Looking for the best things to do in Barcelona? With its stunning coastal location, unparalleled architecture, and world-class art, it's easy to see why many fall for city. Here's what to do and see in the Catalan capital.
Barcelona appeals to every type of traveler, whether you’re a foodie, an art enthusiast, a beach lover, or a culture fanatic—it has it all. The ancient and avant-garde intermingle in the Catalan capital, where you can find ancient Roman ruins, trendy bars, and fascinating architectural attractions all within a few blocks of each other. With so many sites to explore, centuries of history to discover, and mazes of narrow streets to get lost in, sightseeing in Barcelona can seem a little overwhelming. Don’t worry; we’re here to help you out by highlighting all the best things to do and see.
Follow this list of the best things to see and do in Barcelona—from marveling at the Modernista architecture to exploring the city’s historic food markets and visiting its fascinating museums, this list will ensure you don’t miss out on anything. Need a place to stay? Check out the Best Hotels in Barcelona.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT BARCELONA?Summertime is hot and sweaty, as well as peak tourist season. May-June and September-October are the best weather months to visit, but summer is great for beaches and festivals.
Please note that the COVID pandemic is ongoing and restrictions may be in place in Barcelona. Visit the U.S. State Department website, to get the latest advice and information.
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Browse Barcelona’s Historic Food Markets
Barcelona’s covered markets are both historic spaces and used by locals every day. The most famous of these is La Boqueria, the oldest of the city’s markets dating back to 1863. You can still see many of the traditional stalls, selling a range of local cheeses, cold cuts, olives, and seafood. However, La Boqueria has also become overrun with tourists and many stalls have moved away from traditional produce to selling fruit shakes and novelty chocolates instead. For something a little more authentic, head to the Mercat de Santa Caterina in El Born with its colorful undulating roof, Mercat de Sant Antoni, or the Mercat de la Concepció in Eixample with its vast flower market.
Marvel at the Iconic La Sagrada Família
You can’t come to Barcelona without seeing Spain’s most-visited site, La Sagrada Família. Antoni Gaudí’s outlandish church has been in construction for more than a century and is a sight to behold. Despite some controversy around whether the design plans have strayed too far from Gaudí’s original vision, it’s still Spain’s most popular site. It’s not hard to get caught up in the magic of this place, which is said to (finally) be completed in 2026 after 150 years of construction. Fusing Gothic and Art Nouveau styles in unprecedented ways, the basilica also draws on nature as a central inspiration. Inside, the surprises continue with grand tree-like pillars and incredible stained glass.
INSIDER TIPLines here are notoriously long, so it’s advisable to purchase tickets in advance.
Discover the Santa Maria del Mar
To gain some perspective on the antiquity of Santa María del Mar—and the resilience of Barcelona’s architectonic tradition—consider that each boulder used in the church’s construction was hauled from surrounding mountains and shorelines by ordinary civilians. When the project was finally complete in 1383, 54 years after the first stone was laid, the citizens marveled at what they’d created: a soaring Gothic temple accented with vivid stained-glass panels, illuminated by natural light, and buttressed by sparse, improbably slender columns. Much of the original structure remains today, despite damages to the interior from an 11-day fire that broke out during the Spanish Civil War in 1936.
Appreciate the Beauty of El Palau de la Música Catalana
Gaudí may be the most recognizable face of Catalan Modernism, but many of his contemporaries also left their mark on Barcelona. One of them was Lluís Domènech i Montaner, the Barcelona-born architect behind the Palau de la Música Catalana (Palace of Catalan Music), completed in 1908. A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the auditorium’s interior bursts with color, pattern, and texture, all of which culminate in a skylight so vast that during daylight hours, performances take place without the flick of a single light switch. Choral, orchestral, and opera music reign supreme here, but that’s not to say Palau’s program hasn’t featured its share of mainstream artists: Ella Fitzgerald, Norah Jones, and Paco de Lucía have all walked across its stage.
