I often get questions from friends and family on what to do in Barcelona, What’s worth it, what to spend time on, where to go- So, as I near the 1 year mark of discovering Barcelona, I thought I would share my top 5 (and an additional bonus!) recommendations for things you must do/places you must visit when you’re in the city! Hopefully my experiences save you a lot of time and effort, or at the least give you more information on all the amazingness this city has to offer!
1. Explore the Gotico neighbourhood: one of the most historic and oldest neighbourhoods in Barcelona.
Think Roman times meets Medieval times infused with all of the Spanish and Catalan culture! It’s one of the most touristic areas in the city, with bustling narrow streets, coffee shops tucked away in hidden corners, tourist-filled bars, and lots of shopping! Make sure to look around at the amazing architecture that still stands to this day! Its one of those areas that you can never get tired of. I guarantee you’ll find something new every time you visit which is why it tops my list of things to do in Barcelona!
2. Grab a coffee and enjoy the view from across Sagrada Familia:
It’s one of Barcelona’s most iconic structures, so why not enjoy the view from across the pond! If you haven’t walked around all the sides of the church, I recommend you do so, and find the pond that is right across and has the most beautiful view of the church! Also, I don’t think I need to say this, but go INSIDE the church. It doesn’t matter what your faith is or what your belief is, this church is one to see. The beautiful interior is a master art piece by itself. The colour, the structures, the shapes… all so amazing – you wouldn’t want to miss it!
3. Enjoy the many festivals that happen around the different neighbourhoods:
I think there are more festivals in Barcelona than I can even count – literally every month has a different kind of festival! The best way to immerse yourself in Spanish and Catalan culture in Barcelona is by attending and getting involved in these festivals. From neighbourhood organized events to beach fireworks – there’s always something happening in some part of the city! Love this travel guide/blog for a list of all the festivals in Barcelona: https://www.barcelona-life.com/barcelona/festivals#barcelona
4. Walk to Parc de Ciutadella through Arco de Triunfo:
When you see bubbles in the air, you know its summer time in Barcelona! Although the park and the Arc are both accessible in the winter, and probably a little less crowded, the summer time is full of energy and bustling vibes – and lots of kids running around bubbles! The vibe is actually infectious, and life doesn’t get any brighter and happier than when you’re walking along the Arc de Triunfo lane! A little fact for you on the arc: unlike the similar structures in other cities, this Arc is not a sign of the country’s military victory but intended to welcome people and built as the main gateway of the World Fair back in 1888.
Once you walk through the arc, along the long lane lined with palm trees and across the street, you walk straight into Parc de Ciutadella, which I describe as the Central Park of Barcelona except for the fact that its super close to all the main neighbourhoods in Barcelona, oh and the beach! It’s the perfect place to take a stroll through or have a picnic in!
5. Go up Tibidabo and enjoy the view- or some cotton candy!
I finally made it up Tibidabo over the weekend, and couldn’t love it more! “So what is Tibidabo?”, you ask? Well, have you noticed a statue or figure on top of a mountain that’s visible from most places in the city? Or the one that’s lit up at night with a lit Ferris wheel next to it? In other words, Tibidabo is a mountain overlooking Barcelona. On top of the mountain, there stands a church called Sagrat Cor church as well as an amusement park! The views are absolutely stunning, and it’s pretty easy to get to by either bus (there are a few buses directly from the city centre that go straight up) or the funicular, or by road. If you happen to ride a motto (scooter/motorbike) or happen to be traveling with someone who does, the drive up is breathtaking and will also give you a chance to stop at the many viewpoints along the road.
(Beach Lover’s Alternative) - a bonus!
For all you guys who’d rather hang out at the beach than walk around the city, this one’s for you!
6. Go spend time at the many Barcelona Beaches, my top three beaches in Barcelona (by distance) are:
Playa de Bogatell: closest to the city (after Barcelonetta) and easily accessible either by train, bus or even a bike. Because it’s so close to the city, it gets really really busy so you should be ready for a beach full of people in the summer. I recommend going in the mornings because there are less people and you get to enjoy the beach a little bit more than when it’s completely crowded.
Playa Castelldefels: you can easily get here with the local train in about 30 minutes from the city centre and during the summer, this beach gets packed so I recommend visiting in the mornings, or during the off seasons like October/November if its not too chilly.
Playa de Sitges: this town in itself is one of my fav places to visit! It’s the perfect spot for a day trip from Barcelona and only takes about 40-45 minutes. The same train that takes you to Castelldefels will take you to Sitges if you ride a few more stops! I highly recommend going here for the day – and spending some time along the beach – you won’t regret it!
So there you have it, those are my top picks! Hope you enjoy discovering Barcelona!