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Spain Travel Guide

Leading Tourism Destinations in Barcelona

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Our choices for the leading tourism attractions in Barcelona will provide an overview of the amazing diversity of the rich fabric of  tourist attractions found in  the Catalonian capital.   Barcelona is invitingly close to  Spain's border with France and is, also,  a good jumping off place for a vacation in the Balearic Islands or Costa Brava.  However, we think you will find Barcelona so refreshing and attractive on its own that you may not want to leave it for other destinations.  It is a place unlike any other in Spain or Europe.

I f you are looking for fun, the whimsical, or a delightful change in attractions, Barcelona is a good place to spend a few days.  Be prepared to change your pace, as Barcelona is a city that comes alive only at night.  Dinner is commonly taken at 10 PM or later and nightlife extends for hours after that. 

Although there are a number of attractions  to see in Barcelona, we find that the whimsical architecture of Antoni Gaudi is a unifying theme for the city.  Although the city's architecture contains Romanesque and Gothic attractions, it the Modernista movement, typified by Gaudi that makes the city noteworthy.  Read our separate section on  Gaudi's Barcelona for more details.

The Barcelona area of Catalonia has served as a crossroads throughout history and the city has taken on the flavors of the invading cultures.  Carthage, Rome, the Visigoths, the Moors and France (under Charlemagne) at one time claimed this area and each of these cultures left lasting impressions on the city.  Under Spanish rule, Barcelona has not always been a good place to be, but since the end of the Franco dictatorship, the city has revitalized and taken a leading role in Spain's growth and modernization.

The city has a population of 1.6 million, although the surrounding built-up area is closer to 5 million in population. The attractions we describe are located in tourist Barcelona, that is, the are in or near the Old Town.  Barcelona, as other cities in Spain, has a crime problem and tourists should be careful in the southern section of Las Ramblas and the Barri Gotic, especially late at night. 

See our new map of Barcelona, which locates our recommended Best Places to Visit on a map from Google.  You can click the "Hybrid" button to see a detailed satellite Image of the area overlaid with street information. Zoom in close enough and you can see the images of people walking La Rambla.

         Walking La Rambla is a great way to introduce yourself to Barcelona

        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB) has a  very helpful website filled with information on their "tourist bus" and interesting bus routes around the city.

 
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Gaudi's Barcelona

  • Antoni Gaudi (1852 -1926) created a style of architecture that has been classified as "art nouveau" by some and "modernism" by others.  Whatever you call it, the style is dynamic, powerful, whimsical and intriguing.  From the Sagrada Familia (a cathedral still under construction) to his numerous "casas", Gaudi's work is transforming and you should see his creations if you visit Barcelona.

  • We cover Gaudi's most popular section in our guide to Gaudi's landmarks in Barcelona.

 

The Old Town

  • La Ramblas

    • Walking Las Ramblas, a tree-lined, grand avenue, is a great way to get into the spirit of Barcelona, as La Rambla and its neighborhoods offer a view into the history, personality and culture of Barcelona.
    • "The Ramble", as it is often described, extends less than a mile  from the Plaša de Catalunya  to the Columbus Monument.   Las Ramblas is actually several streets (Rambla del Estudis, Rambla de Sant Josep, Rambla dels Caputxins, and Rambla de Santa Monica, whose "flavors" are distinctly different. 

    • You will find streets vendors and numerous  kiosks offering a wide variety of items including flowers, books, magazines, birds and touristy trinkets. In addition, the large number of tourists make this a popular place with street performers. 

    • Since cafes abound along La Rambla, take some time to have a drink or a snack while watching the vibrant street life.  As you might expect, the prices on La Rambla are as elevated, but  the atmosphere is pleasant.   

    • In order to explore  La Rambla's neighborhoods you will need to  stray into some of the side streets.  One of the best jaunts will take you to the Placa Reial, one of Barcelona's famous squares.  
    • If you have a chance, visit la Boqueria  (Mercat St. Joseph/Mercado de la Boqueria), a market specializing in Catalonian foods that is one of the great central markets of Europe. See this site run by the  merchants of the Boqueria for more information on visiting.

      • There are numerous markets around the city and so don't hesitate to stop in one for a reasonably priced alternative for breakfast or lunch at your hotel.  One of the newest and nicest is Mercat de Santa Caterina, which features great food and outstanding architecture.

    • Las Ramblas grows "seedy" towards its terminus near the port of Barcelona. In addition, the avenue is a magnet for tourists, pickpockets and scam artists. Portions of the avenue are unsafe later at night.


  • Barcelona Cathedral and Barri Gotic  

    • The Cathedral in Barcelona (the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, is an amalgam of recent and ancient architecture.  The west entrance is relatively recent while other sections of the cathedral date from the Thirteenth and Fourteenth centuries.  
      • Take some time to tour the many chapels and examine the plaque commemorating the baptism of the East Indians brought to the Old World by Columbus on his triumphant return from the New World.
      • Be sure to take time to see the Cloisters.


