With beaches easily accessible by public transit, bustling bars and restaurants serving up exquisite tapas, and delicious wines, Barcelona should be on every to-visit list this year. We’ve rounded up 10 essential things you must do on a Barcelona vacation. From tasty bites, to enthralling shows, and of course, breathtaking heritage landmarks, these are the unmissable things to do in Barcelona to add to your itinerary.
Enjoy a feast of tapas and wine
Tapas are small savory dishes, like appetizers or snacks, served at Spanish bars and restaurants. Tapas can be hot or cold and will usually run you about US$3 a dish. Head to any joint and dine on a Spanish omelette or patatas bravas and patatas alioli- fried potatoes covered in sauce. And if that isn’t making your mouth water yet, you can also order cured meats, decadent cheeses and flavorful olives alongside calamari, mussels, and croquettes. Grab a glass (or two, or three) of Spanish wine to go with your tapas and feast the night away! We recommend a Barcelona tapas and wine walking tour, like this, to not only get a feel for the Barcelona culture and city, but to taste and sample delicious bites.
Catch a flamenco show
Ready to get your groove on? Head to a Barcelona bar and take in a flamenco dance show. Enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine, some tapas, and watch as professional dancers perform the lively, enthralling dance. The flamenco is a high-energy Spanish dance with intricate footwork and body movements along with hand clapping. The traditional dance dates back to 1774 and in 2010, UNESCO even declared the folklore dance one of the ‘Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’.
Take a day trip to Catalunya wineries
Another thing to do in Barcelona is visit the Penedes wine region on a day trip from Barcelona to visit Catalonia’s impressive (and tasty) wineries. Learn about how grapes are grown and how wine is produced in Spain before getting to the good stuff- the wine tasting! We suggest this tour that brings you to three wineries: Bodegues Jean Leon in central Penedes, Bodegues Torres, then Caves Freixenet where you can sample cava. Wine and cava are integral to Barcelona’s heritage, food scene and culture; experience it first-hand for yourself while sipping delectable beverages and savoring local fare.
Take in the modernist style of Casa Batllo
Once your belly is full, it’s time to take in some of the important Barcelona sights. One of the things to do in Barcelona is to check out Casa Batlló in the city center. The magical building was designed by famed architect Antoni Gaudí. Barcelona-natives called the building ‘Casa dels ossos’ (House of Bones in English) for the skeletal look. The rounded windows and colorful mosaic tiles define this Art Nouveau house. Grab tour tickets to see this stunning jewel of the Modernisme architecture in person. Explore Casa Batlló at your own pace while you learn about Gaudí’s extravagant approach to architecture, art, and design, and discover surprising details in every nook and cranny.
Admire the architecture of Santa Maria del Mar
Built in the 14th century, Basilica Santa Maria del Mar is a prime example of Gothic, Catalan architecture. The impressiveness of the church’s height is highlighted by the stained glass windows. The basilica is steeped in history, be sure to look out for the city’s coat of arms on the keystone closest to the front door, which was placed in 1383. The building was primarily funded by local people and over the years, it has been the subject of destruction and turmoil. On July 19th 1936, Santa Maria del Mar was set on fire and burned for eleven days straight!
Explore the Basilica Sagrada Familia on a tour
The Sagrada Familia Basilica is an unfinished Catholic church, also designed by Antoni Gaudí. Work started on the church in 1882 and to this day, the work continues. The church, a combination of Gothic and Art Nouveau styles, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in November 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and proclaimed it a minor basilica. The intricate facade is a must-see, construction is not yet completed but the church will have three grand façades: the Nativity façade, the Passion façade, and the Glory façade. The figures are done in Gaudi’s trademark style. Get tickets for a tour of Basilica Sagrada Familia and discover this striking work-in-progress before walking through the inspiring interior.
Shop ‘til you drop on Barcelona shopping streets and markets
Looking for something to do in Barcelona and need a break from the history lesson? Pick up Barcelona souvenirs for friends and family back home at either of the main Barcelona shopping streets or in one of the Barcelona markets. For cheap shopping, make your way to Portal del Angel. Starting at Plaça de Catalunya, the street is 250 meters long; you can find shopping chains like Pull and Bear, Zara, H&M, or Mango. If you’re splurging, go to Passeig de Gracia. As you shop along the streets, you’ll find designer stores like Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, and Gucci.
