145 Best Sights in Barcelona, Spain

Mercat de la Llibertat

Far more manageable—both in size and crowds—than Boqueria market, this landmark iron-and-brick structure nonetheless impresses with its high ceilings and ornamental elements. Built between 1888 and 1893 by Catalan architect Miquel Pascual i Tintorer in collaboration with Francesc Berenguer, it features wonderful decorative elements, like the swans swimming along the roof line and the snails surrounding Gràcia's coat of arms.

Mercat de la Revolució

Gràcia

Officially Mercat de l'Abaceria Central, the market got its early name from the nearby Plaça de la Revolució de Setembre de 1868 just a block away up Carrer dels Desamparats. Browse your way through, and consider having something delicious such as a plate of wild mushrooms or a tortilla de patatas (potato omelet) at the bar and restaurant at the far corner on the lower east side.

Mercat de Sant Antoni

El Raval

A mammoth hangar at the junction of Ronda de Sant Antoni and Comte d'Urgell, designed in 1882 by Antoni Rovira i Trias, the Mercat de Sant Antoni is considered the city's finest example of wrought-iron architecture. The Greek-cross-shaped market covers an entire block on the edge of the Eixample, and some of the best Moderniste stall facades in Barcelona distinguish this exceptional space. Fully functioning as of 2017 after years of painstaking restoration to incorporate medieval archaeological remains underneath, the market is a foodie paradise of fruit, vegetables, fish, cheeses, and more. On Sunday morning, visit Sant Antoni, and wander the outdoor stalls of the weekly flea market full of stamps and coins, comic books and trading cards, VHS, CDs, vinyl, and vintage clothing.

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Mies van der Rohe Pavilion

One of the masterpieces of the Bauhaus School, the legendary Pavelló Mies van der Rohe—the German contribution to the 1929 International Exhibition, reassembled between 1983 and 1986—remains a stunning "less is more" study in interlocking planes of white marble, green onyx, and glass. In effect, it is Barcelona's aesthetic opposite to the flamboyant Art Nouveau/Modernisme of Gaudí and his contemporaries.

Note the mirror play of the black carpet inside the pavilion with the reflecting pool outside, and the iconic Barcelona chair designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969) and Lilly Reich (1885–1947). Reproductions have graced modern interiors around the world for decades.

Mirador de Colom

This Barcelona landmark to Christopher Columbus sits grandly at the foot of La Rambla along the wide harbor-front promenade of Passeig de Colom, not far from the very shipyards (Drassanes Reials) that constructed two of the ships of his tiny but immortal fleet. Standing atop the 150-foot-high iron column—the base of which is aswirl with gesticulating angels—Columbus seems to be looking out at "that far-distant shore" he discovered; in fact he's pointing, with his 18-inch-long finger, in the general direction of Sicily.

The monument was erected for the 1888 Universal Exposition to commemorate the commissioning of Columbus's voyage in Barcelona by the monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1491. Since the royal court was at that time itinerant (and remained so until 1561), Barcelona's role in the discovery of the New World is at best circumstantial. In fact, Barcelona was consequently excluded from trade with the Americas by Isabella, so Catalonia and Columbus have never really seen eye to eye. For a bird's-eye view of La Rambla and the port, take the elevator to the small viewing platform (mirador) at the top of the column (open daily from 8:30 am to 8:30 pm). The entrance is on the harbor side.

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Pl. Portal de la Pau s/n, 08001, Spain
93-285–3834
Sight Details
Rate Includes: €6, Last elevator ride is at 1:30 pm

Mirador Torre de Collserola

Tibidabo

The Collserola communications tower was designed by Norman Foster for the 1992 Olympics. An industrial spike on an otherwise pristine wooded skyline, it was not universally admired. A vertigo-inducing elevator ride takes you to the observation deck on the 10th floor. Take the FGC S1, S2, or S5 line to Peu del Funicular (note that the cars at the front of the train don't open at this station), then the funicular up to Vallvidrera; from the village of Vallvidrera it's a pleasant walk to the tower. Ongoing renovations have led to the tower being closed, so check the website before you go.

Ctra. de Vallvidrera al Tibidabo s/n, Barcelona, 08035, Spain
93-406–9354
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Rate Includes: €5.60, Closed weekdays, Guided tours on weekends 10–2

Museu d'Arqueologia de Catalunya

Just downhill to the right of the Palau Nacional, the Museum of Archaeology holds important finds from the Greek ruins at Empúries, on the Costa Brava. These are shown alongside fascinating objects from, and explanations of, megalithic Spain.

