Barcelona is a vibrant city, full of all the liveliness of any major metropolitan area as one might imagine. What sets Barcelona apart is its amazingly rich history, full of art and poetry and mystery, contradicted against the modernity of city life beside the sea. If you’re lucky enough to spend a significant amount of time in Barcelona, there are ten million things you’ll want to experience there; but if you have only a week to spend in Barcelona, here are the seven must-see stops in Barcelona:
1. Las Ramblas
This succession of short but wide city streets was once referred to by Federico Garcia Lorca as the “only street in the world which I wish would never end.” It is a carnival of sights, sounds and smells with cafes, street performers, flower shops, bird shops and newsstands. Along the course of the Ramblas, look for La Mercat de St Josep de la Boqueria, a centuries-old market with the freshest assortments of fruits, vegetables and fish. Beyond La Boqueria, you’ll find the Gran Teatre del Liceu, an opera house that has managed to survive 167 years with an anarchist bombing attack in 1893 and two fires (one as recent as 1994). The Ramblas ends at Barceloneta Port and an inspiring 197 foot monument of Christopher Columbus pointing toward the new world.
2. Barrio Gotico
Among the most fascinating stops just off the Ramblas is the Barrio Gotico. Steeped in the history of Columbus, Picasso and even George Orwell, the Gothic Quarter has something for everyone. It’s best to sign up for a Walking Tour in order to get the full benefit of the Quarter’s incredibly rich history: stand where Columbus announced the new world to Ferdinand and Isabella, and sip some sangria at Els Quatre Gats, a favorite haunt for Picasso, Hemingway, Gaudi and many more. And of course, there’s the shopping…
3. Picasso Museum
Though he spent just ten years in Barcelona, Picasso considered the city to be the starting point of his artistic career. The Museu Picasso houses some of his most important works spanning his entire life including his rose, blue and cubist periods. You’ll find some of his most famous works, including Science and Charity, his versions of Las Meninas, and his graphite pencil sketch of himself in El Pare de L’Artista.
4. Fundacio Miro and Montjuic Castle
Another of Barcelona’s favorite sons is surrealist artist Joan Miro. You can find more than 14,000 of his works at the Fundacio Miro, which is located in the hills overlooking Barcelona. Take the Teleferic and enjoy the views just a little higher up the hill to visit Montjuic Castle. Built in 1640, this “castle” served as a military prison for over 300 years. While it is notable for its notorious firing squad executions, the view from Montjuic is what makes this stop worth the trip.
5. La Sagrada Familia
Antoni Gaudi, one of the world’s most important modernist architects, dedicated his last years to building this spectacular church that reflected his spiritual ambitions. He had fantastic visions of acoustic perfection, which died tragically with him after he was killed in a tram accident. For the past 130 years, architects have worked to complete his labor of love.
6. Parque Guell, Casa Batllo and Casa Mila (La Perdrera)
For more of Gaudi’s amazing architecture, be sure to see Casa Batllo and Casa Mila – two buildings in the heart of Barcelona that are among Gaudi’s most notable works. For breathtaking views, truly stunning mosaics and organic architecture, plan a trip to Parque Guell; and be sure to visit the Gaudi House Museum while you’re there.
7. La Barceloneta
No trip to the coast of Spain would be complete without a day spent at the beach. La Barceloneta features a fantastic boardwalk with a variety of bars and restaurants where you can while away the day between dips in the sea. If you’ve got just a little more time, take the train down the coast about 45 minutes to Sitges, where the beaches are a little more pristine and the views are incredible.