145 Best Sights in Barcelona, Spain

Castell de Montjuïc

Built in 1640 by rebels against Felipe IV, the castle has had a dark history as a symbol of Barcelona's military domination by foreign powers, usually the Spanish army. The fortress was stormed several times, most famously in 1705 by Lord Peterborough for Archduke Carlos of Austria. In 1808, during the Peninsular War, it was seized by the French under General Dufresne. During an 1842 civil disturbance, Barcelona was bombed from its heights by a Spanish artillery battery. After the 1936–39 civil war, the castle was used as a dungeon for political prisoners. Lluís Companys, president of the Generalitat de Catalunya during the civil war, was executed by firing squad here on October 14, 1940. In 2007 the fortress was formally ceded back to Barcelona.

An excellent visitor center highlights the history of the castle throughout the ages; other spaces are given over to temporary exhibits. The various terraces offer fantastic panoramic views over the city and out to sea. The moat, which contains attractive gardens, is the site of the popular summer Sala Montjuic Open Air Cinema ( www.salamontjuic.org), screening original versions of classic films with live music concerts before the showings.

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Centre de Cultura Contemporànea de Barcelona (CCCB)

Next door to the MACBA, this multidisciplinary gallery, lecture hall, and concert and exhibition space offers a year-round program of cultural events and projects. The center also has a remarkable film archive of historic shorts and documentaries, free to the public. Housed in the restored and renovated Casa de la Caritat, a former medieval convent and hospital, the CCCB, like the Palau de la Música Catalana, is one of the city's shining examples of contemporary flare added to traditional architecture and design. A smoked-glass wall on the right side of the patio, designed by architects Albert Villaplana and Helio Piñon, reflects out over the rooftops of El Raval to Montjuïc and the Mediterranean beyond.

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Montalegre 5, 08001, Spain
93-306–4100
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Exhibitions from €6; free with Barcelona Card and Sun. afternoon (pre-book online). Admission to CCCB Film Archive is free with previous reservation, Closed Mon.

Centre Moral Instructiu de Gràcia

Gràcia

Another creation by Gaudí's assistant Francesc Berenguer (Gràcia is Berenguer country), the Centre Moral Instructiu was built in 1904 and still functions as a cultural institution; its wide range of programs—founded, it would seem, on the premise that recreation and sport are morally uplifting—includes chess and table tennis tournaments, craft workshops, language courses, and children's theater performances. The Centre even has its own resident repertory theater company. Berenguer himself was its president at one time.

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Col·legi d'Arquitectes

Barri Gòtic

Barcelona's College of Architects, designed by Xavier Busquets and opened in 1962, houses three important gems: a superb library located across the street, where for a small fee the college's bibliographical resources are at your disposal for research; a bookstore specializing in architecture, design, and drafting supplies; and a decent restaurant (one of the city's best-kept secret lunch options for the weary explorer). The Picasso friezes on the facade of the building were designed by the artist in 1960; inside are two more, one a vision of Barcelona and the other dedicated to the sardana, Catalonia's traditional folk dance. The glass-and-concrete modernity of the building itself raises hackles: how could architects, of all people, be so blithely unconcerned—even contemptuous—about the aesthetics of accommodation to the Gothic setting around it?

Col·legi de les Teresianes

Built for the Reverend Mothers of St. Theresa in 1889, when Gaudí was still occasionally using straight lines, this former operating school has upper floors that are reminiscent of Berenguer's apartment at Carrer de l'Or 44, with its steep peaks and verticality. Hired to take over for another architect, Gaudí found his freedom of movement somewhat limited in this project. The dominant theme here is the architect's use of steep, narrow catenary arches and Mudejar exposed-brick pillars.

The most striking effects are on the second floor, where two rows of a dozen catenary arches run the width of the building, each of them unique, because, as Gaudí explained, no two things in nature are identical. The brick columns are crowned with T-shaped brick capitals (for St. Theresa). Look down at the marble doorstep for the inscription by mystic writer and poet Santa Teresa de Ávila (1515–82), the much-quoted "todo se pasa" (all things pass). The Col·legi is a private secondary school, and normally not open to visitors, but the sisters sometimes organize guided group visits on request.

