Few European cities can offer you the wide diversity of cultural experience that you’ll find here in Barcelona.
Many great painters and artists worked here at some time and their influence is still evident throughout the city. Two of which are Picasso and Miró who have museums dedicated to some of their more important works. Barcelona is home to masterpieces of many great architects. The most famous of which is Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí’s work is admired by architects around the World as being one of the most unique and distinctive styles in modern architecture.
Should you ever find yourself suffering from art and culture overload then you can spend the day recovering on one of Barcelona’s sandy beaches only a short stroll from the city centre. Order a sangria at one of the bars and kick off your shoes, sit back and soak up the sun, sea and the view. While you’re on the beach you can sample some of the best seafood the Mediterranean has to offer, or if you prefer, there are plenty of excellent restaurants and bars that offer tapas. There are also many restaurants providing more conventional dishes if you prefer a traditional meal.
WHEN TO GO TO BARCELONA:
Many travelers prefer to wait until the shoulder season to visit Barcelona. This season, which falls between the high and low seasons, happens twice a year: April to June and September to October.Weather-wise, this is a wonderful time: days are mild and nights are cool.
- Visit Gaudí’s masterpiece Casa Milà (‘La Pedrera’)
- Take a stroll down the famous Las Ramblas
- Explore Barcelona’s gothic catherdral
- Wander the streets of Barcelona’s gothic quarter
- Visit the Picasso museum
- Explore Park Güell
- Visit Gaudí’s living legacy the stunning Sagrada Familia
- Stroll along the Seafront Promenade and Barceloneta
Visit Gaudí’s masterpiece Casa Milà (‘La Pedrera’)
Casa Milà, popularly known as ‘La Pedrera’ (the stone quarry). The lines were long, and it was expensive to get in – so we hummed and ahhed for a while about going in, but we eventually decided to go for it. And boy we were not disappointed.
The building was commissioned in 1906 by businessman Pere Milà and his wife Roser Segimon. At the time, it was controversial because of its undulating stone facade, twisting wrought iron balconies and windows designed by Josep Maria Jujol. Several structural innovations include a self-supporting stone front, columns and floors free of load-bearing walls, an underground garage and the most amazing roof top sculptures.
In 1984, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is still a working building and is occupied by several businesses, but areas – including the roof – are open to the public.
Tip: Book your skip the line ticket in advance to avoid the long queues.
Take a stroll down the famous Las Ramblas
Las Ramblas is often the first landmark that most tourists identify with the city. It is the central most boulevard which cuts through the heart of the city centre and is a vibrant and lively promenade filled with Barcelona action at its best. It is a great place for people watching. There are also numerous places to eat and shop.
Explore Barcelona’s Gothic cathedral
Of course, one of the most famous monuments in the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona is the 13th to 15th-century Gothic Cathedral. Yes, that’s right, it took nearly two centuries to build. From 8 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., visitation is free. Furthermore, outside these schedules, you must make a donation to enter. Visit inside the church and be sure not to miss the patios and beautiful cloisters.
Wander the streets of Barcelona’s gothic quarter
The charming Gothic Quarter, or Barri Gòtic, has narrow medieval streets filled with trendy bars, clubs and Catalan restaurants. The Museu d’Història de Barcelona shows remains of the Roman city. Artisans sell leather and jewelry near the Cathedral of Barcelona, while flower stalls and street-food vendors line busy avenue La Rambla. The Plaça del Pi, named after the adjacent Gothic church, hosts a weekend art market.
Visit the Picasso museum
The Museu Picasso, located in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, houses one of the most extensive collections of artworks by the 20th-century Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. With 4,251 works exhibited by the painter, the museum has one of the most complete permanent collections of works.
Explore Park Güell
Park Guell is one of the masterpieces of the great architect Antoni Gaudi, who projected it in 1900. Inaugurated as a public park in 1926, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
We loved touring this park, from the cloistered areas designed as an area for markets to the large terrace, lined with benches inlaid with mosaics of brightly coloured pottery pieces, offering spectacular views across Barcelona. Last time we visited it was a bit rushed but this time we had the leisure to wonder the park and gardens and visit the gate-house, which resembles something out of a Dr. Suess book. This is an amazing and wonderfully inspiring place to visit.
The Park is situated away from the main centre of Barcelona. The best way of getting there is by metro or bus. For the metro take the green line and get off at Lesseps or Vallcarca. When you leave the station, you’ll have a walk of about 20-25 minutes. If you take the city bus, lines H6 and 32, you’ll have a walk of about 15 minutes or with bus lines 92 and 24 there is a walk of about 5 minutes. Beware there are some hills to negotiate!