If you want to pick up some authentic Barcelona souvenirs, adventure to one of Barcelona’s local markets. Mercat de la Boqueria is the most popular and tourist-friendly market. Grab fresh produce and be on the lookout for Spanish cheeses, decadent Catalan sauces, and cava wine. Operation hours: Mon – Sat 8:00 a.m.- 8:30 p.m., closed Sun.
Or, opt for a trip to Mercat de Sant Antoni, containing 235 stalls! Not only can you find delicious local foods here as well, but on Sundays, though the market is closed, there is a book market outside on Urgell Street. On the hunt for something unique to remember your Barcelona vacation? Keep your eyes peeled for ceramics, porcelain and jewelry- all locally made artisanal crafts. Operation hours: Mon – Sat 8:00 a.m.- 8:00 p.m., closed Sun.
Lastly, Mercat de Santa Caterina has an enthralling, lively atmosphere and is well known for its distinctive, colorful, curvy roof. Shop the busy stalls with fresh fruits and veggies and pick up cheeses and meats for a tasty meal. Operation hours: Mon 7:30 a.m – 3:30 p.m., Tue 7:30 a.m – 8:30 p.m., Wed 7:30 a.m – 3:30 p.m., Thu – Fri 7:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m., Sat 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., closed Sun.
Bask in the sun at the beaches
Barcelona is home to a number of sandy beaches with a side of refreshing blue water. If you’re looking for something relaxing to do in Barcelona, we suggest hitting up any one of the beaches, grabbing some street food at a stall and enjoying the rolling waves.
Barceloneta Beach is a popular tourist destination; the convenient location, with nearby restaurants and entertainment, always draws crowds. Take a dip in the cool water, unwind on the beach, or try your hand at water sports like windsurfing. You can easily take the metro to the beach and disembark at Barceloneta stop on the yellow line, L4.
Nova Icaria Beach
If you want a calmer beach environment, take the L4 yellow line to Ciutadella-Vila Olímpica to Nova Icaria Beach. It’s close to Port Olímpic as well as restaurants and bars. It’s a good spot for families and groups of friends- with facilities for beach volleyball and table tennis, it’s a fun and relaxing way to spend the day in Barcelona.
Bogatell Beach is very safe, though smaller than the main touristy beaches. The beach was created for the 1992 Olympic Games and beach-goers can play ping pong or volleyball. The beach is located by the Poblenou neighborhood and features nearby eateries.
Check out the Game of Thrones filming sites IRL
From Barcelona, venture out on a day tour of Girona, an idyllic location that doubled at the city of Braavos in Game of Thrones. Wander around the maze of narrow alleys and cobblestone streets and check out the Onyar River that flows through the city. Braavos, in Game of Thrones, is inspired by Venice and this quaint city does a great imitation. Stop at Girona Cathedral during your day tour and climb up appreciate the sweeping views. Pass by the brightly-colored houses and step back in time while you adventure around the historic Jewish Quarter.
Visit the Barcelona museums
With such a rich history and buildings that go back hundreds of years, it’s no surprise that one of the best things to do in Barcelona is visit the numerous museums. Make your way to Picasso Museum, and work your way through the 4,251 Picasso works that make up the permanent collection. See how his style and work changed throughout the ages and gain insight into his relationship with Barcelona.
Single admission: €12
Tuesday – Sunday: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Thursdays: 9:00 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Sundays from 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. or anytime on the first Sunday of each month, admission is free!
Understand the history of Barcelona and the people with a trip to the Barcelona City History Museum. From the Roman colonies, to the medieval ages and the Gothic architecture and from the turbulent, creative Barcelona of the early 20th century to the city of the Olympic Games. The museum brings together an extensive collection of more than 35,200 objects from Barcelona’s past. Operating hours can be found here.
Single admission: €7
Explore the city of Barcelona and take in every aspect of the city. See the beaches and lush gardens and appreciate the architecture before splurging on a few souvenirs! Delve into the culture and story of Barcelona with our list of 10 essential must-do activities for your Barcelona itinerary.