Spain is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world and Barcelona is the most visited city in Spain. If you’re planning a vacation there then you’re going to want to visit all of the best places in Barcelona to see. And there is a LOT to do and see there. Let’s get to the list!
Must-See Places in Barcelona
If you only have a short time in Barcelona you’re not going to want to miss these must-see Barcelona sites. These are the places in Barcelona that everyone talks about and is high on the Barcelona Bucket List. If you see anything at all, make sure these two Barcelona sites are at the top of your list.
1. Sagrada Familia
This amazing Roman Catholic Basilica has been under construction for 141 years now and is the most visited site in Barcelona. Once you visit you’ll know why. The church is the architectural masterpiece of architect Antoni Gaudi. You’ll want to make sure you secure your tickets to La Sagrada Familia early because they sell out fast! You can get tickets as soon as 2 months early and if you’re heading to Barcelona during the busy travel season of the summer then you’ll want to get them as soon as possible.
Check out my article on how to visit Sagrada Familia. It tells you everything you need to know about buying tickets, what you’ll see, and what to expect when you get there.
2. Parc Güell
Another creation of Antoni Gaudi, this public park is full of colorful mosaics, sculptures, and whimsical architectural elements. This Unesco World Heritage Site is also right at the top of Barcelona’s best places to visit. Just like Sagrada Familia you’ll need to secure tickets early because they tend to sell out in the busy travel months. It’s open 7 days a week from 9:30am to 5:30pm. Plan to spend a few hours at Parc Güell.
Free Places in Barcelona
Visiting Barcelona is not cheap so finding places in Barcelona to visit that are free is a nice break on the budget. Here are places in Barcelona that are free to visit, however you may still end up spending some money if you chose to do so.
3. La Rambla
Often refered to as Las Ramblas, this is the famous tree lined walking street that consists of shops and restaurants, museums, street performers, and more. It’s a great place to just sit with a drink and do some people watching. It’s a touristy thing to do but you’re in Barcelona so why not? Be aware that eating at a restaurant here might cost a little more than somewhere else in Barcelona because it’s on La Rambla.
4. Mercado de la Boqueria
Located on La Rambla is the famous Barcelona market of Mercado de la Boqueria. Take a walk through the open market and experience the sites and smells of Barcelona foods. This is the oldest market in the city of Barcelona and you’ll get a first-hand look at the foods that the Catalonia region is known for. It contains mostly stalls of fresh foods that locals come to buy but it is a tourist destination so there are tapas bars where you can take a break from all that walking.
5. Christopher Columbus Monument
At the end of La Rambla by the port is a monument to Christopher Columbus, constructed for the 1888 International World’s Fair. The monument’s official name is Mirador de Colom and is a memorial to the explorer who spent his life exploring the world. It’s free to walk around and look at the monument but for a little under $10 you can take an elevator to the top for views of La Rambla and the port.
6. Ciutadella Park
This park is a free Barcelona attraction and is just a short 15 minute walk from Mercado de la Boqueria and is one of Barcelona’s largest parks. Grab some food from the market and head over to sit, relax, and have a picnic lunch. At Ciutadella Park you’ll find a small lake where you can rent a rowing boat, a zoo, several museums, and more. It’s one of Barcelona’s best places to hang out and enjoy nature. Don’t miss Gaudi’s fountain, Cascada Monumental. It’s one of the earliest projects he designed.
7. Arc de Triomf
Europe has a lot of triumphal arches and Barcelona has one of it’s own. Most arcs are military monuments but Barcelona’s Arc is a civil monument that celebrates the artistic, scientific, and economic progress of the Catalonia region. Built in 1888, it served as the entrance to the Worlds Fair. It’s located just a 5 minute walk from Ciutadella Park and is definitely worth a visit.
8. Magic Fountain of Montjuic
Created for the 1929 International Exposition the Magic Fountain has 3,600 pieces of tubing and more than 4500 light bulbs as the water “dances” to music and lights up in different colors. The show plays throughout the year with the exception of January 7th to February 28th. You can watch it Thursdays through Saturdays at 9:00pm but in the winter it starts at 8:00pm. In the summer it plays Wednesday through Sunday starting at 9:30pm. And yes, it’s totally free!
