Sun, sea, and sangria: the perfect cocktail of ingredients to make for a memorable trip abroad. Barcelona is renowned for its vibrant atmosphere, impressive architecture, and beachfront location, all of which makes it the perfect holiday hotspot. With regular flights leaving London and other UK cities touching down in Barcelona just over two hours later, the Spanish capital is the perfect location for a dose of sunshine. Read on for our insider info to ensure you tick off the best things to do in Barcelona. And our favourite bit? They won’t break the bank.
Barcelona is a city steeped in history and Spanish culture and it wouldn’t be right visiting the capital without doing your homework. Perhaps Barcelona’s most famous landmark, the Sagrada Família is a must-see sight. Originally designed by Antoni Gaudí, the gothic style cathedral has been under construction for over 135 years and five generations of Barcelonés have watched it rise. Pre-booking your ticket before you travel is a must; it means you skip the queues and can plan your visit to maximise your time in the city.
Next up on the agenda is the Gaudí House Museum which you can find in Park Güell. Complementing the stunning city views the main terrace of Park Güell affords visitors is the serpent bench, a social seating area decorated in brightly coloured mosaic tiles. Nothing screams Barcelona like the combination of blue skies, those famous mosaics, and a bird’s eye view of the city all the way down to the sea. Once you’ve wandered around the park itself, a visit to the museum is another way to embrace Spanish culture and learn more about the city. Inhabited by Gaudí himself for almost 20 years, the museum houses a collection designed by the architect and embodies the spirit of the city.
A visit to the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc is a must do when visiting Barcelona. The fountain, which sits at the foot of the Palau Nacional museum, is best visited on a weekend evening when the light show that gives the fountain its name takes place every half hour. The fountain is located in the Montjuïc neighbourhood, the city’s birthplace. The light show is free to watch and makes for a spectacularly atmospheric evening under the stars in Spain.
As the Spanish sun sets each evening the sky turns into a wash of pink, red, and orange hues, and what better way to end the day than with a panoramic view from the highest point in Barcelona. Mount Tibidabo, home to an amusement park and a cathedral that wouldn’t look out of place in a Disney movie, is a great place to watch the sun go down in style. You can reach the peak by car, taxi, Metro and funicular, or on foot (though this last option shouldn’t be attempted in blazing sunshine!). Once you’re atop the mountain an extra couple of euros gives you access to the viewing platform where you can look out over the city as dusk draws and the twinkling lights of Barcelona’s bustling night scene take hold.
Then we come to La Rambla - arguably the city’s hotspot. La Rambla is a long tree-lined street in central Barcelona marking the boundary between Barri Gòtic (the Gothic Quarter) and El Raval (informally known as Chinatown). An assault on the senses, La Rambla is peppered with cafes, souvenir shops, ice cream stalls, and kiosks which add to the vibrant atmosphere. Once described by a Spanish poet as ‘the only street in the world which I wish would never end’, La Rambla is home to the next stop on our itinerary: Mercado de la Boqueria.
One of the best things to do in Barcelona is simply, eat! It’s likely you’ll want to try some local delicacies whilst you’re in Spain, and Barcelona has a wealth of offerings to satisfy every appetite. Famed for its fish, cheese, and Iberico ham the city is a foodie’s dream. La Boqueria, a busy market hall with colourful stalls offering punters nuts, cheese, fruit, smoothies, meats, fish, and more is a must do when you’re in the city. A food market first and foremost, a visit to La Boqueria is a unique experience and the best way to embrace the hustle and bustle of Barcelona. Branded by the city as the best market in the world, it’s not hard to see why when you walk off the sun filled streets of La Rambla and through the archway into a hive of activity. With limited seating available inside you’ll want to head to the market early to be able to take full advantage of all that is on offer. Don’t forget to shop around though – there’s lots of stalls inside with similar products so resist the urge to dive for the first platter you see!
Located on a quiet side street in the Gothic Quarter you’ll find Can Paixano (La Xampanyeria), aka ‘Cava Bar’. What looks at first to be an unassumingly quiet bar quickly turns into a noisy hub of activity. While the crowds might spill out of the doors and onto the street you can rest assured that not a drop of cava, Catalan’s answer to French champagne, will be spilt whilst the bar staff wait on customers with magician like skill. A standing-only venue, La Xampanyeria provides customers with a unique tapas and cava-fuelled experience, with mixed platters of meats and cheese dominating the menu. When the average order for two people comes in at under €15, this place is a real winner and a guaranteed good time.
Looking for something quite the opposite? Head to El Nacional, a gorgeous space filled with natural light and complementary tones in the heart of Passeig de Gràcia. Though the price range here is on the higher end, it’s the perfect place to visit for a token drink or two if you’re feeling fancy for the evening.
La Alcoba Azul is a tiny tapas restaurant that you’ll find in the old Jewish Quarter, El Call, of the city. An intimate setting, tables are limited and the restaurant’s reputation precedes it - it’s extremely popular so be prepared to wait. When your table is ready you’ll be led through a softly lit, stone walled interior to the gentle tones of jazz. With the portion size seeming astronomical in comparison to the sum of the bill, La Alcoba Azul is a true diamond and certainly deserves to feature on your list of things to do in Barcelona.