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I had a great time in Barcelona and wanted to share some adventures that rounded out the trip.
Barcelona reminded me of Paris in lots of ways: the buildings, the twisty-turny side streets, the grand thoroughfares, and the dozens of cafes lining every street.
But it was decidedly very different. The Mediterranean replaces the River Seine as the city’s main waterway, the food had a much different focus, and the city itself has wayyyy different attractions. Including a few things you can’t do, get, or see anywhere else in the world.
Here are a few things I loved about Barcelona.
In This Post
10 Fun Things to Do in Barcelona
1. La Sagrada Familia / Gaudi Architecture
Dear light of heaven, this place was gorgeous. And you really will see the light of heaven if you go during the afternoon. That’s when the sun shines through the ornate rainbow-colored stained glass windows and streams over the otherworldly architecture, including massive pillars that will remind you of being in an enchanted forest.
It’s hard to describe how massive and beautiful this place is. The amount of details you’ll find are incredible.
And from the outside, you’d never guess how beautiful the ceiling is. It’s soaring.
Here’s one more:
When you get in there, you’ll go crazy snapping away. As the sun moves through the sky, different colors are accentuated within. So it changes constantly. And every nuance is beautiful.
Pro tip: Buy your ticket online. We bought ours and texted the PDF of the ticket to ourselves with the hotel’s wifi. And then pulled it up on our phones. Skip the massive lines outside. And go during mid-to-late afternoon when the colors are at their best. Although any time is a good time to see this place!
Gaudi’s architecture is everywhere in the city. Keep your eyes peeled for his influence in every corner of Barcelona.
2. Tapas & Sangria
You’ll be tapas’d out when it’s said and done. Tapas are hard to avoid. And they come in all varieties and qualities.
My advice: Try several. I didn’t regret one thing I tried.
If I had to give a recommendation based on my limited experience, I’d say head to Secrets Del Mediterrani near the Arc de Triomf.
It’s a small place with only a few tables set in the back of what looks like a market or grocery store. So you have to look for it a bit.
The service was so intimate, so attentive, and so delicious. Plus, you can stroll around the Arc de Trimof afterward.
Oh, and sangria! I was torn between the Spanish red wines and the sangria. My solution was to double-fist ’em both. 😉
But seriously, the sangria here is usually homemade and made-to-order. I loved watching them add in all the fruits and splashes and touches. No two were alike. And they were all delish!
Y’all. There is a place in Barcelona called THE HAM EXPERIENCE. With a HAM MUSEUM.
Ham is everywhere in Barcelona. Ham ham ham. All day, every day.
My advice: Head to La Boqueria. Not only do they have fresh ham and meats, but all sorts of fruits, pastries, drinks, and tons of other hand-picked and locally grown foods (it’s a huge farmer’s market). Plus, the colors of all the fruits in the huge displays is always beautiful to see. And, it’s not too crazy crowded even though it’s right off La Rambla. Go!
4. La Rambla / Gothic Quarter
On that note, stroll La Rambla. This is a main pathway in Barcelona.
It separates the Gothic Quarter in half, and runs right down to the shore. On either side of La Rambla, you’ll find ancient (in some cases, medieval) architecture (like the Barcelona Cathedral), shopping, restaurants, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
My advice: Wander, but don’t look lost. I can confirm the pickpocket suspicions. There are a lot of people in a small space and shady characters will approach you to hand you flyers or whatever. Just keep walking and keep all your stuff in your front pockets WITH YOUR HANDS OVER THEM. Only carry 1 credit card, 1 debit card, and your phone or camera down La Rambla. Nothing else.
(Not to sound fear-mongering. But better safe than sorry holds true here.)
As you keep walking down La Rambla, you’ll eventually reach the Mediterranean, and Barceloneta – a strip of beach where you can tan, take a dip, and relax.
I went in mid-January, so I didn’t get the full effect of the near-tropical rays.
There’s also a carnival there, with rides along the water – fun for a family day trip. Worth visiting in any season, if only to see all the ships docked in the port.
Eixample is Barcy’s (I knew you were waiting for me to say Barcy) most densely-populated ‘hood.
It’s home to the University and is nicely divided by a few main streets. So it is definitely its own destination. And it never felt too crowded.
This is where the locals hang out. It’s very residential, and is home to lots of watering holes (especially in Gaixample, where the cluster of gay bars is located).
Excellent spot for hanging out and meeting locals!
You simply must visit a museum. We went to the Picasso Museum, dedicated to many of his earlier works and with a focus on his creative process, and MACBA (the Contemporary Art Museum). Both cost ~$10ish and are well worth it.
Pro tip: While you can buy your museum tickets in advance, it’s not necessary. The lines aren’t that long. Most of the museums have a free day. If you can work it into your trip, awesome. They almost all have discounts for college students. So brush off your student ID and save some $$$ on admission.
Barcelona has lots of incredible parks near or within the city.
Head to Park Güell, (designed by Gaudi and a UNESCO World Heritage Site). For incredible views of the city below. There are lots of areas you can explore for free, but you’ll need a paid ticket to see the most protected/interesting parts.
If you have time, you can take the metro to the Labyrinth Park and recreate Jack Nicholson chasing Danny through the snow in The Shining.
It’s a bit far from the city center, but come on – a labyrinth park?! Amazing.
9. Stay up late and go out
Yes, yes, and yes.
I was shocked by how many bars open at 12am. It’s not uncommon for them to stay open until dawn.
I was sleepy and could barely keep my eyes open the first night. But I managed to walk by Pub Fiction, a Pulp Fiction-themed bar.
After that, I wised up and re-learned the art of siestas and disco naps. The next few nights were muuuuch better.
And it’s not just young peeps out and about after midnight. It’s like, everyone. Even little old ladies!
You must get a lil’ crazy and stay out reallllyyyy late at least one night in Barcelona. 🙂
10. Get lost
Yes, that’s an official “fun thing to do.” Not lost-lost, but ya know, put down Google maps and walk in a general direction. Walking back from Sagrada Familia, we just winged it. Along the way, we passed cafes, bars, and shop we didn’t “plan” on visiting.
It was so fun, we decided to walk roundabout to nearly everywhere.
If it weren’t for getting “lost” I would’ve never experienced:
- Mojitos in the commons of the National Library
- Buying pants at Zara at 10pm
- Delicious pastries in the Gothic Quarter
- Wonderful homemade pasta in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the Eixample neighborhood
So, wander. Sometimes that’s when the adventures really begin. 🙂
I love love love Spain and can’t wait to go back again during the summer.
Like I said, I’m not an expert on Barcelona, but these ideas are hopefully enough to get you thinking. I know some of y’all have been there much more and for longer.
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