Barcelona is such a beautiful city – it’s just hard NOT to fall in love with it. My first visit to Barcelona was just perfect. I was impressed with the city’s character and feeling of comfort above anything else. Barcelona just felt right; it felt like home, as someone once said to me.
My traveling companion was my baby brother and we really took in all the city had to offer in terms of the culinary art of food, drinks after drinks after drinks and the company of amazing friends, both old and new.
I’m already planning my next trip as I didn’t have enough time to truly explore the city in its entirety. I’m excited to document that one for you on a more personal level to show you WHY I fell in love with Barcelona. Stay tuned ;)
Until then, here are some of my top things to see and do while visiting this beautiful city:
Get Lost in The Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter)
There are some places that you want to make sure you stay on route, and then there are places like the historic Gothic Quarter which is best experienced without a guided map. Spend time wandering through the endless maze of intriguing alleyways, unique storefronts, hip bars and of course, the architecture! Easily seen as the labyrinth of narrow, winding streets is fun to get lost in, and you will stumble upon a number of historic buildings and beautiful main squares, plaças, which are perfect places to stop and grab tapas.
It’s closed to regular traffic so you can wander around relaxed and rather aimlessly here and get a sense of Barcelona’s long and vibrant history.
Visit the Modernist Masterpiece of the Sagrada Familia
By far one of the most popular landmarks in Barcelona, this famously unfinished cathedral is one of the most unique buildings in the world. You don’t have to love architecture to be completely wowed by Sagrada Familia. This incredible Basilica, designed by Catalan artist Antoni Gaudí over a 40 year period, is still under construction today 134 years later.
Ok, my only disappointment was not booking my tickets in advance to see the interior of this beauty of a cathedral. Tickets were booked days in advance so make sure you book your tickets well in advance and try to get a time slot for the mid afternoon when the sun reflects inside against the beauty of the stained glass designs.
Take An Evening Stroll Along the Barcelona Beach
We arrived very late in Barcelona and the first thing we did after settling into our Air B&B was head out for some drinks!! We ended up walking right down to the beach and the timing was perfect. It was after 10:30pm and it was so quiet and calm. The restaurants scent of sweet waffles ready to devour is something I crave constantly because we didn’t get any!
There really is something for everyone in Barcelona, including a beach! The Barceloneta neighborhood of Barcelona has sandy Mediterranean coastline perfect for sunbathing in the summer, or simply enjoying the sea air in the winter. Browse hip surf shops, walk along the boardwalk, or enjoy some fresh seafood at one of the many restaurants along the coast. At night, many of Barcelona’s most popular nightclubs can be found here.
Try EVERYTHING from La Boqueria Market
La Boqueria is Barcelona’s most famous food market, brimming with an abundance of irresistible food stalls that sell just about everything under the sun. On entering, you’ll find a rainbow array of smoothies and fresh fruit, delectable crepes brimming with fillings and exotic candies. Walk in a little further to discover food stalls offering a place to sit and feast on local delicacies.
My brother and I visited La Boqueria twice in one day! The first was to indulge in the food!! OMG – the food! I cannot stop raving about how AMAZING the food was. We spent the early afternoon wandering around stalls piled high with fresh fruits and vegetables, enjoyed fresh juices every in color of the rainbow, tasted different types of sausages and had an insane amount of Iberian ham both served on a stick and in a cup with delicious cheeses! By far, one of the best markets I have ever been to!
Our second visit that afternoon consisted of shopping for fresh poultry and vegetables for my brother, the amazing chef, to cook dinner that evening for friends. We ended up getting a chicken, potatoes, peas and wild asparagus. Whatever he did to that food in the kitchen – the five women he cooked for literally scraped the dishes CLEAN! So good!
Back to La Boqueria….Its not every day that you get the opportunity to shop in a market that can trace its roots to the 1200s! Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, referred to as La Boqueria, is the perfect place to grab breakfast or some snacks for lunch, and is incredibly popular amongst visitors to Barcelona. I cannot wait to spend an entire day there and eat from every stall! Clearly, my love for food is no secret!
Get In Touch With Nature at Parc de la Ciutadella
My brother and I had the honour of having our very own tour guide for most of Barcelona. Francesca, a friend from Toronto who is now the head Pastry Chef at Dis Frutar in Barcelona (stay tuned for my post about our epic dinner there!) took us to places that the locals enjoy.
The 70 acre Parc de la Ciutadella is the perfect place to enjoy nature in the heart of the busy city. The park is home to Barcelona’s zoo, beautiful gardens, and is particularly famous for it’s Font de la Cascada, a gorgeous 19th century fountain designed by Josep Fontsére.
We walked most of the park and it was so beautiful in every aspect. It was a very warm day when we went there, I would recommend going when the sun isn’t so harsh!
Walk Along the Famous La Rambla
La Rambla is one of Barcelona’s most famous streets. This tree-lined avenue separates the city’s Gothic Quarter from the El Raval neighborhood. The busy boulevard is a main thoroughfare for tourists and locals alike, and is the street La Boqueria market is located on.
We walked through La Rambla right down to the beach. It was a beautiful night for a walk with lots of tourist items to e bought1 Here is where you can find most of your souvenirs at a decent price.
Get Sporty At FC Barcelona's Camp Nou
Though my team is Manchester United ;)…..I did venture out to see Barcelona’s Camp Nou which is the largest stadium in all of Europe, and is home to the famous FC Barcelona. If you have the opportunity, try getting tickets to see the legendary team play! If not, you can purchase tickets for the “Camp Nou experience”. Though I didn’t have time to go during my visit, I’ve heard great things about the experience of being in this stadium.
Go Gaga for Gaudí
If you absolutely loved visiting Sagrada Familia and can’t seem to get enough of Gaudí, then be sure to visit Casa Milà and Casa Batlló. If you are on a budget, then simply walk down the Passeig de Gràcia to enjoy the incredible exteriors of these two homes. For those who want to see the inside, tickets to each are available. I highly recommend purchasing them in advance to avoid lines.
Visit the Placa d'Espanya
This is one of the biggest squares and is definitely you’ll pop by one your way to one of the many other sights on the list.
My brother and I stayed about a ten minute walk from the square and it was our morning walk to the metro station and our evening walk back home. It truly is a massive square!!
Visit Casa Batllo
Another Gaudi masterpiece, this building is worth seeing alone for its stunning amazing technicolour!
Getting Around Barcelona
Barcelona is a fairly straight-forward city to navigate so getting around is pretty easy. In my opinion, walking is always the best way to get from place to place as it allows you to see the most. The city is also very bike-friendly and has a great public transport network of metros and buses. If you are going to use public transport during your visit, your best option is to pre-purchase a transport pass for the duration of your time in the city.
Though a bit further from the city center, Gaudi’s Parc Güell is easy to reach by Metro and is great for enjoying an afternoon. The park first opened in 1926 and the unique architecture and unparalleled views of the city have delighted visitors ever since. While the park itself is free, you will need a ticket to enter the Monumental Zone. There are only 400 tickets available every 30 minutes, so purchase your tickets in advance if possible.
With so much to see and do in Barcelona, it can be easy to over schedule yourself and create a totally packed itinerary. Don’t forget to schedule some downtime to simply explore your favorite areas of the city. You never know what yummy tapas, beautiful building, or unexpected adventure you’ll discover. I cannot wait to go back t Barcelona!!
With Love, Nikki | xo