Must-see Museums, Sights & Things to DoBarcelona in 5 Days
Barcelona is Catalonia’s capital, a vibrant city in Northern Spain with a very impressive range of must-see museums, fascinating sights and loads of things to do within multiple genres. It is a charming city characterised by its Catalan language, culture and history.
Ainnelise Niyvold Liundbye UPDATED: 30 APR 2020
Once in Barcelona you will soon realise that it is an absolutely amazing city where you will definitely want to stay a certain number of days – just to cover the most important cultural sights, museums and other places of interest.
You should be prepared that your visit most likely will involve a lot of walking in the city. The various sights and museums in Barcelona are often within walking distance – but dispersed all over the city, and the ‘short’ distances add up! So you’d better bring your best walking shoes!
Based on our own experience we have composed a 5-day itinerary including the top museums and sights – with the possibility of extending it with a few more days for awesome day trips out of Barcelona by train or bus. You may also want to stretch the itinerary over more than the five days if you would like to take it easy – or maybe include other activities as well. Anyway, if you want to experience as many Barcelonian sights as possible in five days, this is the itinerary for you!
DAY 1: Must-see Museums, Sights & Things to Do in Barcelona
Today you will be walking – as well as seeing a lot! You will begin with the Barcelona sights in the Ciutat Vella at Las Ramblas, the famous pedestrian street in the heart of Barcelona connecting Plaça de Catalunya with the Christopher Columbus Monument, the Mirador de Colom. It is the popular and iconic plane tree-lined street always crowded with a myriad of locals and tourists – it is a must-see and the nerve of Barcelona!
On either side of the 1.2 kilometre (0.75 mile) long lively central boulevard you will notice narrow one-way traffic roads. The popular street lies right on the border between two districts. On the left-hand side (coming from the sea) you will have El Raval, formerly known as the Barri Xinès or Barrio Chino, and on the right-hand side you will enter the Gothic Quarter, the Barri Gòtic.
Wherever you are staying in Barcelona, it is easy to get to Las Ramblas which is conveniently served by three metro stops: Drassanes, Liceu and Catalunya.
Previously, right until 2010, las Ramblas even was an open-air market for caged birds and other small pets. Today, the animals are gone, but you will still spot flower sellers and performing artists in form of human statues on the street. Las Ramblas is where you will really feel Barcelona’s vibe!
Located at the lower end of Las Ramblas you will find the 60 m (197 ft) tall monument to Christopher Columbus. It was raised for the Exposición Universal de Barcelona in 1888 in commemoration of Columbus’ first voyage to America. When returning, Colombus came to Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand V in Barcelona.
Now you will continue up Las Ramblas and on the way you must make a stop to see one of the less known Gaudí gems in Barcelona. All close, in the street Nou de La Rambla, all of a sudden you will find yourself in front of Palau Güell.
It is an urban palace from 1890 that Gaudí designed and built for Eusebi Güell who was a wealthy Spanish industrialist. Güell became Gaudí’s patron and financed several of the Modernist architect’s world-famous works. Palau Güell is one of these Catalan Art Nouveau masterpieces which is easily recognisable with its two decorated catenary arches.
You may enter to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site, an outstanding example of Gaudí’s architectural works.
Near the metro stop Liceu you will pass by the iconic Gran Teatre del Liceu from 1837, first opened as a theatre and musical education. Due to lack of space, the theatre was some years later moved to a Trinitarian convent building at Las Ramblas, inaugurated in 1847. It was intended for the high society as a place to come to see opera.
The theatre has a long history with several fires involved. Both in 1861 and in 1994 the theatre building was severely damaged by fire. Moreover, in 1893 two bombs were thrown into the stalls during the performance of the opera Guillaume Tell by Rossini. Each time the Teatre del Liceu was again rebuilt. After the fire in 1994 the theatre was closed for 5 years until 1999.
The Gran Teatre del Liceu has throughout the years been one of Europe’s leading opera houses. The five-tier auditorium seats over 2.000 people.
There are guided tours of the main areas of the theatre allowing visitors to enjoy the grandiose architecture.
Continuing along Las Ramblas you will soon reach la Boqueria, the famous Barcelonian market hall. There is evidence that right since the 1200s there has been an open-air market with stalls at Las Ramblas where farmers came to sell their meat and vegetable products in the city.
From 1777 the butchers’ stalls were moved to new locations along the street. Later, the gardens of the Convent of St. Joseph were being used for the market. When the Carmelite Convent of St. Joseph was destroyed in a fire, it was decided that the space here could be adequately used for the market.
