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Backpacking Barcelona: Highlights, Attractions + Travel Tips!

View of the skyline while backpacking Barcelona

Barcelona is a fun destination and a perfect city break in Europe for backpackers! The location by the sea and plenty of sunshine guarantee a great time and with all the sights and attractions in Barcelona you will not be bored. Practically, you can reach the city also very cheap with lots of low budget airlines, making backpacking Barcelona an affordable and fun experience. In the following, I will tell you more about the best places to visit as well as important travel tips for your Barcelona backpacking adventure!

Important: Barcelona is a bit more expensive destination and especially the entrance fees to the sights can quickly become quite expensive. That’s why I recommend you to get the Barcelona Pass*! Your Benefits: You save money and get free entry to more than 20 attractions, you can use the Hop-on Hop-Off Tour Bus and save on waiting time by fast-track admission to the attractions! I used the pass and would use it again.

*Read more about how to safe money with the Barcelona Pass here!*

You can see the highlights of my backpacking Barcelona adventure here:

Are you on a big trip around Europe?
My posts about backpacking Prague, Germany, Malta and Cyprus might be interesting for you as well!

Backpacking Barcelona: Best Places to Visit and Things to Do!

Barcelona has some interesting attractions and highlights to offer, which I will show you now in more detail.

Sagrada Familia

Let’s start with the most famous attraction when backpacking Barcelona – the Sagrada Familia! This artwork is still under construction and is expected to be completed by 2030. But it’s already worth a visit! The Sagrada Familia is really impressive with its extraordinary architecture and definitely different from the usual churches. Of course you can see the Sagrada Familia for free from the outside. If you also want to visit Barcelona’s most famous landmark from inside, you will need to buy an admission ticket.

Note, by the way, that you should reserve your ticket online in advance. When I was there (in October) I heard that for the next 5 days the tickets were already booked! Here you have to plan a little bit in advance. The inside of the Sagrada Familia is really unique and worth a visit. The play of light together with the modern architecture looks great. Believe me, you have not seen such a church yet. Admission to the Sagrada Familia may not be cheap, but it’s worth it.

View of Sagrada familia while backpacking Barcelona
Highlight when backpacking Barcelona: Sagrada familia
Interior of the sagrada familia
Inside of the Sagrada Familia

Bunkers del Carmel

Let’s jump to a rather unknown sight in Barcelona, which is still a hidden gem. The Bunkers del Carmel. These bunkers are located just outside the typical tourist center of Barcelona, in the district of Carmel on the mountain Turó de la Rovira. You can get there by bus or metro (+ foot path). From this view point you have a great and spectacular of Barcelona. This is especially the place to be at sunset. Every night some locals and visitors gather here and enjoy the view at the end of the day. A great atmosphere!

Bunkers del Carmel in Barcelona
Bunkers del Carmel

Barri Gòtic (Gothic quarter)

The gothic quarter is located in Barcelona’s old town and is definitely worth a visit. You can stroll through the narrow and historic streets and admire countless churches, cathedrals and monuments. Here you feel like in the Middle Ages! Especially worth seeing is the great Cathedral of Barcelona.

Visiting the gothic quarter while backpacking in Barcelona
Gothic quarter in Barcelona
Cathedral in gothic quarter
Cathedral in the Gothic quarter

Placa Catalunya

This is the central square of Barcelona, located between the old town and the new town. Here is always a lot going on and especially in the late afternoon, the place is a popular meeting place of locals and tourists. The place is also full of pigeons. Just sit down here for half an hour and watch the people when backpacking Barcelona.

Placa Catalunya square
Placa Catalunya

La Rambla

This is probably one of the most famous streets in the world and thus one of the main attractions in Barcelona. This long promenade leads from the harbor to into the city and is full of shops and restaurants. The Rambla street is almost always (except very early in the morning) packed with people and a stroll along is part of every backpacking Barcelona trip. Take good care of your valuables, as pickpockets are around. Also you should not go directly to a restaurant on the Rambla, since those are very overpriced.

La Rambla Street in Barcelona
Famous La Rambla

Mercat de la Boqueria

This huge food market is right on the Rambla and is another attraction for your Barcelona backpacking itinerary. In this market you will find countless food stalls, fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, some bars – and everything else that comes to your mind! By the way – if you’re looking for the best places to eat in the city, check out some of the recommended restaurants in Barcelona here!

Food market Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria

The harbor of Barcelona

With the great location by the sea, a visit to the port is of course on your Barcelona itinerary. The port is just south of the center, at the end of the Rambla and close to the Barceloneta beach. Here you can admire the countless boats and yachts in the sea and I recommend you to take a walk just before sunset.

