Barcelona is one of Europe’s most popular cities. If you’ve never been before, it can be quite overwhelming trying to fit everything in. Follow our itinerary of the main attractions, museums and galleries to avoid missing out.
Sagrada Familia Basilica
The Sagrada Familia is one of Barcelona’s most famous landmarks: Gaudi’s great “unfinished masterpiece”. Construction of the Basilica began in 1882, but even by the time of the architect’s death it remained only 20% complete. Construction has been a continued (though not consistent, due to events such as the Spanish Civil War) process ever since, under the direction of a number of successive architects. Although the Basilica remains incomplete to this day, the gothic-style building is undeniably impressive.
Las Ramblas is a 1.2km long boulevard, lined with plane trees and spotted with stalls, street performers, restaurants, bars and cafes. As the largest, and one of the most beautiful streets in Barcelona, La Ramblas is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. The city’s Opera House, Barcelona’s famous Gran Teatre del Liceu, is situated here, as well as a number of great shopping opportunities. When the weather’s nice, take your time to stroll down the from Plaça de Catalunya Square to Barcelona’s newly renovated harbour where you can chill out with an ice cream.
Park Güell is so much more than a park. This recreation-come-outdoor-art-gallery, with its colourful mosaic dragons and architectural quirks, is an unusual space to say the least. Designed by Antoni Gaudi (a big architectural influence across the city) Park Güell was originally intended as a commercial housing project. When the project failed the park became public property and Gaudi entered the scene. The ascent to the park (it sits on a steep hill overlooking the city) is well worth it if only for the views, but entrance to the “Monumental Zone” carries a rather steep charge.
Poble Espanyol is an open-air architectural museum, boasting over 100 replicas of buildings and streets in Spain’s autonomous communities – full-scale replicas. So essentially, it is an artificial village in itself. Poble Espanyol was originally intended as a temporary exhibition but due to the site’s popularity has remained as it was since its originally construction. As well as a museum, Poble Espanyol also functions as a popular nightlife and cultural venue, with contemporary art displays, craft fairs, and concerts.
Camp Nou (Barcelona Stadium)
Europe’s largest football stadium is famous across the world. Barcelona’s Camp Nou seats 99,354 people and has been the centre stage for several major international football events, including the 1972 European Cup and 1982 World Cup. Situated right beside the stadium grounds themselves is the FC Barcelona Museum, with an impressive visitor count of over 1.5 million per year.
The “city’s beach”: Barceloneta is the closest beach to the city centre. Locals head here for the surf (it is the most popular surf beach in the city), but it’s a popular spot for a range of other activities too, including sailing, windsurfing, kite surfing, swimming, sunbathing and of course people-watching. Be mindful of the street vendors selling overpriced merchandise though, it’s also a popular tourist scam spot.
Magic Fountain of Montjuïc (Font Màgica de Montjuïc)
The “Magic Fountain” is an impressive antique water feature where world-famous pyrotechnic light displays have been put on since 1929. The shows combine water acrobatics, synchronised music and a lighting system with over 50 different colours. Other attractions that can be found in the area include the National Art Museum and Archeology Museum of Catalonia, and the Ciutat del Teatre.
Barcelona Cathedral (Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia)
Situated at the heart of Barcelona’s old town centre, the Barcelona Cathedral is a magnificent example of Gothic architecture, dating back to the 4th century – though the neo-Gothic facade wasn’t added until the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
National Museum of Catalan Visual Art (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya)
Constructed for the 1929 International Exposition, the Palau Nacional National Museum of Catalan Visual Art was erected to display the might and wealth of Catalonia. It houses a collection of over 5,000 artworks, and is particularly noteworthy for its comprehensive study of Romanesque church paintings and murals. Another highlight is the Baroque and Renaissance Art Collection, which is made up of priceless pieces from royal and aristocratic private collections.
The Picasso Museum (Museu Picasso)
Barcelona’s famous Picasso Museum hosts one of the most comprehensive collections of the artist’s work, with over 400 pieces. The permanent collection focuses on Picasso’s early works based on classic techniques he’d learnt from his father, dating between 1890 – 1917.
Joan Miró Foundation (Fundació Joan Miró)
If you like contemporary art, the Fundació Joan Miró, Centre d’Estudis d’Art Contemporani is for you. The museum was founded in 1975 by art promoter Joan Prats, and the artist Joan Miró himself, with the intention of creating an artistic space that would inspire young artists to experiment with avant garde techniques in order to continue the evolution of more dynamic concepts in contemporary art. The museum itself was designed by architect Josep Lluís Sert, with a sculptural roof design complete with skylights to bring as much natural lighting as possible into the galleries.
Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona)
The Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) holds its own as an internationally renowned institution, housing over 5,000 works in the complete collection, separated into three periods – the first spans the ‘40s-60s, the second looks at the 60s-70s, and the third focuses on contemporary art from recent centuries.
L’Aquàrium de Barcelona (Barcelona Aquarium)
A great place to visit with children, the Barcelona Aquarium is the second most visited attraction in the city. The aquarium comprises 35 aquariums that hold a total of 11,000 animals representing 450 different species.
Jardí Botànic de Barcelona (Botanical Gardens)
Barcelona’s botanical gardens are separated into 5 key zones that each individually focus on native plant species from the areas of Australia, California, the Mediterranean basin, South Africa and Chile – chosen for the similarities in landscape and climate.
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(Header: Sagrada Familia by SBA73 via FlickrCC)