The City I CAN’T believe I still Love and that I actually made a Bucket List for Barcelona, Spain!!!
So, you’re probably looking at this heading and thinking, “What on earth does she mean? (I would love to insert a profanity here but this reference will have to suffice since I don’t want to offend anyone) ” Well, put simply, my wallet got stolen in Barcelona, and if if that isn’t enough of a reason to hate a place, then I don’t know what is!! But I don’t hate Barcelona. I really couldn’t, even if I tried. In fact, I actually think I kind of love Barcelona (and yes, it’s serious).
Why do I love this city so much, a city whose thievery betrayed my trusting nature? Well, Barcelona is a magical city of possibility and fantasy. A world of wonder that is embodied by the multiple works of architectural master Gaudi, who displays an attitude of endless possibility and wonder in all of his innovative creations (And for me to say this is a big deal because I am not a huge architecture person, but I LOVE GAUDI and Catalan Modernism in general), His designs defy logic and expectation, and yet generate a beauty and magnetism that I have never seen before. Because of Gouda’s designs, Barcelona feels like a dream world that couldn’t possibly be real. But it is!!! And the enchanting beauty of this city gives your soul everything you never knew you wanted.
And that’s kind of how the whole of Barcelona is, full of endless, dream-like possibilities that are made even more majestic as you look out upon the Mediterranean Sea. So as you stroll along the streets and admire the fantastical world of Gaudi, you inhale a hint the smell of ocean spray, mixed in with the exotic smells of the tapas cooking in a nearby Catalan kitchen. Your ears perk up as you hear the sexy and exciting sounds of Flamenco in the air, as people all over La Ronda dance the night away in some of the best clubs that Europe has to offer. The spices of the food, the evocativeness of the tango, the majesty of the Mediterranean, and the creativeness of the architecture all intertwine to create a beautiful, exciting world where anything is possible. But to understand Barcelona fully, you need to visit this magical, urban oasis for yourself, which is why I created the Ultimate Bucket List for Barcelona, Spain (and if my eternal praise isn’t one of the great reasons to visit Barcelona, Spain then I don’t know what is). .
WARNING: Watch out for pickpockets which are EVERYWHERE!!! I had my wallet stolen in the metro so be careful. Also note that Spain takes mostly debit cards and NOT credit cards, so plan accordingly.
The Ultimate Bucket List for Barcelona, Spain
- La Sagrada Familia – Okay, so don’t hate me for saying this, but when I ascended the metro stairs (take metro Lines 2 or 5 to the Sagrada Familia Station) and first set eyes upon this architectural masterpiece, I wanted to exclaim, “Really? THIS is what everyone has been raving about? (This thought was dripping with sarcasm by the way)” I would later find out that the cranes and other, un
attractive building instruments that surround the church, are actually there because, after more than 130 years, the building is still unfinished. This is because funds dried up for the project, which was originally commissioned as atonement for all the city’s sins of modernity. And while the outside is impressive in scale and stature, I feel like the real beauty of this church is discovered once you enter the building. Inside, you experience the pure awesomeness that is Gaudi’s
genius. Everywhere you turn, there are vibrant, colorful facades that depict a multitude of religious events. And along with this innovative and vibrant color scheme, the building is adorned with a series of swirling lines and bulging towers that are inspired by the irregularities of nature itself. There is absolutely nothing “traditional” about this building and even if you hate churches, you will love this one for it’s color scheme, creativity, and modernity; three qualities
that make this building unlike any other that I have ever seen. And if you only see one thing in Barcelona, this should be it. It is just a work of mesmerizing, expectation defying, beauty that you have to see to believe. Now, although this church is essentially a building site, the completed sections and museum may be explored between 9am and 8pm (April-September) and 9am – 6pm (October -March). But, get there EARLY or stay LATE because the church does get crowded around the middle of the day.Tickets are available for €15 and do not include an audio guide or tickets to the towers in the Nativity and Passion Facades ( a ticket for an audio guide and the tower entrance is €14. An audio guide alone costs €7) .Guided tours are also available, (50 minutes, €24), but I opted for the cheaper, and equally informative, audio tour , for which you just need an ID. Enter from Carrer de Sardenya and Carrer de la Marina and get ready for something unlike anything you have ever seen.
