Things to Do in Barcelona
There’s more to do in Barcelona than you could possibly take on, even during a longer holiday. Make sure you make the best of it and maximize your experiences. Observe the astonishing architectural sites like Sagrada Familia. Wander through the stunning parks, like Parc Güell. Spend family time in Barcelona Zoo. Check the latest fashion trends on Passeig de Gracia. And watch a movie in the open air in the moat of Castell de Montjuïc.
Must see attractions
There’s a reason why the following attractions are on the UNESCO's world heritage list. They aren't to be missed during your holiday. Barcelona has some of the most astonishing buildings in the world, and you’d probably regret not seeing them at least from the outside.
Sagrada familia (Unesco World Heritage Site)
The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is a Barcelonian landmark that can’t be missed during your visit. The church is one of the most famous architectural legacies of Antoni Gaudí. The church was meant to represent Neo-Gothic style when the first bricks were laid in 1882.
- Website: sagradafamilia.org
- How to get: Metro lines L2 and L5, stop at Sagrada Familia.
La Pedrera (Unesco World Heritage Site)
One of the two of Gaudí’s masterpieces on the street Passeig de Gracia, is Casa Milà, or more commonly known as La Pedrera (The Quarry), coming from its uneven grey stone facade. Gaudí designed the house for a local business man Pere Milá i Camps in 1905-1910.
A visit inside takes you from rooftop to courtyards, giving an understanding of Gaudí’s architecture through models, audiovisuals and objects.
The site is very popular in summer, and the queues fill up before the doors open. If you’re not keen on queueing and have an extra penny to spend, consider buying the Premium ticket to skip the queues.
- Website: lapedrera.com
- How to get: Metro lines L3 and L5, stop at Diagonal. The line L3 takes you closer to La Pedrera as it has an exit straight to Passeig de Gracia.
Casa Batlló (Unesco World Heritage Site)
Another building on Passeig de Gracia street that sticks to your eye from a distance, is the modernistic Casa Battló, the home of a textile entrepreneur Josep Battló.
Antoni Gaudí renovated the building in 1905-1907 to its current look of bright colored mosaic, curvy line and arched rooftop to resemble the back of a dragon.
- Website: casabatllo.es
- How to get: Metro lines L2, L3 and L4, stop at Passeig de Gracia.
Hospital de Sant Pau (Unesco World Heritage Site)
Hospital de Sant Pau is without a doubt one of the most beautiful hospitals ever built. I recommend strolling the street Avinguda de Gaudí running diagonally between La Sagrada Familia and Hospital de Sant Pau. The hospital, designed by Luis Muntaner i Domenech, was built in 1905-1930 to replace the old Santa Pau hospital in Raval. Hospital Sant Pau doesn't work as hospital any more but as a museum and a gallery.
- Website: santpaubarcelona.org
- How to get: Metro Line L4, stop at Hospital de Sant Pau / Guinardó and Line L5, stop at Sant Pau / Dos de Maig.
Things to do in Barcelona for families
There’s a multitude of activities for families in Barcelona. Here are a few memorable ideas, with children as the priority.
One of the top recommendations for families is to visit CosmoCaixa science center. CosmoCaixa suits both, children and adults alike. Inside the massive building, you’ll find permanent and temporary exhibitions in 5 stories. Many activities allow interaction, which is especially entertaining for children. One of their highlights is the Flooded Forest, which recreates an Amazonian rain forest ecosystem over an area of 1,000 ㎡.
- Address: Carrer d' Isaac Newton, 26
- How to get: Take the FGC Line L7 (underground train, not a metro line) from Plaça Catalunya to the last stop "Av. del Tibidabo". On the other side of the street, you’ll see the stops of Tramvia Blau and two bus stops next to each other. From there, get on the bus 196 and get off at the next stop. There is a submarine displayed in the middle of the road by the stop, so you can´t miss it. You’ll find the CosmoCaixa behind the submarine. If you don´t want to wait for the bus, you can also walk the 800 meters from the stop to the museum. Follow the tracks of Tramvia Blau uphill. After about 500 meters, a road branching off to the left leads to the tram depot. Follow the tracks and walk past the depot on the right side. After another 200 meters, you’ll be able to see the museum.