Passeig Santa Madrona 39–41, 08038, Spain
93-423–2149
Sight Details
Rate Includes: €6; free first Sun. of month, Closed Sun. afternoon and Mon.

Museu d'Història de Catalunya

Established in what used to be a port warehouse, this state-of-the-art interactive museum makes you part of Catalonian history, from prehistoric times to the contemporary democratic era. After centuries of "official" Catalan history dictated from Madrid (from 1714 until the mid-19th century Renaixença, and from 1939 to 1975), this offers an opportunity to revisit Catalonia's autobiography. Audioguides are available in English. The rooftop restaurant (1881 Per Sagardi) has fabulous harbor views.

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Pl. de Pau Vila 3, 08003, Spain
93-225–4700
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Rate Includes: From €6 (free on the first Sun. of every month, 10 am–2:30 pm), Closed Sun. afternoon and Mon.

Museu de Ciènces Naturals de Barcelona

La Ciutadella

Barcelona's first public museum, now in its ultramodern new home in the Marisme, displays rocks, minerals, and fossils along with special exhibits on Catalonia and Spain. Kids will go for the hands-on interactive "Living Planet" exhibits and the special collection of venomous beasties. The affiliated Jardi Botànic (botanical garden ), on Montjuic near the Olympic Stadium, boasts a notable collection of species of trees, flowers and shrubs from Australia, South Africa, California, South America, and the Mediterranean.

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Museu de la Xocolata

The elaborate, painstakingly detailed chocolate sculptures, which have included everything from La Sagrada Família to Don Quixote's windmills, delight both youthful and adult visitors to this museum, set in an imposing 18th-century former monastery and developed by the Barcelona Provincial Confectionery Guild. Other exhibits here touch on Barcelona's centuries-old love affair with chocolate, the introduction of chocolate to Europe by Spanish explorers from the Maya and Aztec cultures in the New World, and both vintage and current machinery and tools used to create this sweet delicacy.

The "Bean To Bar" experience showcases the full production process for making artisanal chocolate using traceable cocoa from different parts of the world. You can buy the finished products, including boxes and bars of chocolate, in the museum shop. The beautiful café offers rich hot and cold chocolate drinks and house-made cakes and pastries. Tasting sessions and classes on making chocolate are offered, too.

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Museu Egipci de Barcelona

Eixample Dreta

Presumably you came to Barcelona to learn about Catalonia, not ancient Egypt, but you might be making a mistake by skipping this major collection of art and artifacts. This museum takes advantage of state-of-the-art curatorial techniques, with exhibitions showcasing everything from mummies to what the ancient Egyptians had for dinner. The museum offers free guided tours, but only in Catalan or Spanish. 

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Museu Frederic Marès

Barri Gòtic

Here, in a building off the left side (north) of the cathedral, you can browse for hours among the miscellany assembled by the early-20th-century sculptor-collector Frederic Marès. Highlights of his charmingly disparate collection of paintings and polychrome wood carvings include Juan de Juni's 1537 masterful Pietà and the Master of Cabestany's late-12th-century Apparition of Christ to His Disciples at Sea. The second and third floors house a sensory overload of historical objets, mainly from 19th-century everyday life: fans, pipes and walking sticks, clocks, toys, daguerreotypes and posters, 13th- to 19th-century wrought iron, and more. The courtyard of this former Royal Palace of the Counts of Barcelona is lovely—the café-terrace in back is a perfect place for a break.

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Museu Verdaguer–Vil·la Joana

Catalonian priest and poet Jacint Verdaguer died in this house in 1902. Considered the national poet of Catalonia and the most revered and beloved voice of the Catalan "Renaixença" of the 19th century, Verdaguer succumbed to tuberculosis and a general mental collapse. In his most famous work, La Atlàntida (1877), which eventually became a Manuel de Falla opera-oratorio, he used the myth of Atlantis to prefigure the prehistoric origins of his native Catalonia.

Verdaguer's death provoked massive mourning. Indeed, his funeral was one of the most heavily attended events in Barcelona history, comparable only to Gaudí's in spontaneity and emotion. On display at Vil·la Joana is the book containing the signatures of the thousands who took part, among them, Pablo Picasso.

