I visited Barcelona for the first time in 1998 and it was love at first sight. I had not seen many European cities yet and it set the bar very high. Now, after having been to most major European cities, Barcelona still ranks at the top of the list. As we talk to people, we’ve discovered that we’re not alone. A sun-drenched seaside city with vibrant culture, renowned architecture and museums, plus great food – what’s not to love?
We arrived in the evening and after a bit of a wander, we had dinner at Lolita Taperia. It was a warm evening. We sat outside and ordered a round of tapas…then another…and another. Patatas Bravas (with the spicy sauce on the side, for the kids’ sake) were a big hit. We rented an apartment in the Eixample district, near the National Museum. Even if you don’t venture inside, this is a beautiful building and a great place to spend a sunny morning with two excited and energetic girls.
Autumn in Barcelona feels like a good summer day in Copenhagen. The color of the trees reminded us that it was, in fact, November.
That evening we went to Parc Güell. If you’ve been here before, count yourself lucky. Once free, there is now an entrance fee. This has been slightly controversial, as some believe that Gaudi created the park for everyone to enjoy and would have wanted it to remain free. As an attempt to protect a Unesco World Heritage site, which has been open for over 100 years, access is now limited to 800 people per day. Plus, tourism is one of the only thing working in Spain’s economy at the moment, so obviously, it is also a method for increasing the city’s revenue.
That said, this stunning city garden is certainly worth 8 Euros. You don’t have to be an architecture buff to appreciate the work of Antoni Gaudi. His artistic, colorful designs and odd-shaped buildings seem to be irresistible to everyone. The girls thought this was a wonderful place to play ‘tag’ and ‘hide-n-seek’. Especially among the huge columns.
Tips: Be sure not to leave the paid section of the park before you are ready. They won’t let you back in – we saw people get turned away. When you are ready to leave the lower section, the upper section is free and you can wander back down after closing time (which in November was 18:00). Go at sunset and stay until dark, for ultimate mosaic sparkle.
Barcelona is one of those destinations where the top attractions are worth seeing again and again. Especially when it comes to witnessing the progress of the Sagrada Familia. Another Gaudi wonder, this jaw-dropping church is scheduled to be completed in 2026…that would be 100 years since Gaudi’s death. When we were in Barcelona in 2003, construction of the interior had only just begun. The unique exterior will leave anyone gawking, but the interior is nothing short of stunning. The way the light filters through the abundant stained glass…the nature-inspired columns of concrete trees and branches…you will leave with a strained neck from looking up in every direction. You will also leave with an astonishing amount of respect for the imagination, creativity and dedication that has gone into this spiritual work of art.
Tip: Buy tickets online to avoid long lines – especially in the summer!
To be continued… read part II