My Personal Top 10 List Of The Best Things To Do In Barcelona

Barcelona has got to be one of my favourite cities in Europe; I visited multiple times on my first backpacking adventure and loved it, and have been back since with my girlfriend and enjoyed it just as much.

So how do you define Barcelona? Well it’s an eclectic mix of a chilled out beach atmosphere and a vibrant urban lifestyle. You’ll see people in business suits followed by others cruising on long skateboards, you’ll see buzzing city restaurants and local tapas cafes and people from all around the world. It’s a place bursting with art, architecture and culture – everyone loves Barcelona!

Of course this is my own personal list, everyone likes different things but I hope it gives you a few ideas on what to do in Barcelona and some of the great stuff you should check out. I’m going to split this article into different sections, things that you have to pay for, things that are free and then some of my personal recommendations.

Top 5 Things That Will Cost You Money
Top 5 Free Things To Do
My Personal Recommendations

The Arc de Triomf & some Barcelona graffiti.


Top 5 Best Things To Do In Barcelona That Will Cost You Money


The Quirky La Sagrada Familia

Still not finished!

You don’t need to be religious to appreciate the wonder of Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia. The line to get in normally winds around the entire block, the trick is to try and get there early (which can be difficult when you’re partying every night). I often hear of people who show up, decide the line is too big, take a few pictures of the outside and then head off on their merry way. If you do this, you’re missing out on something stellar. The inside of the church is fascinating and mesmerising – there are bright colours everywhere and giant columns with smooth edges, and the place is huge.

Definitely make the time to get in and look around, but of course the outside of the building is equally impressive. I loved all the sculptures at the front, they had a simplistic style that really appealed to me. Amazingly it’s still a work in progress, Gaudi’s vision was immense, and he knew when designing it that he would not be alive to see it finished.

Gaudi's stunning La Sagrada Familia.

The Casa Batllo (Another Gaudi Masterpiece)

A much smaller yet still impressive work of Gaudi’s, Casa Batllo is a swirling and magical house. Wavey windows and hundreds of small tiles in colours of blue, mauve and green will draw the eye, and the uneven roof is actually representative of Sant Jordi (St George) and the dragon. With its twisted ceiling and waves of coloured wood and glass, it’s definitely a fun thing to see – it’s not exactly cheap though with tickets costing around 18 Euros.

Bar Hop The Barri Gotic

The Barri Gotic (the Gothic Quarter), is a winding warren dating back to medieval times. There are heaps of bars, pubs and cafes located throughout the Barri Gotic, and it’s the best place to do a bit of bar hopping. We had a lot of fun just exploring the area, and many of the buildings date back to the 15th century and earlier.

The winding alleys of the Barri Gotic.

Get Your History On At Museu d’Historia de Barcelona

The Barcelona History Museum is located around the Placa del Rei, and houses a subterranean walk through some excavated Roman ruins. It’s a great walk to do, and there are also vaults on display of items from medieval Barcelona – and who doesn’t love stuff from medieval times?

Watch FC Barcelona Play Football

The amazing stadium - credit flickr user:

The Catalunya people are simply obsessed with football, and no-one is greater than their team FC Barcelona. Of course it is one of the best teams in the world, with players like Messi, Villa and Iniesta who are just magical with the ball.

If you can manage to get tickets to a game, DO IT. I haven’t had the chance to see them play yet, but it’s on my to do list and I’ll definitely be doing it someday soon. It won’t be cheap though, and it’s more likely you’ll only be able to get tickets to a less ‘popular’ game. Games versus Real Madrid are when the people’s passion is running at its highest, but getting a ticket to an event like that is notoriously difficult.

There’s a bit of history I learned about FC Barcelona that helped explain the wild passion that the Catalans have for their team. During the period when Spain was united, it was illegal for the Catalan people to do anything that wasn’t ‘Spanish’. They were not allowed to speak their own language or perform their own dances, everything traditional was banned. However, because the King in Madrid enjoyed football, they were allowed to keep their team. The people rallied behind the team as it was their only outlet for their Catalonian pride, and the FC Barcelona flag became a symbol to them and their independence.

Just walking the streets you can see their passion, flags everywhere!

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Top 5 Free Things To Do In Barcelona To Help The Budget


Roam Park Guell

Yes, I know, its Gaudi again! But the man was a legend, and he is loved by the citizens of Barcelona. Plus, the park is awesome. The history of Park Guell is that Gaudi was hired by a Count to create a miniature garden city. Ultimately, the project was abandoned – but Gaudi did create about 3km of the park which includes roads, walks and steps, a plaza and even two funky gatehouses. If you get on Bus 24 it will drop you off near the entrance to the park.

Chill Out In La Barceloneta

Barceloneta is the area around Barcelona’s famous beach. So grab a towel and head on down to soak up the sun and the sand. As you can imagine there are a number of restaurants and drinking holes close by, so the day can carry on into the night if you so wish. The beach, sun and sand will always be free though!

Last time I was in Barceloneta sitting on the beach, my girlfriend and I were approached by a man with blood shot eyes who wanted to sell us marijuana. When we politely declined he drawled:

“Why you NO wanna smoke Marijuana?”

