Visit Barcelona: City of Wonders

During my visit to Barcelona in November, I absorbed the flavors and friendliness of this extraordinary city. Barcelona is an adult’s Disneyland, where just walking the streets is a magical experience.

Barcelona Beach sunset
Beaches of Barcelona are a playground for city dwellers and visitors.

The city throbs with life, energy and culture. From the street performers serenading visitors by the Catedral de Barcelona (pictured above) to the nightclubs pulsing with techno-rap on the beaches every evening, there is this overwhelming sense of history mixed with modernity.

Barcelona Sunset
One of the most picturesque places to dine is along the boardwalk. There are dozens of charming and reasonably priced seaside eateries in the city.
Shoppers and art collectors will find endless temptations in Barcelona’s winding streets.

The city has incomparable shopping opportunities with handmade leather and jewelry crafts, pop-art home goods, sexy scents, cutting edge fashions; you can find it all here along these narrow pedestrian streets. Don’t miss touring the magnificent Picasso Museu, a must see for modern art fans. They they sell many whimsical treasures in the gift shop there. Or go strolling on La Rambla where some of Barcelona’s upscale hotels, restaurants and nightlife is centered.

La Rambla is a tree-lined pedestrian mall and a central boulevard teeming with hotels, cafes, shops and bars.
Cucina Mediterranea has the fresh catch of the day, extraordinary paella, and calamari.

Barcelona’s cuisine is inspired by its proximity to the sea. The streets by the beaches are lined with casual bistros featuring the fresh catch of the day. Don’t miss the Santa Caterina Market near the Placa de la Catedral to see the colorful local produce, cheeses, sample tapas, or take a food tour.

Inside Santa Caterina Market
Antoni Gaudi ‘s incomparable La Sagrada Familia, a cathedral that is still in the process of construction but open to tour. The panoramic views from the towers are a must-see.
The view of Barcelona from Sagrada Familia’s soaring steeples and stairwells.

Inside the magnificent Sagrada Familia.

Architecture of Barcelona

The most notable attraction in Barcelona is the sublime architecture. Many of the city’s signature buildings were constructed in the mid19th Century during the Modernisme period. This was a movement led by wealthy citizens to reinvigorate their beloved Catalan society. Antoni Gaudi’s contributions may be the biggest draw to this cosmopolitan treasure. Read about the Gaudi Route here.

Casa Batlló is one of Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces. It has an exceptional modernist façade,  mirroring “a calm sea” but inside the low ceiling tunnels, use of mosaic tiles on the twisted stairwell, and kooky rooftop terrace, make this a one-of-a-kind house fit for a magician.

Barcelona is so popular that the mayor wants to curb tourism by preventing construction on hotels in the city center. Nearly 20 million overnight visitors stayed in the city last year putting stress on the local infrastructure.

Undulating waves must have been the inspiration behind Gaudi’s Casa Mila

But these crowds have a sophisticated enthusiasm that makes Barcelona a city full of vitality and inspiration that you find only in the world’s iconic landmarks—Paris, London, Buenos Aires, New York and Tokyo. The best time to visit Barcelona is in the late fall and early spring, when the weather is mild, but there are far fewer tourists to contend with.

Parc Guell Barcelona Gaudi
Visit Park Güell, one of Gaudi’s most beloved landmarks, an outdoor complex with eccentric sculptures and mosaic-covered terraces. 

Most of the tourism sights are clustered around the old part of the city, but there is so much more to see here. Consider spreading your exploration to the heights of Montjuic Hill near Montjuic Castle to see the Annela Olímpica (Barcelona’s Olympic stadium) and Jardins Del Mirador where you’re treated to a stunning vista of the city and surroundings mountains.

Barcelona Park
Jardins Le Mirador has superb views of the city and a fun park for kids.
Roof Terrace at Casa Batllo with its mythical Chimneys representing the backbone of the famous dragon, slain by Saint Jordi St. George.

Visit Montserrat National Park

My favorite day in Barcelona was on the the Gaudi and Montserrat Architecture Tour. It involved walking the streets and taking a mini bus to Montserrat National Park. Montserrat is a Benedictine monastery on a hill that’s about one hour from downtown Barcelona. It’s truly spectacular both by it’s unique geology and architecture and for its opportunity to see the famous Black Madonna holding an orb. Pilgrims line up for her blessings and her cathedral is a golden palace perched on the edge of a rugged mountain.

The ride to the top of Montserrat is a bit hair raising but so worth it.
Visit the Benedictine Santa Maria de Montserrat, one of Spain’s most important pilgrimage sites
The Monastery, museums, art school and museum are all built into Montserrat’s mountains.

So, that’s a quick review of Barcelona. I hope you get to visit sometime soon. Let me know your favorite sites in this wonder of a city.

For a handy tool to help you plan your vacation, check out this tool from the US Travel Association:


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Freelance writer and photographer specializing in vivid, deeply reported stories about food, travel and family.

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