Barcelona is a great city to visit and there are activities for almost everyone.
While you learn Spanish abroad in Barcelona, here you have 10 things to do in the city. From the most touristic places to some very local activities, there’s plenty to choose.
1. Take the Port Cable Car
If you’ve been around Barcelona’s port, you’ve probably seen the red Port Cable Car or Aeri del Port. It was designed when Barcelona held its 1929 International Exposition and after a break during the Spanish Civil war, it resumed transporting passengers in the late 50s and has been doing so until today.
Although it looks old and charming, don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe! To start the trip, take the metro to Paral·lel station (green or purple line) and then have a little hike to Montjuïc. The location is a bit tricky to find: Avinguda Miramar s/n, 08038. It is in front of the massive and luxurious Miramar Hotel, so you can use that as a reference or this map. Once you get there, the cable car is a little bit pricey: it is 11 euros for a one-way trip. Maybe because of this it is not as packed as other places yet the views are really breathtaking.
Very important: while this cable car stop is in Montjuïc, it is referred as the Port Cable Car. There’s another newer cable car in Montjuïc that connects the lower part of the mountain with the castle. While that’s a nice trip, be sure not to confuse them. And I do know from experience how easy that can be…
2. Eat some tapas at the Barceloneta
If you take the cable car from Miramar station, it will get you to the Torre de San Sebastià, at the heart of La Barceloneta. This old fishing neighborhood, now very trendy and popular, was designed by a military architect as a grid with land reclaimed from the sea.
My best recommendation to eat: the market square and the streets around it. At Sant Miquel street, there’s a church and a little square, and on one side there’s a bar, Can Ganassa. The establishment, now renovated but a century old, the word has it was where the Barceloneta’s Bomba (a deep fried potato stuffed with spicy meat) was invented.
3. Book a cool walking tour
When you study Spanish in Barcelona, the Gothic quarter is definitely worth a visit. However, if you want to get to know all of its secrets (and there are plenty, for example, it’s not really gothic…) one idea is to book a walking tour. There are several organizations that offer them for free. If you want some more specialized tours, you can choose a family tour, an architect to show you around, a green tour. Although maybe not for everyone, formerly homeless people also lead tours to show you the not-so-nice realities of living in a city. There’s plenty to pick.
4. Enjoy magnificent views and Gaudí’s architecture at Park Güell
The Park Güell is probably a must-see attraction in Barcelona. You can get there by metro, taking the green line to Lesseps or Vallcarca and walk from there. Some parts have escalators so make sure you take them, it is quite a hike! You can also take the H6, 32, 24 and 92 buses, depending on where you are coming from. The park began its construction in 1900 when, after some successful previous projects, the businessman Eusebi Güell commissioned Gaudí to design it. The general ticket for the Monumental Core is 7 euros and you can buy it online.
One little tip to sound like a local: Gaudí’s name is pronounced with the stressed syllable at the end, at the “í”.
5. A trip to the past: the Tramvia Blau and the Tibidabo Park
For some reason, this trip is one of my favorite things to do in Barcelona. Maybe it’s because of my childhood memories but this is for sure a charming adventure.
The Tramvia Blau is a streetcar from 1901 preserved exactly as it was and the only survivor of that time. The tickets can be purchased on board (as it used to be!) for 5.50 euros. You can check how to get there here. The Tramvia crosses part of the Tibidabo hill and gets you at the Tibidabo’s Funicular, which leads you a little up the hill to the Tibidabo Park.
This small city park created at the beginning of the XX century, combines modern attractions with old and nostalgic ones. While the rollercoaster is very thrilling, you can also get on board of l’Avió (the plane), an exact replica of the first plane that flew from Barcelona to Madrid in 1927. You can also get into the spooky Krüeger Hotel, a performance-based interactive horror show decorated as an abandoned hotel. Aside from attractions, restaurants and great views over the city, for nature lovers the Tibidabo mountain also offers some great hiking trails surrounding the park.
6. Spend a day (or two) in Montjuïc
The other mountain of Barcelona, Montjuïc, is a great place to spend a whole day or even more than one. Sports, fresh air, parks, history, museums and even a magic fountain, you can find all sorts of activities. For those into museums, the Fundació Joan Miró is an impressive museum dedicated to Catalan artist Joan Miró that’s worth a visit as well as the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC).
In summer, you can also swim at the Picornell Olympic pools or even enjoy an open-air film at the Montjuïc Castle, a place full of history and amazing views. You can visit Madrid, Andalusia and the Bask Country all at once at the Poble Espanyol or try some rock climbing at the Foixarda Tunnel (it’s free! You just need climbing shoes).
