Barcelona is an enchanting seaside city with boundless culture, fabled architecture, and a world-class drinking and dining scene. What city in the world could be more perfect than Barcelona? With its cosmopolitan feel, relaxed pace of life, breathtaking architecture, fantastic gastronomy, and unbeatable climate, it really is the city that has everything. T+L’s Barcelona travel guide will tell you everything you need to know about what to see, eat, and visit in the Catalan capital, from the tried and tested favorites, to top-secret spots, and the best new arrivals on the scene.
I’ve never stopped being Argentine, and I’ve never wanted to. I feel very proud of being Argentine, even though I left there. I’ve been clear about this since I was very young, and I never wanted to change. Barcelona is my home because both the club and the people here have given me everything, but I won’t stop being Argentine.– via Lionel Messi
The beachside city’s bustling art scene and bohemian vibe make it the offbeat counterpart to the more classic Madrid. Visit Barcelona for its gorgeous beaches and eclectic nightlife, plus it has some of the best seafood in all of Europe. The streets of Barcelona are lined with breathtaking works of architecture, from Gothic churches to Antoni Gaudí’s surreal buildings, as well as modern sites like Maremagnum Mall. It’s also home to one of the world’s most beloved soccer teams, Barcelona FC.
Barcelona has a delightful Mediterranean climate and rarely gets extremely hot or cold (although July and August can be rather humid). Summer is the most popular time for a Barcelona trip because the sun is at its brightest, the beaches are in top form, and outdoor concerts and events abound. Spring and fall are also good times to visit; the weather is milder and there are fewer crowds. Note that while temperatures drop to the 40s during the winter, so do prices, and this less-popular shoulder season can make for an ideal getaway.
Best places to visit in Barcelona
La Sagrada Familia church
Number 1 on Barcelona Top Ten Tourist Attractions list is the fabulous unfinished church of La Sagrada Familia designed by. This unique and unusual construction is Barcelona’s most famous tourist attraction and the most visited, so it’s a must-see attraction. It is also rated as one of the world’s top attractions by Tripadvisor users. It is free to see the Sagrada Familia church from the outside. La Sagrada Familia welcomes over 3 million visitors a year, so there are long queues of 1 hour or more to see the church inside and mornings and mid-day usually have long lines. It is worth it to visit inside and a good tip is to buy advance skip-the-line tickets. How long does it take to visit Sagrada Familia? From the outside about 15 minutes to walk around. To see the Sagrada Familia church inside you should plan to spend 1 to 2 hours to see it all and maybe go up inside some of the towers. Your ticket to the Sagrada Família is actually a donation to help finish the construction which is privately funded.
The temple was designed by famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi over 100 years ago – the foundation stone was laid in 1882 when the surrounding area was mostly fields. The splendid Sagrada Familia interior was noted fully opened to the public until 2012. The outside is still being built and was at around 70% completion in 2015. Only 8 towers of the 18 spires are finished. The ambition is to complete the Sagrada Familia church in 2026 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death in 1926. When it is finished it will be 144 years since construction began. See a youtube video of how the finished Sagrada Familia will look. Gaudi himself knew that it would take a long time to finish the temple and he famously once said, “My client is not in a hurry.” Gaudi died quite tragically in 1926 after being hit by a tram. When he died only the nativity facade was built. Visit the Sagrada Familia on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour or take the metro to station Sagrada Familia.
Magic Fountain show
Number 2. The Font Mágica Fountain. The Magic Fountain is a “must-see” Barcelona attraction. You have never seen a fountain like this. It really does feel magic to experience the beautiful show of water, light, and music. The Magic fountain was built in 1929 as one of the main attractions for the Barcelona World Fair and the Font Magica is still one of the most famous spots in Barcelona with an estimated 2.5 million visitors annually. There are evening water and light show in the winter on Friday and Saturdays only. In the summer the evening light and music show is open from Thursday to Sunday. Admission is free all year. See showtimes below. Please note that sometimes due to exhibitions and events access to the fountain can be closed. Visit the Magic Fountain by metro to station Espanya.
Picasso Museum Barcelona
Number 3. Picasso Museum. The world’s most famous painter Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga in the south of Spain but lived in his youth in Barcelona with his family from 1895 to 1904. It was here he spent his formative years as an artist and first exhibited. The Picasso Museum is in the Born area of Barcelona and is Barcelona’s most famous museum and a top 10 attraction. Picasso’s father was an art teacher. The young Pablo Picasso had already started art studies in Malaga, but Barcelona was a major influence on his early years as a struggling painter. Picasso first exhibited his work in Barcelona and considered himself from Barcelona. The Picasso museum in Barcelona does not have the most famous Picasso paintings, but the collection in Barcelona is unique and has 4000 works.
