Barcelona consists of no less than 10 different districts, which all got their own very special character and tell their own story. There are modern and trendy districts as well as older ones with a lot of history. We all know the Las Ramblas and the famous Sagrada Familia, but the city has so much more to offer than tourist attractions. Since all districts have distinctive feature, it will be hard to decide what to see first. Even more if you stay in Barcelona for just a few days. Muchosol takes you on a tour through the districts and tells what are the most recommendable things to do in Barcelona. So keep on reading and find out more about the beautiful Catalan city!
Things to do in Barcelona: exploring the districts
El Gótico: For lovers of atmosphere, history, and romance…
The true historical center of Barcelona is the Gothic district „Barri Gòtic“ or „El Gótico“. It’s the oldest part of the city and if you take a moment to suck up the atmosphere, you’ll feel the ghost of the past. The Gothic district is full of monuments, museums and old buildings. Through a series of excavations, it was recognized that the Romans once lived here, and so the medieval city was later built on the remains of the Roman people. Even today you can get carried away by the charm and the romance of the Medieval streets; visit the Jewish Quarter El Call for the best experience. Here you can not only take a look at the picturesque buildings but also explore the excavations from Roman times and other eras.
What to see in El Gótico:
- The most famous sight of the district is the cathedral of Barcelona, “La Seu”. Around the cathedral, there are narrow streets full of entertainment and street artists.
- Two squares are a must-see: Plaça Reial and Plaça del Pi. They’re both full of life and there is a lot to soo; a perfect place for a snack or a cold drink.
- Do you want to find out more about the Roman times? Then you should visit the Barcelona City History Museum, where you will find numerous remains and excavations of the Romans.
- Take a stroll along the Avinguda del Portal de l’Angel, one of the most famous shopping streets in Barcelona. You’ll be amazed by the shops of famous brands, but also by the trendy boutiques in the side streets.
- Learn more about the politics at the Plaça Sant Jaume, the square where the Catalan government and the town hall face each other.
El Born: Where the historical old city meets nature.. and the beach!
El Born used to be the economical center of Barcelona in the Middle Ages, as it is close to the sea and the harbor. Some of the medieval streets still evoke the activities of the 14th century. Like the Carrer dels Sombrerers, where hawkers used to sell their products. Besides, you are in the right place when your soul is in need of delicious Spanish dishes and a sweet cold drink. Take a look in the side streets to discover the best restaurants, cafes and bars. El Born is not in vain compared to New York’s SoHo! Enough of culture and sightseeing? Then go to the beach! In just 15 minutes you are there … (Or take a taxi to be even faster ?)
What to see in El Born:
- Visit the highlight of El Born: the cathedral Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar. Residents literally contributed their part during the construction of this cathedral. The best way to marvel at the wonderful building ist on one of the surrounding cozy terraces.
- Enjoy the quiet and the green nature at Parc de la Ciutadella, the biggest park of Barcelona with a waterfall, ponds, and a romantic garden.
- Zoo Barcelona: in the middle of the park there is a zoo with more than 200 different species spread over 11 zones. This zoo is highly recommended if you visit Barcelona with kids!
- For lovers of art and culture, the well-known symbol of El Born is THE thing to do: the Picasso museum. This museum is distributed over 3 floors, 5 medieval palaces, and not less than 35 rooms. Admire the large collection of Picasso’s works and the beautiful building itself.
El Raval: Feel like a hipster and get to know other cultures …
In the past, this quarter of Barcelona was classified as dangerous due to the prostitution and criminality. When the city took over the neighborhood in the 90s, it was transformed into a beautiful, modern neighborhood. Old, dark buildings have been replaced by bright, modern facades. Since then, this district has been considered a neighborhood of hipsters, students, locals and a mix of cultures. Today, here you will find trendy shops, vintage boutiques and cozy restaurants and bars. It is a nice area for culture lovers and hippies. But remember to be careful as this area, El Raval, still has some dangerous corners.
What to see in El Raval:
- Are you lovers of modern art? In the Museu d’Art Contemporani (MACBA) you can get to know art in a creative way in combination with film, music, and theater. Fun is guaranteed for the younger and older ones.
- Want to see one of Gaudís first artworks? Then go to the Palau Güell mansion, which is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you buy an entrance ticket, a guided tour is included for free (in English). The mansion is full of gorgeous details and gives you the feeling to be in a palace; the great dome, the towers and the magical garden are just amazing!
- Are you crazy about Spanish specialties? Then you should definitely visit the La Boquerìa market with its delicious stands. What we love most are the fresh fruits and vegetables in every color imaginable.
- All bookworms yearn for a visit to the National Library of Catalonia. Here are books with more than 800 years of Catalan literature. The quiet reading rooms are a great contrast to the bustling streets of Barcelona.
Gràcia: A fairytale made of unhurried squares and villages
The fact that Gràcia used to be an independent village is still very visible … As you stroll through the neighborhood, you can see a picturesque church and the buildings are much lower than in the rest of Barcelona. It is hilly and there are several twisty blocks. But above all, Gràcia distinguishes itself through a series of beautiful squares where you can drink a glass of wine or enjoy a Spanish meal. There is also a cozy village atmosphere that you can certainly experience on a walk or on a terrace. You will undoubtedly encounter bars with live music, where local and foreign students frolic and street performers give their best. Gràcia is less touristy than the other neighborhoods, so definitely worth a visit. Especially if you want to escape the masses. ?
What to see in Gràcia:
- What you should not miss is the Parc Güell. The architect Gaudí designed this wonderful park with a view over the whole city on top of the hill El Carmel. The Park Güell was awarded as World Heritage Site by the UNESCO and is visited by hundreds of tourists every day. Therefore, we recommend buying your ticket in advance to not spent your holiday time in annoying queues.
- After visit the park you sure want a drink or a snack. For that the many squares in Gràcia are the best! For example, the Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia, better known as “Clubbing Square”, which was once the village square. Another great square for a drink is the Plaça del Sol; a popular meeting point among locals.
- Besides the Parc Güell, Gaudí built some more buildings. His first house, the Casa Vicens, is a true artwork and therefore worth visiting. It’s not that touristic as the others, so perfect to avoid long queues. For a market visit, we recommend the Mercat de l’Abacería Central or the Mercat de la Llibertat.
So, what do you think of our things to do in Barcelona and its districts? Which quarter fits your personality best? Of course, all of them are worth a visit! If you are still looking for great places to enjoy dinner in Barcelona, take a look at our Top 10 of the best restaurants!