All you need to know: 18 things to do in Barcelona, Spain
Updated: Jan 16, 2019
Barcelona's the capital of Catalonia and is the second largest city in Spain! With its amazing warm-er weather plus its great location close to the beaches in an urban city it is THE city to visit, especially in winter..
There's really so much to do in Barcelona that even throughout my three trips there, I don't think I've managed to cover them. But here are some must-sees in Barcelona, Spain and you can include them into your travel itinerary.
Before you get to what you can do in this beautiful city, we'll first cover everything you need to know...
All you need to know about Barcelona, Spain
Getting into Barcelona / Spain
International flights to Spain usually head to either Barcelona or Madrid. Since we're on the Barcelona thread, you'll be flying into the Barcelona El-Prat Airport.
Airport to City Centre - Aerobus
The airport is located about an hour away from the city and the easiest way to get from the airport to the city is via the airport aerobus. It costs 5.90 euros one-way and 10.20 euros for a return trip. We went via the aerobus on both trips as it requires no transfers. Great also if you stay close to any of the stops: Plaza de Espana or Plaza de Catalunya.
Airport to City Centre - Renfe Trains
Alternatively, the renfe trains are slightly faster and takes you into the city in 30 minutes. To take the train, you'll have to first take a shuttle from Terminal 1 to the train station. The renfe train gets you to Passeig de Gracia or Barcelona Sants where you can transfer to the metro. Get a T10 ticket that allows you to ride Barcelona's public transportation, otherwise, get the Hola Barcelona Card that allows you unlimited rides on public transportation.
Trains are a convenient way to travel through Europe and Barcelona can be reached by high-speed train from Paris (about 6 hours). You'll usually enter through Barcelona Sants. Barcelona is also well-connected to other Spanish cities like Madrid, Valencia and Seville.
Spain's train provider is Renfe and you can book the tickets online on the website beforehand. Although Renfe's system is kind of tricky and annoying to use, we always like to book through the actual website to ensure our transfers don't go wrong.
As a trick, use Google Chrome to book your tickets as it has the auto-translate function. Sometimes, not everything gets translated but hey, that's better than nothing! We've also done up a step-by-step guide on how to book Spain's Renfe train tickets!
Getting around Barcelona
There are trams, metro, trains, and buses that you can take to get around Barcelona. These public transportation are generally quite reliable and efficient within the city. Also, it has great connectivity with google maps so you can generally GPS your way around the city. But when it comes to public transport, what kind of tickets should you get?
Single Tickets are the best if you are only gonna take one trip or occasional trips. These tickets costs 2.20 euros and you can get them at the ticket station or at any vending machine. But if you are visiting Barcelona, you usually will need more than just one ticket as you can't exactly walk your way to all the sights in Barcelona. Do note that this ticket does not allow you to travel from the airport to the city and vice versa. Those tickets costs more. Also, the various public transportation have different tickets so you can't use bus tickets for metro tickets, et cetera.
The next best would be the T-10 ticket. This basically works like a single ticket that allows you 10 trips on any of the public transportation in Barcelona. It costs 10.20 euros, so you'll get a discount when purchasing 10 tickets at a go. This can also be used to share between or among your travel buddies. We tried this and it was easy to validate the tickets and use them. You can get them at the ticket station or at the vending machine.
But the best one would be the 48,72,96 hours Hola Barcelona Travel Card. This grants you unlimited travel on the public transport including to the airport. We found this to be useful as we didn't have to fumble for change or worry if our T-10 card was running out. Also, we've counted... A T-10 ticket is just sufficient for two people for a day in Barcelona, and the Hola Barcelona Card is only slightly more expensive per day so it does make sense to remove that added stress when travelling.
Hop-On-Hop-Off Buses are great for first-time travellers or those who #travelwithchildren Since these buses are for tourists, you're kind of a little bit more "protected" and in that tourist bubble. We actually did this for our very first trip to Barcelona as it was a last minute trip and we didn't have time to do any prior planning. It was quite enjoyable and we could also tour the sights even if we didn't alight and head to those attractions. It also brought us quickly to the various attractions without the fuss of looking for transport and transferring.
Where to stay in Barcelona?