Barcelona has plenty of museums that shows Spain’s artistic movements through the years. From Gothic art to Art Nouveau, if you want to learn more about Barcelona’s art and architecture then visiting it’s museums is the way to do just that.
9. Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
Located in the National Palace of Montjuic, this museum first opened in 1934 and although exhibitions change, you can see collections of Catalan Modernism, Gothic art, Renaissance, Baroque, and more. Museum hours vary but it’s open every day except for Mondays, January 1st, May 1st, and December 25th. Prices also vary depending on what you want to see. Take a look at their official website to see what exhibitions are currently showing.
10. Picasso Museum
The Picasso Museum in Barcelona has over 4000 works of art from his early life to his later life. Pablo Picasso was from Malaga Spain but he lived and studied in Barcelona early in his career and so a museum devoted to his work was established. The Museo Picasso is three stories tall and has more than 35 rooms of his works. It’s one of the most substancial collection of works by Picasso and one of Barcelona’s best places to visit to learn more about Picasso.
11. The Chocolate Museum
Who doesn’t LOVE chocolate!?! The Museu de la Xocolata showcases sculptures of Barcelona’s iconic buildings, all in chocolate, as well as other chocolate sculptures and I’m pretty certain this is one of Barcelona’s BEST places to visit. Learn about the history of cocoa and how chocolate played a big role in the history of Spain and particularly Barcelona. You can also take part in cooking activities suitable for the whole family. The museum is open every day except for Mondays, from 10am to 7pm, Sundays until 3pm.
12. Poble Espanyol Museum
This is a different type of museum with over 100 buildings that give you a glimpse into the life of local artisans. The late 1800’s and early 1900’s was a time of transformation for Barcelona and this place was built for the 1929 Exposition. This open air museum represents the architecture and culture of Spain’s artisan communities. From painting, sculpture, and pottery, you can take part in a workshop or just marvel at artists while they work. There are exhibitions and concerts of all types as well as restaurants and bars. The museum is open 7 days a week and tickets are €13.50 for adults.
13. Sant Pau Art Nouveau
The world’s largest Art Nouveau building is located in Barcelona. Built between 1902 and 1930, it spent almost 100 years as a hospital. A new hospital was built and today the space is home to a museum, art school, and the National Library of Catalonia. Sant Pau Art Nouveau is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and if you only came to see the architecture alone, it would be worth it. Open seven days a week, a self-guided ticket is €16.
Gaudi Places in Barcelona
Antoni Gaudi was from the Catalonia Region and his artistic DNA is seen throughout Barcelona. Numbers 1 and 2 on our list are his most famous works but here are some more Barcelona sites where you can see how he left his mark on the city of Barcelona.
14. Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo was a building acquired by a wealthy textile industrialist, Josep Batllo, and he hired Gaudi to transform the building into a residence for his family. Casa Batllo sits on Paseo de Gracia street and Gaudi was given carte blanche to transform the old building into whatever he wanted. The result was a building with curves, colorful ceramic tiles, stained glass, and decorative chimneys on the roof. To me, the outside of the building almost looks alive and you almost expect it to move and breathe.
15. Palau Güell
One of Gaudi’s first works was Palau Güell, a building with an unremarkable exterior but once inside you see Gaudi’s style. Eusebi Güell, a wealthy businessman, purchased several buildings for his large family (a wife and 10 children). He hired Antoni Gaudi to transform the buildings into a residence for his family, servants, and a place for social gatherings. Gaudi worked non-stop on the building for a little over 4 years from 1883 to 1888 and Güell lived in the building until 1906 before moving into a residence at Parc Güell where he lived until his death in 1918.
16. Casa Mila
Another house created by Gaudi, the last private residence created by him, is Casa Mila. Also known as “La Pedera” which means “The Stone Quarry”. The building resembles an open quarry with curves that looks like it was sculpted from a large piece of stone. As you walk through the building you’ll notice Gaudi’s style of incorporating nature into his work. Don’t forget to head to the roof to see all the decorative chimneys and views of the city.