Col·legi Oficial d'Arquitectes de Catalunya (COAC)

Barri Gòtic

The architectural temporary exhibitions (see the website for details of the program) on the ground floor of the School of Architecture focus on urbanism and notable architects. The design and architecture bookshop in the basement is reason alone to visit. The stick figure frieze on the exterior of the building was designed by Picasso during his exile, and executed by the Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar in 1955.

Convent dels Àngels

El Raval

This former Augustinian convent directly across from the main entrance to the MACBA, built by Bartolomeu Roig in the middle of the 16th century, has been converted into additional exhibition space for the MACBA, with a performing arts venue and an exhibition hall (El Fòrum dels Àngels) rented out on occasion for special events. The Fòrum dels Àngels is an impressive space, with magnificent Gothic arches and vaulted ceilings.

Pl. dels Àngels 5, Barcelona, 08001, Spain
93-412–0810
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Mon. and Wed.–Fri. 11–7:30, Sat. 10–9, Sun. 10–3

Cooperativa Obrera La Fraternitat

Barceloneta

This strikingly ornate building in the otherwise humble fishermen's quarter, the only Art Nouveau building in Barceloneta, housed the progressive workers' organization La Fraternitat, founded in 1879. Begun as a low-cost outlet to help supply workers and their families with basic necessities at cut-rate prices, the cooperative soon became a social and cultural center that included a public library. The present cooperative building was inaugurated in 1918 and is now, once again, Barceloneta's library.

CosmoCaixa–Museu de la Ciència Fundació "La Caixa"

Sant Gervasi

Young scientific minds work overtime in this interactive science museum, just below Tibidabo. Among the many displays designed for children seven and up are the Geological Wall, a history of rocks and rock formations; the digital Planetarium; and the Underwater Forest, showcasing a slice of the Amazonian rain forest in a large greenhouse.

Dipòsit de les Aigües–Universitat Pompeu Fabra

La Ciutadella

The Ciutadella campus of Barcelona's private Universitat Pompeu Fabra contains a contemporary architectural gem worth seeking out. It's two blocks up from the Ciutadella–Vil·la Olímpica metro stop, just beyond where the tramline out to the Fòrum begins. Once the hydraulic cistern for the Ciutadella waterworks, built in 1880 by Josep Fontseré, the Dipòsit de les Aigües was converted to the school's Central Library in 1999 by the design team of Lluís Clotet and Ignacio Paricio. The massive, 3-foot-thick walls, perforated and crowned with tall brick arches, are striking; the trompe-l'oeil connecting corridor between the reading rooms is a brilliant touch. Even in humble Barceloneta, there are opportunities for really gifted architects to take a historical property in hand and work magic.

El Mirador de la Venta

Tibidabo

You may come up to Tibidabo for the great views, but El Mirador de la Venta has good contemporary cuisine to accompany them.

El Transbordador Aeri del Port

This hair-raising cable-car ride over the Barcelona harbor, from Barceloneta to Montjuïc hill, is a serious adrenaline rush. Swaying 100 feet or so in the air, the windowed gondola, which holds 19 people, travels the mile-long route in about 10 minutes—every one of them packed with fabulous bird's-eye views. Cable-car access is from both ends, though most people leave from the Torre de San Sebastián (San Sebastian tower) in Barceloneta heading to the Torre de Miramar on Montjuïc.  The Torre de Altamar restaurant in the tower at the Barceloneta end serves excellent food and wine.

Església de Betlem

The Church of Bethlehem is one of Barcelona's few baroque buildings, and hulks stodgily on La Rambla just above Rambla de les Flors. Burned out completely at the start of the Civil War in 1936, the church is unremarkable inside; the outside, spruced up, is made of what looks like quilted stone. If you find this less than a must-see, worry not: you have all of Barcelona for company, with the possible exception of Betlem's parishioners. This was where Viceroy Amat claimed the hand of the young virreina-to-be when in 1780 she was left in the lurch by the viceroy's nephew. In a sense, Betlem has compensated the city with the half century of good works the young widow was able to accomplish with her husband's fortune.

