Barcelona is a great city to visit and there are activities for almost everyone. While you study Spanish abroad in Barcelona, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the city. We’ve complied a list of the top 10 things you must do in Barcelona before you leave. From the most touristic places to some very local activities, there’s plenty to choose from.
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 the 1929 International Exposition and, after a break during the Spanish Civil war, still transports passengers to this day.
Despite its old, charming look, it’s perfectly safe to ride! To start the trip, take the metro to Paral·lel station (by way of either the green or purple line) and then take 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. The cable car does have a fare and it is a little bit pricey: 11 euros for a one-way trip. Compared to other attractions is not as packed, perhaps because of the cost of the fare, yet the views are really breathtaking.
An important note: while this cable car stop is in Montjuïc, it is referred to as the Port Cable Car. There is a different, newer cable car in Montjuïc, which connects the lower part of the mountain with the castle. While it is still a nice trip, be careful not to confuse them.
Eat some tapas at the Barceloneta
When you take the cable car from Miramar station, it will drop you off at the Torre de San Sebastià, in 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.
Best recommendation for eating: explore 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, recently renovated but over a century old, people say it was where the Barceloneta’s Bomba (a deep fried potato stuffed with spicy meat) was invented.
Book a cool walking tour
When you study Spanish abroad 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) one idea is to book a walking tour. There are several organizations that offer them for free, but if you want a more specialized tour, you have a variety of options to choose from. Such as a family tour, a guided tour offered by an architect, a green tour, etc. There is also a tour offered by formerly homeless people to show you the not-so-nice realities of street living in a city.
Enjoy magnificent views and Gaudí’s architecture at Park Güell
The world famous Park Güell is an absolute must-see attraction in Barcelona. For easy directions, take the metro green line to Lesseps or Vallcarca and walk from there. The park is situated on top of a hill, for this escalators are offered as it is quite a hike! 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 tickets can be bought online.
One little tip to sound like a local: Gaudí’s name is pronounced with the stressed syllable at the end, at the “í”.
A trip to the past: the Tramvia Blau and the Tibidabo Park
The Tramvia Blau is a perfectly preserved streetcar from 1901; it is the only survivor of the early 20th century. Tickets can be purchased on board (as it used to be!) for 5.50 euros. The Tramvia crosses part of the Tibidabo hill and drops you at the Tibidabo’s Funicular. Further ascension on a hill leads you to Tibidabo Park.
This small city park, created at the beginning of the 20th century, combines modern and older attractions, creating an innovative and nostalgic feeling. While the rollercoaster is very thrilling, you can also get onboard l’Avió (the plane), an exact replica of the first plane tp fly from Barcelona to Madrid in 1927. You can also enter 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, nature lovers will find that the Tibidabo mountain offers great hiking trails.
Spend a day (or two) in Montjuïc
The other mountain of Barcelona, Montjuïc, is a great place to spend a whole day or longer. Sports, fresh air, parks, history, museums, and even a magic fountain, whatever your interest, Montjuïc has it. For those into history, the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) and Fundació Joan Miró are two museums that are definitely worth the visit.
In summer, you can swim at the Picornell Olympic pools or even enjoy an open-air film at the Montjuïc Castle. At the Poble Espanyol you can visit Madrid, Andalusia and the Bask Country all at once, or try some rock climbing at the Foixarda Tunnel (it’s free if you have your own climbing shoes).
To visit some amazing green spaces check out the Botanic Gardens. If you fancy some Versailles-type gardens, take a walk across the Jardins Joan Maragall. If you’re more into the prickly type, visit the cacti at the Jardins Mossèn Costa i Llobera. If you like stadiums make sure you see Palau Sant Jordi (where the likes of Madonna and Justin Bieber have performed) or the Olympic Stadium, which was renovated in 1992 for Barcelona’s Olympic Games.
Montjuïc is very big and some of these places are quite spread out. Although there are plenty of buses from one point to another, it’s best to plan your trip by visiting one site per day.
Las Ramblas, Colón and Museu de la Cera
You have not really visited Barcelona if you haven’t been to Las Ramblas.
Near Catalunya’s metro station, you’ll find the . Although it appears to be rather small and mundane, it is very important for two reasons: one, FC Barcelona fans celebrate Barça’s victories there; second, and most important, legend says that if you drink from its waters, you’ll fall in love with Barcelona.
Once you get to the bottom of Las Ramblas, you can take the lift inside the Christopher Columbus monument and visit the wax museum, Museu de la Cera. Despite not being as fancy as Madame Tussauds in London, but it is definitely worth a trip. If wax sculptures aren’t really your thing, stop and have a drink at the Bosc de Les Fades bar. This bar has eccentric, interesting decoration and boasts classic and one-of-a-kind refreshments.
Eat some traditional Catalan food
If you want to try some homestyle, country cooking without going far from the city, eat a traditional Catalan meal. Check out some classic restaurants in Barcelona’s hills below.
At the top of Gràcia, in El Carmel, Guinardó or Collserola, you’ll find some rustic and traditional restaurants. Here are some 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 fresh, local onions that are cooked, grilled and accompanied with a tasty sauce: romescu. To have a Calçotada, get a bib (it’s the traditional thing to do), get ready to get your hands dirty and enjoy
Check out local festivities
Barcelona always has plenty of local festivities. The city’s main celebration, La Mercè, takes place at the end of September. There are free music concerts, exhibitions, street performances, fireworks and traditional activities like castellers and correfocs. In December, there are Christmas activies, like the Cavalcada de Reis.
In February, Santa Eulàlia is celebrated and although not as big as la Mercè, it is equally cool. Santa Eulàlia was a devoted and eloquent Christian that confronted a Roman Emperor in the III century. 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 be prepared to have a good time.
Festes Majors from each neighborhood are also very popular. Although Gràcia and Sants are the most popular, Poblesec, Poblenou, Sant Antoni and Sant Andreu offer great activities and most take place from July until late October or November. You can keep track here.
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) and Casa Batlló (all from Antoni Gaudí) are some of the most visited places in the city.
If you want to check out amazing but lesser-known places, we recommend the Palau de la Música, a modernist building designed by Domènech i Montaner. When it was first built, one of the building’s 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 the covered side is now accessible to the public.
Casa Golferichs, a cultural center, is worth a visit in addition to the Palau Güell, which opened to the public in 2011.
Many museums in the city have free admission the first Sunday of every month. The ever famous Palau Güell has an open day for the public so make sure to check it out.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Barcelona? Visit the gothic quarter, go to a museum, eat tapas? When studying abroad in Barcelona, the sites and activities are endless, making studying Spanish in this great city a not-to-be-missed opportunity.