Thursday, May 10, 2012

Barcelona, capital of Catalonia, Spain

We're just back from spending a couple of days visiting a good friend in the beautiful city of Barcelona. The two of us have visited this wonderful city both for work and for pleasure a few times and whilst we both love Madrid, I think Barcelona wins purely by its location on the Mediterranean coast. There is so much to do and see in this wonderful city that you'll never tire of going back.

The Old Town, traversed by the city's most famous avenue, Las Ramblas, is one of the most extensive medieval city centres in Europe. The Barri Gotic contains the catehdral and a maze of streets and sqares which ensure that you're in for a treat by just spending some time wandering around and taking in the special atmosphere. 

Inside the Barri Gotic

The historic avenue of Las Ramblas seems to be busy around the clock, full with street traders selling their wares, street artists and of course tourists. Be careful of your vaulables here as it does have a reputation for pickpockets.

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas, early morning 
Barcelona claims to have the greatest collection of Art Nouveau buildings of any city in Europe. The style know in Catalonia as Modernisme, flourished after 1854, when it was decided to pull down the medieval walls to allow the city to develop into what had previously been a construction-free military zone.

Sagrada Familia
The hundred or so city blocks centring on the Passeig de Gracia are know as the Quadrat d'Or, or Golden Square, because they contain so many of Barcelona's best Modernista buildings.

Gaudi's Casa Batllo

Casa Mila "La Pedera", again a Gaudi design
Park Guell, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of Gaudi's most colorful creations. He was commissioned in the 1890s by Count Eusebi Guell to design a garden city on 20 hectares (50 acres) of the famil estate. What you see today was finished between 1910 and 1914 and the park was opened in 1914.

For me part of the fun of visiting a city like Barcelona is wandering round the streets enjoying the sights and sounds of the city, stopping for some refreshment or a break from the heat when needed. However there is so much to see in Barcelona that its worth taking a ride on one of the "hop on, hop off" tour buses. That way you can see the more further afield attractions, enjoy this lovely city.

Palau Nacional
The Palau Nacional, or Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya is a must to visit during your stay in Barcelona. In 1990 the Catalan Museums Law reunited the collections of the old Museu d'Art de Catalunya and the Museu d'Art Modern under one roof, and declared it a national museum. The museum is easy to get to as it is one of the city tour bus stops. Entrance fee is just €10 with many discounts for families, students etc as well as with your tour bus ticket. For more information you'll find the museums website listed under our favourites.

Church of Sant Bartomeu i Santa Tecla

The waterfront at Sitges
During our most recent visit, we took a short drive to the seaside resort of Sitges, about half an hour from Barcelona by car. We enjoyed a lazy afternoon wandering around the streets of Sitges where you'll find many examples of modernista architecture amongst the 1970s apartment blocks. The resort's main landmark is the 17th century church of Sant Bartomeu i Santa Tecla.

So what about places to eat and enjoy a drink? You'll be spoilt for choice in Barcelona with something to suit everyone's pockets and tastes. We enjoyed some great food on our most recent trip, with two recommendations; Agua and Zarko. Situated down by the beach on Paseo Maritimo, Agua specialises in fresh and simple seafood, on a sunny day it gets very busy so if you want a table on their terrace be sure and book ahead.  You'll find Zarko on Carrer del Comte d'Urgell 280, the food is delicious, a modern take on Tapas. 

If cocktails are your think than be sure and visit Cafe San Telmo on C/Buenos Aires 60, be sure and dry the strawberry moquitos. Finally, on Bon Pastor 6 you'll find Luz de Gas, a great bar with a relaxed atmosphere and fun music, a great place to mingle before heading onto a club, or if you have an early flight the next day, home to bed.  

Adíos de Barcelona