Carme 2, 08001, Spain
93-318–3823

Estació de França

Barcelona's main railroad station until about 1980, and still in use, the elegant Estació de França is outside the west gate of the Ciutadella. Rebuilt in 1929 for the International Exhibition and restored in 1992 for the Olympics, this mid-19th-century building overshadows Estació de Sants, the city's main intercity and international terminus. The marble and bronze, the Moderniste decorative details, and the delicate tracery of its wrought-iron roof girders make this one of the most beautiful buildings of its kind. Stop in for a sense of the bygone romance of European travel.

Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys

The Olympic Stadium was originally built for the International Exhibition of 1929, with the idea that Barcelona would then host the 1936 Olympics (ultimately staged in Hitler's Berlin). After failing twice to win the nomination, the city celebrated the attainment of its long-cherished goal by renovating the semi-derelict stadium—preserving the original facade and shell—in time for 1992, providing seating for 60,000.

Though you can view the stadium for free from the entrance area, the field and indoor areas are not normally open to the public. That said, tickets to a Barcelona Football Club ( www.fcbarcelona.com) match will get you in. The beloved team will be playing its home games here while Camp Nou undergoes a multiyear renovation (due for completion in Nov. 2024). You can also enter with a concert ticket; the stadium occasionally plays host to major acts like Coldplay and Harry Styles.

The nearby Museu Olímpic i de l'Esport, a museum about the Olympic movement in Barcelona, shows audiovisual replays from the 1992 Olympics, and provides interactive simulations for visitors to experience the training and competition of Olympic athletes. An information center traces the history of the modern Olympics from Athens in 1896 to the present. Next door and just downhill stands the futuristic Palau Sant Jordi sports and concert arena, designed by the noted Japanese architect Arata Isozaki.

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Font de Canaletes

This fountain is a key spot in Barcelona, the place where all great futbol victories are celebrated by jubilant (and often unruly) Barça fans. It was originally known for the best water in Barcelona, brought in by canaletes (small canals) from the mountains. The bronze plaque on the pavement in front of the fountain explains in Catalan that if you drink from these waters, you will fall under Barcelona's spell and are destined to return.

Rambla de Canaletes s/n, 08002, Spain

Fossar de les Moreres

Born-Ribera

This low marble monument runs across the eastern side of the church of Santa Maria del Mar. It honors the defenders of Barcelona who gave their lives in the final siege that ended the War of the Spanish Succession on September 11, 1714, and who are buried in the cemetery that lies beneath the square.

The inscription (in English: "in the cemetery of the mulberry trees no traitor lies") refers to the graveyard keeper's story. He refused to bury those on the invading side, even when one turned out to be his son. This is the traditional gathering place for the most radical elements of Catalonia's nationalist (separatist) movement, on the Catalonian national day, which celebrates the heroic defeat.

From the monument, look back at Santa Maria del Mar. The lighter-color stone on the lateral facade was left by the 17th-century Pont del Palau (Palace Bridge), erected to connect the Royal Palace in the nearby Pla del Palau with the Tribuna Real (Royal Box) over the right side of the Santa Maria del Mar altar, so that nobles and occupying military officials could get to Mass without the risk of walking in the streets. The bridge, regarded as a symbol of imperialist oppression, was finally dismantled in 1987. The steel arch with its eternal flame that honors the fallen Catalans was erected in 2002.

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Fuente de Carmen Amaya

Barceloneta

At the eastern end of Carrer Sant Carles, where Barceloneta joins the beach, is the monument to the famous Gypsy flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya (1913–63). Amaya was born in the Gypsy settlement known as Somorrostro, part of Barceloneta until 1920 when development sent the Gypsies farther east to what is now the Fòrum grounds (from which they were again displaced in 2003). Amaya achieved universal fame in 1929 at the age of 16, when she performed at Barcelona's International Exposition and later starred in films such as La hija de Juan Simón (1934) and Los Tarantos (1962). The fountain, and its high-relief representations of cherubic children as flamenco performers (two guitarists, three dancers—in the nude, unlike real flamenco dancers), has been poorly maintained since it was placed here in 1959, but it remains an important reminder of Barceloneta's roots as a rough-and-tumble enclave of free-living sailors, stevedores, Gypsies, and fishermen.

