Barcelona was the first city I ever visited in Spain and, years later, it remains my favorite. I went for the first time back in 2017 for my study abroad spring break and was lucky enough to return this past Spring. I learned that March is the perfect time to visit Barcelona! There are less tourists than the summer months and the temperature is warm but not uncomfortably hot. No matter when you are able to visit, Barcelona will be sure to steal your heart. Keep scrolling for the best things to see in Barcelona, Spain!
where to stay
There are plenty of adorable and fun-filled neighborhoods to stay in Barcelona. Since La Sagrada Familia was high on our Barcelona to-do list, we decided to book accommodation nearby.
Since I tend to prefer Airbnb over hotels (much more bang for your buck), we booked a modern two-bedroom apartment for the duration of our stay. Montaber was extremely accommodating and checked us into the apartment himself. He gave us plenty of suggestions in the area and made sure we were very comfortable during our stay!
However, as wonderful as the Airbnb was, we ended up being very far from the main sights in Barcelona (besides La Sagrada Familia of course). Next time I visit Barcelona, I’ll try to find accommodation in the Gothic Quarter.
You can find the listing on Airbnb here.
Spain takes the euro. Be sure to use bank ATMs when withdrawing cash and steer clear of currency conversion booths and Euronet ATMs!
some useful spanish phrases
The official languages of Barcelona are Catalan and Spanish. In my opinion, Spanish is a lot easier to learn and pronounce than Catalan and it’ll get you further if you’re visiting other parts of Spain.
Good morning: Buenos dias
Good afternoon: Buenas tardes
Good night: Buenas noches
Please: Por favor
Thank you: Gracias
Do you speak English?: ¿Hablas Inglés?
things to see in barcelona
TOUR LA SAGRADA FAMILIA
You can’t visit Barcelona without experiencing Spain’s world famous Sagrada Familia Basilica. Designed by Gaudi, it has been under construction for a whooping 135 years. It’s forecasted to be completed by 2026, but even unfinished, the basilica is an absolute masterpiece. I would recommend doing the audio tour as well as paying a bit extra to climb to the top. The views of the city from the balcony are spectacular and it’s definitely earned its spot on the list of the best things to see in Barcelona.
Make sure to buy tickets in advance, especially in the on-season when the basilica is likely to sell out. You can buy tickets here.
WANDER AROUND PARK GUELL
Another of Gaudi’s masterpieces, Park Guell is one of my favorite places in the city and definitely one of the best things to see in Barcelona. The most famous part of the park, with the colorful benches and mosaics, costs €10 for an entrance ticket. Make sure you buy these tickets in advance because the park will sell out, especially in the high season.
If you want to see more of Park Guell, there is a large part of the park that is free-to-enter and open to the public. You’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view of Barcelona if you hike to the top!
ENJOY THE PICASSO MUSEUM
Picasso famously harbored a deep love of Barcelona, so it’s fitting that the 4,251 works of his permanent collection ended up in the city that he loved most of all. The Picasso Museum is very beautiful and his works are displayed expertly by time period and style. If you don’t know much about art, like myself, I would strongly suggest investing in the audio tour to learn a bit more about his paintings and Picasso himself.
TOUR CASA BATLLÓ
Gaudi’s influence is all over Barcelona, and Casa Batlló is yet another example of his talent. The building was designed by Gaudi for a wealthy aristocrat named Joseph Batlló who lived in the lower two floors with his family. The rest was rented out as apartments. Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to go inside as the building was closed for renovations in the Spring.
HAVE A DRINK OVERLOOKING THE BARCELONA CATHEDRAL
Another beautiful cathedral dominating the city’s skyline, the Barcelona Cathedral is definitely worth a visit. Although it’s not as popular as La Sagrada Familia, the gothic architecture of this 15th century cathedral is incredible and makes a beautiful photo backdrop from the Hotel Colón rooftop bar. This view + a Spanish cerveza = an afternoon that’s hard to beat.
An entrance ticket to the Barcelona Cathedral costs €7, or you could spend the euro on a fruity sangria across the street…just saying.
EAT YOUR WAY THROUGH THE MERCADO DE LA BOQUERIA
No visit to Barcelona is complete without visiting some of the city’s famous outdoor markets! Mercado de La Boqueria, or just “La Boqueria,” is the most popular and one of my personal favorite spots for a quick bite to eat. Although the market can be a bit crazy and it’s always full of tourists, there is a wide variety of yummy choices ranging from fresh produce and meat to ready-to-eat fried seafood and homemade fruit smoothies.
There are a variety of sit-down restaurants framing the market but, if you’re looking to eat on a budget, the street food is the move.
WALK UNDERNEATH THE ARC DE TRIOMF
Built at the end of the 19th century, the Arc de Triomf is one of the most well-known symbols of Barcelona and should definitely be on your list of things to see in Barcelona. It was originally constructed as the entrance to the Universal Exposition and is categorized by many as the gateway to the modernization of Barcelona. Followed by rows of palm trees, it is a beautiful spot to sit and admire the beauty of this city.
