From it’s incredible architecture to its long golden sand beaches, Barcelona is a vibrant city bursting with charm and diversity.
Labelled one of the top ten most visited cities in the world, it definitely won me over. I’d even go as far as saying it’s now taken the top spot on my list of all-time favourite European cities.
But what makes Barcelona so special?
Although it is a part of mainland Spain, the city is also the capital of the Catalonia region, an autonomous area with a very proud history and distinctive culture. It has a completely different vibe to other places I have visited in Spain, and one that instantly draws you in.
With so much to see and do it is impossible to get bored. But where to start? If you only have a short amount of time in the city, then check out my Barcelona Bucket List for all the main highlights…
Top up the tan on its golden beaches
With over four kilometres of pristine Mediterranean beaches, Barcelona is known for having one of the best city beaches in the world. The long golden stretch of Barceloneta Beach is probably the most popular, but expect huge crowds if visiting on a hot summer’s day. Lined with a palm tree-fringed boardwalk for great coastal walks, it almost reminds me of what I’d imagine Miami to be like.
Top tip – If you have time on your trip I can also recommend a day trip to Sitges – a beautiful coastal town that is a popular attraction among the locals!
Be amazed by La Sagrada Familia
Barcelona’s architecture is almost synonymous with Antoni Gaudi’s name, and perhaps one of the city’s best-known landmarks is La Sagrada Familia. Gaudi’s masterpiece really is a sight to behold and is easily one of the most impressive pieces of architecture I’ve seen in Europe…maybe even the world. Due to be fully completed in 2026 (marking the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death) I can’t wait to return and see it in all its glory.
Top tip – Don’t skip a tour of the inside, and book your visitor slot online the night before to avoid long queues. Also book a ticket which includes going up one of the towers – the views are well worth it!
Discover your inner-child at Park Güell
Another real gem from Gaudi, this park literally looks like a fairytale candy-land and was one of my favourite places to visit in Barcelona (despite getting caught in a torrential thunderstorm!). Park Güell is filled with an array of colourful mosaic tiles that bring the whole park to life and it’s also a fantastic spot for great views of the city. If you’re anything like me, you’ll leave feeling fascinated (and perplexed) by how one man’s mind could conceive such crazy yet beautiful buildings.
Top tip – Again, if you want full entrance to the park (which I completely recommend for the best views) it’s worth booking a visitor slot online the day before you go.
Stroll the boulevard of Las Ramblas
The most famous street in Barcelona, Las Ramblas is a pedestrianised boulevard that runs along the edge of the old part of the city, stretching from the lively Plaça de Catalunya down to the harbour. Bursting with heaps of shops, bars, restaurants, market stalls and street traders, it’s a great place to while away a few hours soaking up the vibrant atmosphere of the city.
Top tip – Personally I didn’t experience any problems, but pick-pocketing isn’t unheard of in Las Ramblas, so keep your valuables safe.
Escape to the mountains of Montserrat
Get away from the city and head to the magical mountains of Montserrat. It’s hard to believe that such jaw-dropping natural beauty lies so close to the city, but what makes this place even more special is the monastery that hides away peacefully at the top of the mountains. Top this with its unusual and unique rock formations, it really does offer some inviting scenery and awesome photo opportunities.
Top tip – Montserrat is located approximately 60km from Barcelona and can be easily reached by getting the train or bus, or booking a guided tour.
Eat and drink like a Catalan
While the late eating hours might be hard to get used to at first (typically dinner is between 9pm and 11pm), the Catalan people love their food and no trip to Barcelona is complete without sampling some Spanish Tapas. Some of the best tapas are croquettes, potatas bravas, empanadas and jamon iberico. But no matter what you order, it’s bound to be delicious. And when you get thirsty, you can’t go wrong with ordering a tall jug of Sangria or locally produced Cava.
Top tip – Eat fresh tapas in a bar near Barceloneta (I can totally recommend Jai-Ca)
Explore the Passeig de Gràcia
The street of modernism contains some of Barcelona’s most famous and interesting buildings from the modernist era, including Gaudi’s Casa Batlló and La Pedrera (which are well worth a visit if you have time). Many of Barcelona’s most exclusive shops are also located along and around the Passeig de Gràcia – perfect if you want to enjoy some spontaneous shopping while sightseeing!
Top tip – There are options to visit La Pedrera at night, which I hear is a must. Also make sure you head to the roof terrace awesome views of La Sagrada Familia.
You can head up to Montjuïc for more amazing views of the city, but make sure you stick around for The Magical Fountain – a choreographed light and water show with music. A popular activity among the locals, it’s definitely something fun to do after the sun goes down and before a night of sampling the city’s nightlife.
Top tip – Check online for dates and times of the show.
With it’s laid back vibes and plethora of fun and varied activities on offer, it’s easy to see why Barcelona pulls visitors back time and time again. Whether you’re a city break goer or a beach lover, a holiday in Barcelona promises to have something for everyone. Personally I can’t wait to go back and enjoy the slow-paced way of life that the Catalonians seem to have perfected so well.
Have you ever visited the enchanting city of Barcelona? What would you add to your bucket list?
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