The captivating Catalan city located on the Northeastern Spanish coast is home to its own unique culture, drawing worldwide attention for its stunning Catalan Modernist architecture, blended into the old Gothic town closer to the water. Towering churches with intricate facades and unique houses and parks designed by some of the world’s most influential architects have shaped the city into a beautiful cultural escape.
Explore the different neighbourhoods of the artistic city, enjoying the traditional Catalan dish of Paella along the beachside, shopping down the luxurious streets of Eixample, and discovering history at every hidden turn in the city’s Gothic quarter. The eclectic city is amazing for history, architecture, beach, and gastronomy lovers, truly inspiring and drawing the attention of all those who visit.
Know before you go
Barcelona International Airport welcomes flights from many international destinations, with direct flights from 212 cities and 62 countries.
Trains from a variety of different Spanish cities including Madrid, Valencia, Málaga, Sevilla, and Bilbao are connected with the Catalan capital. There are also direct trains from France like Paris and Montpellier.
Many European cities offer direct buses to Barcelona. This is an easy and affordable way to get to Barcelona, although it’s important to keep in mind that journeys on average are longer than train and plane. Almost every city in Spain has a bus to Barcelona.
Public transport is extremely easy to use in Barcelona, with a reliable metro that is in service from 5am to midnight on weekdays and from 5am to 2am on Fridays, and 24 hours on Saturday with 12 different lines, buses at all hours (they run less frequently at night) and trains that connect the city with the suburbs, as well as with other Spanish cities. The maps are easy to follow, and you only need one type of ticket that permits you to access all of the forms of transport.
The climate is mild from October to April in Barcelona, and summers can be quite hot and humid, averaging around 29 degrees from June-August, the months of May and September averaging around 23-26 degrees, and November-March averaging around 15-17 degrees.
Day 1: Ciutat Vella: Gothic Quarter and El Raval
Spend your first day in the historic heart of the city, with winding, narrow streets housing traditional shops, restaurants, and cafes. Get lost in the twist and turns of the beautiful Gothic Quarter and cross over to El Raval to discover its heritage.
Where to eat in Ciutat Vella:
Fismuler: Mouthwatering takes on classic Spanish dishes that change seasonally to keep up with the freshest ingredients. Make sure to get the razor clams if they’re on the menu, and their Sangria de Cava is a fantastic rendition of the popular drink.
Els 4Gats: Eat some of Barcelona’s most delicious tapas at this café that was a favourite meeting spot of the famous artists Pablo Picasso and Ramon Casas i Cabró, also known as a hub for the Modernisme movement, and also did we mention the food is incredible?
Standing tall and proud in the city’s Gothic Quarter is Barcelona Cathedral, living up to the surrounding neighbourhood's name, designed with a grand Gothic facade. Ornate spires tower over the city, drawing attention to the cathedral whose construction began in the 13th century. The ambience is mesmerising, with beautiful spiritual paintings and ribbed arches. It is also home to the tomb of its patron saint, Saint Eulalia.
Easily the most unique and stunning part of the Barcelona Cathedral that really sets it apart from other churches is its cloister, an outdoor oasis with beautiful gardens, gargoyles, statues, and the occasional swan.
Pablo Picasso was widely recognised as one of the most influential artists of all time, and although he was born in Andalucia, in the coastal city of Málaga, he spent much of his time in Spain creating his modern art in Barcelona, and many of his influential works were created in this city. He revolutionised modern art, creating styles and techniques like the Cubist movement, a bold style that helped facilitate surrealistic arctic movements and experimented with a variety of different art forms. Nowadays, his lasting impact on modern art is undeniable, and the Picasso Museum showcases some of his most famous works.
There are plenty of iconic works that call the Picasso Museum their home, and a variety of notable exhibits that share the different stages and focuses on his works. Picasso’s Blue Period is one of the most notable of these, a somber collection that focuses on the thematic elements of melancholy and poverty, including the painting “La Celestina”, inspired by a character Celestina from Spanish literature, one of his most famous paintings from the blue period. From his surrealist period, works like “The Weeping Woman '' depict anguish and despair caused by the Spanish Civil War, and “Woman with Hat and Fur Collar'', an experimental representation of psychological depth. The remarkable painting is a representation of one of his most significant muses, Dora Maar. For the grand slam, visit one of Picasso’s most groundbreaking works, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”. This breathtaking painting is a prime example of Picasso’s Cubist movement, which broke barriers of traditional notions of perspective, depicting the five women with geometrically distorted features.
Moco Museum, without a doubt adds a fun, contemporary vibe to Barcelona’s already vibrant art scene. The innovative space pushes boundaries, challenging conventional notions of art. Striking paintings, sculptures, as well as thought-provoking installations have made the Moco Museum a safe place for established and emerging artists to share their unique works. Rotating exhibitions create immersive, interactive displays that are atypical compared to your standard art gallery, incorporating light installations, multimedia showcase, and other unique and captivating exhibitions (not to mention some make for great Instagram photoshoots!)
