20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Barcelona
As the cradle of some of the world's most well-known people, architecture, and events, the Spanish city of Barcelona is truly a top tourist destination. Located on the Mediterranean coast, this cosmopolitan city is studded with culture and history, and has some of the world's best Modernist architecture.
But Barcelona's other highlight is not the man-made world, it's the pristine white beaches, not far away on the costal. Spain's third-largest city is home to beautiful stretches of Mediterranean coastline, and its more-distant beaches, such as those of the Costa Brava, offer some of the region's most relaxing spots, like the Spanish Riviera in North Africa.
The entertainment here is as diverse as it is exciting. You can see Broadway-style musicals, enjoy the flamenco culture, or bask in the Spanish charm at a high tea in a villa, with Barcelona as the perfect backdrop.
In short, the city has something for everyone, from hip art scenes and world-class shopping, to relaxing beaches and historical sights. So if you're visiting Barcelona, find out what you truly love about it.
Check out our list of the top attractions in Barcelona to plan your itinerary.
La Sagrada Familia
Located on one of the highest points in the city of Barcelona and visible from almost any vantage point in the city, La Sagrada Familia is easily Spain's most iconic religious monument. Constructed between 1883 and 1884, the 1,575-foot-long church is still not completed and is nearly one-third of the way toward its full 1,000-foot height. Those lucky enough to visit when the church is lit at night by the intensity of its lit towers and facade deserve their moment of romance.
The bright, newly renovated Picasso Museum (Picasso Música) is housed in the former Museum of Contemporary Art. Many of the works exhibited were created during Picasso's lifetime and reflect his genius for color. Other highlights include some of the artist's iconic moments with beautiful and/or scandalous women, a model from the dressmaker he hired for his first show, and the bullet he used to wound his aggressor in an argument in public. The Picasso Museum is adjacent to the Poble Espanyol, which has a wide variety of museums, theaters, and restaurants.
Originally a church built by the Roman emperors in the 4th century, Barcelona Cathedral was later transformed into a fortress by the Almogavars. In the 14th century it became a part of the Counts of Barcelona's castle and was then greatly expanded, with towers and the distinctive bell tower adding to the impressive size of the structure. While not exactly a tourist destination in itself, the cathedral is usually one of the first things you see as you approach the city from the sea. With its impressive spires and gray granite columns and walls, it's a sight that's hard to miss. The church is easily accessible by Metro and by car and is one of Barcelona's most popular attractions.
Parc de la Ciutadella
Parc de la Ciutadella (the park of the city centre) is the most famous public park in Spain. Not quite as large as London's Hyde Park, the site spreads out over several square kilometers and enjoys a beautiful location between the sea and the city. The park was designed as the former Ciutat Vella (Old City) and was a military fortress built between 1853 and 1856 by Francesc Josep Anselm Cladera, Marquis of Mantua (1793-1866) and later transformed into a large park. Cladeslla has an aqueduct to bring in the much needed water. Parc de la Ciutadella offers a modern art museum, an astronomical observatory, a zoo and the Ciutat Baixa (the lower town) and is a popular picnic spot.
The impressive Spanish naval museum of Museu Maritim is housed in the 18th-century building of Palau Nacional. The permanent collection is located in an annex and includes the original Royal Arms of the old Habsburg Empire; the collection includes replicas of galleons, the first printing press, old military weapons, art and treasures from international maritime expeditions. The museum houses regular temporary exhibitions in the main building and offers guided tours of the annex, taking in the original naval facilities and its historical significance.
Barcelona's apartments are increasingly popular as they combine all of the city's contemporary urban life with excellent quality and aesthetics. The 1867 building La Pedrera is one of the most emblematic of Barcelona's most exciting projects. Located in the north of the city, close to the beach of Barceloneta, it is one of the most emblematic of Barcelona's new architecture projects, and includes a collection of apartments and penthouses designed by Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill. The modernist style of the building is emphasized by the rooftop curving balconies. Today the building is widely admired for its sculptural concrete and whitewash exterior, and remains one of the most famous housing projects of the 21st century.
