In 2017, Barcelona was the 12th most visited city in the world, welcoming 8.9 million international visitors. Last year nearly 9 million tourists streamed into the Catalan capital, to see the famous Barcelona Top Ten sites and attractions. Most peoples' Barcelona Bucket List includes the legendary Sagrada Familia basilica, the famous Las Ramblas boulevard, and for football fans, the Camp Nou stadium.
For a Tourist Top Ten, you simply need to grab a guidebook. But what do locals and veteran Barcelona expats put at the top of THEIR bucket list? The Non-Tourist Guide to Barcelona is below, with some ideas for unique additions to your Barna Bucket List! Firstly though:
What's the big deal about Barcelona?
Every year, more people put Barcelona at the top of their dream destinations list. Why are so many travelers from around the world coming here?
For so many reasons! Barcelona is an extraordinary city: a Mediterranean gem nestled between sparkling turquoise sea and rolling hills, it has cosmopolitan chic and laidback beach vibes. It is the Sydney of Spain, the Cape Town of Europe. Food lovers flock to the Michelin star restaurants, art enthusiasts pack the museums, and party animals stay out all night. Just like the Big Apple (NYC), Barcelona is the “City that Never Sleeps”.
Many people complain about the crowds, but hey, there's a reason Barcelona is such a popular city to visit! Everyone should come here once in their life to find out why. When planning your visits to all the legendary landmarks, do book ahead. It may mean paying extra, but believe me you will be happy to skip the queues and avoid those crowds!
Barcelona Tours to Sagrada Familia and Park Guell
Once you have ticked off the typical tourist Top Ten Bucket List of Barcelona attractions and battled the crowds for your snap of La Sagrada Familia
, sipped a smoothie at La Boqueria market and braved the line for La Pedrera and Casa Batlló, it's time to explore Barcelona like a local!
Ready to work your way through the Barcelona Bucket List for locals?
In this Ultimate Barcelona Bucket List, there is something for everyone. Romantic secret spots for all you lovey-dovey couples, outdoor activities and family fun for the kids, Barcelona's best bars for all night parties, and hey, who doesn't love tasty tapas?
So that the families don't end up taking their kids to nightclubs, and the couples don't end up in playgrounds, I've ordered the Barcelona Bucket List by categories! Of course, some of them work for everyone so skim on through!
Barcelona Bucket List for Couples
1. Aire de Barcelona
A subterranean thermal bath
in a stone-walled building lit only by candles; Aire de Barcelona is the ultimate romantic experience. All you couples out there - put this at the top of your list of Barcelona attractions
! Think spa, massage, and atmosphere, all in an ancient building. When in Barcelona, do as the Romans did!
TIP: Book ahead; it sells out fast!
2. Dinner under the Stars at the Observatori Fabra
Sopar amb les Estrellas (dinner with the stars) at Observatori Fabra. This has been at the top of my bucket list for ages! Stars, sparkling wine and views of Barcelona, can it get any more romantic?
TIP: For a cheaper package, skip the restaurant and pack your own picnic.
3. Laberint d’Horta
Get lost (literally) in Barcelona's only maze! This 18th-century neoclassical garden is the most dreamy way to spend a sunny afternoon in Barcelona.
TIP: Free on Wednesdays and Sundays.
4. Dinner at Dans le Noir
Fancy dinner in the dark? For a sensory experience, head to Dans le Noir, and experience dining in the absolute darkness. Better wipe your face before the lights come back on!
TIP: Don't wear white!
5. Sunset Boat Cruise
Sunset sailing cruise - what better way to see the city? Better yet, there's cava on board!
TIP: Most of the skippers are very accommodating, so tell them your specific needs, they even made a birthday cake for me!
Best of Barcelona for Families
6. Tibidabo Theme Park
Built in 1899, this is Europe's third oldest theme park. You can visit the Temple of the Sagrat Cor, or dine at the restaurants while the kids indulge in candy floss (that’s cotton candy for all you North Americans) and some wild rides!
TIP: Why not also go for a hike in the Tibidabo hills? You are guaranteed some of the best views of the city!
7. Jardins de la Torre de les Aigües
Barcelona is HOT during the summer months, and the city's swimming pools can be expensive. Cool down the whole family with a trip to Jardins de la Torre de les Aigües, a historic outdoor pool in Eixample.
TIP: Entrance is under €2 and you can take your own drinks and food.
Take a day trip from Barcelona to the adventure park Portaventura. Parents will enjoy the seaside train along the coast towards Tarragona. Your kids will thank you for the trip when you take them up the highest rollercoaster in all of Europe (Red Force in Ferrari Land). Better skip that big breakfast!
: Tickets to Portaventura aren’t cheap and you could be waiting hours in line for a single ride. If you're going to cough up the steep entrance, it honestly is worth paying a bit more for the FastPass ticket. With fast-track entry, you get to queue jump all around adrenalin junkie heaven!
