Barcelona is definitely one of my favourite European cities, and one I love to photograph. Today, as part of my series of photography location guides, I’m going to share with you some of the best photography spots in Barcelona to help you get the best photos when you visit.
After that, I’ll share some general tips on visiting the city, everything from where to stay, when to come, and how to save money on your stay. But let’s get started with:
The Best Photography Locations In Barcelona
1. Sagrada Familia
Gaudi’s masterpiece, the giant cathedral known as the Sagrada Familia, is still far from complete, decades after the architect’s death. Whilst it’s fun to imagine what it will be like when completed, it’s still an iconic location to photograph, both inside and out.
Outside, you’ve got the soaring towers to shoot, and countless details on the outer walls. Yes, there are cranes and scaffolding, but that’s just part of the story. Shooting wise, I’d recommend heading to the Placa de Gaudi – a little park just over the road from the cathedral. Here you’ll get a wonderful shot of the Sagrada Familia reflected in the small lake at the centre of the park.
The best time to visit is either at sunrise (when there will be far fewer people) or at sunset. The sunrise illuminates the front of the building, making some lovely warm colours on the stone. Sunrise is also a great time because it means you can get into the church itself first, and fire off some photos before the crowds descend. Inside, it’s a true marvel to photograph, with a stunning coral like “forest” of support pillars. Unfortunately you can’t use a tripod, but there’s quite a lot of light in here, so you should be fine. Bring a wide angle lens to get as much in as you can!
2. Casa Batlló
Fair warning – a lot of the locations in this list are going to be Gaudi properties – the man left an incredible mark on Barcelona, and the organic nature of his buildings means they’re wonderfully photogenic.
Casa Batlló is no exception. The outside of this building is famous for its Venetian mask-like balconies, whilst the roof is known for its beautiful chimneys. Mid to late morning is probably the best time to visit for photos, as the building is on the west side of a north-south street, so only has the light falling on it for some of the day.
3. The Magic Fountain
The Magic Fountain (definitely the best name for a fountain) is a huge fountain that was built on the side of Monjuic hill for the 1923 International Exhibition. It runs a daily sound and light show which draws big crowds, and is a great spot for photos.
There are a number of locations to enjoy the show – either up close at the fountain itself, or from the top of the hill by the National Museum of Catalan. From the top, you get a wonderful view across the city with the fountain display as the foreground. Definitely worth photographing during your time in Barcelona!
4. Parc Güell
Another Gaudi installation, Parc Güell is situated a little north of the city centre on one of Barcelona’s hills. This means you get great views back across the city, and the Parc is a good spot for sunset photos.
It’s also an excellent photography location during the rest of the day (although of course, the best light will be closer to sunrise and sunset!). Whilst the vision of the Parc that Gaudi came up with was never completed, the version that exists today is full of interesting photography locations, from the giant mosiac salamander to the huge pillared area supporting the terrace.
The Parc has an entry fee for non-residents in order to manage capacity, and entries are timed. Barcelona is a city that is known for being busy, so this has definitely helped with the crowds, but be aware that for the classic shots of the entry gates, the mosaic terrace and the salamander, you might have to wait your turn a little or just be OK with having some fellow travellers in your shots.
5. Mercado de la Boqueria
Spanish markets are always fun to photograph and the Mercado de la Boqueria on Las Ramblas is no different. There’s been a market here in some form or another since at least 1217, and the market is particularly known for being the place to come for things you can’t find anywhere else.
The structure as it exists today was constructed in 1840, and the metal work and market stalls make for excellent photography opportunities, everything from colourful fruit to tourists wandering through and interacting with the stall owners.
6. Las Ramblas
One of Barcelona’s most famous walking streets, La Ramblas runs from Placa Catalunya down to the port area and the statue of Christopher Columbus. Just over a kilometre in length, there’s always something to photograph here, from the various buildings and attractions, through to street entertainers and open air dining experiences.
It’s also busy at night, when people come out to see and be seen, so there’s no really bad time to visit to be honest. It’ll be quieter in the mornings if you want to get a more empty street feel, and then get more and more busy as the day progresses. A word of warning – Las Ramblas is known for its pickpockets, so be aware of your belongings and keep them safely about your person away from prying hands. More on staying safe in Barcelona at the end of the post.
7. La Barceloneta
Barcelona has a lot to offer the visiting photographer, not least of which is the beautiful stretch of beach known as La Barceloneta.
This whole part of town has a very “beach” feel, and this is a great place to come photograph if you want to see a sunrise over the water, palm trees against a beautiful sky, people playing, or just some funky outdoor art!
8. Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau
I’ve visited Barcelona a number of times, however it was only on my most recent visit that I headed to the Hospital de Sant pau. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a beautiful early 20th century piece of Modernisme architecture, featuring numerous buildings, many of which are now open to the public as a museum and cultural centre.
It was originally built as a hospital, although the majority of the hospital functions have since moved to the new hospital building opened in 2003.
