Important sights in Barcelona, Art Nouveau in Eixample, Barcelona

The 12 best sights in Barcelona

A list of the very best sights & monuments in Barcelona

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Barcelona, Spain
Kasper Christiansen
Text & photos: Kasper Christiansen
November 18th, 2020 (revised version)

Barcelona has a wide variety of sights, museums and shops. By nature, the city has been blessed with mountains & sea. Combine this with more than 9.000 restaurants, food markets and wine bars, Antoni Gaudí's dazzling architecture, moderne design and a historic, medieval core and you have almost endless posibilities of things to do in Barcelona.

If you are in Barcelona for a week, you need to be busy in order to experience just a small part of what the city offers.

"Barcelona has a wide variety of museums, monuments & gardens for the visitor"

Below, you will find our suggestions for 12 things to see and experince in Barcelona. If you want to read about things to experience outside Barcelona, you can read our article about sights and monuments outside Barcelona.

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If you have time to travel outside Barcelona, read our article about 10 things to do outside Barcelona
Casa Batlló - one of Gaudís most impressive buildings
Stairs - the famous staircases in Sagrada Familia

1

Sagrada Familia

The most famous - and by far the most visited - monument in Barcelona. The gigantic church that measures more than 110 meters will be much taller when completed: it will end at 172,5 meters. However, a little more patience will be needed, since because of Covid-19, the church will not be finished in 2026 as planned. The numbers of visitors to Sagrada Famili plunged in 2020 because of the pandemic, and the budget to be used on construction was lowered from 55 million € to 17 million €.

Even though Sagrada Familia is still unfinished, the church is allready an amazing experience and the most visited sight in Spain. We recommend to buy a ticket for the towers, allowing you to get to the top of the city and enjoy the amazing views of Barcelona. Also, it means that you can enjoy walking the beautiful snail-shell-starcase designed by Gaudí (see the picture above).

Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia - views of the Nativity Facade

2

The MNAC Museum

The MNAC Museum on the Montjuïc Hill in Barcelona has a stunning collection of local art. If you add the amazing views from the Museum's terrace, the beautiful surroundings and a nice restaurant, MNAC makes it to the top of our recommendations for things to see in Barcelona.

The museum focuses on local, Catalan Art, but also has international art. The best collections of the museum are the Romanesque and Gothic Art Collections, the Art Noveau (called modernisme in Catalan) collection and the Thyssen-Bornamisza collection.

When you visit the MNAC Museum, we recommend to combine it with a walk to some of the other sights on the Montjuïc Hill: Jardins Joan Maragall, the Miró Museum, the Botanical Garden or simly a stroll on the hill.

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Read our article about Romanesque Art in Barcelona
MNAC on hill Montjuic hill
The MNAC Museum - views for the fountains in front of the museum

3

Santa María del Mar

Santa Maria del mar may be the most beautiful church in Barcelona. The medieval basilica was built beteween 1329 and 1383, a short time span for the period. The stones made to built the church come from the quarries on the Montjuïc hill and were carried by the bastaix to the building location.

Get a hold on Ildefonso Falcones' novel, Cahedral of the Sea, before your visit Santa María del Mar. The novel tells the story of the creation of the church. Falcones' novel explains about the enormous changes in Barcelona during the 14th century and the wars with Italians and Turks. It also tells how commerce makes the city of Barcelona richer and how new knowledge and techniques within the field of architecture makes it possible to create 'miracles'.

The statue of Santa María in Santa María del Mar
Santa María del Mar - here the statue of Santa María inside the basicila

4

Modern Architecture in Barcelona

Barcelona can boast of architecture by no less than 9 pritzker (also known as the Nobel Prize of Architecture) winners. Among them, Richard Rogers, Norman Foster and Frank Gehry. This means that there are many interesting monuments to discover in Barcelona for the architecture lover.

The modernist tradition began in Barcelona as early as 1929. This year, the city hosted the World Exposition and the German Pavilion was designed by the German architect Mies van der Rohe. This pivotal work of Architecture is a Bauhaus design that even today look top modern.

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Read our article about Barcelona's modern architecture. In the article you can read about works by Calatrava, Foster, Rogers and others.
Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion
The Barcelona Pavilion - designed by German architect Mies van der Rohe

5

The Picasso Museum & the Born neighbourhood

The Picasso Museum is located in the cozy Born-neighbourhood. The Born Quarter was built during the expansion in the 14th Century. Many families had earned a fortune through commerce in the Mediterranean area and they spent their money on impressive palaces in the city's new neighbourhood. Today, the Picasso Museum occupies 5 former medieval palaces in the Montcada street.

Picasso lived in Barcelona during a crucial period in his life. Born in 1881 in Malaga, the family had lived in La Caruña in Northern Spain but they moved to Barcelona after the death of Pablo Picasso's sister Conchita in 1895. Picasso stayed around 9 years in Barcelona before leaving for Paris.

The Picasso Museum in Barcelona presents several of the artist's early masterpieces, among them Ciencia y Caridad (1895) that shows that the young arts had turned towards religious themes.

The Born Quarter in Barcelona
The Born Neighbourhood

6

The cathedral

The cathedral of Barcelona is a beautiful gothic church. On the site there was a Roman temple before, but construction of the church we see today was begun in 1298 and completed in 1448. The neogothic facade, however, is of a much newer date, constructed at the end of the 19th century.

