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Famous for Gaudí architecture, Barcelona, Spain, is the largest city on the Mediterranean Sea.
Arriving in Barcelona
I touched on my day-trip to Barcelona in my “Street Art Extravaganza” post. This was a last minute bed and breakfast package holiday to Lloret de Mar, booked through On the Beach, with a companion. From there, we had the opportunity for a day trip to Barcelona. Choosing a local bus rather than an organised tour, the hotel gave us directions to the best bus stop. Thankfully, the bus had aircon - the weather was ridiculously hot, you broke a sweat simply standing in the shade.
Arriving in Barcelona late morning, we made our way to the first cathedral that popped up when googled, Sagrada Familia. This incredible structure, designed by Antoni Gaudí, makes one reevaluate the idea of a cathedral held in the minds eye. This whimsical piece, an outlandish projection of Gaudí’s interpretation of Art Nouveau, draws in an estimated 3 million visitors each year. Having been described as "one of the most hideous buildings in the world" (George Orwell), with the ornamentation described as “bad taste”, this really is a spectacle to behold. The overall construction draws inspiration from Gothic trends and curvilinear Art Nouveau styles. It has created a bold statement, and it’s evident from the attention to detail in the plans, that Gaudí devoted his latter life to its design.
Whilst not classified as a cathedral, is said that the vision was for Sagrada Familia to rival the size and, with the completion of the spires, it will become the tallest church in the world. Tubular bells within the spires will be driven by the wind. Gaudí performed acoustic studies to perfect the interior acoustic result.
My companion purchased the tickets online and we joined the queue. Shuffling along making small talk, we eventually arrived at the entrance, only to be turned away. They were the wrong tickets! So, on that note, I shall leave you to wonder about the inside as much as I still do. It was beautiful from the outside though. Pro travel tip – always double check your intended location before proceeding to purchase tickets.
Faced with a 30-min walk or a 20-min metro ride, we decided to walk and find a café halfway. We stopped for croissants and coffee at Il Caffe Di Francesco before heading to Barcelona Cathedral, which was the correct location for the purchased tickets.
Other than this, we didn’t purchase anything else. We had snack bars in our bags and refilled our water bottle from the ornate water fountain we found in the park adjacent to Sagrada Familia.
This Gothic-style Cathedral has a much more traditional silhouette, with grandeur and grace emanating from it, as opposed to the brash façade presented by the Sagrada Familia. Built on the same site as a 12th century Roman Temple, it's dedicated to Saint Eulalia, tortured to death by the Romans for her Christianity.
Inside, there are 13 geese, representing each year of Saint Eulalia’s short life. They have their own pond with a fountain, a tranquil little garden in the midst of this ancient building. The arches of the cloister cover the walkway paved with skull-embossed grave markers. A glimpse of the ornate spire shows itself here, towering over the palm trees.
The architecture inside is lovely, with paintings and statues lining the walls, but there were also some quirky little pieces incorporated. One of my favourite pieces, out by the geese, was an iron bat/dragon lamp set back in to the wall.
There are still many Roman remains to be seen so don’t forget to have a look at these as well while you’re in town. From aqueducts to defence towers, there are some fantastic pieces standing the test of time.
After the ticket fiasco, exhaustive heat, and a soured mood, we called it a day after just a few hours but I want to list a few recommendations here as they had been mentioned multiple times;
1. Barcelona has a Picasso Museum. Sadly, there wasn’t time for us to visit this but it needs a mention I hope you manage to see it. Picasso, was a talented artist born in 1881. He lived in Barcelona aged 14-24 and considered it his true home. It was here that he enrolled in the School of Fine Arts. A world-renowned artist, even the Vatican has some of his work.
2. Parc Güell, a huge garden designed by Antoni Gaudí with bright, unusual architectural elements.
3. Casa Batlló, another Gaudí creation.
4. La Pedrera, yet another Gaudí creation.
5. Paseo de Gracia if you like shopping, this is a must.
6. Las Ramblas, for theatres, markets, bars and more!
7. I suppose Barcelona might appeal to football fans too, take a look at FC Barcelona.
My first impression of Barcelona, is that it is a city swathed in artistic influence. The buildings speak in multiple architectural styles, each vying for attention with its unique design. I left wanting more, needing to delve into the depths of what the city has to offer. My next visit will certainly be longer than a daytrip, there is a wealth of history calling out to be explored. Barcelona is a vibrant city that appears to offer something for everyone.