La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia is a no-brainer stop you have to visit when you're in Barcelona. When people think of Rio de Janeiro, they think of Christ Redeemer. When they think of Paris, they think of the Eiffel Tower. London - Big Ben. Egypt - pyramids. Barcelona - La Sagrada Familia.
And don't just do a quick walk-by, pay the €15 (and do it online beforehand to avoid line-ups), and get right in there. It won't disappoint, I promise.
La Sagrada Familia is an enormous cathedral and the biggest masterpiece of the infamous architect, Antonio Gaudi, which they started building 130 years ago and are anticipating to finish in the next 10 years. The amount of thought - in art, math, and science, that was put into the creation of this building is way beyond what you could imagine. But they do a pretty thorough job of explaining it in a little museum off to the side of the Sagrada. Once you're done the tour inside the cathedral, make sure you head outside, to the left and down the hill to find the somewhat hidden entrance of the exhibit. We accidentally stumbled upon it when we thought we were exploring, but so glad we had a chance to dive into the history of it all.
Although the scaffolding that's been there and will continue to be there for a while is a bit of an eyesore on the exterior of the building, it's still an absolutely incredible sight. I swear, your jaw will drop when you come up to it.
And when you're finally inside, don't forget to look up!
La Sagrada Familia
9am - 8pm
You'll notice that Antonio Gaudi is a big time hot shot in Barcelona - not only will you find La Sagrada Familia on his resume, but you'll also find Park Güell among his list of accomplishments.
Park Güell is located on Carmel Hill - a mountain that Eusebi Güell bought in 1855, which he intended on turning into a luxury estate for wealthy families. He entrusted Gaudi with the design and build of the property, and although the plans were on track for the first few years, circumstances made the project impossible to turn into real estate. Lucky for us travellers, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and public park, exploding with natural and architectural design. It is Gaudi's depiction of "God's art", mimicking nature in all of his work, filled with Greek mythology and religious symbolism throughout the park.
Because the park is filled to the brim with symbolic meaning, we're happy we opted for a guided tour to take us through the park. We wouldn't have had two clues what anything meant had we not been told during our walk-through. There's so much to look at there - you'll find that your eyes will jump around without control, but it's a good thing we had someone point to things and say "LOOK!" at something we would totally not have looked at. Money well spent.
Buy these tickets online too so you can avoid line-ups. And I also seriously suggest you get there way before your tour time to explore on your own before meeting up with your tour group. Don't do what we did: take our sweet-ass time walking there thinking there was no need to rush, get lost (obviously), back track, figure out where we need to go, then run like madmen uphill towards the park once we find out we're late AND keep our tour group waiting...
8am - 9:30pm
Best time to go: early evening when there are less crowds
La Rambla to Barcelona is like Champs Elysées to Paris. It's a famous, very busy, very lively pedestrian street in Barcelona that leads from the Gothic Quarter all the way down to the beach. It's lined with stores, adorable little boutiques, street vendors, lots and lots of gelato, and pick pocketers...
It's definitely worth the stroll even just to say you walked down the street. No need to buy anything - I mean, if you want to, go for it. But because this street is mainly filled with tourists rather than locals nowadays, the stores and vendors have begun to target tourists, so some things may not be as authentic.
Also - watch your pockets.
Barrio Gòtico (Gothic quarter)
Old cobblestone roads, narrow alleyways, tall brick buildings, and intricate iron balconies. Gelato on the corner of every turn, outdoor patios everywhere you look. Graffiti'd doors every tenth step. The smell of old burning cigars, the clink of wine glasses.
The Gothic Quarter of Barcelona is that typical Spanish scene you'd imagine. But it's not until you're walking down the streets and taking it all in, that you realize it's not so typical or ordinary - it's breathtaking. As you walk along the uneven streets, the history of the city draws you in and demands your attention. The paint on the doors, the nooks in streets, the cracks in the buildings - they all have a story. But there's no way you'd have two clues what those stories are. So hop on over to Plaça de l'Angel at the Jaume I Metro stop (L4 line) where there's a free walking tour every day at 10am, 11am, and 2pm. Look for the guides in red t-shirts and name badges.
