Why visit Barcelona: 10 reasons to go

Joanne Owen

written by
Joanne Owen

updated 05.06.2024

Why visit Barcelona? Cool, cultured and exhilaratingly arty, it’s fair to say the capital of Catalunya exudes allures that make it easy to fall for, and nigh impossible to leave. Add to that countless beaches, bars and luscious Catalan cuisine, and Barcelona amounts to an all-round dynamo of a destination. As a result, deciding how to focus your trip is no easy feat. With that in mind, to help focus your mind, we’ve condensed all those giddying possibilities into ten reasons to go to Barcelona. 

From finding live-like-a-local gems, to finding peace of mind with the best insurance, we also share tips that’ll enhance your break in Barcelona — captivating capital of Spain’s Catalonia province.

Iconic avenues

While we’re all for exploring lesser-rambled roads — however, some tourist hotspots are exactly that for good reason — hola, Las Ramblas! 

With humble origins as a shrivelled stream beyond Barcelona’s glorious Gothic Quarter (more on that later), Las Ramblas came into its own in the nineteenth century. At this time, it blossomed into an elegant tree-lined promenade packed with places to shop and socialise in vibrant style. And that’s still the case today.

Slicing through Barcelona’s Old Town areas, and connecting Plaça de Catalunya with the harbour, Las Ramblas remains a city icon.

Top tip: to get more bang for your buck — and better tasting bang, so to speak! — save your appetite for Las Ramblas’ less tourist-oriented eateries. Which segues into another of our reasons why to visit Barcelona…

Scenic aerial view of La Rambla, tree-lined pedestrian mall and popular tourist sight in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Scenic aerial view of La Rambla © Shutterstock

Catalan cuisine

In our view, no trip to Barcelona is complete without gorging on local grub. To see the source of much of the city’s culinary magic, make a beeline for Boqueria Market.

Located at Ramblas 91, La Boqueria is a bedazzlement of colour, fragrance and flavours. Fresh fish and fruit vie for space with countless kinds of vegetables, not to mention mounds of wild mushrooms, breads, cheeses, sausages and hams. It really is a full-on sensory fiesta for gourmands.

Top tip: for affordable hip-and-happening bars and restaurants, head to Gràcia. This bohemian village-like suburb also has much to gratify fans of Gaudí and graffiti art.

Traditional Catalan pasta paella (fideua) with shrimps and mussels  © Shutterstock

Why visit Barcelona? To try pasta paella  © Shutterstock

Beautiful beaches

4.5km of beach makes Barcelona a pretty special place. And, thanks to slick city planning, there’s a stretch of sand to suit everyone.

Closest to the city centre, Barceloneta is super-convenient, and charming. While the beach boasts an attractive arcade and lots of leisure activities, the wider eighteenth-century neighbourhood is stacked with sensational seafood restaurants.

For a quieter beach experience, try Bogatell or Nova Icaria, both of which offer sand-and-sea-based sports, while paying admirable attention to accessibility needs. 

Top tip: famed for its spring carnival and summer nightlife, the seaside town of Sitges, 36km south of Barcelona, is a highlight of this stretch of coast. Out of season, it’s a place to enjoy soul-stirring strolls.

Pedestrians walk along Barceloneta Beach in Barcelona at sunrise © Shutterstock

Pedestrians walk along Barceloneta Beach in Barcelona at sunrise © Shutterstock

Awe-inspiring art and architecture

Best described as Catalan Art Nouveau, the legacies of visionary  Modernisme maestros like Antoni Gaudí stir the senses the moment you set foot in Barcelona.

Must-visit architectural attractions include the Sagrada Família Church. With Gaudí’s tragic 1926 death putting paid to the completion of this spiritual labour of love, the world’s most famous unfinished church is an extraordinary place of pilgrimage. 

Then there’s Gaudí’s astonishing La Pedrera apartment. Along with Casa Museu Gaudí in Parc Güell (more on the park later), this curvy cave-like construction is another Modernisme masterwork. 

Gaudí aside, art aficionados will also want to visit Fundació Joan Miró, and the Museu Picasso. Located in Barcelona’s bewitching medieval core, its permanent collection showcases 4000 seminal works.

Top tip: dine in elegant 1873 style in Cafè del Centre. This historic charmer serves top tapas and Art Nouveau ambience in equal measure.

Roof of modernist house Case Mila also known as La Pedrera designed by Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona © Shutterstock

Roof of Casa Mila designed by Antoni Gaudi © Shutterstock

Gothic glory

With the magnificent medieval La Seu cathedral at its heart, Barcelona’s Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) invites visitors to step back in time. 

Though most of its buildings date from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the Gothic Quarter also contains remains of the city's Roman walls.

