First things first, add Freddie Mercury’s classic duet with Montserrat Caballe to your playlist. The song, ‘Barcelona,’ is the perfect accompaniment when planning your trip to Spain’s second city.
Facing out on to the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona is the capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia. It boasts not one but two distinct official languages, Catalan and Spanish.
Home to some of Spain’s most iconic sites, get inspired with any of these great things to do in Barcelona.
A good place to start is to take a stroll through Las Ramblas. This is the wide, shady boulevard which runs through the heart of the city. It begins at the Plaça de Catalunya and ends in Port Vell.
As you amble under the shade of the leafy trees, you can take in a street performance or just sit and people-watch from one of the cafes and bars.
Food is a big part of Catalan culture. You can get a taste of local cuisine by exploring some of the city’s markets. La Boqueria is Europe’s biggest food market and it’s right in the middle of Las Ramblas.
It has several tapas bars and is a great place to stop off for a quick snack and a beer. End the route by taking in the panoramic views from the Columbus monument.
The City’s Beaches
The city’s beachfront boardwalk stretches for several miles. It takes about an hour to get from Barceloneta to Diagonal Mar on foot. It’s worth the walk though as it can help you to get a grasp of the city’s size.
The westernmost beaches like Sant Sebastià are busier. There are though lots of trendy shops and bars along the front. Once you’ve moved along the waterfront after the Olympic Port you’ll find it a little less crowded.
Each stretch of sand has its own character. Mar Bella is popular and has an unofficial nudist part to it. Families prefer the slightly less busy Nova Icària.
Barcelona’s iconic temple manages to inspire delight and dismay in equal measure. Antoni Gaudí spent more than forty years on the project. He is actually buried beneath the nave.
A lot of people consider the crypt and the Nativity façade, which were completed during his lifetime, as being the most beautiful elements of the church.
The strangest thing about the Sagrada Família project is that it has been happening at all. Problems have ranged from 1930s anarchists blowing up Gaudí’s detailed plans to a lack of funds.
The ongoing work is a matter of conjecture and controversy. The finishing date is expected to be somewhere within the region of twenty-five to thirty years.
Around five million tourists visit the Sagrada Família each year. When its spires are completed, it will be the tallest church in the world. It hardly though resembles any conventional religious structure you’ll have ever seen.
The facade of this building looks a little like the face of a quarry. Also known as La Pedrera, it was completed in 1912 and is another iconic Gaudí building.
The work is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was Gaudi’s last civic architectural project. The unique building reveals a lot about Gaudi’s boundless imagination.
You will be able to see the Warrior Rooftop with its spectacular stairwell covers and chimneys. There’s also the Whale Attic with the Gaudí exhibition.
The Tenants’ Apartment recreates the life of a middle-class family in Barcelona during the first third of the twentieth century.
You can continue your Gaudí experience with a visit to this garden complex on Carmel Hill. You’ll get amazing panoramic over Barcelona from the park’s main terrace.
There are also colonnades, fountains, and sculptures. They all bear Gaudi’s distinctive style.
The park is renowned for serpentine benches and their mosaics. These are in fact the work of another artist and architect called Josep Maria Jujol. His contribution to Gaudí’s work as well as the buildings he created have sometimes been overlooked.
Barcelona has to some extent become synonymous with Gaudi. Consider one of the tours of Barcelona on offer to further your understanding of this world-famous architect.
Santa Maria del Mar
The church of Santa Maria del Mar was built in the fourteenth century. It’s one of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals ever to have been built.
This church became the main building of what was at the time the new part of the city close to the sea. This is where merchants and ship-owners settled.
The church took fifty-five years to build. That might seem a long time but was an amazing achievement for the time. Most churches took longer than a century to build.
Spend Sundays at the Museums
A lot of the best museums in Barcelona offer free entry every Sunday after three o’ clock in the afternoon. The Picasso Museum is a great place to see many of his early works, with more than four thousand on display.
The artist originally came from the southern Spanish city of Málaga. He completed his apprenticeship in Barcelona as a young artist.
The Museum of History of Barcelona is a must-visit location for history lovers. It’s full of Roman ruins. There are also medieval landmarks and insights into Catalonia’s history.
You could also try the new Born Cultural Centre. It’s a nineteenth-century market with a cast-iron structure beneath. These are actually the ruins of the city before it was destroyed in a siege in the early 1700s.
The National Museum of Art of Catalonia is also free to visit on Sundays.
Lunch in Sitges
Sitges is a wonderful, little seaside town just twenty-five miles south of Barcelona. It’s a lively place but it’s also a great town to visit if you’re in need of a break from the city.
It’s easily reached by train in around half an hour from Barcelona Sants station. The town is full of chic boutiques and trendy bars.
There is a beautiful stretch of lawn in front of the sea to walk alongside. There are lovely beaches and the town has a laidback and Bohemian feel to it. Residents of Barcelona often use Sitges as a weekend getaway destination.
In the western Les Corts neighborhood, you’ll find this huge soccer stadium. It’s been the home ground of FC Barcelona since 1957. Even if you’re not into soccer, it’s worth a visit just to witness its incredible size.
There are tours available during which you can see memorabilia of one of the world’s most prestigious soccer teams. The tour is unavailable on or just before match days.
Mercat de Santa Caterina
This unpretentious market is where you will find an ample supply of jamón ibérico or Spanish cured ham. It was the city’s first-ever covered food market back in the nineteenth century.
The market was completely refurbished in 2005. It boasts a wonderful, undulating, rooftop. The market gives you a real taste of what the locals like to buy. You’ll be able to sample olives and a host of other Spanish delicacies.
Have a Drink or Two at a Cava Bar
There’s always a party going on in Barcelona. Start your evening with a visit to one of the city’s neighborhood cava bars or xampanyerias. These are where the locals meet to sip sparkling wine and munch on tapas.
Tasting some of the best dishes in the world should also top your list of things to do in Barcelona. The city continues to lead the way in cutting-edge, international cuisine.
There’s a huge variety of quality restaurants in the city. Twenty-two of these stand out above the rest. They have the honor of having received at least one Michelin star. A visit to any of them is going to be an unforgettable treat.
Remember the Spanish often like to eat out late. It’s not uncommon at all to have dinner well after eleven o’clock at night.
Catalan vermut is a fortified wine spiced with herbs. It’s a distant cousin of vermouth but fell out of fashion fifty years ago. It’s now making something of a comeback. Vermuterías have become some of the city’s trendiest drinking spots.
Vermut was traditionally drunk after Sunday mass and before a late lunch. Its revival has come with an extra ingredient. That is free live music for a wonderfully relaxed weekend afternoon.
You’ll find vermuts musicals all over the city on Sundays and often on Saturdays too in the district of Poble Sec. It’s just a ten-minute walk from Las Ramblas. Here there’s a mixture of old-fashioned bars and fashionable hangouts.
The crowds watching the acoustic performers often spill out on to the street. Poble Sec’s raucous festival runs for ten days in July.
Great Things to Do in Barcelona
Barcelona is a vibrant 24/7 modern city. There are so many wonderful things to do in Barcelona that you’ll be spoiled for choice. If you want to rent a car in Barcelona, don’t forget to get your international drivers permit for Spain.
Continue reading the travel section for more useful articles about places you and your family should visit.
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