    • The Barri Gotic (barrio is a district or quarter in Spanish, so this is the Gothic Quarter) surrounds the cathedral and  is the historic heart of the original city.  Some sections of the city's  Roman walls still exist and add charm to this historic area 

    • The cobbled streets in the Barri Gotic are fronted by medieval buildings and the area exudes an exotic, historic atmosphere that seems to portray life in Barcelona at an earlier time. This unique neighborhood starts near the Cathedral Seu at the Plaša Nova and continues south to the Plaša de san Just.

    • There are a number of fine restaurants in this area and, if you are fond of Tapas, you will be very pleased with the variety available.

     

        

 

  • Picasso Museum

    • Picasso spent his youth in Barcelona and was said to have fond memories of his time in city.  After initially resisting the founding of a Picasso Museum in Barcelona, he warmed to the idea and the museum benefited from his patronage. 

    • If you are a Picasso fan, this museum has many works from his early years and is vital to an understanding of his art and person.

    • Museu Picasso is located on Montcada Street, 15-23 08003 in Barcelona

    • Tickets can be purchased until half an hour before closing time.
    • See the official Picasso Museum Picasso Museum website for information on hours of operation and pricing of admission.

  • Palau de la Musica Catalunya 

    • Another of Barcelona's classic buildings and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Palau re-opened in 2008 after an extensive renovation.  The interior of the building, which is representative of the Catlan Modernist Style, is delightful and if you have a chance to attend a concert, do so.

      • The building was designed by the Catalan art nouveau architect LluÝs DomŔnechi Montaner and is extremely attractive, inside and out, but the concert hall is especially unique.

    • See the official website here

 

  • Columbus Monument (Monument Ó Colom)

    • The Monument Ó Colom, a tall spire commemorating the site where Columbus first set foot on his return from the New World, sits in the middle of a traffic circle at the end of La Rambla.  The views of the city and the old harbor (Port Vell) are spectacular.

     

  • Montju´c

    The Montju´c Hill, called a mountain by Barcelonians, is the site of many interesting attractions.  There are more places to see on Montju´c than we have mentioned here, but these are the best:

    • Palau Nacional D'Art de Catalunya

      • If you are in the dark about Catalonia and Catalonian art, the National Palace is a wonderful place for a quick introduction. The museum has a fine collection of medieval art and Romanesque Frescoes.

      • The the official website of the Palau provides more details on visiting and museum's collection.

    • Fundaciˇ Joan Mirˇ

      • Mirˇ, the famous Spanish surrealist painter, endowed the Fundaciˇ with many examples of his work including paintings, sketches and sculptures.  If you are a fan of Mirˇ, this is a required stop.

      •  The official website of the Fundaciˇ provides additional details on the artist and its impressive collection.

      • The Fundaciˇ Joan Mirˇ is located in Parc de Montju´c

    • Poble Espanyol
      • Many of the buildings on Montjuic were constructed for an international exposition in 1929.  One part of the exposition was a small village that gathered into one locale all of  the different types of houses that can be found across Spain.  The village, called Poble Espanyol, is an interesting open-air museum that offers numerous crafts demonstrations.

      • Open every day but hours vary by season.  Check this official website for more information.

Day Trip


  • Montserrat

    • If you have a yearning to see the countryside surrounding Barcelona, consider a day trip to the mountains and the Benedictine Montserrat Monastery, to see the famous Black Virgin. 

    • In addition, the site houses the oldest boys' choir in Europe and daily concerts are offered.

    • Finally, the Museu de Montserrat has a highly regarded art collection with paintings by Miro, Picasso, Dali, El Greco and others.

    • Travel to the Monastery, about 30 miles from Barcelona, by car, tour or train (train is the preferred mode and offers the most scenic trip).

    • See the Montserrat website for more details.


Additional Resources

For more information on visiting Barcelona, see the city's official tourism website BarcelonaTurisme.  The site provides additional details on our recommended best places to visit, as well as information on attractions that did not make our list.

For country facts on Spain, as well as information of value to travelers (visas, traffic safety and road conditions, medical facilities and health information), see the U.S. State Department's page on Spain.

If you need information about another travel destination, try our Destination Guide Index  or Googling ThereArePlaces.


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La Sagrada Familia, one of Gaudi's many interesting landmarks

 

 

 

Barcelona Cathedral in the heart of Barri Gotic (the Gothic Quarter)

 

 

 

 

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Christopher Columbus monument in the Old Port (Port Vell)

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The Palau Nacional D'Art de Catalunya has an outstanding collection

 

 

 

 

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The Benedictine Abbey at Montserrat - bring a sweater

 

 

 

 
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