9 Things To Do in Ciutat Vella – Barcelona Travel Guide

Barcelona’s Ciutat Vella — ‘old town’ in Catalan — is overflowing with rich cultural and historical heritage. 

The streets of the Ciutat Vella tell the story of the city’s origins right up to the present day: from ancient monuments and historic buildings, to bars and restaurants, alternative boutiques, and sun-drenched squares buzzing with tourists and locals alike.

With so much on offer, it’s no wonder this area is one of the city’s most popular tourist hotspots.

The Ciutat Vella of Barcelona, once surrounded by medieval city walls, covers four of Barcelona’s main neighbourhoods — El Raval, El Barri Gòtic, El Born and La Barceloneta. With such a sprawling area to explore, it’s difficult to know where to start. To make sure you don’t miss out, we’ve put together a list of the top nine things to do in Barcelona’s Ciutat Vella.

1. La Rambla

No trip to Barcelona is complete without a visit to the city’s most emblematic street: La Rambla. 

Take a stroll down this lively promenade, which joins the iconic Plaça Catalunya with the Columbus Monument, and discover historical monuments, flower stalls, live statues, outdoor restaurants, and much more.

2. El Mercat de la Boqueria 

Located on La Rambla, this is a world-famous food market brimming with historic tradition. With Catalan modernist-style architecture, la Boqueria is the link between Barcelona’s past and present.

Take in the colours and aromas of fresh fruit and vegetables, seafood, meats and spices, or grab a seat at one of the stalls and order tapas of seafood or cured Iberian meats.

3.Gran Teatre del Liceu

Keep walking on La Rambla and you’ll stumble across another of Barcelona’s iconic cultural symbols, El Liceu.

Since its opening in 1847, this opera house has heard the greatest tenors and sopranos of the times. It can be enjoyed from the outside, on a guided tour, or by reserving tickets for the next show. Check out what’s currently on here.

4. Plaça Reial

Just a few metres from La Rambla, you’ll find Plaça Reial. Seek shade below its towering palm trees and take in the stunning central fountain. Don’t leave without snapping a photo of the square’s exquisite lampposts, which are some of Gaudí’s earliest works.

5. Museu d’Història de Barcelona (MUHBA)

If you’re curious about the origins of Barcelona, visit the Museum of the History of Barcelona (MUHBA) and take a journey through time. Wander the Roman streets of Barcino and discover medieval ruins, most of which are located below Plaça del Rei.

6. Cathedral of Barcelona

With its unique Catalan gothic style, the cathedral of Barcelona is not to be passed by. Let yourself be amazed by its numerous gargoyles and towering spires found right in the heart of the city’s Gothic Quarter. 

7. Plaça de Sant Felip Neri

Escape the crowds and seek peace and tranquillity in the quaint and romantic square of Sant Felip Neri. Yet what is unique about this square is its tragic history. The damage to the church’s walls after a bombing during the Spanish Civil War is still visible to this day.

8. Palau de la Música Catalana

The Catalan Concert Hall can be described as no other than the city’s jewel of modernism. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, this exquisite form of modernist architecture will not disappoint. 

9. Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)

Enter the creative world of Barcelona’s Museum of Modern Art and discover an array of thought-provoking exhibitions by both local and international artists or simply marvel at this outstanding contemporary structure. What’s more, entry is free every Saturday from 4 pm to 6 pm.

Delve a little deeper into the history of this beautiful city and discover Barcelona’s most fascinating side. With so much to choose from, Barcelona certainly has a little something to offer everyone. 

Our Top 7 Tips to Celebrating the Festa Major de Gràcia in Barcelona

When you think of August in Barcelona, what comes to mind is sunbathing on sandy beaches, splashing around in the sea, taking a stroll down La Rambla with an ice-cream, and enjoying an ice-cold beer in one of the city’s shaded squares. 

It’s the quintessential Barcelona experience for which everyone comes. And yet, venture north of the city centre, and you might just stumble across something unique.

From 15–21 August, the neighbourhood of Gràcia celebrates its Festa Major. This week-long festival sees the streets of Gràcia come alive with decorations in every colour imaginable and events for all the family.

With concerts, workshops, cultural activities, food and drink stalls, here you’ll find locals and tourists alike celebrating this unmissable event of Catalan culture. Here are our top seven tips to ensure you are part of the festivities!

1. Marvel at the street decorations

If there’s one thing that sets this festival apart from other local festivals in Barcelona, it’s the unique street decorations.

Each street decides on a theme — ranging from historical periods, popular books and films to regions of the world — and competes for the annual prize. What’s more, all decorations are recycled from used materials: strips of plastic bags, cut-up plastic bottles, painted egg boxes and juice cartons, the result is a unique and sustainable work of art!

2. Catch a local concert

Every evening during the festival various streets host live concerts. From local groups, cover bands, karaoke and folk, there’s something for everyone to dance the night away into the early hours of the morning.

3. Stroll the streets during the day

Some might think the magic takes place only at night, but take a stroll around Gràcia during the day and you will discover the delights without the crowds. 

With the locals all recovering from the night before, it’s a perfect opportunity to get lost in this picturesque neighbourhood and snap some stunning photographs of the decorations.

4. Visit a war bunker

If you’d like to learn a bit more about the history of the neighbourhood, during the week of the festival you can take a guided visit to one of Gràcia’s 90 air-raid shelters, for only 3 euros per person.

Located in Plaça del Diamant, this shelter is one of the biggest of the city and harboured more than 200 people during the many air raids Barcelona was subject to during the Spanish Civil War.

5. Try drinks and food

Gràcia is the ideal place for browsing the local markets and trying homemade delicacies during the day or sipping mojitos at night.

Or if you fancy meeting some locals, why not grab a ticket for a street barbecue (botifarrada)? Here theyserve traditional Catalan sausage and other local dishes. Just fill your plate, pull up a chair, and practice your Catalan!

6. Immerse yourself in Catalan culture

In the heart of Gràcia is the square Plaça de la Vila where locals come together to do castellers and correfocs.

Perhaps not for the faint-hearted, let yourself be amazed by the human towers(castellers) and the fire dances with fireworks and dragons (correfocs).

7. Watch and dance!

Just like other regions, Catalonia is no exception when it comes to a traditional dance.

La Sardana is a humble dance performed hand in hand in a circle in representation of Catalan union. But that’s not all; the streets will be buzzing with batucada, swing, and much more!

If you’re looking for something different this summer in Barcelona where you can discover the city’s more traditional side, head to the Festa Major de Gràcia. Just like us, you’re sure to fall in love with this neighbourhood and its marvellous festivities.