In the beginning of the 1900s Modernist arches, designed by the architect Antoni de Falguera, were added at the market entrance. In recent years (1998-2001) some further remodelling has taken place based on the design of the architects Lluís Clotet and Ignacio Paricio. They succeeded in rebuilding the building into a covered square which permits natural light to enter from above.
Today it is a lively market with high-quality fresh produce. Here you will be able to try samples of Catalan food as also served in the local restaurants!
Now that you are here, you may opt for a walk around the historical quarter El Raval (more than just casting a glance at Palau Güell and Mercat de la Boqueria!), located on the left-hand side on your way up Las Ramblas. It is the old ‘Chinese Quarter’ – Barri Xinès / Barrio Chino which for many years was a notorious district for criminals and prostitutes. However, it has during recent years gradually changed to now being an attractive and vibrant central quarter with a touch of artistic character – although still influenced by its diverse ethnic roots of the original immigrant population.
El Raval is today a controversial neighbourhood – not impeccable since there are still the darker sides too – but it is authentic and full of personality. Here you will find many bars, restaurants as well as quirky little shops and trendy galleries … really something for any taste. Go for a multicultural experience yourself and pop inside one of the compelling boutiques!
Your final destination along Las Ramblas is Plaça de Catalunya at the other end of the pedestrian street. Often seething with people, this is the real heart of Barcelona. It is a favoured meeting point and central to some of the large department stores like El Corte Inglés.
Plaça de Catalunya was originally urbanised in the beginning of the 1900s – and again modified in 1929, on the occasion of the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. The architects Pere Falqués, Puig i Cadafalch and Francesc de Paula Nebot participated in the design of the new square. It was laid out with six sculptural groups representing four Catalan cities, labour and wisdom. The plaza was finally inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII in 1927.
After your morning walk, you will probably want to start looking for a place to have lunch. There are great options in Eixample just north of Plaça de Catalunya.
Even if you are here for the first time, you will probably already know the grid-like Eixample from aerial photos of Barcelona.
Eixample’s history goes back to the Industrial Revolution where Barcelona’s population grew dramatically. The high concentration of people soon caused sanitary problems in the city, and there was an urgent need for a development and expansion plan. In 1855 the City Hall called out for a competition to find a solution. Ildefons Cerdà won with his striking and innovative Eixample project (Eixample meaning expansion in Catalan), where broad avenues were laid out in a grid and houses were constructed in ‘manzanas’. Manzanas were blocks of houses where the corners were ‘cut’ allowing for small squares and other open spaces in the neighbourhood.
It was here in Eixample that the Modernist architects such as Antoni Gaudí operated in the beginning of 1900s constructing their original Modernist houses. One of the famous streets chosen by the architects is Passeig de Gràcia. Today Gaudí’s remarkable houses and sights Casa Milà and Casa Batlló serve at the same time as both residential houses and museums in Barcelona.
You will now arrive at Casa Milà. the intriguing funny-looking architectural wonder on Passeig de Gràcia. If you are interested in Modernist architecture, it is a must-see!
Casa Milà was constructed by Antoni Gaudí 1906-1912 as a house where he intended to integrate nature into the building. At the time people made fun of it and gave it the nickname ‘La Pedrera’ – the Quarry – due to its looks.
It was built as a home for the Milà family who lived on the main floor of the house. The remaining part of the house was rented out as apartments.
The building is constructed in Gaudí’s Modernist style with the use of natural geometric forms. He used curves described with mathematical formulas everywhere – parabolic and catenary arches as well as hyperbolic forms. The architecture and interior decorations were everywhere inspired by forms he observed in nature.
Also the rooftop is outstanding and unique with its characteristic functional chimneys with a Saharan, nomad-like look.
Casa Milà became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and is really among the best museums and sights in Barcelona – absolutely a must-see!
Just opposite Casa Milà, you will find Casa Batlló, another outstanding UNESCO World Heritage Site. Whether you will visit both Casa Milà and Casa Batlló – or do just one of them – will depend on your interests – and time! To the architecturally and culturally interested, it is a real gem!
Gaudí designed and built Casa Batlló, belonging to the aristocrat Josep Batlló, in 1904. It was modelled with an organic look where the balconies were skulls and the supporting pillars bones – a real skeleton! This is also why locals named it the Casa dels Ossos or House of Bones.
