Squeezed between a luscious mountain range and the ocean is a huge city, Barcelona. Relaxed, easy living that is drenched in the Catalonian warm breeze but is continually a hive of activity. Bars, restaurants spill out into the streets with warm tapas of croquettes and octopus. Ridiculously cheap drinks of Spanish Cava or sparkling wine, beer and red wine go down well with cheese and Jamón Serrano as a basic stable for locals.
What Barcelona is best known for is the famous architect Gaudi; the Sagrada Familia cathedral and Park Güell are by far the most impressive. Although mocked in his day by Dali for ‘superbly creative bad taste’ today thousands make their way to experience something completely unique by walking though the corridors of these grand masterpieces. Gaudi was fascinated by nature and with that in mind he created buildings that were highly imaginative. Instead of the traditional square walls, Gaudi’s architecture following organic shapes especially at Park Güell where reptile like ceramics decorate the gardens and glittering houses frame something quite special. Also worth a visit is Casa Batlló, a home that was commissioned by a wealthy textile merchant and resembles an underwater submarine from 2000 leagues under the sea. The detail in the roof, elevators and entrance halls is breathtaking.
Inside Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia view from the nativity tower
Sagrada Familia staircase on the way down from the tower
Inside Sagrada Familia
Outside Sagrada Familia
Casa Batlló Atrium
There is more to the city than Gaudi although it is a substantial distraction. The La Boqueria food market in La Rambla St is very well known for fresh produce especially the seafood, cheese, meats and sweets. One thing that Europe does very well is having bars where you can have a glass of wine and eat the fresh seafood. If you are after a less crowded meal then Barcelona has a huge amount of restaurants although the good ones are not so easy to find. There are a lot of great choices around the El Born Centre Cultural i de Memòria near the Arc de Triomf and the contemporary art gallery as a safe bet.
Tapas and Cava
Hotel 1986 rooftop bar
If you have some extra time there is a beach to visit or a cable car over the city from the port for a good birds eye view. The park near parliament has several monuments and Cascada Monumental, strangely also designed by Gaudi is what I would imagine Spain to look like in its heyday of yeast year. The MNAC – Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya offers more of a peak into Spanish history and the building itself is impressive to say the least.
Shopping is also something to factor into the day and there are all the typical high street retailers along with some local designers to find something sophisticated in a bold design or effortlessly relaxed. There are also outlet stores near the left of Arc de Triomf if you are after a bargain.
One thing that you will need after all the tracking around the city is some down time and Ari ancient baths. There for around $30 you can slip into your bathing suit and soak in the thermal pools all afternoon. There are salt, bubbling, cold, hot and warm to sample and will do their best to revive you.
Make sure you get your ticket before you visit any Gaudi place of interest to avoid the queues and waiting. The tickets allocate you to a specific time slot that cannot be changed and if you miss it you need to get another ticket.
There are excellent airpot busses that have wifi to get into the city centre where you can take a taxi or walk if your hotel is nearby. The city metro is very hand to get around as some of the Gaudi parks are a fair way out of the city like Park Güell. Beware of pickpockets at night.