(Photo by: SBA73)
The glorious interior of the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família.
Getting the Most Out of Barcelona
Barcelona is Spain’s most popular tourist destination. It is also the third most visited city in Europe – taking a backseat to only London and Paris – and the tenth most visited city in the world. What makes this Catalan city so special? Try eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, some of the best beaches ever, a warm climate in which to enjoy those beaches, and an infrastructure designed exclusively for tourists! Legend says that either Hercules or Hamilcar Barca – he was the great Hannibal’s father – founded Barcelona in 3rd century B.C. I’m rolling with Hercules founding this city; after all, it has Herculean things to do!
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Let’s start by touring what UNESCO thinks is so amazing about Barcelona. After all, this organization travels the world to designate the phenomenal wherever it’s found. The eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Barcelona are:
- Casa Batlló – Antoni Gaudí i Cornet was one of Spain’s most famous architects, spearheading the Catalan Modernist style. Casa Batlló is considered a Gaudí masterpiece, showcasing a playful side to his creativity. Of particular note are the home’s facades and flooring.
- Casa Milà – Another Gaudí creation is Casa Milà. Working with Josep Maria Jujol, Gaudí broke the mold with innovative and controversial design and building materials. Casa Milà boasts a stone facade, wrought iron decor, steel framing, a self-supporting facade, and underground parking.
- Casa Vicens – Yep. Another Gaudí work – he really was influential! What’s notable at this residence is the use of colored ceramic tiles to create beautiful patterns. The home also boasts some impressive gables, buttresses, and rooftop towers that are a must-see!
- Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família – You know who designed this! Built using both the Gothic and Art Nouveau architectural style, this Roman Catholic basilica is actually incomplete. Gaudí oversaw the project until he died in 1926, and work continues to this day on the building.
- Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau – Ladies and gentlemen, we have another architect! Lluís Domènech i Montaner designed this fully functional and breathtaking hospital in operation from 1930 to 2009. Currently, the building is being restored to serve as a museum and cultural center.
- Park Güell – This garden complex sits on Barcelona’s beautiful El Carmel hill and has – you guessed it – Gaudí architecture throughout the grounds. Astounding flora, natural wildlife, and breathtaking views of the city and bay below make Park Güell an oasis inside Barcelona’s busy city limits.
- Palau de la Música Catalana – Another Lluís Domènech i Montaner masterpiece, the Palau de la Música Catalana is a Barcelonan concert hall designed in the glorious Modernist style. Adorned with glamorous embellishments, the concert hall birthed the Catalan arts and cultural movement.
- Palau Güell – Industrial tycoon Eusebi Güell commissioned Gaudí to design his glorious palatial residence and this “home” doesn’t disappoint. Güell threw a ton of parties, and the ceiling in the main party room even has holes where they hung lanterns to make it look like the night sky.
I hope UNESCO didn’t wear you out, because we have a few more things you simply have to see to get the most out of your Barcelona visit. Museums, parks, beaches, this Catalan city has it all! Let’s continue our tour by checking out:
- La Rambla – Located in central Barcelona, La Rambla is a street – yes, a street – lined with beautiful trees. La Rambla is home to the Christopher Columbus Monument, the Gran Teatre del Liceau opera house, the Teatre Principal theater, the Centre d’Art Santa Monica contemporary museum of art, and the Palau de la Virreina Baroque museum.
- Placa Reial – Europeans love their plazas and Barcelona is no exception. The Placa Reial is a great place to hang out, enjoy some Barcelonan food, and listen to live music. There are plenty of clubs in the Placa Reial where you can dance the night away to a variety of music. You’d rather watch Flamenco dancing than dance yourself? You can do that in the Placa Reial as well!
- Barceloneta Beach – As I said at the beginning, Barcelona is known for its beaches. The most popular of these sun and sand oases is Barceloneta Beach. You’ll find a ton of people and action when you check out this beach. There are plenty of beach bars to keep you refreshed, and a walk along the city’s promenade will take you to the rest of the beaches.
- Up on the Roof… – A unique thing to do in Barcelona is to visit one of the many exclusive hotel rooftops overlooking the city. These rooftops have beautiful terraces, refreshing pools, restaurants and bars to refresh the guests, and epic views of the Barcelona skyline. You should be hotel guest to have access to these terraces, but if you’re polite and dressed nicely, you will probably be allowed up.
Okay, Let’s Eat!
I’m sure you can imagine that a tourist destination as popular as Barcelona does not get that way without great food. You’re right! Some of the best eateries in Barcelona are:
- Bacoa – We Americans love our burgers, and you have to try burgers Barcelonan style while in this first-class city. Bacoa Gourmet Burger is one of Barcelona’s most popular burger joints, and the eatery proudly dresses its patties with freshly grown, local ingredients. These burgers are a unique eating experience with ingredients other than “… special sauce, lettuce, cheese…”
- Cal Pep – You have to have tapas while you’re in Spain; it’s the country’s specialty. Sure, you could have tapas at any ol’ location, but we’re getting the most out of Barcelona, so let’s have tapas at Cal Pep. What makes this tapas bar so special? The chefs create new tapas experiences using unique ingredients and there isn’t a menu. You tell your server what you like, and then enjoy a culinary surprise!
- Cat Bar – Vegetarians and vegans need to eat too, and Barcelona’s Cat Bar offers the best veggie burger the city has to offer. This meatless wonder is sure to delight any vegan’s palate, and the bar is fun to boot! The Cat Bar has a punk-rock feel right down to its decor, and the vegan fair is served up with some yummy beer selections. Burgers and beer… enough said!
- Els Pescadors – Another locally sourced restaurant is Barcelona’s Els Pescadors. This upscale seafood eatery only serves daily catches from the Mediterranean Sea; no frozen or trucked-in seafood here! Els Pescadors is literally a world-renowned eatery, and people travel from all over to enjoy the restaurant’s famous cod dishes!
I could keep going, but you’re probably tired of reading and ready to schedule your trip. Don’t let me stop you! Book those tickets and pack those bags! Barcelona, Spain isn’t one of the top ten travel destinations in the world for nothing! No matter what you do in this Spanish city, you will be making the most out of your trip to Barcelona!