Despite welcoming millions of tourists every year, Barcelona remains under the radar of many travel couples.
I’ll admit: It wasn’t even on our bucket list when we booked our flights. We found insanely good deals on airfare back in October and booked the trip after doing minimal research.
Unlike some destinations that have become so wildly popular that you can practically see your photos already – like Bali’s famous Instagram swings, Cappadocia’s hot air balloons or Sri Lanka’s Nine Arch Bridge – Barcelona is a relatively hidden gem that boasts memorable cultural experiences, unique architecture, ancient history and plenty of stunning views.
With help from family, friends and followers, we curated Barcelona’s top must-sees (and must-dos) and created one awesome eight-day itinerary, which we’re excited to share with you!
This blog will give you a flavor of Barcelona, but we’ve intentionally limited the number of photos we’ve included so we don’t ruin some of the views for you 🙂 If you like what you see here, be sure to follow us on Instagram.
8-Day Barcelona Itinerary
|Day 1||Travel Day|
|Day 2||Arrival + Exploring
Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar (tickets needed)
Museu Picasso (tickets needed)
|Day 3||Passeig de Gracia & Casa Milà, aka La Pedrera (tickets needed to go inside La Pedrera)
La Rambla & La Boqueria market
|Day 4||Paella Cooking Class at noon (tickets needed)
Barcelona Cathedral (tickets needed)
Parc de la Ciutadella
Flamenco Show at Tablao Flamenco Cordobes Barcelona (tickets needed)
|Day 5||Montjuïc Castle + Guided Tour (tickets needed)|
|Day 6||Park Güell (tickets needed) & La Gracia Neighborhood
La Sagrada Familia + Tower Tour (tickets needed)
|Day 7||Barceloneta Beach
|Day 8||Travel Day|
What to Do and See in Barcelona, Spain
Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter)
The Gothic Quarter – also referred to as Old Town – is where the city’s history begins. This is where the Romans founded the settlement “Barcino” around 15-10 BC.
The city was once surrounded by Roman walls and towers, which were later demolished in the 19th century to make room for the expanding city. Still, some of the remains can be seen in the Gothic Quarter, making this area a fascinating place to explore.
Its history, charm and long list of attractions will surely draw you in and keep you coming back to the Gothic Quarter during your stay in Barcelona.
Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar
Located in the Gothic Quarter, the basilica of Santa Maria del Mar is considered to be one of the best examples of Catalan Gothic architecture.
Unlike other churches in the Middle Ages that took a century or more to complete (and thus, featured changes in architectural styles), this basilica took just 55 years to build in the 1300s and is the only surviving church to boast pure Catalan Gothic style.
Take a walk inside and admire this beautiful structure, making note of its darkened walls, which are the result of a fire started by anarchists and communists in 1936.
Free admission 6-9:30 p.m. on Thursdays; otherwise, tickets start around 12.00€/person, depending on various factors, such as your age, selected ticket type and time of entrance.
Pablo Picasso, one of the 20th century’s greatest artists and co-founder of the Cubism movement, spent his formative years in Barcelona. It was here that Picasso began his professional career as an artist.
The Picasso Museum in Barcelona has more than 3,800 works by the artist and, perhaps even more interesting, it details Picasso’s biography – from his interests in poetry and journalism to the friends and fellow artists who inspired his work.
We’ve been to other renowned museums, like the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, but Museu Picasso was one of the few to offer such an intimate glimpse into an artist’s life and loves. We highly recommend visiting!
Casa Milà (La Pedrera)
It’s no surprise that Barcelona is known as the City of Gaudi, given that you can see (and admire) stunning examples of the famous Catalan architect’s work throughout the city. Casa Milà, or more commonly known as La Pedrera, is one such work.
La Pedrera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was Antoni Gaudi’s last civic architectural project before he devoted his time to working on La Sagrada Familia.
You can pay to tour the space and see the picturesque Warrior Rooftop, but Mike and I decided to admire the work from afar, given the steep price of entry.
Whatever you call it – La Rambla, Ramblas or Las Ramblas – this iconic promenade is filled with shops, restaurants, monuments, theaters and more.
In the summer, the image above would look much different, as the promenade is often a crowded and bustling tourist hot spot.
We stayed at Hotel Arc La Rambla and loved the location. It was within walking distance of nearly every item on our itinerary, and was just a short walk from our favorite area, the Gothic Quarter.
The hotel itself was clean and the staff was friendly. The rooms (and views) weren’t anything to write home about, but overall, we had no complaints. The breakfast was delicious, but cost 13.00€ per person (or 11.00€ per person if you chose to eat there three times during your stay) – pretty pricey, considering you can walk 10 minutes and find a bakery where you’ll pay less. We only ate breakfast at the hotel one day toward the end of our trip when we were pressed for time and needed a quick bite.
Also located on La Rambla is La Boqueria, or Mercat de Sant Josep. We had mixed feelings about the market. Maybe it’s because we visited late at night when many of the market stands were closing, but we didn’t get great vibes and didn’t care to go back again.
