Guest post: Top things to do in Barcelona

With such an array of attractions surely there is no city in Europe with more top things to do than Barcelona?

Its cultural districts of El Born and the Gothic Quarter standing side by side with Las Ramblas, the city’s 4km long beach and its modern centre make Barcelona a true global city. Include the iconic La Sagrada Familia and sporting giant of FC Barcelona and you have one of the world’s most innovative and influential destinations.

It should therefore be no surprise that with 6 million annual visitors Barcelona is Europe’s fifth most visited city. 

Read on for our guide to the top things to do in Barcelona and help plan your own trip.

How to get to Barcelona 

Barcelona is located on the mediterranean coast in the north east of Spain. Spain’s capital city Madrid lies 600 km to the west in the centre of the country.

Popular holiday resort regions of Costa Brava and Costa Dorada lie just to the north and south respectively.

The border of France and Pyrenees mountain range are 120 km north.

Travelling by Air to Barcelona 

The principal airport serving the city, especially for long haul travellers is El Prat de Llobregat Airport just 15 km south west. Connected to the city by the metro system this is the most convenient and accessible airport for international visitors.

Girona and Reus airports both approximately 120 km from the city predominantly serve summer package tours and low cost airlines.

Travelling by Train to Barcelona

Visitors to Barcelona from these neighbouring resorts can easily reach the city using the extensive regional train network. Services run frequently to central stations including Plaça de Catalunya and Passeig de Gràcia.

High speed rail network links Barcelona to Madrid and other major Spanish cities as well as France. Such services terminate at Barcelona-Sants station in the west of the city north of the Montjuïc district.

Travelling by Ferry to Barcelona

In addition to the traditional means of reaching a city Barcelona is linked to other mediterranean destinations as Europe’s busiest passenger port. Regular services operate from North Africa, Italy and France as well as other locations in Spain.

Our own visit to Barcelona was as part of a wider motorhome tour of western Europe following an overnight ferry from Rome. To help with your own tour of France do read our post on the fabulous France Passion scheme ‘Top 8 Essential France Passion Stopovers’.

What is the weather like in Barcelona? 

As well as a comprehensive list of top things to do Barcelona is also blessed with a mediterranean climate. Whilst it is of course possible to visit all year round the prevailing weather conditions make certain times of the year more pleasant.

From May to July daily temperatures are on average between 20˚ and 30˚, ideal for strolling through the city with little risk of rain showers. The higher temperatures and more humid conditions make a visit during August less appealing.

Top Things to do in Barcelona 

La Sagrada Familia

Even amongst so many architectural treasures the unique design and imposing stature of La Sagrada Familia make it Barcelona’s most iconic landmark.

Designed by Barcelona’s own Antoni Gaudí La Sagrada Familia remains incomplete nearly 140 years after its foundation stone was laid in 1882. Its complex and elaborate design of 3 facades and 18 spires meaning construction is not due to be completed until 2026, 100 years after Gaudí’s death.

Gaudí’s masterpiece is unsurprisingly Barcelona’s most visited attraction with over 3 million visitors each year. Taking a photograph of such an impressive basilica boasting a height of 172 metres is difficult enough even without waiting for a gap in the adoring crowds! For this reason and to miss most of the frequent 2 hour queues to enter La Sagrada we recommend arriving here early.

Antoni Gaudí 

As well as La Sagrada Familia many of Gaudí’s fascinating buildings can be visited during your trip to Barcelona.

Heavily influenced by nature look out for Casa Batlló and La Casa Milà on Psseig de Gràcia north of Plaça de Catalunya. 

For a truly unique insight in to Gaudí’s innovative designs and imagination head to Park Güell, a public park of gardens and architecture to the north of the city.

FC Barcelona & Camp Nou 

I make no apology for not only including a football club in this list of top things to do in Barcelona but also placing it so highly.

As per the club’s motto of ‘més que un club’ FC Barcelona is more than a club. Yes, they are one of the world’s most elite teams but more significantly they have evolved to become a powerful symbol of Catalonian identity.

For those visitors for whom a trip to the Camp Nou to watch FC Barcelona in action is a bucket list experience the Spanish football season traditionally runs from September to May. Matches are held over the weekend although European Champions League fixtures are played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

In addition to watching a game a tour of the iconic Camp Nou, its dressing room, benches, VIP areas and the adjacent museum is Barcelona’s most popular. 

Las Ramblas 

After La Sagrada Familia and FC Barcelona the city’s most famous destination must be Las Ramblas. Running from Plaça de Catalunya in the north to the seafront monument of Christopher Colombus in the south Las Ramblas is the place in Barcelona for a casual stroll.

Along its 1.2 km length visitors are entertained by countless stalls, street performers and musicians as well as a number of bars and restaurants. Do keep an eye out for pickpockets though!

Mercat de la Boqueria 

As you amble along Las Ramblas be careful not to miss one of our other top things to do in Barcelona - La Boqueria Market.

Around the mid point of Las Ramblas to its western side look out for the grand iron entrance decorated in its centre with the emblem of Barcelona. Through here lies one of the world’s best markets and a central part of Barcelona for centuries.

Not only is La Boqueria home to countless stalls selling fresh produce, olives, breads, meats and seafood but several small bars and restaurants perfect for a light bite or lunch. Find yourself a free stool or two, look around you to see what is popular and tuck in. Enjoying such fantastic food under the roof of La Boqueria is a memory of Barcelona that will stay with you for years to come.

Gothic Quarter 

Should you be able to leave your lunchtime stool in La Boqueria head back to Las Ramblas and cross in to the Gothic Quarter to its eastern side.

This is the medieval centre of Barcelona, a wonderfully atmospheric maze of narrow cobbled streets, quiet corners and grand squares. Highlights here include Plaça Reial with its charming restaurants and Gaudí designed street lamps and the hugely impressive Cathedral of Barcelona dating back to the 14th century.

This Gothic Quarter is central to the cultural heritage of Barcelona. Both Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró spent part of their lives living and working here.


El Born 

Sitting adjacent to the Gothic Quarter you’ll find El Born, perhaps Barcelona’s most fashionable district.

In addition to some of the city’s best boutiques El Born is home to countless cafes, bars and restaurants. After a long day sightseeing in the rest of Barcelona dig deep for that last bit of energy and find your favourite. Trust me you will be spoilt.

Barcelona Beaches 

For a break from exploring not many other world cities can offer over 4 km of sandy beaches right in the centre of the city.

Located either side of the Port Olympic even in the busiest summer months you should be able to find a suitable place to lay down your towel and soak in the sunshine. 

Barceloneta Beach due south of the El Born district is one of the most popular stretches offering beach side bars and ease of access to the centre of the city.


The last of our top things to do in Barcelona is to head to the district of Montjuïc in the south west section of the city.

With attractions such as the hill top Montjuïc Castle and cable car system a visit to Montjuïc allows visitors ample opportunities to gain superb views over Barcelona and the Mediterranean.

Other highlights include the central fountain boasting a nightly light and music display and the Joan Miró Museum. 

Visitors should also look out for the Outdoor Cinema festival held during the summer months of July and August. Held in the gardens of Montjuïc Castle these movie screenings combined with live music concerts make for a fabulous way to end your trip.

Why you should visit Barcelona

To visit Barcelona is to visit a city like no other in Europe. It is a modern city with a rich history and abundance of natural advantages and local products. Yet it remains grounded and unpretentious.

Follow our list of top things to do in this fabulous city but your true joy will come in exploring its streets and stumbling across your own stories to pass on.

Guest post written by Paul -

1 comment

  1. I loved Barcelona, hope to go there again soon! :)