Sights in Barcelona

When visiting Barcelona, one usually has never enough time to see all aspects of this city’s beauty. Below some of the most important sights are listed. From the famous Sagrada Família and the Park Güell to the Barceloneta Beach and Boqueria Market. Also, some of the city’s Churches, Museums and Parks are very unique and definitely worth a visit. A little further in the west, the Tibidabo Mountain and the Montserrat attract tourists such as Girona and Costa Brava in the north.

Casa Batlló

The colour and fantasy of the Casa Batlló captivate passers-by on the Passeig de Gràcia. Standing halfway up this elegant boulevard and in a strongly contrasting style to the neighbouring houses, one really notices the genuine of Antoni Gaudí, who was able to work on this project with total creative freedom.

The Casa Batlló dates back to 1875. Key factors in the project were definitely Gaudí’s imaginative efforts as well as the decorative work of the artisans who collaborated with him. The discs of multicoloured glazed-ceramics and broken shards of stained glass, placed with precision, depict flowers and water lilies and play with the reflections of the sunlight.

On the first floor of the Casa Batlló, a long sandstone balcony allows us to look inside the elegant mezzanine, while the other floors have balconies in the shape of masks. And at the top, a scaly ceramic skin and turret crowned by a four-armed cross remind us of the legend of Saint George. Inside the Casa Batlló, you can visit the mezzanine, see the ceramic skylight, the double attic space with its sequence of catenary arches, and the rooftop with its colourful mosaiced chimneys. An explosion of creative freedom where Gaudí spared no effort in creating a functional and modern house. (Source: Visit Barcelona)

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Cathedral

The Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia watches impassively the passing of time in a constantly moving and changing Barcelona. The Cathedral, which was built over six centuries, reflects all the different generations who have left their imprint and the blend of architectural styles.

The main façade and bell tower were completed around 1890, following the original plans, in the neo-Gothic style. However, when taking a closer look, one notices that the other sides and even the continuative wall to the right are built in a different style. The interior, which needs to be seen to fully understand the cathedral’s splendour, is an impressive sight with 25 side chapels, the magnificent 14th-century cloister and the choir stalls, where the Knights of the Golden Fleece gathered during the visit of Emperor Charles V of Germany in 1517. The crypt, which is the burial place of Santa Eulàlia, one of Barcelona’s patron saints, and the pulpit are also extremely beautiful. (Source: Visit Barcelona)

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Tip: Visit the Cathedral in the morning from 8:00 to 12:00 or in the evening from 18:00 to 19:30 for free. In the afternoon there is 7€ entrance fee. 

El Poble Espanyol

The Poble Espanyol, or Spanish Village, was built in 1929 for the International Exhibition and is still one of the city’s most popular visitor attractions. It resembles an actual village with replicas of 117 real-life scale buildings from different Spanish regions. One will find a typical Andalusian quarter, a section of the Way of Saint James (Camino de Santiago) and examples of Romanesque monastic architecture, among others.

The village is also a unique place to shop, open 365 days a year. There are more than 20 crafts workshops that open every day so you can see the craftspeople working on unique pieces of pottery, glass, leather and jewellery. Another main attraction at the Poble Espanyol is the Museu Fran Daurel which showcases some 300 works by major contemporary artists, including Picasso, Dalí and Miró. Admission to the museum is included with the ticket to the Poble Espanyol. Moreover, there is the sculpture garden with 36 sculptures and a viewpoint at the end of the garden with a marvellous view of Barcelona.

This unique combination of architecture, contemporary art, traditional crafts, shops, gastronomy and traditions, in a pleasant setting free of traffic is perfect for all the family. (Source: Visit Barcelona)

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Gothic Quarter

The original centre of Roman and medieval Barcelona still forms the core of 21st-century Barcelona. Its maze of narrow streets and squares is steeped in the city’s past and present. Nearby, we can still see the remains of the Roman temple of Augustus.