One final note about La Rambla: Be alert and aware of your surroundings and don’t take too much with you when you walk around. La Rambla is a well-known target for pickpocketers, and we experienced this ourselves in another location in the city (more on that later).
Paella Cooking Class
This was hands down our favorite experience in Barcelona. We’re not foodies and we don’t consider ourselves great cooks, but we had an incredible time cooking authentic Spanish cuisine and learning techniques from a pro.
The cooking class we booked is linked above the image – we highly recommend booking it for a unique and unforgettable experience. The class is small and intimate, giving you plenty of one-on-one time with the chef, as well as the opportunity to get to know your classmates.
Plus, you get unlimited cava during the class and get a lesson in tasting olive oils, meats and cheeses. What’s not to love?!
The whole experience takes about four hours, and is definitely worth the time and money.
Catedral de Barcelona
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, or Barcelona Cathedral, is located in the heart of the Gothic Quarter. A few of the cathedral’s highlights are the crypts and its 14th century cloister and courtyard.
At such a reasonable price, it’s definitely worth a visit. Plus, you can stroll over to the nearby Carrer del Bisbe and shoot the beautiful Pont del Bisbe, or Bishop’s Bridge, (shown in the photo in the Gothic Quarter section above).
Parc de la Ciutadella
This 74-acre green oasis is home to a zoo, lake, large fountain (pictured above), several museums and the Catalan Parliament. It’s a great place to escape from the crowded city and enjoy a beautiful stroll.
One word of caution though: This is where Mike and I had a run-in with pickpocketers. We were setting up our tripod for a quick shot by the fountain when some guy grabbed my purse and took off with it. Luckily, we caught him in the act and he dropped my bag after we started to run after him. The lesson here is to never leave your stuff unattended, even if it’s just for 30 seconds.
Don’t let the price of tickets keep you from attending a flamenco show. This was one of our favorite experiences in Barcelona – just behind the cooking class.
Tablao Flamenco Cordobes Barcelona, located on La Rambla (less than a block from Hotel Arc La Rambla), is considered to be the main historical tablao of Barcelona.
This intimate space gives you an up-close and personal look at the exhilarating Spanish art form. The show lasts about an hour and you’ll love every minute of it.
An important note: Because the performers improvise the show, you’re asked not to film or take photos until the very end, so as not to ruin their concentration.
Castell de Montjuïc
Tickets starting at 3.00€/person; standard admission with guided tour is 9.00€/person.
Montjuïc Castle is an old military fortress at the summit of Montjuïc Mountain, overlooking Barcelona, the sea and the harbor.
Unlike other castles that housed kings and queens, this one held soldiers responsible for defending (and at times bombarding) Barcelona. Montjuïc Castle also served as a military prison for a period of time, but is now open to the public.
We recommend spending the extra few Euros to take the hour-long guided tour. Not only are the guides extremely knowledgeable, but you get to visit places closed to the public, such as the jail cells (or “dungeons”), watchtower and reservoir.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Park Güell is another stunning example of Gaudi’s work. We loved how the vibrant colors of the park contrasted with the backdrop of the city.
The park’s gingerbread-style houses, colorful mosaic tiles and whimsical design are like something straight out of a dream or Dr. Seuss book.
Originally designed for Barcelona aristocracy, Park Güell is open to the public, but the restricted monumental area requires a ticket for entry.
Plan to spend at least a couple hours here to admire the beautiful artwork and enjoy the views.
La Sagrada Familia
Tickets starting at 20.50€/person; fast-track ticket with tower access costs 33.00€/person.
This famous Barcelona landmark is Guadi’s most celebrated work, despite having never finished it. He began working on the project in 1883, but completed less than a quarter of it before he died. It’s still under construction and has a target completion date of 2026 – 100 years after Gaudi’s death.
Walking inside the church will leave you speechless. The intricate design and vibrant colors create an experience unlike any other. This was the No. 1 must-see recommended to us by friends and family, and we understand why!
La Sagrada Familia – Tower Tour
There are plenty of mixed reviews about whether to pay for access to one of the two towers – either on the Passion Facade or the Nativity Facade. We decided to spring for the tower tour on the Passion Facade to see for ourselves.
Was it worth it? It depends what your expectations are. There are only two lookouts, and they’re enclosed in wire netting, making it less than ideal for sightseeing. However, you can see from the photo above (and the hero image at the top of this blog post), that it’s definitely possible to get a good view and a beautiful shot – with a little extra effort.
Overall, the tower tour is a bit pricey for the experience, but the views are still worth it.
Platja de la Barceloneta
The smartest thing we’ve ever done is plan to go to the beach on the last day of one of our trips 😂 Barceloneta Beach was so relaxing. After days of walking miles and miles from one location to the next, it was the perfect way to unwind and end our trip.
Because we visited in January, we had the beach almost to ourselves. We sprawled out, bought a couple sangrias and listened to the waves roll in.
Have you visited Barcelona? Comment below with any must-sees we missed! If you haven’t visited yet, be sure to download our free itinerary template and fill it in as you plan your trip (works best on desktop).