Your cart

Your cart is empty

Must-see Barcelona - an artist’s perspective

Must-see Barcelona - an artist’s perspective

Barcelona in Autumn is so beautiful. Imagine the glow of autumnal sunlight hitting the colours of the buildings, temperatures warm enough for t-shirts during the day (at least in early October when we went, evenings were chilly). There is so much to see and do in this city of fabulous architecture. This post covers my top seven must-see recommendations.

I highly recommend booking tickets in advance for any of Gaudi’s sights.

An afternoon: explore the Barrio Gótico

Palau de la Música Catalana

Take a walk around the Barrio Gótico (we followed the Lonely Planet walking tour). Our hotel (h10 Madison) was perfectly situated at one end of it, so we began with a visit to the Palau de la Música Catalana. The architecture is so enchanting - in a city full of outstanding architecture, I feel like this one gets missed a bit. You can see a concert, take a guided tour or simply admire this beautiful building and lobby.

Some other highlights:
We stumbled across Salle D'exposition et atrium. It’s a beautiful courtyard and feels like a real hidden gem.

The Catedral (you can get tickets to go inside) and Plaça del Rei, a 14th-century medieval square.

Plaça de Sant Jaume has the Palace of the Generalitat as well as City Hall.

Plaça Reial - this always-busy square just off La Rambla has lampposts that are one of Gaudí’s first known pieces. It may be a tourist magnet, but I find it so beautiful with the architecture, fountain and palm trees.

Afterwards, cross La Rambla to see Palau Güell - one of Gaudí’s early pieces. I’d not known it was there!

Also along La Rambla are the Gran Teatre de Liceu and Mercat de la Boqueria. Depending on the time of day you go, the Mercat may be worth visiting early - if you leave it too late, a lot of places will be closed.

A morning or afternoon: Parc de la Ciutadella
The cascada at Parc de la Ciutadella Barcelona
The Cascada, Parc de la Ciutadella

After Gaudí, this place is probably one of the first things I think of in Barcelona. It’s a huge 19th Century park with lots to see. You may want to go by the Arc de Triompf first, before walking across a huge pedestrianised avenue that leads to the entrance of the park. Inside the park, the giant fountain The Cascada is pretty impressive and a must-see!

You can also see a Parlament building and a really old Church - Parròquia Castrense del Parc de la Ciutadella. At the time of our visit, a formal garden in front of the Parlament was being restored and looked like it would be a really beautiful space to be in once finished.

For beach lovers: Barceloneta
View of Barceloneta with towers and Frank Gehry fish
You can while away a few hours on the sand or simply stroll along the boardwalk to see Barcelona’s famous beach with the distinctive shape of the W hotel at one end, and much further along, El Peix d'Or by Frank Gehry.

Half a day: Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia from the outside
Interior of Sagrada Familia with sunset windows
Do download the app and take the audio guide as there is so much to discover about this incredible church. I think it’s quite possibly the most beautiful church I have ever been in. Everything Gaudí has designed has a purpose and meaning. It is absolutely breathtaking. The facades depict elements from the Gospels; inside, stained glass windows run in blues on one side to represent daytime, to reds and oranges on the other side, for nighttime. Each tower that has been constructed or is being constructed represents a key biblical figure.

You can go up a tower for views over Barcelona and parts of what is still being constructed in the Church. An important note though - it is stairs ALL the way down - spiral staircases, with handrails for most parts, and extremely narrow which I found challenging.

Half a day: Park Güell
Looking out to sea from Park Guell with Gaudis mosaics in foreground
Zoomed in view of Sagrada Familia from Park Guell
It will be busy in certain parts, but this park is also so huge that there are quieter spots to catch your breath and gaze out at some amazing views of Barcelona. There is obviously all the fantastic Gaudi art to see - a real rainbow of colour across the park. The amount of detail is breathtaking.

Half a day: La Pedrera & Casa Battlo
Rooftop guardians at La Pedrera
Take the audio tour as you go through the house for insight into the building and features. Hardly any surfaces are flat - everything has this organic feel to it. My favourite bit is going out onto the rooftop, seeing all the views and the ‘Guardians’ / ‘Warriors’.

Casa Battlo is just down the road from La Pedrera - you can get tickets to see inside or simply admire the beautiful facade from the outside.

A day: Explore Montjuïc
View from the cable car at Montjuic Barcelona
View from the cable car at Montjuïc

Head to Paral·lel station to get the funicular to Montjuïc - there is lots to explore.

From there you can get a cable car to Castell Montjuïc and back - the cable cars are set up so that they do a loop within the stations so if you turn up and find there’s a big queue, it will likely move pretty quickly.

Drink in the views from Castell Montjuïc and have a little walk around - you have to pay to go into the castle, but the views from outside are pretty impressive. There are some benches built into the rock overlooking the port and docks.

Afterwards, get the cable car back down and explore the rest of the area. You can see the Olympic Stadium - at the time of our visit, there was a section you could just walk into without any entrance fee.

Also in the area are the Joan Miro Foundation (a museum dedicated to the art of Catalan artist Joan Miro), Poble Espanyol (kind of a celebration of Spanish culture) and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. The latter is an impressive building and there are great views over Plaça Espanya. Down by the base of the building, you can find the Magic Fountains (a light and water show) but check before you go, as they might be turned off.

Bar del Pla - definitely recommend booking in advance! The food is super tasty, we got 5 dishes including anchovies with sardines, patatas bravas in an amazing red sauce, pan con tomate, jamon iberico and a tomato salad that came with figs - nothing like what you’d think of as a salad, and super tasty.

Bar Brutal - The food is really, really good. We opted for 5 dishes again: pork rillette with mustard and pickle; anchovies; chicken cassoulet; padron peppers which came with hummus, and aubergine which came with figs and caramelised onion. All were full of flavour.

Be prepared to queue for certain cocktail bars. Paradiso was just voted no.1 in the world. We opted for Dr Stravinsky instead and although we had to queue for an hour (on a Monday night!!), the drinks, atmosphere and decor were fantastic.

Day trips:
If you have the time, I’d also recommend a day trip to Montserrat, a mountain range with a Benedictine monastery. It is absolutely beautiful - the landscape is stunning.


There is so much art to discover in and around Barcelona. From the Picasso museum, Joan Miro Foundation and Museu Nacional in central Barcelona, to the the Salvador Dalí museum (pictured) in Figueres. It is definitely worth a day trip.

Art inspired by Barcelona
This limited-edition fine-art print combines favourite landmarks from across the city. Tap the image to see it in detail.

Previous post
Next post