‘Ser la leche’ is a Catalan phrase used commonly as in ‘today will be la leche’ or today will be an excellent day. I couldn’t agree more with this phrase as it pertains to every day in Barcelona. This Spanish city truly oozes with pleasure, passion, history, and the most exquisite tapas and vino in the Mediterranean.
Barcelona is my favorite city in the world for three main reasons: the Mediterranean climate, the easy ability to wander and get lost, and of course the wealth of culture and cuisine. Barcelona’s climate makes perfect activity weather as the summers are cooled off by the ocean breezes, and the diverse barrios are unique, each with their own artistic quirks, shops, and flair. Barcelona has been one of the hottest European destinations for over 20 years, with good reason. Gaudi’s adult playground is truly a vibrant breeding ground for inventive cuisine, artistic greats, and the most lively club and night life in the world.
It’s hard to know where to begin, but try some of these adventures to take a unique twist on the standard Barcelona bucket list:
1 Rent a Bike immediately
First things first, get your hands on two wheels as soon as you possibly can. I love biking around cities; I think it is one of the quickest ways to get your bearings and cover the most ground (all while still being exposed to the elements). Barcelona is an extremely biker-friendly city with many bike lanes, and city planners have identified even more lanes in the works in the coming years. We rented our bikes from Green Bikes, and I couldn’t have been happier with the experience, the price, and the bikes – I would highly recommend finding their tiny shop tucked away in the winding streets on the fringes of the Gothic Quarter.
2 See sunrise at Parc Guell
Seeing Parc Guell at sunrise was one of the most surreal experiences to date. We ended up going directly after a night out at Opium (also my favorite club in Barcelona)! We thought about going home and sleeping, but how can you sleep in a city like this? Gaudi’s candy land lair is calling your name right around sunrise, and the early bird truly gets the most beautiful worm overlooking the city with Parc Guell all to yourself. A regular ticket into the park is around 7 euros and due to the increasing popularity, lines can be really long. But, if you go before 8 am, you don’t need to purchase a ticket, and you can have free entry AKA Parc Guell ‘happy hour.’
3 Explore the bohemian beauty of the Costa Brava by motorbike
Costa Brava is a true Catalan gem – encompassing exquisite beaches, wild coastlines, and fairytale beachside towns. The beaches and towns nestled alongside the Catalan landscapes stretch all the way to the French Border. There are many ways to explore Costa Brava from Barcelona, but we chose to take a train to Figueres. Figueres itself is a beautiful, quaint town most famous for the Dali museum, and sprinklings of Dali’s influence are scattered throughout the town in the various street art form.
You can rent mopeds right outside of the Figueres train station (~$50/day) and then begin your cruise north towards the most charming part of Costa Brava and the dreamy white town of Cadaques. Often described as the ‘pearl’ of Costa Brava, this charming fishing town is still relatively untouched by masses of tourism due to the winding road through the Cap de Creus mountains which make it a definite adventure to reach. Bohemian beauty meets freshly caught fish and a sense of a sleepy town with dive, souvenir, and gelato shops lining the oceanside streets.
4 Eat tapas, drink vino Tinto, repeat
If you aren’t familiar, tapas are small dishes meant for sharing (and usually meant for picking up with your hands because they are finger-licking good) across Spain and Barcelona in particular. The most authentic tapas spots are usually crowded, tiny bars with standing room only. It doesn’t sound like the best dining experience, but believe me, the overwhelming flavors combined with the atmosphere of really working for your space at the bar is exciting and rewarding all at once. One of my favorite standing room only spots is Can Paixano orLa Xampanyeria – Carrer de la Reina Cristina, 7, 08003 Barcelona. It’s always packed, but I promise the wait in this hole in the wall spot is worth it. Imagine ice cold euro glasses of champagne accompanied by an authentic array of Catalan tapas including delicious Roquefort cheese, oozing sandwiches, sausages fresh off the griddle with Jamon y queso.
5 Enjoy sunset and a Magic fountain show at Montjuic
Plaza de España is the gateway to Montjuic and lies at the footsteps of the magnificent Museo Nacional D’Arte De Catalunya. The fountain show is absolutely incredible and is a mirage of bright colors and fireworks. Even if you don’t have a chance to see the Magic Fountain show, be sure to head this way around sunrise with a bottle of vino in hand as it offers one of the most breathtaking views of the city around sunset and then bleeds beauty into dusk across the entirety of Barcelona’s cityscape. Check this site for show times, as the fountain show is seasonal!
6 Go on a Gelato Crawl
Summer in Barcelona is magical, the sun is out, it’s 70-80 degrees F and everyone you see has a Gelato in hand. There are many great gelato places lining the streets of Las Ramblas and weaving into the Gothic Quarter and El Raval. Try one scoop at one, walk around through the winding art and shadow-ridden streets, and then try a different flavor. Who needs a bar crawl when you can just gelato and food crawl your way through a city? More Stracciatella, please.
7 Romp around Las Ramblas
Although Las Ramblas can be incredibly touristy (and is always inherently busy) this main drag sure has character. People watching here will leave you busy for hours – listening to the native tongue of local Catalans, Russians, Parisians, and people from every walk of life and corner of the world. Don’t skip La Boqueria, one of Barcelona’s oldest and most iconic markets. You can find everything here from freshly caught fish to teas, herbs, vibrant mini-smoothies, and even gummy flavored hamburgers.
8 Watch sunset on the Graffiti rocks beyond the iconic W Hotel
If the W drinks are a little too expensive for a sunset cocktail, adventure a little further below the pool deck out onto the huge sea boulders and wave breakers that line the shore in front of the W Hotel. They are covered in various graffiti designs and you can spend hours walking along their edges watching the boats cruise by. Bring a bottle of wine and stay a whil,e gazing up at the sail-like figure of the W Barcelona.
9 Take a Virtual tour of Casa Battló
Gaudi was a brilliant genius who made Barcelona his artistic easel. The city is filled with Gaudi inspiration, and Casa Batlló is one of his most iconic works. Also known as the ‘House of Bones’ Casa Batlló was designed for the Batlló family, and each room and wandering hallway is intricately designed with various sea creatures, dragons, and animal anatomy in mind. With the purchase of your ticket, you now get a SmartGuide that takes you through a virtual tour of what the house looked like back when it was remodeled.
10 Stare at the Sagrada Familia from various viewpoints
You simply can’t walk a block or two in Barcelona without being reminded of the artistic fervor and reach of Mr. Antoni Gaudi. The Sagrada Familia began construction in 1882, and from then on became Gaudi’s life work and absolute obsession. The on-going construction is based on plans created by Gaudi and is set to be finished finally in 2026. The towers can be seen from various viewpoints, and be sure to take your time wandering around the entirety of its’ exterior as the intricacy dedicated to every inch of the cathedral is simply mesmerizing.
The Barcelona bucket list is a continuous adventure that truly never ends in a city that barely sleeps. From its modernist architecture, fantastical landmarks like the Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell, to the hundreds of winding streets and barrios to get wrapped up in, this cosmopolitan capital will leave your belly full of wine, Jamon, and incredible times.
What are your favorite Barcelona adventures? I know there are a million I missed! Be sure to check out our Barcelona Barrio’s guide as you plan your next adventure to my absolute favorite city in the world.