The best area to stay in Barcelona in my opinion is somewhere close to Plaza de Catalunya as it is where all the action is. This time, we stayed at Chic and Basic Lemon Boutique Hotel. You may think the name sounds a bit crazy, but it was truly a comfortable stay in the middle of the bustling city centre! You'll also get free drinking water daily! Read more about our stay here!
Chic and Basic Lemon Boutique Hotel
Book your stay here
Carrer de Pelai, 6, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
Nearest metro: Universitat
How to get Wifi in Barcelona?
In today's digital age, Wifi is a must! You need it for GPS, to figure out what to eat and what to do, and also to update your numerous social media platforms. So how can you get wifi in Barcelona and the rest of Spain and Europe?
For Singaporeans, you can get it online for self-collection at the airport before you take off. It starts as low as $9 per day and you can share the data among your travel buddies.
Now that you're all prep, here's what you can do when visiting Barcelona, Spain!
1. Marvel at the Uncompleted Sagrada Familia
Since Barcelona's best known for the towering Sagrada Familia, this would likely be the top of your list. Definitely for the first-timers, you will need to head inside. The interior of the Sagrada is equally amazing if not more amazing than its exterior. Be sure to climb up (or take the lifts) to the top for an amazing view of Barcelona!
As this is the a must-go for many other travellers to Barcelona, you might just want to get the tickets online to avoid the extremely long queue, especially if you are in Barcelona in summer! Should you want a guided tour that narrates more about what you're actually seeing, get these tickets here!
Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona, Spain
Opening hours: Check online
Nearest metro: Sagrada Familia
2. Soak in some sun at Parc Guell
If Sagrada's number one, then Parc Guell will likely be the second on your list. Parc Guell is an extensive garden complex that was built between 1900 and 1914. Besides the front portion where you'll find the "kimodo dragon" where it is crowded with people, look closely at the iron grilles and the trencadis surfaces that are characteristic of Gaudi's work.
Besides the monumental area (where most of Guadi's iconic works reside), the rest of the park is open to all. As part of the preservation efforts, only a number of people are allowed inside the monumental area. This leads to visitors who are allocated timeslots where they can head inside the area and long long queues. Should you wish to avoid the crowds, Head there early and you may just want to get guided tour tickets beforehand as they have a separate entrance. Although this still doesn't solve the fact that you are with a group of tourists, but better than nothing right?
You may also be interested to find out how to get to Parc Guell as I wrote about them here, alongside with other Gaudi's architecture such as Casa Batllo, Casa Mila, and Palau Guell that you may want to visit when in Barcelona.
08024 Barcelona, Spain
The park is opened 24/7 but the monumental core opens from 8.30am to 6.15pm / later in summer months. You can check the exact dates and opening hours online.
3. Eat your way through La Boqueria Market
The La Boqueria market offers an insane assortment of fruits, vegetables, jamon, and quite a number of popular Tapas bar. When you are here, grab a fruit juice or smoothie before you head deeper in to discover better deals. A #travelhack for visiting the market is that the prices go down when you head deeper into the market.
Read more travel hacks for La Boqueria Market here!
We also tried the Pinotxo Bar when we were there and were served by Juanito Bayern!
Pinotxo Bar, Mercat de la Boqueria, 466-470
Barcelona · Catalunya
Opening Hours: 6.30am - 4.00pm
Nearest metro: Liceu
4. Stroll down La Rambla and head to Rambla De Mar
From the Boqueria Market, take a stroll down La Rambla, enjoying the shops on your way. The Rambla de Mar is basically a bridge or walkway that stretches over the water and you'll get to the Maremagnum mall! Take some time to admire how close the waters are to the bustling city of Barcelona!
Rambla de Mar, s/n, Barcelona, Spain
Nearest metro: Drassanes
5. Sundays well-spent shopping at Maremagnum Mall
As most of Barcelona closes on Sundays, the Maremagnum mall is one of the few opened malls in Barcelona as it is designated as a tourist attraction. So here is the place where both locals and tourists hang out on Sunday. Don't be surprised to see huge throngs of people all around the area.
