Barcelona: home of hipsters, cava, big cathedrals, cool architecture, beaches and football. It’s a vibrant city that you’ll definitely want to explore.
But with so many awesome attractions, knowing where to go and what to see can get tricky! To help ye out, we’ve used our own experiences and some insider tips to compile this list of alternative things to do in Barcelona.
We’ve combined some of the better known attractions with some hidden gems, so you’ll get the most out of your Barcelona travel experience.
Best Things to Do in Barcelona
Go on a Tapas and Wine Tour
Get a taste of the place on this top-rated tapas tour of the city!
Take in the Surreal Surroundings at Park Güell
Wander around and take in the views at one of Gaudi’s biggest works.
Catch a Flamenco Show and Dance the Night Away
Head to City Hall Theatre to experience some traditional Spanish dancing.
Rent a Scooter and Explore the City
What could be more romantic than a picturesque ride around the streets of Barcelona?
Discover Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter
Stroll around Barcelona’s buzzing Gothic Quarter and step into the city’s history.
Nothing quite says “welcome to Barcelona” like a food tour of the best tapas and wine in the city. Some of the best tours are organised by Tapas & Beer, who will take you to sample the best tapas in town and wash them down with cava, vermouth, and cerveza.
You also get to taste some craft beers and go on a ‘hipster’ bar crawl, which is always a good idea. You can find one of the best tapas and wine tours right here, to give you a first taste of classic Spanish delicacies.
2. Go local in El Born
El Born is a well-known district among Barcelonians. For them, it’s like an oasis away from the overrun Gothic Quarter, and hosts some of the best tapas restaurants in Barcelona.
El Born is a great place to go and spend the evening. You’ll get to see a more authentic side to the city, and get to try some of the best food in Barcelona. We recommend checking out the pernil and formatge over at Bodega La Tinaja first. Then, have a beer on Passeig del Born.
This houseboat has all you need for a unique and memorable stay in Barcelona. Sleeping up to four guests in two bedrooms, it’s the perfect base for water lovers visiting the city.
The boat is just a 5 minute walk away from restaurants, shops, bars and city attractions. There’s a fully equipped kitchen and bathroom on board, and guests will also have access to laundry facilities. There’s also plenty of seating around the deck.
As far as awesome things to do in Barcelona go, having a wander around the surreal theme park of Park Güell is definitely a Gaudi-based highlight.
Since you don’t want to be one of the tourists waiting in line to get their tickets (which can be up to 1200 at a time), you can make everything a lot easier by booking in advance. Skip the line and book an expert guide for a tour around the unique site here.
- Entrance: €7-10
- Hours: 09:30-17:30
- Address: 08024 Barcelona, Spain
5. Learn the Art of Paella
If you’re into Paella, then this one’s for you. Learn to cook it yourself from pro-chefs, who will teach you all there is to know about mastering this delicacy.
Not only will you learn to cook Paella, but you’ll also be taken around La Boqueria market by the chef to pick out the best ingredients. Tapas and Sangria are included! This is a top rated experience and definitely one to add to your list.
6. Explore the nightlife of El Raval
El Raval is well known for its buzzing nightlife and hosts some of the best things to do in Barcelona. Even if you don’t go into any bar, just wandering around here gives you a feel for the lively nightlife on offer at El Raval. Staying out all night isn’t hard to do here.
This place is known as ‘Chinatown’ – not because it’s an actual Chinatown, but because back in the day it was thought that the area kind of looked like it should be a Chinatown. Fair enough.
7. Stroll around the Gothic Quarter
Flower stalls, street-food, tons of people-watching to crack on with, and a bunch of amazing old buildings to gawp at and photograph. Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter – or Barri Gòtic in Catalan – is packed with things to see.
It’s definitely very touristy, but it’s a really beautiful part of the city that shouldn’t be missed. If you just want to see the Gothic Quarter but don’t want the crowds, coming early at around 9am is your best bet.
This is definitely one of those things that fits a laid-back-yet-frenetic Mediterranean backdrop! Tour the city and view Barcelona’s famous beaches from your very own (rented) Vespa.
Renting a scooter in Barcelona and exploring the city’s historic streets is a super fun activity in Barcelona, especially for couples. You’ll almost feel like locals! Tip: the brighter the color you choose, the more fun you’ll have. Fact.
9. Explore La Boqueria market
Wandering around a local market is a great way to get a feel for a place, and Barcelona is no different. The famous La Boqueria is literally packed with various local goods and specialties. It’s been kicking about for 180 years, and hasn’t lost any popularity.
You might not need to actually pick up anything at the market, but wandering around watching the hustle and bustle is a great thing to do in Barcelona. They call it ‘The Best Market in the World,’ and it just might well be. Just try not to get ripped off if you do buy something.