Park Güell is one of Barcelona's most popular attractions, located in the Eixample district. It was designed and built by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí between 1883 and 1885 as the personal residence of the wealthy Spanish heiress Maria i Nàtia de Güell. The bright yellow villa, which has a spectacular Catalan-Gothic, Roccoco and Jugendstil influences, was Gaudí's only project in Barcelona. After it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the villa received extensive restoration, which included the demolition of the original small bell tower to create the L-shaped major entrance. Today, the grounds are used for events such as concerts, exhibitions and more.
Spain's iconic seaside resort is situated on the northern outskirts of the historical city of Barcelona. With its Mediterranean climate, swaths of beach and prominent shipbuilding industry, it is the place where Europeans came to enjoy the sun before the war. The principal attraction is the wide sweep of white sand, the most northerly of any town in Europe, on the Gulf of Barcelona. It's very long, almost 18km long, and unlike most other beaches along the coast is calm. Several rocky cliffs protect the sandy beaches from the often rough seas, so the gentle waves make for perfect surfing conditions. Barceloneta also has a great nightlife, as the town is the center for many clubs and bars, with many situated around the Plaça de la Merce. There is also a lively culture scene with several bars and live music venues attracting an alternative crowd and an established international art and design scene. For lunch and dinner there are many fish restaurants, as well as options to go for a pizza or burger. You can catch ferries from Barcelona harbour, as well as cruise ships. Barceloneta is popular for its beaches and is a great day out for families, couples, singles and clubbers.
Gran Teatre del Liceu
The Liceu is a 19th-century opera house in the heart of Barcelona's Gothic Quarter. Its opulent and ornate interior has been painstakingly restored to its former glory, from the massive gold-leaf and red velvet entrance foyer to the dizzying view of the classical Roman columns that grace the main ceiling. It was constructed for the 1888 Summer Olympic Games and a stop on the Tour de France in 1979, when Spaniards from Madrid came to cheer on the L'Ença Anglada in the final stage. The best seat in the house for the performance is the Parc de L'Olympia box, where the late architect Antoni Gaudí created an impressive set of murals. The design is based on the arched windows that mark the most prestigious parts of this district.
Barcelona's famous soccer stadium Camp Nou (Camp Nou Stadium) is situated in the city's El Born district. Completed in 1957, the stadium was the world's first all-seater sports facility. Inside, you can wander freely between the stadium and the great pitch outside to enjoy Barcelona's trademark Barca fans, who are famous for their fervent cheering and singing, and their extraordinary and outlandish football tifos, or displays of artistic footballing acrobatics. After a football match, tourists will love to take a walk around this atmospheric part of the city and make for the surrounding streets for browsing or drinks and tapas.
The Gothic Quarter
The Gothic Quarter (Barri Gótic in Catalan) of Barcelona is one of the oldest and most beautiful parts of the city. The narrow streets, alleyways and vaulted passages are lined with centuries-old houses that have been restored and repurposed. Here you'll find medieval mansions, nautical architecture, colorful cafes and restaurants, and dozens of boutique hotels and designer shops. The neighborhood is also home to the 18th-century Mercat de Sant Antoni, one of the best preserved markets of its kind in the world. Although no longer a working market, it still has a very strong local feel, with its narrow alleys full of quirky shops selling everything from street food to clothing, shoes and bags.
Palau de la Música Catalana
Palau de la Música Catalana (Palace of Music), at the center of Barcelona, was designed to be a true temple of art and culture. Located at Passeig de Gracia in the heart of the city, it has a colonnade of 21 Corinthian pillars, a theater, concert halls, and a glorious neo-classical interior. The Barcelona Symphony Orchestra plays there. The chamber orchestra provides concerts at various locations in the building during the summer and fall months. Guided tours of the building are also available, including an architectural one, at 2 p.m. every day and a "Discovery Tour" daily at 11:30 a.m. Visit the Web site for more information about this superb art and cultural landmark.
