Barcelona is hands-down the most exciting city to explore in Europe. Here, you’ll find ancient winding streets in the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) that are so narrow it almost feels like dusk as you wander through them. You’ll encounter huge, bustling outdoor markets that offer all sorts of treats from fresh fruit shakes to colorful buckets of Spanish olives. You’ll find a handful of works by the great Catalonian architect Gaudi, each more whimsical and intriguing than the next. There is literally no end to the list of exciting activities, places, and neighborhoods you can explore in this bustling city.
Culture and history ooze out of every nook and cranny of Barcelona and since most Catalans in the city speak English (as well as Castilian Spanish), you’ll have no trouble soaking it all up. That doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice modernity, though. Barcelona has a fantastic metro system that will get you anywhere in a matter of minutes and a thriving youth culture that keeps the city alive and present. It’s up to you to choose where you’ll stay in Barcelona, as the various neighborhoods each offer something special to visitors. As for your daily agenda, here I’ve compiled a list of my favorite activities to do in the city.
La Sagrada Familia
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The impressive Roman Catholic Church was designed by the famous Catalonian architect Antoní Gaudi. Known for his almost Seuss-like buildings, the Sagrada Familia was his largest undertaking and the culmination of his life’s work. The church has been in construction for over 120 years and has only recently become fully open to the public. Come feast your eyes on the strange and fantastical lines of this breathtaking church, whose myriad of forest-like pillars and stained-glass windows will take you to a strange and wondrous place. The Sagrada Familia cannot be missed.
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This tree-lined boulevard is always a bustling place, where tourists can peruse the small shops and performances that pepper this lively street. But avoid the expensive restaurants and bars along Las Ramblas and head into the real jewel of the area: La Boquería. Built in 1840, this market now houses a variety of colorful and intriguing stalls, from fresh meets and cheeses to nuts and chocolate shops. Here you can sample, taste, and savor it all or merely pop in for some quick lunch.
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As my favorite place to wander, Barri Gotic is as close to medieval Europe as you’re likely to get. With buildings dating back to the 14th and 15th century, you can get lost amongst the narrow, dark alleys and find all sorts of hidden gems, such as the gorgeous Carrer del Bisbe walkway. The most notable place to peruse is thePicasso Museum, built in honor of the ten years Picasso lived and worked in the Gothic neighborhood.
El Raval and Born Neighborhoods
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If you’re looking for fantastic food, check out the rough-around-the-edges Raval district. Here you’ll find delicious international cuisine, top-notch vegetarian restaurants, and alternative cafes and bars. Head to the Born district just outside of Barri Gotic for rambunctious eateries and a thriving night-life, as well as a myriad of great tapas bars.
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Any sports lover or football aficionado should attempt to see an FC Barcelona match at Camp Nou. Not only will you be able to watch the best football players in the world like Messi, Neymar, and Suarez, but you will get swept up in the die-hard fandom in the largest stadium in Europe.