A Backpacker's Tale

Things to do in
Barcelona

There are numerous fun things to do in Barcelona.

As Spain’s second largest city and the capital of Catalonia, Barcelona has a unique identity and refreshing ambiance. Over the years it has emerged as one of the most popular destinations for people traveling in Europe.

What is it about the city that draws hordes of visitors?

Is it because Barcelona is a charming seaside city or because of all the great private tour Barcelona?

Could it be the tapas, sangria, laid back vibe, or wild nightlife?

Maybe it is the mind-bending architecture of Antoni Gaudi?

Are perhaps it is all the cool cafes in Barcelona?

Personally, I believe it is a mixture of all the above.

You can easily spend three days in Barcelona taking in all the sites. 

When talking about Barcelona I always harp about a person I met on one of my very first trips to Europe. We were talking about our favorite places we’d seen so far. 

 He told me that even though he had been robbed in Barcelona; it still blew every other European city out of the water. 

That sealed the deal for me.

I knew I needed to head to Barcelona asap. And if you are reading this post I’m wagering your heading there soon as well. But where should you start and what should you do when visiting Barcelona?

Things to do in
Barcelona

Don’t worry, I’ve got your back!

We are about to go over in detail the best things to do in Barcelona.

Bear in mind that this is written with no budget in mind. Many things on this list cost next to nothing, while others can cost upwards of 30 euros. 

Of course don’t forget to set some money aside to over indulge in a plethora of Spanish tapas food.

Along the way, I’ve included some helpful tips to help you reduce the cost even more! 

So even if you do end up spending a little money checking off this list you will still save a ton of money compared to other travelers who aren’t armed with these great things to do.

popular things to do
in Barcelona

1- Wander Las Rambles

Las Ramblas has become synonymous with Barcelona. Personally, I don’t see what all the fuss is about, and there are a lot better things to do in Barcelona than spend an afternoon wandering this street.

However, not putting it on the list would be the equivalent of telling you to go to Rome, but skip the Colosseum; if the Colosseum was a long street lined with overpriced shops and tourist traps.

That being said, Las Ramblas does have some good things going for it. 

One highlight of Las Ramblas is that is a gathering place and a spot where tourist and locals come together.

Also, Las Rambles is completely free so there is no excuses not to check it out. Just make sure to wander into the older neighborhoods on either side. They are much better.

Las Rambles is good for eating, shopping, and people watching. 

2 - Chill on the Beach

Barcelona’s beaches are excellent for walking, relaxing, or hanging out with friends. The boardwalk area is alive with lots of people, restaurants, music, and sangria. (We are talking about Spain after all).

Here you can take a free bike tour, experience Spanish culture, people watch, swim, visit the aquarium and more. Personally, my favorite thing to do on the beach is taking in the moment with a stiff cocktail.

Popular Beaches in Barcelona

  1. Platja de la Nova Icària
  2. Sant Sebastià
  3. Playa de Bogatell
  4. Platja del Bogatell
  5. La Barceloneta Beach

3 - Explore The Wonders of Antoni Gaudi's Buildings

antoni gaudí buildings

Antoni Gaudi is a name that has become synonymous with Barcelona and with your reason the impressive architecture buildings as unique style are found all over the city.

There is a good chance if you ask anyone the top Barcelona things to do that Gaudi’s works will be the first thing they say.

His most famous and equally impressive building is the Sagrada Familia.

Even with the ongoing construction work, that has been going on for what seems like a lifetime; it is a site that you cannot miss when visiting Barcelona. Gaudi’s buildings are some of the most epic things to do in Barcelona.

Gaudi’s Other Buildings in Barcelona

  1. Casa Vicens
  2. Güell Pavilions
  3. Palau Güell
  4. Casa Batlló
  5. Torre Bellesguard
  6. Park Güell

4 - Hang out at Park Güell

This is another of Antoni Gaudi’s wonders. Here he summoned his creativity and unleashed it bringing to life this crazy park. The end result is a strange landscape and a mystical garden. 

Park Guell shows just how far Gaudi’s imagination could go, and it is so unique this park has even been UNESCO listed site.

