Barcelona is one of Europe’s most dynamic cities. There is so much to see and do, which makes it the perfect port for an overnight stay. If you embark or debark in Barcelona, spend a few extra days exploring the city! No matter how many times you’ve visited, there will always be something new to discover.
1. Wander the Gothic Quarter.
The famous Spanish novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafón has said, “Barcelona is a very old city in which you can feel the weight of history; it is haunted by history. You cannot walk around it without perceiving it,” and we couldn’t agree more. Barcelona has a particular energy and mystery about it that is completely intoxicating. This particularly applies to the Gothic Quarter. This Barcelona neighborhood is a labyrinth of narrow streets that open into squares. The architecture is stunning, and many of the buildings date back to medieval times. It’s perfect for exploring on foot.
La Rambla, a picturesque, tree-lined pedestrian mall that stretches for over a kilometer, borders the Gothic Quarter on one side. This street can be touristy but is worth strolling down – especially if it’s your first time in Barcelona.
If you enjoy shopping, set some time aside to browse the boutiques in the Gothic Quarter, and the stalls along La Rambla.
2. Get to know Gaudi.
When we think of Barcelona, we think of Gaudi. Most of Antoni Gaudi’s famous buildings are found in the city, including his most famous – the Sagrada Familia. Construction of the unfinished basilica began in 1882, and Gaudi took over the project in 1883. Gaudi worked on the cathedral until his death in 1926, but it was less than a quarter complete. The Sagrada Familia is now on track to be completed by 2026, and it will be the tallest religious structure in Europe.
Sagrada Familia Exterior
Architecture buffs will enjoy “The World of Gaudi with Architect”, a Cruise Global, Connect LocalSM shore excursions tour which includes an interior visit to the Sagrada Familia, and several other of Gaudi’s most famous works. Helpful commentary from a knowledgeable architect will help shed new light on one of the world’s most famous visionaries. This tour is a great option for those wishing to see the inside of the gorgeous basilica, as advance tickets are required.
Sagrada Familia Interior
Another immersive way to experience Gaudi’s work is with “The Origins”, a Cruise Global, Nights Local shore excursion. This tour takes guests to La Pedrera (also known as Casa Mila) for an incredible audiovisual show that follows the origin of life. Projections, light effects and a dramatic soundtrack highlight the magnificence of La Pedrera, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Barcelona’s more famous buildings.
Finally, don’t miss Parc Güell, a fabulous garden complex that’s home to several of Gaudi’s buildings, including his own home. This is the perfect place to see trencadis, or surfaces covered with broken ceramic pieces, which Gaudi and Art Nouveau are famous for. In fact, Parc Güell is a must-visit spot in Barcelona, even for those uninterested in Gaudi, as the central plaça provides an incredible view of the city.
The city view from Parc Guell
3. Taste local food and explore local nightlife.
Barcelona offers up Catalan cuisine that differs from what you’ll find elsewhere in Spain. Lunch is the most important meal of the day, and usually includes three or four courses. Don’t miss out on botifarras (locally made sausages) fresh seafood and paella. Churros are another must-try item - in fact, they're one of the best street foods in the world!
At night, head to a wine bar and enjoy some tapas and Cava. Dine late, and dine with a group – these small plates are meant to be shared. Start with the popular Catalan snack pa amb tomàquet, which is a rustic bread drizzled with olive oil, rubbed with tomato pulp and served with cheese, pate, or cold cuts.
Spanish tapas and wine
Order some patatas bravas, basically the French fries of Spain: small, deep-fried cubes of potato served with aioli and spicy tomato sauce. Bombas are another tasty treat: flavorful mashed potato balls rolls stuffed with cheese, meat or vegetables, rolled in breadcrumbs and lightly fried. For seafood dishes try anchovies, deep fried baby squids, prawns, sardines, and mussels.
Tapas and wine bars are an integral part of Barcelona nightlife, and so is music and dance. Culture vultures will love our evening shore excursion at the Palacio del Flamenco. You’ll fall in love with the heel-stomping, finger-snapping, passionate dance, and the masterful guitar performance.
A Flamenco performance
4. Stroll the beachfront boardwalk in La Barceloneta.
Barcelona is situated on the Mediterranean, and the city’s beaches are easily accessible from the city center. The neighbourhood of Barceloneta is located right on the beach, and has a rustic, “off the beaten path” charm. This old fishing quarter has a friendly, and distinctly local, feel.
After Barcelona hosted the Olympics in 1992, the waterfront experienced a revival and has become a popular place to stroll, sunbathe, eat and play. Find a restaurant with a good view, order some sangria or a flauta of local beer, and do a little people watching!
No other neighborhood in Barcelona has as many seafood restaurants, and most of them line the boardwalk. The local market is worth visiting. It’s not as big (nor as touristy) as Boqueria, but offers a wide selection of fresh fish, produce and other goods that foodies will enjoy browsing.
5. Make time for museums.
Spain has produced some renowned artists, so it should come as no surprise that Barcelona is home to several incredible museums and art galleries. The key is to curate: art aficionados should research in advance and decide which museums appeal most to them.
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
- Museu Picasso
This is Barcelona’s most famous and most visited museum – so if your heart is set on seeing Picasso’s early works in person, buy your tickets in advance or enjoy a guided tour with our Cruise Global, Connect LocalSM shore excursions tour. The museum exhibits 4,251 works by Picasso, housed in five adjoining medieval palaces.
- MUHBA – Museu d’Història de la Ciutat
The Barcelona City History Museum is found in the city’s Gothic Quarter and is a great option for history buffs. The museum traces Barcelona’s fascinating history from its first settlement, through the Roman ages and beyond.
- CCCB – Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona
The CCCB is Spain’s largest cultural center and is housed at Casa de la Caritat, a former almshouse. Exhibitions and events are ever-changing, so check what’s on before deciding to visit.
- Fundació Joan Miró
This airy museum is devoted to Joan Miró, a painter, sculptor, and ceramicist native to Barcelona. It houses a collection of more than 225 paintings, 150 sculptures, 5,000 drawings and all of his graphic work.
- MNAC – Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
MNAC’s motto is “One museum, a thousand years of art” and they mean it. Exhibitions cover Catalan art from the 12th to 20th centuries. To save time, focus on the museum’s highlight: the Romanesque collection, which features incredible mural sections salvaged from churches falling to ruin.
- MACBA – Museu d’Art Contemporani
MACBA has a permanent collection of around 5,000 works, focusing on post-1945 Catalan and Spanish art. Its exhibitions will appeal most to serious art lovers, but the extensive bookshop is a great place to find quirky gifts and well-designed souvenirs.
- Museu Marítim
Barcelona’s Maritime Museum may be of particular interest to cruisers as it focuses on Catalan seafaring culture. The museum is housed in a Gothic-style building at the Barcelona Royal Shipyard. Visitors will see model ships, nautical instruments, maps, and replicas.
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