While I’ve not had a chance to do much traveling through Spain, I get the impression that Barcelona is quite different from anywhere else in the country. (I mean, a lot of them want to leave the country altogether.) But Barcelona has a distinct charm to it. It was the first city I traveled to on my first big-girl trip without adult supervision (an epic backpacking trip with my good friend Rachel back in 2010), and it’s one that I’ve always wanted to return to. It had such a funky yet relaxed vibe that really set a great tone for our entire trip. Without further ado, my Barcelona top 5!
1. La Boqueria
No trip to Barcelona is complete without a stroll through La Boqueria, one of the best markets in the city and a true feast for the senses. You’ll find fresh fruit juice, spices galore, raw sheep’s heads, and everything in between. It lacks the total chaos of Asian markets, but I do feel it captures the excited spirit of Barcelona. (I’ll spare you the sheep head photos.)
2. Park Güell
You can’t go anywhere in Barcelona without stumbling across the quirky and insane architecture of Antoni Gaudí. To say his style was unusual is an understatement, and his works can be found all across the city. In fact, I think much of Barcelona’s charm comes from Gaudí himself. Park Güell is one of his many famous works, and fun fact: it’s home to the longest bench in the world! In addition to the funky architecture around the park, it also offers one of the best views of the city.
3. La Sagrada Família
I’ve been to a lot of Catholic cathedrals in Europe, and there are none that compare to La Sagrada Família. Another of Gaudí’s creations, the Sagrada Família has an incredibly ornate exterior yet is very spare on the inside. It sort of feels like a cross between a medieval castle and a theatre. The other interesting thing about this church is that its construction is privately funded and ongoing — it’s not expected to be completed until 2026. So, you have some time visit.
Tickets start at 15€, and I highly recommend buying them in advance.
4. Sangria and Tapas
I’m not sure if this counts as an activity, per se, but one of my favorite parts about Barcelona was its incredible food and wine. They tend to eat quite a bit later than we do here in the US, but the timing aligns with the fare on offer. I love eating everything in sight, so naturally the idea of tapas (small plates) appeals to me greatly. And I love wine, so hello, pass the sangria. As a Type-A go-go-go person, I really appreciated the relaxed pace of meals here.
5. Museu de la Xocolata
The visit to this museum was a bit of a cruel trick on Rachel’s part, as she made me go on our last day in Barcelona when I was feeling, shall we say, a bit under the weather from the previous night (see #4). But once I got past the overwhelming smell (normally a welcome scent!), I found the tiny dioramas made of chocolate to be fascinating. They had everything from Disney scenes to Louis Armstrong trumpeting away. It’s a really fun activity for adults and kids alike.
Tickets are 6€, and include a bar of chocolate. Well worth the price of admission (though I’d recommend going easy on the sangria the night before in order to fully enjoy the experience).
There is so much more to Barcelona than what I’ve listed here, and I hope to get back there some day to do more exploring!