You find early sketches and lesser-known Picasso’s, which explain and show his development as an artist. The museum is located in various magnificent gothic mansions in the medieval part of Barcelona called El Born. Visitor Tip 1: Book a Picasso walking tour which includes skip-the-line access and guided tour of the museum. Visitor Tip 2: If you just want tickets, the queues are very long so Buy skip-the-line Picasso museum tickets Visitor Tip 3: The Picasso museum has free admission for everyone on the first Sunday of each month all day and is free every Sunday after 3 pm. Get to the Picasso Museum by metro to station Jaume I and then 10 walks.
Las Ramblas street
Number 4. La Rambla is another must-see. Also called Las Ramblas The Spanish poet Federico García Lorca said about, “It is the only street in the world which I wish would never end.” La Rambla starts at Plaza Catalunya and ends at the Monument of Columbus at the Port Vell harbor of Barcelona. La Rambla is not a spectacular sight, but very pleasant to stroll down and enjoy the human heartbeat of Barcelona. If you have not strolled down it, you cannot say you have been in Barcelona. Also called Las Ramblas as it is really a collection of various stretches of the street with different names. During the day and early evening completely safe and free to visit. However, be careful of pickpockets on La Rambla and in the Metro stations nearby. In the early hours of the morning 2 – 4 am be wary on the lower part of La Rambla near the harbor. This attraction is always open and free.
Barrio Gotico area of Barcelona
Number 6. The Barrio Gotico gothic quarter is the medieval city of Barcelona from the middle ages. It grew around the old Roman town of Barcino which is the oldest part of Barcelona. The gothic part of the city has many beautiful churches, plazas, markets, and museums and you can see parts of the old Roman walls. If you visit the Barcelona history museum – Museu d’Història de la Ciutat – you can see remains of Roman houses and streets of Barcino in Roman times under the museum. The gothic quarter is free to visit and best seen on foot because tour buses cannot get through the narrow streets. There are no dangerous areas in the Gothic quarter, but be aware of Barcelona pickpockets. Also worth visiting is the neighboring medieval area of Barcelona’s old city called El Born.
Under the Iberian Sun
The deep blue Mediterranean beckons. Sun-drenched beaches make a fine backdrop to a jog, bike ride or long leisurely stroll along the seaside – followed by a refreshing dip. You can also enjoy the view from out on the water while kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, or taking it easy on a sunset cruise. Looming behind the city, the rolling forest-covered Collserola Hills provides a scenic setting for hiking, mountain biking or just admiring the view. Closer to the city center, hilltop Montjuïc offers endless exploring amid botanic and sculpture gardens, an old castle, and first-rate museums with panoramic views at every turn.
The architecture of the Ages
Barcelona’s architectural treasures span 2000-plus years. Towering temple columns, ancient city walls, and subterranean stone corridors provide a window into Roman-era Barcino. Fast forward a thousand years to the Middle Ages by taking a stroll through the shadowy lanes of the Gothic quarter, past tranquil plazas, and soaring 14th-century cathedrals. In other parts of town bloom the sculptural masterpieces of Modernisme, a mix of ingenious and whimsical creations by Gaudí and his Catalan architectural contemporaries. Barcelona has also long inspired artists, including Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, and Joan Miró, whose works are in bold display in the city’s myriad museums.
A Moveable Feast
The masters of molecular gastronomy – Albert Adrià, Carles Abellan et al – are part of the long and celebrated tradition of Catalan cooking. Simple, flavourful ingredients – seafood, jamón (cured ham), market-fresh produce – are transformed into remarkable delicacies and then served in captivating settings. Feast on hearty, rich paella at an outdoor table overlooking the sea or step back to the 1920s at an elegant art nouveau–filled dining room. Barcelona’s wide-ranging palate adds further complexity: Basque-style tapas bars, Galician seafood taverns, avant-garde Japanese restaurants, and sinful chocolate shops are all essential parts of the culinary landscape.
Twenty-four Hour Party People
The night holds limitless possibilities in Barcelona. Start with sunset drinks from a panoramic terrace or dig your heels in the sand at a rustic beachside chiringuito. As darkness falls, live music transforms the city: the rapid-fire rhythms of flamenco, brassy jazz spilling out of basements, and hands-in-the-air indie-rock at vintage concert halls. Towards midnight the bars fill. Take your pick from old-school taverns adorned with 19th-century murals, plush lounges in lamp-lit medieval chambers or boisterous cava bars. If you’re still standing at 3 am, hit the clubs and explore Barcelona’s unabashed wild side.