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Barcelona: 5 Must See Sights & Things to do for a First Timer

I love Barcelona. Why? It’s the city that has a little bit of everything. The capital of Catalonia is brimming with culture, a rich history, amazing architecture, picturesque streets, exquisite cuisine and beautiful beaches. The list is simply endless.  Here are my five must-see sights to add to your Barcelona itinerary for those making their first foray to the city.

Barcelona Activities

A Barcelona itinerary | must-see sights for a first timer

Last month I was tempted back to this vibrant city for a third time to celebrate a friend’s 40th. The break took a very different tangent to my usual city breaks – this trip was all about the partying. Despite the 5am bedtimes, I still managed to squeeze in some essential sight-sighting. Well I wouldn’t be a very good Curious Pixie if I didn’t, would I?

Gothic Quarter

Barcelona: 5 must see sights & things to do in Barcelona for a first timer

Barrio Gothic is home to Europe’s most beautiful and oldest thoroughfares. On previous visits I’ve strolled around these windy streets, often lost. That’s the beauty though as you stumble across relics ranging from ancient Roman buildings, 14th Century gothic churches to quirky tapas bars, shops and cafes.

A Barcelona itinerary | must-see sights for a first timer

This time round I came with a thirst to know more. Also with no kids in tow I took the opportunity to do a free 2.5 hour walking tour of the area with Runner Bean Tours.

Barcelona: 5 must see sights & things to do in Barcelona for a first timer
A Barcelona itinerary | must-see sights for a first timer

The leisurely stroll takes you through the ancient streets revealing the secrets behind the narrow passages  and charming squares. They take place everyday at 11am and 4.30pm and depart from Plaça Reial.

Bookings are not necessary, but recommended as numbers are limited for quality purposes. And when they say free, it’s actually on a donation basis. At the end you give the guide what you think the tour was worth. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed by the knowledge of the guides as you wander through the atmospheric cobblestone lanes.

Sagrada Família

A Barcelona itinerary | must-see sights for a first timer

If on your itinerary you only have time for one sightseeing trip. Hands down, this is it! Not even finished yet, I think it’s definitely in my top five favourite buildings in the world. La Sagrada Familia attracts three million visitors a year and is said to be the most visited monument in Spain. Started in 1882 by Gaudi, he worked on it until his death in 1926. Since then various architects have continued the work on the famous Basilica. There is no official finish date, but the word is it could be finished in 2026. Looks like I’ll be back for sure in another ten years!

Barcelona: 5 must see sights & things to do in Barcelona for a first timer

Many people view the incredible structure from outside swamped with cranes and say they’ve been – Incorrect people! You really must see it from the inside. The interior is absolutely awe-inspiring. Every time I visit I’m amazed at how much the interior has come on in the last decade.

A Barcelona itinerary | must-see sights for a first timer

Everything is inspired by nature in this vast space from the forest pillars stretching up to the high ceiling to the blue and orange glow emanating from the huge stained glass windows representing the seasons.

You don’t need to be religious to appreciate the beauty of this place where gothic meets Art Nouveau. I’ve always found the unfinished building quite inspiring and can’t help but feel quite moved every time I stand in its grounds.

Avoid queues and pre-book your entrance tickets in advance. You have various options one of which is with a tour. This time round I chose to go up one of the spires for an aerial view. You take the lift up, but the walk back down a fair few steep stones could be a deal breaker for vertigo sufferers.

Park Güell

A Barcelona itinerary | must-see sights for a first timer

Parc Guell now a UNESCO World Heritage site is actually the remains of a residential area designed by Gaudi in 1900. Eusebi Güell bought a tree covered hillside and intended to build an estate for the upper classes based on the British garden cities. The project failed and work was abandoned in 1914. Today the park is incredibly popular with the majority of the visitors being tourists.

Barcelona: 5 must see sights & things to do in Barcelona for a first timer

It’s easy to see why, on arrival the Hansel and Gretel inspired gatehouses begin your journey into surrealism. Once inside you’re surrounded by colourful mosaic tiles adorning walls, statutes and buildings.

Sima holding a camera facing camera in sunglasses and bright yellow backpack

The spectacular views across Barcelona out to the sea from the famous tiled bench makes this unique and beautiful park one not to be missed.

Due to its popularity access is now limited to a certain number of people every half-hour. I’d strongly advise booking ahead online, plus it saves you money on the admission fee.

La Boqueria

La Boqueria food market view of people, stalls and stain glass windows to entrance of indoor/outdoor market

For a gastronomical treat on all your senses there is only one place to go – The Mercat de Sant Josep de La Boqueria. Commonly referred to as La Boqueria, it’s one of the most famous food markets in the world. Dating back to 1207 it also takes the crown of the oldest.