SOAK UP THE RAYS ON PLATJA DE LA BARCELONETA
I always enjoy a relaxing beach day! No matter how hot the weather gets in the city, you’ll always have a place to relax and cool down at Platja de la Barceloneta. Make sure to have some cash on you when the mojito vendor comes around. Priorities, amirite?
EXPERIENCE BARCELONA’S FAMOUS NIGHTLIFE
Barcelona is widely known for its outrageous club scene! Although I was much more interested in this when I visited as a study abroad student, there’s no denying that Barcelona is one of the partying capitals of Europe. If you’re in the partying mood, put on your hot girl disguise and pregame your ass off because, trust me, you’ll need to. Losing your buzz is inevitable while waiting in a mile-long line for Club Opium.
SHOP IN BARCELONA’S GOTHIC QUARTER
Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter is easily, in my opinion, the most charming part of the city. It’s filled with quaint shops and yummy Spanish restaurants and is the best place to sit outside and people watch. Add a pitcher of red sangria and a few a-la-carte tapas and you’ve got the perfect way to spend an afternoon!
In March, I discovered an adorable shop in the Gothic Quarter selling a wide variety of handmade espadrilles. Toni Pons has locations all over Spain and Mexico and is a great place to do a little shoe splurging if you’re in the area!
ENJOY THE VIEWS FROM THE BUNKERS DEL CARMEL
The best views of Barcelona come from the Bunkers del Carmel on the top of the Turó de la Rovira hill. I’m KICKING myself for not making time to visit the bunkers either time I was in Barcelona. Don’t make the same mistake I did! Make sure to carve out some time in your itinerary for these scenic and history-filled bunkers.
restaurants & bars to try
There are a lot of beautiful things to see in Barcelona…but there are also a lot of delicious things to eat. Spain has some of the best local cuisine in all of Europe, but a little foodie guidance never hurts. Try out these tasty and affordable restaurants and make sure to eat and drink your fill of Spanish sangria and tapas while you’re at it. (I hate sangria but I force myself to drink it in Spain anyway. It’s the principle).
Although heavily frequented by American study abroad students, Rosa Negra remains one of my favorite dinner spots in Barcelona. The Mexican food is phenomenal. They also serve a wide variety of fun blended cocktails that make the long wait times bearable. You know I always need a piña colada on vacation.
BRUNCH & CAKE
Looking for a photogenic, Insta-worthy brunch? Look no further than Brunch & Cake. They don’t have a dull item on the menu and a lot of the food is brought to your table in shovels. What more could you want in a food pic?
Do your best to make a reservation. Brunch & Cake is one of the most popular brunch spots in the city and is pretty much guaranteed to have long wait times.
LA DENTELLIÈRE RESTAURANTE
It was a happy accident that we stumbled into this restaurant on a hungry night out in the Gothic Quarter. La Dentellière was a bit on the pricy side, but all bets are off when your parents are in town. We started the meal off with a bottle of Tempranillo, goat cheese, courgette carpaccio, crispy prawn ravioli on top of royal quinoa and Spanish omelette. The seafood paella was incredible and, after the appetizers, plenty big enough for four people.
Bodega Biarritz served some of the best tapas I’ve had in my life. However, be sure to get there early in the evening. They have two locations very close to each other, but both are tiny and don’t have anywhere near enough seating to accommodate all the interested tapas-seekers.
The skilled chefs at Bodega Biarritz make tons of different and delicious tapas every night! I would suggest ordering the staff’s choice so you get to try a bit of everything. It was plenty to feed all four of us with some left over! The restaurant is cash-only, so make sure to hit the ATM before.
CASA GUINART IN THE MERCADO DE LA BOQUERIA
Since I love the Mercado de La Boqueria so much, I was able to convince the fam to stop at one of the sit-down restaurants for a quick and tasty lunch. Casa Guinart, towards the back of the market, serves delicious sandwiches at an affordable price. My sister and I both ordered the bocadillo de camares, which was basically deep fried calamari smothered in cheese sauce on a black poppy seed bun.
Most of the dishes on the menu besides the sandwiches are a bit pricy. But to be honest, the food looked amazing and why not splurge on vacation!
DOW JONES BAR
Also know as “The Stock Market Bar,” I first learned about the Dow Jones Bar through a travel feature video on my Facebook page and I knew instantly I needed to go there. Some people call in the Barcelona Drink Exchange, which has my personal vote.
The large monitor on the wall tells you which drinks are being purchased the most and which are being purchased the least at that specific point in time. The drinks that are the most popular go up in price, while the drinks that nobody is ordering become cheaper. Once every hour “the stock market crashes” and all the drinks go on super sale!* It’s basically everyone’s cue to make a mad rush to the bar before the crash is over. The bar itself is a blast, with great music, fun people and a pool table in the back.
*Fair warning: the Bearfucker shot was gross.
Barcelona is one of my favorite cities in Europe and it is truly impossible to see everything in only one weekend. Although I’ve been lucky enough to have two weekends in this magnificent city, I still feel as though I could spend years exploring the cobblestoned streets and eating tapas to my heart’s content.
If you enjoyed this post about things to see in Barcelona, make sure to follow my adventures on Instagram at @madisonsfootsteps.
And if you’re planning on visiting more cities than Barcelona, check out my other guides to Europe’s most-popular destinations! Like…