- Park Güell – This sprawling, urban center of nature, is where Gaudí experimented in the art of landscape gardening. This park is a unique place that enchants the mind and intrigues the senses as Gaudi’s passion for natural forms, magically manipulates the artificial into something that seems more natural than anything found in nature.The park is mostly wooded, with pathways that connect you to a multitude of buildings and museums that are worth a look. For the best views, head to Turó del Calvari
in the southwest corner. Another area of interest is just inside the main entrance, on Carrer d’Olot, where the park’s Centre d’Interpretaciò is located, in the Pavelló de Consergeria; a curvaceous, porter’s house that displays an exhibition on Gaudí’s building methods and the history of the park.As you head up the steps from the entrance, which are guarded by a mosaic dragon, head to the Sala Hipóstila or the Doric Temple. This temple is a forest of 88 stone columns, some of which lean like mighty trees that have been altered by the weight and passage of time. And as you ascend further up the hill, you will encounter a broad open space that sits on top of the Sala Hipóstila. In this area atop the hill, the Banc de Trencadís is the centerpiece, which is a tiled, meandering bench that snakes around the perimeter like a lazy river. There is also a spired house, over to the right, known as the Casa-Museu Gaudí, where Gaudí spent the final years of his life. It contains some furniture created by him, as well as a multitude of other memorabilia.To get to Park Güell, walk from the Lesseps metro stop, where signs guide to the park’s main entrance. You can also take Bus 24 to an entrance near the top of the park. The park is extremely popular, so book ahead online to ensure that you can get in. The entrance fee is €8 and admission is between 8am and 9.30pm, from May-August, and betw
een 8am and 8pm from September-April.
- La Pedrera – As you emerge from the Diagonal metro station (metro lines 3 and 5), La Pedrera will appear to undulate, like a series of waves rolling along the shore. However, closer inspection reveals that this combined apartment and office building is another another optical illusion of architectural delight, created by none other than G
audi himself. Formally called Casa Milà, after the businessman who commissioned it, it is now known as La Pedrera, since the rippling, grey, stone facade of the building resembles a rock quarry more than it does the dignified office and home of a Spanish Aris
ocrat.One of the many unique features of this building is that it was the first strutter to ever be built with a car parking space inside. Now, while you may not want to wander around the garage in the basement, since the novelty of indoor parking has long since faded away, the top-floor apartment, attic, and roof, are all open for you to explore.The roof is an awe-inspiring , must-see feature of this building, with it’s chimney stacks that resemble medieval,
multi-colored knights, who appear to be warding off some unknown, invisible foe. There is also an enchanting, encapsulated room, near the edge of the roof. Inside this room, are a light and a small water fountain, that appear to almost dance with one another, across the wall, and create a mesmerizing cascade of light that is not to be missed.Once you finish exploring the roof, descend one floor and enter a museum that is dedicated to Gaudi’s work. Here, one can witness this architect’s affinity for parabolic arches, which are EVERYWHERE (but they’re beautiful so it’s okay).The next floor down is an apartment that contains the furnishings of a well-to do, Spanish family in the 20th century. Meander through the apartment and allow yourself to be transported, back in time, to a completely different world; a world that is an exquisite fusing of the past, with Gaudi’s sensuously curved rooms of the future.Tickets to enter La Pedrera cost €22, with admission times throughout the day and during the night. During the day, the building is open between 9am-6.30pm, with limited hours between 7pm-9pm in the evening, seven days a week.
- Casa Batlló – To get to another one of Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces (I swear, there will be more to this list than
architecture!!), take the metro to the Passeig de Gràcia station (lines L2, L3 and L4). This residential buildi
ng stands out among the rest of the street because it mimics a sensational, aquatic hallucination, with explosions of blue, mauve and green tile, that adorn the entire exterior. Wave-shaped window frames and balconies compliment this ocean- like motif, as the entire structure rises to an uneven, blue-tiled roof.Upon closer inspection, the exterior balconies resemble the bony jaws of a fearsome beast, while the roof resembles the bones in an animal’s back. The roof also has tiles that mimic shiny scales, which actually appear to change colour as you walk around. As a result, this building feels more like a living being than an immobile, urban edifice. Also examine the roof pavement, which contains stylised images of an octopus and a starfish. And all this is just the outside!Inside the building, light wells shimmer with tiles of deep sea blue. Gaudí loathed the straight line, so even the staircase winds you up and around to the main floor, where the salon overlooks the streets below. Swirls or blue and green mesmerize you as everything twists into a sunlike lamp; an aesthetic that makes it appear as though the entire room is being sucked into one, enormous ball of light.Casa Batlló gets REALLY crowded. Okay, that’s an understatement. This building gets so packed, that you literally feel like a cow, that is being herded from one room to another (along with fifty other cows who have no idea what to do or where to go). So, save yourself some hassle and buy your tickets, for €23.50, online.Also avoid crowds by either arriving early or staying late, since the house is open between 9am and 9pm everyday, with last admission at 8pm. Once you enter the building, don’t forget your audioguide, which comes it ten different languages and has informative commentary on twenty different sites in the building (Totally worth it so that you know what you’re actually looking at).