Carrer Sant Carles s/n, Barcelona, 08003, Spain

Fundació Antoni Tàpies

This foundation created in 1984 by Catalonia’s then-most important living artist, Antoni Tàpies, continues to promote the work of important Catalan artists and writers. Tàpies, who died in 2012, was an abstract painter who was influenced by surrealism, and his passion for art and literature still echoes in the halls of this enchanting Modernist building by esteemed architect Domènech i Montaner. There are thought-provoking temporary exhibitions, a comprehensive lecture series, and film screenings. The modern split-level gallery also has a bookstore that's strong on Tàpies, Asian art, and Barcelona art and architecture.

Carrer Aragó 255, 08007, Spain
93-487–0315
Sight Details
Rate Includes: €8, free with Barcelona Card, Closed Sun. afternoon and Mon.

Galeria Joan Prats

Eixample Esquerra

One of several galleries on or around Consell de Cent in Eixample Esquerra, "La Prats" has been one of the city's top galleries since the 1920s, showing international painters and sculptors from Henry Moore to Antoni Tàpies. Barcelona painter Joan Miró was a prime force in the founding of the gallery when he became friends with Joan Prats. The motifs of bonnets and derbies on the gallery's facade are callbacks to the trade of Prats's father. José Maria Sicilia and Juan Ugalde have shown here, while Erick Beltrán, Hannah Collins, and Eulàlia Valldosera are among the regular artists on display.

Galeria Toni Tàpies

Eixample Esquerra

After the prolific Catalan painter Antoni Tàpies died in 2012, his son Toni decided to change the direction of his successful gallery and, as a touching homage, only show his late father’s work, which is now on show permanently. This is complemented by periodic smaller shows and events from other leading artists, sometimes of one single piece, which have been chosen to create a "dialogue" with the Tàpies oeuvre.

Consell de Cent 282, Barcelona, 08007, Spain
+34-93-487–6402
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sat. and Sun.

Gaudí Exhibition Center

Barri Gòtic

Set virtually into the city's ancient Roman wall, this 11th-century Gothic building, now a museum, once served soup to the city's poor; hence its popular name, the "House of Pious Alms." The museum (originally housing a collection of religious sculpture, paintings, and liturgical implements) is now dedicated to the works of the master architect Antoni Gaudí. For a tour of the Roman walls, consult the excellent relief map/scale model of Roman Barcelona in the vestibule; copies of the map and model are for sale in the nearby Museu d'Història de la Ciutat (Museum of the History of the City). Inside, Roman stones are clearly visible in this much-restored structure, the only octagonal tower of the 82 that ringed 4th-century Barcino. The museum is behind the massive floral iron grate in the octagonal Roman watchtower to the left of the stairs of the Catedral de la Seu.

Generalitat de Catalunya

Opposite city hall, the Palau de la Generalitat is the seat of the autonomous Catalan government. Seen through the front windows of this ornate 15th-century palace, the gilded ceiling of the Saló de Sant Jordi (St. George's Hall), named for Catalonia's dragon-slaying patron saint, gives an idea of the lavish decor within. Carrer del Bisbe, running along the right side of the building from the square to the cathedral, offers a favorite photo op: the gargoyle-bedecked Gothic bridge overhead, connecting the Generalitat to the building across the street. The Generalitat opens to the public on the second and fourth weekends of the month, with free one-hour guided tours in English (request in advance), through the Generalitat website. The building is also open to visitors on Día de Sant Jordi (St. George's Day: April 23), during the Fiesta de la Mercé in late September, and on the National Day of Catalonia (September 11). 

Gran de Gràcia

This highly trafficked central artery and shopping thoroughfare running up through Gràcia is lined with buildings of great artistic and architectural interest, beginning with the hotel Casa Fuster, built between 1908 and 1911 by Palau de la Música Catalana architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner in collaboration with his son Pere Domènech i Roure. As you move up Gran de Gràcia, probable Francesc Berenguer buildings can be identified at No. 15; No. 23, with its scrolled cornice; and Nos. 35, 49, 51, 61, and 77. Officially attributed to a series of architects—Berenguer lacked a formal degree, having left architecture school to become Gaudí's "right hand"—these Moderniste masterworks have long inspired debate over Berenguer's role.

