“I did not decide to go to sleep, even though I wished to, so I could rise early and contemplate, in daylight, this city, unknown to me: Barcelona, capital of Catalonia.”
Hans Christian Andersen, 1862
We are sure that, at some point in your life, some over excited friends of yours have phoned you and tried to convince you to book an amazing week in Barcelona for the summer. If this didn’t happen to you, – or if it happened, but you didn’t take the opportunity – now it is the right moment to pack your bags and head to Barcelona.
Barcelona is traditionally one of the favourite European destinations for groups of friends in the summer. This city represents the perfect balance between the main objectives of tourists: culture and fun. If you are the type that wants to go to the beach and then spend all night in a club, you would think that Tenerife and Ibiza were perfect for you. If you are keener to visit important museums or works of art, then you may be convinced that Madrid would be better. Actually, Barcelona manages to combine both. Its stunning Modernista architecture is the background of a relaxed lifestyle made of dancing until dawn, eating tapas and just lounging on the beach; all under the sun and the balmy weather that characterises this city.
In this article, we will try to summarise the best places to visit in Barcelona: the tourist attractions and the must do’s regarding art and culture; as well as food, shopping and nightlife.
In the meantime, start thinking about spending your summer holidays in Barcelona – it will be surely worth it!
Walking Tour of the City
Even if the city is pretty big, it is a good idea to discover its little corners and secrets by walking. The streets of Barcelona speak about the city culture. Barcelona is not a normal city in Spain – it is in fact the capital city of Catalonia. Catalans are an autonomous community and they speak a different kind of Spanish. Anyway, if you were eager to spend some time here to show off your amazing Spanish language skills, don’t panic – a lot of native Catalans speak Spanish because of the high number of foreigners and expats, Instead, it is more difficult to find someone who speaks good English.
Apart from the language, a lot of cultural aspects that you would normally associate with Spain don’t apply to Barcelona: bull-fighting is illegal here, people don’t sleep during the siesta and the official dance is not the traditional Spanish flamenco, but a dance called sardana.
You’ll be able to breathe the city’s air and atmosphere by walking around the beautiful streets. Even though the transport services are very effective (there are normal buses, tourists buses and the tube), you can just walk around the not-so-famous parts of the city that you wouldn’t normally find on a tourist guide. Strolling around Horta and Sant Andreu district will lead you to see amazing landscapes that you wouldn’t find without exploring and discovering by yourself. The traditional walk on the beach is of course mandatory. Nothing beats a relaxing lunch on the beach, eating tapas and drinking a cocktail.
Another great idea would be to visit the city by bicycle. According to your own personal interests and tastes, you can choose one of the many routes and explore the amazing Barcelona while pedalling – doesn’t that sound fun? The cycling facilities in this city are amazing.
Cultural Attractions – Gaudì Architecture
The first tourtist attraction that will come to mind when you start dreaming about your holiday in Barcelona is the basilica of Sagrada Familia, well-known all over the world as one of the symbols of Europe. If you are a big architecture geek, this monument will make your jaw drop. This is only the first of the several Gaudì masterpieces that you’ll be able to see all over the city.
The building process started in 1882 and still needs to be finished! It is a unique building and it will probably be very different from any other that you’ve previously seen. If you want to know more about it, you can visit the museum, called Museu del Temple Expiatori de La Sagrada Familia, where you’ll be able to discover more about the building project, its history and some details about Gaudì life and works.
The Gaudì tour doesn’t end up here: the second destination is Casa Mila, now known also as La Pedrera (meaning quarry). The colourful tiles and the wavy brick-work make this building original and beautiful. It was meant to house apartments, but people were not interested in buying them because of the strange and irregular shape of the walls: they feared that the furniture wouldn’t fit. Now, Casa Mila houses a beautiful museum which contains also renaissance and modern works of art.
Another very famous Gaudì attraction is Park Güell, an amazing park designed by Gaudì, where you’ll admire statues of magical animals made from colourful tiles. The park’s whole design brings you immediately to a fabulous atmosphere, and you’ll also have the chance to see the house where Gaudì himself lived. We also recommend you to visit Casa Batllò, a stunning Art Nouveau house. The house is designed with a few straight lines and a beautiful mosaic made with colourful tiles that decorate the façade.
Gaudì wasn’t the only modernist architect to leave a mark in Barcelona, so if you really love architecture we strongly recommend you to read more and explore the other places where you’ll be able to see amazing modernist buildings!
If you feel fit enough to spend a day walking, then this route will work out perfectly for you! La Rambla is the famous traditional boulevard where people stroll and relax. Here, you will be able to look at the windows of the many and beautiful shops, watch street performers and stop to eat in a restaurant. You will have a lively, colourful and cool stroll and you’ll see many kinds of people. The buildings’ decoration are very interesting as well, and if you pay attention you’ll be able to spot small beautiful details everywhere. Very close to La Rambla there is the famous Plaça Reial, where you can relax, have a coffee and admire the beautiful fountain at the centre of the block. Two lamposts in this area were designed by Gaudì.
If you want to stop for dinner or have a drink at one of the many restaurants at La Rambla, you can enjoy one of the amazing flamenco show, which are usually pretty expensive but are totally worth it. Anyway, if you feel like walking more, then you definitely have to visit Montjuïc mountain. The long walk will be rewarded by a spectacular view. From there, you’ll see many important buildings and you’ll be surrounded by nature at the same time. On the top of the mountain there are many different attractions that you can visit (if you aren’t too tired).
