Barcelona’s historic city and unique architectural sites make it one of the most visited cities in Europe. Tourism is vital to its economy, because for its size, it has few natural resources. Barcelona’s most famous building is an unusual cathedral dedicated to La Sagrada Familia (the Holy Family). It was designed by the great Spanish modernist architect and sculptor Antoni Gaudi.
Building began in 1884, but the cathedral still majestically stands up to current times in this modern city. Barcelona also offers many other interesting features to enjoy a good vacation. It has fine beaches and regarded as one of Spain’s main centers for industry and trade. Behind the rocky Atlantic and sandy Mediterranean coastlines, most of the interior is a hot, dusty plateau broken by mountains. Good farmland is scarce and there is little rain except in the north.
When To Go:
There’s no “terrible” time to go to Barcelona, however the climate is best in May and June, and again from September all the way through November. The basically pleasant climate means that some kind of celebration is continually happening. The “festive” holiday season runs something like six months in length and is booked ahead by eager tourists starting with the Diada de Sant Jordi celebration in April, which praises the consecrated saint of Barcelona, through the Festes de la Merce which begins at the end of September. Indie rock music fans hedd to Barcelona in May for the Primavera Sound celebration and Barcelona is flooded with red and yellow on September 11, for the Diada Nacional de Catalunya, which remembers Catalonia’s battle for autonomy.
These are the top
things to do
when in Barcelona:
Basilica de Sagrada Familia
Basilica de Sagrada Familia
is still under construction and scheduled to be completed in 2026 on the centenary of Gaudi’s death, but it is very much open to the public and its congregation for visitations and celebration of the Holy Mass every Sunday. In the last 10 years much work has been done, but this sacred basilica is a complex structure with virtually no precise geometric forms. Gaudi was inspired to create lines that are similar to those found in nature. Each element of the structure has a certain meaning and there is much more to come, even though now the church is already in full use and looks like a rather unusual museum of modern art. When finished, the church will have a total of 18 towers.
Practical advice: if the line is not more than 325 feet it can be completed in 15-25 minutes. You can also purchase tickets on the Internet and avoid the line altogether. Choose the audio guide because it has information not only about the church but also provides a little history of Barcelona. This is one of the greatest buildings of mankind where you enter and begin to climb a narrow passage, as in a labyrinth; and periodically get to a balcony or windows with stunning views over Barcelona. You can take an elevator and then walk to the top of a tower (if you don’t fear heights or have claustrophobia) — then go down and visit the crypt where Gaudi is buried. Outside, it produces an impression of an old and imposing building, but inside it strikes and penetrates into the heart.
Palace of Catalan Music (Palau de la Musica Catalana)
Palace of Catalan Music
is considered as the temple of art and beauty in Barcelona. The entrance fee provides access to concerts of flamenco or classical music — but also to the enchanting architecture and art of the Palace. The palace was built in the style of Catalan Art Nouveau by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner. He constructed many other buildings in Barcelona (an important hospital with a rotunda near the Batlló is one.) This concert hall with mostly natural lighting (illuminated through its multiple windows including an enormous stained-glass dome) is both beautiful inside and outside.
The interior decorations are in the style of “modern” times and create a feeling of lightness, airiness, and warmth. The rooms are very relaxing and the main performance hall has nice acoustics and a huge stage. Extravagant sculptural decor is a predominant feature throughout the building. Visiting the Palace of Catalan Music will undoubtedly astonish even the most demanding travelers — it is in fact a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located at the right side of the Rambla street, and be sure to ask around as its façade is hidden from the main street.
is one of the wonderful modernist creations of Gaudi. Be sure to include in on your list of places to visit if you come to Barcelona. It is all organically designed, well thought out and everything has flowing lines including the roof, which is arched and has been likened to the back of a dragon or dinosaur. From the top there is an exceptional view of the city. Do not hesitate to stand in a line if necessary for this visit (it will be shorter than it looks!) This is a truly unique place with a concentration of innovative ideas; it is an amazing reflection of the great creativity of Gaudi that is both surreal and original. It stands at number 43 in Barcelona’s Passeig de Gracia.
Since 2005, it has been declared another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The line to enter the house of Batlló is not very long, and the admission fee includes an audio guide in several languages. To browse this home and see the shapes imagined by Gaudi is amazing; to view those delicate curves and wonder how he imagined some of those forms will definitely complement what one also observes inside the Sagrada Familia.
Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic)
Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic)
presents several dozen monumental buildings that were built during the 14-18th century. Walking through the area, you find yourself being thrown into another world with narrow streets and ancient paved stone pathways. It is interesting to find these well-preserved old buildings in the middle of a no-fuss, modern surrounding city. The Gothic Quarter is a kind of cultural hub for the city of Barcelona, and in general visitors relish the experience of finding buildings from the Middle Ages along with 18-19th century ones and others that were touched by the hand of Gaudi. There is music everywhere, plus a flea market. In the Gothic Quarter you fall out of the usual rhythm of life in Barcelona.
In the evening, the lights go on and the musicians take up their guitars and begin to entertain passers-by, often while passing around their hats. This quarter is always full of people of all ages, and has many unusual shops — it is especially important for those who are looking for unusual gifts or decorations. It also has interesting places for photos. Some small squares have quite picturesque cafes where you can eat and be treated to a welcome snack by the owner.
