Barcelona is a gorgeous city that offers one of the most enchanting walks with its stunning seaside location, unique architecture, immense culture and a history that some believe, involves the mythological hero, Hercules. The city evokes all the senses– beauty as far as the eye can see, the sound of the sea, and the smell of its delicious fares wafting through air that also satisfies the palate.
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain. I have always wanted to visit the city, it is one of those places that has to be in everyone’s “Cities to Visit” list. Here are my top 10 favorite things to see in Barcelona, these sights and attractions are the things that make the city so special and alluring. To me, they define Barcelona.
1) La Sagrada Família
The cathedral was Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí‘s obssession, and has now become the obsession of visitors from all around the world. The La Sagrada Família is still under construction after more than a hundred years, but despite that, its sheer magnificence is absolutely awe inspiring. This medieval cathedral has the most unique pinnacles and carvings on the outside; and inside, the play of colors, lines and curves truly took my breath away. I also made a visit to the top of the towers, which offers amazing views of Barcelona.
2) Park Güell
Park Güell is located on top of a hill and the walk up can be pretty steep. The park is absolutely beautiful, showcasing the colorful and unique sculptures of Antoni Gaudí— I especially loved taking pictures with his multicolored mosaic masterpieces. It also offers sweeping views of the city from the famous main terrace. Despite the large crowd that descends on the park, it still induces a sense of peace and calm with its charming natural landscape and wide open spaces.
3) La Rambla
La Rambla is the busiest and most crowded pedestrian street in the city– it is lined with restaurants, cafes, hotels and lots of trees. The street stretches all the way from the sea at Port Vell to the central point of Plaça de Catalunya. There are many things to see while walking along La Rambla, from souvenir kiosks to street performers, artists and living statues. Make sure you stop by the La Boqueria market; browse through the colorful selections of fruits and vegetables, and dine at Pinotxo Bar for an excellent traditional Catalan market meal. I stopped by the stall to eat every day.
Montjuïc is a broad shallow hill and is the location of several museums, an Olympic stadium, fountains, botanical gardens and the Castell de Montjuïc. The castle was initially built in 1640 as an old military fortress, and then converted into a castle in the late 17th century. It offers beautiful views of the harbour on one side, and the city of Barcelona on the other. There are several ways to get to the castle– I took the funicular and a cable car to get to the top, and later made my way down by enjoying a lovely summer stroll around Montjuïc.
5) Museu Picasso
The Museu Picasso in Barcelona showcases one of the most extensive collection of artworks from Picasso’s formative years. The collection of almost 4000 pieces from the artist is housed in five adjoining medieval stone mansions, and officially opened in 1963. Walk around to admire Picasso’s paintings, drawings, engravings and ceramic works; learn about his creative years in Barcelona– and then take some time to wander the lovely courtyards, patios and stairways of the 13th and 14th century mansions, each with its own history.
6) Casa Batlló and Casa Milà
Seven of Antoni Gaudí‘s distinctive creative contributions to Barcelona are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites under the name “Works of Antoni Gaudí“. Two of these masterpieces are located along the business and shopping area of Passeig de Gràcia— the Casa Batlló and the Casa Milà. With a weird, skeletal looking exterior, the Casa Batlló stands out with its colorful mosaic of broken ceramic tiles. Casa Milà on the other hand, has specially designed wrought iron balconies, and a curvy stone facade that continues into its interior. Make a visit into this building, it is truly an architectural wonder.
7) Gothic Quarter
One of my favourite things to do while in Barcelona was exploring the Gothic Quarter, which is the centre of the city’s old town. Throughout the centuries there have been restorations and changes, but many of the original buildings from the medieval times and even the Roman times, still stand. The entire quarter is like a labyrinth; and it was great walking along the narrow streets and small alleyway as there was always something to discover– quaint cafes, hidden galleries and museums, Gothic churches and enchanting squares. Be adventurous and get lost!
8) La Barceloneta
La Barceloneta is known for its port, sandy beaches and boardwalk lined with restaurants and clubs. It underwent a massive facelift for the city’s 1992 Olympics and is now a popular hangout for locals and visitors. I spent the afternoon walking along La Barceloneta– admiring the yachts and boats docked at the Port Vell harbour, lazing on the grass while enjoying some waffles, watching the locals play a game of beach volleyball and ending the evening with some drinks and seafood at Port Olympic.
9) Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
The National Art Museum of Catalonia is housed in the National Palace, built in the Spanish Renaissance style complete with waterfalls and beautiful landscape. It stands on the slopes of Montjuïc and offers great views of one of Barcelona’s biggest squares, the Plaça Espanya. The palace was build in 1929, and housed the museum since 1934. The museum is most popular for its Romanesque collection that consists of beautiful mural paintings and woodcarvings rescued from rural churches around the country.
10) Barcelona Cathedral
The Barcelona Cathedral, also known as La Seu, towers over the Gothic Quarter and is an excellent example of neo-Gothic architecture. It took centuries to complete– being constructed from the 13th to the 15th centuries. The cathedral is dedicated to Santa Eulàlia, who was martyred during the Roman times and whose tomb is located in the cathedral’s crypt. Explore the beautiful church; from its spacious nave and the beautifully sculpted choir stalls, to the lovely cloister and the flock of 13 geese that have been kept that way since the medieval times. Entry is free during certain times of the day.