Barcelona has a vibe like no other place in the world. This cosmopolitan city is famous for its tapas and wine bars, art and architecture, and more than 2,000 years of history. Most first-timers to the city have a hefty must-see list that includes flamenco dancing, beaches, Montserrat, medieval Barri Gòtic, Modernist architecture by Gaudí, and museums dedicated to Picasso and Dalí. And that’s to say nothing of the thrills found at Camp Nou, home to FC Barcelona. With so much to see and do in and around Spain’s most-visited city, it’s hard to know where to start. That’s why we put together this list of the best tours and attractions in Barcelona right now.
With its numerous spires rising abruptly over Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia, the still-unfinished Roman Catholic basilica designed by Antoni Gaudí, is a must-see. With this half- or full-day sightseeing tour, you’ll get to skip the line and have access to an expert guide, along with other Barcelona highlights. The tour starts with a drive to Montjuïc hill — the site of the 1992 Olympic Games. Views of the city from here are great, and you’ll also stop by the Catalunya National Art Museum. Then, gawk at two of Antoni Gaudí’s most impressive architectural creations as you travel down Passeig de Gracia, passing La Pedrera and Casa Batlló. After touring La Sagrada Familia, you’ll stroll through Barcelona’s medieval Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter), finishing at a 2,000-year-old Roman temple. Note: Only the full-day tour includes entry to Park Güell and La Pedrera.
Whether you call it soccer or futbol, FC Barcelona’s history is a huge part of the city. That’s why a visit to Camp Nou stadium — Europe’s largest football pitch — is a must. Equipped with a tablet and earpiece, you can move at your own pace through the changing room, presidential box, and press room, then head to the FC Barcelona Museum, which houses the club’s extensive trophy collection and other exhibits (including one dedicated Leo Messi). You’ll even get a chance to walk on the grass for 360-degree views of the stadium from the perspective of a footballer. How long you spend here is up to you, but most find one to two hours hours to be sufficient. Previous guests have said that even non-football fans were impressed with the stadium and energy of the club. However, if you want tickets to an actual match, those aren’t included in this tour.
This guided walking tour explores Catalan modernism, an influential architectural movement pioneered by Antoni Gaudí and other architects in the late the 19th century. Expect to check out the Eixample district’s gems, including two of Gaudí’s most famous projects — Casa Batlló and La Pedrera — as well as the elegant Golden Square area. Previous guests reported that this tour is a great value and having a knowledgable guide to navigate these busy areas helped them see small details they would have otherwise missed. However, note that this tour does not stop at Sagrada Familia or Park Güell. It only includes discounted admission to Casa Batlló and Palau de la Música Catalana.
If a peaceful sunrise flight over Catalonia sounds like an exhilarating experience, this excursion is for you. This hot-air balloon ride for up to eight people provides panoramic views of the Pyrenees, Mediterranean, Montserrat, and — depending on visibility — even Barcelona itself. The experience includes an early pick-up in central Barcelona and a drive into the countryside. From there, it’s 3,000 feet (approximately 914 meters) straight up in the air, floating gently on the wind as you experience fantastic vistas. The early morning flight time ensures optimal conditions, as the temperatures tend to be cooler and the sunrise lighting guarantees amazing views. Upon completion, you’ll head back down to terra firma for brunch and a celebratory glass of bubbly. The 60- to 90-minute flights score rave reviews for their welcoming staff and amazing views.
With this relaxed four-hour ride, you’ll experience a slice of Barcelona’s history and architectural majesty like a local. Guides will lead you past all of the city’s significant monuments, like the Barcelona Cathedral, Sagrada Familia, Placa del Rei, with plenty of time to snap pics at each stop (though the tour doesn’t include entry to attractions like Sagrada Familia). Take your pick between a morning or afternoon tour, with bikes, helmets, and a guide all provided (as well as a quick rundown of bike safety in the city). The distance between each stop is short and the ride moves at a relaxed pace, so you won’t feel exhausted. You’ll also stop at La Barceloneta, the city’s main beach, for a chance to socialize with your fellow riders while enjoying the Mediterranean coast. Bring a bathing suit if you want to take a dip!
