We visited the beautifully buzzing Spanish city of Barcelona a few weekends ago and we’re still recovering from the sheer energy of being in such place.
When I first asked around about Barcelona, my friends mentioned a few key words; amazing culture, delicious food and fun in the sun! Read on to discover why I think these words ring true to Barcelona.
Fun in sun indeed!
Barcelona’s beach is not Europe’s prettiest beach but it does have a lot of character and that is why I love it!
We took the metro to Barceloneta underground and walked down the promenade, while admiring the yacht filled harbour and countless restaurants full of sun-lovers enjoying delicious Spanish food!
We joined the sun-lovers and ate a delicious paella at Can Ros, then danced off to the beach to soak in some rays of sunshine! The warmth of the sun does have some powerful effects so we enjoyed as much of it as we could and sat by the beach to enjoy Europe’s favourite pastime of people watching… there were sunbathers, bike riders, roller bladers, families with prams and people generally enjoying the atmosphere. I especially enjoyed the Spanish style music that the street performers provided. I haven’t heard some of these songs since I watched my family, back in Australia, sing Karaoke!
Gaudi: Madman or Genius?
Gaudi was a great architect who created many of Barcelona’s most interesting buildings. Gaudi was an architect who was commissioned mostly to build beautiful homes for the rich in Barcelona and was considered to be a little crazy! He built things in a way that would look organic and ornate, but always spent well over his budget.
Gaudi was not a fan of riches and people say that he spent his final years looking and living as a pauper. However, his beautiful buildings tell you a different story about the workings of his mind and I’m sure a little about his personality. Here are a few of the buildings that I saw. I was absolutely amazed at Gaudi’s creativity and can see why he was well-respected. Madman or genius, what do you think?
The above picture is the famous La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s greatest known masterpiece. He started building this in 1882 but of course after his death, it still needed more work. So this beautiful Cathedral is 125 years in the making. It may look like a mess but each piece of the puzzle is well thought out. Each side represents a story in the bible from the time that Mary had baby Jesus in her belly to Jesus’ ascension into heaven. I was brought up in a Catholic home so this place was special to me, but I guarantee that if you visit La Sagrada Familia, you will still find each section of this building intriguing.
Barcelona is like an onion, as you peel off one layer, it reveals more and more.
Did you know that the Romans found Barcelona? Yes, the Romans seem to have found many places in Europe, but what makes this fact interesting is that in Museu d’Història de la Ciutat de Barcelona (Barcelona’s History Museum),you can see a piece of the architecture that the Roman’s built. We jumped into an elevator that transported us thousands of years back in time to an underground city which housed many of the Romans. I enjoyed wandering through the city and viewing pieces of artwork, crockery and peeking into what was left of the rooms.
When Old meets New
Barcelona has an amazing history, full of interesting stories. These stories can be told just by looking at their architecture. I found it exhilarating to walk through the old walls of Old Town, where the only way to way to travel through the cobble stoned, narrow roads is by foot or by horse and carriage. The latter was the most popular way to travel back in the old days and I could see why.
Then as we walked through old town, we were amazed to see beautiful churches and farmers markets… the cheeses smelt so amazing that I was almost tempted to have an early lunch…
We then had a taste of Catalonian culture by witnessing a truly communal affair. During our tour, we stopped to admire hundreds of locals dancing traditional Catalonians dances on front of a beautiful Cathedral. They were being serenaded by an orchestra and cheered on by spectators.
Sound like fun? Tourists are invited to join as well! I couldn’t help but tap my toes to the music in absolute Glee-style!
What I loved about this experience is that this dance was organised in true flash mob style. The locals, young and older, meet at a particular time on a weekend to practice their moves without a care in the world. It was amazing to watch and a memory that I’ll treasure dearly.
If you’re not into traditional Catalonia dancing, you can also be entertained by the extremely charismatic street performers that dance to modern music. They are also a few metres away from the Cathedral and not too far away from a piece of the old Roman walls that used to surround Barcelona. Take your pick, Barcelona has everything for everyone!
If I could only eat one type of cuisine…
It would be Spanish cuisine. The food is amazing in Barcelona (almost amazing as the food I experienced in Madrid – click here to read about it). During our time at the beach, we did enjoy a delicious paella, but if you feel like taking a calculated risk, I would also try the noodle version of the paella (at Can Ros). My husband tried this and it was just as delicious as the rice version!
Naturally, it goes without saying, that you need to try the sangria and the wine as the Spanish sure know how to make a good drink!
What I also love about the Spanish is that they enjoy their meat, especially pork! If you walk around, you will notice that the majority of restaurants will hang legs of pork all over the shop!
If you’re not a pork eater, the seafood is also delicious. Try the fried calamari tapas and wash it down with a glass of sangria. We ate dinner at Jai-Ca (thanks to the suggestion of our tour guide) and was greatly impressed by the delicious, home style tapas and equally appetizing sangria which was rich in fruit and wine! It was quite fun sitting in this charming restaurant full of locals while enjoying a nice meal. My suggestion is to go there early (in Spain this is 7.30pm) as it can get busy and very noisy… but the noisier the better!
If you’re feeling a little crazy, you can also try some delectable dishes at Pura Brasa. We started the meal with a platter of traditional Catalonian cold meats and garlic-buttered bread. I’m not sure what the meats were but I think it’s best not to ask. Either way, this was my most enjoyable dish during this meal.
Rick took a ride on the wild side and tried the grilled pigs cheek. Surprisingly, it was tender and full of flavour. I’m not a huge risk taker with food and went for the pasta and prawns dish. We shared a chocolate bomb for desert which was an excellent alternative to the traditional Spanish churros.
There’s magic in the air…
I cannot forget the most popular street in Barcelona… the famous Las Ramblas. I walked through this street during the day and at night and I must admit that it was not as I expected. Perhaps I came there at a good time, but this street was charismatic and playful and not like the often dangerous, tourist-trap that people describe!
There were street performers down the strip of Las Ramblas and the beautiful Placa Reial just off to the side. Albeit, the restaurants are overpriced as it’s a touristy area and pick-pockets are rampant, but if you keep this in mind, you’ll enjoy the experience!
Barcelona is definitely one of those cities that never ceases to amaze me! On our way back to the hotel, we used to walk past what seemed like an average fountain by day.
But looks can be deceiving as this fountain is a magic fountain. The water cascades into the air in perfect, synchronised movements to the background music! Hence, its name: The Magic Fountain. This is a must see at night for those who want to experience a little magic!
What do you think of Barcelona? Let me know in the comments below.
If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to click on the subscribe button and follow me on twitter. Next stop is Copenhagen.
Other posts you might find interesting:
- Madrid – read about my food adventures in Madrid… and other things to do there too!
- Budapest – read about my favourite city in Europe. Food, culture and architecture!
- Venice – click here to read about Venice as a romantic retreat or click here to read about Venice during masquerade season!