9. The Aquarium
Full disclosure: this is expensive and touristy. However, If you have kids or love anything underwater, I highly recommend you visit this world-famous aquarium next to Barceloneta beach! Highlight: the tunnel through the sharks.
TIP: Book online for up to €12 discount!
10. CosmoCaixa Science Museum
If your kids think science is boring, a trip to Cosmocaixa Barcelona is sure to change their minds! This legendary space has life-size dinosaurs, an indoor aquarium, and a planetarium.
TIP: The permanent exhibition is excellent, but if you want to visit the planetarium and workshops definitely book in advance, tickets do sell out fast.
Barcelona Attractions by Day
11. Day trip from Barcelona to Atafulla
The most popular day trips from Barcelona are Montserrat, Tarragona and of course the nearby town of Sitges. Why follow the crowds? As an alternative, I strongly recommend Altafulla! It's just beyond Sitges, and a beautiful historic Catalan village with a stunning beach.
TIP: Check out the restaurant la Granja Sant Francesc - the roast chicken alone is worth the trip from Barcelona!
12. Montserrat Mountains
Touristy, but for a reason! A visit to this unique, surreal mountain range is a once in a lifetime experience. It's also an easy day trip from Barcelona. You can choose to take the cable car straight to the famous monastery atop the mountain or hike from the train station of Monistrol.
TIP: The trains leave from Plaza Espana roughly every half hour.
Visit of Montserrat with Lunch and Wine-Tasting
13. Vermouth Sundays
Sip a Sunday vermouth with the locals. Here in Barcelona, Sundays are for socializing, siestas and vermouth!
Barcelona's favorite daytime tipple, vermouth is a sweet and fortified wine that has a unique flavor. There are tons of “vermuterias” to choose from, start exploring and discover your perfect Sunday spots for vermouth in Barcelona
TIP: White vermouth tends to be “dry” and red is sweet.
14. Encants Market
Instead of bringing home tacky souvenirs from the overpriced gift shops, why not head to Barcelona's best fleamarket
? Encants market by Glories metro is knick knack and bargain central. Better yet, you can explore the surrounding area of Glories which is soon to be the second city centre! If you're a fan of alternative shopping, Barcelona's market scene
has plenty to offer.
TIP: Closed on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.
Barcelona Genuine Shops Tour: Wine Tasting and Famous Markets
15. Parc de Guinardó
Forget the Bunkers of Carmel. Seriously. True, it once was a “hidden gem of Barcelona” and a secret spot for locals and expats. Unfortunately, too many people spread that word and these days you will struggle to find a square inch of space among the crowds. For a non-touristy alternative, why don’t you head to Parc de Guinardo?
This city park has been around since 1910 and has flowering rosewood trees, forests, and waterfalls. And yes, it's in the middle of Barcelona!
TIP: Head up from the Guinardo Hospital Sant Pau metro in the late afternoon and enjoy panoramic city views at sunset.
Barcelona by Night
16. Barcelona Rooftop Bars
Drinks taste better alfresco style at 300 feet! For some instaworthy views,
treat yourself to a cocktail at one of Barcelona's best rooftop bars
TIP: The rooftop pools tend to be for guests only.
17. Barcelona Live Music
Bust a move at one of Barcelona's many bars boasting live music, jam sessions and more. A classic bucket list addition!
: Most Barcelona music venues charge a small entrance fee, and the free ones require you to buy a drink at the bar.
18. Life Modelling Class
Don’t worry - I can't draw either! If you have never been to a life drawing class, save it for Barcelona. Once you get over the “there's a naked person!” giggles, getting down to your drawing brings real peace, and you to take your work home with you. Best yet, on Friday nights there's wine and tapas to follow and you can join your new friends for a bar crawl after!
TIP: The best one I've been to is in the medieval quarter of Born; it's called Life Drawing Barcelona.
19. Explore Haunted Barcelona!
Are you a fan of horror movies, cheap thrills and do you have a morbid fascination with the darker side of cities? Then add a haunted house to your Barcelona Bucket List. There are tons of creepy abandoned buildings in Barcelona
; if you can handle a good scare, check them out!
TIP: Fancy some ghost hunting? The Gaudi Metro Stop has never been used by the living...but people have been spotted there!
20. Magic Fountain
No trip to Barcelona is complete without seeing the Magic Fountain! This spectacular show combines a display of dancing fountains, lights, and music - a feast for eyes and ears. Better yet - it's free! Disclaimer: you will be brushing against bumbags and fanny packs because this is popular among tourists. Follow the locals afterward though and head deep into the alternative neighborhood of Poble Sec!
TIP: After the show, do the classic bar crawl down Carrer Blai in Poble Sec for €1 pinchos!
Think you know Barcelona better? What's on YOUR Barcelona bucket list? Leave me a comment and let's keep the list growing!
Montserrat by Rack-Railway with Lunch and Wine-Tasting Ticket
Barcelona Wine, Tapas and Cava Tour