25 Things to See and Do in Barcelona in 2020
In recent years, Barcelona has become one of the most popular destinations in Europe. While 5 million people live in the city, more than 32 million travelers visit each year. (It is actually one of the worst cities in the world for over-tourism! Visit in low season!)
Despite the crowds, I love to visit Barcelona. Each visit makes me fall in love with her again and again.
It’s a city steeped in history, dating back to Roman times (be sure to visit the ruins beneath the city), you’ll find medieval structures everywhere, and Gaudi’s architecture from the 19th and 20th centuries will dot every neighborhood.
The food is amazing. Take an improvised tapas tour through La Barceloneta and eat, eat and eat.
Or take part in the famous nightlife that doesn’t even start until 2 a.m.
With delicious food, incredible history and architecture, perfect weather and a vibrant nightlife, Barcelona is a city that can keep everyone entertained.
It is one of the best cities in all of Spain. To help you make the most of your next visit, here are my 25 favorite things to see and do in Barcelona. They will give you an idea of the city, allow you to eat the best food and keep you away from the domineering crowd!
1. Take a free walking tour
I love the free walking tours. I think they are the best way to get to know a new city and I always try to take one each time I go to a new place. You can see the main sites, meet other travelers and chat with an expert local guide. My recommended walking tour agencies in Barcelona are:
2. Get lost in the Barri Gotic
The old Gothic quarter of Barcelona (Barri Gotic) is my favorite part of the city. The neighborhood is filled with narrow, winding streets and historic buildings that make you feel like you’ve gone back in time.
Although it is a bit touristy, for me it is the most beautiful area of the city. Spend a few hours getting lost in this neighborhood. You will not regret it!
3. Visit the Museum of the History of Barcelona
I have visited many museums in the city over the years, but Barcelona has one of the best. Opened in 1943, the museum houses more than 4,000 square meters of Roman ruins (located below the museum) that you can cross. There is also a free (and quite detailed) audio guide as well as meticulous explanations of the exhibitions. Even if you are not a history buff like me, you will get a lot from this museum. This will give you a much better idea of the city and its past (and the ruins are truly amazing!).
Plaça del Rei, +34 932 56 21 00, ajuntament.barcelona.cat/museuhistoria/ca. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (8 p.m. on Sunday). Entrance is 7 EUR per person.
4. See the Grand Royal Palace
Built in the 14th century, the Palau Reial Major was the home of the Counts of Barcelona. Located near the history museum, it then housed the kings of Aragon (the rulers who presided over the region) from 1035 to the 15th century (although most of the palace remains date from the 14th century). The palace includes a detailed history of the city and the region and is said to be where Christopher Columbus returned from his “discovery” trip to North America.
The Palace shares hours and entrance fees with the Museum of the History of Barcelona.
5. Admire Barcelona Cathedral
This Gothic cathedral was built in the 13th century. Officially known as the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, it was consecrated in 1339 and has two massive spiers which are over 53 meters high, colorful stained glass windows and incredible wooden sculptures inside from the ornate and spacious master bedroom.
If you want to enter (and you should), be sure to pay to visit the upper terraces as you will have an incredible view of the city.
Placita de la Seu 3, +34 933 428 262, catedralbcn.org. Tourist hours are daily from 12:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. weekdays (until 7:15 p.m. on weekends). For those who wish to worship, the cathedral is open every day from 8:30 am. Entrance is 7 EUR for tourists and free for the faithful.
6. Wander Park Güell
Park Güell is a magnificent 45-acre garden complex designed by world-renowned architect Antoni Gaudí. Dating from the early 1900s, it is one of many works by Gaudi in the city open to the public. Today, it’s a World Heritage site and a municipal garden that is free (you can access most of the park for free, although the interior sections charge entry).
The focal point of the park is the main terrace, which is surrounded by a long bench shaped like a sea snake. The park is right next to the famous La Sagrada Familia, so it’s easy to visit the two back to back. It is a beautiful and colorful park, but it is also very busy, so try to go there early or on weekdays when the crowd is thinner.
Carrer d’Olot, parkguell.barcelona/en. Open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entrance for the indoor section is 10 EUR per person. Guided tours are available for EUR 31 and children six and under are free. If you buy tickets, be sure to book them in advance as they sell out quickly.
