Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn a small commission for purchases made through links in this post, at no extra cost to you.
What Is Barcelona Known For? Famous For?
If Barcelona has captured your curiosity, you should know that this historic city has much more to offer than the legacy of the 1992 Summer Olympic Games.
Barcelona is known for its unique combination of historic and contemporary architecture. It is a seaside community, with vibrant streets lined from end to end with tasty eateries and bustling entertainment centers. There is no shortage of distinctive activities, like the Camp Nou experience.
You are invited to continue below to learn more about what Barcelona is famous for. There’s something for everybody in this historic city, whether it’s a tour of some of the oldest standing structures in the world, or a stroll through Barcelona’s ancient streets, filled to the brim with cafes and shops.
What Food Is Barcelona Known For?
If you plan to visit Barcelona, you’ll undoubtedly want to add these delicacies to your itinerary. Continue below to learn more about the must-have menu items in Barcelona.
Lovers of meat and rice dishes should find a bowl of happiness in a shop that makes one of Spain’s signature dishes— paella. The main ingredients are typically rice, saffron, vegetables, livestock, and, in some cases, seafood.
Despite the popularity of the dish, it can be hard to find an authentic paella in Barcelona. This is because it takes many hours of hard labor and meticulous coaxing of the rice to prepare this dish correctly.
Some restaurants only offer the dish once or twice per week, while others that are dedicated explicitly to paella may offer the dish every meal.
Bombas are crafted from a delicious combo of meat, potatoes, and spices. They are then formed into a ball, covered in breadcrumbs, and fried. Size varies, with some examples of this dish being nothing more than bite-sized snacks and others the size of tennis balls! Make sure that you are privy to this information before planning on making a meal out of bombas.
Croquetas are long ovals filled with cheese and meat, typically either chicken or Iberico ham, deep-fried and covered in breadcrumbs. While the French use potatoes for their croquettes, the Spanish are famous for using bechamel. This is a rich, creamy sauce of butter, flour, and milk.
You can’t visit Barcelona without enjoying the seafood that is a staple of the city. It should come as no surprise that a city located on the Mediterranean is also home to many seafood delicacies.
Look for a dish named esquiexada de bacalla, or Catalan ceviche, which consists of a flaked cod base accented with fresh tomatoes, black olives, and olive oil. Cod is a fish that is present in many Spanish dishes.
Calamari, served either grilled or fried, is widespread. Look for Calamares a la romana, which are rings of squid dipped in batter and then fried to a rich golden brown color. The rings are topped off with a squeeze of lemon. The crunch of the fried batter can serve as a good introduction to those squeamish about the possibility of biting into a squid.
Architecture of Barcelona
The city of Barcelona was originally founded by the Romans in the 1st century BC. As such, it is home to a unique combination of both historic and contemporary architecture.
Basilica de la Sagrada Familia
Basilica de la Sagrada Familia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Northern Barcelona. The church is home to 18 spindly towers that dominate the local landscape.
The towers have an interesting backstory too. Architect Antoni Gaudi was commissioned to design the church in 1883, but it was never completed within his lifetime. From 1926 to now, a multi-generational string of architects has played a role in gradually completing the Basilica according to Gaudi’s original plans.
The architecture of the Middle Ages is on full display in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona. Here you can wander a maze of narrow cobblestone streets. The streets come alive with the tunes of a classic Spanish guitar, the chatter of the crowds, and the clanging of dishware at local eateries. There are few better places to become fully immersed in medieval culture.
This is a much more recent addition to Barcelona than Barri Gothic or the Basilica. Built in 2003, this conical tower takes a much more contemporary approach. The glass surface fully reflects the colors of the Mediterranean. It is a must-visit after nightfall when the 4,500 LED lights incorporated into the tower’s surface are fully lit.
Casa Amatller & Casa Batllo
These are two sprawling mansions located right next to each other. Both are located along Passeig de Gracia in the center of town, not far from Placa de Catalunya, a historic central square in the city.
Casa Amatller follows the new-Gothic style inspired by homes in the Netherlands. Visitors are taken on tours through beautiful tile floors, plaster, and unique woodwork. For fans of stained glass, there’s the caretaker’s office holding fine stained-glass windows dating back to the modernista era.