To visit some amazing green spaces, less well-known but very spectacular, check the Botanic Gardens. If you fancy some Versailles-type gardens, take a walk across the Jardins Joan Maragall or, if you are into cool western-like cactus, visit the Jardins Mossèn Costa i Llobera. If you like stadiums, modern or old, make sure you see Palau Sant Jordi (where the likes of Madonna or Justin Bieber perform) or the Olympic Stadium, which was renovated in 1992 for Barcelona’s Olympic Games but dates from… You guessed it… 1929!
Montjuïc is very big and some of these places are quite far from each other, although there are plenty of buses from one point to another, probably plan your trip to visit a specific area, it’s impossible to see everything in day!
7. Las Ramblas, Colón and Museu de la Cera
You have not really visited Barcelona if you haven’t been to Las Ramblas.
At the beginning, near Catalunya’s metro station, you will find the Canaletes Fountain. Although small and rather mundane, it is very important for two reasons. One, FC Barcelona fans celebrate Barça’s victories there. And second and most important, the legend says that if you drink from its waters, you will fall in love with Barcelona.
And I’m sure you will. To be a little more quirky, once you get to the bottom of Las Ramblas, you can take the lift inside the Christopher Columbus monument and then plan a visit to the wax museum, Museu de la Cera. It’s not as fancy as London’s but it’s definitely quirky. If you are not that into wax sculptures, you can just have a drink at the Bosc de Les Fades bar: eccentric and interesting decoration with some refreshments at the same time.
8. Eat some traditional Catalan food
If you want to feel like going to the countryside without going far while enjoying a very traditional Catalan meal, check some classic restaurants by Barcelona’s hills.
At the top of Gràcia, in El Carmel, Guinardó or Collserola, you can find some rustic and traditional restaurants. Things to try:
- Escudella, a rather heavy traditional soup, great for winters
- Botifarra and seques, a traditional Catalan sausage with white beans
- Trinxat de la Cerdanya, a mixture of mashed cabbage and potato with bacon
- Fricandó a slowly cooked veal stew with mushrooms.
And, of course, if you go from November to April, you should order Calçots. These are some local fresh onions that are cooked grilled and accompanied with a fantastic and tasty sauce: romescu. To have a Calçotada, get a bib (it’s the traditional thing to do), be ready to get your hands dirty and enjoy.
9. Check out local festivities
Barcelona always has plenty of local festivities. The city’s main festivities, La Mercè, take place at the end of September. There are free music concerts, exhibitions, street performances, fireworks and traditional activities like castellers or correfocs.
In December, there are activities for Christmas, like the Cavalcada de Reis, you can know more here.
In February, there are the Santa Eulàlia festivities. Not as big as la Mercè but very cool and local. Santa Eulàlia was a devoted and eloquent Christian that confronted a Roman Emperor in the III century. Things did not turn out great for her (she became a martyr) and was once Barcelona’s Patron Saint until she was replaced by La Mercè. In September, at a free concert during La Mercè, you may find that it suddenly rains: the legend says it’s not rain, it’s Santa Eulàlia’s tears. The same month there’s also Carnaval, so get dressed up and ready to have a good time.
There are also the Festes Majors from each neighborhood. Although Gràcia and Sants are the most popular, Poblesec, Poblenou, Sant Antoni or Sant Andreu offer great activities and most take place from July until late October or November. You can keep track here.
10. Barcelona’s most exciting architecture
This list would not be completed without some of Barcelona’s most iconic buildings. As you probably know, la Sagrada Família, La Pedrera (Casa Milà) or Casa Batlló all from Antoni Gaudí, are some of the most visited places in the city.
If you want to check amazing but lesser-know places, I recommend the Palau de la Música, a modernist building designed by Domènech i Montaner. As a curiosity, when it was built, one of the sides was hidden by another adjacent building. The perfectionist architect decided to decorate it anyway, even though no one could see it at the time. Today, the old building was demolished so that side is accessible to the public so… he was probably right and a visionary.
Casa Golferichs, a cultural center is also worth a visit as well as the Palau Güell, which opened to the public in 2011 and is also by Gaudí.
The first Sunday of the month many museums of the city are free and the Palau Güell has an Open Day as well so make sure to check it out.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Barcelona? Visit te gothic quarter, go to a museum, eat tapas, learn Spanish abroad? Leave us a comment below!