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The 20 Best Things to Do in Barcelona for First Timers

Barcelona is the cosmopolitan capital of the Catalonia region of Spain, and it is best known for its museums, art, and architecture. There are so many attractions and activities in this city that you may find planning your vacation itinerary tricky, especially if you have never visited this part of the world before. It is important that you know the best places to visit before embarking on your journey so that you can make sure you have the best experience possible in this amazing city. To help you decide what to do during your stay, the following are the 20 best things to do in Barcelona for first-timers.

20. Have Fun on the Beaches

The Crazy Tourist says that you should take time out of your city sightseeing schedule to have some fun on the beach. Barcelona has a stunning coastline with some pretty beaches. They are the ideal places to relax, take a stroll, have fun with the kids, or try out some of the watersports on offer. Along the beaches, there are also stalls, bars, cafes, and restaurants, so you can always enjoy a drink or grab a bite to eat while you are there. Spending time at the beach is a great option if the weather is good and you have a limited budget for your vacation. It is also a good option if you are traveling with children, as the beach is a great place to keep them entertained.

19. Visit the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar

Other than the La Sagrada Familia, one of the best religious buildings to visit is the Basilica de Santa del Mar. This is located at the southwestern end of Passeig del Born, and it is a spectacular sight. Built in the 14th century, this is one of the finest examples of Catalan Gothic architecture in the city. Take the time to step inside to appreciate the features of the interior. However, it is important to show respect as this structure is still a place of Christian worship.

18. Tour the MACBA

The MACBA is a contemporary art center that was designed by Richard Meier and first opened to the public in 1995. There is a permanent collection of contemporary art on the ground floor, while the upper space is reserved for temporary and rotating art exhibitions, says Lonely Planet. Not only is this an interesting attraction for art lovers, but it is also a good activity to save for a rainy day.

17. Watch a Concert at Palau de la Música Catalana

Music lovers should consider a trip to the Palau de la Música Catalana. There are multiple musical performances held here every year, along with a variety of festivals and events. Therefore, you should check out what’s on before visiting the city to avoid disappointment. Although most people visit this attraction to enjoy a musical performance, it is also an interesting place to visit for those who are interested in architecture. It was built by Domenech i Montaner between 1905 and 1908. The features include tiles, bricks, stained glass, and sculpted stone.

16. Walk Down La Rambla

La Rambla is the most famous street in Barcelona, so you should make sure you save time for a visit. It is an attractive street that is lined with trees and features interesting architecture. It is where you will find many attractions, including landmarks, theaters, and cultural centers. There are also shops, bars, and restaurants along this street, so it attracts tourists and locals alike. It is a good place to visit for a spot of general sightseeing, to enjoy some retail therapy or to grab a bite to eat between activities.

15. Spend Time at the Museu d’Història de Barcelona

The Barcelona Museum of History is one of the most fascinating museums in Barcelona, says Lonely Planet. It is a great place to visit for anyone who wants to learn more about this historic city’s past. The exhibitions go right back to when the city was founded, so you will get a full historical experience. Some of this museum is outdoors, and you can walk through the ruins of the old streets, which include ruins of houses, laundries, wine-making facilities, and sewers. It is a fascinating step back time that offers a different experience to any other museum in the city.

14. Go to the Fundació Joan Miró

Although Picasso is probably the most famous artist from Spain, Joan Miro is also famous, and he was born in Barcelona. Therefore, it is little wonder that there is a tribute to the artist in the city. Miro bequeathed the artwork in the collection to the city back in 1971. The museum is housed in a building that was designed by architect Josep Luis Sert, who was a close friend of Miro’s. This is a fascinating place to visit for art lovers, especially those who are fans of Miro’s work or those who admire 20th-century art.

13. Museu Maritim

Barcelona has a rich maritime history, and this is the best place to learn about this. There are some interesting exhibitions relating to the maritime past of the city. A highlight of the visit is seeing the full-scale replica of the 17th-century vessel sailed by Don Juan of Austria. This is an attraction that has something to interest people of all ages due to the diversity of the displays.

12. See an Opera at the Gran Teatre del Liceu

If you are looking for an evening entertainment option during your stay in Barcelona, you should consider watching a performance at the Gran Teatro del Liceu. This venue is a stunning building that hosts a jam-packed schedule of performances throughout the year. Most of these are operatic shows, although there are some other types of performances held at this stunning theater. If you want to watch an opera while you are in Barcelona, it is imperative that you book in advance.