Here, you'll find popular Spanish brands like Mango, Bershka, Desigual, and Pull and Bear. It is a shopping paradise especially during the week that we went where there were tons of sales for winter wear!
There's also quite a number of restaurants so it is a great place for #familywithchildren to spend their entire Sunday or any other day for that matter...
Moll d'Espanya, 5, 08039 Barcelona, Spain
Opening Hours: 10am to 10pm Daily
Nearest Metro: Drassanes
6. Enjoy the cool ocean breeze at La Barceloneta Beach
La Barceloneta beach is much better in Summer than in Winter when we were there. The winds were really strong. 6 years ago when we went during Summer, it was much more beautiful as throngs of people were lying and suntanning on the beach!
I also liked that the beach is right next to tall buildings in the city. A bit like Busan in South Korea. It isn't easy to get there via metro so you'll probably have to take the bus or the hop-on-hop-off buses that goes along the beach in summer.
Paseo Maritimo Barceloneta, 14, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Nearest metro: Barceloneta
7. Head to Barcelona's Arco de Triunfo
Besides looking at the structure, the Arch De Triumph of Barcelona is situated at the start of a park and was built to mark the entrance to the World Exhibition in 1888. Here, you'll find lots of people strolling, bringing their dogs for a walk, and more. In the summer, you may also find cycling hot dog stands.
Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona
Passeig de Lluís Companys, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Nearest metro: Arc de Triumf
8. Roam around the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic)
Barcelona has a charming Gothic Quarter with narrow medieval streets that are filled with numerous Catalan restaurants, trendy bars, and clubs. Its myriad of historical buildings also contribute to its charm. One of the "attraction" that most people search for would be the Pont Gotic.
You'll find Pont Gotic (or Pont del Bisbe), a neo-Gothic bridge that connects the two buildings, close to the Barcelona Cathedral. This bridge was constructed by architect Joan Rubio i Believer in 1928. His goal was actually to demolish all old gothic buildings and replace them with neo-gothic architecture. However, it was not accepted by the government and only the bridge was constructed.
There are quite a number of legends and tales behind the story of this bridge with one that says that the architect was frustrated with the decision by the government and decided to incorporate a hidden skull with a dagger at the underside of the bridge.The tale has it that anyone who crosses and sees the skull may fall prey to an evil spell. YIKES!
There is another positive one that says that if you walk backwards and look at the skull directly, your wish will come true...
Pont Gotic (or Pont del Bisbe)
Carrer del Bisbe, 1, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Nearest metro: Jaume I
9. Visit the Barcelona Cathedral
The Cathedral of Barcelona doesn't look that magnificent from the exterior but the inside would make you go wow... The cathedral is not as crowded as Sagrada Familia so you'll really get to have time to yourself to explore the entire area.
Pla de la Seu, s/n, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Mondays to Fridays - between 9:00 to 12:15 and between 17:45 to 18:45
On Saturdays - between 9:00 to 12:15 and between 17:15 to 19:45
On public holidays - between 9:00 to 12:45 and between 17:15 to 19:45
Nearest metro: Jaume I
10. Head to the large Plaza de Espana
Like Plaza Catalunya, Plaza de Espana is a large square with a large roundabout. The roads here are bustling with cars such that it is so interested to watch!
Head up Areanas de Barcelona (the mall that looks like a bull-ring) and you can get a great bird's eye view of the area! Pretty isn't it? You won't be able to see it if you're on the ground level!
Plaça d'Espanya, 08015 Barcelona, Spain
Nearest train station: Pl. Espanya
11. Learn more about Catalan history at the Las Cuatro Columnas
From Plaza de Espana, walk towards Torres Venecianes and you'll see the four columns at the back of Font Màgica de Montjuïc.
The four columns that make up the Las Cuatro Columnas were actually a reconstruction of the actual monument. Originally, the four columns were part of an urbanisation of the Montjuic area and it was built for the World Exhibition in 1929 and to showcase Barcelona and Catalan. However, it was destroyed by General Primo de Ribera as he wanted to eliminate anything that symbolises Catalunya. In 2010, these columns were reconstructed just several metres from the actual site to represent perseverance, conviction, and strength of the Catalan culture and identity.
