There’s so much to do in Barcelona, it’s hard to pick our ten favourite things. From the architecture to the pintxos (local tapas), there are so many unique quirks that you can’t help but fall in love with this city. Once you visit, you’ll see why this is the place where Gaudi and Picasso thrived, and why Catalans are so proud of their homeland.
A modernist architect from Catalonia, Antonio Gaudi’s work is displayed all around the city centre, but his most famous creation is the Sagrada Familia. The most visited attraction in Barcelona, construction began in 1882 and at the time of Gaudi’s death in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete. Further work is still being carried out and is expected to finish in 2026 - the centennial of Gaudi’s death.
A labyrinth of winding narrow streets opening out to squares with restaurants and bars. Although the quarter was mainly built in the 19th and 20th century, you can see modern buildings alongside those from the medieval times. Shopping ranges from the little boutiques of Calle Avinyo to the large fashion stores of Calle Portal de L'Angel, and many areas are for pedestrians only. During the evening, navigate the quirky bars or lively nightclubs. Or both.
Bicycle/ Segway Tour
There are several companies you can choose for these tours. Typically, your bike tour will last around three hours and is focused around the old harbour and La Barceloneta seafront. This is a brilliant way to discover the city whilst burning off all that pintxos (more on that later). The Segway tours follow a similar route and are great fun – don’t worry if you’ve never been on one before, they come with a training session before you set off.
Another example of Gaudi’s brilliance. In 1900, Count Eusebi Güell bought a hillside and chose Gaudi to reinvent it as a miniature city of houses. Although the project was abandoned in 1914, he still managed to design 3km of roads, steps, gatehouses and a plaza. Guarded by a mosaic dragon, the steps lead up to a large terrace surrounded by the Banc de Trencadís – a colourful tiled bench with views over the city.
Set within five medieval stone mansions, the museum focuses on the artwork of Pablo Picasso’s formative years which he spent in Málaga and Barcelona. Despite there being an absence of his better-known later works, it is interesting to see his early progression. Paintings such as Retrato de la Tía Pepa, created at the age of 15, show he had talent beyond his years. A word of warning – the queues for this one are usually long, but well worth the wait.
Barcelona’s most famous walking street, starting at the central square Plaza Catalunya and ending at the Columbus monument at Port Veli marina. The street takes you on a journey through the heart of the city centre. Pedestrians rule the long street, with only two narrow traffic roads along either side of the Ramblas Boulevard. A great place to just catch the vibe of the city, admire the human statues and street artists, or sit with a jug of sangria and people watch.
Montjuic is a hill overlooking the Barcelona harbour. You can get to the hill via bus or Metro, or a scenic ten-minute cable car ride from Barceloneta. Once there, explore the ancient castle, the various gardens and parks, and the pools which hosted events at the 1992 Olympics. The most famous attraction is the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, an extravagant show with lights and music – performances include Gladiator, The Godfather, and ‘Barcelona’ by Freddie Mercury.
Casa Milà & Casa Batlló
Here is Gaudi, popping up in our list again. These are two more of his creations. We couldn’t decide which is better, so here is some info on both. Casa Milà (also known as La Pedrera), is an unusual-looking building and a perfect example of Gaudi’s organic design style. Casa Batlló is equally unique, inspired by the colours and shapes found in marine life. They are each on the same avenue, so well worth visiting both.
Sample the Pintxos
Essentially, pintxos is Basque tapas. The word comes from ‘pincho’, or to ‘pierce’, as pintxos are usually pierced with a cocktail stick to attach it to the piece of bread. Typical pintxos range from fried anchovies stuffed with paprika to Spanish tortilla on a piece of bread. Sampling the pintxos works like this: you help yourself and then at the end you are charged according to how many cocktail sticks you have.
The stadium of FC Barcelona. A must for any football fan, either attend a game to watch Messi and co. weave their magic, or take a self-guided tour around the in-house museum. Looking at the stadium on television doesn’t do it justice. Only when walking down the player’s tunnel, to be greeted by 48-metre high stands with almost 100,000 seats, can you really experience the grandeur of this place.