5 - Step into the Looking Glass at Casa Batll

Barcelona Buildings

Guess who’s back? Back again. Gaudi’s back! tell a friend!

Yes, we are talking about Gaudi again! (And I make no apologies for it!)

His contributions around Barcelona are too special, too unique. This makes it near impossible to talk about things to do in Barcelona without mentioning Gaudi at least a handful of times.

Casa Batllo is like stepping through the looking glass and into Wonderland. bright walls, strange windows, crazy balconies, and tiled floors ( made from broken teacups) await you as you explore this crazy landmark.

6 - Admire the Art at MACBA

MACBA has become the museum for art in the city. Today they have a collection of over 5,000 works of art, many from the top artists in the entire world. 

I’m not the world’s biggest art expert, but, this MACBA was cool enough to capture my attention and I definitely recommend it.

7 - Get Lost Wandering Barri GÒTIC (Gothic Quater)

While you are near the waterfront sipping on – some much deserved – Sangria make sure to save some time to wander around Barri Gòtic.

This neighborhood dates back over 2,000 years. It was once a spot of a Roman military camp. There are towering walls, winding alleyways, and tall balconies that arch between the buildings.

It is a fantastic place to walk around or browse out the small squares surrounded by locally owned shops.

At night the Gothic Quarter takes on a different atmosphere. And has some of the best nightlife and bars in Barcelona.

These ancient city streets and medieval squares are some of the most breathtaking examples of Gothic Architecture in the entirety of Europe.

Today, the Barri Gòtic is a popular neighborhood for walking tours, souvenir shops, and clothing stores.

This is also a great area to stay in Barcelona

8 - Take A Free Walking Tour

Walking tours are a great way to learn about the layout and history of the city without paying for an expensive guided tour. While they are called “free” walking tours, you should tip the guide at the end.

Free walking tours also tend to stay away from the paid attractions.

The city has some impressive tours to choose from, and I highly recommend adding this to your list of things to do in Barcelona.

Take Walks is a company I love. This is not a “free” tour, but it worth the money. 

9 - Eat Your Own Weight at La Boquería

La Boquería is hailed by many as the “best market in the world.” While I’m not sure if it lives up to that name, it is still one amazing place to visit in Barcelona.

Stalls and vendors cover every nook and cranny of this market. Each one enticing you to come to try the tasty snacks, cheeses, seafood, and any other type of food you’re capable of imagining.

This history of the market dates back to the 13th century! Today the market encompasses over 1,000 square meters. It is a wondrous place full of delicious smells, fresh produce, meats, and cheese. It has all the goods to make a great picnic lunch before heading to Bunker El Carmel.

This world famous market draws over 40,000 visitors every day so prepare yourself for a crowd. Another huge tip, come hungry.

The market runs Monday to Saturday: 8:00am – 8:30pm

10 - Expand Your Imagination at the Pablo Picasso Museum

Another of the city’s artistic claims to fame is Pablo Picasso. The famous painter isn’t from Barcelona but he did his apprenticeship in the city.

Barcelona is also the home to his museum where you can view of 4,000 of the famous artist’s works.

11 - Roam the Roman Ruins at the Bottom of the History Museum

Barcelona was built on the ruins of an ancient Roman city and even to this day traces of this ancient culture can be seen around the city.

By far the best Roman remains are the ones located in the basement of the History Museum. These ruins are one of the most intriguing archaeological sites in Europe.

These extensive ruins, that date back almost 2,000 years, are extremely well preserved. Your imagine runs rampant as you walk these ruins picturing what life would have been like Millennia ago.

I would say that this is a must when visiting Barcelona. Even if ruins and history aren’t your cups of tea you should give these ruins a try.

12- Aimlessly Walk the CIty

As tourists, we have limited time in the places we visit and we want to make each moment count. This usually means calling an uber, hailing an expensive cab, or running between metro stops in the hopes of seeing as much of a place as humanly possible.

However, I am a firm believer that every once and a while the best way to discover a city is by skipping calling an Uber or navigating the metro between essential sites.

Instead, one of the best things to do in Barcelona is traveling the city on your own two feet.
Now, I know what you are thinking!

