Barcelona, Spain is the cosmopolitan CAPITOL. Its architecture is so far from boring that I’m certain everyone that visits here will be able to vividly picture at least one of the unique buildings long after the return home. It’s even a city on the sea – and it truly has something for everyone.
It is not the city in Spain to be ordering the sought out Paella dish (unless you really know where to go – otherwise save it for closer to the Valencia region of Spain). Sorry to bust the bubble of anyone that has been to Barcelona and thought they were getting the real deal. If you enjoyed it, then hey who am I to judge? But, I have been told by locals that most places that are advertising this dish are actually frozen and reheated.
This city is (thankfully) not the place to catch a bull fight. Bull fighting has been banned in Barcelona since 2011 and the Bull Arena has been converted into stores and businesses.
Barcelona IS however..
Easy to get around.
Like Paris, the metro system is easy to use here and worth it. Another fantastic option (that are all across major European Cities) is the HOHO bus (Hop on – Hop off bus) or as the Catalonians (people from this region of Spain) call it the ‘Bus Turistic’. This pass is very reasonable in price. I think we paid ~20 some euro for the one day pass and we could hop on and off all over town. There are 3 routes for which they will provide you a map. Most sites are accessible by foot, but the HOHO is worth it to get to some of the further sites.
Stick to asking only people that look under 30 years of age any questions in English here. Typically, the “younger” generation knows English better here, but the older folks… no so much.
If you like gothic architecture, stay in the Barri Gothic (Gothic Quarter). It’s also centrally located to just about anything. We enjoyed staying at the Hotel Colón. The Barcelona Cathedral was right outside our doorstep. There are mazes of small streets and some really great boutique shops. The Picasso museum which houses the largest collection of Picasso art is located here too, if that is your thing.
Take the Metro or HOHO (Hop on Hop off Bus) to the Sagrada Familia and prepare to be WOWed. With your skip the line ticket in hand, bypass the line that circles entirely around the block and save yourself hours of waiting.
This masterpiece by Antoni Gaudi looks like a giant melting chocolate church and is probably the most visited tourist attraction in Barcelona. It is actually a Roman Catholic Church that is not expected to be completely finished until after ~2020. Gaudi passed away before he could see his masterpiece completed. Luckily, his blue prints were left behind. I took the picture above from across the street and in the back of the park and still could not get the entire thing in one shot.
The “melted chocolate” appearance is made up of an extensive collection of religious scenes within little coves and inlets of the facade. There is everything from the nativity scenes to the resurrection of Christ, final judgement, and so on. If you look closely, the details on every turn of this church are spectacular and rightfully so – the church has been under construction for well over 100 years.
The interior of this Catholic church boasts beautiful multicolored stain glass windows in bold colors and an interesting ceiling that from the main aisle, seems like you are walking through a path in the forest as the pillars rise up like trees.
Everything about this church is impressive, and the doors are no exception.
Not as easy to reach by metro, is Park Güell (another Gaudi masterpiece). It is close enough to the Sagrada Familia that you should consider seeing it while you are up that way. ‘Up that way’ translates to the furthest point from the water and other tourist attractions, and probably your hotel too if you’re staying in an area such as the Barri Gotic. There isn’t a conveniently located metro stop close to the Park, so we opted to take a taxi. Gaudi’s unique tiled mosaics can be seen all throughout this park.
The list of Antoni Gaudi’s creations goes on and on and ON and they are all spread out across this magnificent city. Try to find them all!
The well known street of Las Ramblas starts around Plaça Catalunya (the main center square) and runs to meet the statue of Christopher Columbus at Port Vell (the old harbor/port).At one point or another, you are bound to be on this street. It’s a good reference point as areas such as the Barri Gotic and La Bouqueria are easily accessibly from this main road. Keep your purse and belongings secure. This is the #1 Tourist Destination for pick pocketing (Rome is #2). This street boasts tons of stalls selling art, crafts, toys, animals, flowers and other random trinkets.
Interesting “statues” (which are people dressed up) in hopes that you’ll drop some cash in their buckets for taking a picture scatter Las Ramblas.
Located right off of Las Ramblas is the famous La Boqueria Market. I love the stained glass sign and panels in the front of this historic market. Your senses and your stomach can easily be overloaded in here, as it is bustling with people and rows of practically every food item under the sun. For cheaper eats (and drinks) and some sights to get you pointing at, stop in here.
For not so cheap eats and drinks, eat right on Las Ramblas. I would recommend branching off of Las Ramblas for food, as the restaurants right on the main street are targeted at tourists, overpriced, and most are nothing to write home about. They also all feature Paella pictures on their menus – another indication that this is not the place to be ordering Paella.
When your legs and mind need a rest, beer lovers can pop in to Kælderkold (“cold cellar” in Danish). The rotating keg list from a list includes beers of all families from breweries all over Europe. It is owned by some really friendly and welcoming Danish guys. They have mixed drinks here as well – the mojito was delicious. It’s located off of Las Ramblas -on the opposite side from La Boqueria.
Las Ramblas eventually brings you out at the ocean, where there is a harbor, a beach, an Aquarium, and best of all the smell and breeze of the ocean. The beach here is man-made, but hey it’s a beach. Stroll along and see what other interesting sightings you can find.
Other Things Worth Noting:
- Get a drink at the beachfront Hotel W on the top floor bar for panoramic city views.
- The Spaniards eat a large lunch and they eat dinner laaaate. No seriously, ~8pm – 11pm is their main dinner hours. Some restaurants don’t even reopen for dinner until 8pm. Because they eat this late, they typically serve Tapas (small plate appetizers) of different varieties.
- On Sunday mornings outside of the Cathedral, the Catalonians dance the Sardana – a solemn dance that has been around for quite some time. They display their cultural identity proudly as they link hands in circles.
- While I haven’t seen this for myself yet, I heard that the “Magic” Fountains on Montjuïc (hill in Barcelona) put on an awesome show.
- Also on Montjuïc, is the Poble Espanyol or the “Barcelona Village” which was built to be a “real” Spanish Village representing all areas of Spain. This was built for a world exhibition and kept open ever since. Among the hundred buildings and squares are around 40 shops-open 365 days a year.