Casa Batllo features animal shapes, vine-like curves, glazed ceramic, and glass. The gently sloping roof is reminiscent of a fish’s scales. All these combine to make the Casa Batllo look like something out of a fairy tale. Visitors have access to tours of this architectural masterpiece as well.
Santa Maria Del Mar
Every boulder used to build this church was hauled one at a time from the shoreline and mountains surrounding the city, via the hard labor of ordinary citizens. The building was completed in 1383, a staggering 54 years after the first stone was laid. Since then, the structure has survived mostly intact, despite an 11-day fire that broke out in the city during the Spanish Civil War.
This is a UNESCO-listed mansion designed by Antoni Gaudi. The extensive mansion includes an expansive domed hall originally built for poetry readings and private concerts. Inside, you’ll find rich decor, valuable textiles, and one-of-a-kind handcrafted furniture. The mansion is located along with La Romana in Barcelona.
What Should I Do in Barcelona?
You are encouraged to add at least one of the following to your travel itinerary. These are activities that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to do in other cities.
The Catalonia region is famous for its sparkling wine, called Cava. This bottle-fermented wine doesn’t go through the industrial carbonization process that cheaper sparkling wines may. It is a local tradition in Barcelona to spend Sunday afternoons visiting with friends and sipping on this aromatic wine, which is typically garnished with an orange slice and olive.
Local vermouth bars add their twist to the popular drink by blending fortified wine with their range of botanicals. You also may consider asking the bartender directly for a bottle from local renowned wineries.
Photo Op: Arc de Triomf
Europe is no stranger to arches, but the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona has been recognized as one of the city’s iconic landmarks. As such, it is one of the better photo opportunities in Barcelona. It was originally constructed in 1888 when Barcelona hosted the universal exhibition. The arch was constructed with a colorful red brick facade and topped off with unique sculptural motifs.
Catch A Flamenco Show
Flamenco shows integrate singing, dancing, and music. Watching a live show is a must-do activity during a visit to Barcelona, since it is difficult to replicate. Although there is usually a set choreography, many performers are encouraged to improvise, to add their unique twist.
You can find many flamenco shows in Barcelona, just like you would in Madrid or Andalusia. One of the more popular venues is Tablao Cordobes on La Rambla. Here you will find an authentic flamenco show at a venue that has been hosting such events since 1970.
Visit One of The World’s Best Aquariums
The aquarium in Barcelona has been rated as one of the best in the entire world. Here you will find the world’s largest Mediterranean-themed aquarium with 14 of the 35 aquariums dedicated to the native species of the region.
You can dive with the sharks any day of the year! No need to worry, as you’ll be safely placed in a shark-proof cage during the swim. You’ll also be provided with scuba lessons during your first swim. Those interested are encouraged to book in advance, as spots can fill up rapidly.
Amusement Rides at Tibidabo
You’ll easily observe Tibidabo mountain from the city center, which is home to an iconic temple at its summit. You may also notice the colorful Ferris wheel, which offers breathtaking views of the city below. There are several other amusements at the fairgrounds other than just the Ferris wheel. One of the more unique amusements is the airplane ride, which is considered to be the oldest flight simulator.
Visit the Gardens at Parc del Laberint d’Horta
You can find beautifully manicured gardens at Barcelona’s oldest park. Among the unique features are the mythical sculptures, temples, and an extensive cypress maze. The park is located at the far north end of the city, by the mountains, so it offers a much different type of scenery than the urban settings.
Private Sailing Trips
You can get a unique view of Barcelona with private sailing trips on the Mediterranean. Trips can last anywhere from a couple of hours to 8 hours.
You have the opportunity to fully customize your sailing experience. If you want to learn the ropes of running a sailboat, your tour guide may be happy to do so. Otherwise, you can sit back and enjoy the fresh sea air with complimentary drinks and your picnic aboard. There is no need to stress out about having a specific game plan. You can ask your tour guide to expertly craft an experience tailored to the day’s conditions.
Anytime you’re in Barcelona, much of your day is going to involve walking around. The city government does not intend to make the city any more drivable by car, as the lack of noisy vehicles is part of the city’s charm.
