Barcelona – If you’re going to see only one Spanish city…

June 08, 2015 By: erik Category: Spain, Travel 401 views

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BarcelonaWhen people ask me what city they should visit in Spain, the first answer is always the same. Madrid is great and all, and has it’s charm – however, name me another important city on the globe with no bodies of water, not even a river! – Barcelona really should be prioritized over its political and fútbol rival.

It has been a long time since I visited Barcelona. To be more precise, it will be 14 years this coming fall. Too long! Barcelona is a very interesting place. The second biggest city in Spain, and one of the biggest in Europe. It elegantly combines the old with the new, featuring magnificent old buildings with the newest architectural trends.

The things I remember the most about Barcelona are the Gaudí architecture, with the house in the Passeig de Gràcia. And the park. This was very funny because we almost missed it. We went there and started walking and walking around the mountain, but we only saw gardens and forest landscape. When we were almost ready to leave, we finally found what we had gone there to visit. It was a nice thing that we got to see it because we loved the place, the colors, the shapes. Also, the views of all the landscape from the top of the mountain are breathtaking. So, when you decide to take your city breaks to Barcelona, remember to go to the proper place on the mountain.

Casa Batlló view from Passeig de Gràcia

Obligatory tourist shot of Casa Batlló from Passeig de Gràcia.

The city is full of interesting places to visit, with great buildings such as the Generalitat, the Town Hall, the bridge that connects the two buildings used by politicians to escape unseen. Of course, there is the unfinished Sagrada Família that is spectacular with all the details in the tall towers. If you are lucky enough, as we were, and happen to be around this area on a Sunday morning some not so young people might be dancing a Sardana. If we did understand correctly this happens more or less spontaneously every Sunday. A group of people get together and some play music and others dance. They often do not wear special clothes or anything, so in theory it is open to anybody that wants to and knows how to dance.

Sardana

Sardana dancers.

One of the most known streets in the world is La Rambla. It really is impressive, always so full of people, so vibrant. People strolling, people walking fast and people from all around the globe. If you are not from a big cosmopolitan city Barcelona will surprise you with very different individuals from many different countries. It is a nice experience to understand about different realities and that there are many alternatives to the way we dress. Along the way towards the sea there are many flower shops with a colorful selection of them, many people that will try to get your attention (and your money) with cards (e.g. Three-Card Monte), or balls or other tricks that you can not even imagine.

la rambla

La Rambla

At the end of this lovely walk there is another icon of Barcelona: the statue of Christopher Columbus, as I was taught his name in school, or Cristóbal Colón if you’re from Spain, or Cristóvão Colombo if you’re Portuguese, or Cristoforo Colombo, if you are from Italy, like he was.

Las Ramblas i Monumento a Colón

You really can’t miss the statue of Columbus. Or if you don’t see it, look up.

I do not remember anything that we eat or any restaurant that we went to, aside from some paella and some sangria, overpriced must-eats if you dare eat with the tourists on La Rambla. In our next visit (hopefully there will be one without having to wait 14 more years) we will have to explore the city’s gastronomic offering. They have many dishes in Catalunya that are simply not available in my part of Spain. Both my wife and I look forward to returning.

Barcelona

 
  • Miguel

    As a Madrileño, I’ve got something to say: We do have a body of water: The “Manzanares” river. It’s not big, it’s not pretty, and it’s as dirty as it can be (though it’s been cleansed in recent years), but it is a river nonetheless.

    • Ha! I do appreciate being corrected. Thanks!

      According to Wikipedia, the city was founded in the 9th century by Muhammad I of Córdoba, who build a castle by the river, and the name came literally from the Arabic phrase “source of water”. Interesting!

      My previous theory as to its location was that it is literally in the middle of the peninsula, where all the roads going across it would cross. That does make it a good place to rule from, I suppose.

      • Miguel

        In fact, Spain has had several capital cities throughout its history, each of them a little more to the south than the previous one. There’s a theory that says that the more the southern territory was taken from the moorish kingdoms, in what is called “the spanish reconquista” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reconquista) the more to the south the capital was moved in an attempt for it to be “in the middle of the kingdom”.

        I hope my english is good enough to make myself understood, I don’t have that many chances to speak (nor write) english.

        Best regards!

        • Your English is excellent, Miguel. You write more clearly than most of my anglophone friends.

          • Miguel

            Thank you, I’m flattered.

            By the way, yours is a very interesting blog. I’ll be joining the discussions whenever I feel like I can add something interesting to the topic.