Barcelona will always hold a very special place in our hearts. Aside from Canada, Spain was our first international trip as a couple and was the impetus that led to our passion (read: obsession) for traveling the world.
Looking back at some of our earlier trips, I love seeing how much we’ve evolved as travelers. We spent five wonderful days in Barcelona, and to date, it’s still one of our favorite European cities. It was certainly a different time in our lives: our means were quite different and our interests and intentions, of course, were equally different. However, I don’t think we could have chosen a better city to get our toes wet in the world of international travel. Artsy, cosmopolitan, eclectic, sexy, delicious, charming: all of these words immediately come to mind when describing this fabulous city. Barcelona will forever serve as our gateway to the world and an introduction to the countless memories and experiences that have shaped us not only as travelers, but as global citizens of this wondrous world.
Below is my list of the top ten things to see and do in this captivating seaside city. Distinctive architecture, unconventional art, and world-class cuisine dominate most of this list, and much of it is devoted to the remarkable works of Antoni Gaudi, the Spanish architect who has arguably had the greatest influence on this extraordinary city.
Widely recognized as Antoni Gaud’s true masterpiece, this world-renowned and equally striking Roman Catholic church is utterly breathtaking. Its unique and dramatic gothic facade as well as its striking interior will leave you reeling. The myriad of colorful lights that flood the inside of the basilica are incredible. You can’t help but marvel at the architectural genius–yes, it’s that ridiculously stunning. Visiting Sagrada Familia is an absolute must on any Barcelona itinerary.
Barcelona is inundated with art and beauty and perhaps its finest example is Gaudi’s Park Guell, an art wonderland that transports its visitors into his eccentric and effervescent world. Throughout this vibrant park, you’ll find colorful mosaic collages and tiles, gorgeous gardens, unique structures, numerous walking trails, mushroom-shaped chimneys, and the famous snake-like bench. This stylish park is pure magic. Parc Guell was our absolute favorite and most memorable site during our trip to Barcelona and we would love to return someday.
Also known as La Pedrera (the stone quarry), Casa Mila is yet another example of Gaudi’s artistic ingenuity. Talk about an unusual and fascinating building. The impressive facade of massive rocks gives the illusion of an open quarry and the interior is equally as fascinating. That roof though. Sure, the sweeping views of the city are extraordinary, but that’s not even the main draw here. The structures and sculptures throughout the rooftop are astonishing and fall into three categories: chimneys, stairwells, and ventilation towers. An absolutely unforgettable place to visit!
Gaudi, did you ever sleep? Good Lawd! Gaudi’s extraordinarily boundless talent knows no end at Casa Batllo, an architectural gem that showcases Gaudi’s remarkable attention to detail and creativity. The building’s exterior looks as if it has been made from skulls and bones, when in fact, the “skulls” are balconies and “bones” are supporting pillars. Gaudi’s approach to art and design is refreshing and bewildering all at the same time. There’s little doubt that his eccentricity and originality are true gifts to this world.
BARRI GOTIC (GOTHIC QUARTER)
This neighborhood is wonderful. An eclectic mix of old and new, the narrow cobble-stone streets are brimming with gorgeous buildings, vibrant eateries and coffee shops, and interesting boutiques. I highly recommend meandering through the winding alleyways and letting yourself get lost for a bit (you’ll likely be surrounded by people at every turn you take, so there’s no need to worry about being alone!). A piece of advice: don’t forget to look up and marvel at the countless architectural gems that are so prevalent throughout this magnificent neighborhood. We stayed a few blocks away from this beautifully ornate cathedral.
The bustling and famous La Rambla avenue is nearly impossible to avoid. While this central boulevard is undoubtedly touristy, it is also very inviting, lively, and serves as a glimpse into the Catalan culture. While strolling the wide tree-lined promenade, you’ll come across street performers, artists, stalls selling flowers and birds, cultural centers, souvenir vendors and outdoor cafes.
MARCAT DE LA BOQUERIA
I love me a good market and Boqueria is no exception. With over 300 stalls, this market is an absolute must for anyone who loves and appreciates fresh food. This taste of heaven appeals to all of the senses and is quintessential of the city’s dynamic and convivial culture.
This lovely museum houses a broad collection (more than 3,800 pieces!) that spans the life of the famous artist. I particularly enjoyed Picasso’s earlier and less known pieces. The museum is not very large and can easily be done in a few hours.
This lively waterfront is a fun area where you can explore the beach and enjoy the numerous cafes and bars. A nice reprieve after several days of museum, gallery, and neighborhood hopping!
TAPAS, WINE & ALL THINGS DELICIOUS
Barcelona is one of the few cities we’ve visited that I did not research and reserve restaurants in advance (oh how times have changed!), but every single place we stumbled upon was better than the last. The tapas and wine were incredible. My favorite part was gazing into the glass display cases of endless tapas and choosing bite after scrumptious bite to sample. Barcelona is a food and wine lover’s dream!
Regret:My greatest regret was not visiting Fundacio Joan Miro, the museum which exhibits many of the artist’s innovative and contemporary art. Till next time, Miro! We hope to return some day to marvel at your exceptional work and once again relish in your phenomenal city!