20. December 2012: For updates on this post please visit: http://www.circumnavigator.dk/2012/11/06/barcelona/
The other day I met an acquaintance in my local fashion department store. I know her through a friend, but we share the same passion for one of Europe’s most fantastic cities: Barcelona, so we had a good talk about the charm of the city. I have only visited Barcelona once. Last summer I was there for little less than a week, but I must admit that it was love at first sight, and I actually, like her, have considered not only once but several times after to move to Barcelona to live there for a period. Maybe I will one day, because this city certainly has so much to offer.
My objective for the holiday in Barcelona was a combination of big city life and relaxing at the beach. Therefore I chose to stay in the very authentic neighborhood La Barceloneta which is a residential area with narrow streets situated between the Mediterranean Sea and the center of Barcelona. The famous shopping street La Rambla is only a 10 minutes walk away, and the public beach with white sand nearby. There are several restaurants and bars to chose from in the area. I had perfect tapas at a small bar, Jai-ca Tapes. It is full of spanish siesta atmosphere and serve fabulous tapas for locals and tourists. I also enjoyed fantastic seafood at the restaurant, El Rey de la Gamba 1 – be aware: they serve big portions.
La Sagrada Familia
One of Barcelona’s top sights, if not the number one top sight, is the amazing church Basilica de la Sagrada Familia. It is designed by the famous modernistic architect Antoni Gaudi and even though construction started back 1882, it still hasn’t finished, but it is a truely also an amazing construction and so full of wonderful details both outside and inside. Do reserve many hours for the visit and get up early to be first in line to get in, because the queue of visitors lining up to get in will be very long especially during the holiday season.
If not afraid of heights, then visit one of the towers. There is a fantastic view over the city and possibility to get a close up look on some of the outside decorations.
More Gaudi – Casa Batlló and Casa Milà
It is not without reason that Barcelona is called the city of Gaudi. His work has greatly influenced the architecture of Barcelona and you will find it all over the city. Gaudi’s design was very much inspired by the nature and elements from there and this shows in much of his design with few straight lines.
I took a look at the Casa Batlló from the outside while sitting on a bench on the opposite boardwalk and simply enjoying Barcelona.
Casa Milà, or maybe better known as La Pedrera, is build around two open courtyards. The rooftop terrace is incredible with all the sculptural elements. Just below is the attic with an exhibition on Gaudi’s work. In the building it is also possible walk inside an original furnished apartment.
I know not all people are fans of football or sport, but in my humble opinion, I think it is a disgrace if you do not visit one of the worlds best football clubs when you are in Barcelona. It is a great opportunity to experience a part of the soul of the city – please also see my post about sport and culture.
While I was visiting, FC Barcelona was playing a pre-season match against italian Napoli for the Joan Gamber Trophy. The atmosphere was absolutely amazing on the famous Camp Nou stadium even before the actual match started. The warm-up show alone was worth going, but it also helped a lot that FC Barcelona won 5-0 and Messi scored two of the goals.
A good tip when going to the match and leaving the stadium is to incorporate plenty of time for transport, and even prepare yourself to walk most of the way home, since the public transport is absolutely packed with people.
The perfect way to reach the hill Montjuic is by cable car. It runs from a tower on the harbour of Barcelona, not far away from La Barceloneta to the hill and gives you a perfect possibility to get a birds eye view on Barcelona.
There are several interesting things to see and visit on Montjuic. I walked around in the Botanical Gardens, took a look at the fortress from outside, passed a huge cemetery before I headed down to the Olympic Stadium and finally passed the Palau Nacional that was built for the 1929 International Expositions and now is an arts museum. It is a long walk so wear good walking shoes and bring plenty of water. I was there on a very hot summer day at almost 35 C and at one point I unfortunately ran out of water, so was very happy when I finally reached the café at the stadium.
Shopping in Barcelona
When in Barcelona do also reserve time for shopping. It can easily be combined with sight seeing since many of the popular sights are actually situated on the shopping streets. Not to be missed is of course La Rambla that stretches over 1,2 km and connects Placa Catalunya with the Mirador de Colón close to the harbour. It is full of life from the early morning to very late evening and there is always something funny and interesting to look at.
Another street where to find a variety of high street fashion shops in is Passaig de Gracia. This is also where Casa Batlló and La Pedrera are situated. On Placa Catalunya you will find the department store: El Corte Ingles. Popular and affordable spanish fashion brands for ladies are: Mango, Zara and Desigual. And do not forget to look out for shoes and bags. Leather goods are of good quality and less expensive than in many other countries of Europe.
My program for Barcelona
Day 1: Afternoon: Arrival in La Barceloneta Evening: walk to and dinner at the Olympic Port
Day 2: Morning: La Sagrada Familia Afternoon: Beach time Evening: Paella with friends in the center
Day 3: Morning: walk on La Rambla, Gaudi’s Casa Batlló and shopping Evening: FC Barcelona
Day 4: Morning: Montjuic Afternoon: Beach time Evening: dinner in La Barceloneta
Day 5: Morning: La Pedrera and shopping Afternoon: Beach time Evening: dinner at Placa Reial
Day 6: Morning: breakfast on the beach and off to the airport