7. See La Sagrada Família
The Sagrada Família is undoubtedly Gaudí’s most famous work – even if it is not yet finished (construction started in 1882 and should be completed in 2030). Gaudí was a devout Catholic and the church was his last project, the one he spent the last 10 years of his life on.
Like all of Gaudi’s works, the church (which was consecrated a minor basilica in 2010) mixes various themes and influences and is a mixture of Gothic and Art Nouveau styles.
While you can admire the church from the outside, I encourage you to explore the inside with an audio guide. It covers the entire history of the church and will give you an insightful overview of this unique (and massive) project.
If you can, try to visit between mid-morning and late afternoon to see the waterfall of the sun through all the stained glass windows.
Plaça de la Sagrada Familia, +34 932 080 414, sagradafamilia.org. Entrance is 20 EUR for a basic ticket and 26 EUR for a ticket with an audio guide. For an audioguide and access to the towers, tickets are 33 EUR. Book your tickets in advance as they will disappear quickly.
8. Explore La Boquería
The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (La Boquería for short) is a public market near La Rambla. The market has been located at this location for hundreds of years and is home to a delicious range of food stalls and restaurants.
As it is right next to La Rambla, it is very crowded, so try to get there early. There is a wide variety of seafood, including fish, shrimp, octopus and oysters, as well as nuts, candy, wine and tapas. It’s a cheap place to grab a snack while you explore the city.
9. Visit Casa Batlló and Casa Milà
Casa Batlló is one of Gaudi’s most eye-catching creations. Located in the Eixample district of Barcelona, he spent two years on this colorful project. Like much of his work, the design is strongly influenced by the Art Nouveau style. The facade was decorated with a mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles which he had recovered from the trash can of a neighboring glassworks, which made the building almost shine in the sun. The roof is vaulted and tiled and has been compared to the back of a dragon. It’s one of my favorite Gaudí buildings.
A few hundred meters from Casa Batlló is Casa Milà. Known as La Pedrera (“the stone quarry”), this building has a limestone facade (hence the nickname). Built from 1906 to 1910, Gaudi’s goal was to evoke the feeling of a snow-capped mountain. He also planned that Casa Milà be a spiritual symbol (he was after all a devout Catholic) and included many religious elements in the design, such as an extract from the prayer of the rosary along the ledge. It also included statues of Marie, Saint-Michel and Saint-Gabriel.
Casa Batlló: Passeig de Gràcia 43, +34 93 216 0306, casabatllo.es. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Entrance is 25 EUR online and 29 EUR at the door.
Casa Milà: Passeig de Gràcia 92, +34 93 214 2576, lapedrera.com. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Entrance is 24 EUR in advance and 27 EUR at the door (tickets include a free audio guide).
For more of Gaudi’s work, check out this article on exploring Gaudi’s Barcelona and get a walking tour itinerary for all of its buildings.
10. Visit the Picasso museum
It is the most complete collection of Pablo Picasso’s works in the world. Opened in 1963, the museum houses more than 4,000 works by Picasso. Although I am personally not a big fan of Picasso’s later work, it is always interesting to learn more about his life and work since he was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. If its style is unique and not for everyone, the museum is nevertheless worth a visit. It’s amazing how his art has changed and evolved over the course of his life.
Carrer Montcada 15-23, bcn.cat/museupicasso/en. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Entrance is 12 EUR per person, with free entry on Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and the first Sunday of the month.
11. Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA)
This museum has more than 5,000 works, including a large collection of pieces by Spanish artists such as Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso. There are also works by the Americans Andy Warhol and Alexander Calder. Personally, I’m not a big fan of modern art but if you are, be sure to add this to your itinerary!
Plaça dels Àngels 1, +34 934 12 08 10, open Wednesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (closed on Monday). Entrance is 11 EUR (free entry on Saturday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
12. Take a day trip to Monserrat
To escape the city for a day, go to Monserrat. It’s an hour by train and the city is next to a mountain range. It allows a fun escape from the bustling urban atmosphere of Barcelona. There are a lot of hiking trails here, but if you don’t want to hike, you can also take a cable car to the top to admire the view.
Be sure to visit the Monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat to see the famous Sanctuary of the Black Madonna. The monastery is built in the mountain and the statue of the Black Virgin is said to have been carved in Jerusalem during the early years of Christianity, although it probably dates from the 12th century.
