Barcelona, Spain, travel guide and things to do: Nine highlights


Barcelona has a breathtaking assortment of miradors (viewing platforms), funiculars and cable cars, including the aerial tramway linking the historic Montjuic hill with the beach-fringed Barceloneta neighbourhood. Launched in 1931, the red-and-white cabins bob above the city's expansive old port, affording stellar views of a monument-pierced Barcelona skyline that ripples between forest-tufted mountains and Mediterranean Sea. Look out for the surreal towers of La Sagrada Familia. Antoni Gaudi's still-unfinished cathedral has reopened to the public after a pandemic-enforced closure, though its planned 2026 completion date has been further delayed. See


Barcelona, Spain - August 16, 2014: Waterfall fountain and Palau Nacional in Montjuic, in Barcelona, Spain. All the area, built for the 1929 International Exposition, is a popular landmark xxBarcelona - One & Only : Barcelona Spain ; text by Steve McKenna
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Photo: Getty Images

Palatial domes, modern towers and the spires of another cathedral - the city's medieval one - jostle for your gaze from the rooftop pool-bar of Hotel Ohla. Located where the tangled Gothic Quarter meets the grid-patterned Eixample enclave, near the fabulously ornate Palau de la Musica, this five-star hotel is popular with design buffs and food lovers. Behind a neoclassical facade laced with quirky ceramic eyes are art-decorated public spaces, 74 bright, sleek rooms and suites, wine and tapas bars, and Caelis, a Michelin-starred restaurant where Toulouse-born chef Romain Fornell conjures contemporary Mediterranean tasting menus. Rooms from around €197 ($A306). See


While crowds line up to gawp at Gaudi's various treasures - others include Casa Mila and Casa Batllo - the genius of another Barcelona native eludes many tourists' radars. Open Thursday to Sunday, the Fundacio Joan Miro on Montjuic showcases paintings, ceramics and other mind-bending works by Miro, a 20th-century Surrealist, who drew inspiration from Van Gogh, Picasso and Cezanne. The gallery also stages temporary exhibitions featuring established and emerging artists influenced by Miro. See


After immersing yourself in Miro's world, amble through the neighbouring botanical gardens, where dreamlike topiary and exotic plant species grow beside statues, hidden vantage points and book-reading spots. You'll see the nearby 1992 Olympic Stadium, which still stages sport and concerts, and sits beside Santiago Calatrava's spiralling white communications tower - one of several installations commissioned for the Games (sculptures by Roy Lichtenstein and Frank Gehry grace Barcelona's port area). Descending the steps of the regal Palau Nacional, which houses the National Art Museum of Catalonia, you'll see the "magic" fountain of Montjuic, the focal point of a nightly water, light and music spectacular. See


Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain. xxBarcelona - One & Only : Barcelona Spain ; text by Steve McKenna
cr: iStock (reuse permitted, no syndication)

Photo: iStock

The independent town of Gracia was swallowed by Barcelona in 1897 and now reigns as one of the city's trendiest, most liveable barrios (districts). It's sprinkled with Modernist architecture and its decorative tiled frontages and flamboyant turrets. Gracia also has tapas bars, bodegas, cafes, boutiques, grocers and florists tumbling out onto shaded streets and leafy plazas. Gracia is well worth a wander before or after you hit Park Guell, a 17-hectare wonderland scattered with Gaudi's mosaics on the neighbourhood's northern edges. See


Virtually every Barcelona barrio has a bustling market, selling everything from bric-a-brac and cutting-edge fashions to organic produce and preserves. Tourists flock to La Boqueria, off the iconic La Rambla boulevard, but Sant Antoni market in the district next door has a more local vibe. Stalls and eateries hawk a bewildering array of potential picnic ingredients, like cheeses, charcuterie, fruit, vegetables, fish and seafood. Stalls also pitch up outside this stunning steel-framed 1882 market building, with Sunday mornings good for fossicking second-hand books, vinyls and collectibles. See


Picasso fans can survey over 4000 pieces in a museum dedicated to the Malaga-born master, who moved to Barcelona as a teenager. Interested in seeing some nice old ships instead? The Maritime Museum occupies former naval shipyards and military buildings near the giant Christopher Columbus monument and trawls through Barcelona's rich seafaring past. Attractive restored vessels include a full-size replica of a 16th-century royal galley, and Santa Eulalia, a three-masted schooner that ventured as far as Cuba in its pomp and now offers scenic sailings around the port. See and



"Where plants meet coffee" is the slogan of Espai Joliu, a hip cafe-concept store in Poblenou, an up-and-coming ex-industrial barrio fanning out from Torre Glories, the Jean Nouvel-designed skyscraper dubbed "Barcelona's Gherkin". Expect quality flat whites woven with latte art and an enticing selection of vegan-friendly cakes and savoury delicacies. Distressed walls brandish prints and shelves with creative magazines, designer backpacks and foliage-filled pottery. See


Lovers of the beautiful game shouldn't miss Camp Nou - the home of Barcelona Football Club. Once Europe's dominant team, the current "Barca" side is pretty ordinary - more so since a teary Lionel Messi left for Paris Saint-Germain in August. Yet watching a game in this 99,000-capacity cauldron remains a special experience. Buy tickets via the club's website (the cheapest ones range from €34-€79 depending on the opposition). On non-matchdays, join a stadium tour to see the hallowed turf, plus a high-tech museum detailing the club's many triumphs and a zone honouring Senor Messi. See


Since COVID-19, Barcelona has ramped up its drive for a "greener" future. You can now pedal about 200 kilometres on dedicated bike lanes - hire wheels from the city's excellent bike-sharing scheme - and stroll, cycle or skate along newly traffic-free "superblocks" that have been mushrooming all over. In addition, thronging thoroughfares like Carrer de Sants - which runs west off Placa d'Espanya - bans cars at weekends for the Obrim Carrers (Open Streets) initiative. See

The writer travelled at his own expense.