Barcelona is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — consider printing them all. Furthermore, Barcelona is also a great city for students to study in.
Barcelona is the capital and largest city of Catalonia and Spain's second largest city, with a population of nearly one and half million people (nearly five million in the metropolitan area).
This city, located directly on the northeastern Mediterranean coast of Spain, has a rich history dating back at least 2,000 years when it gained prominence as a Roman town under its old name, Barcino.
In 1992, Barcelona gained international recognition by hosting the Olympic games which brought a massive upturn in its tourism industry.
This had the effect of changing the city in ways that are still felt today with neighbourhoods renovated (and in some cases levelled) and the intense focus of modern design permeating all aspects of life in Barcelona from public buildings to something as simple as a park bench or an event poster.
Best things to do in Barcelona
*Discover the city on foot*
Barcelona is a big city, but it's the perfect size to discover on foot. Spend a day away from the metro and the tourist bus, and take your time strolling around and stopping to recharge with some of the city's great gastronomic options. If you're in the mood for visiting some of the most impressive buildings and parks, you'll want to see all the Parc de la Ciutadella has to offer as well as the Parc de Joan Miró, and the Montjuïc castle, but there's also a Barcelona you won't find in guidebooks. Get off the beaten path and head up to Horta, get to know the charm of the Sant Andreu district, see a lesser-known side of the Eixample and take in breathtaking panoramic views.
If your legs are more up to the task than your feet, you can also see the city by bicycle. Of the numerous ones around town, we've weeded out 10 routes in the city and surrounding areas for you to discover Barcelona while you pedal, whether you're a lifelong cyclist or still wobbling about without those extra wheels in the back.
*Explore Gaudí and modernism*
Without a doubt, one of Barcelona's top attractions for tourists (as well as for those who live here) is admiring the city's modernist architecture, and the works of Antoni Gaudí in particular. Just walking around you'll come across various examples of Gaudí's work throughout the city, be they civil or religious buildings. The most famous are the Sagrada Família, impressive both outside and in; Park Güell, a space that's out of a fairy tale and emulates an English garden city; and La Pedrera. But don't miss the opportunity to visit other Gaudí buildings that sometimes occupy smaller space in guidebooks, such as Palau Güell, Casa Batlló, Casa Vicens and (if you have time to venture a bit outside Barcelona) the crypt of the Colònia Güell, in Santa Coloma de Cervelló.
*Fill up on tapas, pintxos and vermouth*
Pintxos, in essence, are Basque tapas - plates of bite-sized goodies served atop a piece of bread - and they're also a culinary trend in Barcelona. Tradition calls for you to pick at the food with toothpicks, and at the end of the night you will be charged for the number of toothpicks that you have used. One of the best places to give them a try is Euskal Etxea, where you can get stuck in to ham empanadillas (a type of pie), pintxos made of chicken tempura with saffron mayonnaise, melted provolone with mango and ham, or a mini-brochette of pork. But lest you forget, there are many more pintxos places in town as well.
*Climb up the magical Montjuïic*
Montjuïc mountain is the perfect place for a leafy stroll with great views, but it does take a bit of legwork to get up there, so it's less populated by tourists. But don't let that deter you. Aside from the natural surroundings and spectacular vistas, you'll find buildings from the 1992 Olympic Games, including the Palau Sant Jordi and the telecommunications tower designed by Santiago Calatrava. If you're feeling full of beans and you get to the top of the hill, you can check out the Olympic stadium and the Jardi Botànic. Plaça Espanya, at the foot of Montjuïc, is the most common access point to the mountain, and where you can also visit the Pavelló Mies van der Rohe and the CaixaForum cultural centre.
*Walk on the arty side*
In Barcelona, taking a walk in the park is not only a way to relax, it can also lead you to discover some great art. Get up and get out for a walk around the lush gardens of the Teatre Grec and then head over to the Fundació Joan Miró, one of the largest museums in the world and home to a collection of over 225 paintings, 150 sculptures and graphic pieces by the Spanish surrealist painter, along with a number of works by his contemporaries.
Listing all the museums and art galleries in the city would take quite a bit of time, but one of the jewels is the MNAC (Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya), with pieces that represent Catalan art from the Romanesque period to the mid-20th century.
*Get to know the city's history*
When visiting a new city, it's always good to learn a bit about its history in order to understand its architecture, its art, what makes it tick, and something of the character of its people. As an international city, Barcelona is full of diverse cultures and heritages, and with every step you take through its streets, you'll stumble upon some of its history.
*Chow down fresh seafood*
No one leaves Barcelona without sampling the seafood. The city toasts the fine and luxurious Galician restaurant Rias de Galicia in Poble-sec, as well as Cachitos in the Eixample, for their fantastic assortment of seafood. Cal Pep in the Born is known for its trifásico, a mélange of fried whitebait, squid rings and shrimps, and exquisite little tallarines (wedge clams). The Barceloneta restaurants La Mar Salada and Can Solé display a spectacular haul of fresh seafood every day, which is likely to tempt you if you're piscatorially inclined.
*Take a dip in the Mediterranean*
Barcelona has a little over four kilometres of beaches where you can spread out your towel, stab your umbrella into the sand, smear yourself with sun cream and find a very safe place for your rucksack. From the beach of Sant Sebastià, passing through Barceloneta, to the beaches of Nova Icària or Mar Bella - and each has its own selection of chiringuitos where you can get a refreshing respite from the sun (most also have a bit of nightlife later). And just a few minutes by train or a short drive in the car, you can take in other coastal towns with gorgeous beaches, part of the gift of the Mediterranean that just keeps giving.
*Sip a cocktail on a terrace*
The best place to kick back and enjoy a cold beer in Barcelona is one of the many outdoor bars and cafés in the city's terraces. Bar Colombo is a little tapas bar with a sunny terrace overlooking the port, while the Australian-run Bar Kasparo offers outdoor seating beneath shady arcades overlooking a playground for children. Another option is Bar Calders, a friendly hole-in-the-wall with a terrace. There are also a number of bustling cafés with terraces along La Rambla, such as Quim de la Boqueria. And don't worry, the terraces aren't just for summer; they're open all year round.
*Wander through the neighbourhoods*
Many visitors tend to spend their days in Barcelona visiting the most central areas (the Born, the Barri Gòtic and the Eixample), but the city is so much more. Gràcia (voted best neighbourhood by the city's residents) is full of life at all hours of the day, and among its little streets you'll be able to scratch that consumer itch in its many quality shops. Sarrià, while more on the posh side, still has the charm of the small town it once was; and Montjuïc is full of parks and gardens to take a nature break away from the crowds and stroll or have a picnic. But these days, Poble-sec and Sant Antoni are definitely the places to be, especially for their top cuisine and quality entertainment.