With a Mediterranean climate, Barcelona really is a year-round city. It’s one of the most popular destinations in Europe and is famous for its architecture, food and football team. Here are my top 10 recommendations for things to do while in the Catalonian capital.
1 – Go Gaudí hunting
Hunting for his work that is, not the architect himself! Antonio Gaudí was a Spanish architect in the late 19th/early 20th century famous for his dramatic and unique style. Today, his main works have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites while some of his lesser known creations remain subtly in plain sight; ready for budding Gaudí hunters to seek out.
Barcelona is a hotspot for Gaudí work – there are marks of his influence all over the city. It would take days to find them all so if you’re short on time then check out my top 3: Sagrada Familia; Casa Milà and Casa Battló.
Being the most impressive of Gaudi’s work, the Sagrada Familia is unfortunately quite touristy but still 100% worth visiting; when completed (estimated to be in 2026), it will be the tallest church building in the world. The Sagrada Familia’s sheer size and detail should make it the first stop on any Barcelona trip itinerary – happy hunting!
2 – Eat pinchos at Pincho J
Pinchos are a popular part of Barcelona culture especially in the district of El Poble-Sec. Pinchos are essentially pieces of crusty bread with various ingenious and exquisite toppings – ranging from slices of Spanish omelette or whole spicy chicken wings, to cheesy stuffed peppers and everything in between.
But it’s not just about how tasty the pinchos are; it’s the whole culture of going to a bar that just serves pinchos, where it’s packed full of people, finding a seat and then going and browsing the mighty pincho selection. You can eat as few or as many as you like so get stuck in and enjoy!
Sticks of different shapes and sizes hold the individual pinchos together; make sure you keep the sticks as you eat because they’re used at the end to calculate how much money you owe – no cheating allowed (“accidentally” dropping or breaking the sticks)! Each pincho will only cost €1-1.5 (£0.85-1.3/US$1.2-1.8) – the size or shape of the stick usually denotes the price difference.
My favourite place for enjoying pinchos is Pincho J in the Poble Sec area; it has high quality pinchos, a wide variety and is good value for money.
3 – Enjoy the view from Restaurante Miramar
Who doesn’t love a good viewpoint?! Unlike some cities, Barcelona isn’t overrun with tall high-rise buildings offering rooftop lookouts. Therefore, to get panoramic views you have to make use of nature’s hills.
Restaurante Miramar has certainly done that – it has unbeatable vistas over the city which you can enjoy while sipping a drink at the bar or relaxing with a 3-course meal. There’s also a platform next to the restaurant where you can take in the views for free; perfect for those of you on a budget or in a hurry.
How to get there: If you’re coming from the neighbourhood of El Poble-Sec (popular for cafes, bars & hostels) then you can reach the viewpoint by walking through the Mirador del Poble-Sec Park. From the coastline; head to Plaça de las Drassanes, walk south on the main road and then follow the path and steps up the hill to your right.
4 – Check out the graffiti park
If you appreciate a good piece of street art then the The Gardens of Walter Benjamin are worth a wander. They’re pretty small but are in close proximity to the Miramar restaurant viewpoint so it’s easy to stop by. When I visited I was even lucky enough to watch some guys creating a new mural.
How about other parks and gardens in Barcelona? Well, by far my favourite is Ciutadella; it has a spectacular water feature and numerous places to relax on the grass with a beer or perch on a bench and people-watch. You’ll also quite often find locals playing a musical instrument or kicking a football around. When the sun’s out the only better place to be is the beach!
5 – Be a beach bum
With so much to see and do, it’s amazing to think that Barcelona also has sandy beaches! They’re perfect for relaxing after a long day of walking or for cooling off when things get sweaty.
Why not take a day off from sightseeing? Top up the tan, read a book and dine at one of the many beach front restaurants. Each bay along the city’s coastline has its own name; Playa de la Barceloneta being one of the most popular. In general, the further northeast you head the quieter it will be.
6 – Admire the luxury yachts
If it’s too cold to lie on the beach then why not take a walk along the coast and explore some of Barcelona’s magnificent marinas? Port Olímpic houses many smaller vessels whilst the larger Port Vell is home to the ultra luxurious superyachts – the ones I can only dream of!
Also incorporated into the Port Vell area is a shopping centre, an aquarium, a park and the iconic Rambla de Mar bridge.
7 – Stroll along La Rambla
One of the most famous parts of Barcelona is a tree-lined street called La Rambla. This 1.2km pedestrian road gently slopes down from the city centre at Plaça de Catalunya to the Christopher Columbus Monument near Port Vell.
La Rambla has a wide walkway running down its centre which is full of pop-up shops, street performers and artists drawing caricatures of passing tourists. Cafes spill out on either side but if you’re feeling peckish you’re better off wandering a few blocks away to avoid paying over the odds for your lunch fix of paella.
Overall, La Rambla is great for soaking up the atmosphere and admiring the artwork on offer but maybe isn’t the best place to spend your money.
8 – Drink craft beer at Fàbrica Moritz
A far better use of your money is tasting local craft beer at this modern micro brewery. You can try the beers at the upstairs bar or go all-out for a brewery tour complete with tasting samples. I opted for the bar option and my favourite beer was the Moritz cítrics – a mid-range fruit beer that’s extremely refreshing.
Aside from being a microbrewery, Fàbrica Moritz also offer a full menu of food in their restaurant-cum-bar. One of their star dishes is patatas bravas – a Spanish classic that can be found in virtually any restaurant in the country. Finding an authentic bravas is not always easy though. Having tried it in multiple Spanish cities I can safely say that Moritz’s bravas are among the best.
9 – Watch Messi & Co. strut their stuff at Camp Nou
FC Barcelona are one of the top teams in world right now and are famous for playing attractive passing football. They also boast having arguably the best player of all time – Lionel Messi – among their ranks. Watching this team play live at the 99,354 capacity Camp Nou – the biggest club stadium in the world – is an unforgettable experience!
I’d recommend it to pretty much everyone; even those of you only vaguely interested in football. We might never see such an incredible player grace the beautiful game again…certainly not for a generation or two. So get yourself down to the Camp Nou while Messi is still around!
Tickets can be bought at the onsite ticket office but it’s better to purchase online a few weeks in advance. The official website is: www.fcbarcelona.com.
If there are no tickets left or they’re too expensive then you could also try ticket resale websites. Good luck!
[Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the match because I drowned my phone later in the trip – read about that here]
10 – Explore Montserrat
The best day trip you can do from Barcelona is a visit to the mountainous region of Montserrat. Hiking is the name of the game here so make sure you bring comfortable footwear and a water bottle or two! There are walking routes to suit all abilities and interests; some of which have picture-postcard views of the hillside abbey.
Not into hiking? Fear not…rock climbing, funicular rides and a museum ensure that there’s never a dull moment at Montserrat. Besides, the fun begins before you’ve even arrived – a picturesque cable car ride up the mountain is the perfect start to your day trip!
For more information about Montserrat – including detailed walks and how to get there – click here.
Barcelona sounds like a pretty good city, right? You’ve got beer, tapas, beaches, art, architecture, viewpoints, luxury yachts, an amazing football team and so much more! I’d get packing your bags if I were you…
You may also also like to read my comparison of watching football matches in different countries.