City Guide to Barcelona, Spain
Author: Julie Thompson | Last Updated: 9 May 2018
Barcelona is the trendy, alternative to Madrid, offering some of architect Gaudi’s best work and many unique experiences given its proximity to the mountains and the sea. As well as being the home to the world-famous football team Barcelona F.C, the city is home to some of the most bespoke architecture, due to renowned catalán architect and designer Antoni Gaudi and the Gothic architectural style. A walk around the city of Barcelona is always pleasant and you won’t find yourself with a shortage of things to see or do.
Best time of year to visit:
The best time of year to visit Barcelona is in the summer, when you can enjoy its beautiful, sandy beaches and comfortably walk around the city trying its many tapas bars and restaurants. A city that thrives in the sun like many in Spain, Barcelona really comes alive in the summer with its al fresco dining, and the colourful light show on display at the ‘Magic Fountain’.
Mercado de la boquería
Barcelona’s main market, ‘el mercado de la boqueria’, provides visitors with a huge selection of mouth-watering tapas inside a big, open marketplace. A must visit for anyone looking for that killer food photo, the market is a feast not only for the stomach but also for the eyes. Immediately upon entering you are met with a vibrant splash of colours from the fruit stands, and when you delve deeper into the market you will find all sorts of typical spanish gourmet food to satisfy your cravings. Take a seat at one of the stalls and try a tapa, then move on and try one from a different stall to get that fun, bar hopping experience that is typical of Spain.
Moving on with the theme of appealing visuals, Antoni Gaudí, the well-renowned catalán architect responsible for Barcelona’s modernism movement stamped his presence on the city of Barcelona. He was behind a number of highly unique buildings such as the casa Mila – a curious building which has a facade that seems to reflect the fluid motion of waves. Perhaps one of the more interesting projects he took on was what is now known as Parc Güell. Named after the man who first thought of the project Eusebi Güell, the unique park was given to Gaudi to design and the result is an outstanding mix of sculptures, stunning tilework and a superb view over the city.
La Sagrada Familia
The name Gaudi conjures up images of eccentric design and architecture, like those just mentioned, but his most famous project is undoubtedly the imposing Sagrada Familia. A Roman Catholic Church dating back approximately 100 years, this relatively new church is due to be finished in 2026, but even despite the fact that it has been under construction for a long time, the church still manages to impress and its atypical design is remarkable. There are many noteworthy churches and cathedrals in Spain, given its very catholic persuasion, but this one is very different and eye-catching with its incredibly intricate design.
Moving away from Gaudi and his unique imprint on the city, another big architectural style which its has roots firmly in the city of Barcelona is gothic. If you want to go for something to eat or drink while surrounded by the kinds of buildings and streets which command your attention with their grand, almost eery style then head over to the Gothic quarter. As well as being a fantastic place to eat with a lot of characterful bars and restaurants, walking around this district feels like being transported to another era. To get the full experience, come back at nighttime when the midnight blue sky provides a perfect ambience to the towering architecture and narrow alleyways.
Parc de la ciutadella
Maybe overlooked by some in favour of the more obvious attractions in the city, Parc de la ciutadella is a large, green space occupied by winding walking paths and large sculptures. Upon entering the park you will notice a giant centrepiece fountain surrounding a small island brought to life by impressive animal sculptures and 4 golden horses at the top. After taking photos at the fountain, slowly make your way around the park stopping off at the large lake in the middle so you can take a paddle on the lake on one of the small boats for 2. Another sight worth seeing while in the park is Barcelona’s ‘arco de triunfo’, a regal archway which was originally built as the main entrance to the Barcelona world fair of 1888.
A little away from the centre of the city is the impressive Montjuïc castle perched atop a hill, boasting the best panoramic views of the coastal city. A fun way to get there is by cable car which starts at the port, giving you incredible views of the whole maritime district of Barcelona as well as the kind of sights unique to this method of transport. After you’ve taken in the plentiful sights, be sure to take a tour of the castle, which once used to be a formidable military fortress. The castle of Montjuïc takes on a great deal of importance to the local catalán people, serving as a symbol of the Spanish civil war, a place where prisoners from both sides were taken in and tortured. Now the castle acts as a military museum and provides insight into the catalán history and people.
Day trip to Montserrat
While this last one isn’t actually in the city of Barcelona, it is worth taking the one hour train journey to get to Montserrat, a wildly beautiful hiking destination that offers breathtaking views and an unforgettable experience. Montserrat is a mountain range with several peaks, acting as a sanctuary and retreat for monks, and made up of some of the most unusual rock formations. As well as spectacular hikes and walking routes, there is also a basilica where you can hear the famous choir sing and other sacred structures.
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