Top 10 Things to Do in Barcelona
To get an insight into Barcelona and discover these 10 fascinating and some of the best places to visit. Barcelona, the vibrant capital of Catalonia, is a seaside city that reflects its complex history and beauty. Breathtaking scenery, unique architecture, and splendid cultural attractions make Barcelona a must-visit destination.
Top 10 Things to Do in Barcelona
1 ) Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) – the old yet unforgettable place!
Do you feel claustrophobic in a maze? Not to worry because you will love to be in Barri Gòtic. Barri Quarter is the center of the old city of Barcelona. Despite having undergone changes in the 19th and early 20th century, many of the buildings that were date from Medieval times, can still be seen in the quarter. Relics of ancient Roman buildings, the remains of the squared Roman Wall is still found around Tapineria and Sots-Tinent Navarro to the north. But the Middle Age periods are best represented by the historic monuments in this quarter. The medieval cathedral is one such building. It is in Monte Tabor, the highest place in the town center. This is the place where the Catholic Monarchs received Christopher Columbus back after his first voyage to the New World.
Wander around this traffic-free (although still open to service vehicles and taxis) part of the quarter and marvel how skillful people will back then to build such amazing buildings. The quarter is a captivating maze of narrow cobblestone streets and exposed passageways which extend into squares. Discover picturesque quiet squares, occasionally enlivened by the sounds of people chatting and laughing or the strumming of Spanish classical guitar. In these quaint courtyards you will come across many little cafés with sidewalk terraces. Browse inside little boutiques and museums or have a meal. The Gothic Quarter is a fun place for tourists to explore the alleyways. Who knows you may find a treasure or something interesting!
2 ) Park Güell – A park within a natural park– Kids have their Disneyland. How about giving the adults their own playground!
Park Güell is certainly one of the most famous public parks in Barcelona. The park was originally meant for a housing site but it was commercially unsuccessful. Eusebi Güell (after whom the park was named) having urbanization in mind, assigned Antoni Gaudí to create a fabulous forest with this park. As part of your private tour, spend some time in the park and be enchanted by it. You can’t help it but be dazzled by the vibrant colors and the shapes and curves of the structures in and around the park.
Park Güell is Gaudi’s private city where he transformed nature into colonnades, archways and covered galleries with well camouflaged artificial structures. The garden was carefully and originally landscaped to integrate maze of trails, courses, walls and bridges. Gaudi used ceramic tiles and twisted angle iron in his creation and turned the park into a fantasy place.
The park is a reflection of Gaudi’s artistic affluence by using his personal style through inspiration from organic shapes and geometry. Because of the complex iconography applied to this urban project, many experts have tried to link the park to the various symbols. Is Gaudi’s design a combination of political, religious, mythology, history and philosophy influences? The answer would be according to the individual’s perception of the structures itself!
Park Güell has multiple entrances. The most beautiful one is the main access from the Carrer d'Olot. Gaudi used multicolored mosaic and a dragon on the main entrance. He also designed two pavilions with cafes on both sides of the entrance. The buildings were very original and remarkable with fantastically shaped roofs and unusual pinnacles. They fit in well with the functions of the park and are camouflaged in the landscape.
The pivotal part of the park is the main terrace which is circumvented by a long bench in the shape of a sea serpent. The curves of the serpent bench created a number of private spaces for people to sit and to converse privately.
3 ) Las Rambla – A network of short streets
From a sewage-filled stream-bed, an important drain for the heavy rainwater during spring and autumn, to be a center of Barcelona city life, today Las Rambla is use for festivals, markets and sports. It is a 1.2 km tree-lined pedestrian mall which form the boundary between the quarters to the east and west. This wide street, consisting of pedestrian sidewalks, is lined with kiosks selling flowers, newspapers and souvenirs.
There are also streets traders, performers, outdoor cafés and bars thus making it one of the most popular hangouts in the city. During the day, it is crowded with locals out doing their everyday shopping for fruits, vegetables, and other foodstuffs. At night, you can see groups of friends and families take their evening paseo (stroll) on La Rambla to enjoy the fresh air and lively surroundings. Tourists often enjoy the ad hoc entertainment from street performances. Depending on the day, you just might be lucky to be treated to live music or a mime show!