Why would I want to waste my precious time in the city walking between sites, it takes a lot more time and more energy.

Fair enough, but take a second to listen to my logic.

Why is walking one of the best things to do in Barcelona?

Because it lets you get a personal view of the city’s people and the atmosphere away from the tourist trail.

Barcelona, while a big city, is perfect for wandering on foot.

It’s my personal experiences trekking across the city visiting local shops, tiny restaurants, and observing local life that made me fall deeply in love with Barcelona.

Those experiences are the reasons it is one of my top recommended cities to visit for people backpacking Europe for the first time.

You don’t have to spend every day trading public transport for walking, but I highly suggest doing it for at least a day or two.

13 - Barcelona Cathedral (Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia)

BARCELONA-CATHEDRAL-2

The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, better known around the city as the Barcelona Cathedral, is a must-see site on any visit to the city. One plus is that the cathedral is free!

However, to get access to the lift that takes you to the rooftop the price is 3 Euros

But this is well worth it as you get a fantastic view of the entire city.

There are also paid tours that will teach you the history of the Cathedrals. It is a prime example of a cathedral with towering spires, Gothic architecture, and overwhelming beauty.

 Personally, I think it is one of the best Cathedrals in Spain. 

14 - Venture Through Montjuïc Castle

Montjuïc Castle is well worth the visit. After seeing so many of Gaudi’s crazy buildings Montjuïc Castle might seem a little plain However, this 900-year-old castle has a rich history in Catalonia. 

There is a deep moat, lush gardens, and towering walls spread across the grounds.

Admission:  5 Euros per person.

15 - Relax in Ciutadella Park

This park is not as trippy as Gaudi’s Park Güell. Although, don’t count this place out! This area has beautiful fountains, statues, and there are several different attractions scattered around it like the Catalan Parliament, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Zoological Museum.

16 - Try Monk Made Treats at Caelum

This cafe offers mouth-watering desserts, pastries, and drinks. All the sweet treats, like the egg yolk candy, are made by Monks. Below the cafe are walkable ruins of the old public baths.

With Monk made desserts and historic baths what is not to love! 

Plus they have a dish called Bacon of Heaven!

17 - Day drink some Vermut

You’ve haven’t experienced Barcelona until you’ve tasted Vermut. 

This is a cheap wine that’s filled will all different kinds of spices. These spices infuse the booze with a lot of great flavors. 

Vermut is considered an aperitif which means it should be consumed before noon, although they love it so much in Barcelona that you drink it anytime. 

Barcelona: Thing to do
At Night

18 - Eat and Drink Tapas and Sangria All Night Every Night!

 Tapas, pintxo, or whatever else you want to want to call it, is a major highlight of traveling Spain. And the only way to make it better is with some Sangria! 

I’m severely addicted to the bite-sized, mouth-watering delights. It’s so bad that I’ll often have a stack of crumb stricken plates piled to the side and me sitting there feeling no regret whatsoever.

No matter where you are in Barcelona it is safe to say you can beat a tapas joint within a couple of minutes walk. 

Personally, I love getting tapas and sangria around the beach area near the Sants-Montjuïc district and the Gothic Quarter. The area has a ton of variety in options and price, seaside atmosphere, and is a major hangout in the city. 

After stuffing walk along the beach or sip a cocktail while watching the tide come in or out.

19 - Behold the Wonder of the Magic Fountain

This beautiful, colorful, and enchanting fountain is a must when visiting the city.

This is a brilliant display of water and color that light up the area. Personally, this is my favorite way to spend an evening in Barcelona.

Sadly, this fountain/light show doesn’t run every night.

But you can time your visit right by checking out the Magic Fountain timetable here.

Even if you are not there when the fountain is going, it is a fun little area to sit and enjoy a beautiful city view and share a bottle of wine. (If you haven’t noticed I really like indulging in the bottles of wine in Barcelona)

20 - Get Cultured at the Opera

Barcelona has a booming theater scene. By a landslide, the grandest theater is the Liceu which was once considered one of the most famous opera houses in all of Europe. 

Normally I am not a huge fan of Opera but in Barcelona, it is a great time!

