Popularly referred to as the second capital of Spain after Madrid, Barcelona is an integration of historical architecture and new world structures. With its quiet streets and beautifully maintained surroundings, it is a perfect amalgamation of tradition and modernity, discovers Dhwani Giri.
Brimming with history and full of innovative spirit, this Mediterranean city is all about having fun. Enjoy the myriad restaurants, cafés and theaters packed with visitors and tourists from all over the globe. The weather is mild enough to support palm trees and parrots in droves, and there’s loads to do for all kinds of travelers – outdoors enthusiasts, shoppers, foodies and art aficionados. From its scintillating churches to its perfect blend of culture, class and harmony – here’s why Barcelona should be the next place on your travel list.
MUST SEE PLACES
La Sagrada Familia Church
Designed by Anton Gaudi, this unfinished yet hauntingly beautiful over 100 years old church should be #1 on your must see list. Famed to be one of the most eccentric constructions, this church is Barcelona’s most visited tourist attraction. It is free to see from outside but to explore the insides you need a couple of free hours as the ticket queue itself takes up about two hours in waiting. Late afternoons are the best time to visit the place since the mornings and evenings are rather crowded.
The Magic Fountain of Montjuic
This is a one of a kind, extraordinary magic fountain show. You’ll feel the magic creeping into the atmosphere as the show starts off with extravagant lighting, music and water. Built in 1929, it is also one of the most visited places in Barcelona and sees approximately 2.5 million visitors on a yearly basis. In the summer, the shows from Thursday to Sunday are free, so make sure you set an evening aside to witness the amazing show unravel.
Set beautifully in a series of gothic structures, this museum features Pablo Picasso’s lesser known works and sketches from his formative years as an artist. Picasso lived in Barcelona from 1895-1904 and his work was largely influenced by Barcelona. The museum does not have his famous painting but does put together a very intriguing collection of Picasso’s sketches and artwork that demonstrates his growth and development as an artist. The queues for tickets are usually long so ensure you make prior bookings as part of a tour package. The first Sunday of every month allows visitors free entry into the museum and every Sunday after 3pm is free.
La Rambla Street
Once you enter this street, you’ll wish it would never end as it is lined with trees, cafes and souvenir kiosks. It isn’t a spectacular sight but it provides for a pleasant stroll and lets you enjoy Barcelona in its real form. Always open and free, the street is safe to visit in the day and evening, however you should be aware of your bags/pockets at all times. Pickpockets are quite common in this part of Barcelona.
If you can see Barca play a match on their home ground, then that is the best Camp Nou experience you can ask for. The vibes, the exhilarating feeling of cheering for a team along with thousands of other people is a larger than life experience. The Camp Nou stadium and the FCB museum is a must visit in Barcelona. It also has one of the largest Nike stores in Europe packed with Barcelona merchandise. It has an admission fee that is subjected to change from time to time but rest assured the admission fee is completely worth the experience.
Park Guell by Gaudi
A UNESCO world heritage site, this is hands down one of the most beautiful places you will visit in all of Barca. Parl Guell is located on Carmel Hill which means quite a long uphill walk if you’re planning to take a bus to the foot of the hill. If you’re not a walker, then take a taxi to the front gate of the park. The original plan for Park Guell was to build a residential garden village of sorts with about 60 houses. However, this didn’t click as a business idea and hence was made into a park that became public. Tickets for the park can be booked online, so try to do that and avoid a queue.
This is one of the most scenic mountains and is home to one of Europe’s finest amusement parks and a church. Rising to the North West, the mountain provides an out of the world view of the city and the coastline. To get here, you can either take the vintage tram which connects to a mountain railway or take a bus that drops you directly at Tibidabo hill. The skywalk, the view and the amusement park are all worth the money and time.
This 38 storey skyscraper is one of the most important landmarks and one of the most splendid looking structures in all of Barcelona. 50, 693 as m in total, 30,000 sq m of which are offices and 3,210 are technical facilities, 8,132 are services including an auditorium and 9,132 sq m is separately allocated for parking. It is said to have cost a whopping 130 million Euros to build and is worth every single euro spent on it.
Open all year and free to visit, Montserrat is a range of mountains with a monastery and basilica one hour away from Barcelona. Take in the amazing view; the panoramic view of rock formations is one of the calmest places you will ever visit.
Santa Maria del Mar
One of Barca’s most beautiful churches located in the Ribera district, Santa Maria is the icon of Catalan Gothic. The church is one of the most important landmarks of Barcelona. The church is complete with grand stained glass windows and gothic architecture, soaring columns and 3 naves. If you are an architecture enthusiast or just have a general liking for pretty buildings, this is a must visit.
