Travelor’s Guide to Barcelona

My wife has always wanted to visit Spain.  For me, outside of the language and the love for bull fighting, it was a place I didn’t really know much about.  And I don’t just mean the culture, but the geography as well.  Beyond Madrid and Barcelona, I would have had a hard time naming another city within Spain if asked.

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But that is why I love to travel.  I love to see and experience new things.  And I guess that is why I love photography and videography, as I love to share those experiences with others.

So when my wife told me that Spain was the next place she wanted to visit, I dove right in without knowing much of what to expect from our visit.  And that excited me.  After months of preparation, we finally made the trip in the Spring of 2015.

The first stop on our trip across Spain was Barcelona.  I did have some recollection of Barcelona from the Olympic Games they had held a ways back, and I knew they had a very successful Fútbol team (FC Barcelona).  But outside of that, my knowledge of the city was very limited.

I guess in that regard it is difficult for me to say that the city exceeded my expectations as I didn’t really know what to expect, but I will say that Barcelona did not disappoint.

Top 10 Must See Sites

Barcelona is a big and amazing city, so I could spend literally hours listing all of the various spots that are worth checking out.  However, here are the Top 10 things I recommend people see in Barcelona:

10.  El Drac de Gaudí at Finca Güell

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One of legendary Antoni Gaudí’s gems in Barcelona, we discovered this treasure almost by accident.  We were working our way back to our hotel from Camp Nou (the stadium where FC Barelona plays), and we noticed the dragon gate as we got off at one of the stops.

We didn’t have time to tour the site, but stopping to check out the spectacular dragon ornamented gate is worth it alone.

Recommended Time To See:  1 hour

9.  Casa Vicens

Casa Vicens

We were able to catch some good glimpses of this Antoni Gaudí masterpiece from the city hopper bus that we were on.  True to Gaudi form, the building is an amazing work of art.  Considered one of the first buildings of Art-Nouvaeu, and the first house designed by Gaudí, it was commissioned in 1877 by Manuel Vicens i Montaner, an owner of a brick and tile factory living in Barcelona at the time.

Recommended Time to See:  2 hours

8.  Arc de Triomf

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Situated on the busy Passeig de Lluis Companys, near the Parc de la Ciutadella, the Arc de Triomf is hard to miss.  Built as the main access gate for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair by architect Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas, the front frieze contains the stone sculpture Barcelona rep les nacions (Catalan for “Barcelona welcomes the nations”) by Josep Reynés.

Recommended Time to See:  1/2 hour

7.  La Pedrera

La Pedrera

Another one of Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces that we only got to see from the city hopper buses that we took.  Built between 1906 and 1912, this was the last civil work by Gaudí.  Be careful when trying to locate this building as it can be quite easy to miss from the city hopper buses.

Recommended Time to See:  2 hours

6.  Las Ramblas Street

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If you are looking to see the heart and soul of Barcelona, look no further than Las Ramblas street.  Well known for it’s shopping and night life, Las Ramblas street should be on the list of every visitor to Barcelona.  Whether you are looking to do some shopping, eat at one of the many street cafes that line the street, or just sit and people watch, Las Ramblas street is definitely worth experiencing.

Recommended Time to See:  4 hours

5.  Montjuïc Castle and Cable Car

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Constructed starting in 1640, Montjuïc Castle has seen many battles because of its strategic defensive position on top of Montjuïc mountain.  Once captured by Napolean during the Napoleonic Wars, Montjuïc Castle is most notable for its use as a torture facility for both sides during the Spanish Civil War.

We didn’t have a lot of time, so we didn’t tour the castle.  However, we did take time to walk around the perimeter and check out the fortifications.  Even if you aren’t into castles and history, the ride to the top of Montjuïc mountain via the cable car is worth it for the views.  After taking the cable car to the top, I would recommend walking back down so that you can soak in all of the breathtaking vantages of Barcelona.