21 - Watch a Flamenco Show

FLAMENCO

Flamenco doesn’t originate from Catalunya. However, it is an art they have mastered.

However, there are a lot of places to choose from, and many of them might not be authentic. The best way is to stay away from the tourist flamenco places off popular streets like Las Rambles. Instead of either book through a trusted tour company, or look for smaller venues.

22- Embark on a Sunset Sail

Barcelona is a stunning city during sunset.

For backpackers or parties looking to mingle with other travelers on a sunset cruise check out Stoke Travels sunset party.

If that is not your scene, don’t worry. There are plenty of non party sunset sails.

23 - Drink, Dance, Move, and Party

Barcelona is one of the biggest party cities in Europe. It is a city that never sleeps and there is a thriving nightlife and club scene.

The clubs are packed and go all night, making for some wild nights.

I’m not as big nearly as big of a partier as I once was. 

Yet, I still go out at least one night on every visit to Barcelona!

24 - Cheer on FC Barcelona at CAMP NOU ( Day or Night)

Even if you are not a football (soccer to us Americans) fans you should still think about going to go to a game. Barcelona has one of the most historic football stadiums in Europe.

 And let’s not forget that FC Barcelona is the best team in the land.

There is nothing but a good authentic time waiting for you at Camp Nou. So get there!

Strange Things to do
in Barcelona

museum-of-chocolate

25 - Museu de Xocolata

Listen up all chocolate lovers, addicts, and connoisseurs.

Come, gather around as I’m about to blow your mind.

Did you know that Barcelona has an entire museum dedicated to chocolate?

Located in the old convent of Sain Augustine you will embark on a journey through the history of chocolate. Along this journey, you will learn the real story of the importance of chocolate in the history of Barcelona. This museum dispels the myths of Chocolate in Europe. Plus, you’ll get to indulge in your craving!

26 - Mercury Pool

By far one of the strangest things to do in Barcelona is visiting this beautiful/toxic fountain. They built Calders Fountain as a monument to the mercury mines in Spain, that were once the largest sources of mercury around the world. 

Mercury is extremely reflective so this pool has the odd effect of looking like a slow-moving liquid mirror. Don’t worry! There is a glass wall to keep you safe from any deadly effects of the quicksilver.

27 - Labyrinth Park of Horta

Imagine yourself lost. Bushes on either side tower over you as you try and find your way through the maze of plants and shrubs. This is what it is like to explore this garden that has been trimmed and hedged to look like something from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

This massive foliage maze has over 2,000 feet of confusing twist that turns visitors for a loop.

This is a fun and cheap way to spend a morning in Barcelona.

Get there as early as possible as they only let in 750 people into this crazy maze every day, although, this attraction isn’t widely known among tourist.

28 - La Carboneria

LA-CARBONERIA​

A popular photo stop for Instagrammers and shutterbugs. This building was once threatened to be torn down in order to make way for luxury apartments. 

Luckily, at the last minute, it was saved because of its due to the incredible graffiti on the side of the building. Covering the building is a massive painting of a flying hot air balloon. 

What cool is that the balcony doubles as the basket. But words cannot do this justice. It is something you should see for yourself.

29 - Barcelona Cannabis Museum

Amsterdam isn’t the only country in Europe to claim the green. Barcelona has the largest cannabis museum in the world. As an added bonus the museum is in a converted 16th-century palace. There are over 8,000 weed related objects covering the entire history of weed across the world. If you love the green then this is your mecca.

Day Trips from
Barcelona

MONTSERRAT

30 - Montserrat

Just over 40km outside the city lies the rugged jutting peaks of Montserrat. These mountains are drenched in local Catalan legend and mystery. 

One of the most popular things to see at Montserrat, other than the mountains, is the statue of the Virgin Mary. This statue has reportedly been the source of thousands of miracles. And to this day still draws millions of visitors.

If you are not into the miracle game or the religious aspect of Montserrat don’t worry. There are a lot of hiking trails that let you take in the natural landscape.

31 - Girona

Girona offers a welcome escape from the tourist hordes that plague tourist hotspots around Barcelona. The stony streets of this old city are lined with quaint shops and small lanes. 