11. Watch a Game at Camp Nou

Residents in Barcelona are passionate about sport, especially soccer. Camp Nou is the home ground of FC Barcelona, one of the most successful soccer teams in the world. If there is a game on while you are there, you should try to get tickets for the match This is something that it is best to check before embarking on your trip to Barcelona. Pay a little extra, and you will get the chance to take a tour of the players-only parts of the stadium. There is also an interesting museum at the stadium that is devoted to the history of soccer in Spain, especially in Barcelona.

10. Learn About Jewish History in El Call

The Gothic Quarter in Barcelona is rich in Jewish history. The streets of this area will give you a greater appreciation of the experiences of Jewish people at various points in Spain’s history. There are many preserved buildings that are interesting to see, such as the temple of Augustus and the Funeral Way. You will also see Placa del Rei, which demonstrates Barcelona’s detailed history. In this area, you can visit the MUHBA El Call, which is a museum that focuses on Jewish culture. Some of the artifacts on display include gravestones and lamps.

9. Walk Through the Umbracle

Time Out recommends taking a stroll through the Umbracle. This is an iron structure that was designed by Josep Fontsere. It was built in the 19th century and now has protected status from the Catalan Department of Culture. In the past, this was used as a party space, but it is now a conservatory that is home to plant species from almost two dozen pieces.

8. Browse the Markets

A great way to absorb yourself in the Catalan lifestyle during your visit is to browse the market. You can sample the local produce and buy some interesting souvenirs as gifts or commemorate your visit. The best market to visit is the Boqueria Market, which is the most famous municipal market in Barcelona. At this market, there are many food stalls where you can try some of the local cuisines.

7. Ride a Funicular

Barcelona is known for its beaches, and tourists often forget about the spectacular mountain, including Tibidabo, Collserola, and Montjuic. These are a magnificent sight, and something that you should not miss. While it is possible to partially climb these on foot, the easiest way to see the mountains is to ride a funicular. From the comfort and safety of your position in the funicular, you can enjoy some of the most impressive views you have ever seen across the mountains and the city.

6. Eat Catalan Cuisine

When visiting new places, it is always a good idea to try the local cuisine as this absorbs you into the culture of the location. Many people do not realize that although Catalan cuisine shares some similarities with other Spanish food, it is a cuisine in its own right with many flavorsome and distinctive dishes. Some of the best restaurants in Barcelona for sampling Catalan cuisine include Casa Agusti and Ca l’Estevet.

5. Visit Casa Mila

Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera, was designed by Gaudi, and it was originally intended as an apartment block. However, it is now one of the most important tourist attractions in Barcelona. It is divided into sections that have different functions, including a cultural center that hosts art exhibitions and performances throughout the year. Unusually, there is also a section that remains residential. If you take a tour of the building, you will see an example of what the apartments looked like originally when the building was first erected.

4. Relax in Park Güell

One of the most beautiful spots in Barcelona, this park was designed by the architect Gaudi. It is all about getting back to nature and enjoying the stunning surroundings. Although this was once a free attraction, there is now a fee to enter. The fee was put in place to limit visitor numbers to preserve the park. There are many interesting design features in this park, and there are impressive views across the city from the highest point.

3. Go to the MNAC

The national art museum of Catalonia, the MNAC is the top attraction in Barcelona for art enthusiasts. The art collection housed at this museum includes pieces from the 12th century right through to the 20th century. For most visitors, the highlight of the visit is the Romanesque collection. Included in this collection is Europe’s largest and oldest collection of paintings on wood. There is also a modern art floor that features paintings, photography, sculpture, posters, and decorative arts up to the 1950s.

2. Admire the Art at Picasso Museum

Pablo Picasso is probably one of the most famous Spanish artists of all-time. Open since 1963, the Picasso Museum houses almost 4,000 pieces by the artist. IT is a chance to see some of his earliest work from while he was a student, and then see how his work progressed over the years. The works are divided into different exhibitions according to their subject or the period in which they were completed.

1. Wonder at La Sagrada Familia

According to Time Out, Basilica de la Sagrada Familia is the best thing to do in Barcelona for first-timers. It is the most iconic structure in this city, and it was designed by architect Antoni Gaudi. Building this magnificent cathedral took 140 years, so it is possibly one of the most impressive sights you will see anywhere in the world. You can admire the stained-glass window designs, the intricate facades, the sculptures, and the interior works of art.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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