La Rambla is connected to all the points in a compass. To the north is Plaça de Catalunya, a large square in central Barcelona. To the east is Barri Gotic, the center of the old city of Barcelona where small squares and street are connected to La Rambla. Plaça Reial is one of the larger lively squares with tall palm trees and street lamps.
To the west is the El Raval quarter, an original site for various religious and medical institutions. However, over time, this quarter became known for its nightlife and cabarets, prostitution and crime. To the south are the Christopher Columbus Monument and the Port Vell, the old port of Barcelona. This is the best place to get an aerial view of La Rambla, where you can see it stretches as far as your eyes can see.
The Spanish poet Federico García Lorca was quoted to have said that La Rambla was the only street in the world which he wishes would never end!
4 ) La Sagrada Família (Church of the Sacred Family) – Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece
This spectacular basilica is the most famous sight in Barcelona and one of Europe's most unconventional Roman Catholic churches. Because of its uniqueness, boldness and sheer size, some would say that you either like it or hate it! The Basilica de la Sagrada Familia is located in the northern part of the city, overshadow its surroundings with its 18 elongated towers rising skywards and towering all other monuments.
In 1883 Antoni Gaudí was commissioned to design this basilica as a neo-Gothic church. Instead of adhering to the specifications, he created his acclaimed example of his famous outlandish Art Nouveau architecture. Although Gaudí had originally estimated the completion of the building to be between ten and fifteen years, unfortunately it was not to be so. As a result, the main work by the famous Catalan architect remains incomplete, and nobody knows whether or when it will be completed. The faith of the basilica depends on whether there are enough funds to complete it! Anyway, each time you visit it, you will see something new because it is still under construction!
Join a private tour and you will be astonished by the grandness of the exterior. There are three façade to the building, the Nativity, Passion and Glory. The striking Nativity facade portrays the birth of Jesus. The expressive Passion facade depicts the stages of suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Not only is the exterior magnificent, the interior is equally stunning with an enormous area of 90 meters long by 60 meters high. The roof in the nave is supported by columns of various geometric shapes with irregular surfaces forming U-shapes. Looking up, these columns makes the ceiling seems to sparkle, and colorful stained-glass windows allow light to flow in. The nave ceiling features an unusual cross displayed as a canopy with lanterns. The overall effect of the building will leave you flabbergasted. Gaudí was able to capture the true essence of his architectural masterpiece which he described as "a work that is in the hands of God and the will of the people".
5 ) Casa Batlló - House of Bones
One of the most characteristic Modernist buildings and yet another one of Gaudí ‘s amazing creations, is the Casa Batlló. This is a remodeled of a previously built house. Now it is a renowned mansion in the center of Barcelona. It was designed as a private residence for the textile manufacturer Josep Batlló i Casanovas. Josep wanted a design of a house that was unique and like no other of its kind in the country. It must stand out as being bold, daring and creative. Knowing Gaudi’s good reputation, Josep and his wife were open-minded to any design and they decided to give Gaudí a free hand. Because the building has a visceral and skeletal organic quality, the locals called it Casa dels ossos (House of Bones).
You will notice that the exterior design is of waving shapes and ornamental façade. This fictitious building looks like a castle from a fairy tale story. The layout of the ground floor is unusual with irregular oval windows and flowing engraved stone work. Much of the façade is decorated with a colorful mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles. The arched roof looked like the back of a dragon or dinosaur.
What is Gaudi`s aim to add the arched roof? Does he believe in fairy tales and dragon from the medieval period? A common theory is that the rounded feature to the left from the center, represents the lance of the patron saint of Catalona, Saint George, which was plunged into the back of the dragon. Due to the famous dragon back design, the roof terrace is one of the most popular features of the entire house. Gaudí used different colored tiles on one side to represent the animal’s spine. Four chimneys were stacked on the roof in front of the dragon's spine arched roof.