Between Plaça d’Espanya and MNAC, you’ll find the Magic Fountain. In evenings, there are two fantastic shows with rhythmic and colorful choreography of water and light. The symphony of music combined with differently colored and shaped jets of water, constitute a true spectacle. The show lasts approximately 20 minutes.
- Address: Plaça de Carles Buïgas
- How to get: Take the metro lines L1 or L3 and get off at Espanya. Take the exit Fira de Barcelona. Walk through the two tall towers towards the fountains. You’ll surely spot them right at the two towers.
Inside the Ciutadella park, you’ll find the Barcelona zoo, which has been there ever since 1888. There are over 400 species of animals in the zoo. Some of the personal highlights are the orangutans, gorillas, hippos, and dolphins.
The variety of animals is decent, but due to the small cages, the animals may seem lethargic. The food services inside are quite limited, consisting of hot dogs and other fast food, so it's better to eat before or after the visit. It takes roughly 3 hours to visit the zoo.
- Website: Barcelona Zoo
- How to get: Metro: Take the metro line L4 to the stop: Ciutadella i Vila Olimpica. From there, it takes only 5 minutes to walk to the zoo. There’s an entrance at the end of Carrer de Villena. Tram: The final stop of the tram line T4 is at Ciutadella i Vila Olimpica. The last stop is located right at the entrance of the zoo. Taking the tram only makes sense, if you’re staying somewhere near Marina/Glories or Port Forum area.
L’Aquarium (Barcelona Aquarium)
The Barcelona Aquarium has been one of the top sites to visit in Barcelona for almost 30 years. There are 450 species in the aquarium, being one of the largest aquariums in Europe. One of the curiosities of the zoo, for an additional fee, is the Shark Experience, which takes you right to the sharks. If you have a diving license, you can swim in the shark tank with caretakers, and those who don’t, can still go under water but only secured inside a shark cage.
- Website: Barcelona Aquarium
- How to get: The aquarium is located in Moll d’Espanya in Port Vell. You can either take the metro line L3 to Drassanes or L4 to Barceloneta and walk from those stations. The walk takes around 10 minutes.
Museu de la Xocolata
The Barcelona Chocolate Museum is not a tourist hook but a venue for truly well-crafted chocolate artwork. The museum, set up by the Confectioners’ Guild in 2000, guides you into the world of Chocolate making and exhibits various chocolate sculptures, such as Camp Nou stadium.
- Website: museuxocolata.cat
- How to get: metro line L4, stop at Jaume I. Metro line L1, stop at Arc de Triomf.
Parks in Barcelona
The parks in Barcelona aren't just vast areas of green grass, as they contain some of the finest art works of the city. These parks should be taken into consideration as a top priority when planning your itinerary.
Parc Güell, designed by Antoni Gaudì, is located in Gràcia, in northern Barcelona. There is a Monumental Zone inside the park, where admission is required. The area around the Monumental zone is free, yet with very nice views as well.
If plan to reserve a ticket for a scheduled visit, do it well in advance. The number of visitors in the Monumental Zone is restricted, and there’s only a half-hour window for each ticket to get in.
The distance from Catalonia Square is only a little over 3 kilometers, so it’s reachable even on foot.
How to get:
The closer to the park you are, the more uphill there is. There are also uphills inside the park, so you might want to consider saving energy and taking a bus or taxi to the park, or a metro nearby. By metro: Take the Green line (L3) to the Vallcarca metro station. Walk 300 meters along the street Avinguda de Vallcarca towards the city, to Baixada de la Gloria street. There, you’ll see an escalator, which will take you all the way to the top of Parc Güell. Tickets and more information: parkguell.cat
Parc de la Ciutadella
Parc de la Ciutadella is a popular picnic place. It's located in Born, right next to the old town, on the eastern side of Sant Pere, Santa Caterina and Ribera.