There’s a lot to photograph here (it’s Europe’s largest Art Nouveau Site), from the wonderful exteriors of the buildings through to the incredible interiors of those buildings that are open, and in particular, the stairway and upper floors of the Sant Salvador Pavillion, which is the largest building on the site. Note that only a handful of the buildings’ interiors are open to the public.
The hospital is a 15 minute walk from the Sagrada Familia, and you can find opening times and ticket information on their website. Very much worth your time to visit.
9. The Gothic Quarter
Ok, so this is a bit of a cheat. Naming a whole neighbourhood as a photography location? Well, bear with me. The Gothic Quarter is a maze of narrow alleyways, most of which are car-free due to their size. This maze of streets is full of photography opportunities, from hanging laundry through to street art, old tucked away churches, and quirky shops and cafes.
There’s also the mighty impressive Barcelona Cathedral and the UNESCO listed Palau de Musica, although to get the best photos of the latter you’ll have to go inside to see its beautiful interiors.
I suggest that you just spend some time wandering these streets and getting some shots. They can be dark, as not much light gets in, so you might want to bring a tripod, and consider shooting for HDR as the dynamic range between the sky and the alleyways can be tough on your camera.
10. Port Vell
At the south end of Las Ramblas you’ll find the Port Vell area of Barcelona. This is a lovely part of town where you can wander, photograph the moored boats and people-watch. It’s particurlarly nice at sunset and sunrise, when the light is warm and low.
I’d definitely recommend taking some time to shoot the Barcelona Port Authority Building, which is beautifully photogenic. Port Vell is also the place where you can grab a boat for a short cruise along the Barcelona shore, which will give you a totally different perspective and view of the city.
11. Montjuic Castle
Above the port and the city, Montjuic Castle offers excellent views of the city from it’s massive walls. Dating from 1640, this impressive construction evolved over time to meet varying military needs, although today is used predominantly for cultural events.
It’s also a wonderful photography spot – both for shots of the castle itself, and for the views over the city.
12. Torre Bellesguard
Torre Bellesguard is one of the less well known and more recently opened Gaudi houses in the city. It’s a little way north of the city centre, so has less footfall, but is nonetheless truly impressive.
As well as exploring the grounds, you can take a tour inside the house itself, with the highlight being the roof. This has another fantastic view of the city, and if you look carefully, is designed to look like a dragon! Very cool.
13. Parc de la Ciutdella
Just to the east of the city centre and near one of the main train stations is the Parc de la Ciutdella. This has a number of interesting buildings, including the museum of natural science and the Barcelona Zoo.
Most visitors, however, come to see the Cascada, also known as the Horse Fountain. This was created by Josep Fontsére with a little help from a then largely unknown Anton Gaudi. It’s very photogrenic, with a huge golden statue of a horse chariot atop an arch in front of the water cascade and pool, which offers some excellent reflection opportunities.
14. Casa Mila
Also known as La Pedrera, this is a Gaudi property just a short walk from Casa Batlló. The organic design of the front of the building is very photogenic and worth shooting from the street, however I’d suggest that to truly appreciate this building you have to head inside.
Here, there’s an amazing central atrium which is designed to let the light in to the interior apartment rooms. You’ll also find the chimneys on the roof to be very photogenic, along with the vaulted rooms of the loft space. Definitely worth the entry fee.
15. Colonia Guell
This one is a bit of a stretch, being in a suburb of Barcelona rather than the city itself. However, if you can get yourself out here, it’s worth it. Built as a workers village, there are a number of interesting buildings here, and an informative self-guided tour.
The real highlight though is the unfinished church. This is another work by Gaudi, and only the “crypt” part of the building was completed. Gaudi used the architectural innovations he had pioneered when designing this building, meaning you’re going to see amazing curves, pillars and building materials in a building quite unlike any you’ve seen before. An excellent place to end our tour of the best photography locations in Barcelona!
When to Visit Barcelona
Barcelona is a very popular destination with tourists from all over the world visiting. The best time to visit is in the off-peak season – we visited most recently in January, when queues were short. We were also lucky with the weather – it was sunny most days, even if it was fairly cold (5 – 10 degrees above freezing most days).
Of course, I appreciate not everyone can (or wants to) visit in January. My advice would be to avoid the summer months of July and August if you can, when it will be hot and incredibly crowded. In August in particular, many locals take holidays and so many shops and restaurants may be closed or have erratic hours.
Finally, Barcelona hosts a number of major conferences each year – the largest being the Mobile World Congress in February. Hotel prices during this time can be much higher while conferences are in the city, so check in advance before heading here to be sure you aren’t visiting at a peak time.
Safety Tips for Visiting Barcelona
Personally I’ve not had any problems in Barcelona, although the city carries a reputation for petty crime, in particular pick pockets. These are known to frequent tourist areas, especially Las Ramblas and the metro system.
