Barcelona is one hot, sexy, incredible city, filled with amazing culture, parties, sunshine, beaches and beautiful people. I’ve visited the Catalan capital five times in the past decade – so it’s clearly one of my favourites. I’ve put together my list of all the fabulous things to do in Barcelona, including festivals, day trips and the best places to watch the sunset (with some cava or cerveza, of course!). So pack your bags with your tiniest outfits ready for one hell of a holiday as bring your my hot list for Barcelona.
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Fabulous outdoorsy things to do in Barcelona
Towering over the north-west of Barcelona is Mount Tibidabo, which is easy to spot on the city’s skyline by the Disney-esque church perched on top of it. The rather extra named Expiatory Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is quite beautiful, especially with a mini Christ the Redeemer style statue perched on top of it, but it isn’t the only reason to visit the top of this mountain. The vintage theme park, with its iconic light-up Ferris Wheel, is the third oldest amusement park in Europe, having opened in 1905. This section of the park is free to get into, with ride only cost a couple of euros each, so it’s definitely worth the trip up here. If you’re looking for more than just a handful of rides, there’s a newer section of the theme park tucked just under the edge of the mountain. For these rides, you’ll need a park pass, which is around 30 euros – I’ve never tried this section either time I’ve visited here but it might try it next time. Either way, you can come up to Mount Tibidabo and have a great afternoon without it costing too much.
It’s also one of the best places to view the city from – and a lovely place to see the Barcelona sunset. If you want to stay up here to see the daylight disappear, I recommend catching the bus back into town (the T2A Bus to and from Plaça Catalunya) rather than the funicular. We had a pretty lolz experience when we caught this vintage mountain train down in the dark, as you have to walk through a steep, unlit park in order to head towards Gracias. We were pretty freaked out, kept tripping over everything and only had our phone torches to guide us. If you fancy visiting Gracias after a sunset trip here, then perhaps book a taxi to collect you instead.
One of my favourite things to do when I visit Barcelona in the summer is to watch a film at this incredible open-air cinema. Now in its 16th year, Sala Montjuïc runs from late June till early August, showing films in both Spanish and English most evenings. What makes this experience so amazing though is that you sit in the (now dry) moat that surrounds Montjuïc Castle. This old military fortress, which dates as far back as 1640, is perched at the top of a mountain and now houses a history museum about Barcelona. You can even combine a one hour tour of the castle with your cinema ticket for only a few euros extra. In 2018, this open-air cinema screened a range of films in English (with Spanish subtitles) including Call Me By Your Name, West Side Story and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing.
There’s a free shuttle bus that runs from Plaça d’Espanya up to Montjuïc Castle for the hour before the film starts. I’d definitely recommend booking your tickets in advance and getting up there as early as possible because the locals pack it out pretty quickly. If you aren’t arriving super early, I’d recommend opting to bring a picnic blanket rather than hiring the loungers, as it can be difficult to find a good spot to set up the chairs that aren’t in front of people on blankets once it gets busy. Don’t be afraid to go right to the front for the best spot as people sit all the way up to the stage once the film starts. There’s a bar and a burger van but you’re also welcome to bring your own food and drinks, which is what we’ve always done. Pack some warm clothes with your picnic as well – as it can get really chilly up on the mountain once the sun sets. There are free buses to shuttle you back to the city but the queues are pretty huge, so just follow the crowds who wander back down the hill on foot instead.
Barcelona is all about the architect Antoni Gaudí. Pretty much everywhere you go in the city, you’ll find some incredibly unique design of his from a century or more ago. From the iconic Sagrada Família to Palau Güell in El Raval, there are loads of places that you can check out his impressive examples of Catalan Modernism. They’re also, naturally, massive tourist traps that are often associated with expensive ticket prices and long queues. Park Güell, located just above the Gracia district, is also a big tourist attraction for Gaudí fans, but as it’s spread out across some 45 acres, it’s a much more lovely experience. Plus, this park is seriously bonkers and an amazing place to visit on a sunny afternoon. So I think if you visit one Gaudí location in Barcelona, this is the one.
