If it's your first time in Barcelona you're probably a bit lost. Like every big city in Europe, the Catalan capital has a lot of attractions, places to visit, and crazy things to experience (you don't even imagine..)
Of course, if you're an Erasmus student or just moved to the city, you've got plenty of time.
Before telling you about the our curated list of the very best things to do in our sunny city, I would like to mention that this article will focus on a "classical sight seeing tour" of Barcelona. Our small group of promoters and friends will soon write another one for those less interested in this kind of trip and more interested in the "local" side of Barcelona. (Trust us, you will like the local stuff as much as the classic one ;)
I would also like to highlight that Barcelona streets and districts are so charming that many people stay walking through the typical little narrows and visiting different bars. We recommend you at least spend one day walking around, getting lost in the different neighbourhoods and eating tapas, without plans. That might very well be the best way to enjoy the city.
But let's start with our list. This stuff, you just can not miss:
1° Sagrada Familia
The queen of Barcelona. For sure you have heard at least once about Sagrada Familia (The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família), the main tourist attraction of Barcelona and in my opinion the most beautiful church in the world. As impressive inside as it is from outside, this large Roman Catholic church is visited by thousands of tourists every day. You should definitely take the online tickets if you wish to go inside (which you should, it's really worth it) without waiting for hours.
Sagrada Familia was designed by the famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and it's considered one of the best expressions of Gothic art. Its construction began in 1882 but it hasn't been finished because its progress was very intermittent (the Civil World War especially delayed it), so you will see a lot of people working on it. It is due to be finished by 2026.
The best way to get there is by taking the metro to Sagrada Familia (on the violet line). When you go out of the underground you will see the church and you will need just walk 100 metres. Be careful with restaurants and bars around it because they're really expensive.
2° The Park Güell
Also designed by Antoni Gaudí, the Park Güell (Parc Güell in Catalan) is a public park located on Carmel Hill and probably one of the most magnificent places you will ever visit in your life. Authentic, original and unique are just a few words that come to mind when we go through the hard work of describing it.
Gaudi found its inspiration in organic shapes and the park structure is a maginificent display of his creativity and imagination. The park is absolutely different to anything that you have seen (or been) before. A visit could take you between 2 and 3 hours. Don't forget taking a camera and some water or sodas in the summer (it gets really hot).
It was built between 1900 and 1914 and was imagined as a grouping of luxury houses with maximum comfort, but it was commercially unsuccessful, so in 1926 it was opened as a public park. In 1984 it got declared a world heritage site by Unesco.
As Sagrada Familia, Park Guell is crowded by tourists, especially in high summer season (June and July), so we recommend you also buy on-line tickets. The negative aspect is that the best way to go is taking a bus (the metro station is quite a long walk from it), but it isn't a reason to miss it. It's definitely a must go in Barcelona.
3° The Montjuic Castle
Built on top of Montjuic Hill, this castle is and old military fortress (its core fortification dates from 1640), and maybe one of the least famous attractions that we suggest. It isn't just a nice place with beautiful views of Barcelona, it's a place inhabited of history: it was used for Catalans rebels versus Spain's army, it was conquered by Napoleon and then used for Spanish Army as prison a torture center for more than three centuries. Currently the City Council started a project of restoration.
The castle is a bit far from the center of Barcelona and is quite easy to access and there are different ways to it: by the Montjuïc cable car, the Montjuïc funicular or with the Barcelona Metro at Paral·lel station.
4° Cathedral of Saint Eulalia or Barcelona Cathedral
Do not confuse with Sagrada Familia! Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia was constructed from the 13th to 15th centuries (except its neo-gothic facade that was built on 19th century). It's located near the famous street Via Laietana, which divides Gothic from Born district. It was built in honor to Eulalia of Barcelona (co-patron saint), a young virgin who suffered martyrdom during Roman times in the city. Her body is entombed in the cathedral's crypt.
5° Camp Nou (FC Barcelona Stadium)
Especially for football fans, Camp Nou (or New Field in English) is a football stadium which has been the home of FC Barcelona since 1957. It's the biggest stadium in Spain and Europe with a seating capacity of around 100.000. It hosted lots of very important events, including a FIFA World Cup semi-final and major concerts (U2, Michael Jackson, Sting, Luciano Pavarotti and more..)
It is a "must go" for every sport fan. FC Barcelona is one of the most important football teams in the world, so if you're a fan then don't lose the opportunity. Tickets could be a bit expensive, especially for big games (classico or UEFA Champions League ones), and the prices start at 80€.
6° Santa María del Mar Church
Santa Maria is an imposing church located in Born (Ribera district). It was built between 1329 and 1383 and designed by Berenguer de Montagut. The people who lived on the district built it themselves, carrying big stones from Montjuic Hills and the beach to the church (there's a Catalan best-seller called "La Catedral del Mar" which tells this story. Amazing book by the way).
You can go in for free and enjoy it. Even if you're not catholic we recommend you visit it. The church is really amazing (specially the interior), entrance is free and is in the center of Barcelona, so is a great option that shouldn't take you more than 1 hour.
7° Maremagnum Commercial Hall
Maremagnum is an imposing commercial hall located in Puerto Viejo, like ten minutes walk from Barceloneta's beach. It offers the most famous international brands (Zara, Mango, Desigual, Lacoste and more...) and luxury restaurants, it opens every day of the year and is visited for more than 10 million people every year, most of them tourists.
It could be a bit expensive, especially for drinking cocktails, having dinner or having lunch, but in the other hand it's a great experience, mainly thanks to its great views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea. It's definitely a perfect option for a romantic date.
8° National Art Museum of Catalonia
The Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, also known as MNAC is situated on Montjuic hill, at the end of "Reina Maria Cristina" Avenue, near "Plaza Espanya". The museum is noteworthy for its collections of Romanesque paintings and Catalan art and design. It's housed in the impressive Palau Nacional, a huge building and one of the most beautiful of Barcelona. It dates back from 1929.
It's closed only on Mondays, opening every day from 10:00 to 19:00, except on Sundays when close at 14:30. It costs 10€ but there is a 30% discount for students and it's free for teenagers younger than 16 and seniors older than 65.
9° Casa Milá
Casa Milà, popularly known as La Pedrera, is a modernist building designed by Antoni Gaudi between the years 1906 and 1910. It was very controversial at the time because of its facade (ondulating stone), which was very innovative. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984.
It opens every day from 9:00 to 18:00 and tickets cost 27€. Even though it's a bit expensive, it's really worth it, so we recommend you to make a visit and then walk around Passeig de Gracia.
10° Walk in Born, Raval and Gothic
As I mentioned in the article's introduction, getting lost in Barcelona's narrow streets is an amazing experience that no one visiting the city should miss. As you will see, every neighborhood has its owns particularities and all of them are full of life.
Walk on the streets, take pictures, talk with people, have a beer or a sangria and enjoy Barcelona. Spend at least one day walking around. Barcelona isn't as big as it seems. You can visit the three main districts in less than a day.
And for the night, there is NightsApp ;)