Stroll Down Las Ramblas
Las Ramblas is Barcelona’s most famous street—a wide and shady boulevard that runs through the city’s heart from Plaça de Catalunya down to Port Vell. It’s busy, crowded, most bars and restaurants are overpriced and inauthentic, and it’s pickpocket central–despite all this, it’s still worth a stroll. Mostly it’s to see some of the incredible architecture along the way, from the Palau de la Virreina, now housing a contemporary art gallery, to the Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house dating back to 1847, and the gorgeous Umbrella House, covered in Oriental umbrellas and a large Chinese-style dragon. To get a bird’s-eye view of all the action finish your Ramblas route at the 18th-story mirador at Columbus Monument for panoramic views of the city and sea.
Raise a Glass at Vermouth Hour
On sunny weekend afternoons, neighborhood bars fill up with locals out to fer el vermut, the Catalan ritual of catching up with friends over a few dainty glasses of this garnet-red aperitif, customarily garnished with an orange slice and an olive. La hora del vermut (vermouth hour) typically takes place just before lunch from around 12-1 pm, and these aperitifs are often accompanied by salty or fishy snacks from chips to plump anchovies or pickled mussels and cockles from a tin. Some of Barcelona’s best vermouth bars, like Morro Fi, blend their own vermouths by infusing fortified wine with any range of botanicals, but there are plenty of great bottled brands.
Get Lost in the Barri Gòtic
No place on earth can hold a candle to Barri Gòtic when it comes to the concentration and breadth of Gothic architecture. The neighborhood’s arcaded, labyrinthine streets empty onto medieval squares such as the historic Plaça del Rei, the atmospheric Plaça Reial, and the Plaça del Pi with its open-air market and artists selling their work. The best way to explore it is to start strolling and get lost trying to navigate its tiny streets. As you wander, look out for century-old stores still selling the same products, such as espadrilles at La Manual Alpagatera, beautiful candles at Cereria Subirà, and delicious pastries at Pastissería La Colmena.
Related: Barcelona’s Neighborhood Guide
Check out the Fundació Joan Miró
Perched on Montjuïc hill that rises behind the southwest of the city center, the Fundació Joan Miró was founded in 1975 by the Catalan artist himself to make his art more accessible to the public. Today more than 10,000 of his whimsical masterpieces, from the early Surrealist paintings to the Dada-inspired later works, are on display. Whether you’re inside for half an hour or an entire afternoon, don’t miss the hilarious Man and Woman in Front of a Pile of Excrement. Yes, you read that right.
Explore Park Güell
Park Güell is Gaudí’s greatest triumph in urban planning and shows the architect at his most organic. Using the Collserola foothills as his canvas, Gaudí designed an architectural park whose structures (houses, fountains, pillars, walkways) often appear to be extensions of nature. Columns shoot up like tree trunks, arches are jagged like cave openings, and a giant lizard guards its fountain with scales fashioned out of mosaic tiles. As you leave the monumental area and follow the uphill path, let the sweeping views awaiting you at the top be your motivation. As with many Barcelona attractions, you should buy tickets ahead of time.
Discover Masterpieces at the Museu Nacional d’Art
Sure, there are plenty of Baroque and Renaissance masterpieces on display at the Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya (National Museum of Catalan Art). It’s even home to one of Diego Velázquez’s most famous portraits, San Pablo. But what sets this museum apart is the scope of its Romanesque collection, which is one of the most exhaustive in the world and chronicles the pre-Gothic beginnings of religious art in Catalonia. Be sure to seek out the biblical fresco titled Apse of Sant Climent de Taüll, the crown jewel of the collection.
Admire the Talent of Pablo Picasso at the Picasso Museum
Pablo Picasso may have hailed from Málaga in the south of Spain, but it was Barcelona where he moved at age 14 and apprenticed as a young artist. Housing 4,251 of Picasso’s early works in sculpture, paint, and engraving, it’s a virtually complete representation of his portfolio all the way up to the Blue Period. Picasso’s art isn’t the only draw at the Museu Picasso; the five adjoining 13th- and 14th-century residences that comprise the museum are precious in their own right.
