Thinking of making your way to the capital of Catalonia? Barcelona is full of unique things to do both within its historic city center and the nearby outskirts.
Catalonia’s secession from Spain has been debated for decades, but the cultural capital of Barcelona and the Catalan dialect aren’t the only things that set this region apart. Mountains, beaches, history, and art – Barcelona has it all!
Whether your goal is to get your fill of modern art, or to immerse yourself in Spanish history, Barcelona’s charismatic culture is embedded into the national fibers of Spain.
Explore more of the Catalonian capital with this ultimate guide for things to do in Barcelona.
Wondering where to find the best Gaudí sights in Barcelona?
Barcelona and Antoni Gaudí go together like tapas and sangria – one cannot be mentioned without the other. As the architect who bestowed his signature stamp on so many buildings in Barcelona, it’s harder to avoid Gaudí’s work than it is to find it.
With Gaudí’s sui generis design, visitors can spot vivid colors, abstract shapes, and interesting texture combos – ceramic tiles and stained glass, wrought iron and stone – throughout Catalonia’s capital city.
Make a day out of it and formulate a personalized itinerary dedicated to Gaudí’s life and works with your very own Gaudí tour of Barcelona.
1. Tour the towers of Sagrada Familia
A construction still under construction, Sagrada Familia has towered above the Barcelona city center for 140 years – and counting.
Inspired by nature and built by human hands, Sagrada Familia stands as the tallest religious building in Europe, making a visit to at least one of its towers one of the most unique things to do while in Barcelona.
Not only should topping the towers of Sagrada Familia top your list of things to do in Barcelona, it’s also a formal introduction to Barcelona’s Catalan son, Antoni Gaudí. Unable to see his dream come to full fruition, this beloved avant-garde architect is buried within his own show-stopping monument.
Nearly five generations have attempted to complete Gaudí’s living masterpiece, and new embellishments are added with each phase, making this building one of the most dynamic structures in Barcelona (and the world) for years to come.
💡 Top tip: When’s the best time to visit Barcelona’s top attraction? Visit in the morning on a weekday if you’ve got kids in tow, and around 15:00 for couples kickstarting a night out. Get there during the “golden hour” (late afternoon and early evening) for the best photo opportunities.
2. Explore the flora and fauna of Park Güell
Atop Carmel Hill in Barcelona perches another Gaudí masterpiece – Park Güell. A collaboration between industrialist Eusebi Güell and Antoni Gaudí, the 12-hectare park became a symbol of their friendship, and of Barcelona.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984, Park Güell holds cultural and historical significance to Barcelona, and public access is its top priority. Gaudí himself even lived within the park at La Torre Rosa, which contains a host of period furniture and decor, and is open to the public.
Known as the “green lung” of the city, Park Güell houses dozens of native plants, flowers, and animals, as well as gardens and landscapes that mimic natural environments across the globe.
On your Gaudí-themed tour of Barcelona, you’ll see Gaudí’s colorful touch throughout the park, with plenty of places for visitors to sprawl, including walking trails, playground equipment, and picnic areas.
💡 Top Tip: While 90% of the park is free to the public, you’ll need a ticket to see most of the Gaudí pieces, which have a timed-entry system. Book in advance and get there at least 30 minutes before your scheduled time slot.
3. Take a Gaudí house tour
Customize your Gaudí tour of Barcelona (paired with a public transit card) for an incredible deep-dive into the architectural genius of Antoni Gaudí. Until his life tragically ended in 1926, Gaudí planned and constructed 17 buildings in and around Barcelona.
With 14 unique structures within the Barcelona city limits beckoning to be explored, a Gaudí tour might be one of the best things to do on a 2-day trip to Barcelona so you can fully immerse yourself in the whimsical designs and prismatic colors of Gaudí.
💡 Top Tip: A hop-on hop-off bus will help get you from point to point (and everything in between) quickly so you can see all three in one or two days.
Nicknamed “La Padrera” by critical locals, Casa Milà’s modern, but rugged, limestone exterior is reminiscent of a stone quarry, yet exudes sophistication and brilliance.
Made of rough-hewn stone and wrought iron, Casa Milà was the last of Gaudí’s private residence creations. Built specifically for Pere Milà and his wife Roser Segimon between 1906 and 1912, Casa Milà was inducted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and continues to be a testament to Gaudí’s design influence nearly a century later.
Setting foot onto the rooftop surrounded by the eccentric chimneys of Casa Milà is a unique thing to do while in Barcelona. Want to make your experience special? Opt for an early morning tour to catch the sunrise over Barcelona, or choose a night tour for an illuminated display.
Built using the bones of an existing structure, Casa Batlló lies in the heart of Barcelona along the Illa de la Discòrdia, a block of buildings devoted to modern design.
Out of place from the surrounding aesthetic, Casa Batlló shares property lines with Gaudí’s architectural contemporaries of the time – Montaner, Cadafalch, and Sagnier – although their designs have very little in common.