The museum, which is part of the MUHBA (Museu d'Història de Barcelona: Barcelona History Museum), is essentially an archival homage to Verdaguer's life and work. Unless you happen to be besotted with 19th-century Catalan poetry, this lovely Moderniste building, originally a masia (country house), is best appreciated from the outside, as you pass by.

N2

Eixample Esquerra

Since it opened, the Galería N2 has established its position as a beacon at the crossroads of tradition and modernity, of high- and low-brow art. The experimental but careful selection of artists featured in several annual solo shows includes the street artist Sixeart and the Argentine surrealist Mauricio Vergara. Since N2 specializes in up-and-coming and mid-career artists, works are generally affordable yet safe to invest in, and browsing here makes for a lighthearted change from the Eixample's more serious art houses.

Enric Granados 61, Barcelona, 08008, Spain
+34-93-452–0592
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Rate Includes: Closed Sat. and Sun.

Palau Baró de Quadras

Eixample Dreta

The neo-Gothic and plateresque (intricately carved in silversmith-like detail) facade of this house built for textile magnate Baron Manuel de Quadras and remodeled (1904–06) by Moderniste starchitect Puig i Cadafalch, has one of the most spectacular collections of Eusebi Arnau sculptures in town (other Arnau sites include the Palau de la Música Catalana, Quatre Gats–Casa Martí, and Casa Amatller). Look for the theme of St. George slaying the dragon once again, this one in a spectacularly vertiginous rush of movement down the facade. Across the top floor is an intimate-looking row of alpine chalet–like windows. The Palau currently houses the Institut Ramon Llull, a nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading the knowledge of Catalan culture worldwide.

Av. Diagonal 373, Barcelona, 08008, Spain
+34-93-467–8000
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Rate Includes: Group guided tours €10/person

Palau Dalmases

If you can get through the massive wooden gates that open onto Carrer Montcada (at the moment, the only opportunity is when the first-floor café-theater is open), you'll find yourself in Barcelona's best 17th-century Renaissance courtyard, built into a former 15th-century Gothic palace. Note the door knockers up at horseback level, and then scrutinize the frieze—featuring The Rape of Europa—that runs up the stone railing of the elegant stairway at the end of the patio. It's a festive abduction: Neptune's chariot, cherubs, naiads, dancers, tritons, and musicians accompany Zeus, in the form of a bull, as he carries poor Europa up the stairs and off to Crete.

The stone carvings in the courtyard, the 15th-century Gothic chapel, with its reliefs of angelic musicians, and the vaulting in the reception hall and salon are all that remain of the original 15th-century palace. The ground-floor Espai Barroc café features baroque-era flourishes and period furniture. It also hosts jazz, opera concertante, and other musical performances, as well as nightly (at 6, 7:30, and 9:30) flamenco shows.

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Palau de la Virreina

La Rambla

This beautiful edifice right on the bustling Rambla is an important Barcelona art hub, resource, and outpost of the Institut de Cultura, with photography on display at the Espai Xavier Miserachs, temporary exhibits on the patio, and cultural events held regularly in the space.

Palau de la Virreina

La Rambla

The baroque Virreina Palace, built by a viceroy to Peru in the late 18th century, is now a major center for themed exhibitions of contemporary art, film, and photography. The TiquetRambles office on the ground floor, run by the city government's Institut del Cultura (ICUB), open daily 10–8:30, is the place to go for information and last-minute tickets to concerts, theater and dance performances, gallery shows, and museums. The portal to the palace, and the pediments carved with elaborate floral designs, are a must-see.

Rambla de les Flors 99, Barcelona, 08002, Spain
93-316–1000
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Rate Includes: Free; €3 charge for some exhibits, Closed Mon., Tues.–Sun. noon–8

Palau del Lloctinent

The three facades of the Palau face Carrer dels Comtes de Barcelona on the cathedral side, the Baixada de Santa Clara, and Plaça del Rei. Typical of late Gothic–early Renaissance Catalan design, it was constructed by Antoni Carbonell between 1549 and 1557, and remains one of the Gothic Quarter's most graceful buildings. The heavy stone arches over the entry, the central patio, and the intricately coffered wooden roof over the stairs are all good examples of noble 16th-century architecture. The door on the stairway is a 1975 Josep Maria Subirachs work portraying scenes from the life of Sant Jordi and the history of Catalonia. The Palau del Lloctinent was inhabited by the king's official emissary or viceroy to Barcelona during the 16th and 17th centuries; it now houses the historical materials of the Archivo de la Corona de Aragón (Archive of the Crown of Aragon), and offers an excellent exhibit on the life and times of Jaume I, one of early Catalonia's most important figures. The patio also occasionally hosts early-music concerts, and during the Corpus Christi celebration is one of the main venues for the ou com balla, when an egg "dances" on the fountain amid an elaborate floral display.