Mercado de la Boqueria
Delicious food stands offering fresh shucked oysters amongst other seafood, cups of traditional Spanish ham - jamón ibérico, fresh fruit dipped in chocolate on a stick, delicious smoothies, traditional restaurants offering tapas, vendors selling anything you could think of from the finest Spanish olives to the freshest produce… is your mouth watering yet? Barcelona’s iconic market has more than just what was mentioned above, if you can believe that! Every stall is enticing, and you’ll wish you could devour everything!
This is a great stop in Barcelona if you’re looking to grab a quick lunch, as traditional bocadillos (sandwiches), empanadas, and other quick bites are always ready. However, the market is also just a cultural hub, as locals grab the freshest products and share a meal together. Exploring the market for a bit is a free and exciting activity that gives you a taste of the market scene in Spain, and there are plenty of souvenirs that you can bring back with you (like amazing saffron, fancy flavoured salts, and vacuum-sealed olives to name a few).
An amazing way to experience the market is by going on a tour with a local chef who will teach you how to make paella with fresh ingredients from the market. You’ll help your personal chef and instructor pick out the freshest clams, prawns, mussels, and whatever seafood looks good that day to throw into the paella, and then you’ll get to learn step by step to learn how to cook the world-renowned dish, with some sangria on the side of course!
Possibly Barcelona’s most famous street, if not the most famous, is pretty much impossible to miss on your trip to Barcelona, as its central location and long, wide avenue makes it an essential path to a lot of the city’s favourite spots. Take a stroll down the beautiful street, with towering trees providing necessary shade in the hot summer, and pass through the numerous pop-up stands filled with artisan products. Wander into some of Barcelona’s trendiest boutiques and snag a cute new outfit in the fashionista city, or sit at a beautiful cafe and people-watch. Take time to enjoy the pedestrian street and its impeccable designs, but don’t be surprised if during the tourist season it gets a bit overcrowded.
Where to Stay in Ciutat Vella
Meet people to explore the city with at this hip and fun party hostel!
This elegant hotel offers a cool-down from the hot Mediterranean summers with its rooftop pool.
Three restaurants, a wonderful terrace with city views, and contemporary rooms make for a comfortable stay.
Day 2: Eixample
Iconic modernist architecture, wide avenues, grid-like streets, Eixample is a mix of innovation and history. Spend your second day in the luxurious neighbourhood checking out some of its most iconic architecture, stopping into shops, and getting a taste of the neighbourhood's grand charm, noticing how different it is from Ciutat Vella.
Where to eat in Eixample:
Boca Grande: Trendy interior designs, some of the city’s most delicious tapas, and while it may sound weird, trust us when we say it is one of the most beautiful bathrooms we have ever seen.
Disfrutar: Two Michelin stars, creative concepts, and the epitome of its name’s meaning, ‘to enjoy’. Reservations must be made months in advance for this intricate take on mainly Mediterranean seafood.
La Sagrada Familia
Spain is home to many beautiful churches, but none stand out as much as Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. One of Spain’s most visited monuments boasts an impressive facade, dominating the city’s skyline. The fusion of Gothic and Art Nouveau architectural styles in such a unique way, incorporating natural elements has created one of the most recognisable buildings in the world. The construction of the iconic church started in 1882, and is still not complete to this day. If you have travelled to Barcelona in the past, it is fun to come back and compare how much the church has changed over the years. Even in just 6 months there were quite a few notable differences, and with new technology, the process has been even faster than in the past.
La Sagrada Familia is lined with intricate details that are definitely not your typical church decorations, but the way that Gaudi designed his masterpiece makes it work. When you enter the church, the stained-glass windows illuminate the inside, a kaleidoscope of hues that change throughout the day. The use of light is one of the most breathtaking features of the church, and is truly unlike any other stained-glass windows seen before.
Since the unfinished masterpiece gets filled up quickly, and often lines are down the street to purchase tickets, we recommend buying your entrance ticket in advance so you can skip the crazy lines. This ticket includes an informative audio guide, where you’ll get to learn more about the meticulous details that went into making the impressive UNESCO site.
La Pedrera-Casa Milà
Another UNESCO World Heritage site designed by Gaudí was originally built to accommodate residential apartments as well as commercial spaces. The architectural marvel, sometimes called La Pedrera, and other times referred to as Casa Mila, is a building that will immediately capture your attention, often being described as resembling a living organism that blends into the city. While the exterior is absolutely stunning, with an intricate wave pattern adding dimension to the unique building, the interior is worth a visit, as it really completes the experience of the building.