- Entrance: Free
- Hours: 08:00-20:30 (Monday-Saturday)
- Address: La Rambla, 91, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
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10. Catamaran up the coast with a sangria in hand
It’d be criminal to come to Barcelona and not experience the famous beach-side atmosphere. Hop on a catamaran and cruise up the coastline to the seaside town of Badalona.
There are a few tours that do this, offering free booze and a BBQ, too. Of course, this also includes a splash and a swim in the Mediterranean and a spot of sunbathing. You can’t go wrong with this trip, that’s for sure.
This may be one of the more ‘common’ places to go in Barcelona, but it really is a must. La Sagrada Familia is an architectural masterpiece, and is Gaudi’s most famous unfinished work.
Visiting Barcelona’s most popular monument is cool, no doubt. But no one wants to spend ages standing in line. Luckily, you can make this experience way better by skipping the annoying tourist lines at the ticket counter. Don’t waste your time, book your skip-the-line tickets and get the most out of your visit.
- Entrance: €22-29
- Hours: 09:00-19:30 (Saturday-Sunday)
- Address: Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona, Spain
12. Witness the crazy castellers at work
This is an utterly crazy 200-year-old Catalan tradition, and we love it. Castells are ‘castles’ made of humans. Without the aid of cranes or anything like that, castellers climb up on top of each other to make these impressive structures.
It’s definitely one of the most interesting, if not unusual, things to do in Barcelona. It usually takes place at festas (Catalan for ‘fiesta’), usually in summer.
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13. Sit and reflect at the Plaça de Sant Felip Neri
Plaça Felip Neri is an atmospheric little square in the Gothic Quarter. The past is evident; the church is pockmarked with bombs dropped by Fascist forces on the square during the Spanish Civil War in 1938.
Today, it’s got a solemn and calmer feel to it compared to the rest of Barcelona. It’s a nice place to come and sit, especially when the buskers are around.
- Entrance: Free
- Hours: Open 24 hours
- Address: Plaça de Sant Felip Neri, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
14. Pub crawl: Barcelona style
Everyone loves a pub crawl – especially with some new mates from your hostel. So, grab everyone and get yourself on a backpacker pub crawl around Barcelona.
It’s not just El Raval that makes this city a great place to turn up when the sun goes down – Barcelona is a pretty party-friendly city. Drinking on the streets is allowed, and is a great way to end the evening (if you’re don’t end up in a club).
This one ticket will get you into six of Barcelona’s foremost cultural establishments, it’s an absolute bargain and is valid for up to three months after your first museum visit.
There’s the cool Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona; Fundació Joan Miró; Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC); Fundació Antoni Tàpies; Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA); and the Museu Picasso. If art and culture is what you’re into, then this ticket is an absolute must for your trip to Barcelona.
16. Walk down Barcelona’s famous La Rambla
EVERYBODY knows about La Rambla, but that doesn’t mean it ain’t an awesome thing to do in Barcelona. If you’re not familiar to it, Las Ramblas is a really long street – more like an outdoor mall – that splits the Gothic Quarter from lively El Raval.
There’s shops, bars, restaurants, and all sorts – it’s also extremely popular with tourists, but it’s all about the atmosphere. Be aware that its popularity makes it a prime spot for pickpockets, so make sure to keep your personal belongings safe.
17. Visit the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor
When you’re in Barcelona, you may notice an enormous building located on the hills far behind the city. It stands over and watches over Barca, much like the Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro.
That structure in the distance is called the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor. It’s located right next to the Tibidabo amusement park, which is a bit of an interesting juxtaposition. The view from this temple are some of the best you can get in Barcelona, so it’s absolutely worth the trip.
- Entrance: Free
- Hours: 09:00-13:00, 16:00-20:00 everyday
- Address: Ctra. de Vallvidrera al Tibidabo, 111, 08035 Barcelona, Spain
Flamenco is pretty Spanish, so catching a flamenco show whilst you’re in the country sounds like a normal thing to do, right? Well, you can catch one of these at Barcelona’s 19th-century City Hall Theatre. Not only is it a great place to watch flamenco, but you can also party here after the show; it’s a well-known venue for club nights!
Keep in mind: There are only three shows in the evening, so be quick to book your tickets!
You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.
19. Knock out 3 countries in one day
It may sound like a bit of a handful but you can totally accomplish this feat in the course of a day! However you may need to enlist the help of a local tour guide to expedite the process, as they’ll be able to show you the local sights and not waste any time!
You’ll obviously have to travel further out of the city, but this really is a rewarding day trip from Barcelona if you have the time. Keep an eye out for Andorra, it’s a low tax area making it one of the cheapest places to shop in Europe!
A literal dream of ours is to wander around museums before (or after) their opening times. Sort of like Night at the Museum but with less Ben Stiller and more quiet contemplation.