Entry to the park is free but its most visited (and fragile) section, the Monumental Zone – main entrance, terrace and mosaics – are ticketed. The price is currently around 8 euros, which may sound a little steep but I definitely think it’s worth it. We caught the metro to the west entrance and then caught the very convenient street escalators up to the park. You can also walk up from Gracias through the main entrance, which looks like a slightly freaky gingerbread house. Pack a picnic (with some cava) and enjoy dinner on the terrace as the day draws to a close; it will be one of the most memorable locations for a meal you’ll probably ever experience. The terrace is large and the seating area is tiled in an astounding array of colourful tiles. If it’s looking a little dusty, you can always try one of the grassy garden areas instead. If you’re feeling adventurous, follow the winding road that snakes up the northeastern hill to see an amazing view of the city and watch the sunset – but make sure you come down again before the park closes.
Mar Bella Beach
Famed zona nudista, Mar Bella is THE gay beach in Barcelona. Some people also go to the Sant Sebastià Beach near the W Hotel but as it’s so close to town, it’s a little more awkward (with families and tourists gawking at you from the nearby). Mar Bella, on the other hand, is located a little further away, near Poblenou metro station. It’s a much more chilled area, with a deep stretch of sand and it’s own beach bar. The beach is usually filled with dedicated nudists and gay men but is really welcoming to anyone, clothed or otherwise. It’s particularly busy on weekends but pretty much empty on weekday mornings. With music pumping from the bar and friends hanging out in large groups, it has a great vibe and has really endured as the Barcelona beach to hang out on over the last decade.
Piscina Municipal de Montjuïc
If you don’t fancy a sandy beach, then you’ll be pleased to know that Barcelona also has a fantastic pool. Built for the Barcelona Expo in 1929, this pool sits high above the city on Montjuïc hill. The pool was famously refurbished for the Barcelona Olympics in the early 90s – but it also has another (more fabulous) claim to fame: it was used as the location for Kylie’s Slow music video. So you can expect to see a few people rolling around on their towels, pulling sexy poses while their friends try to capture their best impersonations of Ms Minogue (or was that just me?). The pool is only open to the public from late June to early September, from around 11am-6:30pm so check it’s open before you visit.
The easiest way to reach the pool is to catch the funicular from Paral·lel metro station up the hill, and it only costs the price of a normal metro fare. Entry to the pool, which is directly across the road from the station, is about 7 euros – a little pricey considering how basic the facilities are. But still, few public swimming pools have such a marvellous view of a city, right? There are a limited number of sun loungers for hire for 1 euro – but make sure you put your name down as soon as you arrive as there is fierce competition for them.
Palo Alto Market
This stylish flea market has been running on the first weekend of every month since late 2015. Located halfway between Pobleneu and Selva de Mar metro stations, it’s a little bit of a journey from the city centre but worth the journey away from the touristy heart to a more local experience. Expect everything from street food and street markets to ‘concept gallery’ featuring premium brands and live music and DJs. You can buy your tickets online in advance for 3 euros, or buy them on the day for 4 euros.
Go hunting for Miss Van
Originally from France, Miss Van’s work is now more closely associated with Barcelona which is where she has resided for many years. Having started out as a street artist, you can still find her work on walls across the city (especially in the Bari Gotic). These days, she mainly exhibits in galleries, so it’s up to you how you want to hunt her down. See if she has an exhibition on when you’re in town or go on your own street art walk. Her work has evolved over the years from curvy, cartoonish vixens into more haunting, fairytale-esque women/creatures. She’s one of my fave artists, has been a big influence on my drag, and it’s always a pleasure to discover something by Miss Van.
Fabulous indoorsy things to do in Barcelona
The first thing you’ll probably notice about this art museum is all the skaters that hang out the front. In fact, the Plaça dels Àngels that fronts onto the museum is probably the most iconic spot for skateboarders to land tricks in the whole of the city. Inside, you’ll discover a calm temple to modern art with some 5,000 works in the collection, ranging from the mid-20th Century until now. If you’re looking for somewhere to escape the heat, then this cool white air-conditioned space is the perfect respite, as you can easily spend an hour or two exploring the exhibitions.
