I went to Barcelona without any expectations. In fact, I was so busy before my trip, I haven’t prepared for it, at all. I just needed a few days to break and some quiet time to spend with Marijan and Karlo. So, my initial plan was just to get some sun and to enjoy Spanish cuisine.
Three days in Barcelona
Where we stayed?
We stayed in the apartment in the historical building from the beginning of the 20th century in Dreta de l ‘Eixample neighbourhood. We were just in between Gaudi’s Casa Batllo, Casa Mila and Sagrada Familia. The whole area was urbanistically planned in the mid-19th century to provide a high living standard to then growing Barcelona. All the crossroads are forming octagons, so you can easily recognize the area at the map. It is a great place to explore Gaudi’s work, with many elegant buildings, great local restaurants, and it is not far from the city centre.
La Rambla and La Boqueria Market
After checking in our apartment, we walked over La Rambla towards Barcelona’s port. Although I heard many bad things about the most famous street in Barcelona, it wasn’t so bad at all. Maybe, because we were there during the low season, it wasn’t packed with people at all.
Actually, I loved it because of La Boqueria Market. There is a saying there if you can’t find something on La Boqueria, it is not worth eating, at all! All the food looked so fresh, variety of fish and the seafood was incredible. I loved the fresh smoothies there (sold for 1-2 euros only) and a snack box filled with Spanish ham Jamón.
Sun and sea
At the end of La Rambla is a statue of a man who changed the history of the city – Christopher Columbus. We can argue now if his discovery was beneficial for Barcelona or not, but it was definitely important. However, his statue symbolically marks the entrance to Barcelona’s port. It is a wonderful place, with modern architecture and many yachts to see. There is a nice walking path there as well, so it is a perfect place for an evening walk. We enjoyed watching a group of skaters there. One of them even offered Karlo to try to step on his skateboard (what Karlo of course, shyly refused to do).
As a perfect end of the day, we finished it with dinner in one of the restaurants in Barceloneta. We had some tapas and drank red wine while enjoying the view on the port and sea.
Same as with Barcelona, I wasn’t expecting much from Sagrada Familia, the church that is still under construction and surrounded with cranes. But how wrong I was! The church is stunning! I am not sure if I liked more illuminated interior or exterior with statues that obviously inspired George Lucas for some of the characters in Star Wars movies. It is an incredible place, without any obvious references in historical architecture. I couldn’t stop wondering where did he found inspiration for it.
The most amazing thing was actually the feeling I had when I was inside. I felt like a small Medieval peasant standing in one of the French Gothic cathedrals, feeling God’s presence in it. It was like I left the world outside and entered some sacred place. He definitely made a Gothic cathedral of modern times.
Walk through the old city
The only activity we actually planned was the Old City walking tour. Luckily we were in a small group and had an amazing guide Lowri. She was so knowledgeable, friendly and really tried to adjust the tour to our interests. She explained to us a history of Barcelona, Catalonia and Spanish civil war. However, she also took us to some traditional sweets tasting and explained the origins of some funny characters we saw in the Christmas market. I can’t recommend the tour more, so here is the link to all the tours they are offering!
Lunch in the oldest guest house in Barcelona
Our lovely guide gave us the recommendation for the restaurant with an amazing food, located in the oldest guest house in Barcelona dating back in the 15th century – La Bona Sort.
I loved everything there, interior and the way they decorated the old house with modern details; service and the fact they were so kind to us visiting with a toddler. However, the food was absolutely the best part! It was delicious! It was so good that we came here for lunch the other day as well!
What I liked about Picasso’s Museum in Barcelona is the building in which it is located. It is an old Medieval town palace, with beautiful, elegant windows and thin pillars on them. What I didn’t like so much, was the collection. They are having Picasso’s early works and very late ones on display, so it is a quite small collection of rather unknown paintings.
Early works are interesting because you can see a great talent he was showing already as a young 14-year-old student. ‘Blue phase’ is also exciting, as well as some of his painted ceramic pieces from the later phase. The rest of the collection would be interesting for the true Picasso’s admirers, but for the rest, I would suggest his Museum in Paris.
This was the day for Mr. Gaudi! Since we were staying in Dreta de l ‘Eixample area, his famous buildings were located in just a few steps from our apartment.
One of the benefits of staying in a neighbourhood where locals are living is also experiencing local life. We went to the local restaurant for breakfast, placed just a few blocks from our building. And we had breakfast with our neighbours there, listening to Catalan language and eating delicious jamón.
This small, every-day-life situations, when you are actually experiencing local life, rather than just running from one sight to another, are in my opinion what travelling is all about.
After Sagrada Familia, I kind of started to be curious about Gaudi and his life. So, an evening before I read everything I could find on the internet about him, his childhood affection to nature and its reflections in his architecture.
So, Casa Mila (La Pedrera) and Casa Batllo were next on our list, however, we only take a look to them from the outside. Both houses have a very unique appearance, and they are very different from each other. But, what both have in common, and what was so amazing for me, is that they are so different in shape and decoration from the rest of the buildings, but somehow, they are fitting there perfectly. I could just sit in front of them, looking to them for hours, discovering every single detail and wondering from where Gaudi found inspiration for it.
We wanted to visit some of the residential neighbourhoods to get a better insight into local life, so we went for a walk around the Gràzia area. It is a vivid place, full of life. Since we were there on Saturday morning, a lot of people went to the market or were having coffee with friends. We also set on a terrace of one of the cafes there, on a small square with a church in its centre.
The whole area was giving us a feeling of a Mediterranean town, with coloured facades, orange and lemon trees and clothes drying on the balconies. But, this small square had it the most. Stone made church, life happening outside with people drinking their coffee and discussing Barcelona-Real Madrid match that was happening a day before. And then, again, those small details gave me a feeling of a strong personality Barcelona has, with a Star Wars inspired street art, Art Deco floral decorations on facades or Catalunian flags proudly displayed on many balconies. Barcelona is definitely a city with a soul!
If we haven’t got enough of Mediterranean feeling walking around Grazia neighbourhood, then climbing those stairs to come to Park Guell definitely put us in the mood. Luckily they installed some escalators there as well, which were especially amusing to Karlo.
After seeing Gaudi’s church, then his residential buildings, I was wondering about the park he created. And he didn’t disappoint me there, neither! It is incredible how he combined nature with shapes of the architecture, and a location of the park with a beautiful view of the city. The massive terrace from which you can see Barcelona, and rest a bit on its benches is decorated with small pieces of painted ceramics, a technique he started to use a lot in his buildings.
I really love city parks, and they are always telling you a story about the spirit of the city and its residents. With its colourful decorations, fresh and mild air and a beautiful smell of the flowers, this one definitely represented Barcelona. However, by many people visiting, I can imagine it can be overcrowded during the Summer.
Getting lost in the streets of old town
After lunch, in now already my favourite restaurant in the city, we went to the old town area once again. It was Saturday later afternoon, and many people went for a walk around the city. Many street musician and performers get out to the streets, as well. So we spent our last evening in the city, by listening to music, buying some Christmas decorations and just getting lost in the old streets of Barcelona.
And I loved it! Loved it so much, I would move there right away. Sooo, anyone needs an art historian in Barcelona?