Time-travelling aside, Barri Gòtic is a place to potter around galleries and antique shops, and to people-watch from majestically-sited cafés.

Top tip: for a picturesque pit stop, go to Bar del Pi on Plaça Sant Josep Oriol, preferably on the weekend when an artists’ market is held on the square.

Cathedral La Seu in Barcelona © Shutterstock

Cathedral La Seu in Barcelona © Shutterstock

Walks on the wild side 

As well as being fronted by beautiful beaches, Barcelona is encircled by hills furnished with family-friendly attractions and hiking trails.

Take Tibidabo, for example — a 550m peak on the north-easterly edge of the city. Delivering epic views to the Pyrenees, and across the sea to Mallorca, a funicular railway transports thrill-seekers to a hilltop amusement park. 

Beyond enjoying all the fun of the fair, from here you can access Parc de Collserola. With wooded river valleys traversed by trails, this presents city-breakers with unexpected back-to-nature beauty.

Top tip: before getting your adventure on in Barcelona, arm yourself with comprehensive insurance cover that offers 24-7 access to medical assistance. Best to err on the side of caution!

Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at Mount Tibidabo, Barcelona © Shutterstock

Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at Mount Tibidabo © Shutterstock

Top-notch nightlife

From traditional tapas joints and hipster hangouts, to palaces of culture and high-energy nightclubs, Barcelona brims with after-dark entertainment venues. 

If it’s classic Catalan culture you’re after, see a concert at Sant Pere’s Palau de la Música Catalana. Considered to be a masterpiece of Catalan Art Nouveau, the building is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Top tip: to eat and drink in Art Deco style, visit Bar El Velódromo. Here you can enjoy classy cocktails, tapas and bistro dishes in swish surroundings until 3 am.

Tapas for sale in Mercado de La Boqueria Market in Barcelona, Spain © Shutterstock

Tapas for sale in Mercado de La Boqueria Market in Barcelona © Shutterstock

Extraordinary parks

Sitting top of Barcelona’s park tree is Parc Güell. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, this constitutes Gaudí’s most ambitious project after Sagrada Família.

While the park’s hilltop location serves stunning views, you’ll most likely be too gob-smacked by your immediate surroundings to notice. From its Dragon Stairway and mosaic serpent sculptures, to giant gingerbread houses, and Greek Theatre Nature Square, it’s a phantasmagoria of imaginative ingenuity. 

Meanwhile, Parc de la Ciutadella proffers another mighty fine reason to go to Barcelona. Highlights include the Arc de Triomf gateway, the Cascada fountain, and the Castell dels Tres Dragons.

Top tip: with only 400 visitors allowed into Parc Güell’s monumental zone every half-hour, it’s best to book your ticket in advance. 

Park Güell in Barcelona © Shutterstock

Park Güell in Barcelona © Shutterstock

Top-of-the-league futbol

While the legend that is Lionel Messi has hung up his boots for Barca, the club’s Camp Nou stadium remains a must-visit attraction for lovers of the beautiful game. 

Even if you can’t secure tickets for a match, the “Camp Nou Experience” stadium tour is well worth booking. It’s a self-guided affair that takes you through the changing rooms, and right onto the pitch.
Meanwhile, the museum digs deep into the club’s history and displays an enviable stash of silverware. 

Top tip: after visiting Camp Nou, head to Bar El Tomàs de Sarrià for (arguably) the best patatas bravas in Barcelona.

View on the field and the tribunes at Camp Nou arena in Barcelona © Shutterstock

View on the field and the tribunes at Camp Nou Arena © Shutterstock

Gratifying gratis attractions

On a budget? No problem. You can enjoy plenty of cool things in Barcelona without spending a euro.

While many of Barcelona’s Modernisme buildings have an admission charge, you can take your own house-hop tour for nothing at all. And, if you happen to be in town on the first Sunday of a month, the Hospital de la Santa Creu i de Sant Paul is free to enter.

An architectural montage of mosaics and swirling turrets, this flamboyant complex is on a par with the Sagrada Família in terms of scale and Modernisme magic.

Talking of magic, soaking up Barcelona’s Font Màgica water spectacle is also entirely free. Located in Montjuïc, on certain nights the fountain is illuminated by a kitschy, kaleidoscopic show of sound and light.

Top tip: pickpockets prowl the crowded city centre (hola again, Las Ramblas!). So, before risking having your bag snatched, bag yourself the best insurance. If you are unlucky, having comprehensive coverage will save you a whole lot of stress, not to mention money.


Why visit Barcelona? For the architechture © basiczto/Shutterstock

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Joanne Owen

written by
Joanne Owen

updated 05.06.2024

Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her @JoanneOwen on Twitter and @joanneowenwrites on Instagram.

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