Hash Marihuana Cáñamo & Hemp Museum

Born-Ribera
Legendary Dutch cannabis pioneer Ben Dronkers acquired the historic Palau Mornau, in the Gothic Quarter, and opened it in 2012 after a major renovation as the world's largest museum devoted to this controversial crop. The building alone makes this a must-visit: a 16th-century noble palace later reconfigured in exuberant Moderniste style by architect Manuel Raspell, a contemporary of Gaudí and student of both Domènech i Montaner and Puig i Cadafalch, with jewel-box-like details of stained glass, carved wood door lintels, coffered ceilings, and ceramic tile. The museum collection of art and artifacts celebrates the history, cultivation, processing, and consumption of hemp in all its industrial, medicinal, and recreational aspects. Alas: no take-away samples.

Hotel España

El Raval

Just off La Rambla behind the Liceu opera house on Carrer Sant Pau is the Hotel España, remodeled in 1904 by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, architect of the Moderniste flagship Palau de la Música Catalana. Completely refurbished in 2010, the interior is notable for its Art Nouveau decor. The sculpted marble Eusebi Arnau fireplace in the bar, the Ramon Casas undersea murals in the salon (mermaids singing each to each), and the lushly ornate dining room are the hotel's best artistic features. The España is so proud of its place in the cultural history of the city—and justly so—it opens to the public for 40-minute guided tours, usually once a week on Thursdays. Check their website for times. (Note that tours are usually in Spanish or Catalan, but English can be requested.)

Carrer Sant Pau 9–11, Barcelona, 08001, Spain
+34-93-550–0000
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Tour €5 (free for hotel and restaurant guests)

IDEAL Centre d’Arts Digitals

Poblenou

A defunct old Poblenou movie theater that was rescued and reimagined for the digital age, the IDEAL space combines 360-degree projections with virtual reality and cutting-edge light and sound effects for an immersive experience. Recent shows have explored the works of Monet, Gustav Klimt, and Frida Kahlo.

La Cascada

La Ciutadella

The sights and sounds of Barcelona seem far away when you stand near this monumental two-tiered fountain by Josep Fontseré, presented as part of the 1888 Universal Exhibition. The waterfall's somewhat overwrought arrangement of rocks was the work of a young architecture student named Antoni Gaudí—his first public work, appropriately natural and organic, and certainly a hint of things to come.

Parc de la Ciutadella, Barcelona, 08003, Spain

La Llotja

Barcelona's maritime trade center, the Casa Llotja de Mar, was designed to be the city's finest example of civil architecture, built in the Catalan Gothic style between 1380 and 1392. At the end of the 18th century, the facades were (tragically) covered in the neoclassical uniformity of the time, but the interior, the great Saló Gòtic (Gothic Hall), remained unaltered, and was a grand venue for balls and celebrations throughout the 19th century.

The Gothic Hall was used as the Barcelona stock exchange until 1975, and until late 2001 as the grain exchange. The hall, with its graceful arches and columns and floors of light Carrara and dark Genovese marble, has now been brilliantly restored. The building, which can only be seen on a guided tour, now houses the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce.

The Escola de Belles Arts (School of Fine Arts) occupied the southwestern corner of the Llotja from 1849 until 1960. Many illustrious Barcelona artists studied here, including Gaudí, Miró, and Picasso. The Reial Acadèmia Catalana de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi (Royal Catalan Academy of Fine Arts of St. George) still has its seat in the Llotja, and its museum is one of Barcelona's semisecret collections of art, from medieval paintings by unknown artists to modern works by members of the Academy itself; a 17th-century Saint Jerome by Joan Ribalta is especially fine. To slip into the Saló Gòti, walk down the stairs from the museum to the second floor, then take the marble staircase down and turn right. 

Marlborough Gallery

Eixample Esquerra

This international giant occupies an important position in Barcelona's art-gallery galaxy with exhibits of major contemporary artists from around the world, as well as local stars. Recent shows featured the hyperrealist collages of Antonio López García and the contemporary designer and painter Alberto Corazón.