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If you have read my 25 Things About Me, my Bucket List (see #79 & #80), or follow me on social media, you probably know that I have a heart for Spanish and Spanish-speaking countries. A big reason for this is I am part Spanish. Because of that, I was excited to have had the opportunity to visit Spain for the first time nearly 10 years ago and I have been going every summer since!
Barcelona Resources & Recommendations
- Sunotel Aston Barcelona-Hotel recommendation (where I stayed). It has air conditioning, free wi-fi, includes breakfast and is located close to the metro.
- Allianz Global Travel Insurance -Always protect your trip and yourself on the trip!
- TripAdvisor -For the best reviews and hotel deals. Save up to 25% on your hotel on your next upcoming trip!
- CheapOair -For the latest international (and domestic) flight deals. Take up to $30 off with promo code WORLD30 !
- Europcar -Get 15% off your rental car in Spain
- Lonely Planet Discover Barcelona: The best destination guidebooks out there!
With all there is to do, planning your first visit to the Catalonian capital might seem overwhelming. To hopefully make it easier, here are 18 must-see locations for the first time visitor in Barcelona, Spain!
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia is the largest, unfinished Roman Catholic Church in the world.
Designed by Antoni Gaudí, construction started in 1882 and went through various hold-ups. Today, it still isn’t finished and from what I understand, projected completion isn’t until 2026. Interestingly enough, this will be the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death in 1926.
You can take guided tours or audio-guided tours and I recommend going the audio-guided route. This way you can explore at your own pace. The best tour in this category is the Top Views ticket. This lets you explore the basilica and you can choose which tower you want to climb to get those spectacular views of Barcelona.
TIP: The Top Views ticket was the one I tried to buy, but the towers sell out FAST! Since I only booked a few days out, I missed out on the tower views and I was really sad about it. Don’t make my same mistake. Book EARLY! You can find all ticket and visitor information here.
Location: Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona, Spain
Plaça de Catalunya
Plaza de Cataluña (its Spanish name) is considered to be the city center of Barcelona. There is a cool park area with fountains and all kinds of shops and restaurants surrounding the square.
TIP: Take the metro to Plaça de Catalunya and explore it as a starting point before heading down Las Ramblas.
Location: Plaça de Catalunya, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Las Ramblas (as it is known locally, the actual street name is La Rambla), is a popular, tree-lined tourist street. It is full of shops, markets and great places to grab a bite.
TIP: Walk La Rambla from Plaça de Catalunya to the Columbus Monument at Port Vell. It’s a beautiful walk and there’s so much to see along the way including La Boqueria. The distance is roughly 3/4 mile (1.2 km).
Location: La Rambla, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
While you are walking down La Rambla, stop in at La Boqueria. Its full name is Mercat Sant Josep de la Boqueria so I’m sure you can see how it got its shortened version!
You can taste test a lot of different foods and watch how they make them. Even if you aren’t hungry or not into trying new foods, you can at least see how beautiful their fruits and veggies are!
TIP: Try a juice smoothie. I recommend the strawberry-watermelon! For more food recommendations see how to eat your way through Barcelona!
Location: La Rambla, 91, 08001 Barcelona, Spain (**Closed on Sundays**)
Monument a Colom
At the end of Las Ramblas, you can find the Columbus Monument. It was constructed in 1888 in honor of Columbus’ first trip to the Americas as well as a reminder that he reported to Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand V after that first voyage.
TIP: Spend some time exploring the surrounding areas such as Port Vell, the Barcelona Aquarium, and the Maritime Museum.
Location: Plaça Portal de la pau, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
Another creation of Gaudí, Park Güell is one of the most popular attractions in all of Barcelona. Because of this, it is fairly crowded and can be difficult to get photos without a million people in them.
But, if you have the time (and some patience), you can wait for those precious few seconds where no one is around. Act fast though because this area doesn’t stay clear long! And, before you think this is only possible in the offseason, this photo was taken during peak season on July 4th at mid-day!
TIP: A lot of Park Güell is free to explore. However, access to the Monumental Zone (location of the famous viewpoint) requires the purchase of a ticket. Be sure to purchase these in advance also as they fill up fast especially in the summer!
Location: 08024 Barcelona, Spain
Barri Gòtic or Gothic Quarter is a cool area of Barcelona to walk around. It has cute medieval streets and all kinds of trendy restaurants and shops.
I got some fabulous watermelon gelato at Gelaaatii di Marco. Hmm…Just now as I’m writing this, I’m connecting my watermelon smoothie from La Boqueria to my watermelon gelato in the Barri Gòtic. Clearly, I was all about watermelon on this trip. Not totally surprising because watermelon in Spain is ridiculously good!!!
Make sure you see the Catedral de Barcelona. The exterior is beautiful. While you can pay a small fee for guided tours, you can tour most areas of the interior free of charge. When I was there, there was a massively long line. Due to the timing of another tour, I had to keep moving, unfortunately.
TIP: Browse the boutiques. There are some REALLY cute boutiques all throughout the Gothic Quarter. I found my go-to dress for the summer in one I happened to duck into last-minute called Sweety. I have gotten so many compliments on it and even wrote a Fashion Friday post about it!
Location: Mediterranean Seafront to Ronda de Sant Pere, Ciutat Vella, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Where several major thoroughfares come together in a massive traffic circle, Plaza de España was probably my favorite of the plazas.
The fountain in the center was designed by Josep Maria Jujol who was a collaborator with Antoni Gaudí. The Plaza features structures like the Venetian Towers which mark a dramatic lead to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya…
and the Arenas de Barcelona which is a former bullring converted into a shopping mall. It just doesn’t get much cooler (or unique) than that!
