Barcelona is to many, a stop along the way of a European tour, so when I dedicated a full journey to discovering this city, I was wondering whether I had made the right decision. I will get to that point in a bit, but first let me guide you through some of the city’s attractions.
The Sagrada Familia is a top rated monument and the staple of the city designed by architect Antoni Gaudi. It is a larger than life structure and it’s very difficult to see it all when standing in front of it, let alone try to fit it in a single camera frame! The cathedral’s exterior has Gothic figures carved at the entrance, but the interior is beautifully contrasted with its stained glass windows. My advice to you is to purchase your tickets online prior to your trip to save waiting in line, and beware the entrance time frame because you will need to arrive at the exact time of your ticket. Once you finish the tour of the church, pass by the souvenir shop and pick up an item or two, they are fairly priced considering the prime touristic location.
The view from our hotel room on Las Ramblas street was incredible, we were at the same level of the trees and could smell the fresh air and feel the crisp chill. From the moment we woke up and drank our tea on the balcony, we could see the hustle and bustle of the street even in the wee hours of the morning. The location was prime because this is considered the touristic street, with two nearby metro stations, a handful of markets and plenty of bakeries and restaurants. Depending on the day of the week and the time of the day, several merchants spread out their products to display and sell. These range from flowers and plants to hand crafted accessories to travel souvenirs. There is never a dull moment on this street, with a range of cafes serving specialty alcoholic drinks contributing to the happy go lucky ambiance!
Placa Reial is a big courtyard with a central fountain and a perimeter of restaurants and cafes. This area stays alive and well way past midnight, so it’s the perfect stop after a long day of walking especially if you don’t want to rush to have an early dinner. The exits of this plaza lead to the Gothic Quarter, my personal favorite, which is a maze-like area of really narrow streets with local bakeries and ice cream parlors, authentic Catalan clothing and accessories shops.
The next major monument by Gaudi is the Casa Batllo, whose exterior stands out as a decorative narrow structure squeezed in between buildings. Once you enter make sure to pick up the audio guide to follow the history of each room and how the building came to be. The mosaic details along with the Sagrada Familia’s stained glass windows are the trademark of Barcelona’s tourism and identity. The gift shop has hundreds of decorative home items, along with shawls and tote bags with the signature mosaic tiles.
Font Magica is the magic fountain in Montjuic below the Palau Nacional that attracts thousands to view the sound and light show. Be prepared to make your way through an enormous crowd to stand next to the fountain, bring your jacket because the water sprays out and it can get very chilly in the evening. Even if you have seen other singing fountains, this one in particular will give you goosebumps as you turn around to view the masses of people from around the world in silence and in awe. Walking past it once the show is over, you might run into street musicians, so stop and listen, and dance around!
Another landmark is Park Guell designed by Gaudi and is a great way to spend a day. Walking up the hill and taking a look at the view of the city while passing by street vendors and local craftsmen makes the distance and heat bearable. Don’t make my mistake of postponing your purchases for later, because if you see a vendor displaying something you like, buy it immediately! Before heading to the park, get some goodies to eat because the location is perfect for a picnic. There are benches and chairs next to each other but you will feel at peace and secluded all at once.
Whether you’re a beach person or not, you must spend time at Barceloneta beach after walking along the Port Vell. This particular area was my sanctuary amidst the crowds, because I am in love with the sea and boats, the many sails are hypnotic. It is quite a long walk to reach the shore, but along the way you will find kiosks that sell ice cream and refreshments, and if you’re lucky the marine themed antique fair will be open. After dark the street sellers will place their merchandise on the ground for you to choose at bargain prices. The beach in itself is usually crowded so leave your valuables at the hotel and relax while watching the airplanes go by. Once you’re done, continue in your flip flops to the nearby Aquarium Barcelona, which is a host to hundreds of species including sharks. Check the opening times so you can go in the evening when the crowds become sparse.
The Barcelona Zoo is in the Parc De La Ciutadella and needs half a day or even an entire day depending on your interest. It’s huge and is home for many different animals, each in their natural habitat. Prepare your camera to capture the kangaroos when they peak out and the hippos when they bathe in the sunlight.
Tibidabo mountain has a large theme park with rides and games for all ages. Plan a whole day for your visit, and take the tramway and then the funicular to arrive at your destination. The view from the top is fantastic and the amusement park rides are adrenaline pumping.
If you happen to walk around and see this, then it’s the Arc De Triomf, stand under it and take the most memorable postcard photo with the clear blue skies.
Soccer fans rejoice! At Camp Nou you can take a tour inside the stadium and pass through the FC Barcelona museum to view the medals and memorabilia displayed, ending with a stop at the official merchandise store.
Take the scenic route to reach Castell Montjuic by means of a teleferique that flies you over majestic stretches of land to reach the top. The castle was built in the 17th century and takes you on a trip in time once you enter its walls and fortress to view the city from both sides, the mountain and the sea side. Breathtaking is too weak a word to describe the stillness and serenity of that particular moment when you feel the whole world is down below.
The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Barcelona is the Sagrada Familia and all of the splendor that Antoni Gaudi added to the city. While that is true and his designs have shaped Barcelona, they are not what I will remember long after my vacation is over. So what does Barcelona mean to me? It’s a city that breathes art, culture and music. One that is a haven for daydreamers and old souls. Streets that are filled with laughter, dancing, and choirs. Alleyways and pubs with youngsters and the elderly alike. This is a city where my soul felt at home, and that feeling is what I brought back with me.