A Guide to Barcelona’s Attractions

A city founded by the Romans, Catalunya’s capital has a rich cultural history which can be witnessed via Barcelona’s attractions and landmarks. Indeed, Barcelona has something for everyone, from history lovers to landscape enthusiasts, from toddlers to grown-ups, from romantic spirits to adrenaline seekers.

Ciutat Vella

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The city’s historic quarter, Ciutat Vella is undisputedly the Barcelona attraction that appeals most to tourists. Its narrow streets and alleys tell interesting stories, display fascinating architecture and represents a nice place for a stroll, be it for half an hour or an entire day. Made up of the medieval Barri Gòtic (where you will find the quiet Plaça del Pi, art galleries and lots of cafes), La Ribera (where you can visit the gracious Santa Maria del Mar church and the impressive Picasso Museum), Born and Raval quarters and stretching itself down to Barceloneta beach, Ciutat Vella forms a circle around the famous Las Ramblas.

You can start your tour of Ciutat Vella in Plaça de Catalunya – a large and busy square famous for its sculptures by major artists such as La Deessa (The goddess) by Josep Clara, the Monument a Francesc Macia by Josep Maria Subirachs, Els Pastors by Pau Gargallo, and other works by Jose Limon and Enrique Casanovas. Take the time to admire them before you move on to Las Ramblas.

Las Ramblas

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Why Las Ramblas when there is one single street? The name’s explanation can be found in the history of what is now one of the best Barcelona attractions and a street always full of tourists and locals looking for some fun. La Rambla was once a stream of water making its way just outside the city walls. Made up of five parts named after buildings and other landmarks that were once standing here, Las Ramblas is a wide pedestrian street bordered by trees on both sides, connecting Plaça de Catalunya with Columbus Monument and Barcelona’s beach front.

Starting from Plaça de Catalunya, your steps will take you to Rambla de Canaletes and its legendary fountain believed to have the power of making you love the city and long to come back. Then, you step into Rambla del Estudis, whose name takes after the university building Estudis Generals torn down in 1843. Also known as Rambla de les Flors, Rambla de Sant Josep ends in Plaça de la Boqueria, where you can admire a nice mosaic by Joan Miró. Heading towards Columbus Monument, you will walk down Rambla dels Caputxins, named after a former convent that was long ago demolished. Here you will find a landmark that is always included among Barcelona attractions – Gran Theatre del Liceu.The last segment goes by the name Rambla de Santa Monica.

Columbus Monument

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Also known as Mirador de Colombus, this statue built in 1888 for for the Universal Exhibition is dedicated to the great explorer who chose to disembark in Barcelona’s port upon his return from the discovery voyage of America. The access to the monument is made via four staircases, all guarded by cast iron lions. At the bottom of the statue, you can admire some bas-reliefs depicting scenes from Columbus’ life. The pedestal is dedicated to Catalonian history, featuring allegorical sculptures inspired from the country’s past. The cast iron column is decorated with bronze medallions at the bottom and four sculptures embodying Spanish explorers in the upper part. The capital features allegories of four continents (Europe, Africa, Asia and America), while on top you will see a statue of Columbus holding a map and pointing to America.

An elevator will take you to the top of the 60 meters tall monument , from where you can get some panoramic views over the Gothic Quarter, Las Ramblas and Barcelona’s historic attractions to the North, the city’s beachfront, the modern Forum neighborhood to the East, Montjuïc Hill and its castle to the south, and Tibidabo Amusement Park to the west.

Montjuic Hill

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Situated in Barcelona’s South-Western side, Montjüic Hill is dotted with tourist attractions, among which the Olympic Stadium, Castell de Montjuic, and the impressive museum Fundació Miró. The 1929 International Fair and the 1992 Olympic Games made Montjuïc an exceptional location and one of the most fascinating Barcelona attractions. Some of the buildings once used as exhibition rooms turned into museums, the olympic area is open to the public, all dominated by a 18th century castle from which you can get a great panoramic view over the city. The best way to get on top of the hill is the cable car.

Castell de Montjuïc is a not to miss Barcelona attraction. Erected in a month’s time back in 1640, this medieval fortress has served various purposes, from the intended defensive one to the military prison it became at the beginning of the 20th century, until it became a concerts and exhibition venue and a belvedere point.