The interior of the building is characterised by a spiral staircase that leads you to the intricately decorated and designed rooms. Wavy ceilings, natural light through stained glass windows, and custom-designed furniture come together to create a masterpiece. The highlight of La Pedrera, however, has to be the rooftop. Coming onto the terrace is like transporting into another world with chimneys resembling faces, and stunning views over the rest of the city.
The dazzling gem also located on the Passeig de Gràcia, another Gaudí building, is a beautiful facade. The exterior of the building is whimsical and magical, with unique designs and bright colours captivating the eyes of those who look upon it. Breathtaking rooms use organic elements to create a sense of what Gaudí was so passionate about - nature. Interactive rooms and exhibits transport you into a creative wonderland, with multimedia bringing his house to life. Innovative tile details decorate the hallway with blue and white colours, and exquisite woodwork around the house almost gives the perception that you’re inside the tree.
Another testament to Gaudís artistic brilliance once again is his rooftop. Whimsical chimneys, and mosaic-covered arches, and we’re sure you’ve seen a photo or two of the mosaic dragon-like sculpture that guards the iconic building. This rooftop also features a bar where you can grab a drink or coffee, marvelling at the panoramic views over Barcelona. Every step through Casa Batlló is a representation of Gaudís imaginative architectural style. (P.S. If you only have time for one of the three Gaudí houses, this one was by far my favourite. Although you can’t go wrong with any.)
Passeig de Gràcia
This luxurious street is architectural wonder after architectural wonder. The previous two Gaudí masterpieces on this street, of course, are a sight to behold, but walking down the shopping street, it is almost as if every architect was trying to outdo one another and create the most unique, breathtaking building. One of the prettiest walks in all of Barcelona is a wonderful showcase of Catalan modernism.
Beside its beauty, Passeig de Gràcia is a haven for shopping enthusiasts. The stunning buildings house all the most recognisable designer stores including some of Spain’s own worldwide famous brands Balenciaga and Carolina Herrera, but also unique concept stores trying out fun and different takes on fashion.
Where to Stay in Eixample
Friendly staff at this cosy hostel are happy to help you with any touristic information you may need in Barcelona.
This centrally-located hotel has an adorable little café on its property.
Incredibly luxurious rooms with stunning interiors, a beautiful rooftop terrace, and helpful staff.
Day 3: Gràcia, Horta-Guinardó, Barceloneta
On your third day, explore more of the wonderful architecture of Barcelona, in a more bohemian setting of Gràcia and Horta-Guinardó. Finish off your day at the relaxing Barceloneta, soaking up the sun and dipping your toes in the sand. Catch a tan, grab a swim, or simply enjoy one of the numerous beachside bars!
Where to eat in Gràcia:
Botafumeiro: This extensive menu highlights Mediterranean seafood, serving the freshest dishes like traditional paella to grilled fish,
Can Kenji: Japanese-Catalan fusion… need I say any more?
Where to eat in Barceloneta:
Salamanca: A classic seafood restaurant providing the finest dishes to locals and tourists alike for over 50 years.
Xiringutio Escribà: Right on the beachfront you’ll find delicious, innovative seafood dishes.
Another UNESCO World Heritage site in Barcelona, also designed by Antoni Gaudí, is easily one of the most special places in the city, and personally, one of my favourite city parks that I have ever visited. It really is the epitome of Gaudis unique style, incorporating appreciation for nature in his architecture while surrounding his work with actual nature, creating an enchanting space. Park Güell is amazing to spend some time and relax, soaking up nature and Mediterranean weather.
When you enter Park Güell, you’ll be greeted by the grand staircase, trencadís, an eye-catching feature covered in bright mosaic tiles. The stunning entrance sets the tone for the enchanting park you’re about to explore. Winding pathways, unique stone structures, and intricate mosaic benches can be found throughout the park, seamlessly blending in with the beautiful nature surrounding it. It wouldn’t be a trip to Park Güell without visiting the monumental area, where Gaudís creativity stepped up to the next level. Here you’ll find one of the most recognisable symbols, the Dragon Stairway. The multi-coloured mosaic lizard guards this entrance, and expect to wait in a bit of a line if you want to snag a picture with the mosaic reptile. The colonnade hall is beautifully decorated with intricate, colourful ceilings and towering pillars.
The Hansel and Gretel-esque gingerbread house might stick out to you at first glance. It was originally a model home for the park’s residential development project, but now it is the Gaudí House Museum that teaches about the life and works of the architect, showcasing furniture, photographs, and other artefacts.
Coming here for a special occasion or just want some wonderful photographs in the iconic location? Here you can hire a professional photographer to get the best angles and snapshots of you at all of the most iconic spots in the park. Called the Instagram Tour, this is a great opportunity for anyone looking to step up their social media game! Plus, you’ll also get to take photos with the Sagrada Familia depending on the option you choose!
