“Set on a plain rising gently from the sea to a range of wooded hills, Barcelona is Spain’s most cosmopolitan city and one of the Mediterranean’s busiest ports. Restaurants, bars and clubs are always packed, as is the seaside in summer.”
“Its old centre constitutes one of the greatest concentrations of Gothic architecture in Europe. Beyond this core are some of the world’s more bizarre buildings: surreal spectacles capped by Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família church.”
The Gothic and Ribera quarters are full of splendid vestiges of the ancient roman village called Barcino, which would become the modern Barcelona. Encircled by walls in stone, the Gothic quarter is the only zone of the city completely conserved like in the Middle Ages. The visitor can go back in time by walking through its narrow streets, crossing the Sant Felip Neri Square, and entering the majestic Cathedral of Barcelona, an amalgam of various architectural styles.
In the Ribera quarter the visitor will find the church Santa Maria del Mar, one of the most perfect examples of Gothic style architecture. The residents of Ribera quarter, in particular the dockers, contributed directly to the construction of the temple by transported by hand the stones and building materials. Because of this it is still known as “the church of the people.”
Close to the Gothic quarter is La Rambla. This pedestrian street is an 1.2km long avenue connecting Plaça Catalunya with the sea at Port Vell. La Rambla follows the old course of a creek, and, in fact, its name comes from the Arabic word ramla, that denotes the sand in a dry creek or a stream bed.
This pedestrian avenue is one of the most lively streets in the city, with musicians, living statues, flower stands and book kiosks. Watch out for pickpockets taking advantage of all this movement. Numerous historic buildings line on both sides of the avenue. In particular, don’t miss La Boqueria market, one of Europe’s biggest food markets featuring a nice modernist architecture at the entrance.
Even though the Sagrada Família is far from finished, it is considered one of the symbols of the city and the masterpiece of the architect Antoni Gaudí. It is worth visiting both the interior of the basilica with its giant, tree-like pillars and spectacular vaulting, and the exterior showing details of the Christian mystery. A museum narrates the history of the church and the life of its architect Gaudí.
Tickets can be purchased online (recommended) at www.sagradafamilia.cat.
In 1900, inspired by the English garden city movement, the Count Güell asked Gaudí to build a luxury residential area on the hills above Barcelona. Ultimately, the project was unsuccessful and only two houses were built. Gaudí lived in one of those houses, and it now contains the Gaudi House Museum (Casa Museu Gaudí) with several original works by Gaudí and his collaborators.
The main entrance to the park consists of two houses with fungus-shaped roofs and decorated with trencadís. This technique, using little colourful pieces of broken ceramics, appears in several of the works by Gaudí and it is widely used in the park. The main terrace, surrounded by a long bench in the form of a sea serpent, offers a beautiful view of Barcelona.
Tickets can be purchased online (recommended) at www.parkguell.cat.
Other Modernist Buildings
There are several modernist buildings in the city of Barcelona. One of the most remarkable works of Antoni Gaudí is Batllò house, located in Passeig de Gràcia, the most popular shopping street in Barcelona. Batllò house is also named the dragon´s house, since it represents an allegory of the legend of Saint George. Popular tradition tells that once upon a time a terrible dragon viciously attacked men and beasts. To pacify it, a person was chosen every day to be sacrificed and offered to the monster. One day, the misfortune fell on the king’s daughter. Fortunately, a handsome knight challenged and was able to defeat the dragon. He was Saint George. If you look to Batllò house, you may see the back of the dragon represented in the scaly roof and the skulls of its victims in the balconies.
Not far from Batllò house you can find La Pedrera, draft of a magical apartment house. Its sumptuous facade, that it seems to defy the laws of the gravity, is constituted by waved horizontal planes, and is characterized by the modernist presence of railings in wrought iron. The roof is surmounted by several chimney pots with the appearance of warriors leading helms.
The Palau de la Música Catalana (Palace of Catalan Music) is is a modernist building designed by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, dates from the early 20th century. Today, several musical performances are offered in the Palau every year. One of its most remarkable features is the stained glass ceiling of the concert hall.
Art Museums in Barcelona
Discover the best art collections and museums Barcelona has to offer.
The National Art Museum of Catalunya (MNAC). This museum provides an overview of Catalan art from the 12th to the 20th centuries. It houses an enormous collection of Medieval Art stemming from the Romanesque and Gothic periods. The museum also recently added a section dedicated to Picasso and is constantly expanding its permanent collection.
The Contemporary Art Museum of Barcelona (MACBA) is museum in the heart of El Born district, just 20 meters from the Picasso Museum. It is worth combining a visit to both museums. Dedicated exclusively to modern and contemporary art. A completely original and different vision of contemporary art outside the abstraction and experimentation. A little gem, exquisite corner in full heart of old Barcelona.
The Picasso Museum in Barcelona is a key reference for understanding the formative years of Pablo Ruiz Picasso. While the best of his paintings are not there, the genius and evolution of the young artist is revealed through the 4,249 works that make up the permanent collection.
The collection of the Fundació Joan Miró is exposed in one of the greatest museum buildings in the world, designed by Josep Lluís Sert. Approachable, light and airy, these white walls and arches house a collection of more than 225 paintings, 150 sculptures and all of Miró’s graphic work.
Camp Nou Stadium
The FC Barcelona, the current FIFA world champion, has become a symbol of the city itself. The visit to its stadium, the Camp Nou, has become an obligatory stop for all its supporters. The visit gives the chance to walk through the most emblematic areas of the stadium: the away team changing room and the players’ tunnel, the dugouts, the press room, commentators box and the museum, with an extensive display of objects.
Official website: www.fcbarcelona.com.
Barcelona’s nightlife is very much in keeping with the city itself, trendy, varied and sometimes spectacular. Surrounding the historic spots are always a plethora of bars, clubs, lounges, and restaurants.
One of the biggest Barcelona nightlife areas is Passeig del Born, in Ribera district. The combination of amusement with the evocative frame of the medieval narrow lanes creates a magical atmosphere for the trendily-attired nightowls crowding into cafes and bars. Plaça Reial and Passeig Marítim La Barceloneta are two other areas where people come to chill at cafes, chow down at tapas bars, listen to live music, or go to clubs.