Barcelona

I’ve been to Spain a number of times in the past, mostly around Madrid and some of the islands off the coast but for this trip I went to Barcelona, the second city of Spain.   Park-Guell-in-Barcelona-Spain
Barcelona is a very ancient city with great history, some quite stupendous and incredible buildings and architecture to be viewed, probably the most famous being the Cathedral – still under construction! – which I visited on my first day.
The cathedral, apart from having to book a time to visit, is quite easy to get into, even though the crowds are large, the building itself is larger and to be able to move around and view the enormity of this structure is fairly straightforward. The only downside of the cathedral as a tourist destination is the overcrowded sidewalks and numerous tourist groups that march in unison around the building, along with the over abundance of people taking selfies but if you’re a seasoned traveler you will be used to seeing camera/phone wielding people at every corner distracting from the sublime and brilliance of the thing they are viewing!
Traumatic is the only way I can describe it, it is the only place on earth I have had a religious moment which is a fairly big deal coming from somebody who doesn’t really believe in a God but here in the centre of Barcelona, in the cathedral I felt like there might be something more than I was. I recommend heading there around 10 to 11am and securing tickets for the afternoon or early evening, where you can view the cathedral as the sun cascades through the windows as the architect intended, creating a heavenly aura to meditate in, or at least reflect. And also by booking on the Internet you will gain access to the top of the cathedral via the lift system, unfortunately due to the late booking of my trip I didn’t manage to do this but I assume from what I did see, the view would be dramatic. The La Sagrada Familia is a must visit.
Moving on from the cathedral, there is the famous Gothic quarter area – a small, strangely built and crowded area of the city reminiscent of old London, or even Paris. This part of Barcelona is like a rabbit warren with interesting buildings popping up next to underground coffee shops and small churches with Moorish designs, it’s definitely worth a wander around, down the many alleyways to get a feel for the old part of the city. There are a number of bike rental shops which I recommend as the best and easiest way to get around the city, a big plus for the cyclist is that being so close to the ocean the majority of the city is fairly flat and is easy to negotiate and get around. Barcelona has adequate cycle lanes, there is a small elevation until you get towards the outer city limits where I warn you it suddenly increases dramatically up into the foothills that surround Barcelona so a bit more effort if you venture up there. I highly recommend using bikes especially with the weather being so pleasant as the easiest way to get around.
Parc Guell by Antoni Gaudi. Parc Guelli is a UNESCO World Heritage site and if you have time I would say it is worth a visit to see his house and park. As someone who is not well versed in his works and a bit critical of the haphazardness of his style, the actual park itself and house left a small sore point on my trip with the park and house adjacent possibly not worth the money to get in but what was worth the trek was that next door to the park there are outstanding views across Barcelona and in every direction there is a viewing point that is well worth a visit to get dramatic shots across the whole vista of Barcelona. I’d recommend visiting the spot mid-morning to capture the drama of Barcelona in the sparkling sunshine, and it also offers favourable views into the park itself.
The modern buildings of Barcelona are of interest. As someone whose focus is history I am more interested in ancient architecture and buildings so the Modernist movement has never really captured me but the buildings dotted throughout Barcelona, mainly on the main thoroughfares, are worth a stop and ponder as they do make you think. Those who find that style of architecture engaging would enjoy the buildings more.
There are a number of other tourist spots dotted around Barcelona well worth a visit. The Picasso museum is one I would have liked to have visited but I didn’t have the time. With over 4000 works you can easily spend most of the day surrounded by the modern master, so you need the time to do it justice. For me Barcelona came across more as more of a relaxing city break then a tourist hotbed or a city of historical significance. The number of coffee shops and bars made cycling around the city easy and fun as it was nice to be able to stop and partake in some local sangria, beer or numerous cocktails – the whole ambiance of the city seems to be one of relaxation and we found the locals easy and approachable.
Most major tourist areas in Europe are besieged by the homeless and numerous pickpockets but on this trip I saw very little vices around the city. The only negative point I had for Barcelona was the bars and restaurants were surrounded by a number of club promoters who are highly persistent in trying to drag people off to clubs, people who clearly were not interested, coupled with the strange closing times and the expense of the drinks meant the evenings were curtailed a bit, so not as memorable as some cities like Paris or Istanbul. But less enjoyable night scene was more than made up for with the good weather, good food, and lovely beaches that adorn the Barcelona coast.
My top tip for Barcelona is use bikes to get around and don’t miss the lovely beaches. The beaches to the left of the harbour are full of locals and the touristy beaches are towards the centre. With a sharp shelf of fluffy sand tipping you into the blue sea, an abundance of huts selling drinks and food, they would deliver to you on the beach – all made for an incredibly fun and relaxing final day of my Barcelona trip and probably the high point for me.
So all in all I rate Barcelona highly. it’s a great to go to with friends but equally interesting to go on your own. There are a number of tourist attractions but not so many that your become exhausted – relax is the by-word. So for the overall relaxing and chilled atmosphere of the city, I would give four stars to Barcelona.

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