Choosing the best things to do in Barcelona (while avoiding the long lines)

There is so much to do in Barcelona, one of the most complex and fascinating destinations in Europe. But enjoying Barcelona requires an understanding of the surroundings and how Barcelonians get around in their city.

I. The influx of tourists has come to a point where the neighboring associations have prohibited new hotels from opening and have limited the availability of apartments for tourists. Therefore, it is extremely important to reserve your lodging ahead of time.

II. As you must be on time for your reservations, it’s convenient to organize trasnportation that avoids the traffic jams. Thankfully, Barcelona’s ambient temperatures and scarce rain throughout the year offers the perfect combination for cyclists and pedestrians. The flat terrains (except the cerro de Montjuic) and roads are prepared for cyclists and pedestrians alike. For this reason, we recommend travelling like the Barcelonians travel: rent a bike (click here for bike rentals) or scooters (click here for scooter rentals). Another option, albeit a bit pricier, is to go on a guided tour of the touristic sites on a Segway .

III. Here in Barcelona there is a multitude of bars and restauraunts, but unlike the other cities where the quality is more or less the same across the eateries, Barcelona has a saturation of ”tourist menus.” Many tourists opt for these tourist menus at international fast food chains or italian restuaraunts. However, avoid these options and instead, do as the Barcelonians do: eat ”tapas” and ”raciones” (small portions of a dish that you can share) This style of eating helps you save time -the service is fast- and you can try many different dishes, at low prices! You can keep ordering the tapas you like, and if you don’t like other tapas you won’t be losing much money.

IV. Because one of the more dangerous areas in the city is in the middle of the tourist zones, we recommend that you avoid these areas at night, or pass through with caution: El Raval and the surrounding zones (las Ramblas, el Barrio Gótico, la Barceloneta y Montjuic). If you do decide to travel through these areas, we advise that you keep your purses and wallets glued to your body. Ladies, keep a hand on your purse. Gents, hold onto your wallets!

Since there’s so much to do in Barcelona, people have a tendency to march through each activity without fully enjoying any of them. For this reason, we have organized this page according to the top choices of travelers: 1) the ”must-see” sites 2) where to sleep and eat 3) Luxury shopping, crafts, and food that are wortwhile (and where to find them) and 4) the best day excursions outside of Barcelona

Places to visit in Barcelona

Since architecture is the main attraction of this city, it’s good to plan trips around the different neighborhoods so you can admire the buildings. In addition to works from the great Gaudí and his modernist companions, there are magnificent medieval buildings in different styles -mainly in Gothic- Renaissance, some Baroque, historic romantic, eclectic and avant-garde.

To continue, we offer a panorama of each zone (or ”barrio”) of the city, with links to information about the history and monuments at each location. This should help you decide which places you would like to visit! The two ”must-see” locations in Barcelona are the works of the great Gaudí: the Sagrada Familia and the Parque Güell (LINK). Close to this park is the district of Gracia (LINK), and to the south of this is the celebration of the bourgeoisie district, Eixample (LINK); this is a good route to get a feel of the true ambiance and appearance of the city. If you start at the Sagrada Familia you can head towards the coast, passing through the Plaza de toros Monumental (they don’t have bulls anymore), visit the Born and the park of Ciudadela (LINK) and then pass through the tourist districts: Barceloneta (LINK), Barrio Gótico (LINK) and Ramblas and Raval (LINK). Crossing Paralelo avenue will take you to the region with monuments, museums, and parks of Montjuic (LINK). Other places that are visited often in the city are in what is known as the “zona alta” or the ”high zone”: the stadium Camp Nou (the soccer musuem of Barcelona) and the Monasterio de Pedralbes (Thyssen’s art collection).

It’s essential to reserve tickets prior to visiting the Sagrada Familia (LINK)and thel Parque Güell (LINK); remember that both are quite a substantial distance away and you should arrive by midday at the latest. To interpret the works of Gaudí and his companions, fanatics will often visit the Museo del Modernismo Catalán (LINK). To see and understand the modernist architecture at the center of the city, we suggest a guided visit; the alternative is to make direct reservations in the two principal sites: La Casa Batlló (LINK) y La Pedrera (LINK).

To complete the day, it’s crucial to visit the Barrio Gótico, the heart of the old city. One option is to start with a guided visit around the most fascinating places (LINK); but for those who love the hidden gems it may be worthwile to do a visit around the most phantasmagoric places.

Buy your tickets at the best price for the maximum value


Museo del Modernismo BCN


  • Entrance

Duration: aprox. 1 hour
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10:30 -19:00. Sundays 10:30-14:00.



Casa Batlló


  • Entrance (skip the lines)
  • audioguide

Hours: 09:00 to 20:00

Starting from 21€/person

Sagrada Familia – rapid access


  • Assistance and guided tour.
  • Entrance

Duration: 90 mins guided visit
Hours: Please consult with la Sagrada Familia

Starting from 32€/person

Visits in Barcelona.


Fantasmas de Barcelona


  • Assistance/guided tour

Duration: 2 hours
Opening Hours: April- November, Fridays at 21:30



Barrio Gótico


  • Assistance/guided tour
  • Food and drink

Duration: 2 hours
Opening Hours: Thursdays from June to October, at 15:30.


