For most foreigners visiting Barcelona; Spain is typically cast as a supporting actor, rather than the star of your trip. I know it’s weird how a city can overshadow an entire country teeming with awesome places. But that’s how it is.
Ask anyone what their favorite cities to visit in the world are, and surely Barcelona features on the list. Ask anyone what their favorite countries to visit are and Spain may not necessarily feature on the list!
It is the not only the gateway to Catalan culture, it has more exotic destinations: the Catalonia coast, the mountains of the Monsterrat, picture-perfect Sagrada and balmy La Ramblas. Some overseas visitors plan on staying a week here and still feel unfulfilled when they leave Barcelona. It’s that magical. Apart from the beleaguered Catalan movement, everything else is picture perfect here!
Sagrada Familia, the Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family to be exact started when in 1866 when Josep Maria Bocabella Verdaguer founded the Spiritual Association of Devotees of Saint Joseph, which in 1874 began campaigning for the construction of an expiatory temple dedicated to the Holy Family. In 1881, enabled by various donations, the Association purchased a 12,800m² plot of land, located between the streets of Marina, Provença, Sardenya, and Mallorca, to build the temple on.
The first stone was laid on St Joseph’s day, 19 March 1882, in a ceremony presided over by the Bishop of Barcelona, Josep Urquinaona. It signaled the start of construction, first in the crypt located under the apse, following the Neo-gothic design drawn up by the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano, the Sagrada Familia’s first architect. After a short while, due to disagreements with the promoters, he resigned from the post of chief architect and the job fell to Antoni Gaudí.
The construction has taken painstakingly long and little wonder the Sagrada Família has not always been quite as popular with the people of Barcelona as it has been with tourists. In July 1936, revolutionaries set light to the crypt and broke their way into the workshop, destroying Gaudí’s original plans, drawings, and plaster models, leaving the next generation of architects with an enormous puzzle of how best to proceed. So now the snail’s pace continues.
WaxBone-like columns twist their way to the ceiling, branching out from ellipsoid knots, reaching upwards, creating the impression of being in an enormous forest. Vast geometric stars decorate the ceiling, punctured by open hyperboloids, sucking in the light and all suggesting the canopy of heaven. The greens, blues, yellows and reds of the light coming through stained-glass windows create a speckled effect with constantly shifting patterns illuminating the stone. This truly is a work of art at the grandest scale. (Sagrada Familia website)
The other incredible thing about Barcelonians is how well-dressed and fashionable everyone consistently is. No Hombre, Mujer, Chico or Nina would ever go to grave shabby. That’s for sure! Anyway, I’m getting off track. Some other hot spots to check out in this cultural capital is the Palau de La Musica Catalana. This artsy theatre is a sight to behold in itself. It hosts various music fests among others. We went to ‘Opera y Flamenco’ a fusion of the two art forms performed in syncs and in sequence. It’s truly magical and the setting makes it more so. Also Tapas and wine at the lobby, perfecto! Don’t waste money on a tour. Watch a show. (Palau de La Musica Catalana website)
Antoni Gaudí I Cornet is synonymous with Catalan architecture. He is recognized as one of the most prodigious experts in his discipline, as well as one of the top exponents of modernism. Most of his buildings are now a study in modernism and are pure art. Do check out the Casa Battlo. See the pics below. No words needed. (Casa Battlo Website)
Then there’s the uber quirky Casa Mila. (Casa Mila Website)
Not done with Gaudi yet? Check out the maze that is Parc Guell. The colors and contrasts are a pro photographer’s dream and an amateur photographer’s nightmare. You really don’t know what to focus on. There are too many colors and too many distractions, but that’s all part of the Gaudi magic. (Parc Guell Website) Here you will find one of the most photographed places in Barcelona, and that’s no mean achievement in a city teeming with awesome places.
People often come to Barcelona for a week or so but end up staying a lot longer. Let me show you some reasons why. There is the famous Montserrat about an hour’s drive from the city. It’s the Adobe of the religiously important Black Madonna. You get up to the serrated mountains via a scenic cable car ride and take in views like this. When you come down you can sample free wine and buy from a wide range of locally produced and oddly flavored wines.
Back in the city, you can walk around the famous La Ramblas. This open street is lined with trees and all kinds of souvenir shops. It’s a tourist’s delight. You can check out the nearby neighborhoods of Barrio Gothic and El Raval while you are here. Street performances like these are a regularity.
Then visit the Montjuic castle, Spanish village and the gardens via a cable car. You could easily spend half a day here.
Then there is the Picasso museum for art lovers, Tibidabo amusement park for kids of all ages, the hippy Barceloneta beach and La Boqueria with its variety of shops. All this and you would still have scratched only the surface of what Barcelona has to offer.
Then there are more things to do and places to check out around Barcelona. Do visit Calella de Palafrugell, a beautiful village on Costa Brava. It is hemmed in between cliffs and a pretty fishing village, Calella’s beach has one of Catalonia’s most attractive seaside settings. See the pics below and decide for yourself.
Game of Thrones fans will love Girona nearby. Girona provided the backdrop for many key scenes in Braavos and King’s Landing. The confrontation at the Sept of Baelor, blind Arya begging, the scenes with the Braavos theatrical players among others. So check out the beautiful medieval town. Perhaps these photos will refresh your memory.
After you are worn out get your fill of the Paella and move on to the next spot in this really amazing city. But whatever you do you will ever run out of ideas to fit in your itinerary.
What I Read: This grim book conveys the atmosphere of northeastern Spain during the brief civil war at the end of the thirties and the passion that drew men to fight what they hoped to be the battle which would end the spread of Fascism. (Buy here)
What I Saw: This love quadrangle set in Barcelona does manage to take in the rustic atmosphere of Barcelona. Have a look.