View of the harbor
Harbor of Barcelona

Barceloneta Beach

This is probably the most famous beach in Barcelona. Here you can enjoy the sun, go swimming or do some sports. Note, however, that the Barceloneta beach can be very crowded, especially in summer and on weekends. If you want to enjoy the tranquility, I recommend to look for a beach just outside of Barcelona. Nevertheless, visiting Barceloneta beach is nice, especially at sunset.

Sunset ar Barceloneta
Barceloneta Beach

Colombo Monument (Mirador de Colom)

This attraction is still a little unknown and a real insider tip of Barcelona. For me it was one of the coolest sights in Barcelona and by far the best view of the city! This pillar is located at the end of the Rambla, right on the harbor. Here you can take a lift to the rather small and narrow viewing platform, from where you have a fantastic view of Barcelona with the harbor, the beach and the Rambla. The best part? Unlike so many other attractions in Barcelona, the Columbus Monument is pretty cheap and it only costs you € 6 to enjoy the great views.

Viewpoint of Barcelona
View of Barcelona

Park Güell

Park Güell is one of Barcelona’s most famous attractions and like so many attractions in the city designed by architect Antoni Gaudi. In this park, just outside the center of Barcelona, you can admire the colorful art and architecture of Gaudi as you roam the green space. You can theoretically visit the park for free, but it costs € 7 to enter the famous main area of Park Güells. If you want to do this, you have to plan in advance, because here tickets get booked out. For a nice view of the architecture of the park, you can get into the Gaudi house right at the exit and enjoy the few from the top window.

Park Güell in Barcelona
Visiting Park Güell

Parc de la Ciutadella

If you want to recover from sightseeing in Barcelona or backpacking in general, the Parc de la Ciutadella is the perfect opportunity. This large green area is perfect for a long walk or just to sit in the sun. Do not miss the big fountain, which looks beautiful.

Fountain in Parc de la Ciutadella
Parc de la Ciutadella

Arc del Triomf

At the northern end of Parc de la Ciutadella, you’ll head straight for the Spanish version of the triumphal arch in Paris – the Arc del Triomf, a famous landmark in Barcelona and a well-known photo opportunity.

Arc de Triomf view
Arc del Triomf in Barcelona

The zoo in Barcelona

Directly in the Parc de la Ciutadella there is also a large zoo. If you’re traveling with kids, this would be a cool alternative to the classic sights in Barcelona.

Hippos in the zoo
Visiting the zoo

Castell de Montjuïc

Montjuïc is the local mountain of Barcelona! You can reach this one either on foot (via the steps of the MNAC) or by public transport. For the last stretch to the top you can also go by gondola. At the top of the mountain is the Castell de Montjuïc. From this former fortress you have a great view of Barcelona and the sea. Especially at sunset, this is very nice.

Montjuic Fortress
Fortress of Montjuic

Museu Nacional d’Art de Cataluny (MNAC)

Although I have not seen this art museum from the inside, visiting this place is great thanks to the beautiful architecture and location. The MNAC is located on a hill, from which some stairs lead down to the city. Large fountains directly in front of and on the stairs allow a great view and a nice photo opportunity.

View of MNAC Museum
MNAC Museum
Fountain and MNAC
Fountain in front of the Museum

Font Màgica

Right at the foot of the MNAC Museum is the famous Font Màgica fountain. You should visit this spot in the evening, when there’s a beautiful water and light show going on.

Night at Font Magic
Font Màgica at night while backpacking Barcelona

Olympic Stadium

In this Olympic Stadium, which is located on the mountain Montjuïc, the Summer Olympic Games were held in 1992. Now the building is empty and you can visit it for free as a tourist.

Free stadium to visit when backpacking barcelona
Olympic stadium

Casa Battló

This is another artwork by the famous architect Antoni Gaudi. Unfortunately, you have to pay a hefty entry fee of € 22.50 here and often wait in line for quite a long time, if you want to see the house from the inside. If this is too expensive and time-consuming for you, it is also nice to admire this sight of Barcelona from the outside.

Casa Battlo house
Gaudi’s Casa Battló

Casa Milà (La Pedrera)

Let’s get to the next house of Gaudi, which is just around the corner from Casa Battló. La Pedrera is unique, as there is no single right angle in the entire building. If you look at the house from the inside, you can walk through the different floors and admire the art and architecture. Especially worth seeing here is the great roof terrace, from which you have a beautiful view over Barcelona.

the Casa Milà (La Pedrera) house
Casa Milà (La Pedrera)

Camp Nou

This huge football stadium is the home of FC Barcelona. But even besides watching a match, you have the opportunity to visit the stadium as part of a tour. For football fans this is a must!

Camp Nou football stadium
Camp Nou Stadium

Tibidabo

The Tibidabo is the second local mountain of Barcelona. Just outside of Barcelona, it offers great views of the city. In addition, there is a wellness park directly on the mountain. You reach the top of the mountain by funicular railway.

