Barcelona

Length of stay: 3 days
Visited: August 2022

Barcelona is located along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Spain. It is best known for its unique architecture. The city is constructed in a grid pattern of equally sized blocks to better integrate shops and restaurants (on the ground floor) with living (on the top floors) and recreational spaces (in the centre). The city also showcases some of the most iconic buildings designed by the famous architect, Antoni Gaudi.

Day 1: Gothic Quarter

We took a train from Madrid and arrived in Barcelona around lunch time. After dropping our bags off at our accommodations (it was still too early to check in), we found a spot nearby to grab a bite to eat. We then headed towards the Gothic Quarter, the historic centre of the oldest part of Barcelona.

We started off at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, known as the Barcelona Cathedral. It is a Gothic-style church that was built between the 13th and 15th centuries. It was hard to fully appreciate the beauty of the cathedral as there was a large advertisement plastered over the front. Thankfully it’s only supposed to be temporary. The giant sign was fitted over the scaffolding while one of the towers is being renovated. But still. The interior of the cathedral was much more authentic. And we purchased tickets to climb the tower to the rooftop terrace.

We wandered around the Gothic Quarter some more and admired the medieval architecture.

We also passed the Arc de Triomf, an impressive arch that was built as a gateway for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair that leads to Ciutadella Park where the fair was once located.

We returned to our accommodations to officially check in and to take a break. We headed out later in the evening to visit Casa Batllo, a building that was designed by Antoni Gaudi. There are a few different ticket options to choose from. We went with the general ticket, which we thought was already pretty pricey. But, if you’re willing to shell out even more euros, you can visit earlier in the morning with less visitors or later in the evening to see the rooms when it’s dark outside. You can also pay extra to visit some of the additional rooms in the building. Our strategy was to visit later in the evening to avoid the crowds, which somewhat worked, except for the fact that they also offer special tours in the evening.

Our general ticket included an audio guide to learn more about Casa Batllo, which is considered one of Gaudi’s masterpieces. Marvelled for his creativity, innovative ideas, and use of colours and curves, Gaudi is considered a pioneer of the Art Nouveau movement and is known for his modernist architectural style. Much of his work was also inspired by nature. Our ticket provided access to the noble floor, loft, blue tiled spiral staircase and rooftop terrace.

After completing our self-guided tour, we returned our audio guides and headed back to our accommodations.

Day 2: Sagrada Familia

Today we had planned to see more of Gaudi’s architecture, starting with the Sagrada Familia, the most famous of his works. The basilica is considered one of Barcelona’s most iconic landmarks and is famous for its unique design and innovative architecture. It has been under construction since 1882 and still remains unfinished today. It is anticipated to be completed in 2026.

We purchased our tickets weeks in advance for the first time slot available at 9am. From our accommodations it was about a 30 minute walk to get there. Despite arriving early, there was already a line to get in. But at least it was moving fast. Once we entered the complex, we made a beeline for the cathedral.

When completed, the Sagrada Familia will have 18 towers: twelve of the towers will represent the apostles, four for the Evangelists, one for the Virgin Mary and the last, and tallest tower, dedicated to Jesus Christ. At the time of our visit, only nine of the spires have been built, two of which are open to the public. As part of our ticket, we had to choose between visiting the tower on the Nativity facade to the east or the tower on the Passion facade to the west. After consulting the internet, it seemed like the Nativity tower was the more popular choice, so that’s what we went with. And naturally we booked the first time slot available.

The Nativity facade was the first facade to be completed and represents the birth of Jesus. An elevator whisked us to the top of the tower where there’s a narrow platform that provides sweeping views of Barcelona. We took the narrow winding staircase back down to the basilica.

Once we made it back to the ground floor, we explored the interior of the basilica. It was breathtakingly beautiful with all the colourful stained glass windows and geometric forms, all of which were inspired by nature.

Afterwards we went to Palau Guell, a mansion designed by Gaudi for the wealthy Guell family. It was built between 1886 and 1888. It’s not as well known as Gaudi’s other buildings. As such, the tickets weren’t outrageously expensive and it wasn’t very busy. We downloaded the audio guide on our phone and toured through the house at our own pace.

We then went to the Palau de la Musica Catalana, a concert hall that is famous for its architecture. At first glance you might think it was designed by Gaudi because of all the use of colours and curves. But, it was actually designed by Lluis Domenech i Montaner, another Spanish architect who was also very influential to the Art Nouveau and modernist movement. We signed up for a guided tour to learn more about the architecture and use of the building. The concert hall is adorned with shiny floral mosaics, sculptures and stained glass windows, including a giant skylight that resembles the sky.

