Things to Do in Barcelona
With its unique, modern design and interactive exhibits, the CosmoCaixa is frequently recognized as one of the best science museums in Europe. With hands-on displays and activities for both children and adults, the museum explores the earth through environmental and natural exhibits and the skies through its large, 3-D planetarium. There are educational experiments set up throughout, incorporating the senses of touch, smell, and sight.
Visitors enter the museum space (one of the largest in Spain) down an impressive five story winding staircase that ends at an Amazonian tree standing 30 meters tall. One of the most notable exhibits is the “Flooded Forest,” a replica of a tropical rain forest ecosystem in the Amazon with over 1,000 species present. The Geological Wall features cuts of rock formations from around Spain, and topics like evolution, intelligence, and physics can be explored in the Hall of Matter.
Though you can get to known Barcelona’s favorite son, Antoni Gaudí, by seeing the sights, you’ll really get a better understanding of the artist by exploring his fantastical world at the Gaudí Experience. This is where you can learn more about the architect via large interactive boards (available in nine languages, no less), and especially by watching the 4D movie, which is what really makes the experience a proper experience.
An experience, indeed, as the movie involves more than just pretty visuals but also moving seats and even other sensory details such as mist. During the adventure, you’ll travel the streets of old Barcelona, exploring Gaudí’s creations and his dreamlike world. Narration-free, it’s an especially ideal way for kids to get a more entertaining look at one of the most intriguing sides of Barcelona.
Discover an unexpectedly delightful corner of Barcelona, and at the same time a world of figurative art, by visiting the European Museum of Modern Art. Located in the Born neighborhood, and just steps away from the Picasso Museum, this isn’t your average modern art museum, featuring only on the finest of contemporary figurative art from the 20th to 21st centuries.
The MEAM’s art collection focuses less on the abstract and instead on other curious pieces such as sculptures, photorealistic paintings, and more. Many of these works have been created by living artists, to which the museum extends support. MEAM’s venue is a delight, too, as it is housed in the Gomis Palace, a neoclassical building erected in 1790. Expect your relatively quick visit there to both rewarding and relaxing thanks to the intriguing artwork and the music-filled and crowd-free galleries.
El Tablao de Carmen is a top-rated flamenco show that plays tribute to one of the world’s greatest flamenco dancers, Carmen Alaya. She once performed at this very site for King Alfonso XIII of Spain during the opening of the Poble Espanyol for the 1929 Universal Exposition. Known for her skill, passion, technique, and fiery personality, Carmen Amaya was widely adored for her dancing. Born in Barcelona, she danced internationally including across Europe, South America, and Central America before returning to the stage at home.
Visitors now can experience the allure of an authentic flamenco show in an intimate venue. Often the show of live music and 10-12 different professional dancers includes tapas, drinks, and/or dinner. In the spirit of true flamenco, no choreography or rehearsal is done — everything is wild and improvised.
Dating back to the 18th century, La Casa de la Seda was once home to the guild of silk-sail-makers in Barcelona. The 300-year-old exterior reflects the elegance and social status that guilds had at the time and much of the original façade remains, rendering the home a popular stop among architecture aficionados. Visitors will encounter intricate Baroque work and a corner balcony featuring a figure of Our Lady of Angels, as well as interior rooms decorated with fine wood, silk walls and religious items, such as an ivory Christ figure and a 17th-century cabinet decorated with religious paintings. Today, La Case de la Seda is home to the College of Mayor Art Seda de Barcelona. Guided tours take visitors through the guild hall, presidential office, meeting room and the library, which holds more than 3,000 historical documents.
Located about 30 miles (50 km) northwest of Barcelona is Montserrat - the 'Serrated Mountain'. The mountain gets its name from the rock formations which look like they've been sawed and sculpted.
This unique rock formation is home to a Benedictine monastery and is a famous pilgrimage spot as it is home to the 12th century wooden statue of La Moreneta (The Black Virgin), Catalonia's patron. During the regime of Franco, the monastery continued to hold Catholic ceremonies in the Catalan language and became a stronghold of Catalan culture.
Besides the religious and cultural importance of Montserrat, the mountain also boasts unbeatable views from it's peaks. A cog wheel train takes visitors to a lookout point where all of Catalonia and the Pyrenees can be seen.
