top of page

Barcelona Places to See - Part II of the Barcelona Cruise Stop Series

In this second article in a series of blogs about Barcelona as a pre or post cruise stop, I cover Places to See. You can determine which article on Barcelona most interests you if you have limited time and want to read an article on a specific topic.

1. History

2.​ Places to See

3. Transportation to and from the airport

4. Transportation to and from the port

5. Getting around the city

6. Barcelona Markets

7. Transportation & Hop on Hop off buses

8. Day trips from Barcelona

9. Fun Facts

For me, the first stop I make after I check into my hotel, is Las Ramblas (which is also known as La Rambla). A pedestrian street that is famous in Barcelona and a popular stop for those visiting the city. I always book my hotel to be near Las Ramblas, so for me it’s an easy walk to get to the street and have a wander about. I also tend to have breakfast at one of the many little restaurants/outdoor cafes located along the street. The cost of a great breakfast is cheaper than in a hotel and usually far more entertaining for people watching. The street has been described as a tourist trap or a tourist must-see, depending on your point of view. I suggest you visit and decide for yourself. I stand firmly in the must-see camp as it is one of those interesting experiences. You can people watch, soak in the ambiance of the area, or engage in a little shopping. Yes, there are the touristy little things evident in areas frequented by tourists. The usual “living statues” on the street or shops selling the typical visitor offerings such as Barcelona or Spain fridge magnets, t-shirts and hats. But look past the trinkets and you will see that there is so much more to see and do. As with all popular tourist destinations, watch your purses and pocketbooks. I have never had a problem in this location, but I have read reports of thefts (money, cameras, phones and parcels).

If you are not staying in the area, take the metro to the Liceu, Cataunya or Drassanes stop. Located just off Las Ramblas, the Drassanes metro stop is located underneath Portal de la Santa Madrona, just off Las Ramblas in the Ciutat Vella district of Barcelona. I mention that stop specifically as when you exit the metro you will get a view of the ship-yards, before turning left and walking north which will allow you to traverse the entire length of Las Ramblas. If you have mobility issues, get off at the metro at the Liceu stop as it is closer to the middle of Las Ramblas, and then walk north. I found there were more shops as you walk north and as such, if walking is a challenge, starting your journey in the middle will save you steps and put you into the heart of the street. The Cataunya metro is the northernmost stop and services both the red and green lines so you may find it an easier option if your time is limited or your mobility is restricted.

For those who follow my blog entries, you already know that cathedrals, palaces and art museums are three of my go-to places in any city, and Barcelona has plenty on offer. There are far too many to cover so I will highlight a few for this blog entry and cover some additional recommendations in my subsequent blogs about the Hop-on and Hop-off bus tours and getting around the city. I have chosen these ones as being top attractions so that those of you who are reading this blog, and who are going to be in Barcelona for only a day or two, can see what I consider to be the best on offer.

I will start with the Gothic Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, which is also known as Barcelona Cathedral. Large, impressive, and the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona, this is an excellent historical cathedral to visit. Visually beautiful with an opulent interior, it showcases the art and architecture of the past 800 years.

Construction of the cathedral began on 1 May 1298, on the site of a Romanesque temple. Built between the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, the work was carried out in three stages with the bulk of the construction taking place during the fourteenth century. The massive organ was built between 1537 and 1539 and following a nine-year repair and restoration project which finished in 1994, the cathedral started to hold monthly organ concerts. I tout this as a must-see place when visiting Barcelona. Take the metro yellow line to station Jaume l, which will also take you within walking distance of the Basilica Santa Maria del Mar which I will cover in my Hop On Hop Off bus tour blog.

Next up is the Antoni Gaudi's Basilica Sagrada Familia. Conceived and designed over 150 years ago, construction began in 1882. This quirky cathedral is still under construction and reported to be headed for completion sometime around 2026 under the guidance of the current architect, Jordi Fauli. I am not a fan of Gaudi’s work, but this basilica is the exception, as it is an impressive piece of art. I find the exterior of the cathedral to be extraordinary and incredibly different. I could spend hours circling the building to look at all the oddities that adorn it. The interior I find to be less remarkable and not as inspiring, however, each visit results in the discovery of newly added areas to explore so I may eventually change my mind about the interior. The last time I was in the Basilica, I sat on one of the benches along the walls and just stared for an hour at the ceiling, the walls and the people.