So how about an early-bird tour of another Gaudi masterpiece? Casa Batlló is known locally as Casa dos ossos (‘House of Bones’) because it literally looks like it is made of bones. You’ll be able to visit without tourist crowds, giving you time to really admire the artwork.
- Entrance: €25
- Hours: 09:00-21:00
- Address: Passeig de Gràcia, 43, 08007 Barcelona, Spain
21. Soak up a sundowner from Bunkers del Carmel
Follow the locals and head up to this little gem – a relic of the Spanish Civil War – around sunset. What you’ll get is a 360-degree view of the city, with a cosy atmosphere or people drinking and chatting.
We’re not exaggerating here, but the view of Barcelona is an iconic one. You can see the boulevards cut through the carpet of architecture below and the ocean in the distance, making it look like a picture-perfect model town. It’s the perfect thing to do on your last night in the city. Bring snacks, beer, and relax.
- Entrance: Free
- Hours: Open 24 hours
- Address: Carrer de Marià Labèrnia, s/n, 08032 Barcelona, Spain
22. Enjoy a round at Bar Marsella
Bar Marsella is the oldest bar in Barcelona (circa 1820) and has likewise played host to a load of big names, including Hemingway and Picasso.
Needless to say, it looks how you’d expect an absinthe bar to look inside: wood panels, gold, mirrors – it’s 100% Old World. If you fancy a hit, ask the bartender for an absenta. If you prefer your drinks with less wormwood, try local gin La Tribute and house tonic.
- Entrance: Free
- Hours: 18:00-24:00 (Tuesday), 18:00-01:00 (Thursday-Monday)
- Address: Carrer de Sant Pau, 65, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
23. Pay a visit to the Cementiri de Montjuïc
One of the most unique things to do in Barcelona is to visit the Cementiri de Montjuïc. The statues and crypts found here are extremely powerful and hauntingly detailed, and feature some incredible pieces.
Keep in mind that, for potentially obvious reasons, the cemetery isn’t a ‘tourist attraction’. It’s important to stay respectful while you’re there, and leave everything exactly how you found it.
- Entrance: Free
- Hours: 08:00-18:00
- Address: Carrer de la Mare de Déu de Port, 56, 58, 08038 Barcelona, Spain
24. Visit the anti-Sagrada – Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar
El Born also hosts another of Barcelona’s beautiful churches. The Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar is actually the preferable place of worship among Catalonians for a couple of reasons.
Santa Maria del Mar is a Gothic masterpiece – one of the most spectacular in Europe. Better yet, this church is less busy than the Sagrada (although it can still get busy at times).
- Entrance: €8.50-10
- Hours: 09:00-13:00, 17:00-20:30 (Monday-Saturday), 10:00-14:00, 17:00-20:00 (Sunday)
- Address: Plaça de Santa Maria, 1, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Where to Stay in Barcelona
Top Airbnb in Barcelona: Sagrada Familia Apartment
Airbnbs in Barcelona tend to be on the pricier side, but this apartment is an absolute steal for the price! Sleeping up to 5 guests in 3 bedrooms, the flat is spacious, bright, and central.
You’ll get a great view of the Sagrada Familia from the shared rooftop terrace, and free WiFi included in the apartment. You’ll be close to cafes, bars and restaurants, but there’s a fully equipped kitchen if you fancy staying in.
Top Hostel in Barcelona: Hostel One Paralelo
This is one of the best hostels in Barcelona, and has won a number of rewards to show for it! It’s our top pick for solo travelers as it’s a really friendly place to meet loads of new people.
The hostel also provides free dinner every night, and organises bar crawls for every day of the week.
Top Hotel in Barcelona: Musik Boutique Hotel
Musik Boutique Hotel is situated right in the center of El Born, close enough to bars and restaurants while being in a peaceful location.
The hotel is modern and chic, and there’s a stylish on-site lounge for you to relax in.
Some Additional Tips for Visiting Barcelona
- Invest in travel insurance! You never know what may happen on the road.
- Barcelona is one of Spain’s most expensive cities. An average daily spend for backpackers is $60 (including accommodation), so make sure to budget accordingly.
- Walk everywhere – it’s a great way to see the sights and save money at the same time. If you can’t, there are plenty of travel cards available.
- Bring a good water bottle with you and avoid buying single-use plastic ones!
- Be aware of pickpockets. Barcelona is a safe destination to visit, but the level of petty crime has increased significantly in recent years.
- Visit museums on Sundays. Most museums offer free entry on Sunday’s between 3 and 8pm.
- Find cheap flights. Every once in a while, a killer deal pops up.
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Backpacking Barcelona should definitely be on everyone’s bucket list, but there are always attractions that fall through the cracks. If we missed your favorite activities in Barcelona, please leave a comment in the section below!
Whether you’re visiting for two days or two weeks, there’s so much to discover in this inspiring city. We hope this guide has given you some ideas for the best things to do in Barcelona.
We’re off for an absenta or two – see ya!
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