As the capital of Catalonia in Spain, Barcelona has no shortage of imaginative buildings, stirring culture and culinary delights to awaken the senses. Pick and choose from these suggestions of things to do in Barcelona on your first day there.
Immerse yourself in its modernist architecture
Turn up early to avoid the crowds as you enjoy some of these things to do in Barcelona on your first day there. Barcelona is the place to go for modernist architecture, and everyone knows it. Seven properties built by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí are listed as World Heritage Sites for their contribution to modern architecture.
Many of Gaudí’s works are in the Eixample district, including the famous Basílica de la Sagrada Família and popular Casa Batlló.
On just about everyone’s list of things to do in Barcelona on your first day there is the Sagrada Família. This Roman Catholic church was Gaudí’s life’s work and includes an impressive mix of Gothic and Art Nouveau styles.
Also, see the radical design of Casa Batlló (1904): it broke all the city bylaws of the time. Using ceramics, stone and forged iron, Gaudí reinvented a conventional old house into this residential example of Catalan Art Nouveau or Modernism.
Further out in the Horta-Guinardo district is another of Gaudí’s works: Park Güell. Time Out Barcelona describes this park as “a space that’s out of a fairy tale and emulates an English garden city.” Book in advance to save money and gain entrance to the monuments’ area. This is another of the great things to do in Barcelona on your first day there.
Get some perspective on the city on top of Montjuïc hill
You might choose to save the Gaudí experiences for your next day. As an alternative highlight on the list of great things to do in Barcelona on your first day there, explore the Montjuïc hill in the Sants-Montjuïc district. You’ll find art museums (National Museum of Art, the Joan Miró Foundation), some Olympic landmarks, and even a castle. Enjoy great views of the city while you picnic in Montjuïc’s gardens or as you dine out at the Xalet de Montjuic restaurant.
For something different, sample the tapas and Galician cuisine at Escairón restaurant, known for its and fresh, quality market fare at reasonable prices (Time Out Barcelona). If you stick around the area in the evening, you might even catch the Magic Fountain for a beautiful display of waterfalls and music (check the timetable).
Awaken your inner inventor (and your taste buds) in the Old City
Among the things to do in Barcelona on your first day there, it’s worth mentioning some of the great sights of the Ciutat Vella (Old City) district. Why not explore your inner inventor at the Museum of Ideas and Inventions ? See inventions dreamed up by 5-12 year-olds in the monthly ‘little inventors’ contest and indulge your inner child by taking the slide to the lower floor.
Sample the tastes of the city by visiting Europe’s biggest food market as part of the things to do in Barcelona on your first day there.
Mercat de La Boqueria is interesting for its size, array of food stalls and architecture (open Mon-Sat 8am to 8.30pm). Go in the morning, if you can.
You can also see some impressive examples of modern and medieval architecture in this district. For another popular art nouveau building, visit the Palau de la Música Catalana (1908) designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, with its ornate façade and the colorful stained glass dome of its concert hall.
Also, check out one of the most beautiful Gothic churches in the world: Santa Maria del Mar (completed in 1383). These architectural delights should definitely be on your list of things to do in Barcelona on your first day there.
If you are hungry for something more substantial, visit the Placa Reial just off the Ramblas boulevard for traditional Spanish and Catalan restaurants in Barcelona. Stick around or come back in the evening: this beautiful palm-treed square is also home to some of Barcelona’s best nightclubs. End the night with a boogie to finish your list of things to do in Barcelona on your first day there.
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