In Casa Batlló you will easily spot the elements of dragons and nature. It is visible on the rooftop where the spine of a dragon appears. The inspiration from nature and the natural curves are also very well integrated in the design of Casa Batlló and reflect Gaudí’s special Catalan Modernist style.
If you are interested in art history and the Art Nouveau style, this is really one of the sights / museums you absolutely must see in Barcelona!
After enjoying Eixample’s uniqueness and Modernist architecture, you will continue north on foot to the hip and vibrant Gràcia neighbourhood. It is really also a must-see in Barcelona if you want to blend the traditional museums and sights with a lovely local experience. Vila de Gràcia is a small bohemian enclave in Barcelona with a good mix of young and old people, talented artists and a Catalan spirit. The neighbourhood is a true gem full of authentic, local atmosphere.
Enjoy dinner (Catalan cuisine) in one of the restaurants here and afterwards a cup of coffee and the nightlife at one of the plentiful outdoor cafés on a charming square (Plaça del Sol!) – depending on season! The setting is really unique and distinct from other neighbourhoods in Barcelona.
If you are a genuine Gaudí addict you will also grab the opportunity to pass by his Casa Vicens in Gràcia!
DAY 2: Must-see Museums, Sights & Things to Do in Barcelona
You will begin Day 2 with a chill morning walk in historical surroundings in the Gothic Quarter, Barri Gòtic in Catalan or Barrio Gótico in Spanish. You will by now probably already have noticed how the two languages blend all the time in Barcelona. Catalan is the people’s mother tongue, but they understand and speak Spanish as well.
Entering the Gothic Quarter, you will immediately be taken back to ancient times. Actually, you will find remains of many periods and cultures within the historical centre spanning from the city’s Roman walls to the Jewish Sinagoga Mayor. The traces of the various historical periods are ubiquitous.
However, many of the buildings in Barri Gòtic date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
You will soon realise that Barri Gòtic is an intricate network of small fascinating streets opening out into charming squares… and it is part of the experience to get a bit lost here!
Don’t forget to take a look inside the small quaint shops you will stumble across on the way!
Some of the things you definitely want to explore here are the following:
One of the beautiful squares all close to Las Ramblas is the Plaça Reial. Today it features restaurants and nightclubs and is a popular place with both locals and visitors.
The original building on the square was the Capuchin Convent of Santa Madrona, which does not exist any longer. In the 19th century Plaça Reial was laid out in its present structure by Francesc Daniel Molina i Casamajó including lampposts designed by Antoni Gaudí.
The Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya on the Plaça de Sant Jaume in Ciutat Vella is today the seat of the Presidency of the Generalitat de Catalunya.
The building is an ancient medieval building, but its façade was redesigned in 1596 in the Renaissance style by the architect Pere Blai.
Just opposite you will find the Ajuntament de Barcelona, the City Council! The building houses today, behind the 18th century neoclassical façade, the administration of the municipality of Barcelona.
Its history goes even further back. The Saló de Cent, used for the Consell de Cent (Council of One Hundred), dates all back to 1372 – and existed for several hundred years with this function here.
Don’t miss the massive and impressive Gothic Cathedral constructed from the 13th to 15th centuries and located at Placita de la Seu. Inside, note the remarkable and colourful stained glass windows.
A secluded Gothic cloister features the Well of the Geese where 13 geese were kept. This relates to the co-patron saint of Barcelona, Eulalia who was 13 when she was martyred after refusing to dismiss Jesus as the son of God. You will discover a lovely courtyard with orange and palm trees here.
Notice the cloister galleries with pillars depicting scenes from the Old Testament. Likewise, scenes from the New Testament appear on the vault keystones here.
Barcelona Cathedral is also famed for its rooftop gargoyles. You may take the elevator up for spectacular views over Barcelona and the Gothic Quarter!
Next to the Cathedral you will find remains of the ancient Roman walls.
To find a place for lunch in the Gothic quarter is easy – and you may even take the chance to pop into the historic café Els Quatre Gats – The Four Cats – in Carrer de Montsió.
It used to be a popular meeting place for famous artists such as Pablo Picasso and Ramon Casas i Carbó throughout the Modernist period. It opened in 1897 in Casa Martí, which was a Modernist building designed by the renowned Barcelona architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch. Supported by the Modernist artists Ramon Casa i Carbó, Santiago Rusiñol and Miguel Utrillo, the gentleman Pe Romeu developed his ideas of a café with an intellectual and artistic ambiance.
