Top 10 Things To Do in Barcelona

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, one of the most proud and rich cultures in Europe. It’s one of the liveliest, most unusual, most innovative, artistic, and vibrant cities in the world. Over 8 million people visit Barcelona every year — though if you visit in the off-season, it’s comparatively empty. However, the summer months bring the crowds. Avoid them if you can!

To help you make the most of your visit as you explore, here is my list of the top 10 things to do in Barcelona for first-time visitors.

Modern day Barcelona is a mixture of Catalan and Spanish, it hasn’t changed for 500 years. Catalans are extremely proud of their regional identity, culture and language. Catalunya was not part of ‘Spain’ as it is today until Ferdinand of Aragón married Isabel of Castille in the late 15th century. Many Catalonians do not consider themselves Spanish, but Catalan. They have their own language, Catalan, and they are a part of their own autonomous region of the country. Because of the Catalonian and Spanish split, Barcelona is a unique and culturally rich city that takes time to get to know well.

The food, the architecture, the vibrancy of the people, the energy – it’s what makes Barcelona, Barcelona!

1. Admire La Sagrada Família

 

La Sagrada Família is the single most visited monument in Barcelona, with more than three million visitors a year, and the most important work of the Catalan modernist movement by famous architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). This massive church was his final project, and like many of his works, it blends several architectural styles, most notably Gothic and Art Nouveau. Even though construction began in 1882, the work is still ongoing, with a constantly moving end-date for completion (currently 2026).

I recommend grabbing Skip the Line tickets and a small private tour to learn more about the church’s history and varied architectural elements. If you can, try to visit between mid-morning and late afternoon, so you can see the sunlight cascade through all the stained glass.

2. Take a free walking tour

One of the Top 10 Things to do in Barcelona is a free walking tour. Who doesn’t love free, I sure know I like to save a penny or two when I can!

A Barcelona walking tour will show you the lay of the land, highlight the main sights, and allow you to meet other travelers while chatting with a local expert who should be able to answer all of your questions. 

My recommended free walking tour companies in Barcelona are New Europe and Free Walking Tours Barcelona. Their tours cover all the highlights and will give you a solid introduction to the city. Just make sure to tip your guide at the end!

Speaking of free or close to it…

3. Snack & Eat at La Boquería

Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boquería (La Boquería for short) is a public market located in the heart of the historic center and is one of the top spots to grab a bite on the go or for cheap. I’d highly recommend getting over to Mercat de Santa Caterina or Mercat de Sant Antoni as well to shop like a local.

Traveler Tip: Some of the stalls are cash only or have a surcharge for your capital one travel card. Be sure to arrive with at least a few euros in your pocket.

The market dates back hundreds of years (the first mention of one in this location is from the 13th century) and is home to an amazing array of food stalls and restaurants. 

It’s located right off La Rambla, so it can get pretty busy, especially mid-morning, when the tour groups come through. Get here really early to avoid the crush.

4. Marvel at Gaudí’s Barcelona 

Park Güell, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, in addition to La Sagrada Família, make up some of the marvelous architecture of Gaudí. You could spend at least a day on checking out Gaudí’s most famous landmarks and attractions.

His artistic style is uniquely whimsical, blending and transcending Catalan Modernist, Art Nouveau, and Gothic styles. As a devout Catholic whose faith deepened over the course of his life, he also incorporated religious themes, statues, and iconography into most of his works as well. 

He was a prolific architect, and his works can be seen all over town. Some of the main ones include the sprawling Park Güell, the Art Nouveau mansions of , which was designed for one of Gaudí’s patrons, Eusebi Güell, to entertain high-society guests. Many of these buildings are located in or close to L’Eixample (one of my favorite neighborhoods, if you’re wondering where to stay in Barcelona).

You must visit at least a couple of Gaudi’s famous architecture as it’s definitely one of the top 10 things to do in Barcelona!

 

5. Wander through Gothic Quarter

Another free thing to do in Barcelona! Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic) is the oldest part of town and the most popular area to stay in.

Read more about the best neighborhoods in Barcelona.

The Gothic Quarter is my favorite area in Barcelona and pictured above is the Ponte del Bisbe. Home to the remains of the Roman wall, columns of the Temple of Augustus (built during the Roman Empire), and numerous medieval buildings, this is a beautiful and atmospheric area that’s easy to get lost in. Sure, it’s a little touristy now, but for good reason. Get up early and enjoy the district without the crowds (a suggestion that goes for the entire city)! 

6. Take a Cooking class

One of the top 10 things to do in Barcelona is a paella cooking class. I try to book a cooking class in every country that I visit. if you know, you know!

A cooking class is a great way to meet other people, learn from the local chef, drink a delicious sangria, and endulge on some epic food! I love learning about a destination through its cuisine, as food is an integral part of any culture. This is especially true in Spain, and like the rest of the country, Barcelona is a city in which to eat to your heart’s content. 

Just make sure to bring an appetite!

7. Relax on the beach

Barcelona’s location on the Mediterranean means that it has some great beaches to enjoy. The most popular beach is called Barceloneta, where the water is great for swimming. When you need a break from the water or sun, there’s a long boardwalk lined with great restaurants where you can grab a drink or snack. A travelers note, do not leave your unattended belongings on the beach, beware of pickpockets.

Its popularity means that the beach is always busy with both tourists and locals, but if you walk a bit further from the center, you can find some quieter and cleaner sections. Two areas to check out are Sant Sebastià (in the south) and Somorrostro (in the north). 

8. Take a Tapas Tour 

There’s no better way to experience Spain by rubbing elbows with locals at a bar after 9pm. Going out for tapas is a cultural institution, so much so that there is a Spanish verb expressly for the purpose: tapear. 

Tapas are small plates that range from cold servings of Manchego cheese to hot dishes like fried potatoes with mayonnaise. Making a meal out of tapas is great, because you can try many different foods, from traditional dishes like jamón ibérico and patatas bravas to Catalonian specialties like esquiexada (salt cod) and bombas (fried potato balls).

9. Walk on the Rooftop of Barcelona Cathedral

While Gaudí’s basilica gets all the attention, it’s not the only place of worship worth visiting in town. Discover the Cathedral of Barcelona and its remarkable gothic architecture. Explore this wonder of the 13th and 14th century, located in the breathtaking Gothic Quarter.

The Barcelona Cathedral does share a similarly lengthy construction time with La Sagrada Família though: construction began in the 13th century but wasn’t finished until the 15th, and a Neo-Gothic façade was added in the 19th century. 

Once you step inside the stunning, vaulted main chamber, you will admire its two massive spires, colorful stained-glass windows, and incredible wood carvings. While you’re here, don’t miss going up to the upper terraces for incredible views.

10. Watch a Flamenco Show

Flamenco is a traditional Spanish music and dance that dates to the 18th century. It’s known for its intricate footwork and hand movements and is so culturally important that UNESCO designated the unique art form as a piece of intangible heritage to humanity. 

While flamenco originated in the southern region of Andalusia, there are many places to see these lively and expressive performances in Barcelona. 

If you’d like to try this traditional dance yourself, you can find classes in Barcelona as well, usually for 35-50 EUR.

In conclusion…

Barcelona is fun, lively, and has something on offer for every traveler and every budget. 

While its popularity means more visitors than ever, if you visit during the shoulder season, you’ll be able to appreciate this beautiful destination with fewer crowds. 

For more information, check out this super detailed Barcelona travel guide I wrote that includes more things to do, costs, safety tips, transportation advice, and ways to save money.

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