Barcelona Tours: Making the Most of the City

There's a lot more to Barcelona than lying on the beach, and if you want to make the most of your time in the Catalan capital and get a real insight into the city then you won't regret investing some of your travel budget on a guided tour of the town. Excursions and activities in these parts come in all shapes and sizes, starting with traditional walking tours, where a well-informed guide talks you through the famed and iconic sights like the Gothic Cathedral, La Sagrada Familia and the Ciutadella Park (to name but a few!), to more energetic cycling tours, where a bit of pedal power will help you see the best of the city in little more than an afternoon. Whilst lazy bones can give their legs a holiday too by renting scooters to zip in between attractions, or by selecting the classic hop-on, hop-off tour bus service which enables you to take in the city at your own pace, and makes getting around town a doddle.

If you really want to pull out the stops however, how about taking a helicopter ride and see the city from above? Or else seeing it from the water on a sailing yacht? Or why not see what the rest of Catalonia has to offer by taking a train to the Penedes for a spot of wine tasting in the vineyards, sea kayaking on the Costa Brava, or visiting the sacred monastery at Montserrat. Keep reading this article for a list of providers who can make all of the above, and much more, happen...

Above: the view from the terrace of Gaudi's stunning Park Guell

Those fiercely independent travellers who prefer to tackle sightseeing with just a map and a guidebook might not be tempted by a yellow umbrella tour of the main attractions, but there are an increasing number of travel and tourism specialists who offer some truly original trips, activities and experiences in and around the city – many are well worth considering. Tapas and other food-tasting tours in the evening, flamenco shows and pub crawls at night, alternative tours of street art and forgotten districts, specialist artistic tours, hot air balloon flights over Catalonia, and day trips to the likes of Montserrat, Tarragona, Sitges and the Penedes wine region (where you can sample some tasty Cava). Whilst fans of the city's famous Catalan art nouveau architecture needn't leave the city disappointed as there are nearly as many experts offering Gaudi-themed tours as there are sands on Barceloneta beach.

Many companies now offer experiences which, whilst not technically tours, can seriously enrich your time in Barcelona. Cooking classes with fresh ingredients from La Boqueria Market, hiking in the beautiful St. Miquel del Fai nature sanctuary, sailing trips on the Mediterranean or watching the sunset over Barcelona are just a few examples; whilst adrenaline junkies will also find tour providers offering them go-karting, paintballing, gun shooting, off-roading, sky-diving and even deep sea fishing – all popular activities for stag nights and hen parties.

Barcelona Tour Operators

Below you'll find a useful list of tour providers (hint: you can also search by 'tours' in our Entertainment section to find the top rated providers, plus individual activities). Click on the bold blue links for full descriptions, reader reviews and contact details on Barcelona-life.com, or use the direct links to head straight to the providers' respective websites.

Barcelona Guide Bureau
Established way back in 1990, these expert city guides have given more tours of the Catalan capital than you've had hot dinners! Take an air-conditioned bus to all the essential sights, opt for a Gaudi-themed excursion or discover Modernista marvels like Palau de la Musica on foot. More recently BGB have also extended their repetoire to take tourists to must-see sights out of the city, such as Montserrat mountain or the Dali Museum in Figueres.
www.barcelonaguidebureau.com

Walking Planets
A fresh new venture launched by an officially-accredited Barcelona guide, Walking Planets is the antidote to stuffy tours of the predictable sights. They'll take you for a walk on the wild side of Barcelona, such as the vibrant Raval district where you'll discover the city's maritime and industrial history and learn about the contemporary art projects that have helped lift the once undesirable area. The Walking Planets project really gives you the inside picture of both historic and contemporary Barcelona. They also have tours of Barri Gotic and El Born and private artistic tours.
www.walkingplanets.com

Barcelona City Tours
These travel experts have grouped all of Barcelona's best experiences under their expansive umbrella and a quick browse of their website reveals a host of tempting options, from bus tours of the city's most famous monuments to themed walking tours tracing the footsteps of Gaudi and Picasso. Also on offer are a host of day trips to exciting destinations such as Tarragona, Sitges and Vic. Fancy something a little different? How about private hot air balloon ride?
www.barcelonacitytours.com

Lifestyle Barcelona
Purveyors of exquisite and original experiences, Lifestyle Barcelona specialise in arranging a tantalising mix of romantic, action-packed, sporty and luxury days - and nights - out. Chakra hot stone massages, deep sea fishing, abseiling and acrobatic plane flights are just some of the memorable activities on offer. So whether you're a couple on a romantic break, a group of lads/girls enjoying a last weekend of freedom or a corporate team in need of entertaining you'll find yourself well catered for.
www.lifestylebarcelona.com

