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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: