Things to do in Barcelona: our top 10 essential activities
What are the best things to do in Barcelona? Here's our pick of 10 essential activities which will make you fall in love with the city!
Barcelona is a unique, vibrant and constantly changing city, so it can be hard to pin down exactly what to do first! Here is our selection of 10 truly essential activities.
- 1 Admire the works of Gaudí and modernist architecture
- 2 Lose yourself in the Old Town
- 3 (Re)discover Picasso & Miró
- 4 Go to the beach!
- 5 Wander the parks and museums of Montjuïc
- 6 Discover the local food
- 7 Go wild for Barça!
- 8 Explore Barcelona’s villages
- 9 Indulge in some retail therapy
- 10 Things to do in Barcelona: enjoy!
Admire the works of Gaudí and modernist architecture
When someone says “Barcelona“, Gaudì’s architecture is the first thing we think of, from the majestic Sagrada Familia to Parc Güell. Don’t miss the chance to discover the architect’s life and works by visiting both iconic and less well-known masterpieces, such as Casa Batlló, La Pedrera, Casa Vicens, Palau Güell and the crypt at Colònia Gûell…
That said, Catalan art nouveau (Modernism) doesn’t stop at Gaudí, and many other architects created sublime works of art in the Eixample quarter. Follow our fun and instructive free walking tour to discover more.
- Can’t decide what to see? Take a look at our quality/price ranking for architectural attractions in Barcelona, which should cast some light on the matter.
Lose yourself in the Old Town
The historic centre of Barcelona is an absolute gem: take time to explore its streets, stop off at some of its pretty squares, discover magnificent buildings and visit quirky and original shops. The atmosphere is truly indescribable, and you’re sure to fall under its charm.
- If history is your thing or if you want to find out more about the rich culture and heritage of these quarters, we’d recommend a guided visit.
(Re)discover Picasso & Miró
Barcelona is a city of art and of artists. Although he was born in Malaga, Picasso studied at the School of Fine Art in Barcelona, where his career really took off. The city plays host to a museum devoted to the artist and his work.
Joan Miró is another of the city’s artistic stars. The Catalan painter was responsible for a number of frescoes, statues and mosaics in public locations across the city: at the airport, on Las Ramblas, and in the park which carries his name. Find out more about Miró and his world by visiting the superb foundation.
Go to the beach!
Another fantastic thing about Barcelona is its beaches! We’re not just talking about a short and barely-accessible stretch of sand here, either: the city is home to 5 km of beaches lined with cafés, bars and restaurants.
For a better idea of what’s on offer, take a look at our articles on the subject:
- Barcelona’s beaches: info and advice for taking the plunge
- A beach-themed stay in Barcelona: aaaand relax!
- Beaches around Barcelona: public transport options
- Beach bars: a quick tour of our favourite xiringuitos in Barcelona
- A relaxing stroll along the seafront in Barcelona
Wander the parks and museums of Montjuïc
If you’re craving some time in the great outdoors, you’ll love a walk around Montjuïc, a hill positively covered in parks and green spaces.
Montjuïc isn’t just Barcelona’s “green lung”: it’s also an important cultural centre, playing host to prestigious museums such as the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, CaixaForum and the Miró Foundation. Fabulous!
Finally, the cherry on the cake: climb up to the top for spectacular views across Barcelona.
Discover the local food
Tapas, charcuterie, fideuà, paella, tomato bread… there are plenty of Catalan specialities for you to discover during your stay. The articles below should help you to plan your menu:
- Catalan cuisine: between land and sea, tradition and innovation
- Catalan specialties: a festival of flavour
- Catalan drinks: say “cheers” Barcelona style
- A gastronomic weekend in Barcelona: take your tastebuds on a journey!
Go wild for Barça!
Yet another great thing to do in Barcelona! Barcelona FC is an institution in the city, and the locals’ devotion to their club verges on the religious.
So, what type of fan are you? If you’re interested in the club’s history, visit the Camp Nou Museum to find out more about the mythical team.
Fancy exercising your vocal cords? Practice singing the Barça anthem using our videos!
If you prefer your football live, why not go to a match at Camp Nou?
Finally, if you’re a truly die-hard supporter, there’s only one thing for it: you’ll just have to do the lot!
Explore Barcelona’s villages
If you like to get off the beaten track, head for some of the former villages which have been absorbed into the city over time. Authentic and picturesque, they hold plenty of pleasant surprises for anyone who knows where to look.
Our top three “villages” are Gràcia, for its boho vibe, Poble Sec, for a glimpse of working Barcelona, and Barceloneta, for its typical streets and the fishermen’s houses.
Indulge in some retail therapy
Barcelona is a great destination for shopping! Whether you’re looking for big, budget-friendly Spanish brands or original pieces for local designers, there’s something for everyone. The city also plays host to a wide range of vintage boutiques and a number of major shopping centres.
- A weekend of shopping in Barcelona: the guide
- Shopping in Barcelona: which quarter is best for you?
- Shopping centres in Barcelona: the guide
- Outlet fashion in Barcelona: our favourite places for shopping on a budget
- Mango Outlet: year-round sales in Barcelona
Things to do in Barcelona: enjoy!
Last but not least, remember that Barcelona is, essentially, a Mediterranean city. Yes, there are plenty of things to do, but it’s important to take the time to just live and enjoy the present moment, warmed by the sun.
So where’s best? A sunny terrace in winter, late autumn and early spring, or a shady terrace in the summer. For an elegant option, pick out a charming hotel terrace. And if you’re looking for adventure, our list of hidden terraces will take you off the beaten track…
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About the author
Pauline loves books, food and new discoveries. For her articles, she loves finding original and authentic places which are a treat for both the eyes and the tastebuds. Her favourite thing to do in Barcelona? Getting lost in the Old Town and soaking up its unique atmosphere... whilst enjoying the appetising smells emerging from restaurant kitchens! Is there anything better than that?