Las Cuatro Columnas
Plaça de Carles Buïgas, 7-11, 08038 Barcelona, Spain
Nearest train station: Pl. Espanya
12. Stand in the 1992 Olympic Stadium
Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys was used to host the 1992 Olympics. Now, it is venue for large scale concerts and events.
There isn't that much to do here but it is just nice to be in such a historical place. Unlike many other Olympic venues, the Olympic Stadium of Barcelona was already built ever since 1929 for the World Exhibition. Later on when it was to become the host of the Olympics, the stadium was renovated.
It isn't all that to come up here on your own. You may want to consider taking the Barcelona hop-on-hop-off bus as this is one of their stops!
Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys
Passeig Olímpic, 15-17, 08038 Barcelona, Spain
Nearest train station: Pl. Espanya
13. Watch a soccer match or tour Camp Nou
For football or soccer lovers, you can't miss Camp Nou! Besides being the home of FC Barcelona, it is also the largest stadium in Spain and Europe. It can seat 99,354 spectators. It is also a FIFA-approved stadium that is able to host all world-class competitions such as the Champion League finals.
Even if you're not a fan, be sure to head for the tour of Camp Nou as it brings you through the lawn, the bench of the players, the chapel, press corridor, changing rooms, museum and the shop of the club.
C. d'Aristides Maillol, 12, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
Nearest metro: Palau Reial
14. Take the cable car up to Montjuic Castle
Taking cable cars is always a fun experience. You get to view the city from up high, and even spot the Sagrada Familia!
This cable car ride is also different from others, when taking it from the station to the castle, it almost feels like the cable car is bringing you to the port as you see the ships emerge...
Telefèric de Montjuïc
Avinguda Miramar, 30, 08038 Barcelona, Spain
Opens at 10am daily, closing time dependent on seasons
15. Watch a Flamenco Show
Having been to Barcelona twice previously, I have never had the chance to watch a Flamenco Dance. Finally, on my third trip there, we manage to snag seats to a Flamenco Show! Thanks to Klook, we managed to secure seats for the show at Palacio del Flamenco before we left Singapore to Barcelona! We got our tickets on Klook, selecting the option that comes with a drink. You can also purchase tickets with dinner (Paella, Spanish Tapas, Vegetarian). What's great about Palacio del Flamenco is that they have shows every single day, at 6.30pm, 8.30pm, and at 10.30pm. If you opt for dinner, remember that it starts 30 minutes before the show begins!
Read more about our experience here: Where to watch a Flamenco Show in Barcelona, Spain?
Palacio del Flamenco
Carrer de Balmes, 139, 08008 Barcelona, Spain
Nearest subway: Take subway L5 to Diagonal and walk for 3 minutes
16. Head to the top of El Corte Ingles for some inexpensive food and a great view
At Plaza Catalunya's El Corte Ingles, you can get a great view of the city plus get inexpensive Spanish food! This was quite a hidden find! After shopping at El Corte Ingles, we found that the top floor had a food hall with a Marche style system. You take all the food you want and then pay at the end. The drinks were amazing. They had a wine bar and even a sangria dispenser!
El Corte Ingles
Avinguda del Portal de l'Àngel, 19, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Opening hours: Daily, 9.30am to 9pm
Nearest metro: Pl. Catalunya
17. Get lost in the Gracia district
The Gracia district is located close to the city centre, but once you are here, you will feel like you've entered into a different world. The streets are small and tight, but full of artistic flavour. Entering and exploring the Gracia district may also be confusing and cause you to get lost (in a good way though). There are many small shops and restaurants that are much different than the usual chains you see in the city centre. Definitely worth a visit and is a less touristy area.
18. Go Shopping in Barcelona, Spain!
There's just so much shopping to do in Barcelona, Spain. From the higher end Passeig de Gracia to the cheap shopping at Portal del Angel, there's definitely something for everyone! :)
Personally, I really do love walking into almost every shop in Portal del Angel since there will definitely be something that you can actually buy. The high end street are really more for window-shopping unless you are a #crazyrichasian !
With that, I hope you find our guide useful in planning your trip to Barcelona, Spain and enjoying all that Barcelona has to offer!