Established by the artist himself back in 1972, when he also donated an important part of his work, Fundació Joan Miró is housed by an architectural gem designed by the artist’s friend – Josep Lluis Sert. An impressive Barcelona attraction, Joan Miró Museum is the most comprehensive collection of the surrealist artist’s work. Exhibits illustrating Miró’s artistic evolution along the years are exposed to the public in a this white temple – an example of rationalist architecture located in the middle of greenery on top of Montjuic Hill. But Fundació Joan Miró is not the only place in Barcelona where you can get acquainted with Miró’s work. You can admire a beautiful mosaic while walking down Las Ramblas as well as in other parts of the city like Parc Joan Miró next to Plaza Espanya.

L’Eixample

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When the old town became overcrowded at the end of the 19th century, the city expanded north of Plaça de Catalunya.

The streets of the new neighbourhood, called L’Eixample are now dotted with hotels, shops and tapas restaurants.

Impressive Art Nouveau buildings were erected between Passeig de Gràcia and Rambla Catalunya. In the same area you will find Sagrada Familia.

This much controversial church that remained unfinished because of its creator’s premature death in 1926 ranks today first among Barcelona attractions.

As the city continues to expand further to the north, more neighbourhoods appeared, and many charming villages (Gràcia, Les Corts, Sarrià and Hortà-Guinardò) once situated on Barcelona’s outskirts were included in the city.

Paseig de Gracia

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An important avenue in the city and one of the best Barcelona attractions, Paseig de Gracia connects Plaça de Catalunya with Gracia neighbourhood. This elegant boulevard dotted with exclusivist shops and architectural gems signed by modernist architects like Antoni Gaudí (Casa Batllo and Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera), Pere Falqués, Josep Puig i Cadafalch (Casa Amatler), Lluís Domènech i Montaner (Casa Lleo Morera), Enric Sagnier (Casa Pons i Pascual), Antoni Rovira i Rabassa (Casa Ramon Casas) and Josep Vilaseca (Casa Cabot) is a fascinating open air museum worth visiting if you want to get to know Barcelona’s modernist side. Sit down on one of the white benches, close your eyes and try to imagine the atmosphere reigning here at the turn of the 19th centuries. You will see elegant ladies walking arm in arm with Barcelona’s gentlemen, and you will hear the sound of horse driven carriages running up and down the avenue.

Gaudi’s buildings are top Barcelona attractions that drive many tourists to Catalonia’s capital city. The most impressive of them all is, undoubtedly, Casa Mila with its rounded walls. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Casa Mila features two interior courts, an amazing roof decorated with sculpted chimneys, and cast iron balconies designed by another modernist architect – Josep Maria Jujol.

Another landmark signed by the architectural genius that made Barcelona famous all around the world, Casa Battlo impresses by its mosaic decorated facade. As hard as you might try, you will not find a straight line! Avoiding straight lines was actually Gaudi’s artistic goal when he designed Casa Battlo.

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Located a bit outside Paseig de Gracia, on Carrer de les Carolines, Casa Vicens is an example of the genius architect’s earlier work. Designed for the industrialist Manuel Vicens’ family in 1883-1889, this less known Barcelona landmark features an interesting facade covered in red brick and decorated with Moorish architectural elements. Privately owned, Casa Vicens is not open for visitation. However, if you stand a chance of stepping inside this Gaudi building, check out its round smoking room! One way of visiting Casa Vicens’ interior is being in Barcelona on May 22nd, when the landmark is open to the public for one day.

Parc Guell

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Read our guide to Parc Guell.

If you want to feel like stepping into a fairy tales world, head to Parc Guell, situated in the North-Eastern side of Gràcia neighbourhood. Gaudi dedicated a great part of his life to this colorful and simply amazing architectural gem.

Therefore, expect something fascinating, from the mosaic covered salamandra welcoming you at the entrance, to the residential buildings and the view over the city.

Tibidabo Hill

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Situated in the North-Western part of the city, Tibidado is a 549 meters high hill from whose top you can get a panoramic view over Barcelona.

On Tibidado Hill, you will find the theme park with the same name that opened back in 1908, a few small museums, Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor, Pedralbes Monastery and a communications tower Torre de Comunicaciones de Collserola.