TIP: Go to the top of the Arenas de Barcelona, grab a bite to eat and take photos of the views of Plaça d’Espanya. See how to find the best views in Barcelona!
Location: Av. del Para-lel, s/n, 08015 Barcelona, Spain
Font Màgica de Montjuïc
Catching the Montjuïc Light Show in front of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya is a MUST. The first show was on May 19, 1929, during the International Exhibition. Music was added to the light show in the 1980s.
TIPS: Go early before the sun sets to get a good spot and have a picnic. Also, the shows only last around 15 minutes so there are several per night. Since the music varies, the show will too. Stick around and see a few of them! Be sure to check the schedule because shows are only on certain days of the week.
Location: Plaça de Carles Buïgas, 1, 08038 Barcelona, Spain
Walk around Olympic Park, home of the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics.
Commonly known as Torre Calatrava and Torre Telefónica, the Montjuïc Communications Tower was designed by Santiago Calatrava.
Construction began on the tower in 1989 and was completed in 1992. It was built to transmit television coverage of the 1992 Olympics. It is 446 ft (136 m) tall and depicts an athlete holding the Olympic Torch.
TIPS: Go in the later afternoon when there is still plenty of light and stay to watch the sunset. Entry is free. Closest metro is Espanya and will then require taking the bus or taxi (or a long walk) to get there. Make sure you arrange a pick-up location and time with your taxi driver, especially if you are staying for the sunset. Taxis don’t drive up there regularly.
Location: Av. de L’Estadi, 08038 Barcelona, Spain
Beaches & Boardwalks
Barcelona is a coastal city so the first thought for most people is BEACH! The Barceloneta Beaches are quite popular. The boardwalk is lined with clubs and quirky, unique places to eat.
Don’t miss Homenatge a la Barceloneta by German Artist Rebecca Horn. Commissioned in 1992 for the Olympics, it pays tribute to the fisherman’s shacks that previously lined the beach.
TIP: Look for elaborate sand castles that are sometimes present as you walk up and down the boardwalk.
Location: 08003 Barcelona, Spain
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Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Batlló is a fan favorite and I quickly saw why.
Gaudí redesigned the already-built house in 1904.
There are interesting features throughout the house, but the rooftop terrace was particularly neat!
TIP: Purchase tickets online ahead of time. This was one of those times I was so thankful I had purchased skip-the-line (FastPass) tickets. They were a little more, but worth every penny when I saw the line. I just walked straight on in!
Location: Passeig de Gràcia, 43, 08007 Barcelona, Spain
Palau de la Música
The only concert hall to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Palau de la Música is breathtakingly beautiful!
Guided tours of the interior are available and the inside is beautiful just like the outside!
Make sure to look up and get photos of the beautifully stained glass dome!
The upstairs terrace is a great place to appreciate the exterior architecture. Contrary to the way it looks, it was not designed by Gaudí. It was built by Lluís Domènech i Montaner.
TIP: You can only enter via guided tour or a performance. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time and tours can be canceled for special events. Not sure it’s always this way, but for reference, I reserved my tickets online after arriving in Barcelona in peak season.
Location: C/ Palau de la Música, 4-6, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Built between 1906 and 1912, Casa Milà (also known as La Pedrera), was the last private residence designed by Antoni Gaudí.
In 1984, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
It was one of my favorite interiors to photograph because of the color and unique style!
TIPS: Purchase tickets ahead of time to avoid the lines. For a small upcharge, there is an option to purchase a premium open date ticket. This allows you to go any date and time during open hours and still skip the lines!
Location: Passeig de Gràcia, 92. 08008 Barcelona, Spain
Torre Glòries was completed in 2004 and opened in 2005. Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the tower depicts the shape of a geyser rising into the air. It is 38 stories tall with a height of 473 ft (144.4 m).
It has a few nicknames, the most interesting being “‘the suppository”! I have to admit that fits!
TIP: This is one you will want to see both during the day and at night. It has an interesting subtle color during the day and then comes alive at night with brilliant, bright color!
Location: Avinguda Diagonal, 211, 08018 Barcelona, Spain
Arc de Triomf
Seems like every big city in Europe has one, this Arco de Triunfo was built as the main access gate for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair.
The inside of the Arc is pretty too.
TIP: Sometimes there are fairs/exhibits set up behind the Arc. When I was there, a dog/cat exhibition was going on and it had the cutest treats and accessories!
Location: Passeig de Lluís Companys, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Parc de la Ciutadella
Walk through Parc de la Ciutadella. Great for walks, relaxing, and picnics, it is the greenest space in Barcelona.
The most popular thing to see in Parc de la Ciutadella is the Cascada.
Intended to bear some resemblance to the Trevi Fountain in Rome, the Cascada was erected in 1881 by Josep Fontsére with a little help from the then-unknown Antonio Gaudí.
TIP: Take the metro to the Arc de Triomf station. See and walk through the Arc on your way to Parc de la Ciutadella.
Location: Passeig de Picasso, 21, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Go to the top of Mount Tibidabo. The views of all of Barcelona are amazingly beautiful!
In addition to the amusement park,
see the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor. Tour the inside and walk up the steps to get even better panoramic views of Barcelona!
TIP: You can take a taxi to the top, but it’s a lot more fun to take the funicular up and down. Full disclosure, taking the funicular does also warrant an additional bus or tram ride.
Location: Cumbre del Tibidabo, 08035 Barcelona, Spain
Ready to plan an amazing Barcelona adventure now? If you’ve been, let me know your favorite thing about Barcelona!
Also, if this is your first trip abroad, these 100 tips for planning your first trip to Europe are super helpful (especially for Americans)!
‘Til next time…