- Museu Picasso – See!! I told you there would be something on this list that didn’t involve Gouda’s architecture. Now, I have not actually been here, because I tried to visit when the museum was closed. But, I want to make sure that you don’t make the same mistake because this place sounds awesome. And I mean, it’s Picasso!! How can you go wrong? The first task, is to get here. Your best bet it to take the metro and get off at the Juame I stop on the Yellow Line(L4). Because the museum isn’t immediately identifiable, keep a look out for appropriate signage. But if you are afraid of getting lost, just get off at the metro stop and go down Carrer de la Princes. Then, turn right on Carrer de Montcada and you’re there!!!Just looking at the exterior of the building, with it’s five contiguous medieval stone mansions, you get the sense that the Museu Picasso is something different, something special that deserves to be noticed. And it is. One can become intrigued by the structure itself, with scenic courtyards, open galleries and ornate staircases that have been historically preserved.The art collection itself contains some of Picasso’s best work from his formative years, (So don’t be disappointed if you don’t see his later, more famous works here) with enough material from his subsequent years to give you an understanding of the man’s versatility and true genius. If nothing else, you come away appreciating Picasso’s unique style and his never-ending search for new and innovative forms of artistic, self-expression.The museum’s permanent collection is housed in Palau Aguilar, Palau del Baró de Castellet and Palau Mecca, while the temporary exhibits are kept in The Casa Mauri and the Palau Finestres Admission toe the permanent collection is €14, while admission to the temporary exhibits is €11, with a reduced admission of €4.50 between 3-7pm on Sundays (The first Sunday of the month is free). The museum is open between 9am and 7pm, Tuesday through Sunday, with extended hours til 9:30 pm on Thursdays (I went on a Monday when it was closed).
- La Catedral – To get here, you can also get off at the Juame I metro stop on the Yellow Line(L4), so it makes sense to visit
La Cathedral and Museu Picasso in the same day since they are so close to one another. Now, compared to all the modern architecture in Barcelona, La Cathedral may, at first, seem a little bland. But don’t let the traditional, European, Gothic architecture deter you from going inside since this church is Barcelona’s central place of worship and spirituality. I mean, the church’s main facade offers an astounding first impression, with finely decorated gargoyles that are ensconced in an assortment of other stone intricacies.The interior is a broad, voluminous space that is divided, by slim pillars, into a central nave and two aisles. Historically, the cathedral is significant because it is one of the few churches in Barcelona that was spared by the anarchists in the civil war, so much of its original ornamentation remains intact.In the first chapel on the right, the main crucifixion figure above the altar is Sant Crist de Lepant. This religious figure was said to be on Don Juan’s flagship and helped protect it from an incoming cannon ball.As you move to the middle of the central nave, timber is expertly sculpted into choir stalls. The coats of arms on the stalls belong to members of the Barcelona chapter of the Order of the Golden Fleece. Also take a moment to look at the the exquisite depiction of the Virgin Mary and Child on the pulpit. A
broad staircase before the main altar leads you down to the crypt, which contains the tomb of Santa Eulàlia, one of Barcelona’s two patron saints. The reliefs on the alabaster sarcophagus, executed by Pisan artisans, recount some of her tortures and, along the top strip, the removal of her body to its present resting place.For an excellent view of medieval Barcelona, head to the cathedral’s roof and tower, by taking the elevator from the Capella de les Animes del Purgatori near the northeast transept.Next, head to the leafy cloister, with its fountains and flock of 13 geese. The geese represent the age of Santa Eulàlia at the time of her martyrdom.Wander across the lane into the 16th-century Casa de l’Ardiaca, which houses the city’s archives. You may stroll around the supremely serene courtyard, cooled by trees and a fountain; observe the postal slot, which is decorated with swallows and a tortoise. The swallow is said to represent the swiftness of truth and the tortoise represents the plodding pace of justice.You may visit La Cathedral from 8am-12.45pm and 5.15-7.30pm, Monday through Friday. You can also visit between 8am-8pm on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free,but there is a fee if you want to visit the choir stalls (€3), chapter house (€7) or roof (€3). To visit all three of these areas, enter the church at the ‘donation entrance’ between, 1pm and 5pm, since this entrance is less crowded.