Pe Romeu got his inspiration for Els Quatre Gats from a French café called Le Chat Noir. However, the name became Els Quatre Gats, derived from the Catalan expression meaning ‘only a few people’.
Due to financial problems it closed already in 1903, but was restored again to its original design and reopened as late as in 1989!
First thing in the afternoon is the Palau de la Música Catalana.
The Palau de la Música Catalana is a concert hall giving concerts with the Cor de Cambra of the Palau de la Música Catalana.
If not already planning to attend an entire concert here, at least seize the opportunity to visit the building. You may beforehand have bought a guided tour of the Palau de la Música Catalana (normally departing every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. until at least 3:30 p.m. – but do check it on the website before going).
The palace was built between 1905 and 1908 by the Modernist architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner in the Catalan Art Nouveau style. It combines in a wondrous way sculptural works, mosaic, stained glass and ironwork and turns the place into a true masterpiece of Catalan Modernist art.
It is a gem of a place in Barcelona that you really must come to see – especially if you are interested in Catalan and Modernist architecture and history.
Your are now ready to move on to one of the outstanding art museums in Barcelona.
The Picasso Museum is next!
The Museo Picasso is one of the absolute top museums – and sights in Barcelona. The museum is located on Montcada Street in the Ribera neighbourhood, housed in five adjoining medieval palaces. These are the Gothic palace Aguilar, Palau del Baró de Castellet, Palau Meca, Casa Mauri and Palau Finestres. At the time in the 15th and the 16th century it was a flourishing street in Barcelona inhabited by noble families and merchants.
The museum has been open to the public since 1963 – and is the only museum devoted to Picasso during his lifetime. It was founded by Jaume Sabartés, initially with Picasso works from his own personal collection.
Today, the outstanding permanent collection consists of more than 4,200 Picasso works – mainly from his formative years between 1895 and 1904! The exhibition also includes works from later periods, including the complete series Las Meninas from 1957, consisting of 58 paintings. Moreover, the fine collection will take you through his time in Barcelona and shows his relationship with the city.
After an hour or two together with Picasso, you are now ready to take in one of Barcelona’s historical parks, Parc de la Ciutadella, which can be characterised as one of the great ‘outdoor museums’ in Barcelona!
Now, continue your itinerary and go for a stroll through the nearby fascinating Parc de la Ciutadella. Today, it is an idyllic and green oasis right in the middle of Barcelona.
It was formerly a military citadel, built in 1714 by Philip V, and at some point in time it even served as a prison for political prisoners. Around the 1888 Universal Exhibition it was redesigned. It was now converted into an intriguing park by the architect Josep Fontseré. Antoni Gaudí, who was at that time still an unknown young architect, helped him with the design of the waterfall, the Cascada.
Still, works from the Universal Exhibition can be admired here, for instance Castell dels Tres Dragons, designed by Domènech i Montaner, as well as the waterfall and lake, designed by Fontseré. Also a replica of Josep Llimona’s unique sculpture El desconsol (Distress), stands in the park as a masterpiece of public art.
In addition to these works, the park today houses both the Zoo and the Catalan Parliament with the Museu d’Art Modern. Also the Zoological Museum and the Museu de Geologia are located here. Moreover, the park features a tropical greenhouse: the Umbracle, and a winter garden: L’Hivernacle.
Chill out in the park for a while, and if you still have a bit of energy left for exploring Barcelona’s Gothic architecture, you will as the last thing today visit a grand basilica in Barcelona, Santa María del Mar (or at least you must see it from the outside)!
The Catalan Gothic basilica Santa María del Mar or ’Saint Mary of the Sea’ is also located in the Ribera neighbourhood. It is built in the period from 1329 to 1383 – under the Kingdom of Aragon. The architects behind were Berenguer de Montagut and Ramon Despuig.
Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar has gained fame thanks to the 2006 novel ‘Cathedral of the Sea’ by Ildefonso Falcones.
From the outside it appears to be a massive unity, but as soon as you enter, you will discover its interior beauty where the architects have played with the light in the spacious medieval building. The massive structure features beautiful colourful stained glass windows and a pretty, ancient bell tower.
Several disasters have struck Santa Maria del Mar: the 1428 Catalonia earthquake and the destruction and 11-day long fire during the Spanish Civil War (in 1936).
With your mind full of architectural impressions, museums and sights, it must by now be dinner time and time to go to see and explore the nightlife in Gothic Barcelona!
