What to see in Barcelona

There’s a reason Barcelona sees so many visitors – for such a compact city the sheer number of cultural and historical attractions is amazing. Some free advice though: while there will inevitably be queues for the most popular attractions (think La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, and Park Güell), the other attractions offer some insights into the city’s history and culture without tripping over a million other tourists.

The top 5 Barcelona attractions, and 5 alternatives to avoid the crowds

The unfinished spires of La Sagrada Familia and tower cranes against a blue sky, with the main entrance obscured by tour buses in the foreground
La Sagrada Familia entrance with tour buses in the foreground.

Here’s my TL;DR list if you want a quick fix. There are so many things to see and do in Barcelona, you don’t have to queue for hours to get a good taste of the place – I’d argue that by avoiding the biggest attractions you’ll actually get a better feel for the real Barcelona.

And if you want to dig a bit deeper, here are the best Barcelona attractions. There’s something for everyone:


Whether it is art from Barcelona’s more famous past residents, or museums devoted to the city’s long and fascinating history, there’s a museum or gallery to cater to almost everyone. Check-out the best galleries and museums in Barcelona:


Transparencies adorn the glass at the modern entrance to the CaixaForum

Caixa Bank-owned gallery space housed in a refurbished modernist factory. Check the schedule for traveling exhibitions. Find out more about Caixa Forum

Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB)

World Press Photo 2018 signage at the entrance to the CCCB

The CCCB features exhibitions, debates, festivals, concerts, film, courses, workshops and more. Discover more about CCCB

Fundació Joan Miró

Tourists at the entrance to the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona

Spectacular space, excellent permanent collection of Miró’s works, views across Barcelona, and even a café. What’s not to like about the Fundació Joan Miró?

El Museu Marítim de Barcelona

A visitor is dwarfed by a life-size replicas of a 16th Century galleon at El Museu Marítim de Barcelona

It may not float everybody’s boat (yuk yuk), but El Museu Marítim de Barcelona does have its charms. Discover more about Barcelona’s Maritime Museum

Museu d’Història de Barcelona (MUHBA) Plaça del Rei

Remains of Roman winemaking vats under the streets of Barcelona at Museu d’Història de Barcelona (MUHBA) Plaça del Rei

There’s a fascinating Roman city just under your feet in the centre of Barcelona’s old town. You can experience it at MUHBA. Discover more about Barcelona’s fascinating History Museum

Archaeology Museum of Catalonia

If you’re interested in the history of Catalonia dating back to prehistoric times, there’s plenty to like about the Archaeology Museum of Catalonia.

Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)

A couple walk past the edifice of the MACBA in Barcelona sunshine

Superb space. Interesting permanent collection. And some great temporary exhibits. MACBA may surprise you. Find out more about MACBA

Museu del Disseny de Barcelona

A Montesa motorcycle, portable television and mop-bucked on display at Museu del Disseny de Barcelona

As Barcelona is a renowned design hub, a design museum makes a lot of sense. Keep an eye open for special exhibitions. Find out more about Barcelona’s Design Museum

Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC)

Neo-classical domes on the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC)in Barcelona

Housing a massive collection – largely focused on Romanesque art – MNAC also covers other periods. Discover more about the Nacional Museum of Art, Barcelona

Museu Picasso de Barcelona

Toruists queueing for tickets at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona

Arguably Barcelona’s most popular museum, the Picasso Museum is also likely to be crowded. It is an excellent collection though. Learn more about the Picasso Museum


While the works of Barcelona’s favorite architect, Antoni Gaudí I Cornet, features on most itineraries, there are also significant works from his contemporaries in the Modernista movement and more that boast the ‘wow’ factor. This is the most impressive architecture to see in Barcelona:

Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló facade with Christmas decorations at night

Gaudí’s most famous house, Casa Batlló, attracts crowds. Book online. Discover more

Casa Milà/La Pedrera

Chimney finials take on human forms at Casa Milà in Barcelona

One of Gaudí’s last works, and in many ways more restrained than others, Casa Milà still makes an interesting visit. Find out more about La Pedrera