17. Gaudi House Museum
Antoni Gaudi’s influence in making Barcelona what it is today is very apparent and his last residence is now a museum. Casa Museu Gaudi is right next to Parc Güell and holds pieces of furniture he designed along with other personal items. The studio and bedroom have been left exactly as it was when Gaudi lived there. It’s open 7 days a week from 10am to 6pm and is only €5 to visit.
Churches of Barcelona
Europe has no shortage of churches and Barcelona is no exception. There are plenty of churches to visit, many in the Gothic style.
18. Santa Maria del Mar
Located in Barcelona’s El Born neighborhood, this 700 year old Cathedral is one of Barcelona’s oldest churches. It’s not as popular with the tourists (that would be Sagrada Familia) but it is very popular with the residents of Barcelona and definitely deserves a visit. Besides the main area of the church, you can take a Santa Maria del Mar guided tour to learn more about the history and head to the rooftop for a view of the city.
You can also visit the church for free from 9am – 1pm and from 5pm – 8:30pm but expect long lines and crowds. Between 1-5pm you can buy a ticket for €5 plus another €3 for the rooftop.
19. Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia
Barcelona’s other cathedral was constructed from the 13th – 15th centuries and is definitely worthy of a visit just for the story behind Saint Eulalia alone. Eulalia was a 13 year old girl who was martyred in Barcelona during the persecution of Christians. Put in a barrel with knives sticking through it and rolled through the street, she is buried in the cathedral’s crypt. You can visit weekdays from 9:30am to 6:30pm, Saturdays from 9:30am to 5:15pm, and Sundays from 2:00pm to 5:00pm. Tickets are €11 to get in.
20. Santa Maria del Pi
“St Mary of the Pine” is a Gothic church from the 15th century in the Barri Gotic district. The church has survived war, fire, and an earthquake. There’s a museum featuring important historical works, the crypt, a garden and a bell tower that you can climb for 360° views of the city. You can visit Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm for €8.
21. Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor
The church, Sacred Heart of Jesus Church of Atonement, sits on top of the mountain that overlooks the city of Barcelona. Taking nearly 60 years to complete, the idea to build a Catholic church on top of the mountain came about when rumors of a Protestant church and a casino were to built there. In the end the land was acquired in 1886 and construction began in 1902. On top of the church is a massive bronze statue of Jesus. Entry is free but visits to the terraces are €5.
Unusual Places in Barcelona
Looking for unusual things to do in Barcelona? These are some well known and not so well known things to do in Barcelona but are certainly worth a visit.
22. The Carmel Bunkers
For some of the best views of Barcelona, you’ll want to head to The Carmel Bunkers. The Carmel Bunkers are left over from the Spanish Civil War and today it has become a tourist attraction. Sunset is the best time to go but you can go at anytime between 9:00am – 7:30pm in the summer and from 9:00am – 5:30pm in the winter. And, it’s completely free! You’ll have to work for that view though because the last part is a little bit of a hike to get to the top.
23. Horta Labyrinth
In the center of Barcelona’s Parc del Laberint d’Horta, the city’s oldest conserved garden, is a maze created from tall hedges. With over 2000 feet of paths for you to try to find your way to the center where you’ll find a sculpture of Eros. In the park you’ll also find fountains, sculptures, ponds, a canal and more. There’s a small fee of just over €2 to get in.
24. Fabra Observatory
Not your typical tourist destination but still worthy of a visit, the Fabra Observatory is the fourth oldest observatory in the world. You can take a guided tour at 11am daily for just €3 or a night visit to view the stars on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. It’s a unique thing to do in Barcelona and probably not something anyone else you know will have done.
Fun Places in Barcelona to Visit
25. The Aquarium
If you’ve brought the kids then they will love taking a break from the historical sites with a visit to L’aquarium. One of the best places in Barcelona for kids, there are plenty of exhibitions for them to learn about life under the Mediterranean Sea. It’s open 7 days a week and tickets are €25 for adults, less for kids, but there are some packages that come out to less than that per person.
