and you can see cells, chapels, the refectory, and other rooms. Take an audio guide to learn more about the history of the place.
The museum of the legendary football club is a must-see for sports enthusiasts. You can explore awards, uniform elements, photographs of matches, and much more. The museum is open daily, and it’s worth spending a couple of hours exploring the exhibition.
Founded in the 13th century, the Port of Barcelona is one of the main ports in the country. Visitors can see monuments, visit museums and some ships, walk along the bridge, and explore the local shopping center. Sunset is the best time to visit and enjoy the scenery.
Built for workers who worked at the textile factory, the Colonia Guell in Barcelona is a cultural and historical monument designed by Gaudi and other leading architects of the time. The area has a church, a school, a theater, and other institutions, and the factory was closed in 1973. Almost all of the buildings are very well preserved, and the area has become a must-see destination in Catalonia.
The Labyrinth Park of Horta is a unique park founded in the late 18th century. Once belonging to a noble family, the park now prohibits noisy games and animal walking to provide a relaxing atmosphere. Only 750 people can visit the park with a labyrinth at a time, making it a peaceful destination.
In conclusion, these are some of Barcelona’s must-see sights that visitors can explore with friends or family, and adjust the route according to their preferences.