This past August, I managed to fit in a quick city break with my lovely Mum to Barcelona. It was right at the end of the month so the heat wasn’t too intense but it was always sunny, with no rain or dark, looming clouds to speak of. We only had a few days there, but using the Visit A City app, we were definitely able to make the most out of it! I’d definitely recommend this app if you are travelling to somewhere new and want to fit in as much as you can in the time that you are there. It creates an itinerary for you based on how long you are staying and then groups the attractions based on their distance from each other so that there is less time wasted travelling and more time spent at the places you want to see. There is so so much to see and do in Barcelona, and our days there consisted of getting up early and getting to the first tourist attraction at about 9/10 in the morning and finishing at the last place around 8pm.
The first attraction on our list was the stunning Sagrada Família (pictured above top), a towering unfinished Roman Catholic Church and UNESCO World Heritage site, designed by Antoni Gaudi, a Catalan architect whose work can be found throughout Barcelona. It was quite difficult to get a photograph of the church without including various cranes and building work apparatus. Even with the different parts under construction, it was still one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture I have ever seen. The intensity of the artistic detail was incredible and really added to its phenomenal overall appearance.
Following our visit to the church, we headed on a half an hour walk through the streets of Barcelona to reach the Avinguda Diagonal (pictured above middle), one of the principal shopping boulevards, full of boutiques, mainstream shops, cafes and restaurants. The avenue was also lined with even more beautiful architecture in the form of apartment buildings, more churches as well as other places of worship. Included in these, are four key buildings designed by various artists: Casa Milà (pictured above bottom), designed by Antoni Gaudi between 1906-1912, Casa Batlló (pictured below), designed by Antoni Gaudi in 1904, Casa Amatller (pictured below), designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch between 1898-1900 as a residence for chocolatier Antoni Amatller, and Casa Lleó Morera (pictured below bottom), designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner in 1902. The latter three make up the three most important buildings in Barcelona’s “Block of Discord”. The beautiful clashing of different architectural styles in such close proximity make this group of buildings stand out but they each manage to fit in with the golden tone of this glowing city.
If you walk further down this main shopping street you get to Plaça de Catalunya (pictured below top), a large square considered to be Barcelona’s city centre full of fountains and statues and is the point where the city’s most important streets meet. Surrounding the square are more mainstream shops, restaurants and tapas bars, and is a great place to stop, as we did, to relax and take in the hustle and bustle of the city.
After leaving the plaza, we arrived at La Rambla, another busy shopping boulevard full of souvenir shops, cafes and bars which stretches for 1.2km and connects Plaça de Catalunya to the Colombus monument down at Port Vell. Just off one of the side streets, is the big, bright and colourful La Boqueria market (pictured below), selling absolutely anything and everything you could imagine. You can buy fruits, smoothies, meats, full meals of different cuisines, clothes, jewellery and souvenirs at this indoor market which dates back over 100 years.
We rounded off our first day in Barcelona by visiting the beautiful Palau Nacional (pictured below) situated on Montjuïc hill. Constructed in 1923, the palace was initially the main site for the 1929 International Exhibition, but since 1934 it has been home to Catalonia’s National Art Museum and holds over 5,000 art works. the palace itself is truly stunning, and you walk past multiple enchanting fountains to get to the front steps. It should definitely be one of the top places to see on a Barcelona travel list!
We began the second day by visiting Parc Güell (pictured below), a large public park designed by Antoni Gaudi from 1900-1914 and consists of various gardens, sculptures and modernist architectural elements. It is such a calming space to just lazily stroll through (particularly appreciated after the mini hike through practically vertical streets to get there!).
Following on from the park, we took a quick trip on the train to reach the Palau de la Música Catalana (pictured below), an absolutely stunning concert hall designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner and built between 1905-1908. Both the exterior and interior of the building are breathtaking, and it is immediately evident as to why over half a million people visit this place each year to view a variety of musical performances from symphonies to traditional Catalan music.
The rest of the day was spent strolling through Barcelona’s hidden streets and visiting more beautiful cathedrals and churches. But there was one place which I had had on my list to visit since arriving, the Poble Espanyol, and it definitely did not disappoint. A short walk from the Palau Nacional, the Poble Espanyol is a stunning and immersive open-air museum which comprises of 117 full-scale buildings including recreated Spanish villages, restaurants and artisan workshops. I absolutely love experiences like this because it appears so separate from the rest of the world, like it is stuck in time. it was very calming and quiet to walk around due to the lack of tourists, and there were lots of places to stop on the walk around to check out. There were little shops which sold the sweetest trinkets from handmade soaps, to jewellery and from handcrafted laces and fabric to gourmet food and different kinds of olive oils. It was a great place to wander around after a busy day and we rounded off our trip that evening eating a huge mixed paella looking down on the inner square and watching the world pass by.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through my (slightly longer) blog piece on Barcelona – it was just so beautiful and we saw so much that I wanted to omit as little as possible.
It should definitely be one of the top places to visit on your travel list, but beware of pickpockets and make sure you have plenty of battery charge in your camera (I learned both of those the hard way)!