… that aren’t the Sagrada Familia, or the beach. It generally goes without saying that those are two places everybody will visit during a trip to this Spanish city – they’re the most postcard-documented spots, each accessible to wheelchair users as well as those on foot, and rife with souvenir stop-offs and photo opportunities.
But as well as lounging on the sand at Barceloneta, eating a lot of great food and marvelling at Gaudi’s world famous and as-yet-incomplete masterpiece, there are a few other things to see that should be considered a ‘must’ during a flying visit to Barcelona.
1. Cementiri de Montjuic
Open daily from 8am ’til 6pm and free to explore – because after all, it is a cemetery – Cementiri de Montjuic is a morbid place to play tourist, but is overflowing with gothic architecture, renaissance art and eye-catching memorials as far as the eye can see. There were also a fair few stray cats hanging around when we visited, which if you know me, you’ll know was a big perk!
You can catch the number 21 bus up to the cemetery from the city centre, or from right near Barceloneta beach. Note that the return journey starts from a stop a few minutes’ walk from the cemetery rather than the one right at the gates, so if in doubt, use Citymapper to show you where to head. If you’re visiting the castle, you can simply stroll down from the Teleferic point.
While Montjuic castle is a more popular destination for visitors in the area, the cemetery of the same name is often overlooked. Stretching over 57 acres, there are more than 150,000 people buried here – some stacked in rows above ground, others in ornate mausoleums, but if you’re not averse to a little of the macabre this is a place that’s really worth a visit.
From statues of weeping angels to stacks of artificial flowers in every colour, there’s art and architecture galore as far as the eye can see. We spent almost two hours here and only saw about a third of the cemetery. If you’d like a guided tour to some of the most historic, ornate and downright interesting parts, there are free options every second and fourth Sunday of the month, led in both English and Catalan.
You can take the ‘artistic route’, the ‘historic route’ or a combined route, visiting tombs created by well-known artists and housing the remains of important figures from the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Not all of the cemetery is wheelchair-accessible, but plenty of it is. However you’re visiting, be sure to bring plenty of water if you’re coming in the hotter months as there isn’t much shade outside of the mausoleums themselves.
2. Parc Güell
This one is more likely to be on a must-see list, but sometimes gets skipped because it’s set slightly out of the city, further to venture than the central Sagrada Familia and sightseeing highlights around La Rambla.
The good news for those who want to see Parc Güell but don’t fancy the hour-long up hill walk from Placa Catalunya, is that there are two metro stations nearby and some bus stops thrown in for good measure. Hop on a 116, 24 or 92 bus to stop right outside the park, or take a tube to Vallcarca or Lesseps for a few minutes scenic walk across. The views from up here are fantastic, looking out over a panorama of city skyline and coast.
A treasure trove of Gaudi’s bonkers architecture, dripping in colourful mosaics, the park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and to help preserve it, entry is limited to a certain number of ticket holders per half hour. Tickets usually sell out ahead of time, but you can book online a day or two before your visit to ensure you get a spot – entry is timed but exist isn’t, so there’s no requirement to rush your exploration once you’re in.
3. The Goleta Karya
While there are several great places to view Barcelona’s skyline from hard ground – including Parc Güell and Montjuic Castle – for something a little different I’d highly recommend catching glimpse of the views from off-shore.
A number of mini cruises along the coast depart from points outside Maremagnum shopping centre, but most are standard tourist boats, a little rough around the edges and filled with cracked plastic seats. For less than the price of many of these, hop on the Goleta Karya instead.
Part luxury yacht and part pirate ship, this vessel is decked out with a well-stocked bar and luxe lounging areas over two levels, both indoor and outdoor. Choose from a 30, 60 or 90-minute mini cruise with regular departures throughout the day, and if you don’t want to spend money at the bar then by all means pack your own drinks and snacks. We stocked up on citrus beers and crisps before departure and it worked out swell. Tickets start at €10 for adults, and are worth every penny.
4. Palau Güell
Another UNESCO World Heritage site and another great example of Gaudi’s mad imagination, Palau Güell is situated just around the corner from La Rambla and is a great place to while away some time between tapas stops. Ticket price includes an electronic guided tour, and while it does occasionally try to make you listen to a sad song composed by a woman who used to live here, it is otherwise very useful and full of cool facts about all the weird and wacky details you’re looking at.
I’m not sure whether my favourite picks were the bedazzled, phallic chimney pots or the range of paintings which someone had decided to hang folded between corners in the main hall, but regardless, there are plenty of unusual adornments to see here. Not as painfully busy as some of the bigger tourist spots, a visit to Palau Güell is a good way to soak up some culture without overheating or getting barrelled along in a crowd.
5. La Boqueria
Last but not least: La Boqueria. Though substantial food markets aren’t often that vegan-friendly, (outside of the inevitable Ludicrously Colourful Fruit Section) I still loved meandering around here, and whatever your dietary inclination I’m sure you will too. Covering a host of cuisines and huge pyramids of fresh produce, herbs and spices, La Boqueria is a market that’s worth exploring even if you aren’t on the lookout for something to eat.
(Although saying that, even if you enter thinking you’re stuffed to the brim and couldn’t possibly eat any more, I think the odds are pretty high that you’ll find something in the mix to change your mind.)
Do expect it to be busy throughout. The market entrance is only slightly set back from La Rambla, and the food quality is so much higher than that of the tourist traps on the street itself that it’s a prime spot for anyone looking for a bite to eat. The map of the market on the main website can be a bit temperamental, but if you’re a herbivore hoping to avoid the meat/fish zones then do take a look before you navigate your way through. For vegans, there’s great falafel, burrito bowls and other good eating on offer, so don’t be put off by the typically Spanish meats and cheeses that crowd some entrances.
Are there any places in Barcelona that you think shouldn’t be missed? Let me know in the comments below!