The park is said to be the lungs of Barcelona. The magnificent fountain alone, in the north-east corner, is good enough of a reason to make a visit. Ciutadella also houses the Parliament of Catalonia and the Barcelona Zoo. If you're looking for a romantic place, the pond in the middle of the park is an ideal for the purpose. You can rent a rowing boat by the pond.
You don’t have to pay any admission to enter the park. If you wish to visit the Barcelona Zoo, they do collect an entrance fee.
You can reach the park with the Yellow line (L4) stopping at Barceloneta metro station, or with the Red line (L1) stopping at Arc de Triomf metro station.
The large Montjuïc hill dominates the landscape of Barcelona in the south. Montjuïc offers stunning views over the city center and lots of activities. Many important museums are located on the hill, such as the Fundació Miró and the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya-MNAC.Montjuic open air cinema shows films in a beautiful setting right next to the castle.
How to get:
Castle of Montjuïc: The easiest way is to take a bus number 150 from Plaza d’Espanya. The bus takes you all the way up to the castle.
Another way to reach the castle is to take the Green line (L3) to Parallel metro station and continue up with a funicular. The funicular leaves from the Parallel metro station, and you can use it with the same ticket you use for the metro. The funicular’s end stop is located next to Joan Miró museum. From the end stop, it’s a 15-minute walk along a steep hill to the castle. Another option besides walking, is to take a cable car from to the funicular stop, which will also take you to the castle. That cable car is quite pricey in relation to the distance, but the views are great.
MNAC and Olympic stadium: Take the Red line (L1) or Green line (L3) metro to Plaza d’Espanya. The museum is only a 5-minute walk away and the Olympic stadium is just behind it. There is an escalator next to MNAC, so you don’t have to trouble yourself by climbing up the steep hill.
The tall Tibidabo mountain rises on the northern horizon of the city center. On the top, there’s a small, simple theme park and the church, Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor. While the amusement park and the church aren’t that exciting, the view from Mount Tibidabo over Barcelona is as good as it gets.
How to get:
Food walks - Things to do in Barcelona
There are quite a few nice options for combining food and sightseeing. If you like themed food walks but don't like paying any extra for guiding, find interesting ideas below.
Pintxo street (Carrer de Blai)
Pintxos are traditional slices of bread that come with different toppings, pinched to the bread by a cocktail stick. At a pintxo restaurant, you’ll be given a plate for picking your own mix of pintxos from the counter. Different pintxos may have different prices, and the price is marked somewhere near the pintxos.
When you’ve finished eating, you go to the bar with your plate and your waiter charges you according to the number of sticks on your plate. In some bars, you need to show the pintxos on your plate to a waiter before eating. In those cases, a waiter instructs you to act accordingly.
Calle Blai in Poble Sec is a long and narrow street, full of great pintxo bars, and the prices are cheaper than in the center. The area is popular among both, locals and tourists. Here, you can conveniently hop from one bar to another and taste pintxos.
- Address: Carrer de Blai (Poble Sec)
- How to get: Green line (L3), metro stop at Poble Sec. Carrer de Blai starts near Parallel street.
Chocolate street (Carrer de Petritxol)
Barcelona’s own chocolate street is situated at the very heart of the old town. The narrow street is only 3 meters wide and 129 meters long. Carrer de Petritxol is famous among the locals, as the chocolatiers on this street have carried out the tradition for long, but it’s not much advertised in tourist guidebooks.
One of the most delicious ways to enjoy chocolate, is to have it with churros. Churros are donut bars, plain or sprinkled with sugar, enjoyed as they are or dipped in hot chocolate sauce. They are perfect on cold winter days to warm up your body.
- Address: Carrer de Petritxol (Gotic)
- How to get: The metro stop Liceu on Green line (L3) is only 3 minutes away on foot. Walk to the Basilica of Santa Maria del Pi, located at the other end of Carrer de Petritxol.
Palo Alto Market
The lively Palo Alto market is situated in an otherwise quiet part of Poblenou neighborhood. The market is a good choice, if you’re looking for an alternative way to spend a day in Barcelona. There are small stages of live bands, stalls of artisan products and lots of street food trucks of various cuisines.
