Where do I start with Antoni Gaudi? The man is simply a genius. Built in part by him, and still under construction more than a century after his death, the Sagrada Familia is without a doubt Barcelona’s crowning jewel. Whether it was back in 1992, when the Summer Olympics was held in the city, or 10 years ago, I don’t know the exact moment the church hooked me. The most beautiful church I’ve ever seen, so grand in design and concept, it leaves me speechless.
Climb. While the church interior is amazing, the exterior viewed from one of the towers is just as beautiful. The view from below simply doesn't do justice when you see the intricate architectural details up-close. We booked to go up the Nativity Façade tower, however, the elevator had some technical issues during our visit so we were diverted to the Passion Façade tower instead. So, should you go up, choose Nativity Façade as it provides a better bird’s eye view of Barcelona, and of course, it is the façade that Gaudi designed himself.
What a way to spend the morning on a classic sidecar motorcycle along the majestic avenues and charming alleys of the city. From Barceloneta Beach to the La Rambla promenade, the half-day tour with Piotr of Brightside was the perfect way to get oriented with, and a very unique way to see the the city. While driving around, everyone was taking pictures of us on the motorcycle, so it was fun to be sort of a "tourist attraction" for a few hours.
In the afternoon, I left mom at the apartment as I went on a Street Art Walking Tour of the historically rich neighborhoods of El Borne and the Gothic Quarter with Barcelona Street Style Tour. Barcelona street art can be described as happy, bright, young, naïve, and childlike and it is fascinating that those found all over the walls of these two neighborhoods have been around for years, and some even decades. The free tour definitely opened my eyes to a lot of new (and creative) details visible at every corner and insights about other people’s lives and circumstances.
Urban artist in the city have limited options to display their work without getting in trouble, so there are fewer murals around Barcelona. Most of street art is relegated to doorways and persianas, commissioned by shop owners to offer breathing space for street culture.
It was actually our second time at Park Güell today, it was one of the stop-overs of the Brightside tour earlier, albeit only to the free zone of the park. The afternoon was spent on exploring the monumental zone where most of Gaudi’s works are. Once again, the architect has left me speechless, Park Güell is Gaudi at his best. It is amazing how he plays with different shapes and colors and mixing different styles.
Admission and Best time to go. The park is worth a visit regardless of time of day, but in my opinion, late afternoon to sunset is best, as it offers a spectacular view of the city including his other masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia. Also, entrance is free for most of the park, however it is €7.50 for the monumental zone. Make sure to book in advance to avoid waiting for hours to enter as only 400 people per time slot is permitted.
Regardless of cultural or religious value of the Benedictine Abbey of the Santa Maria de Montserrat, the natural beauty of the mountain range, with its unique rock formations, is an intriguing attraction unto itself and is definitely worth a day trip from Barcelona if only to take in the stunning views. While at the monastery, we were lucky enough to chance upon the Escolonia de Montserrat, a choir composed entirely of 14-year old kids, and one of the oldest in the country.
Buy. Approaching the monastery, there is a local market where Catalan products such as oil, liquor and honey are being sold. It is a great place to buy local produce as they are being sold by the local farmers and artisans themselves. Try out the various cheeses and bring some home.
During the time of our visit, restoration of La Pedrera (Casa Mila’s) façade was on-going, hence I can’t claim to have seen the building in its entirety. However, I came here for the chimneys which reminded me of the "Lord of the Rings" or Dr. Fate’s helmet from DC Comics. Anyway, this unique space is perhaps one of the best rooftops in the world.
Climb. There is a hidden stairway off the patio which servants used in the old days, so if the queue on the lift to the rooftop is quite long, ask an attendant to direct you to it. Be sure to be fit though as the climb is 8 floors up.
Visited Casa Batllo for Magic Night, where we enjoyed live music while having drinks in an open-air setting, at the atrium of Casa Batllo. The building is definitey another one of Gaudi’s masterpieces, with an amazing history and curiosities found in it. I just can’t decide which one I like better, Casa Mila or Casa Batllo, they just both appeal to me.
Save. There is a surcharge of €4 when buying tickets at the entrances of Casa Batllo and Casa Mila, so it is advisable to pre-book online.
You know you’re going to be experiencing something weird upon seeing the exterior of the Dalí Theatre and Museum, with all those giant eggs crowning the parapets and the loaves of bread decorating its outside walls. Designed by Salvador Dalí himself, it not only houses the largest and most diverse collection of his works, the building is one of his great works itself, achieving his goal of creating a space that somehow recreates the experience of entering his imagination.
Located between Barcelona and Costa Brava, Girona is one gorgeous town with medieval walls, narrow cobbled streets, and the Girona Cathedral dominating its skyline. I don’t know how it is like nowadays, having become a hotspot for fans of a certain TV show, but wandering and getting lost in the small alleys is such a joy to experience. If there was one place I would have loved to spend more time on during this trip, Girona would be it.
You can almost feel history unfold as you stroll along the maze-like alleys of Barri Gotic in the heart of old Barcelona. It is also has a very hip and contemporary vibe, so the neighborhood is not just for the history buffs and the culture vultures. There is just so much to see and do in this bustling part of the city.
Visit. The beautiful gothic Barcelona Cathedral is free to visit, however, make sure you are dressed modestly in order not to be turned away at the door.
The AirBnB in Barcelona was simply topnotch. It was on the topmost floor of an old apartment building, yet modern and minimalistic, and just a couple of blocks away from Sagrada Familia. Most memorable of course, was our host, Fabio, who treated us like family. He and mom bonded pretty well.