Barcelona is a stunning city, that blends an esoteric, unique charm with some world class attractions and facilities. While there’s some evidence that Barcelona’s emerging reputation as a tourist destination grates on some of the locals, it’s beyond doubt that a trip to Barcelona leaves you with a mingled sense of wonder and familiarity.
Here’s some of the cool things we did and didn’t do in Barcelona.
We didn’t get robbed.
We’d read a bit about the fairly pervasive culture of pickpocketing in Barcelona, and so took a lot of smart precautions to avoid getting ripped off. Sarah did some awesome bag guarding when I was taking photos, and we were very smart about wearing backpacks where we could see them and guarding our stuff at outdoor cafes.
We visited La Sagrada Familia and did the tour.
This stunning building, still under construction, serves as a monument both to the glory of God and to the impressive foresight of the architect, Antoni Gaudi. The tour was very interesting and included a lot about the history of the building and its designers, artisans, craftsmen and the enduring place Sagrada Familia has in Barcelona’s cultural and physical lifestyle. We’ve seen a lot of cathedrals and churches on this trip, and La Sagrada Familia stands out as being incredibly unique, and stunningly clever in its design.
We went to Parc Guell.
On the back of our newly acquired fascination with the work of Antoni Gaudi, we visited the park that he designed with a friend in the hills of Barcelona. It’s amazing to wander around this space and take in the size of this man’s vision and the achievement of the construction. It’s Dr Seuss-ish – sweeping forms, unexpected turns and everywhere the unabashed use of colour to make statements or draw the eye. Tiled mosaics, bizarre statues, unorthodox and yet enrapturing shapes and designs – the gardens are punctuated and complemented by Gaudi’s natural forms and almost musical harmonies. The crowds are pretty hefty, but we managed to get a few shots without too many people.
We went to the old Olympic Village.
The site of Barcelona’s Olympics has become a huge public space, overseen by the huge white broadcasting tower. The sporting fields used in the games themselves are now a school-holiday attraction, where kids can pay to run the 100m track or score a soccer goal or even play e-sports (which I’m sure aren’t part of the Olympics!). The space is wide open, sun-soaked and very peaceful to explore, perched on the mountain and sometimes offering glimpses of Barcelona’s long, flat skyline, which is punctuated mostly by the spires of La Sagrada Familia or the waterfront casino.
We ate amazing food.
From the local place downstairs where we went to watch the football on a Sunday night with burgers and wine, to the tapas place down near the tourist district, to the lunches we snuck along the way, the food was incredible. The highlight was Singular, a comfortable yet cleanly-appointed restaurant whose gastronomic ethic is reflected in its design and service – clean, friendly, and decidedly nouveau Spanish. With red fried shrimp, scallop cerviche and beef carpaccio, garnished with strawberries and figs with a horseradish cream, an abundance of cheeses and white sangria, we had a marvellous and very filling dinner outside in the balmy evening. Another absolute winner was the local bakery, which furnished us with no shortage of amazing cakes, croissants (2 for 1 euro!) and weird breads.
We roamed around La Rambla.
We went to Barcelona’s Modern Art Museum and saw an exhibition on punk as an art school, then walked the La Rambla area to look around the narrow streets of the old town. We saw some people filming a movie, found a fantastic local food market, and just generally perambulated our way around the city’s byways.
And then we went to Madrid. That’s the next post! More photos as always on Instagram and Flickr!