The first time I really felt like a traveler was back in 2016, when I went to Barcelona in June. And in case you were wondering, yes, it was steaming hot. But, the sea breeze did help and even encourage me not to toss away my long-sleeved shirt. For those of you who are having trouble pinpointing Barcelona, this is a city in North-East Spain, the capital and largest city of the Catalonia region, located right on the shore of the Balearic Sea.
Now, in Catalonia, the first spoken language is Catalan and then Spanish. But fret not, everyone will understand and speak Spanish. Some will also speak English, especially the young. In case of vocabulary malfunction, turn to sign language – just point to the yummy pastry you have your eyes on and it will come to you.
Barcelona seemed to me like one of the most touristy places I have ever visited. The main reason for that was the huge amount of tourist objectives available. Another reason were the crowds, especially in the city center. And another reason was, of course, my thirst for seeing EVERYTHING.
This, obviously led to the following: by the time I’ve finished my first day, I could barely walk. The next day was even worse. Possible solutions: comfy shoes, breaks, organization and hop-on hop-off bus tickets. I only had the shoes.
Being such a greenhorn at this, I didn’t really make a plan. I only had a list of things to visit. And so, I started checking them off, one by one. First stop – Parc Guëll – not to sound Carlsberg-y, but probably, the best park in the world. Why? It’s a mix between a park and a museum. You’ve got grass and trees and flowers and houses and columns and this amazing terrace created with stones and coloured tiles, so beautifully shaped and so sea-like, I could spend the entire day there (I spent half). And if you think that’s the one you see in all the pictures #barcelona, you are precisely right. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the genius author of this place – Antoni Gaudi. Do google him.
Next on my list were the two famous houses, by the above-mentioned artist and architect. Casa Battlo and La Pedrera. Now, I’ve only entered La Pedrera. The reasoning went like this: I took some pictures of the front of the Casa Battlo, which by the way is by far one of the most impressive structures I’ve seen and while taking pictures, I kept hearing the house is the same on the inside and you’re not seeing anything new. Now, keep in mind that might be wrong, so if you have decided to visit this museum, by all means, do it. There was also another reason for me missing Battlo, which was the ticket price. I was on a low budget and I can tell you museums in Barcelona are not making it easy for you to keep to your budget. The same goes for food. I had a lot of sandwiches there ☺)
So, skipping Battlo, I decided to visit La Pedrera and I was not sorry. Although not as impressive on the outside, the roof of the building is quite an attraction and the ventilation system is really smart. In the exhibition, you could also see Gaudi’s thought process behind his creations, including a simple mock-up of the Sagrada Familia. That might not seem like a big deal but it was one of the things that really struck me and will stay in my mind forever. Not to give spoilers, but it was upside down and mirrors were involved.
Another place I managed to visit, one which seems to be regularly overlooked by tourists, is Palau de la Musica Catalana, a music hall of great architecture and beautiful sound. I visited it as a museum, but you can also buy tickets to see shows there.
Besides different museums, this is a beautiful city to just have a stroll in. The most famous streets are Avinguda Diagonal and Las Ramblas. Here is the heart of the city. The biggest crowd, the most cafés and shops, and the quaint but buzzing La Boqueria – a food market where you can both buy produce and have lunch or dinner. If you go further towards the sea, you’ll also find the Barcelona Cathedral, a gothic structure, as well as Santa Maria del Mar, recently made famous by the novel and now tv-series Cathedral of the Sea.
And, if you get to the sea, you can visit the Maritime Museum, see the harbor and visit the aquarium which is one of the largest in Europe.
In a different part of the city, there is Plaza d’España, where you can find the Magic Fountains. Why “magic”? Because at night, for about one hour or so, they light up in colours and music accompanies them in their water choreography. So, yes, quite magic. But expect huge crowds and lots of hands in the air carrying phones and cameras.
There is also a castle in Barcelona, called Montjuïc. I have never managed to pronounce it correctly, but regardless of the name, it is worth visiting. It’s located on a hill and you can take a cable car there, called “teleférico”. To get to the top of the hill, you can also take the funicular, a sort of train that climbs up the hill.
One day, I also took a short trip to Montserrat. This is an impressive mountain, home to an equally impressive Monastery. Needless to say, the view from the top is amazing. It takes about two hours to get there from Barcelona and there’s another funicular there.
Now, I must admit, I’ve been a very touristy tourist and focused on seeing as many things as possible and forgot about doing things and experiencing the Catalan culture, as I should have. I was young and disorganized and completely in awe with this great city and especially its architecture.
But bear with me through my other stories. I promise it gets better 😉