Carrer dels Comtes 2, 08002, Spain
93-485–4285-archives office
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Rate Includes: Free

Palau Moja

La Rambla

The first palace to occupy this corner on La Rambla was built in 1702 and inhabited by the Marquès de Moja. The present austere palace was completed in 1784 and, with the Betlem church across the street, forms a small baroque-era pocket along La Rambla. Now housing offices of the Cultural Heritage Department of the Catalan Ministry of Culture (with a tourist information center on the ground floor), the Palau is normally open to the public only on rare occasions, such as special exhibitions, when visitors also have the chance to see the handsome mural and painted ceiling by Francesc Pla, the 18th-century painter known as El Vigatà (meaning "from Vic," a town 66 km [40 miles] north of Barcelona, where he was born). In the late 19th century the Palau Moja was bought by Antonio López y López, Marquès de Comillas, and it was here that Jacint Verdaguer, Catalonia's national poet and chaplain of the marquess's shipping company, the Compañia Transatlántica, wrote his famous patriotic epic poem "L'Atlàntida."

Carrer de la Portaferrissa 1, Barcelona, 08002, Spain
+34-93-316–2740
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Rate Includes: Closed weekends

Parlament de Catalunya

Once the arsenal for the Ciutadella—as evidenced by the thickness of the building's walls—this is the only surviving remnant of Felipe V's fortress. For a time it housed the city's museum of modern art, before it was repurposed to house the unicameral Catalan Parliament. Under Franco, the Generalitat—the regional government—was suppressed, and the Hall of Deputies was shut fast for 37 years. Book a free 45-minute guided tour (Mon.–Fri.) of the building via the website at least two days in advance; it includes the grand "Salon Rose," which is worth a visit in itself.

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Passatge Permanyer

Cutting through the middle of the block bordered by Pau Claris, Roger de Llúria, Consell de Cent, and Diputació, this charming, leafy mid-Eixample sanctuary is one of 46 passatges (alleys or passageways) that cut through the blocks of this gridlike area. Once an aristocratic enclave and hideaway for pianist Carles Vidiella and poet, musician, and illustrator Apel·les Mestre, Passatge Permanyer is, along with the nearby Passatge Méndez Vigo, the best of these through-the-looking-glass downtown Barcelona alleyways.

Pavellons de la Finca Güell–Càtedra Gaudí

Work on the Finca began in 1883 as an extension of Count Eusebi Güell's family estate. Gaudí, the count's architect of choice, was commissioned to do the gardens and the two entrance pavilions (1884–87); the rest of the project was never finished. The Pavellons (pavilions) now belong to the University of Barcelona, which has handed them over to the Municipal Institute for Urban Landscape (IMPUiQV) for ten years (2015–2024). During this period, IMPUiQV will carry out a comprehensive restoration of Gaudí’s work. Depending on the state of the renovation work, the complex may be open for group visits, heritage visits, as well as cultural and educational activities but will largely remain closed. The fierce wrought-iron dragon gate is Gaudí's reference to the Garden of the Hesperides, as described by national poet Jacint Verdaguer's epic poem L'Atlàntida (1877)—the Iliad of Catalonia's historic-mythic origins.  Entrance is by appointment only.

Plaça d'Anna Frank

Gràcia

Near Plaça del Diamant is a small square honoring Anne Frank, the young woman whose diary was published several years after she perished in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. As you leave Plaça del Diamant on Carrer de l'Or, a left on Torrent de l'Olla and an immediate right on Carrer de Jaén lead down some stairs and into a small space where you will see, lying over the edge of the roof of the CAT (Centre Artesá Tradicionàrius), the bronze figure of a young girl, by Catalan sculptress Sara Pons Arnal, pen and journal in hand, head cocked pensively, her foot raised idly, playfully, behind her. The inscription in the open bronze book on the wall reads "While even the names of her executioners are gone, she lives on. But may never return the long shadow and the river of blood and tears and mud and mourning that snuffed out so much beauty, the symbol of which was a young girl in bloom."

