Barcelona is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe with millions of visitors flocking to this cosmopolitan region, and for good reason, there is something to appeal to every traveler.
Whether you like a vibrant, bustling atmosphere, or something more laid back, this city offers it all. It’s also the home to many beautiful monuments and architectural feats (which are popular tourist attractions) including Antoni Gaudí’s bright Casa Batlló and La Sagrada Familia, the construction for which is still ongoing, despite starting in the 1880s.
You can also wander through old neighborhoods and marvel at the interesting mix of Roman and Medieval-era architecture that exists, or simply have a cool beverage on the shores of the popular La Barceloneta Beach. Most of these places are well-known and frequented by many visitors, however, the city also has some hidden gems that are underappreciated. Whether it’s a picnic in quiet gardens that are considered to be a “medieval hideaway” (via The Telegraph) or a stunning labyrinth, these places may take you off the normal tourist track but offer a completely different experience.
Below are 15 places to visit when you’re in Barcelona that everyone knows and loves, and 5 that are hidden gems and offer something a little different from what you will come to expect from the city.
20 Sagrada Família Is Still Under Construction After More Than 100 Years
One of the most-visited sights in Barcelona is Sagrada Família, a monumental church designed by celebrated architect Antoni Gaudí. Interestingly, the church is still under construction, despite the first stone being laid in 1882, Barcelona Yellow reports. The hopes are that the building will be completed in 2026, which would be the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death (although he knew the project would not be completed in his lifetime), and 144 years after the project first started.
Despite it still being under construction, the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is open to all.
19 The Creation Of Casa Milà Was Filled With Controversy
Another building that was designed by architect Antoni Gaudí, and is a must-see, is Casa Milà (also known as La Pedrera). Gaudí was initially commissioned by Pere Milà and Roser Segimon to create Casa Milà, and the couple intended to use the main floor as their own home and rent out the other apartments, La Pedrera reports.
The construction of the building was filled with controversy though because the architect reportedly changed his original plans, went over budget, and failed to take the city’s council building codes into consideration. Fast forward several years and it's now a popular tourist attraction, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage in 1984, Tripadvisor reports.
18 Parc Güell Has Unique Architecture And Beautiful Mosaic Work
Barcelona is a city that is filled with Antoni Gaudí's influences, including Parc Güell. The building was constructed between 1900 and 1914, and according to Atlas Obscura, it was not initially meant to be a park, but rather a private residence. The initial project failed, and it was later turned into a municipal park, a park that still remains open to the public today.
Visitors can stroll along the winding paths and admire the mosaics and unique architecture. It’s also a great place for a selfie!
17 The Gothic Quarter Is The Oldest Part Of The City
The Barri Gòtic, or Gothic Quarter, is the oldest part of Barcelona. This lively neighborhood is located next to the city center and is known for its interesting mix of Roman and Medieval-era architecture, U.S. News reports.
According to Barcelona N’ Do, many of the areas are designated for pedestrian-only use, which makes it particularly appealing because visitors can wander around at their leisure through the winding streets. It’s also a fantastic place to stop for a meal or a drink in one of the many alfresco restaurants and bars.
16 The Arc de Triomf Is Unmissable And Quite Different To The Parisian Monument
The Spanish Arc de Triomf was built 80 years after the Parisian Arc de Triomphe, and is half the size, Everything Barcelona reports. The civil monument can be found at the top of Passeig Lluís Companys, and has become one of Barcelona’s landmarks. The publication also notes that the red bricks, the design of architect Josep Vilaseca, are one of the things that makes this landmark standout.
It was created in 1888, when the city hosted the Barcelona World Fair, Barcelona Turisme reports, and theArc de Triomf served as the entrance to welcome visitors into the fair.
15 Las Ramblas Street Has Something For Everyone
If you want to walk through the center of Barcelona, then the tree-lined street of Las Ramblas is a must. There’s plenty to do along this pedestrian-friendly pathway, which runs for around 1.2 kilometers, and here you can eat at restaurants, find kiosks and souvenir shops, as well as visit the sights of interests.
It’s one of the most famous streets in Barcelona and is usually crowded both day and night, and according to Barcelona N’ Do, it’s a unique experience. Although the prices of restaurants and bars are a lot higher in this area.
14 If You Want To Visit Barcelona Cathedral, Dress Accordingly
If you are exploring the Gothic Quarter, then you will no doubt come across the Barcelona Cathedral which is situated in the center of the district. According to U.S. News, the construction first started in the 13th century and was not completed until the middle of the 15th century, although many would say it was worth the wait.
Visitors need to wear modest clothes that cover their knees and shoulders, and failure to comply with these rules result in the visitor being denied entry.
13 FC Barcelona Museum Is A Football Fan's Dream Trip
For football fans the FC Barcelona Museum and Camp Nou experience is unmissable, and the locals have great respect for their FC Barcelona football team. According to U.S. News, Camp Nou is the largest stadium in Europe, which is definitely something worth seeing, although visitors don’t have an all-access pass and won’t be able to see player’s locker rooms.
The on-site museum is more of an educational experience, teaching visitors about the culture of football here in Barcelona. And there are plenty of trophies and other memorabilia from the football team on display here, too.
12 Casa Batllo Has A Bright Colored Facade Inspired By St. George And The Dragon
Another architectural feat by Antoni Gaudi is the Casa Batllo, a classic building which was designed for the Batllo family. Atlas Obscura reports that Gaudi remodeled an existing building, changing it from a once undesirable appearance, to something beautiful. The bright colored facade with detailed tile work was inspired by the story of St. George and the dragon, U.S. News reports. The roof, in particular, depicts this with its scaly appearance, said to represent the dragon’s back.
