One of the best ways to get an overview of the city is to take a bus tour. Starting at Plaça Catalunya in the centre of the city, you buy a day ticket and can then hop on and off where you want, while seeing the city highlights – you definitely should see Gaudí’s Casa Batllo, La Sagrada Família and La Pedrera.
Gaudi, the most famous architect of Barcelona
Architect and designer, Antoni Gaudí i Cornet was at the forefront of the Art Nouveau movement in Spain. His work in Barcelona led to the creation of some of the city’s most notable landmarks. Gaudí was a pioneer in his field using color, texture, and movement in ways never before imagined. His works, both finished and uncompleted, stand as testimony to his genius. The monumental church El Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (Expiatory Temple of the Sacred Family) is Gaudí’s most famous work and a world-wide symbol of Barcelona.
There are some sights you definitely should not miss, such as Barcelona’s famously unfinished church of La Sagrada Família, designed by Antoni Gaudí. Gaudi played an active role in directing the construction of the Sagrada Familia until his death in 1926. The magnificent building is still under construction so be prepared to see a lot of work continuing when you visit. You can climb up some of the towers and there is a museum that has models of what the final structure will look like.
Casa Batllo and La Pedrera
Casa Batlló is one of the two great buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi on Passeig de Gracia, the other being La Pedrera. From the outside the façade of Casa Batlló looks like it has been made from skulls and bones. The “Skulls” are in fact balconies and the “bones” are supporting pillars. La Pedrera is situated on an asymmetrical corner lot, this large apartment building was immediately dubbed “la pedrera,” or “the quarry,” because of its cliff-like walls.
This unique, lively and colourful boulevard runs from Plaça de Catalunya down to the port, lined with newspaper and book stands, and interspersed with bird and flower stalls. Thriving commerce has its focus on one of the side streets, the Portaferrissa. The route features buildings of great architectural value, such as the Betlem church, the 18th-century Palau Moja and the Palau de la Virreina, where temporary exhibitions are held.
In the heart of the district, we find two new cultural infrastructures built in the nineties, which form the new cultural focus of the city: the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) and the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA). Back on La Rambla, visit the traditional food market, La Boqueria. This vibrant market holds all kinds of food stands and tapas bars, and is a great place to simply wander around or stock up. Nearby, you will find the multicoloured cobbled pavement designed by Joan Miró. On your right, you will find the opera house, the Gran Teatre del Liceu. Gaudí’s magnificent Palau Güell stands on Carrer Nou de la Rambla. Across La Rambla, the totally rejuvenated Plaça Reial continues to be an obligatory meeting point. Nearby you can visit the Wax Museum, the Museu de Cera.
Barcelona is split up into a number of districts. Each district (‘barrio’ in Spanish and ‘barri’ in Catalan) is quite distinct from the others. In Barrio Gotico the remains of the Roman city survive here alongside the city’s medieval buildings, witnesses to a splendid past. Its historic centre is Plaça del Rei. Nearby, we find the Museu d’Història de la Ciutat. Other places of interest in the Gothic Quarter include the Cathedral and its environs which include the Romanesque church of Santa Llúcia. Antique dealers, bookshops, restaurants, and unusual shops maintain the activity of this historical district and add to its interest.
Park Güell was commissioned by Eusebi Güell who wanted to create a stylish park for Barcelona aristocracy. Park Güell is a garden complex with architectural elements situated on the hill of el Carmel in the Gràcia district of Barcelona. It was designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and built in the years 1900 to 1914. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Works of Antoni Gaudí”. The park contains amazing stone structures, stunning tiling and fascinating buildings. At the top of Park Güell is a terraced area where you get a wonderful view of the park and of Barcelona City. Here you will find multi-coloured tiled mosaic seats.
Barri de la Ribera
The La Ribera district became the new city centre during the 13th and 14th centuries, when the Catalans were expanding their trade and sea links throughout the Mediterranean. The church of Santa Maria del Mar, a superb Gothic building, is the symbol of this maritime empire. The Passeig del Born retains some buildings with Gothic remains as well as a carefully restored 14th-century mansion.
This district houses one of Barcelona’s most visited museums, the Museu Picasso. Not far from here, in a surprising setting, we can admire the Romanesque chapel, the Capella de Marcús. The district has become one of the most frequently visited spots in the city over the last few years, a phenomenon which has led to the emergence of restaurants, bars, cocktail bars and other fashionable venues, injecting it with new life whilst respecting its traditional character.
Eixample is Catalan for ‘extension’ – the Eixample is an extension built onto the Ciutat Vella (Old Town, found to the south of Eixample), connecting it to Gracia. The main attraction of the Eixample is its modernist buildings. Gaudi has two buildings in this area, but there are many more buildings in this popular style to be discovered. As the Eixample is one of the richest parts of town, expect to see a lot of classy cuisine and high-end boutiques.
Parc de la Ciutadella
The Parc de la Ciutadella stands on the site of the old military citadel from which it takes its name. Some of the old buildings from the fort are still in existence today, such as the chapel, the Governor’s Palace and the arsenal, today seat of the Parliament of Catalonia.
The park is the perfect place to relax and has a peaceful and welcoming atmosphere and pleasant attributes such as the spectacular waterfall, the pond, flower gardens, and an abundance of trees. It is also the location of the Museu de Zoologia, a building designed by the architect Domènech i Montaner. Another area of the park is occupied by the large zoo.
Today, Barcelona is a city which is open to the sea. The port has become one of the favourite stop-off points for luxury cruise liners. From the Columbus Monument you can walk along the oldest part of the harbour front, the Port Vell.The city can also be viewed from the sea on one of the Golondrinas pleasure boats which travel across the harbour and along the city’s seafront.
The Barceloneta is a traditional sailing and fishing district which is renowned for its fish and seafood restaurants. It leads to the Olympic Village, where the athletes lived during the Olympic Games. The Olympic Marina has over 40 bars and restaurants and has become a new recreational area which, together with over four kilometres of beaches, offers the possibility to enjoy all kinds of water sports.
The Plaça de Catalunya
The Plaça de Catalunya is the center of the city, and this is where all the streets meet. This square is brimming and alive with shops, cafeterias and banks; it s truly a center of urban modern communications.
By car, train or bus you can go from Barcelona to Figueres. Inaugurated in 1974, the Dalí Theatre-Museum was built upon the remains of the former Figueres theatre. It contains the broadest range of works spanning the artistic career of Salvador Dalí (1904-1989), from his earliest artistic experiences and his creations within the Surrealist movement down to the works of the last years of his life.
Palau de la Música Catalana
Built between 1905 and 1908, the Palau de la Música Catalana is one of the most unique concert halls in the world and one of the monuments that best represents Catalan modernism. The Palau de la Música Catalana organizes daily Guided Tours of the Modernist Concert hall and, when available, Lluís Millet Hall and the Chamber Music Hall.