Pabellones de entrada al Parque Guell

La Barcelona Modernista


  • Assistance/guided tour

Duration: 2 hours aprox.
Meeting point: Tourist Information Office


Where to sleep in Barcelona

Choosing where to sleep in Barcelona depends on the duration of your stay and the places you want to visit. The money is less of a determining factor because there are accomodations for cheap prices at every tourist zone; but these are located where it’s a bit loud at night but also has a safer ambience. Staying local is key because you can find excellent hotels only a block away from others that are not so recommendable.

Those who are thinking of renting ”tourist apartments” should be conscious of the face that many of these are located in streets with a hectic nightlife and in buildings that house foreign ‘Erasmus’ students and young tourists who throw parties.  The stretch of apartments dedicated for the tourists en the tourist zone has generated an extraordinary rejection from the neighbors.

To continue, we offer some links to pages that explain alternatives to lodging and food at each zone or district in the city that we have mentioned in the previous section. 

The zone Born and the Parque de la Ciudadela includes various hotels situated near the most touristic zone with the advantage of being the quietest and most comfortable; in this LINK we review the best options. The Barrio Gótico is the most touristic district in the city. The bars and restauraunts are paticularly attractive for the night owl. In our specialized page we offer quality alternatives (that are much quieter) (LINK). Las Ramblas and El Raval are the most animated zones of the city; it’s possible to find some good places to sleep at reasonable prices. (LINK). In La Barceloneta there are other leisurely zones and restaurants with some of the best tourist hotels in the city, which we review here. Those who opt to sleep in the district Montjuic will find numerous hotels for businessmen, with the advantage of being close to the tourist zones. (LINK). Staying at El Eixample offers the possibility of feeling like a local resident in the city and  staying with the older business travelers who go to the fair. Cllick here to see the options. Another option with similar features -but further away from the tourist zone- is to stay in the classic district of Gracia (LINK).

It’s absolutely vital to have a plan for eating tapas and raciones in the older parts of Barcelona. There are 4 main zones with hundreds of diverse bars, great for both the quality and the price. To see the most popular fine dining establishments you can do a gourmet visit in which you can enjoy the most popular establishments frequented by the Barcelonians. It isn’t strange that Barcelona is the origin of the chain of tapas and raciones that are most important in the entire world. For this reason, you should take advantage of the Sagardi, a popular route for tapas and raciones. Finally, the last alternative is to combine the tapas of Barrio Gótico and end with a flamenco (LINK). If you go alone, a good inidicator that the bar or restaurant is ‘local’ and of high quality is the bread of the region. Finally, you must finish off the gastronomy adventures with a visit to the most sophisticated and cosmopolitan terraces in the city.

What to buy in Barcelona

People come from all parts of the world to shop in Barcelona, one of the cities that offer a variety of luxury stores. The important brands are on the Paseo de Gracia (street name); those who want to find jewelry in the area can do so on our page here. Heading towards the sea, beside the Plaça Catalunya is the Avenue of the Portal de L’ Àngel where there are international stores of all prices. In the nearby neighborhood of el Born, the traditional streets Princess and L’Argenteria have many fashion stores boasting the artisan and Bohemian style. With even more artisan flair are the shops in Calle del Tallers (in the district of el Raval). The bags and skin product enthusiasts can also visit the craftsmen and designers of the city.

Buying food and eating tapas. In the Raval the Mercado de la Boquería is a truly spectacular sensation; although often crowded with people, the prices are better than boutique gourmet prices. (there are differences in market prices… choose wisely!) The Mercado de Santa Caterina in the Barrio Gótico is less crowded and more authentic, and it is very close the Cathedral. In the Barrio del Eixample, the Mercado de la Concepció is a ‘normal’ market, less touristy than the rest. Finally, the Mercado de Sant Antoni —in the district of Sant Antoni— is a beautiful modern style iron building. Furthermore, they sell a number of books and collector’s items. Barcelona is a paradise for collectors: here are the links to antique books, philately and numismatics, and all types of antiques. There´s also a large concentration of art galleries, as artists who live in the city offer their work directly via the Internet.

In the Barcelonian markets you can buy the best food and wine in the world. The Catalan wines are universally famous; first there is the cava, but there’s also other wines from different areas that you can find in any supermarket or local bar. We explain more about the wines and their characteristics here. As for other foods of the region, you may consider the excellent selection of Catalan olive oil: from Tarragona the Baix Ebre – Montsià, the Terra Alta, and the oil of Siurana and from LLeida the Les Garrigues. The only Catalan cheeses are the Alto Urgell and those from Cerdanya; this same place of origin produces excellent butter. For sausages try the salchichón de Vic. Those crazy for legumes, visit the exquisite and famous Jewish Mongeta del Ganxxet.

Day excursions in Barcelona

There are numerous interesting destinations accessible via the freeway or highway with a one hour travel time. The complete list is on this page of 26 principal destinations in the province of Barcelona. Nonetheless, many visitors choose to go on this catalan wine tasting excursion; another attractive site to visit is the beautiful city of Girona. Finally, the third place ”must-see” is the Santuario de Montserrat, a spectacular view of nature.


As you can see by our 4,300 pages, nobody knows Spain quite like we do. We know all the good things one can do in Spain: historical monuments, tourist sites, beaches, artisan stores, food, collector’s items, nature, gastronomy, observing fauna …. Which lodgings are worth their cost that provide good service and which advertise more than they really offer. Whether you travel as a couple, as a family, or in groups, let us know what type of plan you would like and when you plan to enjoy them and we will offer you all the options you can find in Spain.

Your leisure time matters, contact us here.

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