Adorned with pieces of broken ceramic tiles and unusual oval windows, Casa Batlló resembles the backbone of a dragon and contains other details reminiscent of other-wordly sea creatures throughout the space.
With visible inspiration drawn from a variety of cultures – Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia – Gaudí’s first architectural sensation created international buzz the world over. As we now know, the rest is history.
Looking for a culture trip in Barcelona?
Barcelona is truly a hub for Spanish culture – from Antoni Gaudí’s architectural greatness to Pablo Picasso’s paintings, to Salvador Dalí’s surrealist landscapes. And this is only the short list of cultural hotspots in Barcelona!
From temporary exhibitions to permanent collections, art museums in Barcelona – especially those focused on modern art – are one of the best places to find extensive collections of contemporary art in the world.
Overwhelmed by Barcelona’s modern art museum scene? No worries. Take a break from modern art and spend your time browsing other facets of Spanish culture instead in a number of museums scattered about Barcelona.
4. Go for a Dalí day trip
Known for his eccentric lifestyle and mustachioed persona, Salvador Dalí is one of Barcelona’s most beloved characters.
While you can find smaller exhibitions in most corners of the globe, immersing yourself in Dalí’s inspirational surroundings of his native Spain makes for an enlightened experience.
In a little under two hours from Barcelona, Dalí devotees can make a pilgrimage to Figueres for a deep dive into the world of Dalí, making a Dalí-themed day trip one of the more unique things to do around Barcelona.
Tour the weird and wonderful creations of Salvador Dalí at the Dalí Theater-Museum, housed in a former town theater of Figueres. Opt for a guided tour to gain insight into the whimsical artwork of the father of surrealism. Get to know his hometown village of Girona, an evident source of inspiration throughout his career.
💡 Top tip: Avoid an expensive car rental or taxi and opt for an all-inclusive day tour from Barcelona, with roundtrip transport and a guide included.
5. See Picasso from a new angle
Born in Malaga, Spain, Pablo Picasso is most famous for pioneering different styles and techniques in modern art – Cubism, constructed sculpture, and collage are all fully (or partially) attributed to Picasso.
Stop into any one of several modern art museums in Barcelona with original paintings by Picasso on display. In fact, Barcelona even hosts a museum completely dedicated to Picasso’s life and works.
With a guided tour of the Picasso Museum, a professional expert can help you navigate each of his artistic phases over the course of his extensive career as well as provide insight about color choices, recurring symbols, and historical context of each masterpiece.
💡 Top Tip: The Picasso Museum offers free admission on Thursdays (16:00-19:00) and the first Sunday of each month.
6. Explore centuries of Spanish culture at Castelldefels
Just because Picasso and Dalí are cultural headliners doesn’t mean there aren’t more unique things to do in Barcelona! In fact, these artists only make up a small percentage of awe-inspiring artifacts found in a number of cultural centers and museums in and around Barcelona.
Perched atop a hill overlooking the Barcelonian suburb of Castelldefels sits a castle complex with a fascinating history dating back thousands of years.
Its strategic location and proximity to other great civilizations have made Castelldefels Castle a stony testament to the multifaceted cultural fabric of Catalonia.
From ancient Laietani settlements and evidence of Roman occupation, to numerous conquests of the Moors and the Ottomans – as well as its employment during the Spanish Civil War – the castle complex contains a tower, a parish, a cemetery, and residential dwellings that still stand today.
💡 Top Tip: Budget at least an hour for your visit and opt for an audio tour, available in Catalan, Spanish, English, and French. The Piratia tour is a great option for children aged 6 and up.
7. Pay a visit to Polbenou Cemetery
Although morbid to some, a cemetery visit in an ancient city might be one of the most unique things to do in Barcelona.
Paradoxically, in order to learn more about everyday life, a thorough examination of rituals surrounding death can be considered one of the best insights into a specific culture.
Expanded and rebuilt several times to accommodate the growing population of Barcelona, Poblenou Cemetery displays some of the most beautiful tombstones of any international city to date.
💡 Top tip: Entrance is free! Make sure you bring your smartphone – the cemetery provides a QR code to load a map of the tombstones. Guided tours are available in Spanish and Catalan for a small fee.
8. Witness a traditional flamenco show
Get a taste of Spanish culture without setting foot in a museum when you attend an authentic flamenco show.
Although flamenco was born on the other side of the country in Andalusia, the art form made its way to Barcelona when thousands of Andulysians migrated for more abundant work opportunities.
Characterized not only by a beautiful and talented dancer, an authentic flamenco show must also showcase a gifted guitar player accompanied by an emotive singer.
💡 Top tip: First performed at family parties and events, flamenco shows now take place in public on a tablao, a traditional stage inside an intimate venue.
Want to enjoy Barcelona like a local?
Blending in with the locals and seeking out cultural experiences when traveling can often teach visitors the greatest lessons, and reap the greatest benefits.
When in Barcelona, do as the locals do and get out of the city center for a true taste of Spain.
