Barcelona, Spain! We loved visiting this city of old meeting new – exploring the old Gothic buildings and Gaudi’s surreal creations, savoring the Catalan food, and meeting the friendly locals. There is so much to see it was hard to come up with the top things to do in Barcelona but it was hard to go wrong! Here are some highlights from our stay in this vibrant and cosmopolitan Catalan city!
This was the last Port on our incredible Holland American Mediterranean Cruise. We disembarked, and met Biels, our Context Travel guide, in the heart of the Gothic Quarter to start our walking tour.
WHAT TO DO
- Walking tour of the Barrio Gotico, the old Gothic Quarter and learning about the history of Barcelona. We’re glad we had a guide since there are so many windy streets, hidden squares, fountains and palaces to discover.
- Museo Picasso is located in the old Gothic Quarter, housed in five medieval palaces that are connected. This museum holds Picasso’s most extensive collection of his work.
- Strolling down the tree-lined Ramblas, one of the largest pedestrian shopping streets in the city. Tip! Watch your wallet/purse. This area is famous for pick-pockets.
- Visiting Sagrada Familia & seeing Architect and artist Antoni Gaudi’s mind-bending architectural style. This church is still under construction and has been since 1883. It’s one of the most unique and elaborate churches in the world. Important! Be sure to reserve your ticket online to see the interior of Sagrada Familia so you don’t wait in line, or find out it’s sold out.
- Casa Mila known as La Pedrera is another one of Gaudi’s creations. Casa Mila is located on Passeig de Gracia, and is one of Gaudi’s most famous homes with curved lines, mosaics and colorful tiles. Visit the museum inside, and be sure to go up to the roof to see the whimsical chimneys. Important! Buy your ticket online to avoid long lines.
- Casa Batlo is another modernist building designed by Gaudi. It can be viewed from the exterior as you walk down Passeig de Gracia – widest avenue in Barcelona, and also the interior. Check opening times at click here.
- Catalan National Art Museum is in the Palau Nacional and houses a large collection of Catalan art.
- Joan Miro Foundation is a museum in honor of Joan Miro, a Catalan modern art painter, sculptor and ceramist.
- Tapas tastings – we love tapas! Tapas are small tasting plates of a variety of dishes. See our favorite tapas restaurants in the “EAT” section.
- Human Towers of Barcelona is a fascinating experience to watch! We found a neighborhood where they built “Human Towers” on the day of our visit. We searched the city to see this spectacle. We found Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia, and watched very brave teams, young to old, build towers up to 8 levels of people high in just a few minutes. This is a Catalan tradition dating back to the 18th century, symbolizing how TOGETHER, a community can do anything! Check with the tourist office to find out dates and locations to see this amazing feat – the Human Towers.
- Old Fishing Quarter along the seafront is an area where you can find some local and authentic restaurants.
- Columbus Monument is near the Port and waterfront.
- Visit Park Guell and Palau Guell are wonderful places to visit, both designed by Gaudi. Especially love the park benches with the colorful tile work. Great views of Barcelona from Park Guell!
- Olympic Village – see the new port & marina built for the Olympics.
- Montjuic, site of the 1992 Olympic Games, that overlooks the harbor and you can visit the ruins of a Spanish village on Montjuic Hill.
- Visit a Local Market – La Boqueria and Santa Caterina are two markets with a variety of Spanish and Catalan products, with a range of fresh goods and produce.
- See a Flamenco Show! Check with the Tourism Office or Context Travel about locations and times.
- Dine on seafood paella at a typical Andalusian restaurant.
SITGES: If you want to enjoy a beach town, drive to the west coastal town of Sitges. Walk through the Old Town and enjoy the beach.
MONTSERRAT MONASTERY: Drive north to this Benedictine Monastery founded in the 11th century. Located in the Montserrat Mountain Ridge, 4,000 ft. high, where people come to worship La Moreneta, the black Madonna. The Escolans, oldest boys’ choir in Europe was founded here.
WHERE TO STAY
Budget to Mid-Range Stay in Barcelona
Hotel Paseo de Gracia Best 1-star hotel in #Barcelona! In the chic zone, next door to Gaudi’s famous La Pedrera, high-end designers and in the heart of the Passeig de Gracia neighborhood. Unbeatable location and unbeatable price!
WHAT TO EAT
As part of our top things to do in Barcelona we had to include the best eats in Barcelona!
La Consentida on Passeig de Gracia where you will find dozens of tapas! We loved this place so much, we ate here twice in one day.
Our favorite…the roasted shoshito peppers with aged jambon (ham).
More Tapas Restaurant Recommendations
Global Adventuress would like to say GRACIAS to the Barcelona Tourism Office for their guidance with our trip planning, and Cars Calipodes for the transfers, and Context Travel for the insightful tour of Barcelona.
Cars Calipodes For airport and port transfers, sightseeing tours, and other transportation requests, we highly recommend Cars Calipodes while in Barcelona. Our drivers were professional, courteous and knowledgeable about the city.
Context Travel Contact Context Travel to find a local guide. We had a great experience walking Barcelona with Biels, our expert guide. You’ll be able to learn about the history, art and culture of this vibrant city from someone who really knows it well.
Also, our guide knew how to get from one place to the next quickly, in order to show us as many highlights as possible in 1 day. It’s also helpful that our guide speaks the local language and has a fantastic network of contacts in the city – shopkeepers, restaurants, museums, churches, etc. These are a few reasons why we recommend Context Travel.
Barcelona Tourism Office Visit the Barcelona Tourism website or office to help plan your trip. Purchase the Barcelona Card and take advantage of the savings. You can see the best of Gaudí at the Sagrada Família, La Pedrera and the Casa Batlló, relive Barça’s victories, enjoy yourself with your kids on the Golondrinas pleasure boats and at Barcelona Zoo, or discover the wonders of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya and other museums. You’ll be able to do all this and much, much more, free or at a reduced price, with the Barcelona Card.
With just one card you’ll be able to travel free on the metro, buses, Catalan railways (FFGC), trams and even on the airport train. You’ll save time and money as you can also take advantage of free admission to, or discounts at, Barcelona’s most important museums and many places of interest, leisure attractions, nightclubs, shops, restaurants, on visits and tours, entertainments, unique means of transport and other services.
Holland America Cruise Line We went on the Holland America Mediterranean Cruise and stopped at the Port of Barcelona, and had an amazing day in this city!
TRAVEL PRODUCTS & SERVICES
DK Travel: Excellent travel guide books with helpful maps, inspiring images, and lots of great information to help you plan your travels.
TravelPro: High quality luggage, preferred by flight crews, frequent travelers, and the Global Adventuress Team.
TRAVEL INFORMATION & ADVISORIES
U.S. Passports & International Travel: The U.S. Department of State provides helpful information at this site including passport & visa requirements, embassy locations, and safety & security.