In addition to the more well-known landmarks, monuments and museums for Barcelona first timers to check out, there is also an extensive list of "must-sees" that will truly give visitors a sense of the city's culture and local flair.
For those frequenting Barcelona for the first time, a great place to start is in the Old City. Either take a guided tour or allow yourself to get lost among the windy Gothic Quarter streets, the chic Born neighborhood and the more eclectic Barrio Raval area. Barcelona's Gótico is the heart of the historic center and of "Ciutat Vella" (Old City).
With centuries of history and untold stories, this is a great place to get your bearings and really get a feel for the city's evolution through time. Delve into the old Jewish Quarter or visit Plaza Sant Felip Neri where you can still see remnants from the Spanish Civil War, carved into the stonewalls.
The Old City is great to do with a guide, because its narrow streets and windy alleyways are hard to navigate if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
A few places to check out for tasty food can be found on Passeig Del Born, where Javier Bardem has been spotted sipping sangria. This area is the perfect place to people watch and eat tapas on the terrace, especially if it’s a nice day. And for dessert, try Chocolate and Churros at any of the small "hole in the wall" bars lining the streets.
Gotico Barcelona — Photo courtesy of Jordan Susselman
After the Old City, take a walk up La Rambla to Plaza Catalunya. La Rambla is a must-see just to experience its craziness with street performers and vendors selling everything from Barca t-shirts to pigeons. It’s not necessary to walk this "rambla" more than once (unless you have a strong affinity for it), as it is crowded and busy and more of a spectator sport.
At the top of La Rambla is Plaza Catalunya and the start of the Eixample neighborhood where you can see some of Gaudí's works, including Casa Batllo and La Pedrera. Both are gorgeous buildings, and La Pedrera’s rooftop gives a stunning view of Gaudí's well-known chimney structures.
La Pedrera — Photo courtesy of La Pedrera
Passeig De Gracia is also an excellent place to take a stroll. If you're looking for high-end shopping this street has stores like Gucci, Chanel, Hermes, Dolce & Gabbana, and most other high quality brands.
If you continue up Passeig De Gracia you'll come to the small neighborhood of Gracia. Gracia isn't in every guidebook, but it's one of the most Catalan areas in Barcelona, full of boutique shops, sunny terraces, and tasty restaurants and bars. Gracia is a lesser-known neighborhood, so if you're looking for a genuine local feel, it's worth exploring.
One definite must for first timers is the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, two more Gaudí works. The Sagrada Familia is Gaudí's last creation before he died and is still under construction to this day. Even if you don't get a chance to go inside, take a look from the outside, as it's quite a marvel.
During the evening Plaza Reial, right off La Rambla, is always bustling just like the tiny side streets in the Gothic Quarter and Born neighborhoods.
If you want something a little more daring and out of the way, be sure to turn off the main walkways and check out the side streets. A few notable streets with great nightlife include Escudellers and Plaza Tripi in the Gothic Quarter and Enrique Granados in the Eixample neighborhood.