This structure is not just something to marvel at but is also classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
11 La Barceloneta Beach Is The Perfect Place To Relax
Although Barcelona is a city that is rich in history and architectural design, it is also a place where visitors can relax and enjoy the sunshine. And what better place to do this than La Barceloneta beach.
This beach is very popular and visitors can avail of lounge chairs and umbrellas for a day in the sun, or get involved in sports, as The Culture Trip notes there is an extensive sports infrastructure. Or you can ditch the sand entirely and head over to the promenade for a meal at one of the fresco restaurants.
10 Barcelona City History Museum Will Take You On An Underground Adventure
The Museu d'Història de Barcelona, or Barcelona City History Museum, as it would be in English, is a museum that can be found in the Gothic district. It is a place that educates visitors about the history of the city, but also exhibits ancient objects like ceramics, and is the location for the biggest Roman excavation site outside of Rome, Barcelona reports.
Part of the tour is underground, where visitors pass through 4,000 square meters of an archaeological site, TripAdvisor notes, making it not just interesting, but unusual.
9 What Better Place To Visit Than A Chocolate Museum?
If you’re a fan of chocolate then you probably should visit Barcelona’s chocolate museum. According to Atlas Obscura, the museum was set up to teach visitors about the history of chocolate in Europe, which according to Barcelona was brought from South America to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors. It also shows how chocolate has evolved over the years, as well as the manufacturing of chocolate, and here you will see just how creative people can be with the sweet treat because there are multiple glass-encased sculptures crafted using chocolate.
8 Montjuïc Castle Was Once A Prison
Montjuïc Castle was built in 1640, and it was once used as a political prison. One of its most notable captives being the Generalitat of Catalonia, Lluis Companys, who was executed there in 1940, Barcelona reports.
In the 16th Century, the castle was damaged during the War of the Spanish Succession, until the 18th century, when a military engineer, Juan Martín Cermeño was requested to restore it, Barcelona Turisme reports. The appearance of Montjuïc Castle now is reflective of Cermeño’s work then.
The castle was used as a military prison until 1960, and only in 2007 did it fall to the hands of the Barcelona City Council.
7 Placa De Catalunya Is A Vibrant Hub In The Heart Of The City
Placa de Catalunya is a large and popular square located in the center of Barcelona, loved by both tourists and locals. The plaza has a lively atmosphere, and here you will find a large shopping center, as well as a number of restaurants and cafes. It’s easy access to public transport from this location, including city sightseeing buses.
According to Barcelona Turisme, the plaza was opened by King Alfonso XIII in 1927, and it is steeped in history, including a monument of Francesc Macià, the president of the Catalan Government, and sculptures by celebrated artists.
6 As The Name Suggests, The Magic Fountain Is Truly Magical
This is a fountain like no other, and you can understand why it has the word “magic” in its name. Originally built in 1929, the fountain is a combination of water, music, and light, which appeals to travelers of all ages -- it’s also free all year.
According to Barcelona Yellow, it was designed to be one of the main attractions during the International Expo in 1929, and remains a popular tourist attraction with an estimated 2.5 million visitors making their way year each year.
5 Hidden Gems: Jardins De Rubió I Lluch Provides A Medieval Hideaway
There is no shortage of things to do when visiting Barcelona, but most of these tourist attractions are well-known and visited by many. If you want to experience something a little different to the monuments and busy marketplaces, then you may benefit from visiting Jardins de Rubió i Lluch. According to The Telegraph, the garden is a “medieval hideaway” and is popular with art students and other people who want to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life to enjoy a picnic or some silence.
4 Hidden Gems: The Horta Labyrinth Park Is A Place Where You Can Get Lost, Quite Literally
Another must-visit destination, again, if you want something a little different, is the Horta Labyrinth Park. It's the oldest garden in the city and a place to get lost, quite literally, in the hedged mazes, Atlas Obscura reports.
According to The Culture Trip, Marquis Joan Antoni Desvalls of d’Ardena ordered the labyrinth to be constructed in the 18th Century. Today, unlike the grounds of Parc Güell, it only allows a limited amount of visitors per day, with access costing as little as €2 per person.
3 Hidden Gems: The Monastery Of Pedralbes Has Its Own Charm
Barcelona is a vibrant city, but it’s also an incredibly busy one, and all this can be a bit much at times. Which is why the 14th-century gothic monastery of Pedralbes offers something a little different.
The monastery is located just outside the city center, and according to Barcelona, while not as spectacular as some of the other, more well-known monuments like Sagrada Família, the monastery has its own charm to it. It is home to nuns, and has been since 1327, a year after Queen Elisenda de Montcada commissioned the construction.
2 Hidden Gems: Grec Gardens Amphitheatre Is A Magnificent Open-Air Theater
Many things were constructed for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition, and among these was the Grec Gardens Amphitheatre. The open-air theater was carved into the side of Montjuïc hill, and was built by Catalan architect Ramon Reventós and Nicolás María Rubió Tudurí who were inspired by Greek architecture (hence its name, too), ir Barcelona reports.
According to The Culture Trip, when it’s not being used for the Grec Festival in July of every year, it is open to the public.
1 Hidden Gems: Mercat De La Boqueria Market Will Be A Treat For The Senses
This is definitely not the most hidden gem on this list, because the foodie market, Mercat de La Boqueria, is well known and actually opened in 1840, making it Barcelona’s first market, U.S. News reports. However, it may not be as well-known by tourists, who will get a treat for both their sight and their senses when they wander into this vibrant market, located in the Ciudad Vieja district. Here you will find everything from fresh fruit to local delicacies like jamón ibérico.