Walk Along the Elegant Passeig de Gràcia
Besides Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s other most famous street is Passeig de Gràcia, the elegant boulevard that runs all the way up from Plaça de Catalunya to the neighborhood of Gràcia. Here, you’ll find some of the best examples of Catalan Modernista architecture, including Gaudí’s rainbow-colored Casa Batlló and the rippling façade of his La Pedrera. One of the best sections is the Manzana de la Discòrdia, a city block featuring buildings designed by Barcelona’s four most renowned Modernista architects: Antoni Gaudí, Josep Puig i Cadafalch, Lluís Domènech i Montaner, and Enric Sagnier. The “discord,” of course, refers to the rivalry among these architects, each of whom was trying to forge his reputation at the time as a leader of Modernism. By most counts, Gaudí eclipsed his competition with Casa Batlló, whose undulating façade and kaleidoscopic mosaics make it one of the city’s most emblematic and visited sites. Those with deep pockets will find that Passeig de Gràcia is also one of the city’s best shopping streets.
Explore the Neighborhood of El Born
The neighborhood of El Born lies in between Parc de la Ciutadella and Via Laietana within the Ciutat Vella or Old Town. One of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods, it perfectly blends history and tradition with hip hangouts. Centered around the Santa Maria del Mar church and the Passeig del Born are a collection of cool tapas joints, cocktail bars, and popular restaurants. Down its maze of narrow alleyways are several upmarket boutiques and quirky galleries. Dine on tasty tapas bites at Bormuth, sip on innovative cocktails at Dr. Stravinsky or speakeasy-style El Paradis, and get a takeaway coffee from the city’s best coffee shop—Cafés El Magnifico. Don’t forget to check out the Born Cultural and Memorial Center, housed in the old neighborhood market and now a type of history museum showcasing the ruins of the ancient medieval city below.
Relax on the Beaches of Barceloneta
Barcelona’s beaches are popular fun spaces where locals come to hang out on weekends. Barceloneta and El Somorrostro beaches are very popular with visitors, while Nova Icària and Bogatell are more favored by locals. For a bit of privacy, choose Mar Bella—the city’s nudist beach, where the LGBTQIA+ community like to hang out. After lounging on the beach for a few hours, head to the old fisherman’s district of Barceloneta for excellent paellas at the traditional Can Solé or seafood tapas at La Cova Fumada.
Cheer on Barça at Camp Nou
Millions of soccer fans make the pilgrimage to Barcelona each year to cheer on Barcelona’s home team, Futbol Club Barcelona (“Barça” for short). That level of enthusiasm commands a stadium to match, and Camp Nou delivers. The stadium boasts the highest capacity in Europe and can seat nearly 100,000 spectators. Although nothing compares to attending a live game, Barcelonistas can get a taste of the Barça experience on the guided tour, which brings the game-day rush to life in the “players’ tunnel” that simulates what it’s like to walk into a roaring, full-to-capacity stadium
See the Works at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona
There’s so much art history to digest in Barcelona that one might forget to consider the present. Thankfully, the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), a luminous hall designed by American architect Richard Meier, serves as a reminder. With a collection spanning from the mid-20th century to today, the MACBA is the ideal place to get acquainted with some of Catalonia’s most celebrated contemporary artists and its emerging talent. The square it sits on is also a great spot for people-watching, where the city’s best skateboarders come to perfect their stunts.
Visit Catedral de la Seu
Predating La Sagrada Família by six centuries, the Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia (known informally as Catedral de la Seu) was built as a monument to Santa Eulalia, the co-patron saint of the city. Gargoyles, flying buttresses, and barrel vaults accent this classically Gothic structure, and you can enjoy them from above on a rooftop tour. See if you can spot all 13 geese, said to represent each year of Eulalia’s life before she was martyred.
Chill Out in Parc de la Ciutadella
Barcelona’s best city park, the Parc de la Ciutadella, is a lush 19th-century park built over the previous site of a military citadel. Today, it has become a meeting point for bohemians to gather, musicians to strum their guitars, groups to congregate in the bandstand, locals to dance Lindy Hop by the fountain, and the city’s Senegalese residents’ to play music. It’s a place for everyone, whether you want to have a picnic with the kids, sit under a tree and read a book, or practice yoga. Visit for a stroll under the trees or a relaxing rowboat ride on the lake, then take a moment to admire the handiwork of the central fountain, a Neoclassical work designed by Josep Fontserè. It’s also home to the impressive crimson-hued Catalan Parliament building.
