Barcelona is most famous for its Mediterranean vibes, extravagant architecture, and scrumptious food. But did you know it’s also home to 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites? Or that the first public beaches opened for the 1992 Olympics? Or which surprising museum gets the most visitors?
Below, we’ll share with you 33 cool things Barcelona is known for.
From the top attractions to the most delectable treats, and from the busiest hotspots to the people who shaped Barcelona’s image, we’re sure you’ll find the answer to the question “What is Barcelona famous for?”
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The Attractions Barcelona Is Famous For
Barcelona is known for its quirky churches, magnificent plazas, majestic hills, and a unique mix of architectural styles. Below, you’ll find the top attractions which define the city’s image.
- 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Entire countries don’t have even half of that! Barcelona boasts the whopping nine sites on the UNESCO list. They are the works of two genius architects – Antoni Gaudí and Lluis Domenech i Montaner. Here’s the complete list:
- La Sagrada Família
- Park Güell
- Palau Güell
- Casa Batlló
- Casa Milà
- Casa Vicens
- Church of Colònia Güell
- Hospital de Sant Pau
- Palau de la Música Catalana
Note: Read more about the best Gaudi buildings in Barcelona in our comprehensive guide.
- La Sagrada Familia. Gaudi’s masterpiece is the most recognizable structure in the city. One of the craziest facts about Barcelona is that the controversial cathedral will take seven times longer to complete than the Great Pyramids. The construction of the world’s most famous Basilica began in 1882. Its projected completion is 2026, the centenary of Gaudí’s death – almost 140 years after the beginning. In comparison, the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt took 20 years and 100,000 slaves to build.
- Park Güell. The gorgeous Park Güell sits on Carmel Hill. It is a public park system of verdant gardens and peculiar architectural elements – some of the most recognizable works of Antoni Gaudí. In the UNESCO listed site, Gaudí unleashed his artistic fantasies, producing forms that dazzle visitors with their nature-inspired beauty. From the park, you can also admire breathtaking vistas of Barcelona.
- Barcelona Cathedral. The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia was built between the 13th and 15th centuries in Gothic style. It is dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona, who is the co-patron saint of the city. The young virgin Eulalia suffered martyrdom during the Roman reign of the region. Her tomb is in the cathedral’s crypt. The cathedral also features a secluded Gothic cloister. In its yard live 13 white geese. The number symbolizes Eulalia’s age when she was martyred.
- Columbus Monument. The 197-ft. (60-m) tall monument depicts a bronze statue of Christopher Columbus on an intricate pedestal. It stands at the lower end of La Rambla, on Passeig de Colom. Erected for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair, the landmark should have been pointing towards the New World. However, in reality, Columbus is stretching his finger towards Algeria.
- Arc de Triomf. The triumphal arch of Barcelona was also built for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair. It served as the main access gate to the exposition. The architect Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas is responsible for the design. The structure is built from red bricks in the Neo-Mudéjar style. Sculptures and stone carvings, dedicated to the World Exposition, adorn the friezes.
- Montjuïc. The Jewish Mountain, as the name translates, is one of the most distinctive hills in Barcelona. Its top has housed several fortifications throughout the centuries. The latest one, the Castle of Montjuïc, still remains. Apart from it, you can also visit several recreational areas, viewpoints, and museums on the hill. The neighborhood is one of the best areas to stay in Barcelona. The coolest way to reach Montjuïc is by cable car, which you can take from the port.
- Magic Fountain of Montjuïc. Similar to the dancing fountains in Dubai and Las Vegas, Barcelona hosts its own water & light shows. The fountains’ hydraulics can produce a whopping 7 billion combinations. The visual spectacles are choreographed to compositions varying from Spanish classical music to cartoon soundtracks and 1980s mixes.
- Tibidabo. The hill, rising sharply to the north-west of Barcelona, offers fantastic views over the city and its coastline. At the summit, you’ll find the Sagrat Cor Church, Tibidabo Amusement Park, and Torre de Collserola. The church resembles a Romanesque fortress, topped by a monumental neo-Gothic church. The amusement park was built in 1899 and is among the oldest in the world still functioning. The 946.19-ft. (288.4-m) tall tower serves as communications and observations platform. You can see it from almost anywhere in Barcelona.
- Parc de la Ciutadella. Barcelona boasts the impressive 90 parks. This makes the capital of Catalonia one of the greenest cities in Europe. Apart from the most famous Park Güell and Parc de Montjuïc, you should also visit Parc de la Ciutadella. It houses one of Gaudi’s magnificent works, Cascada del Parc de la Ciutadella. In the park, you’ll find Barcelona Zoo, The Parliament of Catalonia, and countless monuments, too.