DAY 3: Must-see Museums, Sights & Things to Do in Barcelona
Right behind the Barcelona Sants Station you will find the Parc de l’Espanya Industrial.
You will start your Barcelona morning walk today at the probably most controversial park in Barcelona, the Parc de l’Espanya Industrial, designed in 1985 by the architects Luis Peña Ganchegui and Francesc Rius. It was intended to be a refreshing public space for the neighbourhood with a sports centre and a children’s play area.
The postmodern park can be characterised by its numerous monumental ‘lighthouses’ rising around the lake as a symbol of the former factory. The case is that a vast textile mill known as La España Industrial stood here until a few years ago.
Another feature is a giant 12 m high metal dragon, designed by the sculptor Andrés Nagel, which at the same time is a children’s slide. A rich birdlife on the artificial lake with fountains and waterfalls adds to the character of the place.
From here you will continue to the next park, the Parc de Joan Miró.
The site used to be the location of a municipal slaughterhouse. By locals the park is therefore also known as Parc l’Escorxador, since ‘escorxador’ means slaughterhouse in Catalan.
However, beginning already in 1979, the idea to create a leisurely area with activities and events eventually led to the transformation. The park was designed by the architect Beth Galí and included an artificial water channel.
Situated at the edge of the Eixample district, the park was as such in harmony with the ideas and structures that the architect behind the Eixample district, Ildefons Cerdà, had originally visualised.
A fabulous 22-metre high sculpture Dona i Ocell (Woman and Bird) by Joan Miró is the artwork that has given the park its name.
Your brisk morning walk will now take you in direction of the mountain Montjuïc featuring both cultural museums and other sights – one of the mountains – or maybe rather hills – surrounding Barcelona city centre. The hills are conveniently served by a cable car, the Telefèric de Montjuïc.
On the way you will pass by the Font Màgica, the magical fountain, designed by the engineer Carles Buigas and built for the International Exhibition in 1929. The fountain presents in the evening a magnificent musical show of changing formations and colours.
Usually the show is performed during weekends (check the days and hours). You may come back here in the evening one of the days it is on to watch the spectacular and popular performance.
From here you will continue up the stairs to the Palau Nacional / Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya which is also one of the absolutely fabulous art museums in Barcelona. From the terrace you will be able to enjoy the most stunning views over the city!
Our suggestion is that you spend the rest of the morning in the Poble Espanyol.
This is an opportunity to discover other parts of Spain from Andalusia to Santiago de Compostela! The area is a village of typical buildings from different regions in Spain. The Poble Espanyol consists of squares, gardens and streets flanked by traditional houses of various architectural styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Mudejar, Renaissance and Baroque… and even includes a monastery, as well as a museum.
The small town was built in 1929 for the International Exposition in Barcelona following the ideas of the architect Puig i Cadafalch who stood behind the remarkable project.
Anyway, during the Civil War (1936-1939), the site changed for a time completely character as an internment camp for prisoners. Later, Franco supporters used the area to fight against the Catalan culture.
Only after 1986 the village has again recovered the original architecture – and it has succeeded in becoming an attractive area and a tourist magnet as one of the enticing Barcelona museums! It has actually been projected as much more than its architectural features. It is now both a cultural scene and a recreational area for families and visitors – a welcome break from bustling Barcelona to be found just a few streets away.
You may well consider having lunch here as well!
After exploring a wide range of Spanish architectural styles, you will continue to one of the other grand art museums in Barcelona, the nearby Fundació Joan Miró.
The artist Joan Miró was born in Barcelona in 1893. For his career as a painter, sculptor and ceramist, he in particular found inspiration both in the landscapes of Mont-roig in Catalonia, in Paris, and on Mallorca – where each place contributed to different aspects of his further development as an artist. Also the Abstract Expressionism he experienced in New York gave him fresh inspiration for his work.
The Fundació Joan Miró was established by Joan Miró himself – in the beginning with works from his private collection as a centre for the Miró art in Barcelona. In 1975 it was eventually opened to the public.
If you love art, Surrealism and Miró, you will be astonished to explore his works on display here in the museum! It is a mental treat to move around between his masterpieces and it is definitely one of the must-see museums in Barcelona!
Besides being a museum, the institution organises exhibitions of 20th and 21st century artists as well as engages in academic activities.
If you are interested in Barcelona Olympic history, you must include and see the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, also known as known as the Estadi Olímpic de Montjuïc, as part of the sights on Montjuïc.
