Barcelona is a city rich in history and culture. The amazing architecture will keep you busy wondering through the different neighborhoods to see churches, fountains, squares and interesting art structures. The cuisine from the tapas to the paella are absolutely delicious and with an abundance of cafes and restaurants you will have unlimited options. Barcelona has plenty to explore in the city and nice beaches to relax on to get that true vacation R&R. Read on for my tourist guide of sights to see!
Gothic Quarter “Barrio Gótico”
With buildings dating back to the medieval times, this neighborhood is one to see while roaming through the streets of Barcelona. Make a stop at Catedral Barcelona. You will pay a small fare to enter and will want to spend a good hour wondering through the church and taking in the beautiful architecture. The cathedral took 150 years to complete and was constructed between the 13th and 15th centuries. During the neo-gothic era in the late 19th century the exterior was renovated and is quite stunning with intricate patterns, statues, crosses and ornate windows. While touring Catedral Barcelona make sure to go in the open room to the left that is not roped off, get your ticket stamped and enter the elevator that takes you up to the roof. You will be glad you did once you see the view from the top. On your way around the main floor take a stroll through the fountains and watch the meditating swans who balance on one foot synchronizing with the group, it will make you giggle! The fountains are calming and you can toss in a coin and make a wish!
After you leave Catedral Barcelona grab a coffee and some churros at Chocolaterias Valor. There is one table outside and I managed to snag it so I could watch the locals pass by as I sipped my cappuccino. After you have had your fill of snacks, cross over to the other side of the street and walk off the chocolate dipped churros as you tour the neighborhood and enjoy more of the gothic era architecture and stop into the local shops to pick up clothing or locally crafted jewelry.
Antoni Gaudí Architecture
Antoni Gaudí is a well-known architect who used neo-Gothic and Oriental techniques in designing his famous structures in Barcelona throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries as part of the Moderinsta movement. His love for nature was adapted into much of his artwork and influenced every element of La Sagrada Familía from the shapes of the windows, which were inspired by beehives, to the structure of the columns that resemble trees,to his analyzation of geothermal formations which is mirrored in the support structures and their intricate designs. The construction of La Segrada Familía began in 1882 and will not be completed until 2026. This remarkable structure is a must see on your trip to Barcelona not only because Antoni Gauidí’s influence is a major part of the city, but because there simply is no other structure like it in the world. Purchase your ticket time in advance to see the extraordinary church and be sure to add on a rooftop viewing.
Another of Gaudí’s great works of art is Park Güell. This nature inspired wonderland was built between 1900 -1914. Gaudí’s research and observation of organisms during his naturalist phase is prevalent throughout the structures at Park Güell. From the tornado like columns, to the rock carved caves, to the movement, texture and tile work of each building, I couldn’t help but feel like I was strolling through a fairytale. I suggest buying your tickets in advance and opting for an 8am or 9am entrance time so you can enjoy the serene atmosphere without the hustle of the crowds.
Las Ramblas is a promenade lined with shops, cafés and restaurants. This is a great area to dine at an outdoor café in the evening or to grab a snack during the afternoon at La Boqueria. The stroll is only about 3/4 of a mile and most the shops are selling souvenirs, so it is much more of an eating destination than a shopping one. The public market, La Boqueria, is worth the visit. So go with an empty belly because the options are endless. Here you can try fruits from all over the world, grab a refreshing juice, a tasty dessert or a local dish.
Magic Fountain of Montjüic
The Magic Fountain was created by Carles Buigas for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition also know as the second World Fair. The fountain was built on Montjüic Mountain, which is more of a hill, overlooking the harbor near Plaça d’Espanya. The water show is paired with lights and music and showings are every half hour after sunset with extended viewings during the summer months. Check the website for the seasonal time schedule.
Port Olímpic was built for the 1992 Olympic games and hosted sailing events in its idyllic marina. If you want to spend a day at the beach then this is a great destination. The pier has numerous restaurants on two levels that overlook the sea. I recommend going to the beach to the left of the Hotel Arts Barcelona. Walk the long strip past the restaurants and sail boats until you reach the sand. This side of the beach boasts turquoise waters whereas the other doesn’t have the same beautiful shades of blue. There is an area to rent a paddleboard or a kayak so pack your suntan lotion and enjoy the sun and the sea. At lunchtime grab a pizza or a burger on the pier. If you are visiting Port Olímpic in the evening, have dinner with a view and then stop by a bar if you feel like dancing. The W Hotel is also a close cab ride away and has a nice outdoor bar with lounge music and a rooftop bar with club music, if you are looking for a more posh cocktail destination.
Boca Grande was my absolute favorite restaurant in Barcelona. This is a tapas style restaurant with a warm ambiance, trendy decor and savory desserts. The restaurant walls are lined with bottles, the bathroom is beautifully decorated with a series of mirrors, an antique sink and of course a photo booth. Try several tapas but save room for the tiramisu! As an Italian girl who has traveled to Italy, and dined in New York’s Little Italy and Boston’s North End, Boca Grande’s tiramisu is way better than any I have ever tasted. Be sure to make a reservation as this a very popular restaurant. After dinner, head upstairs to the sister lounge Boca Chica for craft cocktails that are equally as exquisite as the food.
I stayed at The Hotel Arts Barcelona, which is located in Port Olímpic and sits right by the sea. This hotel is in the Ritz Carlton family and has the top-notch service The Ritz is known for. There was never a shortage of courteous and friendly hotel staff to greet you, answer questions or hail a cab. The rooms were spacious and up to date, resembling the American accommodations I am used to. There is spa, an outdoor pool and a hot tub. I enjoyed a few relaxing days by the pool, sipping coconut water and having the bartender make customized fresh mango cocktails. The Hotel Arts Barcelona is a 5-20 minute cab ride to all of the above destinations.
Barcelona/ September 17, 2016 / © Jill E. Gallien