Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, IMHO. It’s rich with diversity and the architecture is varied and stunning. One man is responsible for many of the most visited structures in Barcelona, and his name is Antoni Gaudí i Cornet.
He was an architect that lived from 1852 through 1926. Gaudí’s works are particularly unique and distinctive and luckily for me mostly concentrated in Barcelona, notably his magnum opus, the Sagrada Família. The still-uncompleted Sagrada Família, is one of the most visited monuments in Catalonia. According to Wikipedia, between 1984 and 2005, seven of his works were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. With 10 buildings alone in Barcelona, I was eager to plan a vacation there.
BUT how does one fit it all in?! Luckily, my travel buddy and I are very skilled at packing a lot into our trips. We both have jobs and unfortunately can’t spend weeks or months in our destinations. So to get the most from our time, we always come up with an itinerary usually weeks in advance. This was certainly true for Barcelona because there is just so much to see and do!
We booked this trip through European Destinations and the itinerary included Barcelona and Ibiza, flights, hotels, transportation to and from the airport, and breakfast for $1074 per person. We were there from September 21 through September 28, 2010.
We stayed at Amrey Diagonal Hotel at Avenida Diagonal. This hotel was modern and classy. The room was small but well appointed and clean. It was also pretty close to the tram.
After we arrived and got settled, we took the train to Glories to Arc de Triomf, walked passed Museo Zoologia to Museu Picasso. The Picasso museum was amazing and enlightened me to the diversity of Picasso’s work. It’s definitely worth a visit. From there, we walked to the Church of Santa Maria del Mar. This Catalan Gothic structure was built between 1329 and 1383. I was expecting Dracula to appear out of the shadows there any minute. The place sent chills up my spine. From there we had dinner at Morelia restaurant and dessert and drinks at Creps al Born.
The next day we went to Plaça de Catalunya to catch the hop on – hop off Barcelona Bus Turistic. We followed the line that would take us to:
- Casa Batlló
- Casa Milà
- Teleferic de Montjuïc
- Castell de Montjuïc
- Sagrada Familia
- Park Güell
- Casa de l’ardiaca
Casa Batlló is a refurbished version of an existing house. Redesigned in 1904, Gaudí incorporated his playful creativity to the many floors and incrassate facades. The line to get in was quite long and the admission was nearly 22€ or $30!
Built during the years 1906–1912, and designed by Gaudí, Casa Milà, or La Pedrera, was initially controversial because of the bold forms of the undulating stone facade and wrought iron decoration of the balconies and windows, designed largely by Josep Maria Jujol. In 1984, it was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. I only saw the outside of this building because it cost another whopping ~23€, but I’ve included some photos of the inside.
Montjuïc, Teleferic de Montjuïc, Castell de Montjuïc
Barcelona’s Montjuïc is referred to as a hill at 600 feet high, but I think it’s more like a mountain, that overlooks the harbor and the southwest part of the city. The eastern side of the “hill” is almost a sheer cliff. At the top sits several fortifications, including the Castle of Montjuïc, where numerous executions took place over the centuries.The top of the hill can be reached using the Funicular de Montjuïc.
The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família is a huge Roman Catholic church designed by Gaudí. Construction of the church began in 1882, but progressed slowly because it relied on private donations for funding and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. Construction passed the midpoint in 2010, with an anticipated completion date of 2026. Despite being incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If I remember correctly, we received a discount on tickets through Barcelona Bus Turistic, that included the church and the museum, but I can’t remember what the cost was. The church is stunning and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. See for yourself.
Park Güell is a huge garden on the hill of El Carmel in the Gràcia district designed by Gaudí and built between 1900 to 1914. It’s one of the largest architectural works in south Europe and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Works of Antoni Gaudí.” The walk (up the hill) to get there was a bit taxing, but the park is beautiful and unique and not too pricey (7€). But it was packed! There’s a cute little house on the grounds and lots of shops all around the entrance.
Apocalyptica and Casa de l’ardiaca
The House of L’Ardiaca was built in the 15th century by order of the Archdeacon Lluís Desplà, who converted it into a Gothic palace. In 1924 it became the site of the Historic Archive of the City. The Apocalyptica is a similar building nearby. These sites are located in the Barri Gòtic, the centre of the Roman city, which is a maze of narrow streets and squares steeped in the city’s past and present.
As you can see, this was a day filled with Gaudí’s treasures! My favorites, by far, were Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, and Casa Batlló, in that order. That day we walked so much I had to soak my feet in hot water that night, OMG!
Our final day in Barcelona, we pre-purchased tickets to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya and Palau de la Música Catalana. Unfortunately, pre-purchasing the tickets to the museum wasn’t the swiftest move because with a little more research I would have learned that admission was free on September 24th (the day we were there). So I needlessly spent 24€ (12€ per person) and they refused to offer me a refund.
Nevertheless, the museum was beautiful and worth the money. I would dedicate at least three hours to explore this expansive building. MNAC’s Romanesque Collection was by far my favorite section of the place. Many of the works there originally adorned rural churches in the Pyrenees and other sites in Old Catalonia.
Later that evening after exploring more of the city, including La Rambla, and we went to Palau de la Música Catalana for a Flamenco show. Flamenco is Spanish folk music and dance from the region of Andalusia in southern Spain. It includes singing, guitar playing, dance and handclaps. It was sexy! Tina bought the tickets so I’m not aware of how much the show was, but it’s worth visiting the building even if you don’t see a show, because the architecture is beautiful and intricate.
More Pictures of the City
Overall I would suggest more than three days in Barcelona and I’d stay longer if I get the chance to go back again. There were sites we just didn’t make it to and if it was a different time of year I would have liked to spend some time on the beach. But we got plenty of beach in once we left Barcelona and arrived in Ibiza!