Viva Barcelona! Now what? What should you do and see in Barcelona during your first visit?
Last updated: August 29, 2023
First-Timer’s Guide to Visiting Barcelona
Barcelona had never been on top on my travel list. I wasn’t even sure what one could do in this Spanish coastal city. And yet, a few months ago, we booked a ticket to Barcelona. Not because some divine intervention helped us to recognize how beautiful and interesting the city was, but more out of pragmatic reasons. Barcelona topped all possible charts as the cheapest destination to visit in January. This was more than enough for us to put it straight on top of our list along with a few other cities in Europe
Predictably, Barcelona with all its vibrancy and a mix of cultures overwhelmed us in a good way. It made us wonder why we were avoiding this gem for so long. Now we wanted to feel, experience, and see absolutely everything in the city had to offer.
At the same time, the impossibility of this desire was pretty obvious. To see everything in such an interesting city in a matter of a few days? Not a chance! Yet we made an effort to explore a lot and have compiled the list of the top 10 things to see and do in Barcelona on your first visit.
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN BARCELONA AS A FIRST-TIME VISITOR
1. La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia is arguably the most famous structure in Barcelona. It’s also known as one of the longest edifices in the world. The construction of the church started in the 1880s under relentless supervision of the greatest Calatan architect Antoni Gaudi.
Almost 140 years later, and La Sagrada Familia is still not complete. Yet despite this fact, the church doesn’t stop to amaze and entice people from all over the world. A true manifestation of Gaudi’s vision, La Sagrada Familia fascinates with its exterior and interior alike.
Nothing seems to have a common architectural sense here. Straight lines are almost entirely absent. Instead, curves, texture, and shapes predominate the church. Such a unique design might be the main contributor to the wild popularity of La Sagrada Familia as one of the top things to see in Barcelona for the first-time visitors.
2. Casa Batlló
Casa Batlló is another masterpiece of legendary Antoni Gaudi. Once hired to renovate a boring apartment building, the architect couldn’t restrain himself from completely transforming it. And so a sea-inspired structure with balconies that resemble reptiles’ skulls with opening for eyes and noses was born. Today, Casa Batlló, like most of the Gaudi’s buildings, is a well-known UNESCO site and one of the first things you want to see in Barcelona.
3. Casa Mila
Casa Mila (better known as La Pedrera or “The Stone Quarry”) was also designed by Antoni Gaudi. True to Gaudi’s style, Casa Mila showcases the genius and incredible vision of its creator. Not a single wall of the structure has traditional straight lines. This fact alone arouses curiosity and interest in Casa Mila, your next destination to visit in Barcelona on your first day.
4. Park Güell
Visit Park Güell for a quick break from the bustling city center. Like all of the aforementioned attractions, Park Güell is a work of Antoni Gaudi that became a UNESCO site in 1984. You hardly can find another park like this. Filled with colored mosaics, columns, and two signature gingerbread houses, Park Güell is considered as one of the top things to do in Barcelona for a reason.
5. La Rambla
La Ramble is a tree-lined pedestrian street in the center of Barcelona featuring numerous restaurants, shops, and street vendors. Entertainers and all sorts of performers also congregate in one of the busiest and most popular areas in Barcelona. If you have extra few hours to spend, make sure to stop at La Rambla to shop, eat, or simply people-watch.
6. Gothic Quarter
Stretching from La Rambla to Via Laietana, Gothic Quarter is one of our favorite areas to visit in Barcelona. Popularly know as Barri Gotic, the place amazes with its narrow medieval streets, and is home to trendy bars and restaurants. In addition to it, La Rambla provide the first-time visitors with unique photogenic opportunities that they might not find elsewhere in Barcelona.
7. Boqueria Market
Located in the center of the city, with the entrance from La Ramble, Boqueria Market is one of the most sought-after markets in Barcelona. It doesn’t come as a surprise considering the variety and abundance of products available here. Wandering Boqueria Market with its stalls full of sweets, fruits and vegetables, baked goods, and fish, don’t be surprised to find yourself buying something you didn’t even know you needed.
8. Barcelona Cathedral
Barcelona Cathedral is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Barcelona. Furthermore, it’s the biggest and one of the most beautiful religious buildings in the city.
9. Parc de la Ciutadella (Ciutadella Park)
The Parc de la Ciutadella is the second park on our list of top 10 things to do in Barcelona. But unlike Park Guell, this gem is located in the center of the city, which makes it especially attractive to the majority of tourists. Features that make the Parc de la Cuitadella stand out among other similar areas include the Castle of the Three Dragons, the Geological Museum, and a stunning fountain known as Cascada Monumental.
10. Arc de Triomf
Whether you visit Barcelona for the first time or have been here many times before, Arc de Triomf is always a good place to see. Built as a main entrance to the Universal Exhibition in 1888, today the arch is one of the city’s busiest areas. Morning or evening, fun and entertainment by street performers are guaranteed here.
TIP: If you are looking for more information about Barcelona, please check out the following guides.
- Guide: The Ultimate Barcelona Travel Guide (Where to Eat, Stay, and Play)
- Culture and lifestyle: 6 Things to Learn in Barcelona
- Make tapas at home: Travel Inspired Recipes: Patatas Bravas