From there we walked to the Basilica of Santa Maria del Pi, a Gothic-style church that was built in the 14th century. We purchased tickets in advance for the guided climb of the bell tower, which is reputed to provide the best views of the Gothic Quarter. We arrived a few minutes prior to the start of our tour, which gave us some time to first walk around the church. The main feature is the massive rose window above the main entrance.

Our guided tour of the bell tower consisted of walking up a narrow spiral staircase to the top of the roof where six bells are located. Along the way there were a few platforms for us to catch our breath. It was well worth the climb (and money) as the views from the bell tower were spectacular. The weather on the other hand was not. A storm was rolling in and we could hear the thunder from a distance. We didn’t spend too much time on the roof before it started to rain. Our guide led us down to a lower platform to wait out the rain. He then brought us back up to the roof once the rain subsided. But this was of course short lived.

By the time we reached the ground floor it was full out storming outside. We took our time to finish exploring the church and to visit the treasury, museum, garden and crypt, which were included with our ticket. Eventually we would have to face the rain though. We raced back to our accommodations and stopped for dinner along the way.

Day 3: More of Gaudi’s Architecture

We woke up bright and early to visit Parc Guell, one of the largest green spaces in Barcelona. It contains landscaped gardens, various walking paths and architectural elements designed by Gaudi. We read online that entry is free if you arrive between 7 to 9a.m. From our accommodations it was just under an hour walk to reach the park. It was a great way to get the blood pumping first thing in the morning as we had to walk up several steep hills and a series of staircases. We arrived at the main entrance just after 8a.m only to discover that the park is now only free early in the morning for people who live in Barcelona. Cool.

We found a bench to take a break and regroup. We decided to just buy our tickets online. Except the first time slot available wasn’t until 12:30p.m. Given how long it took us to walk here, and we didn’t exactly feel like coming back or waiting around for four hours. We asked the person at the entrance if we could just go in when the gates to the non-locals opened at 9a.m. Sure, no problem.

We were the first people through the gates when they officially opened. We made a beeline for some of the popular points of interest in the park starting with the nature square, a terrace which features a mosaic tile bench. It also overlooks the two pavilions that form the porter’s lodge. The park was initially supposed to be a gated community that contained sixty luxury homes. Gaudi oversaw the construction of the park from 1900 to 1914 for Eusebi Guell (for whom the park is named after), but the project wasn’t successful. Only two houses were ever built, neither of them by Gaudi, before the land became city property and was converted into a park.

Other points of interest in the park include the Hypostyle Room located underneath the nature square, the monumental staircase decorated with more mosaic tiles, the Austria Gardens, three viaducts and the Gaudi House Museum.

After wandering around for about an hour, the park became way too crowded for our liking, so it was time for us to move on. From there it’s about a 20 minute walk to Casa Vicens, which is considered Gaudi’s first major project. The house was built between 1883 and 1885 as a summer house for the Vicens family. We downloaded the audio guide on our phone to learn more about the house, Gaudi’s architectural style and about each of the various rooms covered on our self-guided tour.

After having a late lunch and taking a break at our accommodations, we headed back out later in the afternoon to visit the Picasso Museum. The art museum contains some of Pablo Picasso’s work that he donated to the city from when he lived in Barcelona. The museum showcases how Picasso’s painting style has evolved over time, starting from his younger years.

Since we had some time to kill before dinner, we walked down to the waterfront to check out the marina and one of Barcelona’s famous beaches. This seemed like the place to be on a sunny afternoon. Maybe we should have brought our bathing suits. We didn’t stay long as there wasn’t much shade and it was hot.

After eating dinner, we visited Casa Mila, the last private residence designed by Gaudi. It was built between 1906 and 1912 for Roser Segimon and her husband Pere Mila to serve as their home, as well as a series of other apartments that they could rent out. It is commonly referred to as La Pedrera, which means “stone quarry in Catalan, because of its stony facade.

There are a few different experiences and ticket options at Casa Mila. We went with the general ticket which included access to the tenants’ apartments (which has been recreated to show how a family would have lived like in the 20th century), the attic (which features 270 catenary arches that resemble the skeleton of a whale and contains an exhibit of models, drawings and designs from Gaudi), the rooftop terrace (to get a nice view of the city, along with a close up of the warrior themed stone chimneys), and the two courtyards. We were provided an audio guide with headphones to learn more about the history of the building and about Gaudi.