A friend of mine also had his photography gear stolen from a park bench whilst he was taking a shot (the bag was behind him on a park bench), so be mindful of your stuff. Don’t leave bags or tripods unattended.
I believe that most crime is opportunistic in nature, so if you take basic precautions and are aware of some common Barcelona scams, you should be fine.
Where to Stay in Barcelona
There are a lot of accommodation options in Barcelona, however, you have to be aware that Barcelona is a city which is a little overwhelmed by tourism, and as such, is taking measures to ensure that residents are able to afford to live in the city. These measures include a crackdown on city centre AirBnB, as well as a restriction on new hotel builds in the city centre.
AirBnB (and sites like AirBnB) need to be registered with the city, and will then be issued a license number. If you want to stay in an AirBnB, then we recommend picking one which has the license number on the listing.
Unfortunately, this will really limit your options on apartments, as most of the listings with a license are outside of the gothic quarter and immediate surrounds. We weren’t aware of this rule when we visited, and stayed in a gothic quarter AirBnB when we visited, however we feel that the days of these properties may be numbered.
Of course, AirBnB isn’t the only game in town. Barcelona has many great hotels to choose from across a wide range of prices (see a full listing of Barcelona hotels here), plus there are numerous alternatives to AirBnB – we’ve listed some of our favourite websites like AirBnB here.
How to Get Around Barcelona
Barcelona has an excellent public transport system, with regular metro, bus, and train options around the city. We found the metro to generally be the easiest and most convenient way to travel.
Tickets can be purchased either individually per ride, or you can buy a card valid for 10 rides. If you are taking more than four rides, a card is much better value. The card allow multiple people to travel (just put it through the ticket reader for each person) and unlike the single ticket allows you to change transport modes, say from a metro to bus (within an hour and 15 minutes of starting your journey for Zone 1 cards).
From the airport, there are multiple ways to get into the city. You can take a metro, a train or a bus, all of which are reasonably priced. Depending on where you want to go in the city you should pick the best option for you. Taxis are also available, but are more expensive.
There are two more options for transport in Barcelona to consider.
1 – If you purchase a Barcelona Card, you get free travel on the metro, buses, trams and trains. This includes the airport metro and train.
2 – If you purchase a Barcelona Pass, it comes with one day access to the Hop On Hop Off Barcelona Bus Tour, which covers nearly every major tourist site in the city including nearly everywhere in this photography location guide. You also have the option to add on a Barcelona Travelcard, which covers regional travel on all public transport networks in Barcelona, including the airport.
More on the benefits and differences between these two options in the next section:
How to Save Money on Your Barcelona Visit
There are two main options for saving money in Barcelona that I’ll quickly cover here.
The Barcelona Card
First, the Barcelona Card. This is the official city card from the Barcelona Tourist Office, which is available in a standard version, and an express version. The normal version can be purchased for 3, 4 or 5 consecutive days, whilst the Express version is valid for two days. The normal version includes free access to a range of attractions, as well as discounted admission to a number of other attractions. It also includes free public transport.
The Express version comes with free transport for two days, as well as a range of discounted admission, but doesn’t include free entry. However, it is very competitively priced.
The Barcelona Pass
Newly launched at the end of 2016, the Barcelona Pass is from the same people who make the London Pass that we love. It is more expensive than the Barcelona Card, however it includes free entry to a number of attractions on our photography locations guide including the Casa Mila, Casa Batlló, Recinte Modernista Sant Pau and Colonia Guell.
It also comes with a day of free hop on hop off bus transport, a free Barcelona Walking tour, a free Bike tour, a free boat tour, and a number of other attractions. If you are planning on visiting the attractions covered by the Barcelona Pass, it can quickly save you money.
Should You Get the Barcelona Pass or Barcelona Card?
The answer to this question very much depends on what you want to see! We’re going to be putting together a detailed post highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of each card, and in which situations each card would make more sense. It’s worth being aware that no card offers free admission to the Sagrada Familia.
Overall though, you can save a lot of money with the Barcelona Pass, especially the three day version. The Barcelona Card is good for saving money on transport and for museums, however doesn’t include free admission to a lot of the key attractions like the Gaudi sights.
Stay tuned for a post on which will be best value for you!
Further Reading For Your Visit To Barcelona
There’s a lot of information out there about visiting and photographing Barcelona – some we’ve written ourselves, plus some external resources. Below you’ll find some of the best of that content to help make the most of your trip to Barcelona.
- Our recommended itinerary for a day in Barcelona
- A guide to the best locations for getting a great view of Barcelona
- Some of our favourite street art in Barcelona
- The Lonely Planet Guide to Barcelona
- Rick Steve’s Pocket Barcelona Guide
- The WikiVoyage guide to Barcelona
- The official Barcelona Tourism webpage
And that sums up our guide to the best photography locations in Barcelona! Got a question, or a favourite spot that we missed? Let us know in the comments!