It’s easy to forget that before the Olympic Games were held here in 1992 Barcelona barely featured on the world tourist map. The result of Barcelona's Olympics was the kind of urban regeneration that politicians and town planners only dream of. Today Barcelona is one of the top destinations in Europe. Some of the top things to do in Barcelona include exploring its various barrios (neighborhoods) and relaxing on the beach, while other Barcelona attractions include some excellent museums and the occasional market. In fact, there’s so much available here, your main problem will be deciding where to start.
La Sagrada Familia
The monumental Sagrada Familia is a stunning piece of architecture. Designed by Antonio Gaudi, the acclaimed leader of the Surrealist movement in architecture, La Sagrada Familia is his great, unfinished project: a cathedral of massive proportions that seemingly melts in the sun and ebbs with the wind. From the outside, this is clearly the most striking of all the tourist attractions in Barcelona, while on the inside it’s every bit as fascinating, although scaffolding admittedly obliterates much of the view.
Located to the north of the city, Parc Guell is another of Gaudi’s works. This is a marvelous park that covers a good-sized space, and Barcelona attractions here include walking around the spaghetti-like pathways while examining the various surrealist sculptures that line them. La Predrera, to the south of Parc Guell, is another one of the Gaudi-designed tourist attractions in Barcelona worth seeking out.
A tour of the city’s museums is one of the very best things to do in Barcelona. Such tours are well-advised to start at the Picasso Museum, which is found in the heart of the Barri Gotic, Barcelona’s stunning Old Town. The museum is a Picasso fanatic's dream, featuring preliminary sketches and more established work by the Spanish master.
The MACBA (officially titled the Museu d’Art Contemporani Barcelona) easily ranks as one of the top ten things to do in Barcelona. Located in a lively student neighborhood (where dining out and drinking are common and surprisingly affordable pastimes at night), the MACBA attracts top-notch modern art. It changes its collection every three to four months, making it one of the best things to do in Barcelona if you are a returning visitor to the city.
Montjuic is where you’ll find palpable evidence of Barcelona’s transformation for the Olympic Games of 1996. This hill that looks over the port is home to the famous colored fountains that characterized Barcelona’s success as Games host. One of the signature Barcelona attractions, it can be reached via a cable car or—if you’re feeling energetic—on foot.
The Barceloneta is a man-made beach that draws a bronze sandy line between the Mediterranean and the city. One of the most popular tourist attractions in Barcelona, it provides everyone with the chance to enjoy the warm sun and refreshing waters that define this part of the Spanish coastline. Aside from sunbathing and swimming, activities in Barcelona that take place here include beach volleyball and the ever-popular frisbee.