Barcelona attractions – what to do in Barcelona as a foreign student
Barcelona is one of the greatest destinations in Europe for foreign students. A hugely versatile city, Barcelona offers fashion, cuisine, art, history, architecture, shopping and nightlife – as well as sunny weather and beaches. The buses, the metro and the trams work exceptionally well, so Barcelona is also an easy city to explore. Below is a summary of some of this fascinating city’s most important sights and neighborhoods.
The tourist information office, Plaza Cataluña and La Rambla
Plaza Catalunya is right in the heart of Barcelona, and the wide avenue that leads off it, is called La Rambla. This is a good area to start exploring the city. If you visit the well-organised Tourist Information Office on Plaza Cataluña and pick up a map of the city, you can then amble down La Rambla and choose a café to sit in, while you plan your route for the day. La Rambla is always full of life, so you can just sit and watch the business people and tourists walking by, admire the various street artists, or window-shop as you head down towards the Christopher Columbus statue at the bottom of the avenue.
Gaudí and the Sagrada Familia
The Sagrada Familia Cathedral is Barcelona’s absolute must-see. Antoni Gaudi’s most famous architectural project is also undoubtedly Barcelona’s most emblematic building. Curiously, the cathedral is still unfinished today. Gaudi was commissioned to carry on the building of the cathedral in 1883, when its original architect was unable to continue the work. Gaudi continued with the project until his death in 1926, and today architects are still working to complete his vision. The cathedral attracts million of visitors every year, so be prepared to queue to get in. Guided tours and audio-guide hire are available inside. The campus where the Spanish courses are arranged at the University of Barcelona UAB is located only 500 meters from the Sagrada Familia Cathedral.
Gaudi is a name almost synonymous with Barcelona, and you will find more of his remarkable work in other parts of the city. Park Guell in the Lesseps district is a famous building complex designed by Gaudí, and it is best known for its mosaic design elements in the central garden area, including the “serpent bench”. Other important Gaudí sites include La Pedrera and Casa Batlló, both excellent examples of the artist’s distinct curved surfaces and abstract shapes, which Barcelona has become so famous for.
Montjuic & Plaza de España
“The Montjuïc” is the long, flat-topped mountain that overlooks Barcelona’s harbour. You can get great views of the city from the Montjuïc Mountain, especially on the cable car service. The area became famous during the 1992 Olympics, when various sporting venues were placed here, but it also offers various other attractions: Plaza España is a square which sits at the bottom of the Montjuïc Mountain – it was built at the beginning of the 20th Century, as part of the World Exhibition, and it is not far from the Palau Nacional, which houses Barcelona’s National Art Museum. If you are in the area, don’t forget to visit the spectacular Montjuic Magic Fountain. The fountain provides a beautifully lit water display, at its best when seen at nighttime.
The Gothic district of Barcelona, known as Barrio Gótico, is a great place to walk down narrow, winding streets and discover antique shops, old-fashioned beer halls and several gothic churches. Carrer Avinyó and Carrer de la Palla are famous for shops selling second-hand and retro clothes and goods, as well as art. The Barrio Gótico is also famous for the castellers, the Catalonian name for human tower building. You can find teams practicing the sport throughout the year, but in particular in September on Plaça Jaume.
Barcelona’s Raval neighbourhood is trendy, bohemian and very happening. It is characterised by fashionable bars, alternative music venues and fast food places - and home to the MACBA museum and the CCCB Cultural Centre, both well worth a visit.
The Temple of Tibidabo
The Sagrat Cor del Tibidabo is a church located on the Tibidabo Mountain. The church is built in Neo-Gothic style and the crypt is Art Noveau, but the site is most famous for the 7-metre bronze statue of the Sacred Heart of Christ, placed right on top of the temple’s dome. You can catch impressive views of Barcelona from the top of the temple, which is accessible by elevator. From here you can also take a cable car up the mountain, or catch a ride on the historic Blue Tram.
Barceloneta Beach is the city’s most central beach, and it gets extremely busy in the hot summer months from June to September. It is a vital part of the Barceloneta neighbourhood, traditionally an old fishing district, and you’ll catch locals and tourists sunbathing, jogging, dog walking and eating here. In the sunny summer season (and even on some winter days) you can bring a towel and sunbathe on the sand, or if you’re willing to part with a few euros, you can hire a sunbed and parasol for the day. The area also has many seafood restaurants and beach bars where you can eat a full lunch or grab a snack and a cold drink.
Shopping, cinemas and leisure
In the centre of Barcelona, in the Plaza Cataluña and La Rambla area, you will find many high street shops and international boutiques, as well as Spain’s main department store, El Corte Inglés. But there are numerous other shopping districts and centres in the city too, some of which also offer multiplex cinemas and other leisure pursuits. Here are just a few:
- Las Arenas shopping centre in Montjuïc is an impressive circular steel and concrete structure designed by the British architect Richard Rogers, offering a huge range of shops and restaurants.
- Avinguda Diagonal is known for international fashion, including names like Calvin Klein, Armani and Gucci.
- Diagonal Mar offers a huge and very central commercial centre with almost 300 stores, as well as a multiplex cinema, mini golf, aquarium and a food court complete with restaurants, fast food places and bars.
- El Bulevard Rosa is an indoor market arcade in the Barrio Gótico, with almost 100 different clothing, shoe, accessory, bric-a-brac and gift shops.
Sports in Barcelona
Barcelona is a perfect city to visit for sports fans. With a nice climate all year around you can practice nearly all sports available. For the 92 Olympic Games the infrastructure were built to host al type of sports facilities all over the city which have since then been completely modernized.
In the Olympic port area and throughout the coast it is possible to practice all types of water sports. If you like running the coastline is also a perfect location.
Although you can practice nearly any sports in Barcelona the city and the whole region of Catalonia is properly most famous for being the home of the soccer club Barcelona FC. Even if you don't like soccer it can be highly recommended to take the guided stadium tour or if possible to experience a live match as the atmosphere is incredible.
We can also highly recommend the Barcelona FC camp where you can train with the famous Barcelona FCB Escola youth coaches at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Camper where also the Barcelona first team trains daily. This is a summer program available for children between 12-17 years old and is a great option for kids to get the real Barcelona FC experience.
The tourist office website
For maps and more information on Barcelona attractions, visit the city’s Tourist Office website www.barcelonaturisme.com.
See the other FAQ sections on this site for Barcelona public transport, nightlife and restaurants.