Being a city with a rich cultural history across the centuries, Barcelona is filled with must-visit places. Through the late 19th and 20th centuries, the modern artistic movement occurred, changing the face of Barcelona forever. As such, we have covered many of those architectural marvels separately. Here we suggest some of the places you should not miss, to fully experience the spirit of the city.
Parc de la Ciutadella
Within the city centre and just off to the east is the Citadel Park. One of the entranceways is through the Arc de Triomf, where you can carry on into the park itself. This is a perfect place to relax and enjoy a warm day with an aperitivo or a picnic with friends. Here is where the Palau del Parlament de Catalunya (Catalan parliament) is located. It also is home to the city zoo, museums and a beautiful central lake. It is the best place to take the edge off the busy streets and unwind.
Montjuïc Hill is a spectacular site that is perfectly placed to see panoramic views of the whole city. It is the original birthplace of metropolitan Barcelona and has a dynamic history. Nowadays, it is easily accessible via cable car or funicular transport from Paral.lel metro station, as well as on foot.
It is named ‘Jewish Mountain’ as it has always been called this in medieval Catalan literature. Here, in more recent times, the site of a Jewish burial ground was also discovered. Today you can find many modern constructions, with the Montjuïc Castle being at the height of the hill. It is naturally wooded, making it a great place to relax with an ice cream or fresh orange juice. To the east side is a sheer cliff face, with views of the port. It is worth ascending the hill for the many places of interest there, or simply for its pleasant tranquility.
Located to the southern end of the Montjuïc Hill is the famous open air museum, known as Poble Espanyol. Literally meaning ‘Spanish Town’ it is an exhibition of village life from all around the country of Spain. Highlights include a variety of architectural building styles from 15 of the Spanish autonomous communities. With over 117 full scale buildings, there is also a theatre, artisanal craft shops, restaurants and an art museum. Built for the 1929 Barcelona international exposition, it maintained interest from tourists and locals alike, and remains a major attraction to this day.
Museum of Catalan Art and Magic Fountain
On the northern side of Montjuïc Hill, up Reina Maria Cristina Avenue from the Plaça Espanya is the Palau Nacional. This beautiful building stands strikingly above the rest of the city, and was the main site of the 1929 Barcelona exhibitions. Since the 1930s it has been home to a fantastic collection of Catalan modern art.
It houses a wonderful interior with works from famous painters such as Picasso and Dali, to the lesser known pieces created by Gaudí. Also featured is the art that was instrumental in Catalonia’s role in the Spanish Civil War. It is the best place to glimpse the original spirit that evolved into modern Catalonia today. At the bottom of the steps, descending from the Palace, is the Magic Fountain. Come here at night for a truly spectacular display of multicoloured water leaping in every direction, under the starlit sky.
Home to Barcelona’s world class football club, this is a breathtaking site for football fans. It is also incredibly engaging for those who are curious about why the city has such a passion for the sport. You can visit for a tour around the whole interior, including the museum, entrance tunnel, pitch and the stands. Alternatively, you can book tickets and watch a match, as one of the 99,000 spectators in this grand stadium. Located west of the city centre, the best option for getting there is to take the metro to Palau Reial and walk down to the stadium’s museum.
Olympic Stadium and the Telecommunications Tower
In the southeast part of Montjuïc Hill is Barcelona’s grand Olympic Stadium. Built originally in 1927 for the 1929 international expose, it was refurbished when Barcelona won the bid for the 1992 Olympic games. The stadium has a capacity for nearly 56,000 people, and has subsequently hosted a variety of sports matches, athletics championships and music concerts. If you are coming in the summer, you may well find a musician you like playing there. Otherwise, it is nonetheless an awesome place to visit and experience the vastness as you look out over the city.
The magnificent Torre Telefonica (Telecommunications Tower), designed by Santiago Calatrava, stands next to the stadium. Originally built to broadcast the 1992 Olympic games, it now stands as a beautiful example of contemporary architecture. It also features ‘trencadís’ at the base, the fractured mosaic tile made in the style of Gaudí.
Plaça de Catalunya
Considered to be the centre of the city, and probably the first place you will arrive at, Catalonia Square is an amazing site. Don’t just consider it a transport hub with busy roads, or the place to begin your stroll up Passeig de Gràcia or down La Rambla. It is a fantastic collage of various arts, from fountains and sculpture, to architecture and mosaics. Numerous banks, hotels and shops surround it on its periphery, housed in stately buildings. Take time to admire the splashing water and the noble statues of the people that made Barcelona a timeless city.