9. Get behind the scenes of FC Barcelona
For lifelong football fans, or those looking for a unique thing to do in Barcelona, Camp Nou will not disappoint.
Recognized as one of the world’s most successful football teams to date, you can visit the home of the five-time Champions League victors at Camp Nou.
See the world-famous pitch, take a tour of the locker room, or participate in state-of-the-art exhibits to make you a part of the action. Meet the players with a virtual reality experience or shoot your shot at a robotic keeper.
Get behind-the-scenes access with a guided tour and see why FC Barcelona is “more than a club.” Owned by its own supporters (at least 98,000 of them can fit inside this colossal stadium), FC Barcelona is the beating heart of the city.
💡 Top tip: Take the stress out of navigating and parking at FC Barcelona and use the Collblanc (blue metro line) instead.
10. Gain some elevation in a Montjuïc cable car
See the city of Barcelona from an elevated perspective – 84.5 meters above the city! The Montjuïc cable car takes you on a 750-meter stretch from the top of Montjuic mountain to the beaches of Barceloneta (or vice versa).
Perfect for families who need to give their feet a break from all the unique things to do in Barcelona, the Montjuïc cable car ride allows you to see the expansive city, the beauty of the surrounding hills, and the hazy reach of the ocean.
💡 Top tip: Head out before sunset and see a spectacular array of color over the Barcelona skyline.
11. Go out on the town at Blai Street
Although originally born from Basque Country, pinchos have made their way to the plates (and stomachs) of Barcelona’s locals and visitors alike. These basic bread bites can be served up in a million ways – topped with local seafood, slathered with sauces, or garnished with fresh produce and herbs.
Not to be confused with its cousin, tapas, pinchos are served with a toothpick and can be enjoyed in one (or two) bites before any major meal. Head to Blai Street (Carrer de Blai) for cocktails and pinchos at a number of authentic bars and restaurants specializing in these bready Barcelonian treats.
💡 Top tip: Order 1-2 pinchos per person (to start) and eat them standing up at the bar with a drink in hand.
12. Seek another side of history at Bunkers del Carmel
A wonderful way to kickstart (or to conclude) a trip to Barcelona is to catch a sunset from one of the best vantage points in the area: the Carmel Bunkers.
Originally built during the Spanish Civil War, locals have transformed a recent tragedy into a beautiful place to watch the sun rise (or set) over this historic city.
The concrete bunkers remain as a reminder of the city’s past, but the adjoining Guinardó Park and unmatched views from the Carmel Bunkers welcomes visitors to pack a picnic and enjoy the spectrum of spectacular colors over the Barcelona skyline.
💡 Top tip: Spend more time enjoying the view and less time finding parking when you take the metro: Guinardó/Hospital de Sant Pau (L4), or the bus: lines 24 and 119.
Seeking the best views of Barcelona?
One of the most unique featuers of Barcelona is its variety in landscape – the aquarmine waves of the Atlantic, the looming mountains of Montserrat, and the vast metropolis of Barcelona itself.
With so many ways to gain some elevation (and some perspective!), make a point of seeking out some sweeping views of the Catalonian captital on your next stay in Barcelona.
13. Get off the beaten track at Parc Natural de Collserola
Parc Natural de Collserola is open year round for hiking and cycling. From the tallest point, Collserola Ridge, the unobstructed view of the Barcelona skyline is absolutely perfect.
Or, take a trip up to Collserola Tower – a Barcelona mainstay – for panoramic views of the Catalonian capital.
💡 Top tip: Pack a picnic (preferably tapas!) and pick a trail for a fun day out in nature.
14. Hike (or ride) to the top of Tibidabo
Best known for its amusement parks, the top of Tibidabo – or Magic Mountain – also offers amazing views. After a fun day at the amusement park, watch a Spanish sunset from the Ferris wheel.
If you prefer to get your kicks from nature, hike or take the historic tram all the way to the top for breathtaking views of Barcelona, the surrounding mountains, and the sea.
💡 Top tip: The tram runs on a limited schedule, so make sure you keep track of time to catch the descent trip back down from the mountain top.
15. See a sunset from the terrace of MNAC
Not only is the National Museum of Art of Catalonia situated at the top of Montjuic Hill in a palatial building, it is also home to some of the most important Spanish artworks in the country.
The art collection spans from Gothic works of the Middle Ages, to Romanesque paintings, to art and sculpture reflecting the conflict of the Spanish Civil War of the 20th century.
Once you’ve finished browsing the collection, stick around for an exclusive view of the city from its majestic terraces, available to museum guests only.
💡 Top tip: Plan your visit to the MNAC toward the latter half of the day and stay for a panoramic sunset view from one of two terraces that overlook the city.
In a rush (or just want to do it all) while in Barcelona? Combine admission fees with a convenient city pass, shuttle around the city on a hop-on hop-off bus, or see the sights with a public transport card. But if you are in the mood to take your time while in Spain, there’s no limit to the things you can do in other Spanish cities.