The lineups to buy entry tickets can be long, and I suggest you buy tickets online before you go or risk standing in a long lineup waiting to buy tickets and then waiting to get in. I have included several pictures in the gallery as it is hard to describe that cathedral in words. It is unique, one of a kind and extraordinary in appearance. If you are taking the metro, exit at the València – Lepant stop and follow the signs directing you to the cathedral. It is about a 3-minute walk from the metro station.

In keeping with my usual habits of haunting museums, palaces and cathedrals, I move on to museums and recommend a visit to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya or as it is commonly called, the MNAC. Occupying one of Barcelona’s national palaces, you can access the museum by either a grand staircase or an outdoor escalator. The view of the grounds from the entrance way is picture worthy. We bought our entrance tickets online before we flew to Barcelona and that saved us time and money. The museum is divided into four zones, two of which are modern art and then my two favourites, the Gothic and the Romanesque zones. You will be able to enjoy the works of Picasso, Gaudi, El Greco, Goya and Velasque to name just a few. There are frescos saved from older buildings that are beautiful and remarkable. The gift shop is well worth a stop as there is plenty on offer and you do not have to pay the museum entry fee to access the gift shop.

FC Barcelona Museum is popular for those who like soccer. We bought the stadium and museum tickets online and the stadium was a stop on the hop on hop off bus tour so an easy destination for us to get to. I confess to not being a soccer fan, but the stadium is impressive, and the history of the team is very interesting. While on the stadium tour we encountered some teenage soccer fans who were excited and enthusiastic about the tour. When they found out we were Canadians with little knowledge of the game, they decided to take us under their wings and turn us into fans. Their bubbly excitement was infectious, and we were all soon enthralled in the history of the game and the team. Started in 1899, the team is one of the most famous in the world having enjoyed tremendous success from 2008 to 2016 and clearly their young fans were thoroughly excited to be visiting the stadium and educating a couple of Canadian hockey fans on the finer points of proper “football”. For those who are wondering, yes I bought a jersey.

The Picasso Museum is another art museum I recommend. Normally I will visit art museums over and over again, but this museum is not a particular favourite because I am not a fan of Picasso’s work and one visit was sufficient for me. I like Picasso’s early works and the portraits of his mother and his father are very good. Both are on display at this museum as is a wonderful self-portrait. However, there are thousands of his works onsite, many of which are paintings done later in his life. If you enjoy his works, this is a great stop for you. If you plan on taking the metro, the yellow line (4), or red lines will get you there. It is also within walking distance of the Museum of History. Exit the Jaume I metro station and walk approximately two blocks east to get to the museum.

The Museum of History is located near the Barcelona Cathedral so the two sites can be visited in the same day. As mentioned in my brief history of Barcelona, the Romans once occupied the area and built the first city called Barcino. Consequently, there is a section in the museum on the city’s Roman roots. Frescos, coins, evidence of early Roman life abound. The museum takes the visitor through the history of the city with particularly interesting sections focused on early Christianity, medieval times and the Spanish Civil War. Various exhibits at the museum certainly help to explain the history of architecture and cultural influences found in the buildings around Barcelona. The museum also pays homage to its architectural leaders, which means for Antoni Gaudi enthusiasts, buildings he designed are covered as are some of his projects such as the cemetery gate. The museum is not just one building as there are also some archaeological sites around the city that can be visited with your museum ticket. I did not visit all of them so I cannot speak with any authority as to what is on offer, but I did visit a few such as the pillars of the Temple of Augustus. You cannot get to all of the sites easily by walking so with each repeat visit to Barcelona we will stop and see a few more locations.

If you are in the area of Las Ramblas, stop in and see the Museu Maritim (Maritime Museum). Located almost beside the Drassanes metro, it is at the end of Las Ramblas and I first discovered it when I went to photograph the statue of Christopher Columbus which is nearby. As the name suggests, the museum is dedicated to all things marine-oriented, and I found it an interesting stop. I particularly liked the painted carved figure heads, ship building tools and the replica of an old-style rowing galley. An interesting side note that ties to a comment I made in the History of Barcelona article I wrote, I had been told that there were all kinds of ruins to be found beneath the City of Barcelona and the museum was no exception. When building it they came across Roman ruins and a graveyard which now form part of the museum.

There is plenty more to see if you have more time in Barcelona, but I will cover them in subsequent blogs: Hop-on and Hop-off Busses (or as many affectionately call them: the HoHo buses), and Getting Around the City.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this blog, please feel free to e-mail me or leave your comments in the comments section. A special thanks to Leanne Hegarty-Adam for her editing and comments on the content of this blog entry.


bottom of page