These tour guides are history wizards. They know everything about the Gothic Quarter - and they'll share as much of it with you as they can. You'll get to follow in Christopher Columbus' footsteps (literally, not figuratively) and climb the steps that he climbed to announce his discovery of the new world. You'll get to see the house of the city's executioner during that time. They'll bring you to Sant Felip Neri's square, which might seem pleasantly charming at first glance, but bears a violent past. The square was caught in a bombing during the Spanish Civil War and the shrapnel destroyed part of Sant Felip Neri's church's exterior, leaving irregular marks along the stone walls - not something easily noticeable. A lot goes on in the Gothic Quarter that isn't easily noticeable, which is why I'm pushing you to tag along on one of these walking tours. If you don't, you'll still have a lovely ol' time, but it's like if you were to walk through a museum that didn't bear any plaques or information boards to read up on what you're looking at. Everything might still look super cool, but you just won't know what it is.
Catedral de la Santa Creu (Barcelona Cathedral)
While in the Gothic Quarter, check out the Barcelona Cathedral, built during the 13th-15th centuries, but be sure to cover up... The dress code to enter the cathedral is strictly enforced - knees and shoulders must be covered.
Free entry from 8am - 12:45pm, 5:45pm - 7:30pm
Entry with donation 1pm - 5pm
Choir/roof visit €3
The famous beaches of Barcelona that run along the Balearic Sea go for miles and range from non-nude, nude, and gay. To get to them, take the Metro Yellow Line (L4) to Barceloneta. Start from one end of the beach and keep walking until you find a section you're comfortable in. You'll be able to clearly distinguish the different sections of the beach as you walk along.
Barcelona is Picasso's city. Sure, he may have been born in France and lived there for some time, but Barcelona influenced his work so dramatically and became his home over time. The Picasso Museum in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona is jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring - but only if you're into that kind of thing. My travel partner certainly had zero interest in it and found herself shopping throug the streets while I wandered through Pablo's art. To each their own.
Click here for more on all things Picasso in the city of Barcelona.
9am - 7pm
Palau Nacional (National Palace) - National Art Museum of Catalonia
The hill of Monjuïc is a big space. And when they decided to develop the area, they determined that they were going to dedicate it to art. In fact, they wanted the end result of the development to be a "great temple of art". SO they built an enormous palace on top of the hill - which housed exhibitions, but has now been the home of the National Art Museum of Catalonia for ages.
The building itself and the surrounding grounds are incredible, let alone the contents inside. It's like they built a piece of art to hold a bunch of pieces of art on grounds that looks like a piece of art itself. If you don't have time to actually go into the building and walk through the museum to see all 5,000+ works of art, a walk along the gardens and grounds might be just enough.
Museu National d'Art de Catalunya
Tuesday - Saturday 10am - 8pm (6pm during winter), Sunday 10am - 3pm
Font Màgica (Magic Fountain of Montjuïc)
Hang around the Palau Nacional area just a bit longer until evening falls so you can stay tuned for the fountain show. The fountain that is located at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the palace hosts a music, light, and water-acrobatic show on Fridays and Saturdays (and some Thursdays and Sundays). The show was originally created as part of the 1929 International Exhibition, but was restored in 1992 for the Olympics and lucky for YOU, it's still running so you'll get to feast your eyes on a bunch of lit, moving water.
Castell de Montjuïc
This is a castle. Like with a garden where the moat used to be. And cannons. And a drawbridge. The only thing missing is the dragon. It only costs €5 to enter the castle and roam around inside, which I highly recommend, because there's only so much you can see from the outside. You can buy these tickets on site or online, we bought them on site with barely any wait times and no issues.
And if you wanna do like us and decide to climb up the mountain to the castle after being turnt up until 6am the morning of and turning down for only a few hours of sleep, the hike is short and sweet.
Castell de Montjuic
10am - 6pm
Barcelona is a party city, there's no doubt about that. And they party like there's no tomorrow. Or more like they party until really late into tomorrow. The real party rarely starts until 1 or 2am and it goes way into 6/7am. Then you go to sleep, wake up, tour around the city hungover, nap, and do it all over again.