BCN Travel
Local-based passionate travel consultants, BCN Travel can help organise everything to do with your trip to Barcelona from your airport transfers to your accommodation - and of course your entertainment and sightseeing itineraries. A great service particularly if you're travelling in a large group! Their website has plenty of excursion ideas, or drop them a line with your requirements. BCN Travel are wholly committed to responsible tourism, so you can discover Catalonia with as small a carbon footprint as possible.
www.bcn.travel

Steel Donkey Experience
Looking for something a little bit different to do? You may have just found it! Proponents of 'alternative toursim' the friendly folk at Steel Donkeys are all about sidestepping the well-beaten tract and exploring the untouched corners of this fascinating city. They only travel in small groups (2-8 people) and go by bike, meaning they can show you the likes of Gracia, Poblenou and Poble Sec all in one day! There's a strong emphasis on the experiential element of travel, so expect not just to listen and learn but also stop off at markets, tapas bars, vintage shops and forgotten parks.
www.steeldonkeybiketours.com

Vesping
Discover the city on the back of an iconic Italian Vespa, with Vesping's self guided GPS tours of the city. You can choose from three routes (Olympic, Gaudi or Beach!) that will introduce to many of The Great Enchantress's most alluring attractions. If you'd rather not go it alone, you can also request a Vesping team member to accompany you as your guide. Check out their website for more.
www.vesping.com

Tapas & Beers
The modern traveller is rarely content to see just the essential sights these days, but wants to experience the city as well. That's where this fresh-faced company come in, as they lead small group tapas and craft beer tasting activities - as well as "Hipster" bar crawls - in local neighbourhoods around town. A great choice if you're looking for something a bit more authentic and lived-in than your typical mainstream touristic experience.
www.tapasandbeers.com

Recommended Tours & Activities

Every one has their favourite things to do in Barcelona, and we are no exception. Here are a few unmissable experiences for the first time traveller to Catalonia...

Spanish Cooking Class
One of the best ways to understand a country's culture is through its cuisine, and during this popular activity you'll step into the kitchen with a talented Catalan chef and learn how to prepare a four course meal with fresh produce from La Boqueria market. Great fun and authentic. Click on the link for more info and details on how to book.

Flamenco Performances
The Spanish gypsy dance has a flourishing scene in Barcelona and few travellers choose to visit the city without stopping by a show. We recommend two different experiences. The first an hour-long formal show in a 1920s theatre with full dinner (or just drink if you prefer). The second a half hour show combined with tapas tasting.

Sailing Tour
Barcelona's big advantage over other city break destinations is undoubtedly the sparkling (and warm) Mediterranean sea. Whilst you can charter a yacht for a private cruise that can prove a bit pricey, especially for small groups. This port-to-port boat trip however is perfect for the casual tourist as it gives you wonderful views from the sea, and a chance to go for a swim, and costs only €45 per person. Click on the link for more.

Montserrat & Wine Tasting
Combine an excursion to Catalonia's unique "jagged mountain" and its abbey in the skies, with a visit to a 10th century castle and its vineyards, where you'll get to taste some of the region's fine wines. A small group tour, your private transport will pick you and drop you off in the centre of the city. Click on the link to find out more.

More Info & Ideas

Hopefully by now you've got plenty of inspiration about how best to fill your time in Barcelona... but let us finish by pointing out that we've got extended articles on the best bike tours, food and wine activities, countryside excursions, water sports, things to do for couples, or families with kids, plus simply more original ideas all on this website. In short, you won't be bored!

add your comments

I would like to do some pistol training there (not want to take my gun) is it possible?

reviewed by Georg from United States on Jun.03.2016

I feel sad for the people that say: I have been in Cuba or Canarias...
What? you have been closed in a resort for a week. That was it!
The same feeling I have when people start5 to colect info about Barcelona
It seems the tourists think Barcelona has there are only 4 districts (Raval ,Eixample Barceloneta y Gracia) and you all do the same like lambs!

You back to your country without seeing or knowing anything about this beautiful city.
Have you ever wondered why the locals do not live or go to places you reccomend or talk about? Do not you think there must be a reason?

Because you see the fake Barcelona !
Overcharged and full of pickpockets because you go to the wrong places, vomits in the corners,guetos in the city center,frozen cheap paella(not a lical dish,I remind you it is valencian) and sangría(something we never drink as it is the best way to sell to an idiot a cheep wine),Nigerian prostitutes maybe??
Why do not you Google the comments about that áreas to confirm Ramblas is the most degraded part of the city? plus the dirtiest and dangerous....
Do you come to see the indian/pakistaní/maghrebian community or the spanish ?
So why do you wanna live there? Why do you ask tips for foreners that do not know anything else about that 4 áreas and the same all english speakers do??
Why you do not contact or follow the reccommendations of the locals?
What about the house shared? give it a try!
It is the best way to really know a country and its people and the lest expensive way of experiencing the marvelous city of Barcelona!
I offer 2 single rooms in my apartment in Barcelona for woman only (18+).
(I can only host a maximum of 2 easy going people)
My apartment is in the quite,safe and typical Catalonian área of Sants/Les Corts.
With metro services only 5 min walking distance you can access all the tourist locations(beach & city center 10 min ride), cultural and shopping áreas.