The city also contains Arab Baths, a museum, a cathedral, and far fewer tourists. All pluses in my book!

top Secret Bars
around Barcelona

Things-to-do-in-Barcelona-2

32 - El Paradiso

I loved this bar so much that I visited 4 nights in a row. The front of the bar appears as a small little meat shop. Upon opening the freezer you are greeted with a cool retro style speakeasy.  Welcome to El Paradiso

Every drink is strange and served in odd ways. Like a drink in a conch shell  (that also has an oyster in it), or a cocktail served in a steaming glass pipe. The drinks aren’t too pricey when considering the experience. Drinks range between 8 and 15 Euros

Open: 7PM – 2:30AM everyday. 

Pro tips:  This place packs out! And once instead people aren’t in a hurry to leave. It is best to get there as soon as they open.

33 - El Armario

If you get into El Armario then you have 100 more cool points than me. This super secret bar doesn’t have regular hours, no photos exist, and in located through a secret hole in the owner’s wardrobe. Weird, right!? 

I agree, but I still want to check it out. Sadly, it is always closed when I visit, but who knows, you might have better luck than me.

Address: Carrer de la Riereta, 11, 08001 Barcelona

34 - Pipa Club

This bar isn’t so much a secret as a well established lavish bar that is located inside an apartment building.

The Pipa Club is a private smoking club but you do not need to be a member of the club to have a drink at the bar.

Address: Carrer de Santa Eulàlia, 21, 08012 Barcelona, Spain

 

35 - Speakeasy / Dry Martini

We can’t talk about secret bars in Barcelona without talking about the Speakeasy.

This is a classic cocktail joint. Once a speakeasy it still holds a lot of its original charm for the olden days.

Sadly, you no longer need a password to enter, but still worth visiting.

Address: Calle Aribau, 162, Barcelona,

Cheap & Free Things
to Do in Barcelona

cheap-things-to-do-in-Barcelona

36 - Watch the Sunset at Bunker El Carmel

For the price of a metro/bus ticket, you can get a sweeping view of the city at Bunkers El Carmel.

From the top of this massive hill you get a sweeping view of the entire city all the way to the sea, here you can take in many of Barcelona’s landmarks at once, such as the La Sagrada Familia.

This spot has been growing in popularity, especially among the budget backpacker crowd who flock to the words “free” and “view” like a moth to a flame.

If you feel like spending a few Euro’s then grab a bottle of wine and watch the sunset.

Getting to Bunkers El Carmel is easier than you think. All you need to do in ride bus V17.

Update: V17 No longer goes to Bunkers El Carmel. Instead, take 22 to Gracia Fontana.

37 - Free Museums on Sunday Afternoons

Museum tickets in Barcelona are steep and can cost as much as $30

Luckily you can save a lot of money with this travel hack. Throughout the city, museum entry is free on Sunday afternoons. Admire the works of incredible artist like Picasso, or venture through time at the Museum of History all without spending a dime.

Barcelona has so many museums that I wouldn’t recommend trying to cram them all into one day.

My advice is to save the two most expensive museums you want to see for Sunday afternoon.

Then pony up the cash for some of the cheaper museums during the week.

Other Free Things We Already Talked ABout

  1. Magic Fountian
  2. The Beaches
  3. La Carboneria
  4. Ciutadella Park
  5. Barcelona Cathedral
  6. La Boquería
  7. Barri GÒTIC
  8. Park GÜELL​

USeful Advice for
Traveling to Barcelona

How Long to Visit– 3-5 days is a good amount of time. You won’t see everything unless, but you will get the major highlights and get a good feel for the city.

Where to Stay– St Christopher’s Inn. 

Pro Tip: Book directly through their website. You are guaranteed the best price and get free breakfast. If you are visiting other places in Spain I would check this post about awesome airbnbs in Milan.

Getting Around Barcelona – There are metro passes for certain days. However, I found the cheapest way is to buy metro tickets in packs of ten.

The Barcelona Pass is a great option to save money.

For more on Barcelona and check out my backpacking across Europe travel tips.

Let Your Voice
Be Heard

Pin It on Pinterest