Located off the famous pedestrianised  La Rambla makes it a hugely popular tourist attraction too. It’s the perfect place to wander and try fresh and local produce whether it be on the brimming countertops or to eat on the go. You have Catalan sausages, jamon, salads, sandwiches, fresh fruit drinks, tapas, chocolate, wine, coffee and guess what I found – Mojito ice-cream baby! Boy was it good.

Sima getting an Mojito ice cream from man with grey shoulder length hair in straw hat, blue gloves and black apron surrounded by ice cream and ice cream cones and tubs!

Barcelona beaches

beach of Barceloneta watching people play volleyball

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to the search for golden grains of sand. Barcelona has seven beaches on it’s 4.5km coastline. One of the city’s oldest is Barceloneta, being the closest to the city centre it’s also the most popular.

Barcelona: 5 must-see sights for a first timer view of boats on Barcelona marina

After devouring all the glorious food you can either indulge in a siesta, work off the extra calories with the various activities on offer or enjoy my favourite pastime of people watching.

And finally…

Pickpockets are rife in Barcelona. On all three of my visits I’ve witnessed successful and unsuccessful thieves stealing from my own friend circle. Keep belongings on a tight leash. Better to be safe than sorry.

TRAVEL TOOLKIT TO HELP PLAN YOUR TRIP

Have you ever been to Barcelona? Where are your favourite spots? Do you have any must-see sights? Let me know in the comments box below.

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A Barcelona itinerary | must-see sights for a first timer

Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links whereby I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps with the costs of running my blog so I can keep my content free for you. Thanks as always for your support! See my disclosure policy here.

15 Comments

  • LaaLaa 21st June 2017 at 10:25 am

    Makes me want to leave now, I adore looking at architecture in other countries, looks amazing. Definitely bucket list and a good warning regarding the pickpockets – how unfortunate 🙁 x

    • Sima Sthanakiya 22nd June 2017 at 10:08 am

      You’ll love it! Unfortunate about pickpockets, but like anywhere as long as you are careful you’d be fine.

  • Kate 21st June 2017 at 10:29 am

    Okay, with one post you have just put Barcelona firmly to the very top of my ‘must travel to’ list. Such a lovely post and so many great photos. Thanks!

    • Sima Sthanakiya 22nd June 2017 at 10:09 am

      LOL Kate. Thank you. Book those tickets.

  • Melanie 21st June 2017 at 1:54 pm

    What a great guide…all fab activities. For me it would have to be the Parc Guell…which I did not know that ot was a UNESCO World Heritage site 🙂 x

    • Sima Sthanakiya 22nd June 2017 at 10:10 am

      Such a beautiful place, I could have spent all day at Parc Guell. Next time.

  • Jenny 21st June 2017 at 7:50 pm

    I’ve not visited yet but your photographs really make we want to!

  • Samantha 21st June 2017 at 9:31 pm

    I went to Barcelona for the first time in February (my sister is living over there at the moment) and it’s now one of my favourite cities! I loved visiting the Sagrada Familia, and Park Guell has amazing views. We also did a hop on hop off bus tour which was really good as it helped us see most of the sights in a short space of time.

    • Sima Sthanakiya 22nd June 2017 at 10:11 am

      I suppose you’ll be back a fair bit now that your sister is based there Samantha. The hop on hop off buses are so good, really helps to get your bearings to.

  • Sarah 21st June 2017 at 10:10 pm

    The gothic churches look beautiful! Park Guell is gorgeous too! I cant believe I haven’t heard of any of these places in Barcelona!

  • Angela Milnes 22nd June 2017 at 5:20 am

    These photos are amazing. I love visiting historical places so would love the churches.

  • Zoe 23rd June 2017 at 7:37 am

    I absolutely love Barca, I think my fav spot out of the above 5 is Parc Guell.

  • Kara 23rd June 2017 at 4:28 pm

    I last went to Barcelona for my 30th birthday and would love a return visit, if just to see the progress on Sagrada Famaliar

  • Holly 3rd July 2017 at 4:59 pm

    Lovely post! I love Barcelona too, you pictured the square where my close friend had her weddding a few years ago! It’s so beautiful.

    Sad to hear you witnessed pick pockets though! All 6 times I’ve visited, I have never seen any activity!

    Holly x
    http://www.ldnmuse.com

    • Sima Sthanakiya 6th July 2017 at 1:54 pm

      Thanks Holly. How lovely to get married in Placa Reial, such a beautiful spot.

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    I'm Sima, join me as I explore, experience and eat my way around the globe. Inspiring you to escape the everyday through my adventures... Read More

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