Europe's most visited city is a beautiful setting for a fantastic zoo. The sights of Barcelona itself are vast, and include the Torre de la Plata, the Palau Nacional and the cathedral La Seu. Guided tours of the city and the zoo are popular. Barcelona Zoo is Europe's largest, with over 6,500 animals living in natural surroundings. If you prefer your animals wild, take a nature tour from Barcelona.
Mercat de la Boqueria
Barcelona's beautiful Boqueria market, which can be found on the western edge of the Barceloneta district, is one of the greatest food and wine bazaars in Europe. It's also extremely popular with tourists, but with the best it's worth a visit even if you're not a foodie. Most of the stalls specialize in gourmet foodstuffs, most notably fresh fish, shellfish, vegetables and flowers. If you want to treat yourself to an exotic and delightful experience, try marinated octopus and olive oil. In addition to the food, there are plenty of stalls selling a variety of jewelry, secondhand books and an overwhelming number of souvenirs.
The seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of Barcelona, the Modernista style basilica of the Sagrada Familia cathedral stands on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean. You enter the main hall through a soaring barrel-vaulted central nave that rises about 70 meters above the city streets. Completed in 1882, the project suffered from delays and the death of its creator, Antoni Gaudí. Nevertheless, the immense construction is still considered to be one of the finest examples of art nouveau, and the intricate decorations and decorations inside the basilica are among the finest examples of Modernista architecture.
Església de Santa Maria del Pi
Located in the city's historic Barri Gòtic, the late 17th-century Església de Santa Maria del Pi was the centerpiece of a 19th-century campaign to rebuild the neglected church into a jewel. Today, the monumentally beautiful church still houses over a dozen precious Baroque paintings, which were transferred from the old church at the end of the last century. A solemn marble altarpiece inside is the single best reason to visit. More about the church and its artwork can be seen at the Museu Episcopal and Museu de l'Art de Vilanova.
Santa Maria del Mar
Santa Maria del Mar is a quaint town that forms a large part of Barcelona's seaside resort of Port Vendres. Highlights of this lively seaside destination include its cliff-side setting and the sandy beaches and promenades that make it a favorite of families. Dining options range from traditional seafood restaurants serving fresh fish, to the lively restaurants and bars along the promenade overlooking the sea.
Passeig de Gracia
Passeig de Gracia is one of Barcelona's most important commercial boulevards, hosting dozens of shops and restaurants. Along the way there are typical Barcelona landmarks such as the L'Arc de Triomf, the Mirador de Colom, and the Plaza Espanya. Passeig de Gracia runs from the Marimón to the city's waterfront, and is also known as the Passeig d'acollida after the nearby street and the Passeig de la Concepció for its connection with the city's second longest street, the Cany de la Conselleria (Conselleria Almirall-Baixa) whose name is synonymous with Catalan food and drink.
Named after the family who built the house, Casa Batlló, built in 1927, is the home of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí. Although some consider his designs to be more Modernist than organic, it's clear that he was deeply influenced by the Calvet tradition, from which he was born in 1852 in Barcelona. Gaudí had a profound appreciation for nature and architecture and studied the urban life of the 19th-century for inspiration in the design of his works. Not only is this building fantastic in itself, it is often used to display art exhibitions. This one, starting on November 20, will feature work from Juan Moll, one of the main Spanish artists of the 20th century.
Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya
Named after a former Catalan president, this fascinating museum houses paintings, sculptures, furniture, and artifacts from the Mediterranean cultures of the Bronze Age through the Gothic period. The collection includes some remarkable paintings, including major works by Gaudi and Picasso, in addition to important canvases by El Greco. Located in the Palau Nacional, built in 1854 and designed by Antoni Gaudí, the museum holds the collection of paintings and sculpture amassed by President Josep Artola i Antús. Its major works of art include several large paintings by Gaudi and pieces by artists such as Salvador Dalí. The architecture of the building, which was first used as the College of Agriculture, was adapted from a royal palace, and its museum consists of two main floors with halls housing masterpieces by Gaudí and El Greco.