Barcelona is the capital of Spain’s cosmopolitan Catalonia region and one of the country’s most popular cities for tourists. Set on the Mediterranean, Barcelona is packed with iconic architecture and culture, food that’s to die for and a unique vibe. There are things to do on almost every corner, but here are some of the most popular places to check out while volunteering on the IVHQ Spain - Barcelona program.
In and Around Barcelona
La Sagrada Familia
Antoni Gaudí’s famous basilica is arguably Barcelona’s top attraction. This sprawling cathedral is unlike any other religious structure in the world, with its haunting spires and stunning interior. Once visitors have wowed at the forest-like interior, with its looming columns and colorful stained glass hues, you can take an elevator up the towers for a closer inspection of the spires and city views. An icon of gothic architecture, one of the amazing things about the Sagrada Familia is it’s still not yet finished. Construction is due to be completed in 2026, on the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death. Due to its popularity, it’s recommended visitors book tickets in advance during busy summer months. For those especially taken by Gaudí’s masterpiece, you can also check out his equally distinctive apartment buildings, Casa Batllo and La Pedrera, which are both a short walk away.
If you’re lost in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, you’re doing it right. With buildings dating back to the 14th century, Barri Gòtic is a labyrinth of narrow streets lined with tapas bars, cafes, shops and museums that is like nothing else anywhere in the world. Keen navigators can seek out places they want to go, while the free-spirited will be satisfied roaming and discovering whatever you come across. Highlights include the Catedral de Barcelona, the museum of the history of Barcelona (MUHBA) and Roman Temple of Augustus.
The beating heart of Barcelona’s character, La Ramblas (or Las Ramblas) is a central tree-lined promenade that hosts all kinds of performers, artists and eateries. It’s a wide, mostly pedestrianized road that’s about three quarters of a mile long (1.2 kilometers), and is perfect for those wanting to wander around and soak up the sights, sounds and smells. La Ramblas is home to a number of remarkable life-like human statues, food stalls, shops, restaurants and Barcelona’s most famous fresh produce market, La Boquería. An absolute must-do.
If you’re after a change of pace, you can find it in the seaside neighbourhood of La Barceloneta. This is another maze of tight local streets that is ripe for exploring, except it’s fronted by the open, sprawling beach. Relax in the sun, surf and white sand, all while knowing top rated tapas bars and fresco seafood restaurants are a short stroll away. On your way home head up to the Port Cable Car for panoramic views of the city on your way across to another famous vantage point, Montjuïc Hill.
The ancient walled city of Girona offers something a little different for visitors. Girona is set on the Onyar river, where the city’s multi-colored apartment buildings and arch stone bridges provide excellent photography material. Walk the Girona city walls around sections of the old town, which has kept much of its character from as far back as the 9th century. When you’ve done that, venture into the maze of the town and see the Gothic cathedral, ancient baths and historic Jewish quarter. You’ll drive just over an hour to get to Girona from Barcelona, but you’ll feel like you’ve gone back hundreds of years when you get there.
Toledo is an absolute must for volunteers who love history and culture. It’s an ancient city with a blend of Christian, Jewish and Muslim cultures. While exploring Toledo it’s possible to find buildings that were used by all three religions at different periods over the centuries. The Alcazar and Cathedral are must-sees in Toledo, with marzipan being the local delicacy to eat.
A popular resort town set on the Mediterranean coast just 30 minutes drive from Barcelona, Sitges is a great place to go if you want a break from the big city. A lot of the attraction of Sitges is based on the beach. The central beaches are popular with holiday goers for their golden sand, calm water, loungers and nearby seafront restaurants. There’s also plenty to find in the Old Town, with its distinct narrow streets and high buildings containing shopping boutiques, tapas bars and cafes. Walk along the waterfront promenade and take in the skyline, punctuated by palm trees and the overlooking Sant Bartomeu i Santa Tecla church. If you’re lucky enough to be in the area in late February, your trip could coincide with the Sitges carnival, which is a famously colorful party to celebrate the end of Lent.
If you would like more details on any of these locations or activities, our local team in Spain can assist you once you are registered onto the IVHQ Spain program.
To apply for the program or explore the volunteering opportunities available in Spain, visit our Volunteer in Spain page.