- Website: paloaltomarket.com
- How to get: The Yellow metro line (L4) takes you closest to the market, stopping at the station Selva de Mar. It takes around 7 minutes to walk to the market from the station.
Shopping in Barcelona
According to Eurostats, prices of clothing in Spain are clearly below the European average. Therefore, you’ll save money, if you do your shopping in Barcelona. There are seasonal sales twice a year. Summer sales start around July 1 and last until about August 31, depending on the shop. Winter sales start on December 7 and last until March 6.
There’s a big selection of brands available - from small local designers to famous international designers. The shops might be open on bank holidays and occasionally on Sundays. Also, the restaurants in the shopping centers tend to have their own opening times.
Passeig de Gràcia
The most famous and glamorous shopping street of Barcelona is called Passeig de Gràcia. The 1,3-kilometer-long street is full of designer shops on both side of the vast avenue. World-famous designers such as Gucci, Stella McCartney and Prada have their shops along Passeig de Gracia.
There are some shops offering more affordable clothing such as Mango, Zara and Macson, but if you’re not looking for the luxury brands, you might as well go elsewhere with a bigger selection of affordable clothing.
How to get: Metro lines L2, L3 and L4, stop at Passeig de Gracia
El Corte Inglés, Plaça de Catalunya
If you’re looking for after sports items, their selection is very narrow. Instead, El Corte Inglés at Portal de l’Àngel has a much bigger selection for sports.
Tip: There are very nice views towards Plaça de Catalunya from the top floor cafe of the department store.
- Website: elcorteingles.es
- How to get: Metro lines L1 and L3, stop at Plaça de Catalunya. The metro line L4, stop at Urquinaona.
Avinguda de Portal de l’Àngel
Another great shopping street, situated near El Corte Inglés of Plaça de Catalunya, is called Portal de l’Àngel. The shops there offer cheaper brands compared to Passeig de Gracia. The brands include, for example, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Mango, Foot Lockers, Zara and H&M. El Corte Inglés has another store there, consisting mainly of sports clothing.
- How to get: Metro lines L1 and L3, stop at Plaça de Catalunya. Metro line L4, stop at Urquinaona.
Carrer de Pelai
The Pelai street starts from the top of the Rambla. It connects Plaça de Catalunya and Plaça de Universitat. The street is famous for its many shoe shops. The street is only 400 meters long, and you’ll often find discounts even outside the top sales seasons.
- How to get: Metro lines L1 and L3, stop at Plaça de Catalunya. Metro line L2, stop at Universitat.
L’illa Diagonal is a shopping center with over 170 shops. It’s located on the longest street of Barcelona, Avinguda Diagonal, on the border of L’Eixample and Les Corts. While most of the shops focus on clothing, there’s plenty of other products on offer as well, ranging from home ware to electronics. Major commercial clothing brands like Primark, Desigual and the big French sports shop Decathlon have shops here.
- Website: lilla.com
- How to get: Metro line L3, stop at Maria Cristina. It takes around 11 minutes to walk to the shopping center from the station.
The former bullring at Plaça de Espanya was modified into a shopping center and an exhibition venue in 2011. You’ll find brands such as Desigual, Benetton and Mango in Las Arenas. The selection isn't big, so if you wish to have a long shopping day, it's better to go to one of the bigger shopping centers.
- Website: arenasdebarcelona.com
- How to get: Metro lines L3 and L1, stop at Espanya.
The shopping center Diagonal Mar is situated at the end of Diagonal street, in Poblenou neighborhood. The shopping center has around 200 shops & restaurants, thus being the second largest shopping center of Barcelona. You’ll find shops from various categories: electronics, clothing, home ware, accessories etc. The biggest shops include the clothing store Primark and the electronics store Mediamarkt.
- Website: diagonalmarcentre.es
- How to get: Metro line L4, stop at El Maresme I Fòrum.
The biggest shopping center of Barcelona, La Maquinista, is located far away from the city center, near Sant Andreu. Over 200 shops in 90 000 square meters makes it the biggest shopping center in Barcelona. The selection of shops isn’t significantly better compared to what is on offer closer to the center, which is why it's worth thinking twice before going all the way there. La Maquinista in only covered by roof, providing spacious, airy feel to the building complex. This nice detail makes you feel like you’re not in a shopping center.