Hospital de Sant Pau
Another Catalan modernist architect, Lluís Domènech i Monater designed this hospital complex that served as a hospital until 2009, until recently converted into a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a cultural center. The complex interconnects several buildings by underground tunnels, giving it a very campus-like feeling. Intricate sculptures, ceramic tiles, and ornate ironwork showcase the attention to detail. A peaceful escape from the city, the beautiful hospital is filled with gorgeous courtyards, lush gardens, and beautiful spaces that were designed to promote well-being for the patients. The legendary building was designed to contribute to the healing process, providing the patients a soothing, tranquil environment to recover in.
Discover the vibrant La Barceloneta
The story of how La Barceloneta came to be may be a bit eerie. Originally the spot for fishermen, who were generally more in the lower class, was excavated and transformed into a beautiful beach area and a trendy setting since Barcelona was hosting the Olympics, and wanted to seem more presentable, essentially forcing out its residents. This completely transformed Barcelona and made it into the city everyone knows and loves today, although it is important to remember the history behind the places you’re coming to visit, no matter how difficult it may be.
The main attraction of Barceloneta is without a doubt the Mediterranean Sea. The beachfront promenade is lined with numerous bars, restaurants, and beach clubs that are a lively atmosphere, especially during the summer months when the sun is beating down on the coast. Only adding to its allure is the views of the iconic W Barcelona hotel, a modern building that stands out.
Where to Stay in La Barceloneta
A stylish, modern, and social hostel with its own entertainment programme.
This sophisticated, modern apartment is secluded, away from the busy city-life in a residential neighbourhood.
Experience a one-of-a-kind stay in this UNESCO World Heritage Site built by Lluis Domènech i Montaner
Day 4: Poble Sec, Montjuïc, Les Corts
The dynamic Poble Sec is a great place to explore on your last day in Barcelona, right at the foot of Montjüic, where you’ll get some of the best city views. If you’re a football fan, head over to the lively Les Corts afterwards to see FC Barcelona in all of its glory. If sports aren’t your thing, check out what you may have missed in Ciutat Vella or Eixample, discovering its museums and architecture.
Explore the cultural neighbourhood of Poble Sec
This unique neighbourhood is definitely an off-the-beaten-path destination, with a youthful atmosphere attracting young artists and musicians as well as other creative souls looking to enjoy the bohemian vibe. Right at the foot of Montjuïc hill is where this hidden gem is located, its name translating to “Dry Village” in Catalan since its location historically outside of the city walls meant it had limited access to water sources.
Nowadays, Poble Sec is a culinary haven, with the street of Carrer Blai creating a social atmosphere lined with tapas and pinxtos bars, offering small, shareable bites. You’re for sure to feel like a local in this vibrant and fun area of Barcelona! There are also a wide variety of art galleries and theatres that are home to a lot of the local artists' works, offering performances and exhibitions in the trendy neighbourhood.
See Barcelona from above with this round-trip ticket on the Montjüic Cable Car. The newly refurbished cable car up the hill provides you with incredible views of Barcelona from the whole region, to the Serra de Collserola to the Mediterranean Sea, catching birds-eyes view of iconic landmarks. Book your ticket in advance to skip the lines and ensure that you get the opportunity to witness the stunning panoramic sights the city has to offer!
Any football enthusiasts in the house? If so, the unforgettable Camp Nou is a must-visit for any fans (yes, even if you support Real Madrid!) Since so many of the game's greats called this stadium their home: Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, Johan Cruyff, Ronaldinho… we could go on all day! The best way to soak up the amazing atmosphere brought by the home sides fans is to go to a game! If you’re visiting Barcelona in the summer though, there aren’t usually La Liga games at the stadium, so you may have to settle for the immersive FC Barcelona Museum. Achievements of the club are showcased through exhibits, memorabilia, and multimedia presentations, introducing the club’s legends as well as relieving historic moments. Nowadays, you can also take a tour of the rest of the stadium, getting up close and personal with where the games take place without people in the stadium. See the press rooms, television students, and commentary boxes on this informative and awesome tour!
Where to eat in Poble Sec:
Blai Tonight: Lively, affordable, and serving up pinxtos, small tapas on skewers originating from the Basque region.
Tickets Bar: Creative tapas and molecular gastronomy showcases chef Albert Adrià’s imaginative approach to gastronomy (if you are curious about this type of cuisine but not sure you’d like it, El Corte Ingles sells his liquid olives, allied Caviaroli Drops.)
Where to eat in Les Corts:
L’Arroseria Xátiva: This restaurant specialises in Paella and is one of the best restaurants in the city to try this classic dish.
Monvinic: This wine bar boasts an impressive collection of wines accompanied by delectable Mediterranean-inspired dishes.