Conspicuous in its vibrancy and proud of its quirks, Barcelona is the Spanish city with an infectious buzz. From a secret bunker with sweeping views over the metropolis to the ultimate spots to sample Catalan’s most delicacies, here is a list of the top 10 things to you simply MUST do when you are in Barcelona!
1. Feast on Paella, Tapas and Sangria
It is traditional in Spain to eat a big meal at lunch time and a smaller meal for dinner, so make sure you’ve worked up an appetite by midday. In Barcelona, you’ll find a plethora of restaurants offering a scrumptious selection of share plates, referred to as Tapas, alongside pans of steaming hot Paella. Of course, all this food must be washed down with a generous jug of Sangria, the national drink of Spain.
2. Marvel at Gaudi’s architectural genius
If anyone is responsible for shaping the aesthetic of Barcelona, it’s Spain’s most revered architect, Antoni Gaudi. From the wondrous La Sagrada Familia, a cathedral that has been under construction since 1882, to Park Guell’s gingerbread-like buildings, every Gaudi piece looks like it was conceptualized for a fairytale. Make sure you take time to explore the all the must-see Gaudi sites during your visit!
3. Have a picnic at the bunker
If you want to find the best panoramic views over Barcelona, head up to the Bunker del Carmel. This idyllic spot is still reasonably undiscovered by tourists, so it makes for a great place to bring a picnic and watch the sun setting over the Barcelona sprawl. To get here, take metro line L4 (yellow) to station Alfons X. From Alfons X, take exit Ronda de Guinardo, cross the street and turn left. From here, you have to walk up a hill for about 25-30 minutes. I promise you, the view is worth it!
4. Visit Espit Chupitos Bar
Chupitos means ‘shots’ in Spanish, so you can probably take a stab at what this bar has on offer. With over 150 different types of shots on the menu, you can expect a little more than tequila with lime and salt. It’s a bit of a lucky dip when making your selection, but expect each one to be somewhat of a fun suprise. My personal favorite was when the bartender lit the bar on fire, and handed us all marshmallows. We proceeded to toast the marshmallows, dip them into our shot, eat the gooey goodness and then finally, consume the alcohol.
5. Get lost in the Gothic Quarter
If there ever was an ideal place to get lost, the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona would be it. Throw aside all plans and spend a few hours simply meandering through the endless maze of intriguing alleyways, quaint shopfronts, hip bars and Gothic architecture. I spent hours wandering through these streets and never ran out of things to photograph.
6. Go inside La Sagrada Familia
On my first visit to Barcelona I never actually made it inside La Sagrada Familia and I regretted it ever since. I made it a priority on my second visit to Barcelona and I am so glad I did! If you are under the impression that all cathedrals look the same, get ready to have your mind blown away. I would recommend booking your tickets in advance so you don’t miss out or have to cue for hours!
7. Go on a food tour of Barcelona
When visiting a new city, one of the easiest ways to get an authentic taste of its culture and cuisine is by going on a local food tour. The Food Lovers Company, for example, offer small group tours focused on showing you real Spanish and Catalan culinary culture. On the tour, locals and culinary experts Nuria and Margherita show you around Old Town on a four-hour drinking and eating session. Just make sure you schedule time for a serious siesta once you’re finished!
8. Stroll along Barcelona Beach
In the height of summer, Barcelona beach is teeming with locals and tourists alike. Here, you can sunbathe (and if you’re brave, join the locals and go topless!), cool down in the waters or simply sit at a beachfront bar imbibing Mojitos. I personally found the beach WAY too crowded during the middle of the day, but I did enjoy strolled along the sand at sunset before retreating to one of the restaurants along the water for a steaming hot bowl of Paella.
9. Try everything from La Boqueria Markets
La Boqueria markets is brimming with an irresponsible throng of food stalls, selling just about everything under the sun. On entering, you’ll find a rainbow array of smoothies and fresh fruit, delectable crepes brimming with fillings and exotic candies. Walk in a little further to discover food stalls offering a place to sit and feast on local delicacies.
10. Watch the magic fountain show
First spouted all the way back in 1929, this magnificent display of colour, light, sound and water is an absolute must-see when you are in Barcelona! The show occurs outside of the National Museum of Art Cataluyna at different times depending on the season, so I would recommend checking on the Barcelona Tourism website before planning to go.
How to get around:
Barcelona is a fairly straight-forward city to navigate so getting around is pretty easy. In my opinion, walking is always the best way to get from place to place (it allows you to see the most), but the city is also very bike-friendly and has a great public transport network of metros and buses. If you are going to use public transport during your visit, your best option is to pre-purchase a transport pass for the duration of your time in the city.
Where to stay:
$- Still to this day, the best hostel I’ve ever stayed at was the Casa Gracia. Here, you’ll pay hostel prices for hotel standards, and they will throw in an amazing breakfast and a bunch of social activities!
$$- Barcelona has a lot of great options on Airbnb. By using Airbnb, you can often score yourself a beautiful, self-contained apartment for a fraction of what you’d pay for a hotel. If you haven’t yet signed up to Airbnb, you can sign up here and get $45 credit towards your first stay.
$$$- If you want to treat yourself, check out the exquisite W Hotel Barcelona. Located right on the Barcelona beachfront, you can hardly pick a room with a bad view at this place!
Have you been to Barcelona? Got something to add to this bucketlist? Let me know in the comments below!