Besides the exterior façade and the interesting roof, there are many fascinating details of this building. A private tour will show you the unusual Loft, Noble floor and Museum (the largest part of the building), the roof, tower and bulb (topped with a cross of four arms) and the central section. The balconies on the central section are used for raising and lowering furniture and they resemble the surface of a lake with water lilies!
6 ) Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia – 13 an unlucky number?
Going on a private tour to see the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia is a worthwhile decision. Also, known as Barcelona Cathedral, it is the most beautiful Gothic cathedral in Barcelona.
The cloister was completed in 1448. The roof is well-known for its gargoyles, featuring a range of animals, both domestic and mythical.
The cathedral is dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona, a co-patron saint of Barcelona. According to Catholic belief, she was a 13 year-age virgin who suffered martyrdom during persecution of Christians during Roman times. Story had it that she was subjected to 13 tortures until she was finally decapitated. Her body was hidden during the Moorish invasion until 1339, when it was relocated to an alabaster sarcophagus in the crypt of Cathedral of Santa Eulalia.
The church is about 83 meters long and 25 meters high. Be sure to look at the secluded Cloister with small chapels, gardens and fountains. You will find out that 13 white geese are kept there. The significant number could be explained by the affirmation that Eulalia was 13 when she was martyred. The cool cloisters are pleasant especially visiting on hot summer days. The view of the church at night is equally captivating, when the facade is illuminated.
Today, throughout Barcelona, Eulalia is commemorated with statues and street names. For a week around her feast day on February 12, the people celebrate the festival of Saint Eulalia.
7 ) Picasso Museum (Museu Picasso) – For art lovers
I bet you won't be able to pronounced or remember this name Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso! Good for us, he is no stranger to us. We called him Pablo Picasso. The world's most famous and influential artist, Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga in the south of Spain. However, in his youth he lived in Barcelona with his family. At a very young age, he demonstrated extraordinary artistic talent, painting in a naturalistic way throughout his childhood and adolescence.
Located in the gothic Palau Aguilar, it houses his works that focuses on his life long work. The young Pablo Picasso had already started art studies in Malaga, but Barcelona played a major role in influencing him in his early years as a struggling painter.
The Picasso museum in Barcelona is unique and has 4000 of his works. For easy viewing, all his paintings are arranged in chronological order from his earliest works to his last work. By this arrangement, you can get a fascinating insight into the progress and development of Picasso’s artistic skills.
At the beginning of the 20th century, there was a major change in his style. During this period, he experimented with different ideas, theories, and techniques using colors, elements and textures. This was probably due to the political changes at home and abroad and his visits to other countries all of which influence his artworks.
8 ) La Pedrera (Casa Mila) – An ornate building
Casa Mila is also known as "La Pedrera", meaning "The Quarry". Located at the corner of Passeig de Gràcia, this is one of the modernist buildings in Barcelona and the last work and design of the famous architect Antoni Gaudí.
The married couple Roser Segimon (the wealthy widow of Josep Guardiola) and Pere Milà commissioned the building of Casa Milà. After the death of her wealthy husband, she married her second husband, Pere Milà. He was a developer criticized for his extravagant lifestyle so much so the common joke among the residents of Barcelona is whether he loves the "Guardiola widow’s" money more than the "Guardiola’s widow" herself!
Because of its unusual waving stone facade and twisting wrought iron balconies and windows designed by Josep Maria Jujol, the building was a subject of controversial at that time. The structural innovations include self-supporting stone façade acting as load-bearing wall. The internal structure of each floor are connected and intertwined with curved iron beams all around the perimeter of each floor.
The original design by Gaudí incorporated Catholic symbols but the construction did not totally follow that plan. A fine was imposed on the owners by the local government for many infractions of building codes and ordered its demolition because it exceeded the height standard for the city. When the owner decided not to include the statuary of Mary and the archangels, Gaudí considered abandoning the project but was persuaded not to do so by a priest.
