Barcelona Sightseeing Guide
What to see and do in the City of Counts
By Duncan Rhodes
A brief overview of the very best of Barcelona’s tourist attractions and things to do. Click on the links to find more detailed info on whatever takes your fancy…
When it comes to treasures, Barcelona can be likened to the fabled riches of the isle of Monte Cristo. The city is positively overflowing with polished diamonds and rare gems, all ready to be unearthed by the intrepid explorer.
A natural starting point for taking in Barcelona’s attractions is of course the renowned Las Ramblas boulevard, the main artery of the city, which stretches from Placa Catalunya right down to the statue of Christopher Columbus and the harbour. This huge thoroughfare is heaving 24 hours a day with tourists, theatre goers, party animals and of course those mischievous – and often bonkers – street performers. You can’t and you won’t miss it!
Either side of Las Ramblas are the two halves of the Old Town, El Raval and the Barri Gotic. The Barri Gotic (or Gothic Quarter) is certainly the most touristy part of the city and its popularity is well deserved. The area’s labyrinthine alleys will lead you past Roman ruins, picturesque plazas and Catholic churches, not to mention all manner of funky boutiques and bars.
Venture a bit further in the same direction to find the delightful Born district, which has much of the same vibe as the Gothic Quarter but without the hordes of digital-camera-wielding wayfarers. The Picasso Museum and the Ciutadella Park are two highlights, as is a beer on the Passeig del Born.
Step onto the other side of Las Ramblas and you will find the somewhat shabby district of Raval. Whilst some bits of Raval are far from wholesome, some of Barcelona’s prettiest streets and outdoor cafes can be found here, and the MACBA hosts some of the best contemporary art in the city.
We’ve come so far and yet haven’t even mentioned Señor Gaudi yet. Time to introduce the great man. Whilst his handiwork is dotted all across Barcelona you’ll find the maestro’s most familiar facades, La Pedrera and Casa Batllo, on the Passeig de Gracia (another of the city’s huge boulevards, and a haven for high end shopping).
For his masterpiece however you’ll have to take the metro into the right hand side of L’Eixample (‘The Addition’, so called because it was added to the Old Town in the 19th century as the city rapidly expanded during the industrial revolution) where you can witness first hand the overpowering architecture of La Sagrada Familia basilica.
Complete your Gaudi-themed tour with a trip to Park Guell.
Montjuic & More
Sick of sightseeing? Well chomp on an energy bar and get going again because there’re plenty more attractions you won’t want to miss before you head home. You could easily spend a day on Montjuic mountain with its castle and Magic Fountain, and host of other treasures, whilst Tibidabo peak is another highlight, with its Sagrat Cor Church and amusement park (as featured in Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and spectacular views over the whole city.
There really is much more to see than can be printed here, so check out our district by district guide to find out more about each of Barcelona’s diverse neighbourhoods, or venture further into Catalonia on one of these unmissable day trips.
Not into mainstream tourism? Then try this list of activities that will take you off the beaten track.
About the Author
Duncan established Barcelona Life in 2009, whilst freelancing for the likes of Conde Nast, The Guardian, Easyjet Magazine, CNN Traveller and many more. From interviews with Ferran Adria to revealing the secrets of the city’s poetry brothels, he knows the city inside out… and shares all his best tips right here.