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Barcelona is the fifth most visited city in Europe with over seven million visitors coming annually. From the Gaudi architecture to the sunny beaches and the amazing food, it’s no wonder tourists flock here year after year.
Here are five things you can’t miss on your visit.
5. Hospital de Sant Pau (Art Nouveau Site)
Normally a hospital isn’t a fun place to visit, but this one is different. The former Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau is now a museum and one of the most prominent works of the Catalan modernism architect: Lluís Domènech i Montaner. The complex is pretty large with 12 pavilions connected underground. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 and stopped serving as a hospital in 2009.
Can’t Miss: look for the projections of patients. They show that this used to be a hospital, but you can’t help but feel like you’re looking at ghosts as they go about their day.
Address: C/ de Sant Antoni Maria Claret, 167, 08025 Barcelona, Spain
4. San Sebastian & Barceloneta Beaches
When you’ve had your fill of Gaudi, head to the beach. The area surrounding the W Barcelona is packed with beachgoers. Some are playing volleyball while others are lifting weights. Many stroll the boardwalk while some let it all hang out (yes, part of the beach is clothing optional). Whatever you choose to do, if you’re there in season (April to September) and the sun is shining, head to the beach. The W Barcelona is the most famous landmark in the area and a great place to have Uber drop you off.
Can’t Miss: take a moment to check out the intense workout routines of some of the beachgoers. It’s reminiscent of Muscle Beach in California.
Address: Plaça Rosa Del Vents 1, Final, Pg. de Joan de Borbó, 08039 Barcelona, Spain
3. Park Güell
This park was originally meant to be a housing development for the wealthy. Eusebi Güell purchased the land and commissioned Gaudi to create some unique buildings for the space. The housing plans fell through and it was opened to the public as a municipal garden and park. The grounds are massive and filled with flowers as well as a variety of architectural styles and many wild parrots.
Can’t Miss: the mosaic salamander known as “el drac.” He’s my favorite and probably the most recognizable element in the park.
Address: 08024 Barcelona, Spain
2. La Boqueria
As I’ve mentioned in my other city pick posts, I am a sucker for a market. You will always find me drawn in to see how the locals shop and eat. La Boqueria is one of my favorites in the world. It dates back to 1217 with the current structure in place since 1853. The market has everything from candy to fresh produce to seafood and butchers carving up tons of meat. There are lots of stands selling items that are ready to eat and a few small restaurants pop up between vendors.
Can’t Miss: grab an inexpensive and delicious fresh-squeezed juice. The flavors and combos are plentiful and it will only set you back 2 euros.
Address: La Rambla, 91, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
1. La Sagrada Familia
Gaudi earns the top spot and even though it draws every tourist that comes to Barcelona, I have to give it the place it’s earned as the church’s design is incredibly impressive. La Sagrada Familia is the largest unfinished Catholic church in the world. Construction has been ongoing since March 1882 and it was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. Originally, the hope was that it would be finished by 2026 to mark 100 years since Gaudi’s death, but the pandemic caused delays and this date will likely pass.
Can’t Miss: make sure to take time to check out all sides of the building’s exterior as they vary wildly.
Address: C/ de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona, Spain
Come for the architecture and stay for the beaches. These are my can’t miss picks for Barcelona.
Bonus Hotel Pick: The Le Meridien Barcelona is a comfortable choice. The hotel is a two-minute walk from La Boqueria and not too far from many of the other sites you’ll want to see. Not to mention it sits right on La Rambla for great people watching and souvenir shopping. It offers a satisfying breakfast, nicely appointed rooms, and amenities like an outdoor pool and spa.
Address: La Rambla 111, Carrer del Pintor Fortuny, 4-6, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
Check out my full review of the hotel here.
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