We came back to visit Barcelona for a second time in 2018. There has been so many great airfare deals to Barcelona, I’ve seen some as low as $200 range. As always, we only used our points earned with our cards, and zero out of pocket costs. Here’s how we did it (click here).
We mixed it up with a quick visit to Amsterdam, and added few day trips to get out of the hustle and bustle of Barcelona. But we still made sure to revisit the classics that are known in Barcelona. If I were to suggest to someone visiting Barcelona for the very first time, these are the sites that should be on your must-visit list.
As a bonus, I’ve also added 4 of my favorite easy day trips outside of Barcelona, so easy that you can get out of the city in the morning and be back in time for dinner. Let’s start with my 9 Barcelona Essentials.
1. Basilica de La Sagrada Familia
It’s hard not to think of Barcelona without visiting La Sagrada Familia. In fact, if you were visiting for the first time, I’d say it’s a must that you visit this historical piece. The church construction which was started over 100 years ago is finally nearing its completion. It’s a Gaudi masterpiece. It’s so hard to describe it with all of its intricate details, and on this second visit, we were just as enamored as we were when we visited it for the first time back in 2016.
You will need tickets to visit this church. I suggest getting tickets towards the end of the day. Lesser crowd, and you get to appreciate it more. Click here to find out how to get tickets.
There are a couple of places I imagine when I think of congestion and crowd. One is Times Square in New York City, and a famous street crossing in Japan- Shibuya Crossing. However, I was proven wrong when I set foot on La Rambla. I was shocked to see the throngs that were walking about this area. Yes, there were many stores and restaurants, but it was the people that fascinated me most. It was a sight to see. Walking up and down La Rambla also gets you to another famous local attraction, La Boqueria Market.
3. La Boqueria Mercat
If there was one word to describe this market it would be colorful. As you enter La Boqueria Market, you’ll see lots of fruit stands, foodie stalls, spice shops, meat vendors, and so much more. It was every bit of color as you could imagine. Make sure to check the schedule. Last I checked, the market was only open from Monday thru Saturday from 8am-8:30pm. Click here for more info.
Want a good deal when it comes to food? Try to go an hour or two before the market closes. Some of the drinks or food items go on sale, consider it your happy hour.
I do caution you to be very careful with your belongings. We did witness someone run away with someone else’s backpack in broad daylight during our visit in 2016. But, this does not mean that you should skip this market. No, go visit.
4. Casa Batlló and La Pedrera Buildings
It’s hard not to miss the Gaudí Buildings on Passeig de Gràcia in the City Centre. You can go inside, or simply admire them from the outside. Casa Batllo has been described as “pastel coloured mosaic front, mask-like balconies and a roof in the shape of a dragon’s tail.” La Pedrera has more of a reserved presence. You can go inside, or simply admire them from the outside – just follow the curves and colors.
5. Park Güell
How does one describe Park Güell? I mean, how does one NOT describe this place? According to Barcelona Tourist Guide:
The park contains amazing stone structures (see below), stunning tiling and fascinating buildings. You can see from this picture the Gaudí dragon fountain that is at the entrance to Güell Park. This dragon is adorned in beautiful coloured tiling and there is something rather hypnotic and magical about it.
During this last visit, we took a bus from the city centre and we were dropped off on the main road. It was about a 15-20 minute inclined walk towards the park. If you get a cab, you could be dropped off closer to the park’s entrance.
When you purchase your tickets online, you will need to select the available time slot. This allows the park to control the # of guests and avoid overcrowding. For ticket information, click here.
This was a visual treat. We went to Montjuic to catch the fountain show, but we got there a bit too early. Fortunately, the area itself was quite vast. As we got out of the train, we saw the Arenas de Barcelona – “a former bullring that is now a commercial complex.”
We walked towards Montjuic, a bit of a walk with lots of steps to climb but it was all so worth it. We had gorgeous sunset views overlooking Barcelona.
7. Font Magica
In 2016, we took two of our kids to Montjuic, famous for the magic fountain display. To be honest, I wasn’t that thrilled at first. I mean, I’ve been majestic fountain display in Vegas at the Bellagio Hotel. But for me, what makes the fountain show different at Montjuic was the fact that you are so close to the attraction. There were fountains as you walked along the path.
If you go during the summer, it was a perfect way to end our day of exploring the city during a hot summer day. Make sure you check the schedule of the fountain show. During our visits in the summer and fall, the fountain shows only happened on certain days. So do check.
8. Hospital de Sant Pau
Back in 2016, I took the family to a hospital. Nope, none of us got sick. But I read a little bit about Hospital de Sant Pau. Stunning is what I’d describe it. There was actually a hospital on one side, but the historic side was on the other. There were quite a few buildings that comprised this side of the hospital.
Some parts were quite eerie. Why? Just by using your vivid imagination of what might have taken place in these buildings somewhat gave me the creeps. It was still interesting nonetheless just by walking through the halls and seeing all the architecture.
9. Torre Glories and Museu del Disseny de Barcelona
During our first visit back in 2016, we stayed near Glories (a shopping mall on Avinguda Diagonal). During our daily walks, we passed by this humongous bullet-looking tower, Torre Glories, but we never got to take pictures. For this visit, we made sure to go back, and we hit 2 birds with one stone. We also passed by Museu del Disseny de Barcelona – the design museum. It was a perfect break, both landmarks were eye-catching and we enjoyed our short visit on this side of town.
There are more things to see in Barcelona than the ones I’ve mentioned. But for those visiting here for the first time, this would be a good place to start.
If its day trips from Barcelona that you are looking for, look no further. Here are 4 perfect day trips from Barcelona.
Escape the heat of the summer and spend the day in Sitges
Tarragona, another coastal community with lots of history
Girona – rise up above this city and see all its beauty
Montserrat – when you just want to get away and touch the skies
What about you? Let me know your favorite Barcelona essentials.