Plaça d'Espanya

This busy circle is a good place to avoid, but you'll probably need to cross it to get to the National Art Museum of Catalonia and other nearby Montjuïc attractions. It's dominated by the so-called Venetian Towers, built as the grand entrance to the 1929 International Exposition. They flank the lower end of the Avinguda Maria Cristina (the buildings on both sides are important venues for the trade fairs and industrial expositions that regularly descend on Barcelona).

At the far end is the Font Màgica (the Magic Fountain), which was created by Josep Maria Jujol, the Gaudí collaborator who designed the curvy and colorful benches in Park Güell, and which has a spectacular nighttime display of lights and music. The sculptures are by Miquel Blay, one of the master artists and craftsmen who put together the Palau de la Música. On the opposite side of the circle from the Towers, the neo-Mudejar bullring, Les Arenes, is now a multilevel shopping mall. 

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Plaça de Catalunya

Eixample

Barcelona's main bus-and-metro hub is the frontier between the Old City and the post-1860 Eixample. Fountains and statuary, along with pigeons and backpackers in roughly equal numbers, make the Plaça de Catalunya an open space to scurry across on your way to somewhere quieter, shadier, and gentler on the senses. 

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Plaça de Garriga i Bachs

Ceramic murals depicting executions of heroes of the Catalan resistance to Napoleonic troops in 1809 flank this little space just outside the cloister of La Catedral de Barcelona. The first three scenes show the five resistance leaders waiting their turns to be garroted or hanged (the garrote vil, or vile garrote, was reserved for the clergymen, as hanging was considered a lower and less-humane form of execution). The fourth scene depicts the surrender of three agitators who attempted to rally a general Barcelona uprising to save the first five by ringing the cathedral bells. The three are seen here, pale and exhausted after 72 hours of hiding in the organ, surrendering after being promised amnesty by the French. All three were subsequently executed. The bronze statue of the five martyred insurgents (1929), in the center of the monument, is by the Moderniste sculptor Josep Llimona, whose prolific work in Barcelona also includes the frieze on the Arc de Triomf and the equestrian statue of Count Ramon Berenguer III (1068–1131) in the Plaça de Ramon Berenguer el Gran, between Via Laietana and the Cathedral.

Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia

Originally named (until 2009) for the memorable Gràcia mayor Francesc Rius i Taulet, this is the barrio's most emblematic and historic square, marked by the handsome clock tower in its center. The tower, unveiled in 1864, is just over 110 feet tall. It has water fountains around its base, royal Bourbon crests over the fountains, and an iron balustrade atop the octagonal brick shaft stretching up to the clock and belfry. The symbol of Gràcia, the clock tower was bombarded by federal troops when Gràcia attempted to secede from the Spanish state during the 1870s. The Gràcia Casa de la Vila (town hall) at the lower end of the square is another building by Gaudí's assistant Francesc Berenguer.

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Plaça de les Olles

Born-Ribera

This pretty little square named for the makers of olles, or pots, has been known to host everything from topless sunbathers to elegant Viennese waltzers to the overflow from the popular nearby tapas bar Cal Pep. Notice the balconies at No. 6 over Café de la Ribera, oddly with colorful blue and yellow tile on the second and top floors. The house with the turret over the street on the right at the corner leading out to Pla del Palau (at No. 2 Plaça de les Olles) is another of Enric Sagnier i Villavecchia's retro-Moderniste works.

Plaça del Diamant

This little square is of enormous sentimental importance in Barcelona as the site of the opening and closing scenes of 20th-century Catalan writer Mercé Rodoreda's famous 1962 novel La Plaça del Diamant. Translated by the late American poet David Rosenthal as The Time of the Doves, it is the most widely translated and published Catalan novel of all time: a tender yet brutal story of a young woman devoured by the Spanish Civil War and, in a larger sense, by life itself. An angular and oddly disturbing steel and bronze statue in the square, by Xavier Medina-Campeny, portrays Colometa, the novel's protagonist, caught in the middle of her climactic scream. The bronze birds represent the pigeons that Colometa spent her life obsessively breeding; the male figure on the left pierced by bolts of steel is Quimet, her first love and husband, whom she met at a dance in this square and later lost in the war. Most of the people taking their ease at the cafés in the square will be unaware that some 40 feet below them is one of the largest air-raid shelters in Barcelona, hacked out by the residents of Gràcia during the bombardments of the civil war.