- Strolling along La Rambla – Barcelona’s most famous street is not just a tourist magnet (Even though La Rambla is jam packed full of camera wielding tourists). More importantly, this famous avenue of pedestrian delights serves as a window into the soul of Catalan culture. This is because La Rambla is surrounded by an assortment of cultural centres, theatres and distinctive architecture; all of which are emblematic of the Catalan world. La Ramble is also flanked by narrow traffic lanes, that are adorned with a multitude of trees, giving the street a more natural feel. The middle of La Rambla is a broad pedestrian boulevard that is dripping with hordes of people from all facets of society. These people converge on this epicenter of culture, every day of the week, until the wee hours of the morning since Barcelona is known for it’s exotic and vibrant nightlife. A stroll along this famous lane, is epitomized by pure, sensory overload, as souvenir hawkers,, pavement artists, mimes and living statues all converge on you, in an effort to create business and make a living .While totally overwhelming, this street is a great way to expose yourself to the buffet of culture that Barcelona has to offer. La Ramblas is primarily pedestrianized, so the best way to get here is via the metro. You can get off at the Drassanes stop (Green Line, L3), the Liceu stop (Green Line, L3), or the Catalunya stop (Green Line, L3 or the Red Line, L1).
- Montjuic – This cultural center and park is located at the very heart of Barcelona, right next to the city’s Plaza Mayor, or
town square. Because Montjuic is enormous in size, give yourself at least a full day to explore the multitude of museums and cultural complexes that are found throughout this area.While some areas are not so great, an resemble a cheesy haunt for die hard souvenir hunters, other buildings serve as a window into the world of Spanish eras gone by since these edifices were created specifically for the Spanish crafts section of the 1929 World Exhibition. While you’re here, take your time and meander from Andalucía to the Balearic Islands, savoring excellent copies of traditional, Spanish architecture.To get to the park, get off at the Parallel station on the Green line (L3). I suggest that you enter the park from Avila, beneath a towered medieval gate, and bare right. Montjuic’s information office is located here and contains free maps that are quite helpful in navigating this enormous space. These maps will contain an assortment of site, like the Plaza Mayor, an Andalucian barrio (district), a Basque street, Galician and Catalan quarters, and even a Dominican monastery. Many of the buildings here also house dozens of restaurants, cafes, bars, craft shops and artisan workshops that are delightful to explore. Also try and take a cable car to the top of Montjuic, for some lovely views of the Mediterranean Sea.Try and save some time for the Fundació Fran Daurel (€12), which contains an assortment of unique works of modern art, from such masters as Picasso, Miró, and even more contemporary icons like Miquel Barceló. The building also houses a scenic sculpture garden, with 27 sculptures that you can walk through and explore. The park is open between 9am and 8pm Monday, til midnight Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, and til 3am Friday and Saturday. Entering the park is free, while entrance to any of the buildings within Montjuic requires an admission ticket.
- Catalan Cuisine – The Restauranteurs of Barcelona have done an exceptional job of recreating traditional, Catalan
cuisine, with a distinctive, modern twist. Eateries throughout the city have reinvented such classic dishes as Pa amb tomaquèt (Bread with tomato rubbed on top. Can also be served with garlic, ham, and olive oil), Canelons (a pasta roll stuffed with codfish, minced meat, or spinach), Escudella (a hearty sausage, pasta, and vegetable stew), Bolets (mushrooms that people love and actually HUNT for), Embutidos and Butifarras (17 different types of meats and sausages), Fideuà (Noodle paella that is usually served with seafood and sometimes even black squid ink), Allioli (garlic based cream sauce), and calcots (spring onions that are charred on a barbecue and then dunked in a romenesco sauce that is made with nuts and red peppers. Much better than it sounds). So, meander around Barcelona and discover some modern interpretations of Catalan classics. Restaurants like Moments (Passeig de Gràcia, 38-40), Cera 23 (Carrer de la Cera, 23), and Tickets Bar (Av. del Paraŀlel, 164) are great examples of cuisine in Barcelona done right.
- Palau de la Música Catalana – This concert hall hosts nightly flamenco performances, which I highly recommend. But. this building is not only known for the performances it hosts, because the Modernist architecture here stands out as something quite extraordinary. For this reason, Palau de la Música Catalan deserves to be explored and appreciated for its symphony of tile, brick, sculpted stone, and stained glass; all of which combine, to create a s
parkling gem of a building.On the outside, the principal facade contains a series of mosaics, floral capitals and sculpture that come together to
create an exceptionally beautiful represention of Catalan music. As you enter the main foyer, marvel at the tiled pillars, but be sure to head upstairs and enjoy the richly colored auditorium, with a ceiling of blue-and-gold stained glass. This glass glistens and dances before your eyes, as it reflects the shimmering sunlight from a crystalline skylight above.To get here, take the L1 or L4 metro line to the Urquinaona stop. Don;t get here too early though because operating hours are 10am-3:30pm, with hours extended to 6pm on Easter, and in the months of July and August. Tickets to enter the building cost €11, while tickets that include a guided tour cost €18 (I did the tour because it was very informative and gave me greater appreciation for the beauty of the building).