This post was last updated on July 26th, 2016
Located in the Spanish region of Catalonia on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the city of Barcelona is known for Gaudí’s architecture, a myriad of museums and its vibrant nightlife and food scene. There are many places worth visiting in the city: the traditional district of El Born, the busy street of Las Ramblas filled with flower stalls and street performers and the artsy and up-and-coming neighborhood of El Raval. But what are the city’s must-sees?
Owen Prior (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Traditional Markets and Tapas Bars
Food is an essential part of Barcelona. Here you will find a variety of markets selling fresh local products, old tapas bars ideal for an afternoon appetizer and more than twenty Michelin-starred restaurants. Even if you are on a budget you will be able to enjoy a variety of local delicacies and dishes. Do not miss to the centric Boquería market, filled with colorful stalls selling juices, local fruit, fresh vegetables, jamón ibérico cured ham and even cheese. Another market worth visiting is the more traditional and larger Sant Antoni market. These two markets have their own tapas bars, ideal for grabbing a bite before heading off to explore the city center.
Some of the city’s most popular tapas bars are located near El Born, the Gothic Quarter and Barceloneta, and if you are looking for a chic terrace ideal for people watching, then you can choose from one of the many terraces lining the Gràcia district. Choose between salty cod, calamari, chunks of potatoes served with mayonnaise and spicy sauces, fried and salted spicy peppers and anchovies in vinegar… all of them accompanied by beer, wine or local cava.
The Winding Alleys of the Gothic Quarter
This medieval neighbourhood is one of the most ancient districts in the city and the place where you will find the imposing Gothic cathedral and a cloister that is always filled with geese. Take a walk around the narrow stone streets lined with bars, restaurants and shops and spend an afternoon lounging on one of the many terrace located around the Plaça Reial and Plaça Sant Jaume squares. If you are a history buff, try to explore the Museu d’Historia de la Ciutat, a museum dedicated to Barcelona’s most ancient history, and the Museu Maritim shipping museum.
Gaudí’s Colourful Architecture
The majority of the city’s most recognizable landmarks were designed by the architect Antoni Gaudí. Try to book a hotel in the center of Barcelona in advance: this will bring you closer to the main landmarks and you will be able to explore the city on foot. Walking around the centric Eixample district you will find two private residences that were designed by the architect: Casa Batlló and Casa Milá, called La Pedrera by the locals. Casa Batlló is covered in colourful trencadis, bits of mosaic, and has skull-shaped balconies made of iron. Casa Milá is known for its wavy facade and was built without using any straight lines. Guided tours are organized around part of thus building, which has several tiled patios and a floor dedicated to Gaudí’s designs.
The most famous of Gaudí’s masterpieces is the unfinished Sagrada Familia cathedral, a basilica with facades adorned with carved sculptures of saints that looms over the city. The inside of this five-naved basilica is filled with columns that represent trees, joining in the apse above the altar. Climb to the top of one of the finished towers in order to enjoy views towards the city center: you can take the elevator or, if you are up for it, climb up the hundreds of narrow stone steps that lead to the top.
The City’s Parks
Barcelona’s climate is ideal for nature lovers who enjoy running, biking and walking around the city’s parks. The centric Ciutadella park houses several gardens, museums and even a fountain in the shape of an arch that was designed by Gaudí. The most famous park is Gaudí’s Parc Güell, a park with exotic gardens, a museum and many decorated pavilions filled with colorful statues.
The Magic Fountain and Montjuic
Candy Tale (CC BY 2.0)
Montjuic is the ideal place to spend the whole day. Located on a hill south of the city center, this area has plenty of museums, parks and other attractions. Try to stay there until the afternoon, when the Magic Fountain comes to life with a show of lights, water dances and music. This fountain is located in front of the National Palace, which houses the National Museum of Catalan art. Two other museums worth visiting are the Miro Foundation and the Archaeological Museum. It is recommended to visit the Poble Espanyol, a museum located at the foot of the Montjuic mountain, where you will find traditional houses from all over Spain; a variety of glass blowers, smithies and artisan shops; and restaurants serving traditional food from all over Spain.
If you’re traveling around Spain, don’t miss a stop in Casey’s favorite destination: Seville. This vibrant Andalucian has a lot to love, but these are our top five reasons to include it in your itinerary.
Have you been to Barcelona? What would you add to the list?