For a scenic and cultural adventure outside of the city, a visit to the Royal Basilica and Monastery of Montserrat is a solid choice. To get there, you’ll meet your guide in Barcelona and travel on an air-conditioned coach to the mountainside Benedictine abbey, one of Spain’s most popular pilgrimage sites for its revered Black Madonna statue. Once you’ve reached the Royal Basilica and Monastery of Montserrat, there will be plenty of free time to explore, making this one of the most flexible Montserrat tours available. You can also walk through the audiovisual museum to learn about the daily life of the monks, and finish at the gift shop to taste liquors made at the monastery. After roughly two-and-a-half hours of exploring independently, you’ll return to Barcelona by coach (it’s about five-and-a-half hours altogether, including travel time). Another great option including a popular wine region is the Montserrat and Cava Trail tour.
Eating tapas is one of the best things you can do in Barcelona. Not only is it delicious, but it’s also a great way to connect with locals. This foodie tour offers a chance to indulge in these Spanish-style small dishes while experiencing a less-touristy side of the city. You’ll spend three hours with an in-the-know guide who takes you to vibrant tapas bars and bodegas in cool neighborhoods like El Raval and El Poble-Sec. First, you’ll meet up at a metro station, then navigate your way through a series of stops while tasting traditional dishes (often paired with wine). All groups are capped at 12 people, so it stays fairly intimate as well. Your guide will have insights into local gastronomic specialties and anecdotes about the city’s neighborhood life; you’re also likely to meet some of the local characters along the way. Previous guests picked up local recommendations on this tour to use for the remainder of their trip.
Gaudí isn’t the only famous artist associated with Catalonia and Barcelona. This tour, which hits up at least four Salvador Dalí-related sites in one day, gives folks a major dose of the famous 20th-century surrealist. Guides share tales of Dalí’s life while cruising past the countryside and villages outside of Barcelona. The first stop is Figueres to see the house where Dalí was born in 1904. Next is the Salvador Dalí Museum, which is home to everything from Dalí’s early experiments with cubism to later surrealist works such as the “Galatea of the Spheres” to the famed Mae West Room installation. After exploring the museum, reconvene with your guide and continue the tour along Dalí’s beloved Costa Brava (you’ll visit Port Lligat in the winter and Púbol in the summer). Numbers are limited for a more personalized experience.
Visiting Spain without seeing a flamenco show would be a crime, particularly as artists like Rosalía bring the musical style to a more contemporary audience. Even though it originated in Andalusia, Barcelona is still a great place to experience this important side of Spanish culture. This two-hour performance at the city’s legendary Tablao Cordobes — one of Spain’s most famous flamenco venues — features internationally-renowned flamenco dancers, plus the option to order sangria or traditional Spanish food while watching the show. When the performance concludes, feel free to sit and relax with your drink before leaving the venue. Tip: Flamenco is an intricate art and some previous guests reported that they couldn’t see the dancers’ feet, so it’s best to get a table up front.
While you can pick and choose from the above experiences, Barcelona also offers a chance to craft your own visit by opting for this tourist card. Valid for either 72, 96, or 120 hours, the card includes free unlimited use of the metro and buses plus free trips to and from Barcelona Airport Terminal 2 (transfer between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 to take advantage of this service). Simply collect your card at the Barcelona airport and use the public transport options to reach the city center. From here, do as little or as much sightseeing as you wish while gaining free entry to sites like the National Art Museum of Catalonia, Fundació Joan Miró, the Picasso Museum, and MACBA (the city’s amazing contemporary art museum). Discounts to La Sagrada Familia and Casa Batlló are available. Your card also comes with a free city map and guidebook loaded with useful information for your trip.
Being centrally located in Barcelona is well worth the investment, and the Mercer Hotel Barcelona has a prime location right in the atmospheric Barri Gòtic. That puts everything from Las Ramblas and Placa de Catalunya to the beach, metro, and the Eixample district within easy walking distance. The rooms here feel intimate and trendy, with cool past-meets-present design details that make them an oasis in an otherwise busy part of town. You’ll also score a rooftop plunge pool and great tapas with a stay here. Overall, it’s a great spot to recharge after a day spent exploring the Gothic Quarter and the rest of Barcelona’s must-see attractions.
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