Here, in the Gothic Quarter, we find the City Hall and the seat of the Catalan Government, the Palau de la Generalitat, the Cathedral and other Gothic churches, including Santa Maria del Pi and Sants Just i Pastor. Very near the Plaça de Sant Jaume, right in the middle of this Barcelona neighbourhood, is the old Jewish Quarter, the Call Jueu, with its endless narrow streets, where some remains of the ancient synagogue still survive. (Source: Visit Barcelona)

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Gràcia and Park Güell

Formerly a separate village, Gràcia has now been absorbed into Barcelona’s urban fabric. It still retains its own unique personality and age-old customs among its network of small, narrow bustling streets and numerous squares where locals meet. Despite its humble origins, Gràcia’s population has always been enlightened; it still has an active political and social life and an extensive network of deeply rooted civic, cultural, sporting and artistic institutions.

 

Gràcia’s most important tourist attraction is undoubtedly Park Güell, one of Gaudí’s masterpieces and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This garden-city project was commissioned by Eusebi Güell but never completed. It eventually became the property of Barcelona City Council. The result is a public park full of imagination and colour where every detail expresses Antoni Gaudí’s desire to integrate architecture into the surrounding natural setting. (Source: Visit Barcelona)

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Tip: Most of the park is free, an entrance fee is just needed for the monumental area. Furthermore, usually the last hour of the opening hours there is free entrance.

La Barceloneta

The Barceloneta is a triangular peninsula with sandy beaches on one side and in the old harbour, Port Vell, on the other. The neighbourhood in-between, with its narrow, rectilinear streets, was built on a military grid structure to provide accommodation for the former inhabitants of La Ribera who had lost their homes due to the construction of the citadel. The houses were low-rise and small in scale so as not to obstruct views of the city.

In 1988, in pre-Olympic days, the decision was taken to demolish the old beachfront restaurants, known as xiringuitos, and public baths, heralding a process of opening the city up to the sea and the modernisation of an area which now offers first-class beaches as the main attraction for its visitors. On the sand and inside the neighbourhood, rows of restaurants and bars are being loved by tourists for their gastronomic diversity. (Source: Visit Barcelona)

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La Pedrera

The Casa Milà got its more common name due to its austere external appearance, resembling an opencast quarry, sinuous and with forms drawn from nature. It comprises two apartment blocks connected by interior courtyards and with a shared façade. Gaudí designed the building at the age of 54, when he was at the height of his powers, and it was his last piece of civil architecture which represented a break with the ways of perceiving architecture at the time.

You can visit La Pedrera during the day and night and see the building’s key areas:

  • The terrace, an unusual rooftop charged with an artistic power that has nothing to do with the architecture of its day. Highlights include the stairwells and casings with their symbolic forms which have become an unmistakable feature of Gaudí’s work.
  • The Espai Gaudí, is located in one of the most distinctive spaces designed by Gaudí: the attic in La Pedrera. It consists of 270 catenary arches made of flat brick and houses the only exhibition dedicated to Gaudí’s life and work. It showcases the architect’s creations through models and plans, objects and designs, photographs and videos.
  • The Pedrera period apartment, a recreation of an early-20th century bourgeois family apartment which gives us an insight into the way they lived, with period furniture and household equipment of the period and decorative elements designed by Gaudí.
  • The courtyards, which provide a focal point for the entire building and provide better lighting and ventilation. They were one of Gaudí’s most important innovations. The inner façades of the courtyards ceased to be residual spaces and became a true spectacle of shapes, light and colours.

(Source: Visit Barcelona)

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La Rambla

La Rambla is exactly 1.2 kilometres long and nearly everyone who visits Barcelona walks along it. In Barcelona, a city of narrow, winding streets, the Rambla, which was laid out in 1766, was the only space where everyone could stroll and spend their leisure time. Because of its central location, the Rambla became a meeting place for all the social classes.

Gradually, leisure and cultural attractions found their perfect location. As you walk along, you’ll see landmark buildings, such as the greatest theatre of Barcelona’s opera, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, the Palau de la Virreina and the spectacular Boqueria Market. This human river, with its street artists, tourists and locals, who still come here for a stroll, take us on a journey through this microcosm of contemporary Barcelona. (Source: Visit Barcelona)

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Tip: Be especially aware of your belongings, the crowded areas of La Rambla and Boqueria Market are main spots for pickpocketing.