Indulge in Wine Tasting
We know this has secretly been on your bucket list. Indulge in some wine tasting in Barcelona and learn all there is to know about wine through this delicious experience that is also highly educational. The guided tour includes tasting several wine flavours of various colours and fragrances coupled with some local tasty snacks.
Take a hike up Montjuic
For a breathtakingly spectacular view of the city, take a hike up Montjuic and find a spot that isn’t too crowded with tourists. Let the foggy grey skies and the lush green trees paint one of the most serene paintings for your eyes. You can also explore the Palau Sant Jordi and the buildings from the Olympic Games of 1922 that are still intact.
If you are an adventure lover and love trying new experiences, bridge jumping is something you should not miss out on. Jump off a local bridge in Barcelona (with the guidance of a professional, of course) and feel the adrenaline soar. You have the option of choosing the intensity of the jump as well. The feeling of tearing down the panoramic view of lush green trees, bright blue skies and cold wind in your hair is something else.
Swim in the Mediterranean
We know you want to do this the most; especially if you’re from a place where it is eternally hot all around the year! The Mediterranean Sea flows into Barcelona’s many beaches so pick one and cool off. You can also take a sailboat out on the waters and cool off with some fancy cocktails at the beach bars.
Ride a ‘Steel Donkey’
Don’t worry; the ‘Steel Donkey’ is just a figure of speech for an ordinary bicycle but with a twist. Steel Donkey Bike Tours will allow you a tour the streets of El Borne, the district of Grazia, recycled workshops, flea markets and squat houses. Barcelona’s original and only bike tour, this is an action packed day out on two wheels and is an experience like no other.
FAMOUS LOCAL DRINKS
With a microbrewery around every corner of every street, a mug of craft beer is a must in Barcelona. Barcelona’s most famous and largest selling beer is ‘Estrella’ produced by Damm, a company that produces 15% of Spain’s beer. One of the famous local breweries is Moritz that has been around over 140 years and produces its own lager and craft beer.
Popularly referred to as the ‘Champagne of Spain’, Cava is one of the most iconic sparkling wines that come in white and rose variants. Its name comes from a variety of grape. Cava is an important part of all Catalan and Spanish traditions and functions. No celebration is complete without a bottle of one of the finest champagne – Cava!
Another one of Barca’s traditional beverages, this drink is made of sesame seeds, ground almonds, rice, barley and yellow nutsedge. Considered one of the healthiest and most important non-alcoholic drinks, this is a must try in Barcelona. It is however, an acquired taste, so preferably ask for a smaller serving first. Sirvent is famous for its chilled Horchata/Orxata and gelatos, so don’t miss it.
MUST HAVE FOOD
They are a wide variety of appetizers or snacks that are usually served with drinks or with traditional spaghettis and pastas. They may be served cold or hot. In certain places in Barcelona, Tapas have evolved into an entire cuisine of sophisticated food. Try Tapas 24 in Carrer de la Diputació for it serves more than 25 different varieties of tapas and some mouth-watering beer to go with it.
The traditional Valencian Paella is a dish made with chicken, rabbit meat, vegetables and white rice. However, there are different varieties and the Paella is available with seafood as well as mixed vegetable dish. Extremely healthy and a delight for your taste buds, paella combines white and green beans, different varieties of meat/seafood and vegetables to provide an exquisite dish as a result. Restaurant 7 Portes serves some of the best Paella and other rice dishes in all of Barcelona and is surprisingly affordable on the pocket.
Traditionally, this is a typical Catalan sauce that is kind of similar to mayonnaise. It is made entirely of garlic, olive oil and salt and has a rather large list of variations. It is ideally eaten with bread, boiled or mashed potatoes, fish, meat or vegetables and adds an amazing twist to an ordinary dish. Some of the very best Allioli dishes are served at Els 4Gats, so make sure you try them!
Again, one of the tastiest yet healthiest dishes you could ask for. Escalivada is a traditional Catalan dish of smoky grilled vegetables that includes simply dressed roasted peppers, eggplants and other fresh vegetables and the best part about this dish is that you can eat it at any temperature, the taste remains intact. You can find Barcelona’s best Escalivada in a restaurant called Sésamo.
This is nothing but a fancier Spanish name for crème brûlée. With a rich custard base topped with a contrasting layer of delicious burnt caramel, it is one of Barcelona’s favourite desserts and almost every place in Barcelona serves amazing crème brûlées. All this with some sparkling white Cava, exquisite wine or beer and great company will make your trip a memorable one!