On first glance this city doesn’t even look like it is in Spain. It runs so smoothly, speaks a different language and they eat dinner at a reasonable time. I even rang my Spanish friend and told him that he must have lied about having dinner so late because very few restaurants were open after 10pm. His reply was that “Barcelona isn’t really in Spain”. I think the Catalan people would be pretty happy about that as well, as they would like independence.
My first adventure started while trying to find my hostel. I had no SIM card in my phone and had just the pinpoint for the address, with no image on my maps. I would have been lucky enough to find it straight away had the hostel had a sign out the front of it, which it didn’t. It meant I spent over an hour walking around the block and talking to people who had no idea where it was. When I finally found the Bravo Hostel it was late at night and I was hungry and ready to collapse. Not that I really cared that night, but the beds were super comfortable and the location was pretty great for exploring the city.
Wandering through the streets I saw a lot of amazing architecture, with Gaudi’s buildings shining and taking much of the tourist’s attention. I heard about Gaudi quite a while ago and though that I would follow an itinerary that loosely followed his works. I went to Park Güell and the Sagrada Familia, providing great insights in to the architect’s life. I feel that he had a mentality of ‘if it can be dreamed, it can be created’. His works really look like they have come out of a dream. In some ways they even remind me of Cappadocia in Turkey, like an abstract impression of the natural wonder. There are so many amazing buildings that no one seems to notice though, simply because they are not famous. The details on most are intricate and need to be viewed for longer than the standard point and shoot time many tourists seem to admire them in.
Attraction: Sagrada Familia
Getting there: Catch the subway to the Sagrada Familia stop
Cost: Depends on whether it is booked online or in person. Online is €15 for adults, €11 for students. In person it costs €3 more per person regardless of if it’s for an adult or student.
The area which really caught my attention was coming down the hill from the Montjuïc Castle to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. The gallery building was probably the most incredible building I saw in the city. It was huge, grand and detailed. To add to the grandeur there was a fabulous staircase with pillars and a path with garden leading to a statue in a fountain. The Centro Comercial Arena – shopping centre – is close to here and has a roof top viewing platform which was perfect to see the building from another angle, as well as getting a good view of the rest of the city. The mountain above this was full of gardens, as well as the castle which has beautiful gardens in the old moats.
Attraction: Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya area
Getting there: Catch the subway to the Playa Espanya stop and walk south about 400m
Cost: Entry costs €12, however I just went there to look at the building and scenery. I did not go inside.
A chance encounter with the free museum at Mercat Del Born had me learning all about the history of Catalonia. This place had some really cool excavations of medieval ruins and a lot of information about the market, the end of the Catalonia state and the ruins which have been uncovered. I didn’t realise just how recently Catalonia was taken over by the Spanish Kingdom, with the Siege of Barcelona happening only 300 years ago.
Attraction: Mercat Del Born
Getting there: Catch the subway to the Barceloneta stop and walk north, zigzagging through the streets for about 200m
Not only is Barcelona known for it’s beautiful architecture, it is also known for art, in particular Picasso. Picasso went to university here and many of his earlier works of art are now on display at the Picasso museum. I have seen many of his later works at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, so it was incredibly interesting to see how he got to that point in his art. It was not what I expected at all, with early works being very traditional in style. Portraits were just like any other portrait of the time. It seems that after a trip to Paris his famous style developed. I loved the museum, and managed to get in free with my student card which was a huge plus.
Attraction: Picasso Museum
Getting there: Take the subway to the Jaume I stop and walk north east up Career de la Princesa, turn right at Career de Montcada, the museum is on the left.
Cost: Free for students; €11 for adults
While I love art and architecture, the beach was calling my name the next day. I hadn’t sat at the beach and stared out at the wonderful ocean for a while and it felt so good. The weather was perfect, though I think this is pretty typical of Barcelona. Just like the rest of the city art wasn’t far away, with some along the beach popping out of the sand. On the way there I found some pretty stella street art as well. Most of the street art in Barcelona was names, but I managed to find some cool scenes as well.
The big city had me at hello, however I felt like a break after coming from Istanbul in to another big city. Luckily I met some great friends at the hostel in Barcelona who were heading to Montserrat for a night, so I decided to join them. The town we stayed in Esparreguera was about an hour out from Barcelona and was not touristy at all. The trek started at the town and traversed through the mountains until getting to the monastery. It was just over nine kilometres and about four hours one way.
The scenery was incredible, with mountains and valleys along the whole way. The monastery itself was a crazy place. It is right on the mountainside. We didn’t actually get to the monastery as we were running out of sunlight, though we got to a viewing point where we could see it hanging off the cliff.
It was weirdly nice to get back to Barcelona. It is a big, busy city, but it has a nice laid-back vibe, made even better by the close proximity to some great trekking routes.