The stadium was originally designed by the architect Pere Domènech i Roura for the 1929 International Exposition. However, it was renovated in 1989 to serve as stadium for the 1992 Summer Olympics.
Palau Sant Jordi, designed by the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, is together with the stadium, the Olympic Esplanade and the Sant Jordi Club part of the Olympic Ring, the set of sporting facilities for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games 1992.
The Torre de Calatrava, designed by Santiago Calatrava, has notably become a symbol and landmark of Barcelona.
Palau Sant Jordi hosted the men’s and women’s gymnastics competitions, handball finals, volleyball semi-finals and finals. Its most eye-catching feature is its cupola which was lifted to its present position on hydraulic jacks.
Since the Olympic Games, Palau Sant Jordi has hosted other international competitions like the 1995 World Indoor Championships in Athletics, the 1997 European Basketball Championships, the Final Four of the European Basketball League (1998 and 2000), World Swimming Championships (2003 and 2013) and the 2014 Basketball World Cup.
Also international artists such as Bruce Springsteen, U2, Queen, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Elton John have performed on stage here.
You will spend the rest of the afternoon – and maybe evening – at the foot of Montjuïc close to the city centre and harbour in the neighbourhood Poble Sec.
Originally, Poble Sec was home to the lower-class people in Barcelona, like el Raval. It was beyond the city walls and not considered a part of the city of Barcelona.
However, this changed during the 1900s with the city development and extension designed by Cerdà in the Eixample neighbourhood and with the opening of theatres and cabarets along the avenue Parallel. Little by little artists moved into the area influencing the character of the place.
Today, Poble Sec is a popular part of the city. It is a local and charming area, home to non-expensive restaurants and bars. It is a multicultural neighbourhood with old and narrow streets and elegant architecture of the 19th – 20th century.
One of the must-see streets is Carrer de Blai where you will find awesome eateries, Barcelona tapas bars and lively terrace bars.
The busy Parallel avenue is still flanked by traditional theatres with musicals and variety shows.
If you feel up to it, and if the show is on tonight, you may as the last thing today consider attending the light performance at the Font Màgica before returning to your hotel!
DAY 4: Must-see Museums, Sights & Things to Do in Barcelona
Today, you will explore the northern part of Barcelona, beginning with the remarkable Avinguda Diagonal – at least from an aerial angle.
Avinguda Diagonal is the broadest avenue in Barcelona – kind of cutting the city into two. It was originally projected by the urban architect Ildefons Cerdà as a part of his extensive grid planned for the Eixample district. Its construction was initiated all back in 1859.
The avenue has formlerly been known under other names, depending on who held power in Catalonia and Spain, including Gran Vía Diagonal (with the the Fascist capture of Barcelona in 1939) and Avenida del Generalísimo Francisco Franco (during the regime of Francisco Franco).
With its 11 kilometres it passes important places and streets in Barcelona such as Passeig de Gràcia and Rambla de Cataluña.
On the southern side of Avinguda Diagonal, you will find Camp Nou, Barcelona’s famous stadium. This is a different encounter and side of Barcelona – but an absolutely worthwhile experience within the sports universe!
You can easily spend a few hours here – if not more … depending on your football interest and addiction! – exploring the different parts of the Barça club. Do a tour and take in the stands, the field, the away side’s changing room, the tunnel, the pressroom, the club trophies and much more.
During the tour you must visit the FC Barcelona Museum showcasing photos as well as videos from FC Barcelona’s 120-year long history and you will see and relive top players and the most remarkable Barça matches – it is definitely one of the top museums for football fans!
Depending on how many hours you have spent at Camp Nou, you may now begin to look for a place to have lunch before continuing your itinerary.
Leaving Camp Nou and now crossing Avinguda Diagonal, you will within a few minutes reach Els Pavellons de la Finca Güell at Avinguda Pedralbes. Finca Güell was Gaudí’s first project for his patron, Eusebi Güell, being carried out in the years 1883-1887.
Originally, the structures of the property have been designed and built by the architect Joan Martorell.
Gaudí designed the gardens and transformed some elements of the constructions here in a Neo-Mudejar style and with parabolic arches, vaults and hyperbolic domes.
What is really spectacular and in itself worthwhile to come for is the wrought iron gate in the shape of a dragon. It represents the legendary guardian dragon of the Garden of the Hesperides, which according to the myth was overcome by Hercules.
Continue on foot a few hundred metres further north where you will soon arrive at the old Monasterio de Pedralbes.
