The Spanish southern city of Barcelona is definitely one to visit if you’re interested in culture, history, or food. Its many architectural sites are amazing to visit if you’ve got anything from a few hours to a few days to spare. Most notably by Gaudi, you’ll find hundreds of little stalls selling his patterns on anything from plates, to umbrellas, to books. Perfect for reading up on his works and finding out the history behind his many pieces dotted around the city. There are so many things to do in Barcelona, but here are my personal favourites.
Take a cable car from Barceloneta to Montjuic. This cable car is a short, seven minute journey, which takes you directly over the spanish World Trade Centre halfway up the mountain. You can then get a Furnacular (mountain train) up to the top of Montjuic to visit the castle, or you can get the bus which will cost only 1€ with a T10 card. The views, although short lived, are incredible, and reaching the top of the mountain (which can also be done on foot, for those of us with good stamina) feels like something of a feat in itself.
Once you’ve appreciated the views from the top, you can either get the train back to the bottom of the mountain or you can get a bus halfway down and visit the national Catalan art museum – perfect for anyone with a brief knowledge of art to experts. The building itself is worth going for, and Barcelona’s famous ‘magical fountain’ is at the bottom of the walk, and lights up in the evenings.
If your interest is primarily in architecture, consider visiting one of Gaudi’s most famous pieces. Take the metro to Diagonal in the Eixample district, and visit Casa Mila and Casa Battlo. There are often long queues to get inside either house, but the stunning work on the outside of the houses is worth visiting regardless.
If you’ve got more time on your hands, venture further into the mountains to Park Guell – at only €7 entrance fee it’s worth admiring the works and scenery. Not to mention the amazing views from the top again. Park Guell is a great place to visit in the summer; bring a picnic and spend the afternoon here soaking up the sun on the patchwork inspired seats.
If you’re more into relaxing, Cuitadella Park cannot be missed. The park is huge, and has everything from a boating lake, to saxophonists and a huge fountain. There’s a cafe where you can get an ice-cream and sit in front of the fountain, and plenty of grass for lazing around.
Barceloneta and Mar Bella have excellent beaches if that’s your ideal situation. Barceloneta is closer to the centre and far busier, but during the summer months it’s worth taking the extra trip to Mar Bella to experience a peaceful scenario. Barceloneta beach benefits from being right next to lots of cafes and restaurants, meaning that if you choose to buy food there’s plenty of choice too.
For someone who enjoys exploring, have a wander around the Gothic Quarter. Full of bumbling back streets, more tapas bars than you can count, and guaranteed noise and life, it’s the place to go for someone with a lot of energy and a want to explore. You’ll be able to buy anything there, from sweets at a shop called ‘Happy Pills’ to fresh, homemade smoothies and typically spanish clothes. Barri Gotic, as it’s known, is also renowned for pick pockets, so although it’s a definite tourist hotspot it’s also wise to keep an eye on your bag at all times. The Gothic Quarter is also home to BACOA, which serves arguably the best burgers in the world. Ever.
Barcelona is full of markets where you can easily grab some bargains, ranging from the huge food market down La Ramblas (the major street of the city) to the monthly Palo Alto, which consists of food, live music, clothes and more. Otherwise known as ‘Barcelona’s coolest market’, you’ll probably have to queue to get in after 1pm, but it’s well worth a visit. The food market down La Ramblas is the kind of place you could spend hours wandering round, and holds stalls selling more fish than you’d think was available in the sea, along with crepes, amazing shaped marzipan treats and meat.
Finally, the Sagrada Familia, one of the most well known unfinished pieces of work, has to be visited. For those of us with a lack of architectural knowledge, both the outside and the inside of the building is incredible. For people with a more in depth knowledge, it will be easy to understand why such a project has taken so long to complete – with a varied finishing date still. The stained glass windows light up the entire place, with each one representing a different biblical aspect. Visiting even only briefly will give you a feeling of calmness, and it’s definitely one to take the time to visit if you’re not in the city for long.
Barcelona is an incredible city, and there’s enough to do whether you’re there for three days or 30 days. In my own opinion, I do not think there are many cities as versatile as Barcelona, with such contrast in available activities and interests.