There is so much to do in Barcelona, it may be somewhat overwhelming. From Gaudí’s masterpieces to the bustling beaches and all the shopping, flamenco and nights out in between, there is always another thing to add to the ever-growing itinerary! So to make the planning process a little easier, we have compiled a shortlist of our top things to do in Barcelona.
One of the first places to familiarise yourself with and orientate yourself from is La Rambla. This is a pedestrianised boulevard which runs right though the heart of the city and is always bustling with life. The boulevard connects Plaça de Catalunya, a beautiful square, and the Columbus Monument and the Port of Barcelona. La Rambla is full stalls and street performers as well as bars, cafes and restaurants. A very good waypoint is the Liceu Theatre as this is roughly in the middle of the boulevard.
La Rambla is around 1.2 kilometres long and is broken down into five parts. Going from North to South, these are La Rambla de Canaletes, La Rambla dels Estudis, La Rambla de Sant Josep, La Rambla dels Caputxins and La Rambla de Santa Mònica. Some of these names commemorate the buildings which used to be here. These buildings were built after the city wall collapsed, which La Rambla, a stream, was just on the outer side of. This area is both hectic and interesting but you should always remember to watch your belongings as pick-pocketing is rife.
The Sagrada Família is the most stunning and original church you could hope to lay eyes on and is Spain’s most-visited monument. Designed by Antoni Gaudí in the 19th Century, it is a towering feat of architectural design. Construction of the church has been underway for more than 100 years. Due to be completed in 2026, the church currently has eight towers, the largest of which stands 120 metres tall, however a further ten are planned. The largest of these will be 170 metres tall which is one metre shorter than Barcelona’s Montjuïc hill, as Gaudí didn’t want his creation to surpass God’s.
Gaudí dedicated his life to the construction of the Sagrada Família and was so consumed by the task that when he was knocked down by a tram, his appearance and lack of papers led people to believe he was a beggar and he didn’t receive the medical attention he needed. By the time he was recognised it was too late and he died a few days later on 10th June 1926, by which time the church was only one quarter finished.
The Sagrada Família is open to the public, providing slightly alarming trips up and down the spiral staircases of two towers, a few hair-raising steps across an elevated stone walkway, and of course, stunning views of the city.
Barcelona has some beautiful beaches, the most famous of which is the manmade city beach – Barceloneta. Here you’ll see locals, tourists, nudists, tan addicts – a real melting pot of sun seekers! As you keep moving east the beaches get wider and provide more breathing space. There are plenty of beachside restaurants but prepare yourself – they are often rather overpriced! However, the beach is also a great place for nightlife, with plenty of bars and clubs along the boardwalk.
The Gothic Quarter is at once archaic and yet full of life. Perhaps the most charming part of the city, it is home to Plaça de Catalunya, the city’s main square, which boasts sculptures, incredible fountains and a lot of pigeons! This area features an array of gorgeous, Catalonian gothic architecture. But to truly appreciate it, you have to go inside these beautiful buildings, which you can do on Gothic Sightseeing Tour. Also in the Gothic Quarter is Plaça Reial, the Royal Plaza, which features plenty of music, palm trees and restaurants. Around Plaça Reial there are many thin, winding passages with gorgeous specialist shops which sell only one item such as church candles, belts or macaroons. As with many of the bars and restaurants in Barcelona, those in the Gothic Quarter often have fantastic rooftop terraces. By day they act as suntraps, meaning you can relax and enjoy a meal or a drink while you soak up some rays. But when the sun goes down they become livelier and are an ideal prerequisite to hitting some of Plaça Reial’s clubs.