City and sea, art and architecture, tapas and culture… the vibrant Barcelona is an amazing city break option with lots of must see sights and things to do. We adored wandering the Barcelona streets, sampling its top sights and embracing the lively energy of the city before taking some amazing day trips to its surrounding monasteries, UNESCOs and an ancient Roman town ! Here’s our tips for sightseeing and our guide to its must see sights, perfect for a two or three day stop in Barcelona. Enjoy!
1 | Park Guell
Park Guell is one of the most stunning parks on the planet and is just one of the many gifts left by Gaudi to the city of Barcelona. A labour of love for Gaudi, the colourful mosaics of Park Guell are a feast for the eyes and the views of Barcelona are an added bonus. We spent hours wandering around the vibrant park and loved every second! For more Gaudi check our guide to the 9 best Gaudi Sights in Barcelona!
Barcelona sightseeing tip: Only 400 tickets are available in every half hour slot and it sells out well in advance so we recommend pre booking tickets. Early morning is our favourite time to visit.
2 | Get your food fix at Santa Caterina Market
Pay a visit to Barcelona’s Santa Caterina’s market to rub shoulders with the locals and sample some delicious food. We grabbed some freshly cooked tapas at the lively onsite restaurant, Cuines Santa Caterina, which serves up delicious Catalan favourites all day.
3 | Wander along La Rambla
Street artists, locals and tourists embrace this lively area of Barcelona and La Rambla is packed with energy and people. The pedestrian tree lined street never sleeps and a is a tourist must see in Barcelona.
Barcelona sightseeing tip: La Rambla is the tourist epicentre of Barcelona and is a haven for scams and pickpockets. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings and mind your belongings.
4 | Hospital de la Santa Creu i de Sant Pau (UNESCO)
5 | Sagrada Familia (UNESCO)
Sagrada Familia is symbolic of both Gaudi and Barcelona and stands as his most elaborate and extravagant work in the city. One of Barcelona’s most iconic landmarks, the spires of the cathedral dominate the skyline and his work on the exterior invokes furious debate: some consider the building gaudy and over the top while, to others, the intricate detail is a masterpiece.
For more Gaudi check our guide to the 9 best Gaudi Sights in Barcelona!
Barcelona sightseeing tip: Sagrada Familia is one of the most popular sights in Barcelona and often sells out. Book tickets in advance to avoid disappointment. It’s possible to travel to the top of two of the towers for an additional fee: the reward is panoramic views of Barcelona.
6 | Santa Maria del Mar Church
The Church of Santa Maria del Mar is an imposing medieval church dedicated to people who work at sea. The church is tucked into the narrow streets of the Ribera district and its location belies its dramatic and colourful interior.
7 | Palace of Catalan Music
The Palace of Catalan Music is an ornate music hall in Barcelona’s Ribera district. The intricate design is a masterpiece of architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner and was built in the early 20th century.
8 | Take in the sights of the Gothic Quarter
The cobbled streets of the Gothic Quarter sit at the centre of the old city of Barcelona and are home to some iconic historical moments: the Columbus monument was constructed in honour of Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas, the area where Picasso lived and worked and an old Hemingway drinking haunt.
9 | Tapas
All the sightseeing and walking left us eager for some good food and tapas top the menu in Barcelona. We sampled a lot of tapas during our visit and fell in love with the equally delicious patatas bravas and Spanish broken egg dishes!
10 | Picasso Museum
With over 4,000 Picasso works the Picasso museum in Barcelona houses one of the most extensive collections of his paintings. Science and Charity and The Mad are our two personal favourites from this must visit museum.
11 | Church of Colònia Güell (Gaudi’s Crypt)
Situated on the outskirts of Barcelona Gaudi’s crypt was one of the highlights of our Gaudi adventures. The unfinished church is the culmination of all Gaudi’s signature styles crammed into one building. During most of our visit we were the only people there and it was such a treat: it’s not every day we have a Gaudi work all to ourselves!
Barcelona sightseeing tip: Although Gaudi’s crypt is located on the outskirts of Barcelona we highly recommend visiting. It was one of our favourite Gaudi sights.
12 | Mount Tibidabo
For the best view of Barcelona make you’re way to the top of Mount Tibidabo, a mountain overlooking Barcelona. The Cathedral dominates the Barcelona skyline and its exterior is even more magnificent up close. Standing atop Tibidabo was one of our favourite views of Barcelona!
13 | Casa Mila
Another Gaudi! Known as the stone quarry due to its resemblance to the facade of an open quarry, Casa Mila was the last work designed by Gaudi before he committed himself to the Sagrada Familia. The building is a fairytale of shapes and colours and the chimneys are as quirky as they are beautiful. Another Gaudi must visit in Barcelona!
Barcelona sightseeing tip: Casa Mila hosts a light show in the evening with music and dancing lights bringing the building to life.
14 | Barcelona Cathedral: Cathedral de Saint Eulalia
The long queues reflect the beauty of the Gothic Barcelona Cathedral. The Cathedral is aptly situated in Barcelona’s Gothic quarter and is dedicated to Santa Eulalia martyr, the patron saint of Barcelona who is buried under the altar in the cathedral.
Barcelona sightseeing tip: The cathedral is a place of worship so it’s appropriate to cover up when visiting.
15 | Catch some rays at the beach
Fancy feeling some sand between your toes in Barcelona? The coastline stretches for 4.5km and is home to some excellent beaches.
16 | Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo is like a scene from a Doctor Seuss book: the funky themed rooms, bright colours and dramatic curving architecture make Casa Battlo a truly unique building. The colours are fantastic and Gaudi’s vision for the building is brought to life via a very clever Virtual Reality app which guides visitors through the house.
Barcelona sightseeing tip: Of all the Gaudi buildings in Barcelona we’d really recommend paying the entrance fee into Casa Battlo. It’s expensive at €30 per person but we thought it was worth it for the experience. Like the Sagrada de Familia you can book tickets for Casa Batllo in advance which will save a lot of time queuing.
17 | Wine and people watching
Two of our favourite Barcelona activities: indulging in some people watching while drinking some delicious Spanish wine!
Perfect Day Trips from Barcelona
If you venture outside the city these are some of our favourite day trips from Barcelona!
18 | Montserrat
Less than an hour north west of the city, the Benedictine monastery of Montserrat is one of Barcelona’s most popular day trips. The monastery is situated on a rocky mountainside and the views of Montserrat are equally as compelling as the views from the famous site.
Barcelona sightseeing tip: Montserrat is home to the statue of the Black Madonna, the patron saint of Catalonia. Leave plenty of time to visit the statue which sits above the high altar in the basilica as queues snake around the building.
19 | Poblet Monestary (UNESCO)
Poblet Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the most beautiful monasteries in the region. The Cistercian Abbey was established in the 12th Century and the monastery is home to magnificent cloisters, royal tombs and a church. .
20 | Tarragono (UNESCO)
The port city of Tarragono hosts a feast of ancient Roman ruins: an amphitheater, temples and the traces of a Roman forum are still visible today. It’s seaside location is idyllic.
Where to stay in Barcelona
Barcelona has lots of hotel options across the city. For some luxury we love the Autograph Cotton House hotel with it’s boutique style, beautiful breakfast and the tiny outdoor area overlooking the city’s rooftops. The Hotel Jazz is another great option just two minutes from Las Ramblas.