I visited Barcelona when I was studying and living in London. I was about to turn 21 and for my birthday I invited a bunch of my girlfriends to join me for a weekend of festivities. Now, this was in March of 2020. So little did I know, my fun birthday trip was going to be cut short because of a disease that had quickly begun making its way around the entire world.
Before this though, before the US President at the time announced a travel ban on Europe and airports began shutting down, before my friends and I weren’t sure if we were going to be able to get out of Spain at all, I had the best time. I’m not joking. Barcelona is a dream. Being in this city is so refreshing and calming to the soul that even during a time of confusion and havoc, I was happy to be there. So, though my trip got cut short, I experienced enough of the city to compile a list of my favorite things to do in Barcelona Spain.
Table of Contents
Best Things To Do In Barcelona
First on the list of places to visit in Barcelona, we have Parc de la Ciutadella. Of course, I have to start out with this one because I am obsessed with all things nature. Not only is this part of the city great for taking a little hiatus from the tall brick buildings and storefronts, but it has so many hidden charms. One of the best Barcelona tourist attractions is the zoo. You can find this here, as well as the city’s most prominent government building. A little funny that they’re next to each other, but that’s Barcelona. It just does what it wants. And I live for it.
To enter into this park, you walk underneath the famous Arco de Triunfo, a must see in Barcelona. No, not the one in Paris, although they do share the same name. Apparently, in place of the Arco de Triunfo, was supposed to be the Eiffel Tower, but they turned down the architect’s plan and he moved the structure to Paris. Anyways, just past this structure is a street lined with lime trees where people gather every day to walk dogs, meet up with friends, exercise, and sunbathe when the weather permits.
Antoni Gaudí, a young architect at the time, contributed plans for the construction of this grand fountain located within the park. Its inspiration came from Rome’s Trevi Fountain, but it more closely resembles a waterfall than a fountain. Large steps on either side lead to a point which is on par with the second level of the fountain-waterfall hybrid. At the top of the hydraulic feature are statues from Roman mythology, along with clams and horses. Golden bird-like creatures are also meticulously placed throughout.
My favorite part to admire however, is all of the greenery that drapes down from the top all the way down to the water down below. It looks like the entire spectacle belongs in Neverland with Peter Pan instead of in a park in the middle of a crowded city. This truly is one of the most picturesque attractions in Barcelona and you should not miss it during your trip. The best part is, going here is absolutely free so it’s also a great option if you are traveling on a budget.
This was one of the Barcelona attractions that used to be known worldwide for being the home of the world’s only albino gorilla. Though the gorilla passed away in 2003, the zoo is still a place where many people like to go to enjoy the different animals that live there. The zoo offers exhibits with Jaguars, Capybaras, Kangaroos, Flamingoes and much more.
The zoo also offers different attractions like educational workshops and lectures. They have also made a large commitment to the conservation and rehabilitation of threatened species, which visitors are able to see and learn about. It’s kind of crazy that they are able to fit a zoo of this magnitude within a park, but it makes planning a day out really easy. Personally, visiting this zoo is one of the most fun things to do in Barcelona.
The Palau del Parlament de Catalunya
This building, known as The Parliament of Catalonia in English, looks slightly out of place in the park. Though perhaps that’s what makes it so stunning to behold. However, its history is not as pretty as the exterior of the building (which was built all the way back in the 18th century). It was once used as a military arsenal, then as a palace, then as barracks, and then finally in 1980 it was transferred over to act as the Catalan Parliament Building.
Possibly one of the more beautiful Barcelona attractions is Montjuïc. This hill, called “Jewish Mountain” in Catalan used to be where the city’s Jewish community lived. Sitting at over 560 ft above sea level, Montjuïc is covered in woods and has many memorable parts to it. First, it’s perfect for Barcelona sightseeing as its panoramic views of the city of Barcelona below is enticing in itself. Places like the Olympic Ring, Museu Nacional, and Jardines de Joan Maragall are popular spots to visit here.
The Olympic Stadium atop Montjuïc was purported to be the site of the 1936 Olympic Games. Unfortunately for Barcelona, they were beaten out by Berlin and so they had to wait until 1992 for the Games to finally be held there. During this time of waiting however, Barcelona city was able to construct some new features such as the Olympic Ring. This sports facility included new swimming pools, a sports hall and a telecommunications tower to broadcast the games.
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
This museum showcases artwork from famous artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and Joan Miró. Their modern art collection is probably the most popular part of the museum. However their other parts of the museum including their temporary exhibitions offer great insight into the minds of creators from past and present centuries as well. They also occasionally have musical and dance performances to showcase the immense talent of local artists. Tickets are reasonably priced, at $13 for general admission.