26. Camp Nou Stadium
If you’re a fan of football (soccer) then head over to FC Barcelona’s stadium for a tour or maybe even catch a game. It’s the largest stadium in Europe seating nearly 100,000 people. Besides football, the stadium has hosted concerts and even a large Mass with Pope John Paul II.
27. Tibidabo Amusement Park
At the top of the mountain right below the church is an amusement park. It’s the third oldest amusement park in Europe opening in 1901! Thankfully the rides have all been updated and are not that old. From a roller coaster to a ferris wheel to a carousel, you’ll have amazing views of the city while having fun. A ticket to the Tibidabo Amusement Park costs €35 for adults, less for kids and seniors, and includes a ride up the mountain in the Funicular.
28. Barceloneta Beach
If you’re looking for sun head over to the beach. There are 4.5 miles of beaches in Barcelona and Barceloneta is one of the best. “Little Barcelona” is part of the fishing district and the old part of Barcelona. Besides swimming and hanging out on the beach there are plenty of restaurants serving tapas bars, seafood, and paella.
Historic Places in Barcelona
29. Palau de la Musica Catalana
Another World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Palau de la Musica Catalana was built in 1908 and is the ONLY Art Nouveau concert venue on the list. The building is a piece of art so you’ll want to spend some time exploring the outside just as much as the inside. Chose between a guided tour or self-guided tour, or choose a ticket with entry into other Art Nouveau Sites in Barcelona. There’s even an Escape Room ticket. There’s about a dozen options to choose from so check out their website.
30. Placa de Catalunya
Throughout Europe nearly every city and small town has a square where people gather to meet their friends and eat, drink, and relax. Placa de Catalunya is just one of those places in Barcelona. Sitting between the old town and the Eixample, the square was first opened in 1927 and has multiple sculptures, a fountain, hotels, theaters, bars and restaurants, and plenty of room to sit and soak up the Barcelona culture. It’s easy to find since it sits at the north end of La Rambla.
31. Montjuic Castle
The top of Montjuic Mountain was the perfect place to build a fortress in the 1600’s as a lookout point, giving 360° views of the area. In the 1800’s it was used as a prison but today the Montjuic Castle is open to the public. Hours vary depending on the season but it’s open seven days a week.
32. Placa d’Espanya
In the center of town sits Placa Espanya, another city square. Surrounded by other places to visit such as the Museum Nacional d’Art de Catalunya and Barcelona’s old bull-fighting ring, which is now a shopping center and event venue. Within walking distance is Poble Espanyol and the Magic Fountain of Montjuic.
33. Port Vell
Port Vell, which means “Old Harbor”, sits at the end of La Rambla and is a Barcelona attraction. Besides Europe’s largest aquarium, there is an IMAX theater, shops, and plenty of bars and restaurants. While you’re there, walk along the port and take a look at all the fancy boats and Barcelona’s old Customs building. There’s even a cable car connecting the port to Montjuic Hill.
34. Passeig de Gracia
If you haven’t spent enough money and are looking for another way to part with some of it then you might want to head over to Passeig de Gracia. It’s where all the luxury shops are from Chanel to Louis Vuitton. If you visit Gaudi’s Casa Mila or Casa Batllo then you’ll already be there. The street is right up there with New York City’s Fifth Avenue and Paris’s Champs-Elysees.
35. The Gothic Quarter
Probably the most famous area in Barcelona is the Gothic Quarter. It’s part of the old city and includes remains of an old Roman wall and the Temple of Agustus. The Barcelona Cathedral, Museu Picasso, and the famous bridge you’ve no doubt seen in many Barcelona photos is also located there. The Gothic Quarter is one of the best historic places in Barcelona to visit.
Final thoughts on Barcelona
This list of places in Barcelona you should visit is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to do and see including day trips outside the city, but this list is good starting point and will fill your days while visiting. If you don’t get to it all you can always come back again!