- Plaça de Catalunya. The Old City and Eixample District meet at this gorgeous square in the center of Barcelona. Plaça de Catalunya occupies a gigantic area of approximately 538,196 sq. ft. (50,000 sq. m). Intricate fountains and statues adorn the plaza, while flocks of pigeons gather in its center. From here, several important streets start, such as Passeig de Gràcia, Rambla de Catalunya, and Portal de l’Àngel. The square is used for important events, and hosts shops and cafés.
- Plaça d’Espanya. The historic square was built for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition, held at the foot of Montjuïc. It is one of Barcelona’s largest junctions. The most distinguishable features are the two 154-ft. (47-m) tall Venetian towers and the fountain in the center of the plaza. Right next to Plaça d’Espanya, you’ll find Arenas de Barcelona – a former bullring, which is currently a stunning shopping mall.
- Mercado de La Boqueria. The enormous public market in the Ciutat Vella is one of the city’s top attractions. The main entrance is from La Rambla. You’ll find a wide selection of local and exotic fruits, vegetables, seafood, meats, cheeses, nuts, and beverages in this historic market, which dates back to the 13th century.
- Poble Espanyol. The Spanish Village is an open-air architectural museum. It was erected for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. The museum consists of 117 full-scale, replica buildings from different regions of Spain, which recreate the traditional atmosphere of these places. In Poble Espanyol, you can also explore a theater, several restaurants, multiple artisan workshops, as well as a museum of contemporary art.
What Makes Barcelona Special
Football fanatics, museum enthusiasts, and gourmet aficionados will feel in heaven in the Catalan capital. Barcelona is famous for its supreme exhibits, wild sports rivalries, and unique vibe. Let’s find out what makes the city special.
- FC Barcelona. With 75 domestic trophies and 20 European and world titles, FC Barcelona is one of the best teams in the world. The club was founded in 1899. About 25% of Spain’s population is believed to be Barça fans. That’s close to 12 million people! The international supporters of the team are even greater in number.
- Camp Nou. Barcelona is home not only to one of the best football clubs on the planet but also to the largest stadium in Europe. With a capacity of 99,354 spectators, Camp Nou is also the 12th largest in the world. FC Barcelona Museum, which is inside the stadium, is the city’s most visited museum. This is quite impressive when you have in mind that Barcelona boasts over 60 museums. Annually, more than 1.6 million people explore the exhibition halls at Camp Nou.
- La Rambla. Most people regard the famous 1.25-mi (2-km) long boulevard La Rambla as one street. In truth, it consists of five different avenues, which flow into each other smoothly. One of Barcelona’s busiest walkways consists of:
- Rambla de Canaletes
- Rambla de Sant Josep
- Rambla dels Caputxins
- Rambla de Santa Mònica
- Rambla dels Estudis
- Spain’s busiest pedestrian street. Portal de l’Àngel in the Catalan capital is the busiest pedestrian street in the country. Although not as famous as La Rambla, the avenue’s daily average is north of 150,000 people. If you wish to join the crowd, you’ll find the tear-jerkingly expensive street in Barcelona’s Old Town.
- World Fairs and Expos. Barcelona is known for organizing and hosting outstanding conferences and expositions. Among the most significant ones are the 1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition (Barcelona World Fair), the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition (Expo 1929), the 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures, and the 2004 World Urban Forum.
- Foodies’ Mecca. Barcelona is heaven for food aficionados. From Pa amb tomàquet (tomato bread) to fideuà (Barcelona’s paella), multiple foodgasms are guaranteed in the Catalan capital. On top of that, 66 Michelin-starred restaurants await to seduce you. If you want to treat your sensitive palate in Barcelona, expect a gourmand take on tapas, unimaginable creativity, and a crazy fusion of traditional and modern Catalan cuisine. Here’s just a short list of the foods Barcelona is known for:
- Pa amb tomàquet: tomato bread.
- Esqueixada de bacallà: a salad of shredded fish and vegies.
- Fideuà: Barcelona’s paella made with vermicelli noodles and seafood.
- Bombas:meat and mashed potatoes deep-fried balls.
- Mató: soft and sweet goat cheese desert.
- Museum heaven. With over 60 museums, Barcelona is known as paradise for culture vultures and museum aficionados. One of our top Barcelona travel tips for saving money is to visit them when they offer free entry. The most popular museums in the Catalan capital include:
- Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
- Museum of the History of Barcelona
- Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona
- Picasso Museum
- Maritime Museum of Barcelona
- The largest European city on the Mediterranean Sea. With an urban agglomeration of 4.775 million people, Barcelona is the biggest European city on the Med, followed by Naples, Italy with 4.225 million. The largest settlement on the Mediterranean Sea is the port of Alexandria, Egypt. Its population is 5.8 million.
