The city which seemingly has everything. Perched on the Mediterranean coast, with a beautiful climate, great cafe culture, amazing food, music festivals, gorgeous architecture, art galleries, museums, interesting Catalan culture and a stunning national park that you can get to on the metro! It’s no wonder this is everybody’s favourite city in Europe. Here are our top 10 things to do in Barcelona…
1. Look Up…
Barcelona is a haven for lovers of architecture. Stroll around the streets of the gothic quarter and discover the 17th and 18th century Baroque architecture, such as the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar or the spectacular Gothic Barcelona Cathedral with its neo-Gothic façade. However, anyone who knows anything about Barcelona will know that this city belongs to one man, Antoni Gaudí. The huge Catholic Church Sagrada Familia, although it is still being built, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a marvel of modern architecture. Don’t miss some of Gaudi’s other buildings such as La Pedrera on Paseig de Gracia, and of course the famous, Parc Güell.
2. Explore Barcelona’s Barris
The great thing about Barcelona are that each barri (Catalan for neighbourhood) has a different feel and energy. Hang around the old fisherman’s neighbourhood of Barceloneta, with it’s narrow streets and washing hanging out to dry and drink Vermouth with the locals. Head to Gracia, a neighbourhood full of cool bars and good restaurants, that comes to life during the ‘Festes de Gracia’ in the summer when every street is decorated. There’s Raval with it’s multi-cultural residents, great Indian restaurants and Bohemian culture, or Poble Sec, an up and coming neighbourhood with hipster bars and cool markets. Whoever you are, you can find a place to suit you in Barcelona.
3. Hit the beach!
As well as the city beach (Barceloneta), Barceloneta has access to loads of great beaches. There’s Castelldefels just a 20 minute train ride away, with its wide beach great for families or the pretty beach of Gava and Prat de Llobregat. Or the Costa Brava to the north with so many gorgeous coves, warm turquoise waters and great beaches. If you want to walk or cycle straight from the city, just follow the coast north towards Badalona and see the beaches become less busy… You can get the train back to the city.
4. Explore Collserola National Park
Just to prove to you that this city has everything, get lost in Collserola Natural Park, 85 square kilometres of mountains, trees and beautiful nature that sits just behind the city, offering spectacular views of the city and out towards the sea. Watch out for the ‘gables’ resident hogs which have made the park their home. There are many trails that you can do in the park, where you’ll feel a world away from the buzz of the city. A recommended walk is from Barcelona to Sant Cugat. If you haven’t got too much time to explore, take the funicular to Carretera de les Aigües for great panoramic views.
5. Bold Street Art
The people of Barcelona are bold, and so is the street art. You’ll see strong political messages on the walls all around you…
6. Cheer on BARCA!
Perhaps the most famous football club in Europe, if not the world, Barcelona FC, by their own slogan are ‘Més que un club’ (more than a club). They are the pride of the Catalan people. For any football fan, a visit to the stadium to see a match while you’re here is a must. (Don’t confuse ‘Barca’ the football club with ‘Barna’ the nickname for the city.)
7. Dance at one of Barcelona’s Music Festivals
Barcelona is a great place to visit in the summer with famous music festivals from Sonar, for all electronic music fans to Primavera Sound. In recent years, there’s also Cruïlla, a multi-genre music festival and the quirky Vida Festival in Villanova. Some people say that the best music festivals (in terms of atmosphere, rather than quality of music of course!) are the local ‘festes’ which take over the streets of each barrio in consecutive weeks in the summer.
8. Get to grips with their bonkers traditions…
Anyone who accidentally happens upon a ‘Correfoc’ will wonder if health and safety rules exist in this city. Throughout the year correfocs (or fire runs) happen sporadicaly across the city with very loud drumming and people, dressed as devils, who dance with fireworks in hand! It’s a tradition (for young and old) to head out into the street and dance with the ‘disables’ (devils). Wearing protective clothing is a must. Then there’s the ‘castells’ (meaning castles) groups of people who form human castles in the street (sometimes over 7 or 8 layers of humans tall) in a proud display of Catalan culture. The traditions are really something to behold!
9. Get involved in a Botellón
There are so many great bars in the city, from sophisticated wine bars, to posh roof terraces, to ‘Vermoutherías’ (vermouth bars) and Champanerias (bars where you can drink cava and tapas for one euro a piece.) to down and out local joints where people gather to watch the football. But perhaps the most popular place to drink in Barcelona is the street itself. Young people gather in plazas for what is known as a botellón (big bottle) play music and sing until late.
10. Sit back and listen to Barcelona’s Buskers
Barcelona is a city which is brought to life by the many talented buskers that fill the streets. From classical music to hip hop, you’ll be entertained as you are just walking through the street. Sitting in one of the pretty plazas listening to the variety of buskers with a beer is a great way to while away a sunny afternoon.