Barcelona, a contemporary Spanish city on the Mediterranean Sea
On the Iberian Peninsula
One of the most beautiful Spanish cities to vacation in is Barcelona. A Mediterranean Sea port city, Barcelona is bursting with modern, contemporary energy. There is no city like it in all of Europe and it became my favorite Spanish and European city the moment I stepped foot in it. Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and one of Europe's principal Mediterranean ports. It is the capital city of Catalonia, one of the largest regions located in northeast Spain. Catalan is the dialect spoken by the natives in Barcelona, but Castillian Spanish is spoken by all and in official business.
Barcelona is a large city to get around in and walking the entire time you are there is exhausting and near impossible. Use the metro and the modern tram trains to get around the city. They are relatively inexpensive and fast. Take them to the section of the city you want to explore and then you can take walking tours of that particular section. You don't want to miss anything in Barcelona - it's history, art, architecture, food, city life, night life - it all has a beat of energy I have not found in any other city. It is an exilerating, exciting, and ecstatic city and one you will certainly enjoy.
Las Ramblas , the promenade of the city, is the heartbeat of Barcelona. This long pedestrian walkway runs from the port and the Columbus monument all the way to the Placa Cataluyna, the historical center of the city. Here is where you meet the Catalonians, fiercely independent, strong-willed people. They walk along, sit in the cafes, shop and generally meander their way down las Ramblas talking, gesturing, laughing and taking in life. You can't help doing the same when here. The way is entertaining as well with street statues, the humans spray painted in silver or gold paint, standing as manniquins, and no, you can't get them to blink or move. They are fascinating. There are street musicians, artists, chalk drawings, mimes all doing their thing to entertain. At the middle of the Ramblas is la boqueria, the large food market that you don't want to miss. Every type of fish you can think of is for sale here: squid, eel, octopus, hake, prawns, langostas, just to name a few. Meats, fruits, vegetables, breads, pasteries all fill the stalls and vendors shout their wares and prices as you walk by. There are tiny bar-restaurants so you can try the food right there before purchasing anything. There at the Placa de la Boqueria on the walk is the large round mosaic by Barcelona's great modern artist, Joan Miro. You can spend and entire day just walking Las Ramblas. At night, it is lit up and the restaurants and cafes have entertainment as well as food. The food is delicious, with fresh fish being the main entrees in most restaurants and cafes with Barcelona being on the Mediterranean. The night life on Las Ramblas goes on well past midnight. This city beats to a different drummer.
Have I mentioned the wines? Barcelona is in the cava region of Spain. Cavas are the wine bodegas where sparkling Spanish wine is made. What the French call champagne, the Spanish call cavas. And the wineries for the cavas are in the surrounding area of Barcelona. One of my favorites, Cordiniu, is within an hour's car drive of Barcelona. I have visited it many times, and the sparkling wine (champagne) they make there is the best in Spain, in my opinion. This is also a great relaxing place to visit, tour, taste the cavas, and just sit and view the beautiful vineyards.
Architecture of Antonin Gaudi
Of course, what you don't want to miss, and probably couldn't even if you wanted to, is the architecture of Antoni Gaudi. His greatest work, La Sagrada Familia, the famous cathedral he designed and began constructing in 1882 and still being completed today, has become the international symbol of Barcelona. The intricate design has reminded some people of a frosted decorated cake design. It is magnificent showing the life of Jesus Christ around all sides of the building. It cannot be missed as well as the apartments and homes Gaudi built for patrons and clients. There is Casa Mila, Casa Vicens and Casa Batllo, all found near Las Ramblas. Walk up Passeig de Gracia from the Placa Catalunya and you will pass these unique, unusual, and wavy apartments and houses. They are what give Barcelona its modern, chic feel. Also, one of the unique parks in Barcelona, Park Guell, designed and built by Gaudi, contains his gingerbread modern houses and buildings. One whole day viewing Gaudi buildings is a must when visiting Barcelona. And of course, you don't want to miss two other great parks, the Barcelona Zoo, which is fantastic, and Park Montjuic, up on a hill overlooking the city, located in the south of town. Montjuic is where you will find the 1992 Olympic stadium, pool venue, and other Olympic sights, as well as a great view of the entire city.
- The Balearic Islands of Spain
The Belearic Islands are a year round Spanish paradise.
Another area not to be missed in Barcelona is the Barri Gotic, the old Gothic Quarter of town. Here was the medieval part of original Barcelona. The narrow streets wind around and display an architecture all their own. There are several churches and small cathedrals to see as you pass throught the streets. Evident in the architecture is the Arab influence, with the arched windows and archways and the intricate Moorish designs and mosaics. Nearby is the Picasso Museum. Picasso studied, lived and painted in Barcelona before moving to Paris, and many of his Barcelona paintings are shown here at this museum. Els Quatre Gats, The Four Cats cafe is also nearby where Picasso staged his first painting exhibition in 1899. It is a great place to have a coffee or a glass of wine, sit and read and people watch.
Two other museums I recommend are the National Museum of Art, which shows other artists besides Picasso, and Fundacio Joan Miro, that shows excusively the art of Miro. Both Picasso and Miro have left their mark on Barcelona which adds to the beat of the city.
And when you are finally exhausted from walking and sightseeing, there are always the beaches of Barcelona down next to the port area. Barcelona has the best urban beaches in the world according to National Geographic Magazine. When at the beach on the Mediterranean Sea, you don't even realize you are in a city of four million people.
To me, Barcelona is one of the most exciting and interesting cities in Spain and all of Europe, with the art, history, architecture, cafes, shopping, and culture all its own. Don't miss Barcelona when in Spain or if you are taking a Mediterranean cruise. Barcelona is one of the stops you can choose on a cruise and be sure to do so.