What to do in Barcelona

Palau de la Música Catalana

Palau de la Música Catalana

This turn-of-the-century concert hall is yet another piece of Barcelona’s UNESCO-listed heritage.
It was built by Gaudí’s contemporary, Lluís Domènech i Montaner for the Orfeó Català, a Barcelona choral society.
This was at a time when investment and commissions by wealthy Catalan industrialists were helping a generation of artists and designers to create a new sense of Catalan identity.
The hall is a sublime venue for opera, symphonies and folk music so don’t be shy to have a look at the schedule when you plan your trip.


Gràcia

Gràcia

If you wonder what life is like in the small towns of Catalonia then a visit to Gràcia is the perfect chance to find out.
This area wasn’t even part of Barcelona until the 20th century, and thanks to its layout of tapered streets and little squares, feels like a different place.
It’s a young, stylish and cosmopolitan area with students and artists, so there’s a multitude of bars, cafes and independent shops to be found.
If you come to Gràcia during the Festa Major in August the area is transformed as the residents come together to decorate individual streets in imaginative ways to be the best in the neighbourhood.


Fundació Joan Miró

Fundació Joan Miró

Just like Gaudí, Joan Miró was a Catalonian artist and a visit to his museum will give you a vivid picture of Barcelona’s spirit and style.
The Fundació Joan Miró was set up by the artist in the 60’s to encourage contemporary art in Barcelona, and Miró worked closely with the architect Josep Lluís Sert on the museum building’s design. This means there’s a harmony between the venue and the work inside it that you won’t find very often.
Within there’s a large collection of the artist’s work, including sculptures, drawing and paintings.
There are also temporary exhibitions of 20th and 21st century art, and all sorts of collaborative and educational projects going on.



Montjuïc

This city district was developed for the 1929 International Exhibition and features several high-profile museums including the National Museum of Catalan Art, the Museum of Archaeology and the Ethnology Museum.
Of those the art museum is particularly recommended, and the views of the city from its steps are stunning.
Below this, the exhibition was the Magic Fountain was build, which puts on light and music shows every half-hour on the weekends. This is best seen at night of course.
At the very top of the hill is the 17th-century fortress, which saw action in the Catalan Revolt in the 1600s as well as during the Civil War in the late-1930s, after which it was a prison.

Barcelona City History Museum

Barcelona City History Museum

The History Museum preserves a few Roman sites across the Gothic Quarter, such as the temple of Augustus and the Funeral Way on Plaça de la Vila de Madrid. But Plaça del Rei is where you can see Barcelona’s ancient history in detailed layers.
You’ll take a lift down to where the remnants of a garum factory, laundries, dyeing shops and parts of ancient Barcino’s walls are all visible.
The site is large, covering 4,000 square metres, which you’ll explore via elevated walkways.
As you rise through the museum building, you’ll step forward through time and enter the vaults of the Palau Reial Major, seat of the medieval Dukes of Barcelona.



Park Güell

Park Güell

Round off your Gaudí experience with a trip to this garden complex on Carmel Hill.
Many make the trip to this part of Gràcia for those gorgeous panoramas over Barcelona from the park’s main terrace.
You’ll have seen these serpentine benches and their mosaics on postcards and in movies.
Elsewhere there are colonnades, fountains and sculptures, all in the architect’s distinctive style.
If you still haven’t had enough Gaudí you can enter his House-Museum, where he lived from 1906 to 1926, with furniture and decorative items designed by him on display.



Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

Never mind that a lot of locals shun this sequence of promenades that runs from Plaça de Catalunya down to the Columbus Monument at the waterfront.
If you’re a tourist it’s one of those things that you have to do.
In summer you’ll be under the shade of the tall plane trees and shuffling through the crowds that pass living statues, street performers, bird-sellers and flower stands.
Occasionally you’ll catch the whiff of waffles (gofres) being baked.
Once you get to the water you can keep going along the boards to visit the Maremagnum mall or Barcelona’s Aquarium.



La Boqueria

La Boqueria

This is an iconic sight and educational experience in one. There’s been a Boqueria market in Barcelona since medieval times, though this exact spot has only witnessed trade for about 200 years. That elegant and distinctive iron and glass roof you’ll see was put up in 1914.
Whether you want to do some food shopping or just take in the sights and sounds of a bustling urban market it’s a real eye-opener.
It’s a grid of permanent stalls selling fruits, vegetables, cold meats, cheese as well as olive products.
The whole market converges on an oval plan of fishmongers in the centre.
Cool off with a beer and a tapa at one of the market’s bars.



Flirt with flamenco

Flirt with flamenco

The most folkloric Spanish art form grabs your attention with its cante (singing), baile (dance), toque (guitar playing), palmas (clapping), jaleo (vocalizations), and pitos (snapping).
A typical flamenco recital mixes passion and tranquility with a festive and resistant mood that can bring audience members to tears. The push/pull dynamics of the performers entice and resist simultaneously.
Barcelona’s top flamenco show is found at the Palacio del Flamenco.




Eating in Barcelona

Eating in Barcelona

International food is superb in Barcelona, especially when it comes to Japaese-style noodle bars, which have become popular in the last 10 years.
Another popular trend is pintxos, Basque-style bar snacks in which delicious additions like croquettes and fish are served on a piece of bread held together with a toothpick (pincho).
For a typically Catalan snack there’s Pa amb tomàquet, rustic bread covered in a mix of tomato pulp and oil. This often serves as a base for sandwiches or bocatas.
For a main course here on the coast nothing beats arròs negre, rice simmered with cuttlefish or squid, followed by rich crema catalana for dessert.




Go for tapas

Go for tapas

Have you ever been at a restaurant and can’t decide what to order? Then Spain is for you.
These small-portioned savory snacks are ordered in the city’s amazing tapas bars in rounds of 5 or 6 and are shared by friends over cañas (a small draft beer).
Patatas bravas (pictured) and pan con tomate (crispy bread rubbed with tomato and garlic) are automatic – but pulpo a la gallega (octopus with potatoes and paprika) and gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns) are where dreams are made.