I was very fortunate to be able to live in Barcelona as an expat for a little over two years. My husband, Richard worked for a multinational corporation which relocated us there for a while. My sons came over for extended visits, soaking up the culture. We all appreciated our time there.
One of the best parts of Barcelona is just walking around the city admiring the architecture. I loved the Catalan Modernism. I am woefully uneducated on this topic, but you can find plenty of information on the subject. The most well-known Modernist architecture in Barcelona is the handiwork of Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926), and after seeing his work in person, I’m convinced this man was a truly gifted and visionary architect. During my time in Barcelona, I repeatedly toured many of Gaudi’s works and also saw the works of some other gifted architects. I absolutely fell in love with the distinctive architecture of Barcelona.
Here are some examples of Catalan Modernism to be found in the city:
La Sagrada Familia
Located at Mallorca 401, or take Metro: Sagrada Familia. This is Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece, although it still isn’t finished, long after his death. You can enjoy the exterior of the cathedral from the street for free, but I highly recommend the tour of the building. If you think the outside is impressive, wait until you get a look at the inside. It is the most beautiful and unique cathedral I’ve ever seen. The bus Turistic, hop-on, hop-off bus, is the best way to sight-see your way around Barcelona.
Located at d’Olot, 3, or take Metro: Lesseps, but it is still a long walk from there. Admission is free. But take your time getting up the steep hill. On one of my first visits to Barcelona was during spring break before we moved there and we hiked up to Parc Guell, through a back way. The Parc is itself lovely, but also commands some great views of Barcelona. This is another work of Gaudi’s.
Parc Guell unfolds in levels. Every time I walked up another level, I thought I was at the top, but no, there was yet another level to climb. I never did make it to the top before giving up. There are lovely wildflowers and structures and views; there are living statues and flamenco dancers and people selling trinkets. I thought it was interesting that the restrooms and cafe kitchen were built into the side of the hill in caves. There is a patio here with tables and umbrellas overlooking a dirt plaza where you can enjoy a cold drink and a bite to eat while people-watching.
Casa Mila (a.k.a. La Pedrera)
Located at Passeig de Gracia #92 or take the Metro: Diagonal. This is one of two spectacular Gaudi buildings along the Passeig de Gracia. There are metro stops along this lovely avenue, but I walked it many times, and I would recommend that to anyone in reasonably good health if the weather is nice. I started at Placa Catalunya and walked up to La Pedrera and back. There is a gallery with free admission where you can see rotating art exhibits.
Located at Passeig de Gracia #43, or Metro: Passeig de Gracia. I expected to like La Pedrera more than Casa Batllo, but when I saw them in person, it was the other way around. This building is just endlessly fascinating.
The Palau de la Musica Catalunya
Located at Carrer Palau de la Musica 4-6, just off Via Laietana in the Barri Gotic section of Barcelona, or take Metro: Urquinaona. This masterpiece was designed by Domenech i Montaner and is a UNESCO world cultural heritage site.
The one absolute must for nightlife in Barcelona is a concert at the Palau de la Musica Catalana. Stop by the hall during the daytime to buy tickets at the box office and also to by tickets for a guided tour in English during the day. The acoustics of the hall are superb. We saw Jackson Brown with David Lindley there, and another concert featuring Anoushka Shankar.
Located at Avinguda Diagonal 209-211, or take Metro: Station Glories. This uniquely-shaped building is so prominent on the Barcelona skyline that you really can’t ignore it. By all reports, the architect was aiming to evoke the sense of a water fountain with this building, but every time I saw it, I thought “Oh yes, there’s the giant phallic symbol.” The building, which houses the Barcelona water company, is illuminated with color at night.
Besides architecture, the was the Beach and other areas
To photograph people enjoying the beach, start in Barceloneta, a complex of narrow streets and houses built for the working class. The district is surrounded by a yacht harbor on one side and a sandy beach on the other. There is a covered market in the main square. Barcelonans predict rapid gentrification of this district but in the meantime you can get some photos of old neighbors hanging out laundry and chatting.
We lived in Sant Marti and only had to walk over a bridge to get to the beach. It was wonderful in the summer, I especially liked going for drinks and tapas on the beach. Music would blare out from the beach huts, and it always looked like a party in the height of the summer. My sisters enjoyed going to the beach for an outdoor massage.
One of the most famous streets in Spain, La Rambla runs through the Old City right down to the harbor. The wide center strip is devoted to newsstands, flower merchants, performers, and hordes of pedestrians. On either side of this strip are busy lanes for cars and buses.
One day Michael and I traveled to the city center from the train station in Mataro,while we were living in the NH Hotel. We got off at the center of the city and I saw this square called Plaza Catalunya in front of my eyes, it was then when I realized that I was in for a true adventure. My dream of living in one of the jewels of Europe had come true. I was very excited and wanted to get to see everything.
We started walking down Las Ramblas which was so crowded… What struck me the most was the beauty of the place and the buildings on both sides of the famous avenue. On the right, the market of La Boqueria was inviting me to enter and see its stalls with the most colorful, fresh fruit and vegetables. At special times during the year, parades would travel down side streets of the Ramblas.
The buildings were not the only things on the Ramblas that caught my attention. There were loads of street performers, stallholders, peddlers and painters in this emblematic avenue of Barcelona. I could feel the lively ambiance in Las Ramblas, and noticed that having a walk along this street was one of the best things to do in Barcelona. The human statues were very impressive but they do want to be paid, especially if you take their photo.
One area off the Ramblas I love to walk through is the Placa Reial. I loved walking along the narrow streets in the Gothic quarter. Everyday was an adventure in Barcelona, I really miss my time there!
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