guellBarcelona is a jewel of a city pushed up against the Mediterranean Sea. Tourists who flock here are able to kick back on sandy beaches, sample great Catalan cuisine, and gawk at remarkable buildings. Green parks, architectural wonders by Antoni Gaudí and his disciples, plus a host of welcoming citizens, could very well make your trip to Barcelona an incredible one.

Here are some of the highlights you should check out while walking through Barcelona (yes, it’s possible), which you can do in various legs, or if you’re up for it, in one massive go.

La Sagrada Família and Park Güell

La Sagrada Família — Gaudí ‘s work in progress — is a masterwork of architecture, and one of Barcelona’s main attractions. The immense church has an organic aspect to its designs, like some bizarre castle you might find in a fantasy world, growing inside of an enormous limestone cave. It’s a sight to behold.

If you hike west, and slightly to the south of La Sagrada Família, you’ll come across Park Güell, another wonderful creation from the mind of Antoni Gaudí. This gorgeous park is full of quirky allure, bendy walkways, idiosyncratic sculptures and imaginative designs. Plant your feet in the center of the park, and you’ll have extensive views across Barcelona, all the way down to the Mediterranean beaches.

Gracia and the Old Town

After you leave Park Güell, you can head down into the district of Gracia, a hip residential quarter full of chic restaurants, artist workshops, and trendy cafés. After you indulge in a few beers, or snag a bite to eat, you can start tromping down Passeig de Gracia, a broad avenue — and a bit of a long hike — cutting through the mammoth district of Eixample. As you stroll along the avenue, you’ll walk by tons of Gaudí-esque architecture, as well as some of the celebrated architect’s own designs, including La Pedrera and Casa Batlló.

Once you reach the end of the Passeig de Gracia, you can explore the historic Old Town (Ciutat Vella), where you can tour through the city’s stunning Cathedral, as well as hordes of clothing shops, gelaterias, small squares, and all kinds of restaurants. It’s a dynamic part of the city, and a great place to spend an afternoon.

El Born

From the Old Town, you can either make your way to the Mediterranean to the east, or you can walk more to the northeast, and enter the district of El Born. El Born is brimming with exceptionally narrow alleyways, cool shops, and trendy cafés. You’ll also happen upon the incredible Picasso Museum, and the graceful Santa Maria del Mar church. If you keep heading northeast, you’ll eventually stumble across the City Park and City Zoo, where you can take a rest, and enjoy some sanctuary from the hubbub of metropolitan life.

La Rambla, Raval and Barceloneta

If, while you’re still in the Old Town, you decide to head to the southwest, you’ll soon come to La Rambla, and just past this famous street, the district of Raval. La Rambla is a wild pedestrian walkway loaded with open-air markets, street performers, and all kinds of crazy people trying to sell you goods. It’s a never-ending carnival. Watch your personal belongings while you wander about, as plenty of pickpockets are on the prowl. Raval, which is right next to La Rambla, is famous for its great bars and Middle Eastern and Indian eateries.

If you meander down to the sea, past all of the boats and then head just a tad to the northeast, you can saunter around Barceloneta, one of the oldest parts of town. This small barrio is a compact collection of old, and very charming buildings by the water’s edge, where many older residents ignore the throngs of tourists, and just go about living their lives.

Plaza de España and Montjuïc

Plaza de España and Montjuïc are some distance (southwest) away from the Old Town. While it’s possible to walk there, you might want to take the metro or a cab to save your feet some pain.

Near Plaza de España, you can check out the Magic Fountain, which lights up at night in a vibrant display of twirling waterspouts, or walk around a huge shopping mall, built inside a former bullfighting stadium.

Montjuïc is large hill standing guard over the Catalonian capital, chock-full of museums and history. It was once the site of a notorious prison, but these days it’s a massive park, and a favorite with cycling enthusiasts. Montjuïc was selected as a main the location for several Olympic venues, including the Olympic Stadium, set up for Barcelona’s 1992 Summer Olympics.

photo courtesy of Carl Pettit