There’s so much to love about Barcelona, the capital of Spain’s Catalonia region. The weather is pleasant, the cuisine is tasty, there’s some very attractive beaches and the area oozes cultural heritage and dragons. In the early 19th century commerce and trade made the area prosperous and residents embraced their economic good fortune by building grand houses and landmarks. The city is home to nine UNESCO World Heritage sites. If you’re interested in embracing the historical passion and cultural flare of Barcelona, your travel advisor at GetAway Travel can make that happen.
Modernism mixes with tradition
When you arrive in Barcelona, join the other tourists on La Rambla. It is the famous and iconic boulevard that links Port Vell to Placa Catalunya and it practically vibrates with energy. There are street performers, artists and vendors lining the street and it’s a great place to find souvenirs. As you soak in everything that’s going on, think of it as a prelude for what is sure to be a fabulous experience!
A word or two about dragons, St. George is the patron Saint of Catalonia. There are more than 400 dragons represented around the city. The most famous and most photographed is in Park Güell.
Exciting and amazing are not words normally used to describe architecture, but there’s really no other way to describe the works of Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi is responsible for the design of some stunning buildings around the city as well as some of the other modernist landmarks. Two fabulous contributors to modernism, Picasso and Joan Miró are also represented in the city.
The Museu Picasso is housed in five medieval palaces and more than 4,200 of his works are on display. Fundació Joan Miró features modern art done by Miró, as well as temporary exhibitions and some collaborative projects.
If you are interested in a shopping experience, check out the shops in the Diagonal Mar area. But don’t skip Barcelona’s La Boqueria, an urban market that has existed since medieval times. Luckily, it was roofed in 1914. More than 300 permanent stalls sell produce, cheese, cold meats, olive products, nuts and sweets. You can get beer and tapas at the bars inside. Pro shopping tip — the best deals are closer to the interior.
Camp Nou is a 99,000 seat stadium which has been home base for FC Barcelona since 1957. Memorabilia from one of the world’s most prestigious soccer teams is on display in the museum.
The Palau de la Música Catalana is a magnificent concert hall. This art nouveau building is the only one of its kind to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. The incredible ornate stained glass roof should not be missed!
Gorgeous Gaudi buildings
Gaudi disliked straight lines because he said they did not occur naturally in nature. Instead, he embraced textures, curves and shapes whenever he could. The Sagrada Família is Gaudi’s largest, most spectacular work. Started more than 100 years ago, it is only 3/4 complete. When it is finished, this Roman Catholic Church will be the tallest church in the world. It combines the architectural styles of Catalan Modernism, art nouveau and Spanish Late Gothic. It is a fantastical melding of textures and shapes that appear like delicate filigree in some areas and strong, bold statements in other areas.
All of Gaudi’s works have softened lines so they resemble buildings that seem to be shimmering in high heat.
Casa Batlló is a remodel he took on at the turn of the 20th century. Tiles on the building’s roof are said to resemble dragon scales. Casa Mila which is also known as La Pedrera is another Gaudi building and even though it was built in 1912, it includes an underground parking garage.
Palau Güell is one of Gaudi’s earliest works. It was the home of the Lopez family until they moved to what is now known as Park Güell. Palau Güell was built with stone coated with marble and then it was decorated with intricate hand-carved wood and ironwork.
Casa Vicens was also a private residence worked on by Gaudi and was also one of his earliest works. It has lush outdoor gardens surrounded by a courtyard with patterned walls inside and out and the exterior of the house is bright colors — green, red and white with floral patterned tiles. This summer home, which included elaborate waterfalls and fountains in the garden, was just opened as a museum in 2017.
Park Güell was supposed to have been a housing complex designed by Gaudi, but the original design didn’t work out for that purpose and it is now a green space and garden complex. The park terraces offer gorgeous views of the city. A museum on the grounds has furniture and household items designed and decorated by Gaudi. It is filled with unique architectural features, serpentine benches, mosaics, colonnades, fountains, sculptures and, the famous frequently photographed dragon.
You won’t go hungry
The food is superb in Barcelona. At any given time some international food is trending. But you can count on getting pintxos, tasty morsels skewered onto bread, at most bars.
You can be assured fish, as well as prawns and razor clams, will be on the menu as well as something with jamón, a fabulous flavored ham. Try fideuà which is similar to paella only made with pasta. Paella, like fideuá, has rabbit, chicken or seafood, flavored with saffron and cooked in a shallow pan. Arros negre is rice simmered with cuttlefish or squid.
The olives are marvelous. Black or green, they taste fresh and bright. Beware, they are served with pits in because removing them would require soaking them in a substance that softens them and spoils the taste. Have a rich Crema Catalana for dessert. It is custard flavored with lemon zest and cinnamon or vanilla with a carmelized crust on top similar to crème brûlée.