Plaça de Catalunya
This unique area of Barcelona is not only the city’s center, but it is an interesting place to observe the convergence of old and new architectural styles. When people ask me what to see in Barcelona, I have them start here. In my opinion, it’s always good to explore a city starting with their center most point and working your way outwards. That way, you are able to better grasp the varying degrees of popularity and historical significance of the varying neighborhoods. This plaza is teeming with large art pieces, shopping centers and meeting places. If you are interested in people watching, this is where you should do it. Sitting in the open spaces of this plaza and journaling is one of my favorite things to do in Barcelona.
The Gothic Quarter of Barcelona is arguably the coolest part of the city. When my friends ask me for a list of what to do in Barcelona, most of the clubs, bars and restaurants I direct them towards exist in this area. The charm of this part of Barcelona comes from the narrow streets designed in the gothic style, as well as the funky hidden stores and local spots that are buried within them. It’s also interwoven in history as being the old stomping grounds of Pablo Picasso when he first arrived in Barcelona as an adolescent, and Antonio Gaudí.
If you are interested in looking for a party while here, then the Gothic Quarter is the place to do it. While there are of course clubs and dive bars to go into, one of my favorite things to do in Barcelona is go to their cocktail bars. They offer a great combination of a quaint, local feel while also serving drinks that are on par with any other large city that specializes in quality drinks. Some favorite spots of mine include Clubhaus, (largely because of its ping pong table), Paradiso, because of its speakeasy entrance which is through a fridge door in a pastrami shop.
Places To Eat
On the list of Barcelona things to do that surround eating, Can Culleretes is a pretty popular joint. I feel weird even calling it a ‘joint’ because it is the oldest restaurant in Barcelona, dating back to 1786. For centuries they have specialized in traditional Catalan and Spanish dishes. The dish that I love the most is their paella. When you go to Spain, you have to have paella, especially the seafood paella, if that’s your thing. If you haven’t heard of paella, it’s a dish that’s traditionally made family style and consists of rice mixed in sauces with a type of main component such as seafood, meat, or vegetables. When I went with my friends, there were four of us that ordered two different types of paella and we polished off the pans with ease.
As a World Heritage Site and one of the top things to do in Barcelona, Park Güell is a favorite amongst visitors and tourists alike. This amazingly constructed park has both natural and man made beauty aspects. It spans over 32 acres and showcases natural gardens and woods areas filled with native species. The most famously photographed part of the park is the multi-colored mosaics that wrap around the look out area and Caretakers center. The bright oranges, blues, greens and yellows create a dream-like atmosphere for this already stunning part of the park.
Tours of the grounds are offered in both Spanish and English, and occasionally in French and Catalan. Check the Park Güell website for more details surrounding the specifics of what the tour covers. Ticket prices are $13 for an hour-long tour that will go over the rich history of the park and dive into details of different attractions.
Spotify Camp Nou
This famous stadium is home to FC Barcelona, a professional fútbol club. For many sports fans, going to see a game played at this stadium is one of the best things to do in Barcelona. It seats close to 100,000 people which makes it the largest stadium in Spain and Europe, as well as the fifth largest stadium in the entire world. The stadium opened in 1957 and is expected to be renovated in 2026.
My friends had the time of our lives exploring this historic and aesthetically superior city. Some of my favorite memories consist of wandering the streets with them, stopping into little stores to do shopping and peeking around corners. I have vivid memories of buying a cerveza at a bodega and heading to the park to enjoy them with my friends on a nice sunny day.
We rode the subway to different parts of the city and visited jazz bars and tapas restaurants. We would stop into little wine bars and grab bottles of local wine and head to the grocery store for cheese, bread, grapes and cherries to take with us on a sunset picnic. If it hasn’t been made clear to you yet, Barcelona is one of the most fun places in Spain. I hope you visit for yourself and experience the incredibleness for yourself and try out your own things to do in Barcelona.
Yes. Barcelona has many beaches that are lovely to lounge on or swim in. Most of the beaches are largely conducive to swimming as they don’t have many waves. However, there are occasional beaches in Barcelona, like Barceloneta and Bogatell that allow for water activities like surfing.
Park Güell is the most visited attraction in Barcelona.
In comparison to other cities in Spain, Barcelona is a rather expensive city. However, it is not as expensive as many other cities in Europe. So it really depends on the type of environment that you are used to and what you compare the city to.