Barcelona is Spain’s biggest city, with a long history stretching back to pre-Roman times. It’s also one of Spain’s economic powerhouses, and in the early 20th century the confidence of its wealthy citizens spawned the Modernista movement in architecture and city planning that created the modern city. As you might expect from this, there’s plenty to see and do in Barcelona, whatever your interests.
Still under construction (it was started in 1882), the Church of the Holy Family is the astonishing masterwork of modernist architect Antoni Gaudi. A unique combination of gothic and modernist elements, especially its unusual spires, make it a stunning visual feast, and probably Barcelona’s number 1 attraction.
inside the salon at Gaudí’s Casa Battló
The Gaudi Houses
After the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo (one of my all time favourite buildings) and Casa Mila (La Pedrera) in the Passeig de Gracia are the two most famous of Gaudi’s creations. Built in the Catalan modernista style of the early 20th century they are notable for being designed with almost no straight lines, and for the incredible detail of their decoration. They also give an insight into how the upper classes lived in the 1920s and 30s. Be prepared for queues, but trust me, it’s worth the wait.
Take a stroll down Las Ramblas, the busy, bustling main tourist street that runs from Plaça Catalunya down to the Columbus Monument by the port. It’s a wide, tree-lined avenue full of kiosks, cafes and street-performers of all kinds. Famous sights include the Canaletes Fountain, and the mosaic by Joan Miró. At the top end, between the old city and the 19th century Eixample district, is the grand open space of Plaça Catalunya, with its fountains and statues, the official city centre. Halfway down is the famous La Boqueria Market, one of the largest in Spain, and always full of people buying and selling a huge range of fresh produce. At the southern end is the Columbus Monument, built for the 1888 exhibition, with the statue of the great explorer pointing out to sea. The Avenue also serves to separate the neighbourhood of El Raval to the west from the oldest part of Barcelona, the Barri Gotic (Gothic quarter).
entrance to La Boqueria Market in Las Ramblas
Barri Gotic and El Born
The Barri Gotic is the oldest part of Barcelona, and still retains most of its medieval street layout and a number of medieval buildings, although two of its principle sights, the Plaça Real and the facade of the Cathedral (although the body of the building is 15th century), are more modern. The neighbourhood to the east, El Born, is another historic area that is worth visiting. It’s home to some of the city’s most interesting bars as well as the Caterina Market and new El Born Cultural Centre, housed in the renovated old market space.
Wherever you are in Barcelona, you can always see Montjuic hill looming over the city. If you’ve a head for heights take the cable car up to top from the port. The views over the city are fantastic, but there’s lots of other stuff up here, too, including the old castle, several important museums, and the Poble Espanyol, an architectural museum like you’ve never seen before with 117 buildings in various Spanish styles. On winter evenings go down by way of the Magic Fountains (presently closed for restoration) and watch one of the light and music shows.
If you have children take them to the Aquarium, which has underwater viewing tunnels through tanks with an abundant variety of marine life. The sight of shsrks and other large fish swimming so close by is quite awe-inspiring.
Barcelona’s principal city centre park is both a zoological and botanical garden and includes a lake, a cascade and fountains, and several museums. Just the place for a stroll in the sunshine.
Nou Camp Stadium
Perhaps not everyone’s idea of a tourist attraction, but the home of Barcelona’s famous football team is up there with the Wembleys and San Siros, and the club’s museum is the second most visited in Catalonia.
The 3500 works by Spain’s most famous painter, spread through several former palaces, make this the largest Picasso collection anywhere in the world, and allow you to follow his artistic development from childhood to old age. An absolute must for all art lovers.
the Gaudí dragon in Parc Güell
Parc Güell is a bit of a trek out into the northern suburb of La Gracia, but Gaudi’s gardens with their many fascinating architectural elements are well worth the time and effort (and nowadays, entrance fee). Here you can see, among other things, the famous mosaic “dragon” and the hypostyle hall with the mosaic seating area on its roof.
On top of all that, there is always the food, the beaches, and the weather, and our quality apartments will put you in the thick of the action.