If you’re planning on spending the day wandering around the rather showy Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, make sure you save some time for this icon of modern architecture. Also located in the Parc de Montjuïc, the Barcelona Pavilion was originally built in 1929 for the International Exposition in Barcelona – then torn down a few months later. But this structure, commissioned by Germany and designed by Mies van der Rohe, was considered one of the most influential modernist buildings of the 20th Century and nearly 50 years later it was rebuilt and opened to the public once again. It’s pretty incredible to think that this architectural design is nearly 100 years old – it looks like someone’s rather fancy minimalist house you would see now.
If you happen to have a find yourself in Barcelona on a rainy day, then what better way to pass the time in a vintage tapas bar, quaffing loads of cheap cava and eating endless tasty mini-dishes? El Xampanyet (pronounced like Champagne, because it serves Catalonia’s own take on French bubbly: cava) has been run by the same family since it opened in 1929. It’s a small, hole-in-the-wall bar, with the walls tiled in beautifully decorated tiles and features a handful of tables. I should note, that it has become increasingly popular with tourists and in the summer you’ll often find people queueing just before it reopens after siesta for its evening session at 7pm. However, on a cold or drizzly day, I think you should be fine to grab a table with friends and kick back and enjoy the good vibes.
Fabulous Barcelona parties
If you’re looking for the most progressive and fabulous drag in Barcelona, then Pluma is where you will find it. Hosted by my very own Sink The Pink sister, Joan Oh, along with Costa Rican diva Dino Real, they serve up the very best drag in the city. Ok, I’m totally biased as I performed here for Pride this year – but it’s true. This night is a lot of fun and not to be missed if it’s on if you’re in town when it’s on.
Originally starting out as the sister to popular Madrid party Ultra Pop, this party quickly established itself as a firm favourite in its second home. As of this week, it has rebranded as YASS! but is still happening every Saturday night at the Safari Disco Club in Eixample. It’s where all the pretty boys and girls go to dance the weekend away pop and house music.
Describing itself as a “funny beards and furry party” means you can expect lots of bears and the odd bit of drag at this monthly party. Their flyers tend to involve them adding beards to the faces of famous women (which, let’s be honest, is kind of an improvement) and is held at Eixample’s Sala Tango.
I went to La Ká’s street party at the Gracias Festival in August 2016 and it was fantastic – with a really lovely crowd and a very fun atmosphere. Started by “two lost-in-space alien queers Bazara Lemur and Barbayella Isfunny” (really Sandro and Jon) in 2013, it has grown into a monthly party Sunday night party at the popular gay club, Metro Disco – plus Pride, festival spots and irregular nights at LUX in Berlin. They describe their parties as a “mix between fluoro and galactic aesthetic, glam and queer language and self-made-looks” which is pretty much my favourite kind of party. Expect disco, pop and house mixed together by Sandro & Jon plus their regular guest DJ Muerta Sanchez.
These mega-parties are put together by pretty much everyone you will find on this list: DJ’s and organisers from the likes of La Ká, Churros Con Chocolate and POPair parties come together for one killer night at Poblenou’s huge Sala Razzmatazz every few months. It’s such a nice idea that this party brings the community together and naturally this means the line-up is usually pretty huge for one night.
Described by a friend as “Sink The Pink for straight people”, you can find this club doing residencies and festivals across Europe – but Barcelona is their home at Viladecans’ club Row14 (just outside Barcelona). According to everyone, these high-production parties should not be missed. You may need to swing by a party shop to rustle up an outfit as everyone dresses up for fun for these 12-hour marathon events. Think high-energy house and techno, with street performers and Elrow dollars you can spend on fun things in the five-roomed indoor and outdoor space. Expect most of the Barcelona parties to happen in the shoulder seasons (spring and autumn) once Elrow has finished touring everywhere else over the summer.
