Barcelona is my favourite city to date.
It is located on the northeast coast of Spain and is the cosmopolitan and vibrant capital of the Spanish Catalonia region.
I have been twice now and both visits have been fabulous. I love the language, the rich culture, the beautiful scenery and stunning views from attractions all over the city, the relaxed lifestyle (and those siestas come afternoon) and of course, the cuisine!
Check out my list below for my favourite things to see and do in Barcelona. In a separate post, I will share my favourite eats in Barcelona, along with a recipe – stay tuned!
La Sagrada Família
From the age of 13, La Sagrada Familia has been at the top of my travel bucket list. If you are visiting Barcelona, then this is definite MUST do.
La Sagrada Familia is the famous basilica designed by the Catalan Spanish architect, Antonio Gaudi, and it is still in construction today, for some 135 years. The estimated completion year is 2026-2028 – wow!
Visiting this basilica was a dream. I was definitely star struck, like when you meet your favourite celebrity. It is MAGNIFICENT. And weirdly, beautiful. And wait till you see the basilica interior – I had a speechless moment. Gaudi wanted to convert the inside into a large forest, in which all the structures and roofs imitate trees (see below). Pretty amazing I think!
I highly recommended going up to the top of the basilica. There are two options – the Passion Towers or the Nativity Towers. We chose the Nativity Towers and while it was scary being so far up, the views were breathtaking! Note: You have to pre-book this option when purchasing your tickets online.
Afterwards, explore the museum area under the basilica, where you can also see Gaudi’s tomb in the crypt. And don’t leave without visiting the gift shop – I bought various bookmarks, calendars and a book about Gaudi’s architecture.
Interesting fact: The construction of La Sagrada Familia is not supported by the government, in fact money from tickets purchased by us and other tourists is used to pay for the on-going work, as well as private donations.
Location: Carrer de Mallorca, 401 (L’Eixample district)
[View from the Nativity Towers]
La Rambla + Plaça Reial + Mercat de la Boqueria
Stroll down the bustling La Rambla… yes it is touristy and people say to avoid it, but it is great for those who are after cheap souvenirs, like postcards, fridge magnets, fans (so hot!) and phone cases (I recently bought a really awesome Antonio Gaudi inspired one), then you have come to the right place.
Afterwards, head down all of the side streets off La Rambla, in particular to Plaça Reial (again, a busting square with a hive of activity – restaurants and people relaxing by the fountain) and also down to La Boqueria market for freshly made juices (try the Pitaya!), hanging jamon, or indulge in some tapas from the many surrounding bars.
Location: Paseo la Rambla, 31 (El Raval district)
Parc Güell is another famous site designed by Antonio Gaudi, with stunning architecture, and colourful mosaics, and it is where Gaudi lived for a period during his lifetime. Construction began in 1900, upon the request of Count Eusebi Guell.
I recommend spending a few hours at this amazing park – you will love the life-sized gingerbread like houses, the staircase with a mosaic dragon leading up to the terrace, the multi-coloured mosaic seats, exploring Gaudi’s house, climbing to the top of Turo de Tres Creus (Gaudi’s monument to the Cavalry) for some lovely views of Barcelona and views overlooking Parc Güell and exploring the surrounding pine-like forest (look out for the kiosk selling beer – very unexpected!)
Tip: Catch the bus to Parc Güell early in the morning (around 7am) to see the stunning sunrise views from the top. And don’t forget to book online!
Location: Carrer d’Olot, 5 (Gracia district)
Parc del Laberent d’Horta
I think Parc del Laberint d’Horta is Barcelona’s best kept secret.
We came across Parc del Laberint d’Horta while researching parks in Barcelona on Yelp, and I am so glad we did! This is an 18th century park and is Barcelona’s oldest garden. It was a great place to unwind from a few busy days sightseeing and shopping in Barcelona.
Parc del Laberint d’Horta is about an hour bus ride out of Barcelona, so I recommend taking a picnic (see note below) and spending the afternoon here. It will also give you enough time to explore the beautiful manicured gardens, bush, hidden walkways, watch the cute turtles in the ponds, admire the waterfall and of course, complete the maze! It reminded me so much of film The Secret Garden. And the best part was that there were very few people there on the day we visited. It truly is Barcelona’s best kept secret, in my opinion!