Recommended Time to See:  6 hours

4.  Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria

Anyone who is a fan of farmer’s markets will be a fan of Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria.  Fresh meat, seafood, produce, juices, candy, you name it.  Even if you aren’t hungry, walking thru the market just to see all of the merchants at working selling the fruits (excuse the pun) of their hard earned labor is worth it.  I recommend that you snack your way thru the market, grabbing a variety of foods.  What better way to learn about the local cuisine!

Recommended Time to See:  2 hours

3.  Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló

This may be my favorite of Antoni Gaudí’s works.  This house has been remodeled several times, but it was Gaudi’s work in 1904 that made this house famous.

Given the name case dels ossos (House of Bones) locally because of it’s visceral, skeletal look, Casa Batlló is absolutely mesmerizing to look at.  We only got to admire it from the outside, but if you have the time I recommend that you tour the inside.  From the pictures I have seen, it is absolutely gorgeous.

Recommended Time to See:  3 hours

2.  Parc Güell

Parc Güell was one of the places I was most looking forward to seeing after doing some research on Barcelona.  It is a public park composed of gardens and buildings designed by, you guessed it, Antoni Gaudí.  Built between 1900 and 1914, it officially opened to the public in 1926.  One of the most notable treasures in the park is Gaudí’s own house.

We really enjoyed walking thru the park and taking in all of the beauty.  If you really want to experience everything the park has to offer, you are going to want to plan at least a full half day to explore.

Recommended Time to See:  4-8 hours

1.  The Sagrada Família

Toping my list of the top things to see in Barcelona is one of the most famous, if not most beautiful, churches in the world.  The Sagrada Família is arguably Antonio Gaudí’s most famous works, and for good reason.  To call the church breathtaking would be an injustice.  The detail work on the church’s exterior and interior will blow your mind.

If you have the time, you can pay to go up one of the two towers in the church.  One of the towers highlights the nativity and the other the passion.  You get to see the church from a whole other perspective, and the views of Barcelona aren’t bad either.  One thing is for certain, you definitely don’t want to short change your time spent exploring the inside and outside of this cultural treasure.

Recommended Time to See:  4-8 hours

Top Restaurant Recommendation

We ate so much amazing food in Barcelona that it was really hard to pick just one place.  However, in the end my mind kept coming back to one place.

La Flauta

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One of the things we were really anxious to try in Spain were some authentic Spanish Tapas.  After asking around to get some recommendations, La Flauta came up a few times.   It did not disappoint.  The tapas were authentic (unlike some of the stuff you get from your average street café that caters to tourists), and the atmosphere was wonderful.  Definitely worth trying should you ever find yourself in Barcelona.

Trip Advisor Reviews

Top Excursion Recommendations

We didn’t take any excursions while in Barcelona because of time constraints, but I did do quite a bit of research on excursions in the Barcelona area while planning my trip.  Here are some of the top excursions that I had highlighted:

Food Lover Tour

Taste Barcelona Walking Tour

Marta’s Private Paella Cooking Classes

Recommended Length of Visit

It’s always hard to tell people how long they should plan their stay in a certain area because everyone’s interests are different.  When we travel we tend to try and fit in as much as we possibly can, which tends to mean we spend less time in every city we visit.  There is just so much that we want to see and do and so little time.

If you are really excited about visiting Barcelona, it is definitely a city that is worth your time exploring.  There is so much to do and see, you could probably spend a whole week just visiting Barcelona.

At the bare minimum I would recommend that you spend at least 2-3 days in Barcelona if you are going to visit.  Both the Sagrada Família and Parc Güell can justifiably take a large portion of a day to see by themselves.  If you want to save time, I would definitely recommend you check out the Hop-on-Hop-Off Sightseeing Bus Tour.  It’s a great way to efficiently get around the city and not have to rely on public transportation and hailing down taxis.

Coming Up ….

In my next blog post I will talk about our time in Valencia, Spain and highlight some of my favorite aspects of that wonderful city.

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About jhewitt1280

Avid traveler and amateur photo taker. Love to see new places and learn new things.
This entry was posted in 2015, Europe, Spain and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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