More Things to Do in Barcelona
Not to be confused with the Cremallera train service that transports people up the slopes of Montserrat to the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria, Barcelona’s Sant Joan Funicular Railway runs from the monastery itself up to the very peak of the mountain. It was built back in 1918 for monks wishing to pray at the Hermitage of Sant Joan, and today it still trundles up the 65% gradient to 1,000 meters(3,280 feet) above sea level for stupendous views across the wild, arid landscapes of Cataluyna. From this vantage point, signposted walking trails lead into one of Catalunya’s most spectacular natural parks; the peaks of Montserrat have been protected since 1987 for their dense forests, in which more than 1,250 species of plants flourish. Animals to be spotted on the mountain slopes include wild goats, foxes and occasional wild boars as well as lizards of all sizes and colors.
The small coastal town of Figueres, just north of Barcelona, is known for only one thing - Salvador Dalí. Though the artisit's fame brought him to more glamorous parts of Spain, near the end of his career, Dalí returned to his hometown to began building his greatest masterpiece.
The Dalí Theatre-Museum is the largest surrealistic object in the world, replacing the town's former Municipal Theatre which was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War. Not only is the museum an artwork in itself, it's also home to many famous paintings by Dalí. The building holds the broadest range of the artist's works, including everything from his earliest pieces to his final paintings. Dalí also chose to include some pieces from his personal collection by other artists such as El Greco and Antoni Pitxot.
Dalí himself is now a part of the Teatre-Museu as well - his crypt and grave are located, quite fittingly, in the center of the museum.
Known for its nude beaches, and sporting one of the most vibrant gay communities in Europe, the Spanish beachside city of Sitges located South of Barcelona is a Mediterranean haven waiting for any visitor looking to fill in a tan, or just get some rest & relaxation. Whether it is a day out fishing or just enjoying the cheap eats and numerous sandy beaches, Sitges is a great place to relax and an escape for those who want to get away from Spain’s more densely populated areas.
There are countless restaurants and café’s to fit all tastes, and bars and clubs along ‘The Street of Sin,’
Between France and Spain lie the Pyrenees Mountains. This 305 mile (491km) mountain range stretching from the Bay of Biscay at Cap Higuer to the Mediterranean Sea at Cap de Creus forms a natural border between the two countries.
The Pyrenees are well-loved for their lakes, hot springs, alpine-skiing, mountaineering, hiking, cross-country running and cycling. Challenging stages of the Tour de France pass through the Pyrenees. The mountains can be explored on a great day trip from Pamplona in the north or Barcelona in the south of Spain, or from Lourdes or Perpignan in France, or take a few days out to hike the Pyrenees and really explore.
Add listening to the ethereal choir songs of one of Europe’s oldest boys choirs to your list of reasons to explore the craggy Montserrat mountainside not far from Barcelona. The boys choir, which dates back to the 13th or 14th century, is not only historic but also world famous, having recorded albums and toured to countries around the globe.
The boys, who range from ages 9-14, go to school here at the monastery, and sing in the basilica, where the public can come to watch. The roughly 50 singers are carefully selected based on a handful of criteria, one of course being their musical ability. Lucky for Montserrat visitors, the choir usually performs twice daily, making a visit to the mountainside getaway just that much more magical.
A popular day trip from nearby Barcelona, the Penedes region produces some of the region’s best wines and cava, or sparkling wine. Penedes is home to more than 300 wineries, many with scenic mountain backdrops and some of which were built in the modernista style. The area’s proximity to the Mediterranean coast and protection by nearby mountain ranges, along with rich native soil, creates microclimates perfect for growing grapes and producing fine wines. A journey through Penedes means Spanish countryside dotted by farmhouses and small family vineyards.
Perhaps the most famous product to come out of Penedes is cava — over 90% of the country’s sparkling wine is made there. Red, white, and rose wines are all produced in the region as well. Pair a glass or two with some local Catalan foods for a taste of Catalunya. Visiting Penedes is a chance to taste cava right at its source.
There are numerous options for wine tasting trips from Barcelona but few offer such a unique backdrop as Oller del Mas, a 10th century castle set in a scenic 1000-acre estate. A popular detour for those visiting the Benedictine Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey on the nearby Montserrat mountain, Oller del Mas offers an atmospheric setting for a wine tasting session, effortlessly combining Catalonian culture, history and gastronomy.
Whether you stop by for a quick tasting session, take a half-day tour of the winery or couple your wines with a leisurely lunch of traditional cuisine, there’s something to please every type of wine lover at Oller del Mas. Those with a real enthusiasm for wine can learn the secrets winemaking from harvest to glass, strolling around the picturesque vineyards, the production plants and the wine cellars, and witnessing the winery’s popular Bernat Oller and Arnau Oller wines being produced.
