Barcelona is known for its beauty, food and architecture. After visiting for a few days, it did not disappoint. Just know that knowing Catalan comes in handier than speaking Spanish. English is spoken almost everywhere and most restaurants even offer menus in different languages.
Depending on your traveling style and the season, you don’t have to preplan every second that you will spend in Barcelona. There is one notable exception: Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia tickets tend to sell out, especially during peak season. Unless you want a special tour, simply buy online before your trip. I also recommend booking your top dining choices because the most popular restaurants can be booked weeks ahead during the summer. In Europe, the free site and app The Fork can be very helpful when securing dining reservations even at the last minute.
Aside from walking down La Rambla, having churros with thick chocolate, shopping and enjoying the beach, there is so much to do. Here are a few of my recommendations of what you must do in Barcelona.
Top things to do in Barcelona
- Explore the city with a Segway tour: do this your first day so you learn where everything is while seeing Barcelona’s highlights. Some tours will take you through different neighborhoods, from El Parc de Triompf to Barceloneta, including the Parc de la Ciutadella, Gothic Quarter and the Olympic Village at Poblenou. It’s so much fun! We booked our Barcelona Segway Tour through Viator and our guide Montse was amazing. If traveling with kids, make sure they meet the age and weight requirements.
- Eat tapas: for us, the best were at Cerveseria Catalana, which does not take reservations but is totally worth the wait. You should order a variety of savory and sweet dishes to share so you can get a taste of delicious Catalan cuisine, like the tortilla de patatas, pernil, gambas and pan con tomate. The Crema Catalana (similar to a creme brulée) was superb!
- Go to La Boqueria market, also known as Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, and try all its fresh offerings, from fruit to Serrano ham. Enjoy charcuterie with a glass of wine or fresh fruit juices. It gets very busy and crowded, so just be patient.
- Admire Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia church: still under construction after over 100 years but incredible magnificent. Even my teens were blown away by this masterpiece. Get your tickets in advance and be prepared to stand in line for at least 15 minutes even with prepaid tickets. I recommend you visit the towers as well, unless you have mobility issues or get dizzy easily. Going down the winding stairs would be a problem in that case. Other Gaudi masterpieces to admire if you’re into architecture: la Pedrera (or Casa Mila), Casa Batlló and Parc Güell. In general, buying tickets online will save you time.
- Go to Montjuic: explore this hill overlooking Barcelona either by cable-car (funicular) or by taxi. The views are magnificent. Walk around the castle and explore. While you’re there, have a meal at Terraza Martinez, which is delicious and gives you a panoramic view of Barcelona.
- Go to Barceloneta, relax by the beach, and eat. Pez Vela Chiringuito is famous for its terrace, paella and ambiance. However, I found it a bit overhyped and the service was slow. It was fun and the views at sunset were gorgeous. If you want to eat a Michelin-star meal, go to La Barra de Carles Abellan, located inside the W hotel. The service, fish and seafood were outstanding.
- Soccer fans shouldn’t miss Camp Nou, the Barca’s training facilities. A gigantic trophy room audio tour is included in your ticket. You can even take a photo with Messi, FC Barcelona’s star, thanks to a magical green screen. You can also have a virtual reality experience at an extra cost.
- Watch your wallet and handbags. This is something you MUST do, even if it’s not fun. Unfortunately, pickpockets abound in Barcelona and too many people I know have been robbed. Keep your handbag closed and in front of you at all times, be careful with backpacks, and keep your wallet protected and NEVER in your back pocket. I used a stylish fanny pack and it was the best decision.
If you’re staying longer in the area, I also recommend a day trip to Montserrat, where there is a famous monastery and you can enjoy stunning views. The mountains are so unique that they inspired Gaudi’s architecture. You might also want to explore the Costa Brava or even go to Dali’s house-museum in Cadaqués. Regardless, visiting Barcelona is a treat in itself. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
For more travel tips, check out my other posts.
Photos: Jeannette Kaplun