After Mallorca, we flew next to Barcelona. I’ve been dying to visit Barcelona for such a long time but somehow it took me months of being in Spain before visiting. Not sure how that happened. However, I was thrilled to finally be in the same city as the majority of Gaudí’s architectural masterpieces.
We landed quite early in the morning and again dropped off our luggage before wandering down La Rambla. Many of the city’s famous sights are off this famous street, so that means it’s pretty packed full of people. Barcelona is also a very popular place for pickpockets, so I’d definitely recommend extra caution for your belongings in places that attract tourists.
We first popped into La Boquería, a market with a beautiful entrance. There’s been a market on this site since 1853 but the name comes from a previous market in 1217/
Madrid has a few traditional markets of this type as well but they tend to be a little pricey. This one wasn’t much cheaper, but definitely had a wider variety of goods, like pastries, meat, seafood, and even a stand just for eggs! There were also fresh juice stands everywhere and after seeing seven of them I finally caved.
We continued passing through the Gothic Quarter, the old part of the city with many medieval buildings. We happened to be staying in this part of town but it was still too early to check into our Airbnb! We did find some beautiful sights though while killing some time.
Sometimes it’s hard to get a good glimpse of everything in a European city as there’s always so many things tucked away. It’s doubly difficult when you’re trying to Google Maps your way through so as not to get lost. While it was picturesque getting lost in Venice, I wasn’t eager to repeat the experience. I did make an attempt on this trip though to try to pay a little more attention. I was rewarded with cute little views like this patio.
One of the most famous sights in the Gothic Quarter is this bridge, which is quite intricate. It’s also pretty impossible to get a photo of it without anyone else starring in your photo! Apologies to these strangers for putting them on my blog.
We decided to enter the Cathedral and I was awed by the beautiful reflections of the stained glass window colors on the walls. I’ve seen a few churches and cathedrals with stained-glass but I wasn’t able to capture these reflections before.
We continued until we got to the first Gaudí building we saw on the trip, La Pedrera. While I did see a work of Gaudí’s in Mallorca’s cathedral, this was the first building of his I’d seen. It’s definitely quite interesting! However, the building entry fees are a little steep and so we chose not to enter this one.
There are quite a few buildings with very intricate decorations around the city and I was wowed at how much detail there was. This is definitely a city where you should try to pay attention to everything around you because there’s lots of hidden surprises.
There are also small pieces of Gaudí all around. For example, these lightposts are designed by him. The concrete of the sidewalks in some places are also designed by him, though I unfortunately didn’t get a photo of those. It’s rather like searching for hidden Mickey’s at Disney Land or Disney World but a lot more interesting!
We went later to Casa Batlló, a mansion designed for a rich family in the city. The sections below the windows look like Carnaval masks and after we left they filled the balconies with roses, which looked beautiful!
We paid our 20.50 euros to enter (on a student ticket) and took a virtual tour around the house. It was pretty stunning, and every room had something incredible to look at.
These doors opened to a courtyard also designed by the architect.
I could fill a whole post with photos of the house and Park Güell, but I tried to restrain myself. I definitely did enjoy the house, though I think 20.50 is a little steep as an entry price. I’m not sure I’d pay that again were I to go back, and I cringe even now a little bit looking at it.
The next day we went to Park Güell, which I was really excited to see. The park recommends booking a timed ticket in advance to the ‘monumental zone’ which includes all the famous tileworks that are in everyone’s photos. This area used to be free but now charges 7 euros, with no student discount.
It took us quite a while to get to the park and then we realized we weren’t quite sure how to get to the monumental zone. The whole park is built on a hill and we had arrived at the top. We heard some Americans, and assuming they were tourists having come from the monumental zone, asked them for directions. One guy told us to go the way we had come (wrong) and the others had no clue where the monumental zone was. As our timed entry crept closer and closer I finally heard some old men speaking in Spanish. I asked them how to get to the monumental zone and the very kind man gave me directions, made sure I understood, and repeated them again! We finally made it to the bottom of the hill and found the entrance. There’s a 30 minute grace period and I think we squeaked by at 29 minutes after the time. After you enter though, there’s no time so we took quite a bit of it wandering around.
One of Catalonia’s famous symbols is the drac, or dragon, that looks rather like a salamander. There are little ones hidden all over buildings in Barcelona and Gaudí sculpted this quite famous mosiac one.
(Not pictured: the 15 other people trying to take this exact photo)
The Park was originally designed to be a housing district but ran into financial trouble. There are two model buildings left, one of which was to be the guard’s house. The interior of both is included in the ticket price. Gaudís house is also inside the park (outside the Monumental Zone) but entrance is a separate fee.
The view from the windows of the houses is pretty impressive! I recommend entering them (you’ve already paid) to learn about the original project as well as to get a better view of some of the most famous parts of the park.
There is also, of course, the most famous portion of the Monumental Zone, where it seems everyone takes their profile photos. All the photos of me facing forward here have my eyes closed– I’m pretty annoyed. However, the view and the incredible mosaic made up for it.
Later, we rented bikes and rode around town and along the beach, including through Parc de la Ciutadella. Inside the park is this incredible fountain. Madrid’s Retiro park has a pond with a pretty impressive statue/monument behind it, but this huge fountain was breathtaking.
The entrance to the park is Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf, which is extremely impressive.
We saved the best for last! I’d been wanting to see the Sagrada Familia since I studied it in an 8th grade unit on architecture and we finally went on our last day in the city. Again, you should book your tickets online and in advance. Even with that, the line can be pretty long. The student ticket is 13 euros, which in the end I feel was definitely worth it.
When you first come out of the metro, it’s hard to get a full picture of just how incredible the basilica is. Every angle has a different view, and you can see a little better as you zigzag toward the entrance.
The basilica has been under construction since 1882, and therefore it’s impossible to get a photo without a crane and the construction materials. We were 100% wowed by the exterior though, and headed inside.
The inside of the basilica is jaw-dropping. The ceilings, wall and windows are all exquisitely detailed and while they recommend an hour for the inside, I could easily spend three days looking at everything.
I thought the stained-glass reflections in the Cathedral of Barcelona were incredible, but I wasn’t prepared for the amount of colored light inside the Sagrada Familia. There was a different color everywhere you turned, brought in by the colored windows, that changed as the sun moved above us in the sky and changed the angle.
We spent quite a long time inside before finally convincing ourselves we had to leave- we did after all have a plane to catch later! The exterior, however, drew us back in as we were leaving and we kept hunting for more hidden aspects to see.
Overall, I was definitely impressed with Barcelona and so glad I finally got the chance to see Gaudí’s work, especially the Sagrada Familia. I would definitely pay again to re-enter the Sagrada Familia as there is a mountain of imagery that I’m sure I missed. It is definitely a busy city and quite different from Madrid, where we headed back to next for one night.