If you are an art lover, visit the Montserrat Art Museum. He has works by Monet, Dali, Picasso and many other famous artists. And don’t forget to visit the local market (it’s on the way to the monastery). It’s a great place to buy local products like fresh produce, cheese, honey and crafts. And if you’re addicted to adrenaline, there are also tons of rock climbing to do here (solo or with a hired guide).
Train tickets for the one hour journey cost around EUR 20 (round trip).
13. Take a walk on La Rambla
It is the most popular (and busiest) street in the city. It is lined with trees and beautiful buildings and you can usually find many locals here too. The street took importance in the Middle Ages, and even if it is still the main tourist center of the city, I would avoid shopping or eating here (everything will be too expensive). That said, it’s still worth the detour. The street is just over 1 km long, so it won’t take long to admire the sights.
14. Hit the beach
If you’re looking to relax and enjoy the good weather in Barcelona, head to the beach. The town has a popular year-round beach called Barceloneta. It is long, wide and the water is ideal for swimming. There are also many good restaurants on the promenade. The beach is always occupied by tourists and locals, so move away from the center to reach quieter and cleaner sections. Two regions I would recommend are Sant Sebastià (to the south) and Somorrostro (to the north).
15. Watch flamenco
Flamenco is a traditional style of music and dance from Spain. It is a lively and expressive style known for its footwork and complex hand movements. If you are looking to attend a show, Barcelona has a few affordable places where you can watch a performance:
- Los Tarantos – It is the oldest flamenco venue in the city. Performances only last 30 minutes, so it’s a good place for an introduction.
- Palau Dalmases – One of the best things about flamenco shows here is the location. This palace has incredible decor and incredible architecture.
- Tablao Flamenco Cordobes – This show is ideally located on the main walkway of Barcelona, but it’s expensive.
- Tablao de Carmen – This show takes place in a replica of a Spanish village.
16. Get on the port cable car
The 1,450 meter long overhead tramway from the port with red cars connects Barceloneta and Montjuïc (a prominent hill). The 10-minute ride offers picturesque views of the entire city. You will see the port and the sea on one side and the city on the other. In addition, at the top of the 78-meter tower from Sant Sebastià (San Sebastián) to Barceloneta, there is a restaurant accessible by lift. If you want to hike instead, there are several different trails to the summit, most of which take around 3 hours.
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (9 p.m. in summer). Return tickets cost EUR 13.50 per person.
17. Explore the hill of Montjuïc
Whether you take the cable car, the bus, or the hike to the top of the hill, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy beyond sight. First, you can explore the Castell de Montjuïc. It is a large 18th-century fortress with roots dating back to the 17th century. It has picturesque gardens and offers breathtaking views of the city. Houses a museum with numerous military exhibitions. Admission is 5 EUR, but it is free on Sundays after 3 p.m. and on the first Sunday of the month.
You will also find the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya here, a museum of Catalan art. It mainly presents Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque works. The fountain in the front also has a spectacular free show.
In addition, don’t miss the Olympic Ring (the main area of the 1992 Olympic Games) and the Poble Espanyol, a replica of the village built-in 1929 to look like a real traditional Spanish village. It has more than 100 buildings, including an Andalusian quarter, a section of the Camino, a monastery and more!
Entrance is 12 EUR per person, with free entry on Saturdays after 3 p.m. and the first Sunday of the month..
18. Take a food tour or a cooking class
Like the rest of Spain, Barcelona is a very gourmet city. While you are here, I strongly recommend that you take a cooking class or a food tour (or both!). You will discover traditional Catalan cuisine, discover and taste fresh ingredients and stroll through the local markets. Some companies to check are:
19. Visit an old school amusement park
Built in 1899 and opened in 1901, the Tibidabo Barcelona is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. Located on a mountain in the Serra de Collserola, it offers incredible views of Barcelona and the coast in addition to its rides, games and restaurants. It’s a fun activity to do with the kids.
Plaça del Tibidabo, +34 932 11 79 42, tibidabo.cat. Hours vary by season. Go to the website for more details. Entrance if EUR 28.50.
20. Take a day trip to Girona
Girona is a medieval town just 100 km from Barcelona. It’s also one of my favorite destinations across the country. Here you can climb to the top of the city walls, stroll through the narrow alleys of the Jewish quarter and soak up the atmosphere in one of its many cafes.
Don’t miss Girona Cathedral and the Monastery of Saint Daniel and be sure to stroll across the Eiffel Bridge (a small bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel, the man who designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris).
