The top 10 things to do in Barcelona

We round up the 10 most unmissable attractions in the thrumming Spanish city, from tiny tapas bars to Michelin-starred restaurants.

By Jamie Lafferty
Published 9 Apr 2019, 00:20 BST, Updated 15 Jul 2021, 09:50 BST
Las Ramblas

The famous tree-lined boulevard Las Ramblas, an icon of the city of Barcelona.

Photograph by Getty Images

1. Make for its sandy beaches

Everyone has their favourite stretch of sand in Barcelona, from nudist to family-friendly. Try the Cava bar-fringed La Barceloneta, or the gay-friendly Platja de Sant Sebastià near the port, with stunning city views; or the laid-back Platja del Bogatell, an immaculate sandy retreat in the heart of the city.

2. Visit the quiet corners

Take five in the leafy Plaça de Sant Felip Neri in the Gothic Quarter, or wander through Parc del Laberint d'Horta, and you'll realise how peaceful Barcelona can be. Not tranquil enough? Leaf through the guide Quiet Barcelona for ideas on how to escape the hordes of tourists. RRP: £12.99 (Frances Lincoln)

3. Stroll the Gothic Quarter

Located in the heart of the old city, the Gothic Quarter is one of Barcelona's most visited areas for good reason. It's home to some of its most beautiful sights, from the Cathedral and the tranquil plaza surrounding the little church of Santa Maria de Pi to the City History Museum, where layers of history, from Roman to medieval, have been unearthed beneath the streets.

4. Shop at La Boqueria market

Situated on Las Ramblas, this large market draws in the tourist crowds, but, being in the culinary heart of Catalonia, the region's chefs also come here for a range of exotic ingredients (steamed pig's ears or blood sausage, anyone?). Its grand gates and stained glass date back to the 1800s but some accounts suggest this place has been serving the city in one form or another since the 13th century. You don't have to be hungry to visit (it's a feast for ears, eyes and nose), but it helps.

5. Head to the city's best tapas bar

Hidden in the Poble Sec neighbourhood, away from the main tourist areas, you might think generational tapas bar Quimet & Quimet would struggle for business. Instead, it's incredibly difficult to get inside, where it's standing room only. The reason? Some say this is the best tapería in Barcelona.

6. Explore the outer neighbourhoods

Barcelona is compact and well served by public transport, so there's no need to squeeze into pricey hotels near Las Ramblas. Venture a little further out from the centre and bed down in the city's crowd-free neighbourhoods — try the genteel Gràcia or vibrant Eixample districts.

7. Find a bar serving local vermouth

Nab a stool at the city's myriad bars — La Vermutería del Tano and Bodega Vinito are good bets — and do as the locals do: drink vermouth ('vermut'). There are two types, red and white; the bittersweet, cool notes are perfect for sipping on a hot day.

8. Take in the view from Mount Montserrat

This 4,055ft-high mountain offers one of the best vantage points anywhere in Spain, with stunning views of Barcelona and the Mediterranean. Reached initially by train, visitors then transfer to a spectacular gondola that whisks them up to the top of the mountain.

9. Dine at Michelin-starred restaurant Disfrutar

Few Michelin-starred restaurants are as much fun as Disfrutar, a Mediterranean joint in Eixample run by three former elBulli head chefs. If your wallet and belly are up to it, try its wildly creative, 20-plus-course tasting menu.

10. Check out Bar Marsella

Amazingly for a bar that's almost 200 years old, Marsella has its critics. OK, so perhaps the owners aren't making the most of its aged potential, but there's still plenty of atmosphere in this partially fossilised dive bar. Hemingway apparently drank here and it seems unlikely any redecorating has happened since.

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