Once we wrapped up our tour of Casa Mila, we headed back to our accommodations. Tomorrow we planned to take a day trip from Barcelona to spend the last day of our vacation.

L

78 thoughts on “Barcelona

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’d take that as a sign from the universe that you should totally visit Spain. What better way to practice your Spanish!? Barcelona was a real highlight of our trip to Europe. The architecture is stunning. I also love how the city was planned to better integrate shops and restaurants with where you live.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thattamma C.G Menon says:

    Such a wonderful place Barcelona 🌷🙏👍🏻 the legend church and the beauty carvings from
    Inside and outside, great colourful buildings and awesome sea all so wonderful photography 👍🏻😍
    And dear you are so beautifully gave explanation ✍️💝thank you for sharing and grace wishes 👏♥️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Darlene says:

    You packed in a lot and saw the best parts of Barcelona! There is so much more but hard to fit it all in. I’ve been about 5 times and still haven’t seen it all. I too love the Gaudi buildings and park.

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We definitely tried to make the most of our limited time in Barcelona and visited as many of Gaudi’s buildings as we could. I also really liked how the city was designed around squares. It’s too bad we don’t do a better job with urban planning here in Ontario.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. wetanddustyroads says:

    Oh wow … what a beautiful city! The Arc de Triomf is stunning, but the Casa Batllo is definitely the winner for me on day 1! And the Sagrada Familia on day 2 … my word, it’s beautiful! Gaudi was a very busy man – his designs are true master pieces! And it seems you two got quite a workout during your time in Barcelona!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We initially weren’t even going to visit Casa Batllo because the tickets were a bit steep, but I’m glad we changed our minds and were able to get last minute tickets. The architecture inside and out is marvelous. I love all the curves and colours. The Sagrada Familia was definitely a highlight of our time in Barcelona. We visited a lot of churches during our trip to Italy and Spain, but this was by far the most impressive.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Vanessa says:

    I visited Barcelona a few years ago but I’m a really bad tourist and didn’t book any tickets in advance and didn’t want to wait in line… I ended up spending more time walking around than visiting these beautiful buildings, but there was so much to see and the city has such a nice vibe (and amazing food!). Thanks for bringing back the memories! 🙂

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      One of the things that I loved about Barcelona was just wandering around and admiring all the architecture too. It’s neat how the city was designed around squares, which means that there are plenty of options for restaurants and cafes no matter where you are in the city. Even though there were a lot of people around, it never felt very crowded. The ticket prices to visit some of Gaudi’s buildings were outrageous. We figured we’re only here once so we splurged a bit. And yes, the food was fantastic! We never got used to eating so late at night though!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ab says:

    This was a very enjoyable post to reading on a Friday evening. I really felt like I got to experience Barcelona with you both. What a beautiful and breathtaking city.

    I’ve read and seen pictures of the grid architecture. What an interesting way to design the city. I liked reading about the big green space and park because it didn’t look like they had a look of green from the birds eye pictures I’ve seen of them grid.

    Sagrada Familial is beautiful! How amazing that we’ll get to see its completion in just a few years. To think it’ll have taken 145 years from start to finish. Too bad Gaudi will never get to see its completion.

    I’m not too familiar with him actually but glad to have been introduced to his unique style. Can’t wait to visit Barcelona myself one day!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. The architecture in Barcelona is stunning. I also love how the city was designed around squares to better integrate where you work, live and play. It’s a great concept when you have limited space and want to cut down on having to drive everywhere. Ontario can use a lesson instead of just adding to the urban sprawl. Don’t even get me started on the traffic in the GTA. And it’s only going to get worse as our cities continue to expand.

      We visited a lot of churches during our trip to Italy and Spain, but the Sagrada Familia was easily my favourite. It’s so bright and colourful inside and I love the use of curves. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

      Hope you had a wonderful weekend. I’m guessing T is staying home while the education workers are on strike. I was reading that the GO Transit employees are now going on strike starting today. What a hot mess this government has made.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ab says:

        I always feel European cities get it right with urban design and planning. Maximize work life balance and minimize driving and cars.

        Yes, T is at home this week. This is gonna be a challenging and tiring week ahead. Trying not to freak out. Can only take it a day at a time. And yes, hot shitty mess is the right description! 🙂 Good luck on your end this week!

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Oh I know. Not to mention how convenient and fast it is to travel by train in Europe. There’s something nice to be said about being able to walk to places rather than always having to rely on your car.