Boqueria Market

Barcelona’s most famous tourist attraction besides the Sagrada Familia was oncethe very first of Barcelona’s local markets. Today’s appearance was incorporated in 1914 with the gas illumination and its metal cover, which give the market a special character. Nowadays, the third and fourth generation of sellers proudly show the oldest and most complete food market of Barcelona. They offer us vegetables, meat, fish and thousands of other products in stalls with great charm and imaginative presentation. Boqueria Market is a space full of life, history and unquestionable architectural value. (Source: Visit Barcelona)

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Montjuïc

Montjuïc Hill has been the focus of many key events that have shaped Barcelona’s personality. The first such event was the 1929 International Exhibition held in Barcelona which fostered the development of the zone. More recently, the 1992 Olympic Games brought about major renewal.

When looking at the Montjuïc from Placa Espanya, the first thing one notices is the Palau Nacional which houses the MNAC – Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya which invites to discover 1,000 years of Catalan art. Further on the way to the top of the hill, one passes by the Olympic Ring, the main site of the Olympic Games and the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, the stadium where the 1992 Olympic games were hosted. Nearby, the Museu Olímpic i de l’Esport Joan Antoni Samaranch and the Botanical Gardens are also unmissable sights as you explore the Parc de Montjuïc. On top of the hill, one can visit the Castell de Montjuïc, from where one has splendid views on the sea over the Barcelona’s ports, the old Port Vell, as well as the impressive cruise ship harbour.

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Tip: Return to the Plaça d’Espanya at the foot of Montjuïc at sunset, where the “Magic Fountain” comes to life. Every night, the water features of the are combined with imaginative sound and light effects and countless visitors gather, completely under the spell of the dancing water fountains. And the best thing – it’s completely free!

Sagrada Família

In 1882, the original Sagrada Família Gothic church project, designed by Francesc de Paula Villar, was taken over by the young Antoni Gaudí, who transformed it into the most fascinating church of all time. The building, which is still under construction, became a Barcelona icon and made it world famous.

The Avinguda Gaudí, a delightful pedestrianised boulevard, links the basilica with the Sant Pau Recinte Modernista, the most representative civil building from the modernist period, designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. Both of these outstanding modernistic landmarks have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. (Source: Visit Barcelona)

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Tip: A visit inside the Sagrada Família is definitely worth the money, as one can literally feel Gaudí’s genius when the sun is shining through the colourful windows and illuminates the whole inside in bright colours. To save a lot of waiting time, make sure to buy the tickets online on the official website, maybe even a few days in advance.

Churches

Besides the Sagrada Família and Barcelona Cathedral, the city has many more churches to offer.

Sagrat Cor: The Sacred Heart church is a relatively modern with the unique advantage of being visible from nearly every corner of Barcelona as it stands at the top of the Tibidabo Mountain.

Sant Felip Neri: This baroque-style church and the adjacent Sant Felip Neri school came under heavy bombardment during the Spanish Civil War. The façade, which was left with all the damage, serves as a lasting reminder of the suffering and the 42 people, mostly school children, who died that day.

Santa Anna of Barcelona: This 15th-century cloister is a hidden gem in the city centre with a beautiful interior courtyard brimming with plants and trees.

Santa Maria del Mar: This basilica is one of the most perfect examples of Gothic style architecture due to its harmonious proportions and the serenity of the ensemble.

Santa Maria del Pi: This Catalan Gothic church is known as the Saint Mary of the Pine owing its name to a pine tree which, according to legend, has stood there since the 16th century.

(Source: The Culture Trip)

Museums

Barcelona has a huge variety of Museums, which can easily suit every taste and fancy. Some museums are mainly to appeal to tourists, whereas others contain some of the biggest art collections of some style and yet others have education as their main purpose.

CosmoCaixa Barcelona: imposing modernist building housing science museum with planetarium & living Amazonian rainforest

Fundació Joan Miró: one of the greatest museum buildings in the world designed by Josep Lluís Sert

MACBA – Museu d’Art Contemporani: cryptic minimalistic contemporary art museum with a special character; its forecourt is a hot-spot for skater and Barcelona’s youth

MEAM – Museu Europeu d’art Modern: painting and sculpture from the late 19th century to the present day

MNAC – Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya: “One museum, a thousand years of art.” – exhibiting Catalan art from the 12th to the 20th centuries.