Go Hiking in the Collserola and the Carretera de les Aigues
Not many cities have a natural park within the city limits, but one thing that sets Barcelona apart is that nature lies within easy reach of the city center. The Collserola Natural Park sits in the hills that wrap all the way around the back of the city. On one side sits Mount Tibidabo and its amusement park, while on the other, the castle-like Torre Baró. Between the two lies the wide Carretera de les Aigues offering incredible views. The whole area is filled with many different hiking and biking routes, which crisscross through the park. You can access the hills from many parts of the city, but one of the easiest is to take the FGC train from Plaça Catalunya to Peu de Funicular to the stop named Carretera de les Aigues.
Experience Barcelona’s Nightlife
In Barcelona, there’s a party going on at every hour of the night. You could begin the evening in one of the city’s xampanyerias, such as El Xampanyet or Can Paixano, which are raucous cava bars where locals gather to sip sparkling wine and munch on simple tapas. Next, stop for a cocktail in the many bars hidden around El Born before heading to the buzzing nightclubs. There’s Jamboree for jazz enthusiasts, Sala Apolo for indie and electronic live music shows, or Razzmatazz, which has five venues in one playing everything from electronica and techno to indie and classic pop. Marula Café is also a great option for funk and disco jams. Remember that most clubs in the city don’t get going until around 2 am and blast the beats until 6 am.
Get THE View of Barcelona from Atop Mount Tibidabo
Imposing Mount Tibidabo stands overlooking Barcelona and can be seen from many different parts of the city. The highest peak in the Collserola, at over 500 meters, is topped by the magnificent Sagrat Cor church, which shines like a beacon over the city at night. There are several ways to reach the top of Tibidabo, from hikes through the natural park and bus rides, to funiculars and the classic Tramvia Blau, a historic blue tram. The rewards from the top are well worth it and offer one of the best views over the Barcelona cityscape against the backdrop of the cobalt-blue Mediterranean. But it’s not just the incredible views you’ll come here for; there’s also a vintage amusement park.
Eat Your Fill of Tapas
Barcelona is known as a great foodie city where you can sample traditional Catalan fare, traditional tapas, and authentic international bites. But the city is also very “hit or miss” when it comes to finding good food. It’s well worth researching places ahead of time. In El Born, there’s old-timey Cal-Pep with its fresh seafood plates or the industrial-style Bodega La Puntual. In Gracia, there’s the traditional Bar Bodega Quimet packed with tables and surrounded by old wine barrels and vines hanging from the ceiling, while in Sant Antoni there’s cool Bar Calders with its modern bites and excellent wine. In Eixample, you can’t go wrong with El Nacional—a huge 1920s-style elegant hall home to four different tapas restaurants, each specializing in a unique ingredient. If you want to experience the famous Basque tapas alternative of pintxos (small pieces of bread topped with all kinds of ingredients), then Barcelona has a whole street dedicated to pintxos bars on Carrer Blai.
Discover Montjuïc Hill
Montjuïc is a large hill that rises to the west of the city center. It’s home to the city’s Olympic park when it hosted the games in 1992. There are many ways to reach it, but one of the most impressive is climbing up the huge monumental staircase and fountain display from Placa d’Espanya to the magnificent Neo-Baroque palace housing the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, a temple to Catalan art and design. Another way is to take a cable car ride from the port area all the way up. The hill is dotted with beautiful gardens, including the city’s Botanical Gardens. There are several interesting museums, including the Olympic Museum, the Fundació Joan Miró, and the Catalan Museum of Archaeology. There’s also the fascinating Montjuïc Cemetery, the final resting place of several famous former Barcelona residents, including Joan Miró and Catalan President Lluís Companys. At the top of it all stands Montjuïc Castle, a 17th-century fortress home to a military museum and incredible city views.
Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau
Just a 14-minute walk from the celebrated Sagrada Familia church is another of Barcelona’s most awe-inspiring sites—the Hospital de Sant Pau. This UNESCO World Heritage Art Nouveau masterpiece is the largest of its kind in the world and was a working hospital up until 2009. Built between 1905 and 1930, it was designed by Barcelona’s other famous architect–Lluís Domènech i Montaner, who also designed the Palau de la Música Catalana. The site is made up of several different pavilions interconnected via underground tunnels, each richly decorated with colorful tiles and mosaics, floral motifs, embellished arches and turrets, and bright stained-glass windows.
