In 2016, Barcelona welcomed around 32 million visitors, half of them coming just for a day trip. To put this into contrast – the city is home to 1.6 million residents.
There’s no mistaking why: This city is a true beauty and has something to offer for everyone. From art by Picasso, Miro, etc. to architecture by Gaudi, world class soccer at Camp Nou, beaches, shopping, former Olympic sites, and many more.
We came here to visit some friends we met 5 years ago while staying at an Airbnb in London. Meanwhile they have a super cute son who kept us all entertained during our stay with them in the Barri Gothic. We truly love Barcelona and will be back to explore the Costa Brava and more local places.
Here are the must sees, the classics of Barcelona:
No path will lead past this masterpiece of Gaudi. This mindblowing basilica is why many come to Barcelona in the first place. An architectural beauty 200 years in the making and expected to be finalized by 2026. Well, we will see 😉 I have seen it for the first time in 2012 and it was great to see the progress at the exterior of the basilica.
Tip: Buy your pass in advance online so you don’t have to stand in line and waste your valuable time. The cheapest tickets are available for 15 Euros. Come here in the late afternoon for great lighting!
This is one of Gaudi’s masterpieces and was redesigned by him in 1904. Your ticket (~23,5 Euros) includes and audio guide which provides detailed information about the many details of the house. Also check out the virtual reality experience on it which is neatly done.
Tip: We recommend to book an early time slot in advance around 9:00 am, take your audio guide and proceed to the rooftop to enjoy the space by yourself (and a few others). You will have a great view of Barcelona from here and can listen to the background while hanging out at the rooftop. Then slowly make your way back down, level by level. We really liked the two unique and blue courtyards.
Another must see of Gaudi’s architecture projects. The former housing development sight is now a public and hilly park north of downtown Barcelona. Only two houses can be found within the park, which Gaudi and Güell used to live in. The park can be very calm and if you get there early you can even enjoy the monumental zone (the only part you will have to pay entrance of 7.5 Euros) without bumping into too many other tourists. After seeing Gaudi’s work, explore the rest of the park and maybe even go to the viewpoint with the three crosses.
Tip: Give yourself enough time to get there and choose the first or second entrance time before the tour buses roll in.
We haven’t been to this museum on our last trip but I have been there on my first stay in Barcelona. I really enjoyed the extensive selection of Picasso’s artwork and I highly recommend this museum in the Barri Gothic for any art lovers (tickets are 11 Euros).
Yes, this market is very touristy but we just love wandering over markets and get a local snack or two. You can find many vendors with 1 Euro fruit juices and sample cones of Spanish sausages, prosciutto, and cheese.
Other Worthwhile Sights
Joan Miró Museum
We are usually not the ones hitting museums very often but this museum on the hill Montjuic is a true gem. Enjoy the great selection of Miró’s artwork including the sculptures in the garden and on the roof (tickets are 12 Euros).
Plaça de Catalunya
This plaça (AKA huge round about) is majestic day and night. For a bird’s view you can check out the former bull ring which was turned into a shopping mall. Go up to the rooftop and enjoy the traffic from the top, well or the National Museum across on the hill. At the nearby Joan Miró Park you can find some sculptures from the artist.
However, the real magic can be seen at night. In the summer, the magic fountain show can be seen Thursday to Sunday from 9:00pm. Please double check the times here.
Castell de Montjuic
If you plan to walk, make sure you know how far it is. You might not want to walk all the way up there when you already visited a couple of other sights but no worries, you can also take the bus °150 all the way to the top or even the cable car to enjoy the beautiful view of the harbour (we haven’t done this though)
Casa Milà or La Pedrera
Another UNESCO Cultural World Heritage site which is over 100 years old and has been built as a private residence by Gaudi. We didn’t visit this site this time but I really enjoyed the roof top with its unique 28 chimneys which resemble faces. It’s not quite cheap (general tickets are 22 Euros) but it’s worth seeing if you can fit it into your schedule.
A 1.2km long pedestrian mall downtown Barcelona which is lined by trees, markets, kiosks, shops and restaurants. It’s pretty popular among tourists but also attracts many pickpockets apparently (fingers crossed you are not the next victim) However, if you want to get a more authentic feel of Barcelona you will have to wander off to other districts such as the up and coming neighborhood El Raval.
Parc de la Ciutadella
If you need a break from the city crazy and are looking for some tranquility head to the green oasis and have a long stroll through it. Take a picnic, listen to some live performers, watch dancers or head towards the arc triomf to see various street performers. The park is situated east of the Barri Gothic and you can also find the zoo there.
Maybe you are not a big fan of churches, however this gothic church which is also the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona is quite nice to visit (note the limited visiting hours!). If you are there already check out the cloister around the corner as well.
Beach at Badalona
The beach in Barceloneta can get quite crowded and for many tourists it is very convenient to just hang out there, just around the corner of the main harbour. If you want to get a little further away from the crowds, you next closest option would be the beach at Badalona which you can easily reach by metro L2 or R1 within 30 minutes. Badalona is a nice suburb north east of Barcelona, has a nice boardwalk, small shops, and a beach locals visit regularly.
Obviously, you will find many other beaches around the Costa Brava and one beach we would definitely want to check out next time when we have more time is Sitges, about 35km south of Barcelona.
Bunkers of Carmel
Are you looking for a bird’s eye view of Barcelona? Look no further and walk up to the bunkers east of Park Güell. We combined the trip with an early visit of the park, bought some picnic food on the way and enjoyed the 360° view in tranquility. Yes, there still are view spots you can (almost) be by yourself. These secluded and abandoned anti-aircraft defenses would also be a great spot to view the sunset with a glass of wine or beer. Slowly, more and more people hear about this place and this view might soon be one of the well-known spots to see in Barcelona. From there you can also get quite a nice view from Mt. Tibidabo where you can visit an amusement park and a picturesque basilica with a similar view of Barcelona.
Temple of Augustus
Three columns are the remnants of a former Roman temple built during the Imperial period as a place of worship for Emperor Augustus. You can find this unique sight in the Gothic Quarter, tucked away in Carrer del Paradís.
We will definitely be back at some point and visit our friends here again. There is just so much to see and we love to explore the more local places.
What are your must see places here?