- Website: lamaquinista.com
- How to get: Metro line L1, Torras i Bages. Lines L9N and L10, stop at Bon Pastor.
La Roca Village
The boutique outlet village La Roca is located some 40-minutes’ drive away from Barcelona city center. There are over 100 stores of big internationally renowned brands, mainly on clothing and jewelry & accessories. The area resembles a typical Catalan village, which makes a nice setting for shopping.
Nevertheless, good bargains are hard to find. Although they advertise discounts up to 60%, the actual discounts are often quite modest. Assuming you spend 20 euros for transportation and another 20-30 euros for average quality, yet pricy, food and drinks, you need to buy a lot of merchandise to make the trip worth your while.
- Website: larocavillage.com
- How to get: Shuttle bus Shopping Express leaves from Passeig de Gracia 6. (between Carrer Casp and Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes)
Open-air cinemas - Things to do in Barcelona
Open-air cinemas have become very popular in Barcelona in recent years, and there are plenty of venues on offer. Unfortunately, the season for open-air cinemas is quite short. They are open from late June to late July or early August. During this period, they run films several times each week. If it rains, the events are normally cancelled. You’ll get a refund, if you’ve bought a ticket in advance.
Open-air cinema Montjuic
Probably the most unique open-air cinema is situated next to the Montjuic castle. The screen is massive, and since you’re sitting in the moat of the castle, the sound is very clear. You can either sit on the grass or rent a lounger for 3 euros. If you choose to sit on the grass, you should bring along a towel or a blanket since the grass gets moist during the evening/night. You may bring your own drinks and food to enjoy the cinema experience to the fullest! They also sell snacks, beer, wine and soft drinks at the cinema. Most of the films are Hollywood films in the original language, so you don’t have to struggle with dubbing.
- Website: salamontjuic.org
- How to get: There are free shuttle buses running from Plaça Espanya to the cinema Montjuïc, from 8.15pm to 9.30pm. The stop is close to the two tall towers. There will be staff of Sala Montjuic with vests to help spot the correct stop, and normally there are queues at that bus stop as well.
Open-air cinema at the Barceloneta beach
A beach is another nice venue for an outdoor cinema. At the very central Barceloneta (Sant Sebastia beach), they show films on Thursdays and occasionally on Sundays, from late June to early August. Their film selection is less mainstream compared to Montjuic. The films are in their original language.
- Website: cinemalliure.com
- How to get: The closest metro stop is Barceloneta, along the line L4. It’s a 15-minute walk from that stop. Buses V21 and 39 have stops right in front of Club Natació Atlètic-Barceloneta
Cinemas on original language version
Cinemas are a great back-up plan for a rainy day. Most of the cinemas in Barcelona show dubbed films, but there are few exceptions around the city showing films in their original language. Even better, they offer cheaper tickets on cheap days, normally on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. The cinemas in Barcelona are pretty basic, especially the original language cinemas. The following cinemas show films in their original language version.
Icaria Yelmo Plex
The cinema is located downstairs of the shopping center, Centre de la Vila. The films run throughout the day. There are comfortable chairs and medium-sized screens. All films are in the original language. They sell popcorn, sweets and soft drinks. Right next to the ticket sales, there’s Consum supermarket if you want to save on your snacks. On cheap days, they have deals on popcorn and soft drink combos.
- Website: yelmocines.es
- How to get: The closest metro stop is Ciutadella i Vila Olimpica on the line L4. It’s an 8-minute walk from the metro station.
Renoir Cines Floridablanca
The cinema at the Floridablanca street is quite small, but the screens are medium-sized. Their selection is slightly scarcer compared to Yelmo Cine Icaria. The seats are comfy, and they sell popcorn, sweets and soft drinks. They show mainstream films in the original language.
- Website: cinesrenoir.com
- How to get: The closest metro stops are Urgell on the line L1 and Sant Antoni on the line L2.