Churros Con Chocolate
One Sunday a month, Poble Sec club Sala Apolo turns into a full fiesta with this very popular gay club. Expect a mixture of pop (in English and Spanish), house music and Latin beats, spread over two floors. Doors are at 6pm and if you arrive early enough you are given the very Spanish churros with chocolate to snack on (hence the name). There’s often a theme and many people take it very seriously. Expect a positive Sunday vibe, where everyone is friendly and no one takes it too seriously.
Fabulous Barcelona festivals
I was lucky enough to go to Barcelona Pride this year – and it was one of the best weekends I’ve ever had. It’s a huge celebration, without being overwhelming, and so incredibly fun, colourful and friendly. The outdoor party in Pride Village was definitely the highlight of the weekend for me – it was a really welcoming event and it felt like the whole community was there. You can read my full guide to Barcelona Pride, which I’ll be updating with next years’ dates and events as the information is released.
Every summer many barrios (or districts) of Barcelona have their own week-long festival. These are for the locals, so you won’t find many tourists there but with a little hunting around online, you can find some pretty awesome street parties. La Ka (mentioned above) threw parties at both El Raval festival and at the Gracias festival this year, and I’ve been the to Catalan Gay Liberation Front street parties at the Gracias Festival twice and really enjoyed them.
Fabulous Barcelona bars
Definitely my favourite bar in Barcelona. It’s a pop-coloured little spot in Poble Sec, with cute interiors, a great crowd and delicious drinks. Run by an adorable couple, this gay bar is a great option for Friday and Saturday nights.
A really fabby alternative queer bar in El Raval that’s pretty low-key but with a very fun crowd. Sunday nights are often their biggest party here but worth checking out any evening.
This little spot in central Barcelona isn’t a gay bar but it is as camp as all hell. High heels glued to the roof, pictures of Sam Fox and Almodovar stars on the walls, leopard print everywhere, with bingo and karaoke a regular fixture. If you’re in town in early October, don’t miss their anniversary party that includes a race in high heels (just make sure your travel insurance covers it first).
Fabulous places to eat in Barcelona
Brunch: Little Fern
If you fancy trying a brunch spot out of the touristy centre of the city or are on your way to Mar Bella Beach, then you should head for this newly opened cafe in Pobleneu. Describing itself as a “New Zealand style cafe in the heart of Barcelona’s art district”, Little Fern has an excellent brunch menu matched with breezy, beautiful interiors. We tried the breakfast board and kimchi pancakes and were left feeling like this was one of the best brunches in Barcelona.
Lunch: La Taguara Areperia
I was eager to giver arepas a try on my recent trip, as there are lots of places serving them in Barcelona these days. Located in El Born, La Taguara Areperia is a great place to stop for lunch if you’re in the area. This Venezuelan serves up a range of arepa options, including vegetarian and meat choices. It’s also great for gluten-free travellers, as the pita-style pocket is made entirely from maize/corn.
Dinner: El Sortidor
This restaurant, set up in the hills of Poble Sec, is the seventh-oldest in Barcelona and has been beautifully preserved. I stumbled upon El Sortidor one evening by accident – I was looking for somewhere else – as was surprised to discover it was so beautiful and so reasonably priced. Add to this that it is seemingly only frequented by locals, and you’ve found a real gem for dinner one evening. The menu is quite traditional, with local classics like paella and Creme Catalan, and the wine and the general atmosphere of the restaurant were spot on. Plus, it’s also another great option for gluten-free diners, with all options clearly marked on the menu.
Fabulous day trips from Barcelona
If you need a break from Barcelona, Sitges is only a short train ride away. This charming seaside town has it’s very own (very gay) nude beach – just head over the hill to your left when you reach the main beach. It has a long history of being a haven for the LGBT+ community under Franco’s long military dictatorship, and so is now one of the most iconic places for queer travellers to visit. Sitges Pride is apparently amazing, as is the local film festival too.
Know something else that’s fabulous in Barcelona? Comment below to share the love! 👇
Planning your trip? Don’t miss my Barcelona city guide.
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