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Best Things To Do in Barcelona

AOL PICK from our Editors
Barcelona is rife with soaring cathedrals, world-class museums and quirky architecture. Best of all, you need not do more than simply stroll the city’s expansive avenues and winding side streets to appreciate its singular beauty and charm. Thankfully, many of the best Barcelona things to do are located fairly close together, so when planning your trip, give yourself enough time in each neighborhood to visit multiple sites.

Mercat de la Boqueria

Neighborhood: La Rambla and El Raval
Just steps off La Rambla lies one of Barcelona’s busiest and brightest markets. The Mercat de la Boqueria is chockfull of vendors selling beautifully arranged fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, meats and grains. Stop in for a snack, or to snap a few photos of artfully arranged foodstuffs. The butcher shops put all of their bloody wares (like various animal heads and limbs) on display so don’t walk through the boqueria if you’re squeamish or just ate lunch.

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Mercat de la Boqueria  

La Sagrada Familia

Neighborhood: L’Eixample
Antonio Gaudí’s surrealist touch can be felt across the city, but nowhere more so than in his gorgeously rendered Catholic temple, La Sagrada Família. Gaudí began working on the immense structure in 1883. The design of the building was influenced by nature and the story of the Nativity, the Passion and the Glory of Christ, which are recounted on its facades. By the time of his death in 1926, only the façade had been finished. Nearly 80 years later, work continues on the massive, multi-spired structure, with the aim of staying true to Gaudí’s original ambitious designs. When the church is finished (its expected date of completion is 2020) it will have 18 towers: 12 dedicated to the apostles, four to the evangelists, one to Jesus and another to Mary. In the meantime, visitors should expect to see a fair amount of construction and scaffolding amidst the Gaudí glory.

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La Pedrera

Neighborhood: L’Eixample
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Barcelona is ruled by Gaudí. No trip to the city would be complete without a visit to Casa Milà (also known as La Pedrera, or The Quarry). Gaudí was commissioned to design Casa Milà for wealthy Barcelonins Rosario Segimon and Pere Milà in 1905 and it was his last private work before setting off to focus on the Sagrada Familia. Notable for its undulating perimeter, totem-like roof-top ventilation towers, and plunging central atrium, La Pedrera has been designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you visit the building at dusk, you can see its white exterior lit up in ghostly lights.

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La Pedrera  

Park Güell

Neighborhood: Gràcia
As a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, this park features winding surrealist stone columns, whimsical mosaic-laden animal sculptures and a whole lot of stuff to appeal to your inner artist and architect. Commissioned by Gaudí patron Eusebi Güell as a stylish park for Barcelona’s upper class, Park Güell was donated to Barcelona in 1922. Gaudi’s former residence on the property is now a museum, the Casa-Museu Gaudi. If you’re visiting Park Güell, wear comfortable shoes: the walk to the park is uphill, but it’s well worth it for the surreal sculptures and city views.

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Manzana de la Discordia

Neighborhood: L’Eixample

The Manzana de la Discordia (block of discord) isn’t so much one attraction, as three—a part of the Passeig de Grácia thoroughfare is a must-see for fans of Barcelona’s surreal “modernista” style. The Manzana is made up of The Big Three. There’s the Casa Lleó-Morera (Passeig de Gràcia, 35), the Casa Amatller (Passeig de Gràcia, 41) and the Casa Batlló (Passeig de Gràcia, 43). Amatller, remodeled by Josep Puig I Cadafalch in 1898, is a heady mix of gothic, roman and baroque styles. Lleó-Morera, was designed by architect Lluís Doménech I Montaner in 1902, but fell into disrepair during the Spanish civil war. Thankfully, it was restored in 1992. And Casa Batlló is Gaudi’s self-declared “vision of paradise,” and, not surprisingly features his signature undulating façades. While you can tour inside both Casa Lleó-Morera and Batllo, Casa Amatller isn’t open to the public so you’ll have to get your fill by just standing outside.

Fundació Joan Miró

Neighborhood: Montjuic and Poble Sec
A must-see for modern art fanatics, the Fundació Joan Miró contains hundreds of artist Joan Miró’s abstract drawings, paintings and sculptures. In case you didn’t know it, Miro was Barcelona’s most renowned and beloved artistic export. Best accessed via the city’s funicular railway, the mountaintop Fundació stores a large cache of Miró’s work, exhibits work from Miró’s peers (including pieces from Miró’s surrealist brethren Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp) and exhibitions of contemporary work. And if you’re feeling particularly inspired, head to La Ribera for a tour through the Museu Picasso. (www.museupicasso.bcn.cat/en/).

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Fundació Joan Miró  

El Tablao de Carmen Flamenco Show

Neighborhood: Montjuic and Poble Sec
At the El Tablao de Carmen—named in honor of well-loved flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya—you can see some of Barcelona’s top dancers strut their stuff. Technically, flamenco hails from the southern region of Andalusia, but the high-drama dance form is popular across the country. It’s characterized by its strong moves and theatrical flourishes—both of which give it a decidedly masculine feel. El Tablao operates a restaurant as well as a performance space, and visitors can opt to have a sit down dinner with the show. We recommend you skip the rather underwhelming and overpriced dinner, and instead catch a bite to eat at a less expensive neighborhood haunt beforehand.

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Museu De La Xocolata (Chocolate Museum)

Neighborhood: La Ribera
You’re bound to see and hear so much about architecture and art in Barcelona that you might want to take a break from it at times. And what better way to do that than with chocolate? Part of the Confectionary School of Barcelona, the Chocolate Museum is a great spot for chocaholics (and kids if you got ‘em). The museum gives chocolate-making demonstrations, and chocolate sculptures, including—you guessed it—a chocolate Sagrada Familia. Museu de Xocolata isn’t a top, but at least you won’t have to stare at any more buildings. And who are we kidding? It’s a museum about chocolate. We’re so there.

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Santa Maria del Mar

Neighborhood: La Ribera
Just when you thought you were actually getting tired of looking at beautiful churches, you discover this one. It’s a 14th century Catholic temple. Known as the “people’s church,” construction began on the church’s impressive edifice in 1329, and the last stone on Santa Maria wasn’t set until 1902. That’s a darn looking time to build a place but you’ll want to take a look inside to peek in its stunning open, vaulted interiors and peer up at its gorgeous central stained glass window. Keep in mind that the church still holds regular services. Our favorite time to visit is during the weekday afternoons when you’re less likely to run into (and disturb) worshippers.

Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)

Neighborhood: La Rambla and El Raval
Enclosed in a chrysalis of steel and glass, the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona houses the city’s premier contemporary art collection, which includes Alexander Calder, Paul Klee and Vito Acconci. The museum includes pieces from 1940s to the present, and includes works from Spain’s volatile Franco years. There’s also a small but impressive collection of Catalan artists, including Fransesc Abad and Fransesc Torres. Directly behind MACBA is the Centre de Cultura Contemporana de Barcelona, which catalogues the ever-changing life of the city through exhibitions and workshops.

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