Cine Verdi, near Gracia, is split into two buildings. If you can’t find the right screen, you’re probably in the wrong building. You can check that with the staff. Although the two buildings are close to each other, you must go around the whole building to enter the other. The screens are medium-sized, and the seats are comfy. They show mainstream films in the original language.
- Website: grupbalana.com
- How to get: The closest metro stops are Fontana on the line L3 and Joanic on the line L4. It takes about 5 minutes to walk to the cinema from both stations.
The newest original language cinema, called Balmes Multicines, is located high on Balmes street. The cinema is a bit difficult to get to, but it’s modern, with the best quality screens and audio of all original language cinemas in Barcelona. They have a pretty good selection of mainstream films, equivalent to Icaria cinema. They sell soft drinks, sweets and popcorn.
- Website: cines-verdi.com
- How to get: Take the L7 metro/overground line to Putxet station. It’s a 2-minute walk up the road from there.
Free museum Sundays - Things to do in Barcelona
Barcelona visitors with a tight budget are delighted to learn that certain museums don’t charge an entrance fee on certain dates and hours.
MNAC, Museum Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
The museum of Catalonian Art, next to Plaça d’Espanya, is a very beautiful building. You can also see it behind the magic fountain. The vast museum holds art works from Roman times to 1950’s.
- Website: museunacional.cat
- How to get: Metro lines L3 and L1, stop at Espanya.
MUHBA, Museum d’Història de Barcelona
Barcelona history museum is spread to various locations with excavations from the Roman times. At the locations, you can witness streets, houses and pottery from the Roman times. True history fanatics shouldn’t miss this museum.
- Website: ajuntament.barcelona.cat
- Opening hours: Please check opening times here: ajuntament.barcelona.cat
Virreina Centre de la Imatge
If you appreciate photography, you might want to check out Virreina image center with interesting photo exhibitions taking place constantly. It’s located on La Rambla and the entrance is always free of charge.
- Website: ajuntament.barcelona.cat
- How to get: Metro line L3, stop at Liceu.
The Picasso museum of Barcelona is one of the most popular sites to visit in Barcelona, especially on free admission days. The museum holds more than 3,800 works of art, and it’s especially renowned for Pablo Picasso’s paintings during his studying years.
- Website: museupicasso.bcn.cat
- How to get: Metro line L4, stop at Jaume I.
Centro de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB)
The contemporary museum of Barcelona in the upper Raval is a venue for temporary exhibitions, festivals, concerts, short films, speeches and much more. Traditionally, Worldpress photo exhibition is held in CCCB.
- Website: cccb.org
- How to get: Metro L1, stop at University or Metro L2, stop at Sant Antoni.
Museu Marítim de Barcelona
The area called Drassanes, meaning shipyards, is situated at the end of La Rambla street. The maritime museum of Barcelona is housed in the old Royal Shipyards building in the area. In the museum, you can learn about the long maritime traditions of Barcelona through artifacts dating to 13th century.
Tip: A special recommendation is the menu of the day served on weekdays at the museum restaurant.
- Website: www.mmb.cat
- How to get: Metro L3, stop at Drassanes.
Jardí Botànic de Barcelona
The botanical garden of Barcelona is situated at the top of Montjuic hill. There, you’ll find a vast collection of plants ranging from Australia to South Africa.
- Website: museuciencies.cat
- How to get: Metro: Line L1 and Line L3. Station: Plaça Espanya. From Plaça Espanya, a 2.5 km-walk, which takes around 35 minutes. Buses are also available: No. 150: Take the bus at Plaça Espanya/Maria Cristina and get off at the stop in Av. de l’Estadi Olímpic (there is a 5-10-minute walk to the Botanical Garden) No. 13: The stop is in front of the Botanical Garden.
Museum Blau is Barcelona’s own museum of natural history, and it’s located near Poblenou. In the museum, there are permanent and temporary exhibitions displayed over an area of 9000 square meters in two levels. It takes about 1-2 hours to go through the museum, so there’s no need to plan your whole day there. The museum contains many interactive items, making it more interesting for children.
- Website: museuciencies.cat
- How to get: Metro Line L4. stop at Maresme-Forum station (Rambla Prim exit). Tram T4.