Museu de Cera: Barcelona’s wax museum

Museu de la Xocolata: 600 m2 exhibition space, perfect for everyone addicted to chocolate

Museu de l’Eròtica: the eroticism museum in the middle of the Rambla

Museu Marítim de Barcelona: large maritime museum displaying a replica galleon, plus art, maps & models

Museu Picasso: a permanent collection with over 3,800 works from different periods, with special emphasis on works from his formative years and youth

(Source: Visit Barcelona)

Parks

Barcelona is a city where you can stroll through a wide variety of public parks and gardens. Parks with wooded areas and shady spots, parks with green spaces where you can sunbathe, find fountains, lakes, sculptures and children’s play areas.

Parc de Cervantes: Red, yellow and blue roses, climbing rose bushes and miniature ones, this park features 245 varieties of the flower.

Parc de Collserola: A protected natural site covering a surface area of some 8,000 hectares, 15 minutes outside from Barcelona.

Parc de Diagonal Mar: Epitomises the new Barcelona and is quite unlike any other city park with contemporary work and originality and sustainable architecture.

Parc de l’Estació del Nord: An artistic gem that has been created on former industrial and railway sites.

Parc de la Ciutadella: This 18-hectare park was built for the 1888 Universal Exhibition and is a popular area to relax in the middle of the busy town.

Parc de Montjuïc: Spreading all over the Montjuïc hill, this “park” is a treasure trove of gardens, even including a Botanical Garden.

Parc del Laberint: The green jewel of the Horta and Guinardó district is a matchless example of artistic gardening and even contains a labyrinth.

Park Güell: No work by Gaudí better encapsulates the complete and perfect harmony of nature and architecture than this famous park.

(Source: Visit Barcelona)

Tibidabo Mountain

The Tibidabo Amusement Park, the church of the Sagrat Cor and the Collserola Tower are silhouetted against the Barcelona skyline in the west on top of the Tibidabo mountain. The most impressive way to go up the mountain, is using by the vintage blue tram, or Tramvia blau.

At 512 metres above sea level, the amusement park, which combines the flavour of vintage rides and amusements with more modern attractions, offers spectacular views over the city. All those who still think that this is not impressive enough can also visit the church of the Sagrat Cor from the beginning of the 1900s. Its two towers provide a unique panorama over Barcelona with the antique ferries wheel in the foreground. However, the most spectacular views can be enjoyed from the communications tower designed by the British architect Norman Foster, which stands 560 metres above sea level. One side of the observation deck boasts spectacular views of Barcelona below and the other offers vistas of the Vallès plain.

(Source: Visit Barcelona)

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Montserrat

This natural park, which emerges as if from a dream, protects the spiritual essence of Catalonia. For almost 1,000 years, a Benedictine community has lived in these mountains located 60 km away from Barcelona. Their Basilica houses the serene image of the Virgin of Montserrat, the patron saint of Catalonia.

After taking the train to the village of Monistrol de Montserrat, one can go up the mountain either with the Cremallera funicular or by hiking. After reaching the top the monastery with the Black Madonna is a must see. The legend says that in the year 880 some shepherd boys found a statue of the Black Madonna, the “Moreneta”, in a grotto. A chapel was built on this site which soon became a place of pilgrimage. The image now on display is a Romanesque wood carving dating from the late 12th century and the dark tones are the result of the deterioration of the varnish.

Another highlight is hearing the oldest children’s choir in Europe, the “Escolania de Montserrat”, who sing every day. At the present time, the Benedictine community numbers 100 monks who devote themselves to prayer, work and welcoming pilgrims. (Source: Visit Barcelona)

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Girona and Costa Brava

Just 100 km north of Barcelona one can admire the beauty of the Costa Brava with its typical rugged coast landscape and stroll through the city of Girona. Its historic centre, known as the Call Jueu, preserves Roman, Romanesque, Jewish, Gothic and Baroque walls, squares, buildings and churches. Girona is a city you can easily explore on foot. The city walls, which were built during the Carolingian (9th century) and medieval (14th-15th centuries) period, provide an aerial view of the historic centre, the “Barri Vell”. As you leave the “Barri Vell”, across Eiffel’s iron bridge that spans the river Onyar, you can see the brightly coloured painted houses that date from the 19th century. However, to soak up the atmosphere of the contemporary Girona, there’s nothing better than a stroll along the Rambla de la Libertat. (Source: Visit Barcelona)

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