Note: You can only picnic outside the gardens, but there are a few picnic benches. There is also a small entrance fee of under 3 euros to get into the park.
Location: Carrer dels Germans Desvalls, 1 (Horta-Guinardó district)
There are two ways to get to the top of Montjuïc, a hill overlooking the whole of Barcelona. You can either take the cable car (this journey starts at Barcelona Port, takes you to two viewing platforms and then all the way to the top) OR you can walk up.
I highly recommend walking. You save on the cable car tickets, plus there is so much to see and explore on the way up, for example, the Olympic Stadium (home to the 1992 Olympics), the Montjuïc Municipal Pools (great to head here for a dip when in summer), wandering through the Montjuïc Gardens and right at the very top is the Castell de Montjuïc, a large 18th century fortress, with gardens and panoramic views of Barcelona (there is an entry fee of 3-5 euro).
Walking up is pretty tiring (especially in the hot summer sun), but it is great exercise, considering all the tapas eating you would have done/going to be doing!
Montjuïc also provides the best views of Barcelona. From the first viewing platform, you will see the harbour to one side, the city on the other, and famous attractions such as La Sagrada Familia, and also Tibidabo Mountain, which looks like a Disney-inspired castle (but is actually an amusement park).
La Barceloneta beach
Barcelona has over four kilometres of sandy beaches, with La Barceloneta being the most popular. I love that the water is so warm (even at 9am!) and I recommend spending the morning here. Afterwards, have lunch at BACOA for some burgers and beers and then walk/bike/roller blade along the promenade.
The only downside is that you will get asked (probably every few minutes) if you want to buy a massage, beach towel, mojito or souvenirs… just ignore these people!
Location: Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta, s/n (Barceloneta district)
On my most recent trip to Barcelona (Contiki Spanish Spree), some of us decided last minute to go to a futbol game. While it is not currently popular in New Zealand (rugby is our main sport), a lot of the Americans and Australians on our tour were keen to go to a game. I thought it would be an experience of a lifetime and it truly was!
Everyone was raving about seeing Lionel Messi too, #10, who is considered the top football player in the world. I had no idea who he was (:O), but it was lots of fun seeing him play!
The game was held at FC Barcelona’s home stadium, Camp Nou and while our seats were way up in the clouds, the views were still fantastic and the crowd atmosphere was nothing like I have ever seen before.
I recommend sharing a taxi or taking the Metro to the game (Camp Nou are L3 at Palau Reial or Les Corts and L5 at Collblanc or Badal).
Shop till you drop!
Shopping in Barcelona is great. And fun! There are so many shops to choose from, whether it be small boutiques, shops selling locally made gifts or high end designer shops. My favourites are located in the El Born district (the hippest area) and the Gothic Quarter. In particular:
My all-time favourite shop in Barcelona which sells clothing, gifts, jewellery, bags, homewares and shoes. On my trips, I have picked up a beautiful scarf for my Mum, a bag and necklace for myself, and a Barcelona notebook with cute illustrations on the front.
Favourite location: Carrer de l’Argenteria, 78 (in the Gothic Quarter)
Instagram / Website
Pictured below, OMG BCN comes as a very close second. This shop sells unique gifts, fashion and souvenirs, all designed and manufactured in Barcelona. I picked up a carry bag, which is illustrated with Barcelona’s top attractions.
Location: Placa de la Llana, 7 (in the El Born district)
Instagram / Website
A popular Spanish fashion brand. I love their colourful dresses, tops, scarves and bags.
Location: Rambla de Canaletes, 136 (in the Ciutat Vella district)
Head here for cute knick knacks, sunglasses, jandels, gifts, jewellery, and stick on body tattoos! On my first trip to Barcelona, I picked up a glasses case, body tattoos and a scarf.
Location: Various – check the website here for locations
I hope you enjoyed my travel and photo diary of Barcelona. I highly recommend a visit – it is an awesome city, with so many things to see and do. And now, I think it is time for a siesta…zzzzzz…