A guest post written by Beth Knight
A couple of years ago, we went on a winter break to Barcelona and fell in love with the beautiful Spanish city. We were there for 5 days and managed to cram in SO much, there is truly a wealth of things to do for all different tastes but these were the 5 things I most enjoyed, although it has been really hard to choose and I will list some of the other places we visited at the end of the post.
Yes, this is the most famous landmark in the city and is a tourist hotspot for sure, but frankly, there are reasons why places like these are popular and it’s because there’s something that excites and draws people into them. In this case, the sheer architectural wonder both outside and inside is what brings people in and it’s not exactly unfounded, the building is truly incredible. I walked inside and cried at the beauty and wonder of the building. I couldn’t get over how light and colourful it was inside for saying how imposing and almost overbearing the outside of the building is. We had booked tickets for the tower tour but unfortunately due to high winds, it was cancelled and I was initially disappointed, as I wasn’t expecting the inside to be anywhere near as beautiful as it was, but I was so very wrong.
Gaudí’s biggest mark on the city is certainly his best and I’m looking forward to going back, exploring the towers and seeing it when it’s finished. It’s due for completion in 2026, with the central 6 towers currently being worked on and due to make it an even more impressive spectacle than it already is.
As an architectural wonder, as a place of beauty for worship, as a location that brings people together in a common, worshipful cause, this building is truly special and worth visiting Barcelona for on it’s own.
Set up on a hill on the inland side of the city, Gaudí got to work again with Park Güell. Intended as a private residential park by its original owner Eusebi Güell, Gaudí was brought in to landscape the park and to design some of the structures such as the incredible pavilions and entrances, the main entrance steps and the famous tiled bench. Gaudí ensure that vegetation used in the park was Mediterranean and in keeping with the carob and olive trees already growing on the side of the hill. The park was intended as a residential area with 60 houses due to be built on it. Due to limited access and transport to and within the site, only 2 of the plots (bar the existing house that was already on site and made into the home of Eusebi Güell) were ever sold and after Güell’s death in 1918, the park was sold to the city council, who opened it as a municipal park in 1926.
The wonderful green space in the heart of Barcelona’s inner city provides breathing space and a wonderful place to explore for both locals and tourists alike. The beauty of the landscaping and nature complement each other incredibly well and it provides and wonderful place for both exploration and relaxation, as well as incredible views over the Plain of Barcelona and the city sprawling out below you down to the sea in the distance.
Gaudí’s work here really shows the links between the Modernisme/ Art Noveau movement and the natural world; there are no straight edges, just as there aren’t really any straight edges in nature and the use of colours, especially the blues and greens, really bring through the feeling of links to the sea and the land, it’s a wonder to behold.
On our first afternoon in the city, we headed from our hotel, down Las Ramblas and down towards the sea. Barcelona and the sea are so intrinsically linked, from tiny Catalan fishing villages along the coast in times gone by to the incredible harbour you see today, the sea and Barcelona co-exist and we headed into the Maritime Museum to find out more about it. The museum is a really interesting and engaging experience, detailing just how Barcelona relied on the sea for it’s growth and the role the ocean continues to play in the modern day culture of the city.
There are many different vessels to see, some large and some small but all with their own story to tell and the incredible shipyard building’s the museum is housed in adds to the atmosphere as you explore. It’s well worth a visit and allows you to find out so much about the city in one place.
This incredible museum is located in the narrow streets of the Barri Gotic area of the city, just near Barcelona Cathedral (in the centre, not the Sagrada Familia). This museum is in the Palau Padellàs on the Plaça del Rei. It explores the history of the city of Barcelona from it’s origins onwards and is an incredible way to find out about the city. The main attraction though is blow the building, where the largest Roman excavation outside of Rome itself has been uncovered. A series of walkways lead you through the incredible foundations of the Roman Barcelona, through the streets and buildings with information provided giving you a vivid and immersive experience of Roman Barcino (as Barcelona was known at the time).
We both found it fascinating and spent so long exploring the Roman section, I don’t think we quite gave ourselves enough time to do the rest of the museum justice. If you’re an avid history lover, give yourself a good few hours to explore it!
This museum is one of the 13 that make up the Museu d’Història de Barcelona that are run by the city authorities. They also include the Temple of Augustus which we popped to after visiting this museum and is well worth leaving 20 minutes or so to explore (not a big site but interesting all the same).
This wonderful open-air attraction on the side of Monjuïc is a great way to get a feel of the whole of Spain in one tiny place! The Barcelona International Exposition (forerunner to the World Expo that is now held every years) was held in 1929 and the Montjuïc hill was the location for it. As part of this, the little village of Poble Espanyol was created. It was an architectural showcase, with traditional buildings from all parts of the country recreated in one place for people to explore.
Now a standalone tourist attraction, this quirky but wonderful collection of 117 buildings are a great way to find out more about Spanish history and architecture through the ages. Information is provided by a rather enthusiastic audio-visual guide on an iPad and there are various independent shops set up in the buildings as well as a couple of cafés and bars. There is a really relaxed feeling as you stroll around the narrow streets of he Iberian-style village that it was based on and for a couple of hours or so, you completely forget that the city of Barcelona is just down the hill from where you are. There are also a range of events held in the main square and civil buildings within the complex that look really interesting, although we didn’t have a chance to attend any whilst we were there.
The location of the village on the side of Montjuïc means it can be visited whilst exploring other attractions on the hill such as the Olympic Park and the MNAC (national gallery) situated in the beautiful Palau Nacional.
It wouldn’t be a travel blog without mentioning a couple of top spots for food to keep fulled whilst exploring and I wanted to quickly mention a couple of places we found. We were most definitely on a budget whilst we were there so please don’t expect top dollar cuisine, but it doesn’t detract from the wonderful food and hospitality we found in both of these spots.
This tiny bodega serves three plates, pescadito frito (small, fried fish), butifarra (Catalan sausage) and tomato salad and wine for around €1 euro a glass and it was all delicious. There’s only a few tables but it makes the perfect stop for lunch! 10/10 would recommend. Will be revisiting.
This incredible wine, deli and tapas bar provided the best Tapas we ate whilst we were there. The dishes were only a few Euros each, the red wine was to die for honestly, the quality of the food was wonderful. We had to be very strict with ourselves not to order the entire menu as everything sounded delicious and as the food arrived, we quickly realised it tasted as good as it sounded too. It’s located on the edge of Barri Gotic, set back from the Via Laietana, the main road that separates Barri Gotic from La Ribera districts. I recommend it to everyone that goes to Barcelona as a fuss free, local-approved tapas delight. I just read the menu again online and now I REALLY want to go back.
It was really, really hard to pick my top 5 places to visit in Barcelona, I can’t put much detail into the below list, but here are the other places we’d visited during our time there that I would recommend putting into your schedule.
- Montjuic and the Olympic Park – the large hill set to the South West of the city centre is a wonderful place for a relaxing stroll around and has plenty of points of interest on it, including the Olympic Park which we enjoyed exploring. We took the cable car from the harbour to the hill and it was well worth it for the amazing views!
- Barcelona Cathedral – A gothic delight in the heart of the narrow streets of the Barri Gotic, sometimes forgotten about in the shadow of Sagrada Familia, it’s worth a visit in it’s own right for sure.
- Mercat de la Boqueria – This incredible produce market near to La Rambla is a culinary delight!
- The Harbour & beaches – We had a wonderful evening just wandering around the harbour and along the beach one at night and it was one of the simple pleasures of a wonderful break.