The municipality of Sant Sadurni d'Anoia is 50 km west of Barcelona and is the center of production for Spanish champagne, known regionally as Cava. It’s home to 60 wineries specializing in the production and export of Cava wine, including the Freixenet winery.
Originally a small parish town, Sant Sadurni d'Anoia has benefited from its location on the main route between Barcelona and Tarragona, and it’s home to many notable buildings in different architectural styles including the Moorish Can Ferrer del Mas, the pre-Romanesque chapel of Sant Benat, and the Gothic towers of the central church. Perhaps the most famous buildings in Sant Sadurni d'Anoia are the noucentista (Catalan anti-modern) buildings at the Codorníu cava house, which were designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch—a famous contemporary of Gaudi. Visitors have many opportunities to visit vineyards to see and learn about the production of Cava.
Bargain-hunters and brand-name lovers have one more destination they should add to their list of must-dos while in Barcelona: La Roca Village. Situated just over 30 minutes northeast of the coastal metropolis, and on the way to Costa Brava, the village-like shopping center is home to more than 130 boutiques, offering deals of up to 60% off retail price.
What you’ll find there is an open-air town of sorts packed with shops by high-end international brand names, and that sell products ranging from clothes to furnishings and other goods. La Roca also has a selection of quality restaurants and cafes to keep you fueled during your shopping excursion. To maximize your visit, note that there are a few stores located just outside the village as well.
One of the region’s most renowned producers of Catalonian specialty Cava, the Freixenet Vineyards make a popular day trip for visitors from Barcelona. Built in 1922, Freixenet was started by the Ferras and the Salas, two well-regarded winemaking families whose history of wine production dates back to the 12th century.
The Freixenet vineyards, located in Sant Sadurní d'Anoia in the legendary wine region of Altes Penedes, offer guests the chance to experience the production of the famous Freixenet cava with tours of the winery. Visitors can take a peek into the historic wine cellars, the production areas and bottling plants, where they can learn the traditional winemaking techniques that are still employed today. Most unique is the small passenger train that runs through the 20km of underground cava cellars, transporting guests to the tasting room.
A trip to Barcelona isn’t complete without sampling some of Catalonia’s renowned wines and the Bodegas Torres, Spain’s largest winery, is the perfect place to start. A sprawling vineyard dominating the famous Penedés region, the winery is owned by the legendary Torres’ family, whose wine and brandy making legacy dates back more than 140 years.
Less than an hour from Barcelona, the Torres Winery makes a popular day trip for both locals and tourists, where you’ll not only get the chance to sample some of the world-class wine varieties, but to tour the winery and learn about the winemaking process. Founded in 1870, the historic vineyards produce some of the region’s most acclaimed grapes, maturing their wines in small oak barrels similar to those produced in Bordeaux and exporting to over 120 countries around the globe.
Don’t be fooled — the beach isn’t the only reason to make it to Sitges; in fact, it might not even be the top one. A visit to the city’s Cau Ferrat Museum will quickly prove this is to be the case given its eclectic collection of art, odds and ends that will keep your eyes dazzled for days.
Relatively small in size, the museum’s venue was originally founded in 1893 (later opened to the public in 1933) by Santiago Rusiñol as a fisherman home-turned-home workshop. What awaits visitors now is a veritable temple of Modernisme times, which includes a seemingly never-ending collection of items ranging from ceramics to medieval doorknobs and keys, colorful tile work, artwork by Rusiñol’s contemporaries (such as Picasso), and what is said to be the world’s largest collection of wrought iron — among a lot more. Between the items on display, the historic home, and the unbeatable views of the sea, you’ll be glad you found your way to this impressive treasure in Sitges.
Cardona Castle sits proudly on a hilltop opposite the mines of Salt Mountain. The stone fortress was built in Gothic and Romanesque style in 886 AD, and is perhaps the most important medieval structure in Catalonia. It was fortified and then partially destroyed in the 17th century before being fully restored in the 19th century.
Historically the castle belonged to dukes of Cardona, which were members of the Crown of Aragon, ruling just below the Royal Family. They oversaw several regions of Spain and kept many important diplomatic ties. Since being attacked in the 18th century, the fortress has become a strong symbol of Catalonian identity. Inside stands the stone Sant Vicenç Church, which dates back to the 11th century. The impressive Minyona Tower stands tall at 15 meters high above the rest of the complex. Views of the Cardener River and the town of Cardona below can be seen from the top.
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