Vising any new place can be a daunting task; there are so many unique historic and cultural things that make up a city, it can be hard to decide where to go, what to see, and how to devote your time to. This 'city guide' is designed to take some of the anxiety out of your travels so you can truly enjoy your destination and all it has to offer.
Barcelona is a city full of history and culture and has always played an important role in the artistic and political life of Spain. It's unique architechture and art are set against a beautiful backdrop of rolling hills and sandy beaches.
The city engages all of your senses, from the beauty of the city to the taste and smell of the authentic Catalan food, there will always be music to hear, art to see and history to touch.
Sagrada Familia by Antonio Gaudi
This larger-than-life temple designed by Antonio Gaudi is perhaps one of the most famous attractions in Barcelona. The legendary architect was a master in his field of shape, color and movement and still stands out as a visionary today. Gaudi began his creation in 1882, but died before it was completed and it has been unfinished ever since (though the government is slowly making his drawings reality, it is estimated it will take another 50 years for it to be totally finished). The church is open to the public and be sure to take an audio tour to learn all the intricacies of the place and quirks of its creator.
This is not Gaudi's only work of art around the city, his designs are unmistakable and crop up in many places around the city, most notable of which is...
Plaza and Park Guell
What was planned to be a 'suburban city' designed by Gaudi ultimately turned out to be a failure- out of 60 housing plots, only two were built. But, the idea was still a radical real-estate project for its time. The area is now a park full of Barcelona's bohemian folks. Gaudi left then natural landscape untouched to let visitors wind with the twisting paths and hills. The adjoining plaza also connects to Plaza Fuster, Plaza de la Libertad and Plaza del Sol all of which are great for finding unique shops, restaurants and attractions.
As the park is situated on a hill outside the city, it provides sweeping views of Barcelona and the surrounding countryside.
L'Aquarium de Barcelona and Barcelona Zoo
If you are traveling with young kids or if you are a kid at heart, the Zoo and Aquarium are great places to spend a day. The Barcelona aquarium is one of the best in Europe with the largest Mediterranean exhibit in the world. A series of 35 tanks, 11,000 animals and 450 different species, an underwater tunnel 260 feet (80 meters) long, six million liters of water and a huge Oceanarium replicating real ocean surroundings.
The Barcelona Zoo houses an impressive selection of animals including lions, gorillas, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, giraffes and elephants. The zoo is separated by areas relating to areas of the world where the animals are from with a special emphasis on animals from Madagascar. Also don't miss the dolphin show, every day for no extra cost.
Poble Espanyol de Montjuic (the Spanish Village)
Poble Espanyol was built in 1929 for the Barcelona International Exhibition as the pavilion dedicated to art. This small village is famous for its different quarters that replicate the style of houses and architecture from different parts of Spain. Visitors can tour the 'town' as well as visit the many restaurants, specialty craft shops and souvenir stores.
The village is also home to the Famous Flamenco show at tablao de Carmen. The show is dedicated to famous flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya who danced at the opening of the village before King Alfonso XII. Come see the show and get a taste of traditional Spanish dance and culture.
Gaudi isn't the only famous artist hanging around (get it? Cause his paintings hang on walls? No? ok). Pablo Picasso is also engrained into the city's history and culture. The museum has arranged Picasso's paintings in chronological order from his early days to his final works. From his teenage years when he was living in Barcelona to his blue period, cubism and surrealist flair, visitors can evolve with the artist and watch his artistic and life journey unfold before them. You can see how he came to develop those distinctive designs he is today known for all around the world.
The Magic Fountain of Montjuic
There are not many fountains that are worth making a special trip to, but this is one of them. Built for the 1929 World's Fair, this water arrangement seems to dance before your very eyes. Through its connection to the groundwater network of Montjuïc Mountain, the Magic Fountain and the three upper waterfalls are supplied with water coming from the subsoil level. The fountains come to life almost every night with a show of colored lights, timed water displays and music.
The fountain is only open at certain times so be sure to plan accordingly because this is a must see!
October to April- Fridays and Saturdays: 7:00, 7:30, 8:00 and 8:30
May to September- Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday: 9:00, 9:30, 10:00, 10:30 and 11:00
Closed: There are no performances of the Magic Fountain on Monday Tuesday and Wednesday.
Barcelona is the perfect mix of cultural city-center and relaxing beach vacation. The coastline stretches for almost 3 miles (4.5km) and offers a wide variety of excellent sand.
The closest beach to the city, and the most easily accessible, is Barceloneta. About a 20 minute walk outside of the city, the beach is full of restaurants, shops and of course sun and surf.
Mar Bella Beach is for more than sunbathing. Here you can go windsurfing, kayaking and surfing.
Bogatell Beach is a haven for rollerbladers, cyclists and joggers. If you want somewhere to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, come here. The beach is free of almost any bars and restaurants and usually does not see a much high traffic as the other beaches.
The Barcelona beach season usually goes between March 15th and November 15th, the high season from 31st May to 28th September.
Santa Maria del Mar
On your way back from the beach, make sure to check out this Gothic church from the XIV century. This church by the sea is world famous for its stained glass windows, dating from the 15th and 18th centuries. The church is beautiful from the outside, but the real magic happens when you step inside. The interior is full of high ceilings, beautiful religious art and lots of light. The light bounces off the windows filling the space with thousands of colored prisms.
Meaning sandy riverbed, this street is divided in five sections. Rambla Canaletes, Rambla dels Caputxins Rambla de Santa Monica La Rambla dels Ocells (Avenue of the Birds), and Rambla de les Flors (Rambla of the Flowers). In the 19th century it was a flower market and today flowers are sold alongside modern conveniences such as newspapers magazines and food stands. Nowadays it is full of tourists, but it is still a great place to talk a walk outside and experience the beautiful natural landscapes of the city.
Cook and Taste
So much of Spanish culture is rooted in food. Be a part of this institution and learn to make some traditional Catalan dishes and eat them too! Cook and Taste culinary program offers half-day cooking classes so tourists can really immerse themselves into Catalan culture. Learn how to cook Spanish dishes alongside an expert chef and afterwards taste your creations. Students can also sign up for a tour of La Boqueria market to get a look at an authentic Spanish market scene.
Classes are taught in English, Spanish and French; to sign up online visit http://www.cookandtaste.net/.
There's seeing the city, and then there's seeing the city. Looking down upon Barcelona from a hot air balloon is the best way to view the city's beautiful buildings, scenic countryside and beautiful coastline- all at once. Rides last about an hour and usually end in a meal and a toast to Barcelona. You can go by yourself, with your family or a large group. For more information, visit http://www.ballooning.es/uk/index.php