La Casa Vella –
Flamenco in Barcelona
One of the cool things to do when in Barcelona is to visit the
La Casa Vella
. For women, it can be fun to discover this authentic place where you can get some traditional flamenco dresses and take some really memorable photos.
This is a different souvenir to take home! After seeing all the great architecture and old monuments — and eating tapas — you can try on the costumes and practice genuine poses or have a group shot with your friends all dressed in the colorful Flamenco dresses. The photo quality is good and this place is strongly recommended if you want to have a good time; you can really have a laugh and have fun at this unique place in Barcelona.
St. Mary of the Sea Cathedral (Iglesia de Santa Maria del Mar)
Church of Santa Maria del Mar
is an excellent example of Catalan Gothic architecture. The entire construction is small and not so refined (compared with other religious buildings of Barcelona), but it is no less stately. The church is often confused with the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia (patio with geese). Admission is free. Please note that the appropriate dress code is enforced here. In terms of architecture and interior decoration the church is striking. If you go to the side, then there is a courtyard with 13 geese.
It was built in 1329-1383, respectively, in the heyday of Catalonia trade and navigation. Santa Maria del Mar is an outstanding example of gothic art wherein the purity and unity of style in general is not peculiar to large medieval buildings. The church itself is lovely inside and has beautiful stained glass windows, striking wall decoration, benches, and lots of interesting tapestry. The church is steeped in religion and the acoustics are awesome. At the center of the courtyard is a fountain, where according to legend the holy water flows — and anyone can wash their face or drink.
Ciutat Vella (Old City)
is near the Columbus Circle and Park Ciutadella, and has a lot of old streets and cafes to suit all tastes. In order to see the Old City of Barcelona in all its glory, it is necessary to get up early, have breakfast and go for a fast walk while there are no crowds of tourists. You can visit all the old cathedrals, palaces, and museums and take lots of pictures with an amazing backdrop of the busy city.
From here, you can not only admire the beautiful architecture, but also go to the authentic shops, buy souvenirs, or relax in one of the many cafes. If you feel hungry, you can enter any taverna where you will undoubtedly find excellent tapas. The Old City is a fascinating place but always full of tourists, which makes it really hard not to bump into other people.
Guell Palace (Palacio Guell)
it is better to buy a ticket online to avoid long line. You should know also that the garden becomes truly crowded especially during the peak season (September). The garden is huge and requires a lot of walking. Be careful if you exit the subway because the garden is located at the top of the hill and despite two escalators you must still walk with caution as you explore it.
There is an audio guide (also very useful for children to learn to appreciate what they watch); storage for jackets or backpacks is also available, which is helpful before you start walking a lot to check out all the exhibits and appreciate another work of Gaudi. Every first Sunday of each month they distribute a limited number of free tickets. The most beautiful part of the entire visit will be the rooftop tour where you get to see the classic spires that are colorful and shiny; it is best to see them when the sun is shining and the sky is blue.
is definitely a must see if you are staying in Barcelona. Situated on top of a mountain, Park Guell provides spectacular views of Barcelona. Buy a ticket in advance otherwise you stand in an endless row of eager spectators. In the long bench with beautiful colors, anyone can take pictures. For the famous salamander you need to have patience while waiting for your turn. Then there are the museums, the colonnade, and the gallery in the form of waves.
You may enter other parts for free, but not the famous mosaic boundaries of the park. It is beautiful and you can walk around in half a day. It also serves as an open air museum because the special buildings and mosaics here are created by Gaudi. If you’re in Barcelona, Park Guell is definitely worth a visit.
La Pedrera – Mila House (Casa Mila)
The visiting exposition of the
La Pedrera (Casa Mila)
starts from the roof, and includes the attic and one of the apartments. It shows the life of a Spanish bourgeois family from the early 20th century. The tour is memorable and meaningful, and you will want to take lots of photographs.
This creation of Antoni Gaudi has no right angles and is made entirely of stone, thus being unique and the only one of its kind in the world. The admission fee does not include an audio guide, although one is available. The most popular spot is on the roof, a remarkable form of chimneys that will remain in your memory forever. By night, the glow of the chimneys and their shape in the form of monsters looks shocking when seen from below. If you are in Barcelona for the first time and do not know where to begin a tour of the city – feel free to go here.
Not sparing $20 for entry and $5 for the audio guide, you can get very comprehensive information about the great architect and also some history about modernism and a few other architectural masterpieces of Gaudi. At the exit you will find a souvenir shop where you can find great gifts to bring back home.
Parc de Montjuic
Parc de Montjuic
is located on one of the hills of Barcelona, and to visit it is necessary to spend a whole day full of fun and lots of physical activity. You can climb to the top or decide to have some help: first, you pass through the city (from the port by cable car, then to the cable car at the hill Montjuic). Upon reaching the top, you can decide to take an awesome walk down to the bottom.
From the top you will want to take pictures of an absolutely wonderful view of the entire Barcelona city. Be sure to visit the Castle of Polazte, with a view of the port and the city. Walk to the Olympic venues (although in November you can only visit the Olympic stadium). At the end of the walk you can go to the National Palace and admire its gorgeous fountains.