Do notice (and verify on the website!) that it is only on Saturdays and Sundays that the monastery is open after 2 p.m. – and it is closed on Mondays (so unless you arrive pretty early in the afternoon, you may only be able to see it from the outside).
The monastery from the early 14th century is one of the most remarkable Gothic buildings and museums in Barcelona. It features a three-story cloister as well as a spectacular courtyard inside.
There is historical evidence that the monastery was founded by Queen Elisenda de Montcada in 1326 and run by nuns of the Sisterhood of the Clares, later known as the ‘Second Order’ of the Franciscans. Even today the monastery is operated by the Clares nuns!
The name ‘Pedralbes’ is derived from the Latin term for white stones: Petras Albas – which refers to the colour of the foundation stone for the apse.
Inside the cloister the grave of Queen Elisenda can be located. Moreover, you will also find a small museum in the former dormitory where everyday objects from the monastery in the 14th-20th century are showcased. Another interesting part of the monastery is a number of prayer cells located in the middle cloister.
Enjoy the views, the shade and the silence in the lovely gardens – it is really a gem of a place and a must-see tucked away in northern Barcelona!
You will end your day on the other mountain overlooking Barcelona, Tibidabo! If you fancy it, you may choose to have dinner in a restaurant up here.
Take the metro from central Barcelona (Plaça de Catalunya), change at Pl John F Kennedy to the iconic, quaint Tramvia Blau from 1901 and finally jump on the old funicular (also from 1901) with a 25% ascent which will take you the rest of the way (1,100 metres or 3,600 feet) up the mountain. The tram ride and the funicular are great sights and experiences in themselves – and you must consider taking a trip up the Barcelona Tibidabo mountain just for the experience – even in case you don’t intend to go to see the theme park here.
During the funicular ride, as well as from Tibidabo, you will be able to enjoy the most breathtaking views over Barcelona.
If you feel up to it, spend the evening in the Tibidabo Amusement Park.
The park has since the beginning of the 1900s developed immensely – from having mainly small attractions such as telescopes, swings, bowling, mirrors, military bands, orchestras, an Electric Merry-Go-Round and balloon rides – to being today a top modern theme park with all kinds of world-class attractions.
Inside the park you will find a number of tempting restaurants.
DAY 5: Must-see Museums, Sights & Things to Do in Barcelona
Today you will again dive into some of the real masterpieces that Gaudí created in Barcelona.
You will start the day in Park Güell. From the Alfons X metro station you can take the Bus Güell (included in the online ticket).
Park Güell is named after Antoni Gaudís’ patron Eusebi Güell, a Spanish industrialist who Gaudí met at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1878. This became the beginning of a strong working relation and friendship between the two of them. He assigned Gaudí and let Gaudí design and construct several major works for him and supported the famous architect’s work financially.
Park Güell is one of these fabulous Catalan Modernist creations from the beginning of the 1900s funded by Eusebi Güell.
A remarkable and iconic element inside the park is the vividly coloured mosaic bench. At the time of construction it was designed to be a marketplace for the residents. Originally, Gaudí had projected the park as a residential area for the well heeled people. However, the number of residences were cut from 60 to 2, since the houses didn’t become as popular as first foreseen.
Still today Park Güell is an absolutely amazing park and one of the main sights in Barcelona. It is a park with a leisurely atmosphere and fairy-tale constructions which create an imaginary world of natural elements. Tree structures based on geometric designs like the helicoid form and stunning arches make up forest-like surroundings built into the park.
Already at the entrance you will encounter one of the must-see things, the famed mosaic salamander, which has become an iconic symbol of the enticing park in Barcelona. You will really have to explore the park to see all the wondrous details for yourself! Gaudí has played with geometry everywhere in his masterpiece of a park.
On the way back, close to the metro station Alfons X, another architectural gem appears.
The Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau from 1902 is another Catalan Modernist building complex with amazing details designed by one of the other great Modernist architects, Lluís Domènech i Montaner. He is considered the ‘father’ of the Catalan Modernism.
Domènech became lecturer at the Barcelona School of Architecture, and among his students was actually no less than Antoni Gaudí!
His son, Pere Domènech i Roura, completed the work on the hospital when Domènech fell seriously ill and died in 1923.
The buildings served as a hospital from 1930 until 2009 when the hospital moved to new premises in Barcelona.
The Modernista pavilions were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, and they have undergone restoration to take them back to the original artistic state. Today, it is unarguably one of the phenomenal Art Nouveau museums in Barcelona. Among other things you will discover the most awesome stained glass windows and the finest Modernist roof decorations here.
