Barcelona is one of my 5 favorite cities in the world. I just visited for my tenth time and couldn’t have had a better experience. There is so much to see and do in Barcelona; you could occupy yourself for weeks. From art to food and sangria to some of the best city walks in the world-Barcelona has it all. Here are 5 awesome things to do in Barcelona!
In order to condense a list that could be hundreds down to 5 awesome thing to do in Barcelona, I had to condense the sights into one heading-and there are many. My favorite sight and likely the most recognizable icon of Barcelona is La Sagrada Familia.
Antonio Gaudi’s still unfinished masterpiece is a breathtaking piece of architectural achievement. The towering spires and intricate carvings on the façade make for easy staring and great photos. Inside is equally as impressive and right up there with the great cathedrals of Europe.
Gaudi also has some other great artistic buildings around Barcelona and they cannot be missed. Even if you aren’t aware of them, you will notice them-especially walking up Passeig de Gracia; which is the main road coming up from Plaza de Catalunya.
Plaza Espana is a real spectacle and a great place to start a real walking tour of Barcelona. The old bullfighting ring has been converted into a cool arena of shopping, dining and best of all-a 360 degree view of the city; which includes views over Plaza Espana and up to the National Museum of Art which looks like an old palace and is truly gorgeous.
Walking from Plaza Espana to the museum is one of the best walks in all of Barcelona and then up the massive stairs so you can stare back from where you came! I love doing this and it lends for great photography before either continuing into the museum or around the building and onto the site of the 1992 Summer Olympics Stadium; which is different from Camp Nou where FC Barcelona plays.
While Tibidabo is a sight of Barcelona for sure, I think it deserves it’s own category because I love it and think many people miss it when they visit Barcelona. Tibidabo is the massive mountain that overlooks the city of Barcelona with breathtaking views and a really cool old church right at the top of the mountain.
The church is small inside but is actually fairly tall. You have to take an elevator ride up to a viewing platform that wraps around the roof of the church then there is another 100 steps or so up to the very top of the church where the views are tops. You can see the entire city in all directions and all the way out to the Mediterranean Sea. I love the views from Tibidabo.
To get up to Tibidabo, you have a few options. The easiest is a taxi; which will cost you approximately 20 euros from almost anywhere in central Barcelona. You can also take a city bus from Plaza de Catalunya or a bus or taxi to the base of a funicular that will bring you up the hill. Every time I have been I have always just taken a taxi. Especially, if you have 2 or more people going, it makes sense economically.
Tibidabo also has an amusement park of sorts at the base of the church including a roller coaster and some smaller rides. I personally think it takes away from the coolness factor of Tibidabo but that doesn’t mean anything. It may be a good spot if you’re traveling with kids or if you just like rides.
Las Ramblas is very touristy. That said, it is one of the coolest places to walk around in the whole world. I don’t care what anyone says about it-it’s awesome. Just walking up and down the great road, seeing all the street performers, weirdo’s and mix of everyone is worth the price of admission-which is free by the way!
Las Ramblas or La Rambla is also a popular place for pickpockets to operate as there are many tourists not paying much attention. In fact, last fall I was having sangria on La Rambla with some travel writer friends after a conference. We were just sitting there and one of my friends had her cell phone on the table and a guy with a sign explaining what his problem was and asking for money comes to the table.
He places the sign over the phone and distracted everyone as we read the sign that was forced upon us. After everyone said no to giving him money, the guy picked up his sign and also my friends mobile phone. Thankfully another friend saw it out of the corner of her eye and grabbed the guys’ wrist and got the phone back. I thought it was a brilliant move and it probably works a lot of the time-but not this time.
I will also say that the food on La Rambla is not very good. The word of thumb is basically, if the menu has pictures, the food probably sucks. That’s the story with pretty much all restaurants on the Ramblas. However, if you get off the main street there are some good place in Plaza real and some of the cool side streets toward the gothic quarter.
One of the reasons I love Barcelona, is the same reason I love Sydney. It has good beaches! Not many cities can claim to have excellent beaches, a generally warm climate and also be a great city. Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town are two others that come to mind offhand.
The beaches down on the Mediterranean coast are both clean and nice and can be a lot of fun. From Barceloneta and Port Olympic all the way over to the W Hotel, the beaches are pretty good. The sightseeing is also great along the way with one exception.
There is a nude beach out by the W Hotel and I wasn’t expecting it when I walked by it a few days ago and I was in shock! It was all old naked men. Caught me by surprise and if you’ve never seen nude beaches-they almost always suck. It is never beautiful naked women just prancing around. It is almost always fat old men or others that really shouldn’t be naked in public. So that is my quick PSA (public service announcement) about nude beaches for those dreaming about how amazing they must be-as I did when I was a kid!
You know it’s funny. As I said, this was my tenth trip to Barcelona and before this trip-I had never had a great meal in Barcelona. I had had plenty of OK to good meals with some great tapas thrown in there from time to time but had never really been impressed with the food in Barcelona.
But after this trip, I have 3 restaurants that I would highly recommend. The first is Ciutat Comtal or Ciudad Condal in Spanish. This place is amazing-easily the best meal I’ve ever had in Barcelona.
It is a tapas place that does a little bit of everything. Mix a great pitcher of sangria in with the local dishes like eggs over fried potatoes and brava (spicy) sauce, fantastic Iberian ham plates, camembert cheese covered in almonds with a jelly glaze on a stick, eggplant and goat cheese and you get the point.
This restaurant was truly fantastic. The service was also excellent; which if you’ve been to Spain much is very unusual. I highly recommend it and oh ya, the best part is it’s pretty cheap. It’s certainly a great value for the quality of food that you get. I would also recommend getting there early or making a reservation-we had to wait over an hour to sit…but again, it was worth it!
My second recommendation is a surprise because it is a Japanese place called El Japones. It is located in a small alleyway off of Passeig de Gracia and I must give credit to my friend Sara at Go With Oh for recommending this place to us. She was spot on. The sushi was good but the small plates of meat and fish made the meal. The ambience is also great and the place is really nice and trendy.
Finally, Tapas 24, also just off Passeig de Gracia is a great place for tapas. My buddy and fellow travel writer, David Hoffman, picked it out and a good decision it was. We crushed some serious tapas including some delicious ceviche and pinchos of all kinds. I love tapas!
As you can see, it’s tough to narrow it to 5 awesome things to do in Barcelona, as there is so much to do. Of course I highly recommend seeing an FC Barcelona game at the Camp Nou as I previously wrote about in my prior post. But the best way to see and experience Barcelona is to just walk. Walk everywhere. Get lost. Eat at a hole in the wall place. Try something new. Just be in Barcelona and figure it out. It’s truly one of the world’s greatest cities and one of my favorites.