The Park gets very busy during peak tourist seasons and access is limited by timed tickets. We turned up at 10 am in the summer and couldn’t get in that day. I suggest booking your tickets in advance. Click here to book your tickets.
Visit Gaudí’s living legacy the stunning Sagrada Familia
We had the opportunity to visit the Sagrada Familia back in 2010 during our grand tour of Europe and were excited to see what had changed in the last seven years. As with all constructions of this size it takes a long, long time to complete. Ground was broken in 1882 under the guidance of the architect Francisco Paula de Villar, until 1883 when Gaudí took over as head architect and transformed its design into the most extraordinary gothic creation. The construction work has been hampered by funding (it is privately funded) and wars but even after Gaudí’s tragic death in 1926 his conceptual designs have been faithfully followed by his successors. The Sagrada Familia is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, giving it the status of a ‘minor basilica’ (there is nothing minor about it!)
I am not a religious person but visiting the Sagrada Familia is a truly spiritual experience and would move even the most hardened and cynical atheist. The outside of the building is stunning with incredible spires reaching skywards. The façade of the building is typical Gaudí, with ornate shapes and a design that looks like it has been hewn from a single giant rock. We passed through the entrance dedicated to the Nativity, the carvings surrounding this entrance are the most classic features to be found anywhere in the building.
If the outside does not take your breath away, then the inside is guaranteed to do just that. It is an incredible space! The huge stained-glass windows allow light to flood into the basilica. On the east facing wall the glass is shades of blue, casting a cool freshness with the morning rays. The west wall is made up of windows with yellows and reds. During our visit the sun was in the west and the whole of the nave was bathed in a warm, soothing light. The space is vast and feels endless. The unique columns that hold up the distant roof look, by design, like a forest. They have different girths and are made different materials, chosen for their physical properties, with a variance of colour, making them all the more interesting.
We had tickets to go up one of the towers. During our last visit we had to climb the stairs, but this time they had installed lifts, at least on the way up. The views from the towers are amazing and you get to see closeup some of the stunning decorative elements that make the Sagrada Familia so unique. We left the casement of the towers and crossed several walkways high-up above the terraces below. As a person who does not particularly like heights this was a bit of a nervy experience. I felt better on the way down, with the long, spiral case enclosed in a column of stone, only passing the occasional windows through which you can see that you are still a long way up. The one disconcerting thing was looking down through the spiral all the way to the bottom of the staircase – eek!
The exit to the basilica is through the newly opened Passion entrance. The façade to this entrance is totally different to the Nativity. In stark contrast to the fanciful elements and uplifting message of the Nativity, Gaudí wanted the Passion façade to convey Jesus’ suffering (The Passion) and the bleakness of his death. He wanted it to be cold and without ornamentation. The Passion was completed by the sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs in 1990 from Gaudí’s drawings and notes.
Subirachs’ style is angular and rigid, which the opposite of Gaudí who did not believe in using straight lines. The stark lines evoke a sober feeling for the end of Jesus’ life from the Last Supper to the Crucifixion. Jesus’ story is told in the shape of a “Z” from the bottom to the top. The Last Supper is on the bottom and the Crucifixion is on the top.
With the tour complete we headed down to the crypt of the Sagrada, which has been turned into a museum dedicated to the history of this wonderful building. There were pictures showing the complete history of its construction, descriptions of the techniques employed in the architectural design and structural models.
Getting into the Sagrada Familia, especially during the peak holiday seasons, can be crazy and involve several hours of waiting. I strongly recommending buying timed tickets in advances it will save you a long, hot frustrating wait. Buy tickets here.
Stroll along the Seafront Promenade and Barceloneta
Barcelona’s seafront promenade is one of the most pleasant areas of the city to go for stroll. It has a 5 kilometers length it’s a very pleasant walk that goes near the coast and reminds a lot of people of California beaches.
Some of the city’s best known centers and institutions are here, like the Barcelona Aquarium, the Maremagnum shopping center and the Parc del Forum. The Forum was built in 2004 for the Fòrum de les Cultures but today many music festivals, concerts and activities for locals and visitors are organized.
The promenade is packed with bars, restaurants, beach bars and sports facilities. From the sea, the views of Barcelona are quite nice but a good place to take the city in is from “Moll de la Fusta”. In addition, near the Port there is an area where a lot of Barcelona’s nightlife concentrates.
Barceloneta is one of the city’s most famous beaches and neighborhoods. It is a unique neighborhood thanks to the distribution of its -small and short- buildings and reflects the type of buildings that were built during the Enlightenment period. These houses were designed to be two stories single-family homes but over time they have built properties that exceed by far the height that was agreed on at first.