For some reason, I've never been particularly interested in Spain; my heart belongs to Italy instead, shall we say. But a few weeks ago, I went to Barcelona for a few days as a last minute holiday and I discovered a culture that I knew almost nothing about. The city is big and has many things to offer, I can't pretend to have seen everything, but I've had the chance to see some of its most emblematic landmarks. As a consequence, this post is probably going to be way too long, but I hope you'll like the pictures and, if you're planning to visit Barcelona, that my tips and experience will help you in some way or another!
The first photos show the place I liked most in Barcelona: the hill of Montjuïc, on the west side of the city. In this extended hill, you'll have the best panorama ever (especially if you visit the Montjuïc castle, where there is the best view). I'm a huge fan of gardens, and the area has got some beautiful gardens too - fountains, French garden displays, and lots of small alleys and terraced gardens, where you just follow the steps and see where they lead you. On the last two photos, I have captured the amazing beauty of the MNAC (Museo National d'Art de Catalunya), with its sumptuous fountains and Ionic columns. This building honestly blew my mind, I can tell you it looks even better in real life.
I struggled to choose which pictures to include in my post, but I've decided to talk to you about the places I liked the most - so these are the ones you'll find above.
You can't go to Barcelona without hearing about Antonio Gaudi, the incredibly talented architect who gave the city most of its famous modernist buildings and sites. Of course, the Sagrada Familia is a must-see (although I have to say I preferred its façade more than its interior). The museum part in the church is great because it shows all the steps of creation of this huge building, not finished to this day. I love that Gaudi was inspired by Nature in all the architectural features he created, and this is all explained in the Sagrada Familia. Also from Gaudi, Park Güell is a great area, located a little north and great to visit on a sunny day. There are individual buildings that you can visit too, like the Casa Batllo or the Palau de la Musica Catalana, which are real masterpieces and that many people come to see so you should get tickets in advance if you can.
One of my favourite areas in Barcelona was the Gotìc, because of its beautiful, old buildings and narrow streets. The Cathedral of Santa Eulalia is well worth a visit, it has a beautiful façade and I loved its tiny cloister too (which has its own community of geese!). The harbour Port Vell is also a place where I enjoyed spending time. Go behind the big buildings of the aquarium, and you'll find peace and quiet - there's no better place to have a nice time watching the sun set and reflect its lights on the water.
Now, I thought I would give some advice that could be useful if you are planning on visiting Barcelona. Here are my top tips!
- If you go in the summer, be aware that there will be a lot of people everywhere. Book your tickets to buildings you want to visit, and if possible go early in the morning because you'll have fewer people around you to enjoy your visit. For the Sagrada Familia, we booked the tickets for 9.15am, and there were considerably fewer people than in the afternoon.
- If you're considering going to Barcelona to enjoy some peaceful time at the beach, forget it! In the summer, the beaches are all full. Mostly groups of friends and families with children, which means lots of noise and people walking everywhere around you. There are people who come to sell stuff to you as well - mojitos and sangrias of unknown provenance, beach towels, etc. Peace and quiet are not to be found in the beaches of Barcelona, unfortunately. Go to a smaller city to enjoy a less crowded, more relaxed beach atmosphere!
- Do yourself a favour and avoid the Rambla. There were SO. MANY. PEOPLE. - worse than anything I've seen in Paris, and that is saying something. The Rambla is a long street full of tourist shops and restaurants, incredibly noisy and, I found, not authentic at all. I also saw some signs at the windows there, of inhabitants basically saying that they wanted the identity of the Rambla back and that they felt dispossessed of their street and surroundings because of the mass of tourist that invaded the area daily. Believe me, you won't miss anything if you avoid the Rambla.
- As I've said before in the post, Montjuïc was my favourite area of Barcelona. It is the perfect place if you're looking for a peaceful discovery of the city, because there were not many people. Take a picnic with you and enjoy a full day there, amongst gardens and fountains. And then, you'll really feel like you're on holiday! ;)
Have you ever been to Barcelona? Or do you want to go someday?