We landed in Barcelona midweek, flying directly from Seville after spending a few days in the city but despite the off-peak season and time of day, the airport was still packed full of arrivals, ready to explore the city. As a leading tourist, cultural and economic city centre and the capital of the Catalonia region, there is so much activity constantly happening and there are obviously so many wonderful things to see and do in Barcelona. As a city that has both a beach and a booming city atmosphere, it’s no wonder that Barcelona attracts so many visitors every year and it’s been on my must-visit list for a little while now. With so much on offer, I wanted to share a few top picks and favourite stops following my recent travels to the city.
Where we stayed
We stayed at the Catalonia Sagrada Familia hotel, which was just a ten-minute walk away from the iconic Sagrada Familia. As usual, this was reserved on booking.com and was quite a bargain, despite not including breakfast. The room was spacious, clean and the staff were more than attentive but went above and beyond to recommend places that we should visit during our stay. We did have to use the tube for transport into the city centre as we were more than a half hour walk away from some of the other main attractions, including the iconic La Rambla. But transport was very easy to navigate and we were able to buy a pass for the duration of our stay, making it much cheaper and saving us lots of time on our daily commutes.
Of course, after landing and setting our bags down, the Sagrada Familia was our first obvious stop in the city. As Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, the basilica stands tall and proud amongst all of the more suburban buildings surrounding it. On visiting, we were completely in awe of this building both inside and out – just the amount of detail that’s gone into this creation is absolutely incredible. However, construction was still happening during the time of our visit as it is not set to be completed until 2026. But it’s still very much worth visiting – we bought the Gaudi work and life ticket, which bought us access to the Sagrada Familia and the Gaudi House Museum for €24 each. However, if I chose to do this again, I would have bought the ‘Top Views’ ticket, which gives you access to the towers of the church for just €5 more.
One of the most iconic streets in Barcelona stretching for over 1.2 kilometres and lined with beautiful trees for your picture-perfect moments, La Rambla is filled with shops, restaurants and other sites that prove popular with tourists. It’s mostly pedestrianised so it’s very easy to walk down and if you’re lucky, you can grab a few pictures without crashing into other people. But this is a hotspot for pick-pocketing so just be aware of your surroundings, even when you’re trying to get that Insta-worthy snap.
The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria
Based just off La Rambla is a food market, St Josep la Boqueria which boasts the freshest produce from all around Spain. There is such a wide variety of quality food offerings here which means that it really is a food lover’s paradise. If you get chance to visit, I would highly recommend taking a seat at Pinotxo Bar situated quite near the La Ramblas entrance. We ordered several dishes here including squid served with white beans and also a dish of very fresh prawns. The food was extremely tasty but definitely came with the price tag to match.
Park Güell is now a public park but was initially intended to be a housing park for the wealthy citizens of Barcelona. After problems with development and a lack of interest in purchasing properties here, the park was eventually donated to the city of Barcelona. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to the wonderful works of art and architecture left behind by the iconic Gaudi during his naturalist phase of design. Most of the park is free but to enter the ‘Monumental Zone’ and see Gaudi’s creations, you must purchase tickets. This can be done online to avoid disappointment or it can be done on the day at the park’s ticket office. But be aware that bookings are done through choosing specific time slots as there’s a limited number of people allowed in this zone at one time.
Barcelona is also home to another of Gaudi’s works of art, Casa Batlló. Based in the centre of the city, this building takes inspiration from sea life for its exterior decor. The shimmering coloured tiles help to make this one of the most beautiful buildings in the city and it is unmissable. You can also buy tickets to explore inside – I would recommend doing this online as the queues can get quite large.
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
As well as being home to some true treasures of art including works from Picasso and Dali, this museum has an incredibly grand exterior high above the city which showcases some tremendous cityscape views. Even if you are not interested in the art exhibition inside, I would recommend paying this museum a visit if only to see its views over Barcelona. For this reason, it’s very popular with those who are looking to find the perfect spot to watch the sunset over the city.
Of course, there are so many other wonderful things to see, do and eat in Barcelona that I haven’t mentioned in this blog. Having spent some time here, I found that it’s a large, proud, metropolitan city which is full of life, great places to eat and a whole mixture of cultures. It’s a very busy city so there’s always lots going on which is great for those who want a fun and entertaining break but also offers a beautiful beach for those who want to take things a little easier and relax. Despite not topping my list of favourite cities, I enjoyed my time in Barcelona and I do believe it is a city which everyone should tick off their bucket list.