If you pay the entrance of 5 € you will be able to see the cloister and the beautiful art works made over centuries. The basilica is named after the Patron Saint of Barcelona, Santa Eulalia, whose remains are found in the cellar of the church. According to myth, Santa Eulalia was crucified by the Romans in 304 AC during the reign of the Emperor Diecletian. Diocletian ordered the last persecutions of Christians, and it was his successor, Constantine the Great, who declared christianity an official religion in the Roman Empire.

In the cloister there are 13 white geese that honour Santa Eulalia, who was only 13 years old when she died a martyr.
The cathedral of Barcelona - Santa Eulalia and the Holy Cross
The cathedral of Barcelona - the full name of the church is the catehdral of the Holy Cross and Santa Eulalia

7

Bunkers del Carmel viewpoint

Bunkers del Carmel is a popular viewpoint on the Carmel neighbourhood in Barcelona. On top of the hill called Turó de la Rovira, there are amazing views of the city from a height of more than 250 meters. The site was originally used during the Spanish Civil War for anti-aircraft warfare, but today the weapons have been replaced with sun creme, beer and cameras.

From the Bunkers del Carmen you will enjoy panoramic views of the eastern part of Barcelona, including the Eixample-neighbourhood with Sagrada Familia, the Montjuïc-hill, the Olympic Port, Barceloneta and the Gothic Quarter.

Views of Barcelona from Bunkers del Carmel
Amazing views of Barcelona - the city of Barcelona seen from the Bunkers del Carmel

8

The Ramblas & surroundings

The Ramblas in Barcelona is world known. The Ramblas and its inmediate surroundings offer so many things to the visitor, that you can use several days to explore the area.

The Ramblas was the limit of the city during the Midlle Ages, as a tall city wall went along with a small river (rami in arab means riverbed) protecting the city. As time passed by and the city grew, the Rambla was turned into a pedistrian street dividing the old city centre in two parts.

Today, there are almost endless possibilities on or nearby the Ramblas: on the Ramblas you find the wolrd famous food market Boquería and the world known Liceu Opera. A Stone's throw from the Ramblas you find Palau Güell, one of Antoni Gaudí's early works. Not far from here the romanesque church Sant Pau is located. On the other side of the Ramblas you will find the charming Barri Gòtic (the Gothic Quarter) with medieval buildings with Roman ruins and even a chocolate museum.

When you have finished sightseeing, remember to visit one of the many excellent tapas bars in the area around the nearby cathedral or Santa María del Mar.

Palau Güell, wrought iron facade
Palau Güell - wrought iron on the facade of Palau Güell, literally a stone's throw from the Ramblas in Barcelona

9

Barcelona's beaches

Barcelona has a long coastline with several excellent beaches. The beach in Barcelona has won prices as one of Europe’s best city beaches. The closest to the city centre, the Barceloneta beach, is located only 15-20 minutes' walk from the Ramblas, so the city makes it possible to combine sightseeing and relaxation at the beach.

Nearby the beach you will find many restaurants with sea views. Many of them exploit their location and put up the prices, but if you come to Barcelona with a group we can help you booking a quality restaurant with sea views.

The Barceloneta Beach in Barcelona
The Barceloneta Beach - Barcelona's most popular beach

10

Park Güell

Park Güell was designed by Antoni Gaudí and built between 1900 and 1914. The park was meant as a luxury housing project for the richest citizens in the city, but in midst of the building project came an economic crisis and the park was never finished.

Today, the park is museum and one of the most popular sights in Barcelona. Entrances must be bought online in order to enjoy the so-called Monumental Area, that includes the famous bench with coloured tiles and the two houses designed by Antoni Gaudí.

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Read our article about Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell - one of Gaudí's mesmerizing designs

11

The Botanical Garden

Barcelona's Botanical Garden (Jardí Botànic) is one of Spain's very best gardens. The garden displays an enormous collection of mediterranean plants from around the world. In other words, the garden only has plants and communities from areas of the world with Mediterranean climates, such as Australia, South Africa, Chile, California, the Canary Island and - of course - the Mediterranean area itself.

The garden takes up 14 hectares on the Montjuïc Hill and was finished in 1999. Besides the plants, trees and flowers, the gardens offers beatifully landscape design made by  local architect Carles Ferrater. Also, the gardens allows fabolous views of Barcelona from the upper levels.

The Botanical Garden of Barcelona, Jardi Botànic
The Botanical Garden of Barcelona (Jardí Botanic)

12

Palauet Albéñiz & Jardins de Joan Maragall

Montjuïc has a lot to offer but only few people get to visit the beautiful gardens of Joan Maragall and the Albéñiz Palace when they come to Barcelona. The park is only open on Sundays, but there is no entrance and from the staircases in front of the Palace Albéñiz you can enjoy some of the very best viewpoints in the city.

The Palauet Albéñiz was built in neoclassic style for the World Exhibition in Barcelona in 1929. The palace was meant as the official residence for the Spanish King Alfonso XIII and his family and was designed by the Spanish architect Juan Moya, who was inspired by other royal residences like the Royal Palace in La Granja de San Ildefonso in Northern Spain.

Gardens of Joan Maragall
The gardens of the Garden og Joan Maragall, in front of the Albéniz Palace.
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