Today, in addition to being an Art Nouveau complex, a part of the Administration Pavilion is being used as a venue for meetings and events.
You will now continue down to one of the other Gaudí sights: La Sagrada Família, Gaudí’s world-famous church in Barcelona – which you absolutely must see! Around the church you will find many restaurant options for lunch.
In 1883 Gaudí began the construction in Barcelona that with time would become his most significant and sumptuous work in the city. The project required heavy funding, and still today, long after Gaudí’s death in 1926, the construction works are still going on due to lack of sufficient funding throughout the years.
Gaudí was naturally appointed as architect of the basilica since his religious background, beliefs and ideas went hand in hand with the nature of such an impressive construction.
The church is projected to have 18 towers – one tower for each of the twelve apostles, one tower for each evangelist and one for Virgin Mary and Jesus.
The façades are glorious and each tell a part of Jesus’ history: the Nativity Façade, the Passion Façade and the Glory Façade.
Also for the construction principles of the Sagrada Família, Gaudí used natural geometric forms for inspiration. His idea was that the interior would resemble a heavenly forest inside an organism with the columns representing trees in the garden of Eden. Forms like hyperbolic paraboloids used for the church vaults symbolise the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Ingenious use of chain models helped him in the design of the basilica arches. He made use of upside-down models of suspended sand bags to obtain the precise design of catenary arches. You may study the method and pictures of this inside the church.
Late afternoon you will find your way to la Barceloneta where you have the opportunity to enjoy a bit of beach time and maybe go for a swim. La Barceloneta is located between Barcelona’s Port Vell with the promenade Rambla de Mar from 1994, designed by Helio Piñon and Albert Viaplana, and the Port Olímpic, Barcelona’s new district developed for the Olympic Games of 1992.
La Barceloneta is now a triangular area of narrow, grid-like streets leading to the new fabulous beach, established for the Olympic Games.
It was once the fishermens’ neighbourhood, but in 1988 the decision was taken to replace the old beachfront restaurants, fishermens’ houses and public baths with a modern version of the area suitable for the upcoming Olympics.
After the Olympics, it has remained a favoured place. It is still today a popular sandy beach where both locals and tourists come to sunbathe and take a dip.
All close to la Barceloneta you will find the Port Olímpic, also laid out for the Olympics in 1992. It is now an attractive leisurely area with a marina, docks, shops, clubs, prime seafood restaurants and beach. You will definitely want to enter one of the restaurants here for a superb seafood dinner experience!
Go for a stroll in the neighbourhood next to the marina, the Olympic Village with hotels and apartments built for the Olympics. This is where the athletes were housed during the event.
Along the Olympic port you will obviously notice the giant bronze fish sculpture (Peix) designed by Frank Gehry. It has today become a landmark and a symbol of the post-Olympic Barcelona and is now part of the characteristic city skyline!
More days in Barcelona
If you have more days in Barcelona, we have a few suggestions for awesome sights and must-see places on day trips out of the city:
1. Visit the spectacular Benedictine monastery Montserrat located atop the mountain northwest of Barcelona. You will take the train from Plaça d’Espanya Station. When arriving at Montserrat, you can do the final ascent by cable car or by cog railway (notice they have different stations at Montserrat) .
2. In summer you may want to take the train from Barcelona Sants to the small beautiful beach town Sitges south of Barcelona. If you are ready for a long day, you may continue from here to the picturesque Tarragona which is full of Roman and medieval history.
3. Take the train from Barcelona Sants to Figueres to see the renowned Dalí Museum which is among the most remarkable museums in the country. You may combine it with visiting the picturesque medieval town of Girona on the way back to Barcelona.
4. Visit the villages of Vic and Ripoll at the foot of the Pyrenees. Get up early in the morning to take the bus or train from Barcelona to Vic, an ancient small town rich in cultural heritage and history. From Vic you will continue by bus up to Ripoll at the beginning of the Pyrenees where you will find a famous Benedictine monastery.
Read more about Gaudí’s museums and sights in Barcelona: La Sagrada Família, Casa Milà & Batlló – Gaudí in Barcelona
Going to Paris? Check out this 3-day itinerary: Paris Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame and Louvre in 3 Days
or staying in Madrid? Then take a look at this: The Prado Museum, Royal Palace & Plaza Mayor – Madrid 3 Days
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Featured image article, attribution: Guy Leroux