PLEASE NOTE: You MUST contact me providing your email address and introduce yourself to make a booking or get more information and pictures ( with age,where are you from,date interested, etc...)
I speak english,spanish french and italian well and enjoy helping my guests get the best from their stay.
Sorry, but animals and children cannot be accommodated.

It is time to know Barcelona from the inside!
English,français,español e italiano spoken.

reviewed by Ceci from Spain on Jul.05.2015

Think I'd better extend my weekend away by a few days! Thanks for all the tips

reviewed by Ross from United Kingdom on Feb.23.2015

Site is fine if you don't want to shoot a gun. Sadly in UK pistols are banned, this site advertises "gun shooting" but has no info to offer....very bias!

reviewed by Shaun from United Kingdom on Sep.29.2014

Fantastic website, well done ! and great tours in Barcelona, thanks guys for lots of information.

reviewed by Frank from United States on Mar.20.2012

Amazing it seems there are so many things to do it's hard to decide. I was thinking of one day exploring the city and checking out everything by Gaudi, maybe one day in Montserrat and then maybe some wine tasting in the Penedes region... I'm visiting in May. Anyone got any better ideas?

reviewed by Paula from United Kingdom on Feb.01.2012

Thanks guys this is a really useful list. Looks like visitors to your city are really spoilt for choice when it comes to things to do around here!

reviewed by Omar from United States on Jan.26.2012

Hi Elke for company events/trips check out this page: http://www.barcelona-life.com/barcelona/corporate-events

reviewed by Editor from Spain on Sep.27.2011

Has somebody suggestions to do a company visit in Barcelona?
Thx for your input!

reviewed by Elke from Belgium on Sep.27.2011

There are a lot of people now offering free walks, but it depends on your expectations. Most of them are run by English/American/Australian backpackers. They are NOT officially recognised guides and many do not know anything about the history of the city and feed people a lot of false information. I'm sure they are entertaining but better to go with an accredited local guide. Either who was born in BCN, or who lived here for 5 or 10 years, not just a few months.

reviewed by Rafa from Spain on Sep.07.2011

a great way to have a walking tour in a small group of the Gothic area! we loved it and only had to pay by tip (which we gave alot because we loved it so much!)

reviewed by `pat from United States on Sep.03.2011

As tourist destinations go BCN offers a wonderful range of experiences. It has so much to offer culturally and socially, and then there's the natural landscape - mountains, countryside and sea. You can't be bored here and every time I come back I see new activities being offered by increasingly inventive providers.

reviewed by Tony from United Kingdom on Aug.05.2011

My family and I had a fabulous private tour of the city and an outstanding private walking tour with Hola! Barcelona Tours.From start to finish they were reliable,professional and excellent!Excellent!!

reviewed by Bob from United States on Apr.22.2011

I just got back from Sant Sadurni in the Penedes region and that certainly makes a nice day trip as there are a tonne of Cava houses and some pretty churches and squares. On a sunday it seems many Catalan people have public barbecues outside the Cava houses. You can also take a look around (I guess there is a fee) of cellars - i gather Freixenet is the most famous.

reviewed by Kelly from United States on Mar.23.2011

It seems there are a ton of choices of things to do. Thanks for the info. Nice website btw

reviewed by Rees from United States on Dec.03.2010

I had the pleasure of a tour with Magic Day Adventures. All I can say is JJ and his crew are THE BEST. Iv'e taken gobs of sleepy tours. Forget that he can show you all the amazing Barcelona highlights in a short period of time, he delivers the majesty of one Europe's greatest cities and some history with a great Aussie humor that keeps everybody entertained. All I can say is hit his tour the first day or two. You will be amazed at all you can see and learn.

reviewed by Joe Roberts from United States on Nov.19.2010

Great city. Great times. Hope to return soon to wonderful BCN where the sun always shines

reviewed by Victor from Ukraine on Sep.27.2010

Barcelona is the most beautiful city in the world in my mind! The Gaudi architecture is completely crazy and wonderful! We were so pleased to take a sightseeing tour of Barcelona and spended a wonderful holiday in this amazing city

reviewed by Ieva from Lithuania on Jun.28.2010

I took a wonderful walking tour of Barcelona through the sumptuous Gothic Quarter... there's nothing like discovering a city by foot

reviewed by Victor from United States on Jan.12.2010

Is it possible to take a Vicki Cristina Barcelona movie tour? Who organizes such a tour?

reviewed by Ingrid from United States on Nov.23.2009