Are you planning a cruise around Europe? A cruise is actually the best way to see Europe and chances are you’ll start or end your journey in Barcelona, Spain. Before you set sail on your cruise from Barcelona, take some time to get to know this colorful city. Discover 15 things to do in Barcelona, from visiting parks, markets and churches to relaxing on the beach.
1. Visit La Sagrada Família
Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudí, is perhaps best known for his work on La Sagrada Familia, a stunning Roman Catholic basilica in Barcelona. Starting in 1882 and working until he died in 1926, Gaudí did not see the completion of this project, and construction is still not complete as of 2019.
On the exterior, the building features 18 magnificent towers and beautiful, carved facades. Inside, you’ll find massive stone columns, a stunning vaulted ceiling and an abundance of stained glass.
2. Experience Park Güell
For a different side of Gaudí, visit Park Güell located on Carmel Hill in Barcelona. Spanning 42 acres, the grounds are filled with features reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, like a mosaic serpentine bench that snakes along the terrace, a vibrant lizard fountain and gingerbread-style buildings with “frosted” rooftops and checkered towers.
3. Relax on La Barceloneta Beach
If you’re looking for a place to soak up the sun, swim or people watch, head to La Barceloneta Beach. The promenade features an abundance of cafés and bars as well as beach amenities including lounge chairs, umbrellas, sand volleyball courts, bathrooms, showers, changing rooms and more.
Amidst the lively atmosphere, you can order up a cocktail or a quick neck massage from vendors who walk around hawking wares and services.
4. Explore the Gothic Quarter
Adjacent to the city center, the Gothic Quarter offers a blend of lively activity and rich history. In addition to shops, bars, restaurants and outdoor cafés, you’ll find narrow cobblestone streets, museums and centuries-old churches in what is known as the oldest section of Barcelona.
5. Tour the Cathedral of Barcelona
While you’re exploring the Gothic Quarter, take a moment to visit the awe-inspiring Cathedral of Barcelona. Construction on this church began late in the 13th century and continued until the 15th century.
The exterior of the building features grand bell towers, intricate windows and a façade adorned by multiple statues. The interior shines with beautiful, arched ceilings, awash with gold-colored light. As the dress code is strict here, take care to cover your knees and shoulders before entering.
6. Take a Walk Down Las Ramblas
If you’re looking for action in the Gothic Quarter, take a stroll along Las Ramblas. This pretty, tree-lined pathway, created just for pedestrians, runs along the western edge of Barcelona. During the day, you can shop, dine and watch street performers and buskers. At night on Las Ramblas, you can party the night away at one of the many bars or clubs in the area.
7. Discover Delicious Treats at La Boqueria
From Las Ramblas, you can enter La Boqueria, Barcelona’s oldest market. Inside, more than 200 stands and stalls offer fresh fruits and veggies, artisan-made cheeses, meats, seafood, nuts, bread, pastries, candies and more. When you need a rest, there are many places to stop for a bite, a cup of coffee or a glass of beer or wine.
8. Tour One of the Largest Museums Dedicated to Picasso
Because the painter Pablo Picasso moved to Barcelona at age 14, it’s not surprising that the city features a museum dedicated to his work. Located just east of the Gothic Quarter, the Picasso Museum offers over 4,000 pieces of his work that showcase the artist’s journey from classically-trained painter to Cubist visionary.
9. See the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar
Southeast of the Picasso Museum is the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar. This basilica features a number of stunning architectural details including majestic twin towers, stately columns, an elaborate arched entryway and a colorful window with roses on it.
Over the years, this building has survived a number of calamities including an earthquake in 1428 and a fire in 1936, which left scorch marks on the roof that are still visible today.
10. Stop by Casa Batlló
In 1904, a textile entrepreneur named Josep Batlló commissioned Antoni Gaudí to redesign his home in the whimsical style of Park Güell. Located northeast of the Gothic Quarter, this house is covered in pieces of colored glass so the exterior appears to ripple like water, and the upper and lower balconies look like bones and skulls.
The interior of the building features a grand, curvy staircase, a mushroom-shaped fireplace and a loft with 60 curved arches. The rooftop ledges and towers were designed to resemble the back of a dragon. Today, Casa Batlló is a museum and event space.
11. Enjoy a Game at a Famous Soccer Stadium
You don’t have to be a sports enthusiast to enjoy Europe’s largest fútbol (soccer) stadium. With a capacity for almost 100,000 fans, the excitement during games is contagious. In lieu of a game, take a tour of the stadium and onsite museum, which features interactive displays and awards won by Barcelona’s famous soccer team.
12. Climb Mount Tibidabo
A hike to the summit of Mount Tibidabo, which stands 1,700 feet over northern Barcelona, promises a stunning panorama of both the city and the sea. Surrounding the mountain is the Parc de Collserola and features forest trails for walking and biking that offer close-up views of meadows, rivers and waterfalls. Additional attractions in the area include the beautiful Basilica Del Sagrado Corazón and a fun retro-style theme park.
13. Get Lost in Parc del Laberint d’Horta
When it comes to natural beauty, few parks in Barcelona top its oldest park, the Parc del Laberint d’Horta. Located in the city’s Horta and Guinardó district, this exquisite park boasts plentiful gardens, ponds, fountains, a canal with a bridge and a challenging, cypress labyrinth, trimmed to perfection. If you make it to the center of the maze, a lovely statue of Cupid is waiting there to meet you.
14. Enjoy a Performance at Palau de la Musica Catalana
Whether you take in a musical event or tour the building, you’ll enjoy a trip to the Palau de la Musica Catalana (Palace of Catalan Music). Named a UNESCO World Heritage site for outstanding architecture, the exterior features carved statues, amazing mosaic work and busts of famous composers like Beethoven and Bach. The interior is even more jaw-dropping with mosaic pillars, detailed statues and a magnificent stained-glass skylight. Designed as a home base for the Orfeo Catala symphonic choir, the building also hosts instrumental performances, flamenco dancing and operas.
15. Have Fun Shopping at Mercat de Santa Caterina
If you’re looking for some great things to eat in Barcelona, you’ll find another busy marketplace northeast of La Boqueria near the Picasso Museum. Just look for the building with a colorful, wavy rooftop. This market sells fresh fruits and veggies, dried meats and cheeses and more. If you need a break from shopping, the adjacent restaurant serves some of the freshest seafood in town.
If you decide to sail around Europe on a cruise from Barcelona, take time to explore this exciting city before you launch or complete your cruise. Any of these 15 activities promise a great start or a magnificent finish to a truly memorable trip.