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Barcelona Tourism and Vacations: Best of Barcelona
When it comes to history, art, and architecture Barcelona delivers: There's Gaudí’s iconic Basílica de la Sagrada Familia, the Picasso Museum, and the Gothic Quarter. But look beyond the landmarks and busy mercados and you’ll notice how nature steals the show—the city’s literally surrounded by it. On one side you’ve got three miles of gorgeous sandy beaches that give the neighboring Balearic Islands a run for their money, and on the other, the Serra de Collserola mountains, home to Parc de Collserola—one of the biggest city parks in the world. It’s probably why bike culture’s big here: Over 180 miles of bike lanes makes it easy to get around the Catalan capital. Spend a low-key afternoon cruising the revamped La Rambla (you’ll have to walk your bike once you hit the pedestrian-only drag) and stop for tapas and sangria. You can really do it all and we’ve got more ideas, below.
"A few [Sagrada Familia] hints: Buy your tickets ahead of time. Luckily we did. Bring limited bags if possible. There is lots of security. Go into the spires early; they close before everything else and we missed them. Book your tickets for when the sun is going up or down. The light through the stain glass was incredible!”
"We went for an audio tour [at Palace of Catalan Music] and were so blown away by the beauty and acoustics, we booked 2 tickets for the evening performance of Flamenco and Symphony. It was SPECTACULAR! Music is a universal language so it didn't matter that we couldn't understand what they were saying."
What to do
Iconic places and can’t-miss experiences that define the city.See all
Where to stay
Top spots to rest up—charming to classic to modern.See all
Where to eat
The tried-and-trues, plus local faves and hidden gems.See all
All about Gaudi
You can’t come to Barcelona without checking out architect Antoni Gaudi’s incredible works. The architect became one of the icons of modern art in the late 19th and early 20th century—and I fell in love with his surreal designs for churches, mansions, and even parks across the city. Here’s my hit list of my favorite spots to take in his genius.
Meena Thiruvengadam, Chicago, IL
- Basílica de la Sagrada Familia166,464This elaborate Art Nouveau church—Gaudi’s most legendary landmark—is still unfinished more than a century after the work began. But it has come a long way in the decade since I first visited. On my latest trip, I joined an exclusive after-hours tour, which gave me the time and space to truly appreciate what makes this place so special.
- Parc Guell77,227This city park is part urban green space, part architectural gem—it looks like something out of a Modernist fairy tale. My advice: Book a ticket online for one of the last available entry times. I spent about an hour wandering the grounds and taking in the city views. Don’t miss the Gaudi House Museum in the park, where he lived for nearly 20 years.
- Casa Milà - La Pedrera23,801Also known as La Pedrera, this was the last private apartment building that Gaudi designed. I took a pre-opening tour that allowed me to beat the crowds. Walking through the space (plus a couple of restored apartments) felt like a stroll through the past and gave a taste of what it might have been like to call this Modernist building home.
- Cascada Monumental515This may be Gaudi’s only waterfall, and you’ll find it just beyond the Passeig de Pujades entrance to Parc de la Ciutadella, which was Barcelona’s only city park until the mid-19th century. Gaudi worked mostly behind the scenes on this project, helping engineer its water tank and hydraulics. Look for the two stone medallions emblazoned with lizards near the top of the fountain—inspired by the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
- Casa Vicens2,340This Modernist building doesn’t get the same attention as Casa Batllo and Casa Mila, but it’s worth seeing. Built in the late 1800s, this was one of Gaudi’s first major projects, and his unique spin on this Orientalist structure caused a stir when it opened. You can buy tickets that can be used at any time on a specific day, making it ideal for spontaneous travelers like myself.
- Casa Batlló58,341A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is one of Gaudi’s best-known residential projects. Gaudi was brought in to remodel the building in 1904. I bought tickets to visit on my own before opening. In my opinion, the interior doesn’t offer as much to see as Casa Mila, but it’s a treat to see the view from the other side of the building’s iconic stained-glass windows.
Explore Barcelona by interest
There’s art everywhere
Discover masterpieces on the city’s streets
Slow down and sip the sangria
All the best spots to grab a drink
Dip into the Mediterranean Sea
Boat tours, beaches, water sports, and more
If you're feeling fancy-ish
Luxury experiences that are totally worth it
Smaller spots you can do in half the time
Make a day of it
Easy trips that take you beyond the city
Chill out in nature
Scenic places to unplug and recharge
Take a detour to discover some hidden gems
Go beyond Gaudi
Lesser-known landmarks to add to your list
For the history buff
Must-see museums, architecture, and more