Admire the Stunning Facades in L’Eixample
The Eixample District is one of the most elegant parts of the city. It sits either side of the grand Passeig de Gràcia and is split into Dreta de L’Eixample (right side) and L’Esquerra de L’Eixample (left side). The neighborhood is an architecture lover’s dream. Simply look up, and you’ll be treated to views of some of Catalan Modernism’s best examples. Developed in the 19th-century, the Modernista style is characterized by colorful tiles and mosaics, picturesque facades, and floral motifs. Besides the famous buildings on Passeig de Gràcia, some of the best Modernista masterpieces found in this district include the Casa de les Punxes, Palau Baró de Quadras, and Palau Macaya. But it’s not all about these grand palaces and public buildings; many of the private residential buildings in Eixample are also gorgeous examples of Modernista architecture.
Explore the Neighborhood of Gracia
As you leave the wide boulevards of Eixample and head north, you’ll enter the hip barrio of Gracia, a series of atmospheric squares surrounded by bars and restaurants and interconnected by small narrow streets. It’s trendy, bohemian, and yet retains its traditional charm. Old family-run tapas bars sit next to Japanese supermarkets and independent cinemas. Whether you’re hankering after delicious Indian dishes, traditional ramen, or Syrian pastries, Gracia doesn’t disappoint. It’s also known for its excellent nightlife options, including everything from Cuban salsa bars to funky cocktail joints. It’s also a great neighborhood for shopping, with its wealth of small independent stores. Beyond food and drinks, visit the first-ever house that Gaudí designed, Casa Vicens, with its sunflower motifs and emerald green tiles.
Explore the Barrio of Poblenou
Poblenou may not be the first of Barcelona’s neighborhoods on your list, as it doesn’t have many major sights, but it’s a lovely local barrio to explore anyway. The neighborhood is split in two: the first part consists of old warehouses transformed into trendy hangouts such as coffee roasters, craft beer halls, and design hubs. The second part is the more traditional section with its own rambla (promenade) reaching towards the beach and lined with attractive Modernista buildings and a great selection of bars and restaurants.
Wander Around Palau Güell
The opulent Palau Güell sits down a narrow street hidden off the side of Las Ramblas. Another of Gaudi’s visions, the Palau Güell, was built in 1888 as the family home for the architect’s patron Eusebi Güell. One of Gaudi’s early works, the palace was considered one of the pioneering buildings of the Art Nouveau movement. From the grand parabolic entranceway and the sleek basement horse stables to the theatrical music room upstairs and the quirky multicolored tiled chimneys on the rooftop, this house delivers in style and wonder.
Visit the Monestir de Pedralbes
For another of the city’s Gothic masterpieces, leave the city’s center and head to the district of Pedralbes in the northwest corner of the city. Built in the early 14th-century, the monastery is an elegant example of Gothic architecture and is set around a serene three-tiered cloister. Today, it offers a peek into life in a convent, enabling you to tour the old refectory, kitchen, stables, infirmary, and grand hall, complete with sleeping quarters. Both guided tours are available, or you can tour at your own leisure, and entry is free on Sundays after 3 p.m. The monastery also houses several excellent temporary changing exhibitions.
Take the Kiddos to the CosmoCaixa Science Museum
A great option for a rainy afternoon or when the heat becomes too unbearable is the CosmoCaixa science museum. Situated in the very north of the city, close to the foothills of the Collserola Natural Park, this vast center features hands-on exhibits covering everything from space and the human body to Antarctica and ancient fossils. There’s also a large section that has been turned into a living Amazon rainforest, complete with live crocodiles and piranha fish, and where it actually rains every 15 minutes.
Experience the City’s Many Festivals
Barcelona plays host to so many different festivals that it’s pretty much guaranteed one will coincide with your trip. Come in April to witness St Jordi Day, a celebration of Catalonia’s patron saint. In June, take part in the fiery Festival of Sant Joan, where fireworks can be seen popping off across the city throughout the night. And in September, it’s time for La Mercè Festival, featuring concerts, street theater, and dance performances. Catalan festivals are unlike the somber religious festivals you’ll find in southern Spain, here, festivals are always vibrant and high energy. Typical traditions that are part of most festivities in Barcelona include dancing giants, castellers (human tower builders), and correfocs (meaning fire runs involving people dressed as devils, spraying giant sparklers through the streets).