He was actually very confused that we didn’t want his great products. We still put on his voice and say that to each other whenever we think of it.

Us relaxing on the beach in Barceloneta.

Art In The CaixaForum

This free museum is owned and operated by the Caixa Bank, and it houses an extensive collection of modern art from all around the world. There are always new exhibitions happening, and the building itself is pretty cool and worth seeing.

Do A Walking Tour

These walking tours are really taking off around Europe, and if I get a good guide I actually quite enjoy them. We did one in Barcelona with Bill the Australian (us Australians seem to permeate every city in Europe – I’m surprised there is even any of us left in Australia). The tour is ‘free’, but they do ask for a donation at the end. I normally give about 5 Euros.

Here are my two favourite stories from the Walking Tour (if they are not true, you can blame Bill).

If you’ve ever been to Barcelona you’ll notice all the palm trees around the place. These palm trees are not actually native to Barcelona, and in fact were placed for the 1992 Olympics. They actually got these palm trees from Miami – but they’re now so iconic to Barcelona that the government doesn’t want to take them out. The best bit is that to this day the Barcelona government is still paying the government of Miami an undisclosed sum every year for these palm trees. They’ve been renting palm trees since 1992!

Some of the palm trees - originally from Miami.

Another great story was about the Christopher Columbus statue that is located at the end of Las Rambla. It’s Mr Columbus pointing a finger towards what is supposed to be America. Unfortunately when the Spaniards raised him and set the statue at the top of the pillar, the workers had not put him in the correct position so he is in fact pointing at Africa. They were too lazy to change it so to this day, he is pointing in the wrong direction defying the whole point of the statue. Go Barca!

Run The Las Rambla

I hesitated even putting in Las Rambla, because let me tell you that the locals avoid this street like the plague. The expats avoid this street for the same reasons the locals do. The only people that feel they need to go to Las Rambla are tourists. However, you cannot really visit Barcelona for the first time and NOT do a walk down Las Rambla. It’s a wall of tourists, with hotels and hostels branching off every street and ‘real tapas’ and ‘paella’ being touted on every corner. But it’s an experience, and that’s what travelling is all about – so do it yourself and decide if I was spot on or not.

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Personal Recommendations For Barcelona

Hot Tip: A lot of people go to the market in Las Ramblas, but I think the market on Avenida de Francesc Cambó in the building with a roof that looks like colourful waves is a much better market. It’s a little smaller, but you also have room to breathe and walk around around and enjoy yourself. I found the tapas here to also be tastily delectable.

Restaurant Recommendation: Bunbo


I do see the irony of recommending a Vietnamese restaurant in an article about Barcelona, but this was one of our favourite spots to eat whilst we were there, and I have no problem recommending it to others. They do a rocking 3 course lunch for 10 Euros, and the food is fresh and delicious. It seemed to be a popular spot with the locals too, and it was YUM!

Location: c/ dels Sagristans 3

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Grab A Frozen Yoghurt

There are quite a few great frozen yoghurt shops around Barcelona, and most of them are delicious on a hot day (these are frequent in Barcelona). It’s a silly recommendation, but we loved grabbing some frozen yoghurt and then wandering through the alleyways of Barcelona.

Mmm yum, fresh frozen yoghurt!

Vintage Shopping on Riera Baixa

Last time we were in Barcelona, we found a great street that was full of some awesome vintage shops. So if you’re into vintage shopping at all, definitely check it out.

The address is c/ Riera Baixa. Here it is on Google Maps.

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A City To Wander

Barcelona is a fantastic city to just EXPLORE, with the Barri Gotic and Barceloneta all relatively close together – you can just wander aimlessly and still have a great time soaking it all in. It’s a city full of epic night clubs and indie pubs, where the locals and the tourists party as hard as each other. With that being said though, it’s also got culture and it’s just plain classy – Barcelona is definitely one of my favourite cities in the world.

A dog we found retrieving his ball in the fountain whilst wandering Barcelona.

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5 Responses to “My Personal Top 10 List Of The Best Things To Do In Barcelona”

  1. Laurence says:

    Barcelona is in my list of places I want to visit in 2012, so this list is going to come in very handy! Great post!

  2. Caitlyn says:

    The beach is so conveniently located, right in the centre of Barcelona. Be careful of thieves though! We actually witnessed one man ‘bending down to tie his shoe’ and snatching a bag on his way up. Luckily the locals began shouting…
    ‘ladron, LADRON…como se llama ladron en ingles?…thief!’
    …and soon the whole crowd around us joined in screaming. Quite a comical sight considering they were all topless pensioners. Anyway, the thief dropped the bag and we later saw him taken away by the police!

    • Tom says:

      Hi Caitlyn! Hah, nothing better then topless pensioners shouting down a rotten thief. That’s something I’m sure we all wish we could see in Barcelona 😀

  3. Sergio says:

    im going in January to Barcelona, but my friends are not to keen on the idea. So I may have to go alone for a few days? How’s the people for lone travellers in the city? Are they nice? One good thing is that I can speak Spanish

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