Top 5 Things To Do In Barcelona According To A Local
I had the difficult task of planning things to do in Barcelona for my family of 5, and more importantly my Mother. She flew over 9 hours to spend 2 nights with us in Barcelona before we departed without her for a 7 night Disney Cruise through the Mediterranean. Obviously, there was a little pressure to make the most of Barcelona in 2 days 🙂
To be fair, I would have put almost as much pressure on myself to find the top things to do Barcelona regardless. However, I added the incentive of making sure my mother’s time & money spent on the ridiculously long flight was worth it to her. The first thing I did was book our Barcelona hotel room, and we used Jetsetter to find the best rates on Barcelona Hotel rooms.
I did not pull it off with relentless internet research & guide books, but instead with a Barcelona local tour guide. No, not the Barcelona tour guides that have a 40 people following them with audio ear plugs and fanny packs. I hired a Barcelona private tour guide who successfully guided 6 jet lagged Americans to Barcelona’s top attractions in 2 days.
Barcelona Experience, a private tour guide company, was in charge of showing us the creme de la creme of Barcelona in a record-breaking 2 days.
Without further ado, here are the top 5 things to do in Barcelona according to a local:
1- Plaza Catalunya & La Boqueria Market
The Plaza Catalunya was a nice spot to stop & take a bike break for the kids before heading to the La Boqueria market. The Plaza Catalunya was the highlight of the day for Murray. He chased the poor birds around until he actually caught one. The Plaza was also a place to begin to orient us with Barcelona as it is considered the center of the city. It is also where the “old city” meets the new city.
The La Boqueria market is the most famous market in Barcelona, and definitely one of the top things to do. We also had an authentic Catalan lunch at one of the restaurants in the market. We basically marveled, and ate our way through the market. Publix does not have crap on La Boqueria.
2- Sagrada Familia
Our next stop was the Sagrada Familia, which is probably the most famous architectural building in Barcelona. As soon as we stopped at the entrance of the Sagrada Familia, Daniel noticed the insanely long lines.
Daniel quickly said that there was no FREAKING way he was going to wait in that line. Keep in mind that none of us had any sleep for almost 24 hours.
Our Barcelona tour guide saved the day by replying that there would be no lines for the Prickett family. He was not kidding. We literally walked right in. Our tour guide previously purchased our entrance tickets, and perfectly timed the day so we arrived at our reserved time.
Sagrada Familia is a Roman Catholic church designed by the famous architect, Gaudi, over 100 years ago. It is still being constructed 100 years later with an expected completion date of 2026. I cannot even begin to describe this massive & awe-striking church.
Gaudi, albeit a little strange, was clearly a genuis.
I can unequivocally say that we would have never seen this much of Barcelona on our first day in the city without the Barcelona Experience tour guide. Furthermore, bike riding throughout the city enabled us to see the overall beauty of Barcelona.
Best of all, we never had to open a map of the city or ask a stranger how to get where we wanted to go. We tried that route later in our trip, and it sucks. Trust me on that one.
Our next day with our Barcelona Experience tour guide began at 10 am with breakfast in the Gothic Quarter, which leads me to #3.
3- Wander the Streets of the Gothic Quarter
Of course our private tour guide knew exactly where to take us to eat a traditional Spanish breakfast. He led us to a unassuming restaurant tucked in the midst of an unnamed narrow street in the Gothic Quarter. I cannot remember the name of the restaurant, but it was fabulously authentic! I am sure that we stood out like a tourist thumb, but we enjoyed every minute of the experience.
We eagerly ordered churros & other classic Spanish breakfast dishes. We were open to the experience, but the kids were clearly hungry. Our tour guide wisely recognized that the kids might need a a good ole kid-friendly classic in case the churro did not hit the spot.
He recommended that we order a couple of “bikinis,” just in case. The “bikini” was not on the menu. Apparently, one can order a “bikini” anywhere in Barcelona regardless of whether it is on the menu or not.
He was right. The “grilled ham and cheese” was more appealing to our kid’s western taste buds than the other options on the menu. We ordered “bikinis” several times thereafter. It was almost never on the menu.
Everyone was full & happy so it was time to explore! Our tour guide led us with ease around the Gothic Quarter while pointing interesting facts about the historic area.
4- Barceloneta Beach
We had spent to much time admiring the Gothic Quarter for our tour guide to spend the rest of the afternoon with us at the beach. However, he recommended that we have some pre dinner tapas on the beach to check it out. He led us directly to the Barceloneta beach boardwalk, and we said our goodbyes.
There are countless restaurants right on the beach, and we chose one with this baby right in front of it! Thus, we got to enjoy Spanish wine on the beach while our kids played on the world’s best jungle gym. Double score!
The beaches in Barcelona were truthfully the best we encountered of all of our stops along the Western Mediterranean. The other beaches we saw were teeny tiny beaches with rock pebbles instead of sand. However, the deep azure blue water in the Italian and French Riviera more than made up for what it lacked in beaches.
After the beach and tapas we headed back to our hotel. We could not help but to make a few more stops to admire other Gaudi buildings.
As I said earlier, my mother was due to fly back home after 2 nights in Barcelona. We would have never been able to pull off this much sight-seeing without our Barcelona private tour guide. On top of everything else, our guide took professional pictures of our experiences in Barcelona.
Our family of 5 had an additional day & night to spend in Barcelona post cruise. Of course there are many other things to do in Barcelona, but he recommended we tour Park Guell for our last day in Barcelona.
5- Park Guell
He was completely right about Park Guell being a “don’t miss” attraction in Barcelona. However, I wish we had our “Barcelona Genie” take us there instead of trying to do it alone. More on that later!
I’m almost positive that this is not your typical picture of Park Guell, but they did put “park” in front of the name. Yes, we got scolded by security.
I promise that Park Guell was an architectural masterpiece, second only to Sagrada Familia. However, my kids saw rock climbing walls and hide and go seek games. Can you blame them?
Don’t miss Park Guell if you are in Barcelona.
However, I recommend you hire a private tour guide to take you there and back home. Getting there was one thing, while getting back was another. We easily took the 3 green line on the metro to get to Park Guell. Leaving was another story.
We left the Park Guell with confidence that we could easily find the metro that we took to Park Guell. Wrong.
After 30 minutes of walking with 3 kids, we ended up in an area of town that was “less than desirable.” I had an ingenious idea that we should purchase something from one of the small local markets nearby, so the owner would be kind enough to lead us in the right direction. Wrong again.
Thereafter, we gave up and waited at a designated “taxi stop” for 30 minutes hoping one would come by to get us back to the safety of our hotel. Wrong for the 3rd time.
We finally found a local that offered to let us follow him to the metro. He spoke no English, but understood the question “metro?” Honestly, we were incredibly suspicious as to where we were actually being led after another 20 minutes of walking. Luckily, he was just a nice guy who wanted to help out 2 stupid Americans with 3 innocent kids.
We made it back to our hotel, and vowed to never “do it alone” again! Contact our friends at Barcelona Experience to show you the top things to do in Barcelona. You won’t regret it.
Check out our posts on the best Barcelona hotel’s for families, and check with Jetsetter for discounted rates at these Barcelona Hotels. We always check with Jetsetter, because they often have lower rates than the hotel itself.