Free Things To Do in Barcelona
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Even if you're not keen on visiting the touristy Las Ramblas, make the trek to the thoroughfare only for it to lead you to the foodie heaven that is the Boqueria Market. The Boqueria Market is Barcelona's first local market, having opened in 1840. But its foodie history spans much earlier than that. The first food peddlers were said to have been around as early as the 13th century selling meat on the streets. The market you see today wasn't around back then, it took four years to construct once Saint Joseph's convent left the area (hence the name of the market).
Today that tradition of hawking goodies lives on, and the covered marketplace treats visitors to the vibrant colors and enticing aromas of everything from fruit juices and wines to fresh fish, meats, produce and desserts. Make sure to grab Spanish specialties while you're there, including jamón ibérico, manchego cheese and salted cod (or bacalao). What's more, bars and restaurants can be found in and around the market, so food options truly abound here.
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This bustling thoroughfare is one of the city's major tourist hubs. So much so that if you're visiting Barcelona, you're bound to end up here eventually. Las Ramblas is a pedestrian-friendly pathway situated right smack dab in the middle of the city, so expect it to be busy all hours of the day and night. During the day, you can peruse souvenir stands, watch buskers and street performers, pick up some local art from artists selling on the street, or sit down and enjoy a light snack at one of the many alfresco cafes found here. When the sun sets, you should head here to start your night out, as many bars and clubs can be found in the surrounding area.
While Las Ramblas has no doubt established itself as a visitor-friendly stop, it didn't always cater to tourists the way it does now. Soon after the nearly mile-long thoroughfare was developed in 1766, it became a popular place to hang out for locals. The reason for this has to do with its design. Back in the day, streets in Barcelona were predominantly narrow and windy, making the long and wide Las Ramblas unconventionally roomy. Today, the chances of finding locals congregating here fewer and farther between, especially during the day. At night, however, since it is a prime place to party, you'll likely see some more Catalans.
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Towering above the center of the Barri Gòtic district is Barcelona's principal cathedral. The Gothic cathedral's construction began in the late 13th century, though it wasn't completed until the mid-15th century. While you're here, make sure to dedicate plenty of time to the numerous examples of artisanship that went into completing this cathedral, from its exterior details to the many gold furnishings within, including the stately altarpiece, part of the Church of Saint Severas as well as 140 statues of saints that call the cathedral home. While you're here make sure to mosey on over to the cloister, which features a verdant tropical garden.
Many travelers found the Catedral de Barcelona to be stunning, though visitors who have said that they've seen a number of European cathedrals prior didn't find this cathedral to be that noteworthy. If you have enough time, visitors highly suggest taking advantage of the opportunity to go to the top of the cathedral on the roof. There, visitors can get an eyeful of the spire up close as well as some prime city views. Whatever you choose to do, make sure to wear the proper attire. According to recent travelers, the dress code here is strict and knees and shoulders must be covered. Shawls are said to be for sale for those who need to cover up.
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In between all the cultural and artistic attractions Barcelona has up its sleeves, it's easy to forget that the city is situated right along the brilliantly blue waters of the Mediterranean. The city's largest stretch of sand is broken up into two beaches; La Barceloneta and Platja de la Nova Icària. Both are separated by the Port Olímpic harbor, easily recognized by the two seafront skyscrapers and giant golden fish sculpture, El Peix. La Barceloneta is the more visited of the two, known for its lively atmosphere on both the sand (vendors walk around selling everything from mojitos to on-the-spot massages) and the beachfront promenade (there are cafes and bars situated on the beach throughout). The beach features loads of amenities on-site including bathrooms, showers, changing rooms, umbrellas, lounge chairs, sports courts such as volleyball and beach tennis and more.
Travelers say La Barceloneta Beach is the perfect place to pass the time on a hot day in Barcelona. Travelers loved the clear blue waters and were pleased that the beach was so clean despite the many people who frequent the shores. Travelers warned though that it can get pretty busy, and if you want a lounge chair or umbrella, make sure to show up early in the morning. Also if you start to feel peckish around here, be prepared to pay. Beachgoers said that the beachfront cafes and restaurants, while scenic, are pretty pricey. Visitors also reinforced that there are unofficial vendors offering services on the beach, but report they aren't aggressive.
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