Still, you can get off your feet for a little bit with a scooter rental. These can be rented either by day or by the hour, and may be an absolute must if you plan on enjoying most of what the city has to offer its guests within the confines of a short visit.
Which Places Should I Visit in Barcelona?
Whether it’s a relaxing swim in the Mediterranean or a concert at a historic venue, Barcelona is home to many one-of-a-kind experiences. Below you will find a list of several locations that should be featured in your travel plans.
Palau de la Música Catalana
This is both a fully functioning concert venue and a popular tourist destination. If you aren’t able to attend a concert, you can still visit for a guided tour. The building dates back to the early 20th century. At its center is a 2,146 seat concert hall with an elaborate glass roof.
Barcelona is known for its beautiful beaches and coastline, but there weren’t any beaches in the city until 1992. In anticipation of the Summer Olympic Games that year, the city decided that developed beaches would be a great way to provide visitors with leisure space.
Since then, Barcelona has received high honors for its beaches, earning a spot in National Geographic’s list of top 10 best beach cities. At the beachfront, you’ll find 3 miles of golden sand accented by a buzzing carnival scene. Street performers, musicians, and talented sand sculptors dot the shores.
There’s an excellent chance that you’ll find time to visit the beach. Barcelona receives 300 days of sunlight per year, and the main beaches are just a 15-minute walk from the old town district of Barcelona. Even if you don’t feel like going for a swim, there are many other fun things to do in the beachfront district.
This vibrant district is home to most of Barcelona’s social life. La Rambla is a tree-shaded avenue where you’ll find a wide selection of shops, restaurants, and cafes with outdoor dining.
One of the most popular shopping centers is the Mercat de la Boqueria, one of the more well-known markets worldwide. Here you’ll find some truly unique items, such as Jamon (a dry-cured ham synonymous with Spanish cousins). You’ll also find all the classic staples, including fresh meats, fruits, vegetables, and cheeses.
At times, you’ll be treated to a host of street performers up and down La Rambla, including live music, mime shows, and other acts. The street is also home to an authentic flamenco show, which is discussed in further detail in the “things to do” section above.
Passeig del Born
This tree-lined boulevard is a quieter alternative to the always-bustling Las Ramblas. Eons ago, this was the area where local citizens gathered for special celebrations and sporting competitions. Today, you’ll find bars and eateries of all types.
Camp Nou is the colossal home of one of the world’s most prestigious soccer clubs, FC Barcelona. If you’re lucky enough to be in Barcelona during a home match, you may consider purchasing a ticket. The king of all matches is El Clasico, the rivalry game between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Even if you cannot attend a match, you may still consider visiting the stadium for a walk through the team’s museum, especially if you are an avid soccer fan. Here you will find the club’s rich history on full display, including an up-close and personal view of all the trophies that FC Barcelona has earned over the years.
Pablo Picasso did not originally hail from Barcelona, but he did choose the same city where he blossomed into a world-renown artist as the home of his namesake museum. The Museu Picasso is home to 4,251 of Picasso’s early works.
The Museu Picasso is more than just an art museum. It is also home to five residences that can be dated back to the 13th and 14th centuries, offering a unique glimpse into the period’s architecture.
Port Olimpic Barcelona
This area was revitalized in anticipation of the 1992 Olympic Games. Here you will find beaches, restaurants, pubs, cafes, and nightclubs. You’ll also discover plenty of opportunities for leisure, such as water sports.
During the daytime, Port Olimpic has a laid-back, relaxing atmosphere. As the sun sets, the area transforms into one of the city’s more vibrant nightlife spaces. Live music and entertainment dominate the local scenery.
Above, you’ll find that Barcelona is well-known for its historic architecture, foods, museums and local attractions. Since it is located along the shores of the Mediterranean, the city owes much of its local flavor to the beachside setting.
For those interested, the city is home to one of the world’s most renowned aquariums, with a significant portion dedicated to the marine life of the Mediterranean. You can take a step back to Medieval times with a stroll through the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona. You can also catch an authentic flamenco show, which is a semi-improvised combination of song and dance.