Montserrat

Do you still have time for a day trip when backpacking Barcelona? Then off to Montserrat! Located outside of Barcelona, this mountain monastery is a popular spot for day trips from Barcelona. Here you can escape the big city and enjoy the great scenery and nature.

Harbor and promenade
Beach walk in Barcelona

Important travel tips for backpacking Barcelona

After telling you about the best places to visit, I will give you my best travel tips for backpacking in Barcelona.

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Plan your Barcelona backpacking trip off-season

Barcelona is one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations and a magnet for visitors from all over the world. As a result, Barcelona also has a serious problem with mass tourism or “overtourism”. To escape the crowds as much as possible, you should visit Barcelona off the main travel season. But you will soon see that there is no Barcelona without tourists – even during my visit in October, the tickets for the popular attractions were booked out for days in advance. In addition, you should note that Barcelona in the summer is incredibly hot. Sightseeing is not fun anymore! Therefore, I would advise against a backpacking trip to Barcelona in the summer months. The best travel time for Barcelona is probably spring and autumn. But remember to bring a thin jacket for the evenings!

Get your entry tickets for the attractions in advance

As mentioned above, the ticket prices for the most popular Barcelona attractions, such as the Sagrada Familia, the Park Güell and the other Gaudi houses, are often fully booked days in advance. Here I give you the tip to plan ahead and reserve the tickets online if you want to see these attractions from the inside as well.

View of Park Güell in Barcelona
The Park Güell

Use the metro and busses

Generally you can explore many parts of Barcelona very well on foot. Note, however, that some Barcelona attractions, such as Park Güell, Bunkers del Carmel or Camp Nou, are located just outside the city. You can’t really reach them by foot anymore and depend on public transport. In Barcelona there is a good and cheap metro system to explore the city. Areas not connected to the metro can be reached by bus. I’ve used Google Maps in Barcelona and navigation has worked very well with the public transport route planner.

Be prepared for many, many tourists when backpacking Barcelona

As mentioned above, it seems almost impossible to escape the tourist crowds in Barcelona. Even off the holiday and main travel season, the city is full of visitors from all over the world. So, if you like quieter and less tourist destinations, Barcelona is the wrong choice for you.

Backpacking Barcelona is not cheap

Like most other major European cities, such as Milan and London, Barcelona is not a cheap destination. While you can eat relatively cheaply in bakeries and smaller food stalls, especially the entrance fees to the sights will cost you an incredible amount of money.

If you want to visit the best highlights of Barcelona and still save money, I recommend getting the *Barcelona Pass* in advance – you’ll save lots of time and money!
Busy crowds at the Gaudi house
Gaudi House in Barcelona

Explore Barcelona as part of a „Free Walking Tour”!

Personally, I’m a big fan of the Free Walking Tours, which are now available in almost every city. Here, the city is shown to you by a nice and mostly very dedicated tour guide and in the end you pay in the form of a tip, the amount is up to you (usually 5-10 € is appreciated). In Barcelona there are several agencies of free walking tours, which usually take place several times a day. Like this, I explored the area around the gothic quarter with a tour guide and learned a lot. Highly recommended!

Take care of your valuables

Unfortunately, Barcelona is known for its pickpockets, which focus on the unwary tourists. Especially on the famous La Rambla promenade you should take very good care of your valuables. Mobile phone and wallets should never be in the back pocket of your pants and your backpack should be worn best in front of the stomach.

Skyline of Barcelona
View from Montjuic at Barcelona

Use Barcelona as a base for day trips

There is so much to see in Barcelona that you can spend several days exploring the sights and attractions here. Nevertheless, I recommend you to use Barcelona also for day trips. For example, I spent a day in nearby Sitges, a nice and relaxing beach town. I also visited the city of Girona. You can reach these places practically by bus or by train. You can also visit the small country of Andorra high in the mountains from Barcelona. Here are also day trips offered, as the bus ride but over 3 hours lasts well, rather for a weekend Andorra to visit.

Take enough time for backpacking Barcelona

Barcelona is a huge city with countless attractions and the opportunity for cool day trips. So take your time! I can not recommend Barcelona for just one day. I advise you to plan for a short backpacking trip about 2-3 days for the main Barcelona attractions.

Exploring streets of Barcelona
Barcelona’s city centre

Conclusion on a Barcelona backpacking trip

I hope I could tell you more about the interesting attractions in Barcelona and prepare you well for your backpacking Barcelona journey. I’m sure you will love it and Barcelona is a city that everyone should have visited once.

Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed your time in Barcelona!

Bunkers del Carmel sunset
Sunset at the bunkers

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