Montjuïc mountain is also located in a geographically strategic position, being quite close to famous museums and parks. You can choose between the Museum Nacional d’Art du Catalunya or the Fundaciò Mirò, but also the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc is one of the favourite attractions of the city: it is an amazing water, light and music show that you really can’t miss!
Best Museums and Art Galleries in Barcelona
Barcelona is a culturally and artistically lively city. If you are passionate for Spanish artists’, then you’ll find everything you have ever dreamt here. In fact, if you’re staying in Barcelona only for a week, then you’ll have to squeeze all the visits to the different art museums. Apart from the museums dedicated to Gaudì’s works, you probably want to visit the Picasso Museum. He spent his early years in Barcelona, and in this museum you’ll admire the works of his formative period. The paintings are arranged in chronological order. Picasso and Dalì often met to talk about art at the Els 4 Gats, where you could stop as well to have a coffee or eat something.
Meanwhile, you can choose between visiting the Dalì Museum or the Mirò Museum. The Dalì Museum, though, is not located in Barcelona but in Figueres, a small town quite close to the city. Figueres was Dali’s his hometown, and the museum includes a lot of his works. The Mirò Museum, instead, is close to the National Museum of Art of Catalunya, and it includes many works by the painter, even not just paintings but also sculptures and sketches.
There are many other museums that you may want to visit. The National Museum of Art of Catalunya is particularly recommended if you are interested in learning more about this culture, as well as the Museum d’ Història de Catalunya. The Contemporary Art Centre is very interesting as well. If you don’t really enjoy contemporary art, then we recommend going to the Archaeology Museum. Otherwise, make sure you visit the Maritime Museum, which provides a lot of information about Barcelona’s history as a seaside city. We know that Barcelona seems like the perfect city to relax and be totally absorbed by the amazing nightlife, but don’t sleep too much and take the opportunity to visit at least two of these amazing museums!
Bus Tours and Nightlife in Barcelona
After walking around Barcelona and visiting museums, you’ll probably feel a bit tired – especially if you dance every night until dawn. That said, we recommend you take a day off from walking, and visit places by tourist bus. The sightseeing buses guarantee a hop-on and off service, which gives you the opportunity to stop by the places you’re interested in, and once you’re done you can get back on to enjoy the ride while listening to podcasts about the city’s history. The bus will reach all the must-see tourist places. If you are very tired and just need to rest, then you can have the full tour in one go. You can hop-off and visit the places the day after.
You can buy the tickets online and just bring the printed voucher before the tour, or you can purchase them on the day of your visit, right before you get on the bus. You can choose to buy a one-day ticket or a two-day period ticket, which of course is more convenient. For adults, the price is € 28 for one day and € 39 for two days.
The reasons why you may want to spend a day on the bus are many – maybe you’re not tired at all, you just want to save your forces for the night… Barcelona’s nightlife is well-known all around Europe, and we’re pretty sure you don’t want to miss the experience of having fun with your pals in one of its many nightclubs! If you are a music lover, you’ll also know that music venues in Barcelona are many and diverse – you have certainly heard of Razzmatazz and Apolo. Every year, the city boasts many music festivals of different genres. You may want to check the weekly city news to make sure you don’t miss some special event occurring in the city while you’re there!
Barcelona FC, Shopping and Food
If you’re going to travel with people that share their interests with you, then you’ll probably agree on the places you want to visit. But maybe you’re traveling with your significant other and they really don’t want to miss a visit to the Barcelona FB Stadium. Inside the building of the legendary stadium there is also a museum where it is possible to have a look at all the prizes, cups and pictures of the past. It gives a very strong feeling of what it means to be a player, or a member of the staff, at Camp Nou.
But if you really don’t mind football, then you can let your friends, relatives or significant other go while you just enjoy some retail therapy. Barcelona is an amazing city for shopping freaks. You will drool at the prospect of the famous 5 km shopping line, where you’ll find every kind of shops according to your tastes and budget – from Cavalli and Armani to H&M and Zara. The shopping line goes from the top of the Ramblas to Avenue Diagonal.
Despite the differences between your interests and those of your travel partners, something on which you’ll both agree is of couse food. We strongly recommend to have a full experience of the city and taste some Catalunya specialties in restaurants like Cinc Sentits. Besides, you can’t miss a good paella and a nice break on the beach while sipping mojitos and chiringuitos. Spanish and Catalunya cuisines can be very sophisticated and you really have to try them to make the most of your visit to Barcelona!
You need to discover and explore a city as big as Barcelona by yourself. Feel free to keep away from the tourist path and just enjoy the little bits of the city that no one will ever notice. For many reasons, Barcelona is a very interesting city, but it is often spoiled by the huge number of tourists that go there every year. Enjoy your own, personal experience and let us know all about it!
From the Team:
“I will never get tired of looking at Gaudi’s colourful and vibrant architecture that decorates the city of Barcelona. Whenever I visit, I’m inspired by the city’s colour palette and make sure to incorporate colour in my outfits. Especially at the beach, I recommend wearing bright accessories that match the spirit of the city.”
Saku – Swim Jump Dress £430.00