Gaudi`s concept of this house was a steady curve, both on the outside and inside, by incorporating multiple types of formal geometry, elements and using naturalism in his design. The final layout was shaped like an asymmetrical figure "8" caused by the irregular shapes and sizes of the courtyards. Considered one of the most significant parts of the building, the roof, overlaid with skylights, staircase exits, fans, and chimneys similar to those of Gaudi`s other buildings.
Take a private tour of Casa Milà to see more than just the exterior of the building and the balconies. Visit the courtyard, the patio, the attic and the inside decorations that have been changed several times. You will sure to be amazed by the workers’ skills to install the wavy brick works and detailed workmanship of the colorful tiles! It is definitely not kids’ Lego play!
9 ) Montjuïc Castle – A mountain inside the city!
Montjuïc is on the hill about 173 m high. Overlooking the harbor, it covers more than 500 acres, making it the largest park in Spain. From the Montjuïc, you will have splendid sights from all sides of the hillsides especially the view over the sea, the port and the city. On top of it lies the Castell, a huge old military fortress. The Montjuïc was chosen for its strategy place for military domination of the city.
The first Castell was a four-square fortress made of stone and loam. It was built in 1640 in just only 30 days! During the Catalan Revolt, the Spanish were defeated at the Battle of Montjuïc by the Catalan rebels. In 1694, new bastions and fortifications were erected and the fortress became a castle.
During the Napoleonic Wars, the castle was captured by French Army. From 1705 to 1842, the fortress cum castle had been conquered, handed out and reconquered many times. Between 1909 to 1939, it was a place where executions took place.
The castle was handed over to the city in 1960. Today, in the vicinity, you will find the museum of military history which is a popular tourist attraction on the Montjuïc. Frequent concerts, seminars and exhibitions are being held at the castell. Here with a private guided tour not only will you see the Castell`s outstanding architecture but also its lush surrounding and well keep up of the fauna and flora. You will get to go up the hill and have a unique view of the city of Barcelona, the sea and the port.
10 ) FC Barcelona museum & Camp Nou stadium – Barca’s fans haven!
Not a fan of FC Barcelona! Never mind, because if you like football you will still be taken back by the Spaniards’ love for football as clearly shown in these two places.
The FC Barcelona museum was inaugurated under the presidency of Josep Lluís Nuñez on 24 September 1984. It was renamed as the President Nuñez museum in 2000 under the presidency of Joan Gaspart. After a long restructuring, the museum was reopened on 15 June 2010.
The restructuring divided the museum into three separate sections with a 3D cinema, audiovisual touch-screen, and information on the history of FC Barcelona. It is really a state-of-art museum. In the first section, there is a trophy gallery with wall-to-wall trophies, pictures, documents and statues of the greats. With the aid of the touch screens and interactive glass wall, you will learn all about the club's history.
On permanent display in the second section at the museum is a private art collection which exhibits works by local artists such as Dalí, Miró and Tàpies. The third section consists of the Futbolart Collection. On displays are various football memorabilia accumulated throughout the history of the club. You may not be able to see the ‘stars’ there but you can sure post for a picture with the boots of Ronald Koeman who scored the winning goal in the 1992 European Cup Final and Diego Armando Maradona's Barcelona shirt!
Ranking in second after the Museu Picasso, this museum attracts 1.2 million visitors a year.
Camp Nou is often called the "Nou Camp" Stadium. It is a football stadium in Barcelona and is home to Barcelona football team. Go on a private tour and even if there are no games on during your visit, you could visit the stadium and museum. Good news for fan of FC Barcelona! The largest Nike stores in Europe is in Camp Nou! It is packed with all sorts of Barca merchandise. Not to be missed by Barça fans who want to pick up a souvenir or two.
In terms of capacity, it is the largest stadium in Spain and Europe with a seating capacity of 99,354 and the second largest in the world. It is proud to have hosted many international matches including the 1982 FIFA World Cup semi-final match, two UEFA Champions League finals and the football competition at the 1992 Summer Olympics.
As you really want to make the most of your time in Barcelona so that you don’t go home feeling like you have missed something, take advantage of private tours and make your holiday a memorable one!