        Thank goodness the strike was short-lived and that schools are reopening today! You must be thrilled, haha.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. usfman says:

    My wife and I always rush through Barcelona to adapt to short cruise stays there. Thanks for a more a more in depth look at this city. By the way, I noticed you read almost all of our roadtrip blogs this October and I thank you for your dedication to respond.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Taking a cruise through the Mediterranean sounds lovely. Barcelona is definitely worth a visit, even just to wander around and admire the design of the city and architecture. We haven’t travelled in the past couple of months, so it’s nice to live vicariously through other people’s adventures. I love a good road trip!

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  7. leightontravels says:

    You made good use of your three days it seems. The Gaudi stuff is one of the things that makes Barcelona so special, I need to go back one day to experience Casa Batllo. Your photographs really pop off the page.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. Life (and especially vacation time) is short!! I was blown away by the incredible architecture in Barcelona, including Gaudi’s work. The Casa Batllo was one of my favourites. The price to get in was outrageously steep though, especially considering how many rooms you actually get to visit. But, we’re only here once.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Bama says:

    Barcelona is an example of how having a home-grown architect — a visionary, to be precise — can shape not only a city’s appearance, but also its identity which will last for a really long time. What an impressive collection of architectural wonders Barcelona has! I wonder how much busier the city will get when Sagrada Familia is eventually completed.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. It’s incredible how a single person like Gaudi can have such a profound impact on a big city like Barcelona. His work is so innovative and imaginative. Naturally I was delighted to learn that a lot of his work was inspired by nature. I’m glad we got to tour through some of his masterpieces. The Sagrada Familia is always busy, but they’ve done a great job of handling and spacing out the timing of the crowds. Tickets are only available to purchase online and they often sell out days (or weeks) in advance. It would be neat to return to see it when it’s fully completed.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      You bet. It’s neat how Barcelona is designed around these squares, which better combine where you live, work and play. This means that no matter where you are, there’s always people around and something is happening. Even though it was busy, it never felt very crowded.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. michellecj333 says:

    These photos are gorgeous! I just realized that Im a HUGE Gaudi fan. The colors, curves, and overall interesting aesthetic ticks all of my boxes. It seems like you all packed in the best of Barcelona in just a few days! Loved reading about it!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. It was fascinating to tour through some of Gaudi’s buildings and admire his creativity and craft. It’s a shame we don’t strive for more uniqueness when it comes to designing our cities, but I guess it comes with a pretty big price tag. The architecture was definitely the highlight of our time in Barcelona.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Despite visiting Barcelona in the middle of summer, we had a wonderful time. Even though there were a lot of people around, it never felt very crowded. The architecture was the real star of the show during our trip. It was neat to tour through some of Gaudi’s buildings and admire his creativity and design.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We visited a lot of churches during our trip to Italy and Spain, but the Sagrada Familia stands out as being my favourite. The stained glass windows were gorgeous and so vibrant. The attention to detail was remarkable.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. The architecture in Barcelona was stunning. I also just love how the city was designed to better integrated where you work, live and play. It’s a neat concept and I’m surprised we don’t try to do more of that, especially here in Canada.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Josy A says:

        I really wish we had more of that in Canada! Although to be fair, Vancouver is not bad at that (especially as things keep improving for cycle infrastructure…)

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        That’s very true. We visited Vancouver earlier in the spring and I loved how nature has been incorporated in and around the city and that the waterfront has been preserved for all to enjoy. We found it very easy to walk around everywhere.

        Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The architecture in Barcelona is breathtaking. It was neat to tour through some of Gaudi’s masterpieces and see his innovative and imaginative style in person. The Sagrada Familia took my breath away. We visited a lot of churches during our trip to Spain and Italy, and the Sagrada Familia stands out as being my favourite.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. We had a wonderful time just wandering around Barcelona and admiring all the beautiful architecture. The food was also amaaaazing! Hopefully you’re able to visit someday.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That’s so exciting!! I would recommend visiting Parc Guell. It’s a neat park with a lot of walking paths and points of interest that gives you a glimpse into Gaudi’s architectural style. There were a lot of families there when we visited and the price isn’t nearly as outrageous as some of Gaudi’s other buildings. Best of luck with your trip planning.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. The architecture in Barcelona is breathtaking, especially Gaudi’s work. It was neat to just wander around and admire all the unique buildings and how the city was designed. There’s always something happening along La Rambla. I love how vibrant the city is.

      Liked by 1 person

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