Casa Vicens

Multicoloured tiles adorn the exterior of Casa Vicens in Barcelona

The rather compact Casa Vicens is significant for being Gaudí’s first house, displaying his trademark thoughtful design and exuberant detailing. Find out more about this fascinating house

Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau

Intricate stained glass at Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau in Barcelona

Fabulous modernista site, minus the overwhelming crowds. The Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau is among architect Lluís Domènech I Montaner’s finest work. Read more about the Hospital Sant Pau Historic Site

Mies van der Rohe pavilion

Unadorned vertical and horizontal lines are a hallmark of the Bauhaus Mies van der Rohe pavilion in Barcelona

An unexpected Bauhaus gem in amongst Barcelona’s modernista marvels, the Mies van der Rohe pavilion impresses with its timeless grace. Find out more about this architectural icon

Palau Güell

Mosaic tiles adorn a chimney at Palau Güell in Barcelona

Palau Güell is an early Gaudí commission, and one that evokes the lives of Barcelona’s elite at the time. Find out more about this impressive Gaudí building

Palau de la Música Catalana

Stunning headlight skylight inside the Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona

The Palau de la Música Catalana is a spectacular modernista concert hall, and really a Barcelona must-see. Discover more about visiting this magnificent concert hall

La Sagrada Familia

Jesus on a cross under an umbrella surrounded by fluted columns at La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Easily the busiest Gaudí attraction in Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia is something you have to see once. Book in advance. Find out more about visiting this popular attraction


Most Barcelona neighborhoods boast a market. While markets may seem unusual attractions, many of these are popular things to see in Barcelona. Almost all are fascinating for the range of produce available, though some cater more to tourists than others. Some great info from the local government here, for visitors who want to explore further. Barcelona’s best markets are a genuine joy.

La Boqueria

Steel and colored glass sign over the entrance to La Boqueria market in Barcelona

La Boqueria is so popular that group tours were recently banned. It is a brilliant market though. Go along, but be sure to buy something. Read more about La Boqueria market

Mercat del Born

The Catalan flag flies in front of the El Born CCM in Barcelona

Bit of a cheat this: What was once a market is now a museum, with the archaeological excavations of the old town on display. Worth the visit. Read more about El Born CCM

Mercat de Sant Antoni

Steel facade of the Sant Antoni Market contrasts with the blue sky

Sant Antoni market caters more for locals than busier La Boqueria. Still, the exterior architecture is impressive. Read more about the Sant Antoni Market

Mercat de Santa Caterina

Pidgeons silhouetted against the multicolored mosaic tiled roof of Santa Caterina Market, Barcelona

Barcelona’s oldest covered market has had a complete make-over, but still offers a range of local produce and some dining options. Discover more about visiting Santa Caterina market


Barcelona is blessed with lovely weather almost year-round, though it is on sunny days that the parks and gardens come alive. Whether you want to mingle with the crowds or get away from it all, Barcelona has a park for you. Barcelona’s best parks and gardens are a breath off fresh air.

Jardí Botànic de Barcelona

A person on a walkway over a water feature in the Jardí Botànic de Barcelona

Excellent modern botanic gardens on Montjuïc, with views over the Olympic stadiums. Click here for information on how to visit

Jardí Botànic Històric

Calla lilies in a waterway in the shade of large trees in the historic botanic gardens in Barcelona

More like a pleasant park than a botanic garden, the Jardí Botànic Històric is a great place to escape on a hot day. Read more about these lovely gardens

Jardins de Joan Maragall

Statue in the Jardins de Joan Maragall in Barcelona, Spain

These pretty formal gardens are another reason to visit Montjuïc. Be aware they’re only open for limited hours on weekends and public holidays though. Read more about them here

Parc de la Ciutadella

Elaborate fountains at the Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona

The city’s main park is another destination for architecture fans, as well as being a popular outdoors spot on a sunny day. Read more about Barcelona’s main city park

Parc del Laberint d’Horta

Tourists in the traditional hedge maze at Parc del Laberint d’Horta Barcelona

Lovely preserved formal gardens on the edge of town. Find out more about how to visit the Parc del Laberint d’Horta