Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It has everything a modern city needs; cosmopolitan bars, a thriving night life, traditional Catalonia food as well as hip gastro cuisine, stunning architecture, a bustling shopping environment, beaches to escape to, diverse history and an art scene that creates a stir to all that see it. Known for its iconic structure of Sagrada Familia (and its notorious pick pockets), Barcelona is one of the most well visited destinations in Europe.
The treasures of the city are dotted around streets, hidden behind commercial shops and away from the hustle and bustle of Las Ramblas. Head to the historical area of the Gothic Quarter where meandering lanes take you on a journey through time, past elegant plazas and staggering cathedrals and churches that amaze and stupefy. The Gothic Quarter is the very heart and essence of Barcelona, where the past is highlighted with pride, and the present create artisan shops and artistic cafes. Keep on strolling through town and you catch glimpse of the art scene that covers Barcelona in this whimsical and eccentric design, turning all locals into advocates of Gaudi and Dali, appreciative of the influence it has on the city’s style and culture.
If the beating sun gets to hot on your scorching back and your feet get a little too weary, rest at one of the many coffee shops down a small side street breathing in the ambiance of a collision of nationalities, tenses and history. Leave the touristic and expensive Las Ramblas behind, for a brief dip in the blue Mediterranean sea where you can look back at the city in amazement, and at the Collserola Hills that provide such a diverse cosmos to the city scape in front.
La Sagrada Familia is the most breathtaking and famous location to visit in Barcelona, not only beause of its status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but also because of its unique design created by Gaudi himself. You will be taken aback by the sheer size of the site, as well as the originality in design and attention to detail. If blown away by the beauty of the exterior, make sure you book a ticket on-line to catch a glimpse of the majestical creations inside- of the curved smooth pillars resembling trees- integrating nature with man made elements, and the extraordinary array of stained glass features that are a masterpiece in itself.
To continue basking in Gaudi’s glory; head to La Pedrera, a uniquely structured building accentuating more of Gaudi’s quirky style, Casa Batllo– a museum dedicated to Gaudi, and Park Guell, where 4 million visitors a year flock to see where Gaudi has imposed his creative energies onto natural forms of beauty, merging his work with Gods work, in a flurry of bright mosaics and innovative designs. This park is my personal favourite.
If your taste buds for art are still tingling, head over to the Mount Juic Castle to catch an incredible view over the city of Barcelona, as well as entrance to Miro Museum, a museum dedicated to Joan Miro (google him and you’ll recognise who I am talking about). Carry on to the Museu Picasso and then the Teatre-Museu Dali, although not filled with his art work- head to Madrid for that, here lies his tomb hidden in an enclave of tricks and illusions that will make any bored tourist chuckle.
There are not many cities that so proudly rub shoulders with past and present like Barcelona does, and here you can see this with the differing sights of Basilica de Santa Maria Del Mar, which resembles a church similar to the Notre Dame in Paris, and the football stadium of FC Barcelona, Camp Nou, which are both different places of worship for different people.
If you are unsure where to eat, head over to Mercat De La Bouqeria where fresh produce is hanging from every stall which you can find in any traditional home or Catalan restaurant. Shoulders of cured ham hang from meat hooks, cheeses are neatly arranged in display cabinets and fresh fish rest on a bed of ice. There are small food stalls you can dine at which serve tasty dishes with fresh ingredients- and for a fraction of the price you would find at Las Ramblas. Keep in mind that Tapas is actually a southern Spanish dish, and most locals don’t actually eat this on a daily basis.
Nights out in Barcelona are the equivalent of dancing on a monopoly board, you have no idea where the night will take you or how much you will spend. Barcelona has such a wide variety of night life (one to give Manchester a run for its money) it is easy to get lost in the tourist traps of bar crawls. Instead, make your own personalised bar crawl by starting at the beach watching the sunset, bar hopping to the specific style of music or interior you prefer, and ending at a popular club. Take a look at Time Out Barcelona to see where your new favourite place will be.
(I say this also because unlike Madrid, there is a wide variety of night life that is ever changing in Barcelona and it is hard to keep track of. Also, I came here with my mum and rather popping out to bars, we drank wine in dimly lit restaurants within back streets with chequered tablecloth and murals painted on the walls).
We stayed at Hotel Serhs Rivoli Rambla for its central location to Las Ramblas. It is a pleasant and well maintained hotel with helpful staff, however if you want something more immersive towards the environment and cheaper, do avoid.