There is a lot of history and delicious food in the city (be sure to stop by Rocambolesc for a gelato). They also filmed The iron Throne here too! The train journey takes around 80 minutes (half if you take the high-speed train). Tickets range from 10 to 40 EUR.
Check out this article for a longer list of things to see and do in Girona.
21. Watch a football game
The first “football” match I watched live was in Barcelona (I still have the jersey I bought that day). The two biggest teams in Barcelona are Espanyol and FC Barcelona and, if a match takes place, try to take one – it’s an amazing and noisy spectacle (the stadium of FC Barcelona accommodates around 100,000 people) ! Like most Europeans, Spaniards are obsessed with sports and tickets are generally quite affordable (they usually cost around 30 EUR). If you want to get a glimpse of local life (and make friends in the process), be sure to attend a game!
22. Admire free public art in Barcelona
While Spain is an affordable destination, it never hurts to find free activities! There is a lot to find around the city, including a huge fountain in the Ciutadella Park. It was designed by Gaudi and built in tribute to Neptune (the Roman god). Other quirky (and free) works by Gaudí include his lampposts in Plaça Reial and Pla de Palau, the Miralles gate and the Passeig wall by Manuel Girona.
The work of Joan Miró, originally from Barcelona, can also be found throughout the city. You can see her famous sculpture “Woman and Bird” at Joan Miró Park. There are also Miró mosaics on La Rambla and at the city’s airport.
23. Take a bike ride
Fat Tire Tours offers guided city tours – for as little as EUR 30 per person! Tours last 4 to 4.5 hours and are a great way to see the city if you don’t feel like a regular walking tour. They also offer half a dozen different tours and their groups are small, so it’s easy to meet people too!
24. Visit the Parc del Laberint d’Horta
The Horta Labyrinth Park was created in 1791 and is made up of various neoclassical and romantic gardens as well as a huge labyrinth of hedges (which gives the park its name). The labyrinth covers 750 meters while the rest of the park covers more than 135 acres. The labyrinth was created to reproduce the original Greek myth of the Minotaur in Crete and is actually much more difficult to complete than you might think!
Passeig dels Castanyers 1. Open every day from 10am until dusk (between 6pm and 8pm depending on the season). Entrance is 2.25 EUR.
25. Think outside the box
While there are tons of popular (and crowded) sites in Barcelona, there are also a lot of unusual and off the beaten track things to see and do in the city. If you’re looking to explore some of the city’s less crowded and stranger attractions, here are a few that are worth adding to your itinerary:
- The erotic museum – This small museum highlights the way sex has been seen through the ages, with works from medieval Europe and imperial Japan to the present day. There are paintings, drawings, artifacts, sculptures, etc. It’s one of the most unique museums in town! Entrance is 10 EUR.
- Bunkers of Carmel – These bunkers were built in 1938 during the Spanish Civil War. The bunkers have been left to the elements but they now offer an incredible view of the city. Try to visit for the sunrise.
- Chocolate museum – Chocolate arrived in Spain 500 years ago, a product of trade and conquest in South America. This museum sheds light on the history of chocolate and presents all kinds of tools, sculptures (made of chocolate) and works of art. Entrance is 4.30 EUR.
- Columns of the temple of Augustus – Nestled in the Gothic Quarter is a set of pillars over 2000 years old. Taken from the remains of an ancient Roman temple, these 30-foot columns have stood here since the 16th century. Free entry.
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Book your trip to Barcelona: logistics tips and tricks
Book your flight
Find a cheap flight using Skyscanner or Momondo. These are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the world, so you always know that no stone is left behind.
Book your accommodation
To find the best budget accommodation, use Booking.com as they constantly return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the most complete inventory. My favorite palaces to stay in Barcelona are:
Don’t forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft and cancellations. It is complete protection in the event of a problem. I never go on a trip without it because I have had to use it several times in the past. I have been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that provide the best service and value are:
Are you looking for the best companies to save money?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when traveling! I’m listing all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think it will help you too!
Need a guide?
Barcelona has some very nice guided tours from Gaudi. My favorite business to go with is Take Walks. Their “Complete Gaudí Tour” will offer you the best Gaudi tour in depth and behind the scenes.
Are you looking for more information about visiting Barcelona?
Check out my detailed destination guide to Barcelona with more tips on what to see, do, costs, ways to save and much more!