Besides Madrid, Barcelona is perhaps the most well-known city in Spain. It sits on the coast in Catalonia, a region rich with culture, a distinct identity, and pride. It’s also an amazing destination with many fun things to do and great foods to eat.
Barcelona is a huge city, sprawling through many neighborhoods. There’s a metro system you can use to get around, but it’s also a very walkable city. If you choose a centrally-located accommodation, most of what you’ll want to see you can get to on foot.
The weather in Barcelona is arguably better than Madrid, no matter the time of year. Both of my visits to Barcelona have been in January, and each time the temperature was pleasant with sunny skies. In the summer, you don’t suffer the sweltering heat felt in other Spanish cities, thanks to the coastal breeze.
What to See and Do in Barcelona
The most iconic landmark of the city, this cathedral is something you must not only see from the outside, but it’s imperative that you tour the interior. I don’t care what kind of budget you’re on – this is non-negotiable.
Meaning “sacred family” in English, this church is an architectural wonder. Designed and constructed by Anton Gaudí, the beloved architect and artist of Barcelona. Construction of this massive cathedral began in 1882 and is still unfinished work, and isn’t expected to be completed for at least 20 more years. I’d highly recommend climbing the towers or do a full-tour to learn more about the history of this incredible church. You could easily spend several hours walking around, gazing at all the amazing architectural features, stained glass, and art within the building.
Located in the Gracia district of Barcelona, Parc Güell is another Gaudí sit. This park offers amazing panoramic views of the city. The subway station is a bit of a walk away from the sloping hills that lead you up to the park, but hiking up to the park makes the view so much more worth it. Beautiful mosaics compose concrete benches and decorative walls throughout the park. It’s worth it to pay to enter all of the Parc, I’ve been twice and loved it each time.
The Picasso Museum
The Picasso Museum is another stop worth making during your time in Barcelona. Here you’ll find quite the collection of his pieces from the various “periods” of his life, as well as learn more about who Pablo Picasso was, beyond being an artist. It’s a nice way to spend an hour or so, great to dip into if you’re traveling in Barcelona on a rainy day or with an art enthusiast.
La Boqueria Market
A fun stop on Las Ramblas, La Boqueria Market is a bustling outdoor shopping excursion. Unfortunately, it has become something of a tourist trap, when it used to be the local market that people bought fresh produce, fish, and meat at. If you go for a visit, buy a few things from a stall owner to support their business in exchange for your photos.
This is one that might not be on some “must do” lists in Barcelona, but I really love this house and would highly recommend checking it out. Casa Batlló is another architectural creation of Gaudi. This house, originally designed for a prominent family in Barcelona, has been converted to a museum. It highlights Gaudi’s love for using nature to inspire his designs – there are no straight lines, natural light permeates the corridors, and there is so much beautiful tile work and other intricate features. You will pass by this house on the popular Passeig de Gracia.
Los Tarantos Barcelona Flamenco Show
If you’re looking for some dancing to accompany your cocktail, check out a Flamenco show while in Barcelona! While Flamenco is not originally from Barcelona, there are still many theaters offering authentic experiences. I always love the energy of a Flamenco show, and it’s a must-do experience if you’re visiting Spain for the first time.
Restaurants in Barcelona
This spot is an excellent stop for delicious tapas and Catalan food. Order a few things off the menu to share, pair it with a jug of sangria or beers and you’ll have yourself a filling meal of savory variety. There are many great small plate to choose from, some of our favorites were the mini burgers, the fried calamari, and the Greek Salad.
La Vaca Paca
Ok, I wouldn’t normally recommend a buffet, but this spot is great for budget backpackers looking for a lot of food for really cheap. La Vaca Paca is located on Passeig de Gracia in the heart of Barcelona, and is good if you’re traveling Europe on a shoestring. If you have a bigger budget to work with, I’d say skip it.
La Llavor del Orígens Restaurant
Even though I lived in Spain for two years, my knowledge of places to go in Barcelona is very minimal as I’ve only visited twice on short trips. I can, however, recommend this restaurant with total confidence, as it was recommended to me by a friend who was born and raised in Barcelona. Everything we ate was delicious.
Where to Stay in Barcelona
I’m no expert on Barcelona accommodation, but “Casa Gracia Barcelona Hostel” was a fantastic hostel experience if you’re traveling on a budget. Clean rooms, great breakfast provided, super helpful and kind staff to give you pointers on things to do as well as advice on how to get from place to place.
They also have apartments, which is where I stayed on my 2nd visit to Barcelona.
Travel Tips to Stay Safe in Barcelona
Be super careful with your valuables. Las Ramblas and other crowded areas in Barcelona are KNOWN for pickpockets and clever scammers.
Never carry your passport around with you and always have control of your wallet and phone.
If traveling in the busy season, be sure to book ahead. Accommodations fill up and can be quite expensive, so it’s a good idea to look in advance.
Wear good walking shoes! You’ll walk a ton in this city, and no one wants to deal with uncomfortable blisters. There are many great “urban hikes” to check out in Barcelona.