- Europe’s busiest cruise port. Given Barcelona’s irresistible allure and fantastic weather conditions, it’s no wonder the city is the #1 cruise destination in Europe. The 2.6 million cruise passengers who visited in 2019 made the 7-terminal cruise port the 4th busiest in the world. When Naddya passed through Barcelona on a cruise in 2018, the enormous size of the harbor left her speechless. It took the shuttle approximately 20 minutes to transport the passengers from the ship to the port’s exit.
- Splendid beaches. Barcelona’s 2.8-mi (4.5-km) coastline prides itself on seven blue-flagged beaches. All of them are artificial and covered with sand imported from Egypt. The largest, oldest, and most popular of Barcelona’s beaches are Barceloneta, Sant Sebastià, and Somorrostro. Until the 1992 Olympics, Barcelona had no beaches at all. At this time, the seaside hosted primarily industrial structures. Nowadays, some of them have turned into fantastic establishments.
- The world’s first beach ice bar. Icebarcelona offers you the chance to change from Barcelona’s splendid Mediterranean sunshine to freezing temperatures within seconds. The bar opened in 2007 on Somorrostro Beach. Popular ice artists designed it. They renew the bar’s striking ice sculptures and interior periodically. If you get chilly inside, you can always go out on the bar’s outdoor terrace for a sun session.
- Magic. The Catalan capital was the first city in the world to open a museum of magic and a magic shop. Museu del Rei de la Màgia dates back to 1881. Nowadays, you’ll find it in the fascinating Born district, close to Plaça de Catalunya. The place consists of a small museum, an enchanting shop, and a theater room where regular magic shows occur.
- Supercomputers. One of the most powerful European supercomputers is in Barcelona. What’s even cooler about MareNostrum is that a former 19th-century chapel houses the machine. You can see the high-tech hub in the middle of the former church Torre Girona behind glass panes.
- The Giants of Santa Maria del Pi.The Els Gegants occupy the church Santa Maria del Pi and lurk behind a floor-to-ceiling glass pane. The puppets represent royals or characters in traditional clothing. They join different parades and celebrations. The bigger giants are more than 400 years old while the smaller ones were introduced in 1780. The puppets were restored in 1951 and are used to this day.
Famous People Who Shaped Barcelona’s Popularity
Many world-famous masterminds have contributed their talents to shape the attractive image of modern Barcelona. Below, you’ll discover what they did to make Barcelona so popular among travelers.
- Antoni Gaudí. No other architect has shaped the image of a modern city as much as Gaudí has done it for Barcelona. Although the works of the famous designer are classified as Catalan Modernism, his style is so unique that many consider it a class of its own. You can clearly see his biggest inspirations and passions – nature and religion – in his works. Seven of his masterpieces have been included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- Joan Miró. The Spanish painter, sculptor, and ceramicist was born in the Barri Gòtic neighborhood of Barcelona. You can see many of his works throughout the city – in the Fundació Joan Miró Museum, in the museum of contemporary art in Poble Espanyol, and on the streets of Barcelona. The gorgeous 72-foot statue Dona i Ocell is mounted in the center of a park named after the artist near Plaça d’Espanya. Admiring it is one of the most unusual things to do in Barcelona.
- Pablo Picasso. One of the most influential artists of the 20th century spent his time during his famous Blue Period between Barcelona and Paris. You can see many of his works from this period in the Picasso Museum in the Catalan capital. Over 3,500 pieces make up the permanent collection of the gallery.
- Salvador Dalí. The Spanish surrealist artist is from the Catalonian city Figueres. He spent the early years of his career between Madrid, Barcelona, and Paris. In Barcelona, he held his first solo exhibition. If you’re a fan of the bizarre art of the Dalí, the best way to explore his visions is on day trips from Barcelona to Figueras, Port Lligat, and Pubol.
- Eusebi Güell. The Barcelona-born aristocrat and entrepreneur profited greatly from the industrial revolution in Catalonia in the late 19th century. He is most famous for his friendship with Antoni Gaudí. The count and the architect shared a mutual passion for design, nature, and religion. The businessman commissioned several of Gaudí’s projects, five of which even carry his name:
- Park Güell
- Palau Güell
- Colònia Güell
- Bodega Güell
- Pabellones Güell de Pedrables
How many of the Things Barcelona is Famous for Did You Already Know?
There you have it – 33 cool things Barcelona is known for.
The atmosphere, the food, and the architecture are just the tip of the iceberg. The beaches, the monuments, and the vision of the great minds who called Barcelona home make the city so appealing to everyone who’s ever walked the streets of the Catalan capital.
Now, it’s your turn:
What do you associate Barcelona with?
Share with us in the comments below.