Without a doubt Barcelona is my favourite city in the world, so much so I think I’ve actually been there more times than I’ve been to London. These are my top ten things to do and see in and around Barcelona; from the top tourist spots to alternative adventures of the beaten track.
1) Experience All things Gaudi – The work and influence of Antoni Gaudi can be seen and felt throughout the city. The most famous of Gaudi’s designs can be seen in the unfinished Sagrada Famila church, I find that no matter how many times I visit this place it never seems to lose the ability to take my breath away.
Guell Park is also well worth a visit. The place always reminds me of something out a dream world and really is an essential to anyone who enjoys the work of Gaudi.
Finally the Casa Batllo really shouldn’t be missed. Stunning from the outside and completely impressive and immersive from within, it’s unbelievable to think people actually once lived within these walls. It’s definitely worth making the Casa Batllo one of your first stops on a day of sight-seeing in Barcelona as it gets extremely busy in the afternoons.
2) Marvel at the Magic of the Fountain of Montjuïc –This really is something that you have to see to believe, I’ve seen countless videos on youtube, none of which seem to capture the so called “magic” of these fountains. The show attracts around 2.5 million visitors a year so unsurprisingly it can get quite busy around the fountains. When planning a trip to Barcelona it’s also important to consider that the fountains don’t run every day. There are two seasonal timetables for the show, between October to April; the fountain operates on Friday and Saturday night from 7pm till 9pm. Between May to September the shows runs from 8pm till 11:00pm on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night.
3) Relax at Barceloneta Beach– While I love a city break, sometimes it just doesn’t feel like a holiday without a bit of beach time which is why every time I visit Barcelona I seem to find myself wasting away an afternoon on the unique Barceloneta Beach. The beach is located just a 15 minute walk from the Colum at the bottom of Las Ramblas and stretches for what seems like miles.
If you head further down the beach you will come to the Port Olympic where you’ll find a host of Barcelona’s most exclusive and decedent night venues. If you fancy doing some celebrity spotting, Camp Nou’s finest can often be spotted sipping champagne at CDLC (Carpe Diem Lounge Club) but be warned- hanging around at this night spot doesn’t come cheap and bottles of champagne can run costs of up to 10,000 Euros! If you have a slightly less luxurious budget I can highly recommend La Xampanyeria, this place is always extremely busy but feels very authentically Catalonian and offers up delicious cava and tapas at great value prices.
4) Board the Barcelona Bus Turístic – In my opinion the easiest and most informative way to see Barcelona for an extremely reasonable cost. Unlike normal tours the Barcelona Bus Turístic offers the flexibility of jumping on and off the bus and going to visit just the things that interest you. The ticket entitles you to use of the three different routes which stop at 45 different stops and are available in ten languages (you simply plug in your blue headphones and select yours!). The bus is also open top so ideal for catching a tan in the Barcelona sunshine!
5) Ramble down Las Ramblas – One of the most famous streets in the world and an essential on my Barcelona check list is Las Ramblas. This vibrant and lively street comes alive each day with a huge selection of street performers, human statues, magicians and fortune tellers (think Convent Garden with a Spanish flair!). My personal highlight and an absolute must for any foodies is actually just off Las Ramblas at La Boqueria market, this amazing food market literally offers up every food you could ever dream of. You can sample all sorts of foods from Spanish jambons and olives to chocolates and locally grown fruits.
Word of warning on Las Ramblas the street is extremely busy which at certain times can feel a bit intimidating, it’s also important to be aware that pick pockets are rife in the area and keep personal goods in close proximity. On a trip to Barcelona with my parents around 10 years ago somebody actually cut off my dad’s back pocket in an attempt to steal his wallet but luckily (for my Dad) just ended up with a packet of cigarettes!
6) Something Spiritual at Montserrat – I am cheating a little bit including this in my list about Barcelona as it is technically around an hour’s drive from the city centre but most definitely worth a visit. A trip to Montserrat will take you 4000 feet into the mountains through stunning countryside to discover this isolated Monastery. One of the most beautiful and overwhelming experiences at Montserrat is the Escolania Montserrat’s Boys’ Choir who perform daily to crowds in the basilica. The Monastery also houses on of the oldest printing houses in the world and gallery which houses works from a number of famous artists including Picasso, Dali and El Greco.
7) Check out the Olympic Village – With London 2012 just around the corner why not have a snoop around how the Spanish did it! One of the most impressive features of Barcelona’s
Olympic history is the huge Olympic torch statue which stands just outside the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys where all the main events took place including Linford Christie’s famous 100 metre gold medal win.
You can also visit a number of other venues that were used for the 1992 Olympics including the Piscinas Picornell swimming pool and Palau Sant Jordi where the gymnastics took place.
8) Make a splash at Barcelona Aquarium – If you are travelling with kids or you are a big kid like me you’ll love the Barcelona Aquarium. Located down by the port this huge aquarium features over 35 tanks which contain over 450 different species. The aquariums most impressive feature is a 260 foot underwater glass tunnel through a shark tank!
9) Get Lost! Slightly off the beaten track but easily reached by public transport is the Laberint d’Horta, an attractive historical garden with a beautiful Greek themed labyrinth at the heart. What I like about the Laberint d’Horta is that it doesn’t attract huge crowds unlike Guell Park and is often quite a peaceful way to spend some time away from the busy metropolis of Barcelona.
10) Eat like a Catalan – Boasting a great central location every time I visit Barcelona I find myself heading back to Casa Leopoldo. This charming Catalonian restaurant offers a great selection of traditional food and something feels very authentic about it, this may be down to the fact that the majority of customers are in fact locals which I feel is always a good sign. Now and then I get a craving for their delicious toasted bread and tomatoes, sounds simple but to this date I have never been able to create a similar taste at home but this does make for the perfect excuse for another trip back to Barcelona!!
Congratulations to Kirsten Cole who is the winner of this week’s Where in the World Wednesday competition- a £25 voucher is on it’s way to you!