The first landmark we were going to stop at, would be La Sagrada Familia, designed by Antoni Gaud, one of Spain’s most famous architects, and one of the most iconic basilicas in Europe. It sits almost directly in the middle of Barcelona and is over 100 years old.
The most interesting part of La Sagrada Familia, is that it has never been completed, and will not be for at least another 6 years. Ongoing construction is mostly funded through tours of the structure. Additionally, because the construction has taken so long, the design has changed as each new section has been created and looks as though multiple different buildings have been conjoined into one.
It is by far one of the most astounding structures I have seen in person.
La Rambla is to Barcelona, what the Champs Elysée’s is to Paris. It is full of tourists and locals, it’s surrounded by high end stores and restaurants, it’s circled by hop-on-hop-off tour buses and has its fair share of people trying to sell you things you don’t need.
Most people come to this famed road in Barcelona just to walk, shop and eat, but do not go any further than that. However, if you venture through one of the many side streets behind La Rambla, you are treated to some of the most breathtaking architecture you will ever see. In some cases, it feels like you are on a Hollywood sound stage. The biggest thing that you will notice is just how quiet everything gets, and how everything seems to slow down. There is few people, no cars, just the sounds of your footsteps on the cobbled roads. This is the part of La Rambla people need to see, because you would never know it was even there.
Our Airbnb host told us about a great “eating road” that was outside of the heavily trafficked tourists’ areas, called Carrer de Blai. This road was home to many different cuisines, but it was decided we were going to eat like a local and enjoy a nice tapas bar. Luckily for us, we found one that was absolutely wonderful (and downright cheap!). While I can honestly say I was not sure exactly what it was I was eating, everything tasted fresh and wonderful. It really made for a nice relaxing midday break.
We wandered through one of Barcelona’s famous parks, Parc de Montjuic, which sat on the top of Montjuïc Hill (although it is more like a small mountain than a hill). After about a 35-minute hike up Montjuic, we finally reached the top, which contains cable cars, which is about $12 round trip. Utilizing the cable cars takes you to Castell de Montjuïc, which is a 17th-century castle that sits at one of the highest points in the city. We spent about an hour and a half of walking around the castle and surrounding grounds taking it all in.
Barcelona’s famous Parc Güell was also designed by Antoni Gaudi. It is a giant area of greenery inside Barcelona and covers nearly 45 acres of space. Needless to say, we were not aware of what we were getting into. The park is divided into many different sections, with one main walking path circling throughout. We decided to generally follow this path, while meandering through the park, which allowed for astounding panoramic views of the city.
The center of the park is the most touristy and is a “paid” area that claims to offer the best views. However, we ended up staying out of this area, and walked further up the park. Eventually we reached a part of the path that turned from stone to grass, and grass to dirt. We had started ascending the highest section of the park. The crowds were much more sparse as this is a place very few people ventured to. We ended up spending nearly 4 hours walking and taking photos inside the park.
The trip from Parc Güell to our next stop was 40 minutes and took us back to the bustling streets of La Rambla. We had finally arrived at La Pedrera, yet another iconic landmark designed by Antoni Gaudi.
Initially designed as an apartment building, La Pedrera is currently an “interactive” museum, and was one of the very first buildings to use an independent “exoskeleton”. Because of its design, the interior walls of the building could be changed and rearranged in any number of ways. La Pedrera Museum utilizes a guided audio player to walk you through each section and exhibit of the museum. The cost for this was around $30 a person, but it is very much worth it.
The tour takes about 2 hours or so, depending on how fast or slow you move through the building. During our visit, it was not very crowded, and allowed us to take more time to enjoy.
You cannot go to Barcelona without going to the beach, regardless of the time of year. Barcelona is home to some of the best beaches in Europe, and so after finishing our late lunch it was time to head to the beach! We had settled on Barceloneta Beach, which would take us through the touristy side of Barcelona to the more “local side.” The biggest challenge was getting there, as there was no direct connection by subway. After some time, we had finally made it to Barceloneta, and it is certainly touristy, with merchants lined up across the sand selling all sorts of tapestries.
Moving beyond the hordes of tourists, we finally made it out to the beach itself, just in time to watch the sunset over the sea. As darkness was fast approaching, we decided it was time to cap off the day with a nice seaside dinner.
However, we first had to find somewhere to eat, which meant continuing to walk the beach. After a short time of walking the nearly entire beachfront that Barcelona offers, we settled for a little seafood restaurant, and surprisingly were the first ones to be there. We ended up ordering the seafood paella, which was absolutely amazing. The best part was the dessert! Homemade flan and tiramisu that was absolutely unbeatable.
We decided to make one last stop at Font Magica, or Magic Fountain of Montjuic. The road leading up to Font Magica, was lined with fountains as well, and at night made for quite the scene. Unfortunately, they were currently preparing for New Year’s Eve festivities which were to be held there and limited our abilities to get up close to the fountain. Nonetheless, it was really beautiful seeing it lit up at night.