Discover Barcelona for a Vacation
Summer In The City of Barcelona
Barcelona – a famous soccer team, host of the 1992 Olympics,
one of Europe’s oldest cities. Whilst Barcelona is not the Capital City in
Spain in an administrative sense, it is arguably Spain’s capital of culture,
and certainly somewhere worth visiting for a vacation.
Barcelona is an exciting city where culture, tradition, and
energy pulses through this Spanish metropolis. Located on Spain’s north eastern
coast in the province of Cataluña, it arguably offers the most diverse tourist attractions
and cultural experiences of any of the major cities in the world.
Some fast facts – officially part of Spain yet Barcelona’s
mother tongue is Catalan, yet most people will speak Spanish as a secondary
language. The city has its origins in Roman times when it was called Barcino –
making it a much older city than Madrid. The city is flanked by two mountains –
Montjuic and Tibidabo with the centre of the city on the plain between them.
The city is the spiritual home of Modernista – the style typified by Gaudi –
which influences much of the city's diverse architecture. The city is also home
to a beach (several in fact) which places the city alongside the Mediterranean coast.
The city has a mass of attractions and shops to explore by
day and pulsates with typically Catalan nightlife into the early hours. But
some of the most exciting areas to visit are:
The Gothic Quarter –
Barri Gotic – The heart of the original walled city of Barcino. Here you
can lose yourself in winding narrow streets leading to beautiful squares
flanked with shops and eateries. The architecture here is amongst some of the
oldest in the city, and grand stone buildings tower above the streets. The
Cathedral of Barcelona is located here with impressive cloisters and gardens
and stunning interiors. To delve deeper into the city’s ancient history you can
venture underground in the history museum to tour the foundations of the
original roman settlement. In this historical district you really get a
fairytale feel which is quintessentially European in its appeal. It is easy to get
here via the metro system – with Liceu serving as the best stop.
Eixample & The
Passeig de Gracia – when the Gothic Quarter was deemed too small to meet
the needs of the growing city the Eixample (literally expansion in Catalan) was
developed. This part of the city is laid on a grid system, not too dissimilar to
New York, with one exception being ‘Diagonal’ a street intersecting straight
through the grid. This district is where the wealthy Barcelonans lived. This is
reflected in the grandeur of the buildings and the architecture on offer. This is
the home of Modernista where the finest examples of this type of architecture
can be found. The best street to explore is the Passeig de Gracia – Barcelona’s
answer to Madison Avenue or May Fair. Here
you will find two of Gaudi’s most famous creations – The Casa Battlo and The
Casa Mila – both famed for the distinctive and evocative architecture styles –
they often come to symbolise the city and are well worth a visit. Here too you
will find some of Barcelona’s trendiest bars and restaurants as well as big department
stores. The best metro stop to explore this area is Passeig de Gracia
Sagrada Familia - The symbol that represents Barcelona around
the world is Gaudi’s church the Sagrada Familia or sacred family. This is Gaudi’s
unfinished masterpiece which towers stories high into the Barcelona skyline. It
dominates the city from any vantage point and is well worth a visit. The
Sagrada Familia can be exceptionally busy – with long admission queues. The
best advice is to get there as early as possible to explore the Sagrada Familia
without excessive queuing and to be able to appreciate its beauty without
thousands of people bustling past. The best metro stop is the Sagrada Familia
La Rambla – Arguably the most famous street in Barcelona running from The Placa de Catalunya down to
Colon – Christopher Columbus’ statue overlooking the sea – this is the hub of
activity day or night. Street entertainers and market store holders flank this pedestrian
throughway. You should take care in this
area as it is here where most of the pickpockets in the city operate, but being
vigilant enables you to enjoy this street and its unique charms. Here you will
find a public drinking fountain, which if you sip from it, you will be destined
to return to Barcelona. It is best to
avoid eating or drinking in this area as prices here are amongst some of the
highest in the city. The best metro stops are Catalunya – which is the top end
of the street, or Drassanes where the street meets the sea.
Barceloneta – this is the historic home of the Barcelona fishermen and women. This area has a
distinct village atmosphere, with narrow lanes and tree lined squares. It is
flanked by the marina on one side and the open sea on the other. It is a
largely residential area, but is a great place to take in a unique view of the
city by the sea. You can get the metro to Barceloneta station or alternatively
use the cable car which runs from Montjuic to St Sebastia.
Montjuic – a large portion of the city is dedicated to the park which flanks the side of Montjuic
hill. This area has undergone many facelifts since its days as an Iberian settlement.
It’s latest overhaul was when the city hosted the 1992 Olympic Games. Much of
the legacy of the games is evident with world class sporting facilities dotted
over the hill side. Other highlights include the Palace of Catalunya – built for
the 1920s world exhibition, it is a stunning architectural building dominating
the route in to Montjuic from Placa de Espanya it is also home to a world class
art collection. In front of this sits the Magic Fountain – which illuminates on
certain nights of the week and is choreographed to a stirring score – a truly
magical away to start or end any trip to Barcelona.
From personal experience one of the best ways to cram all of the sites in is to use a Barcelona Card available from the Barcelona Tourist Board. This card allows unlimited travel on the metro and a number of free or discounted entry tickets for a large number of attractions for the duartion of the validity of the card. You can also book these cards online in advance of your trip.
This is just a flavour of the numerous things to see and
explore in Barcelona, the best thing is to discover the hidden charms of the
city and see for yourself why this is arguably one of the most diverse and
exciting cities in the world. Viva Barcelona!