Monday, July 4, 2016

Barcelona Essentials

Are you planning to visit for some days the jewel of the Mediterranean? Have you ever heard about the open air museum that some call Barcelona? Here are some tips for all those foreginers that want to feel as a local.

I've been asked some times during my stay abroad what to visit in Barcelona or which are the main sights. After all, I decided to write a post and send the link to all those friends who have intentions of going to the catalan capital. And... who knows, maybe some of my compatriots will forward this post to help those contacts interested in Barcelona. To all of you: I am open to suggestions and improvements, let's build a tiny guide for all the travellers!

Click the picture, save the photo and zoom it whenever you are lost ;)

1. Sagrada Familia - The Essentials

Start early in the morning visiting La Sagrada Familia, the most iconic place of the city. Gaudí dedicated part of his life to plan and start building this amazing basilica and, as you will see with the workers and constructors, they are still building it. If I had to decide, it would be so difficult for me to choose either the exterior or the interior as the most beautiful feature, it is a jewel as a whole! (Tip for the photographers: if you want to catch all the magnificience of the building try to walk away till the end of the parks that sorround the church, from there you will have the complete view of this holly place.)

> If you have enough time, have a walk through Avinguda Gaudí, a nice avenue full of restaurants and free of cars that goes from Sagrada Familia to Hospital Sant Pau (11). This last place is a complex full of Art Nouveau buildings that hosted a Hospital some hundreds of years ago. Check here on Instagram the hashtag to see more.

2. La Pedrera - The Essentials

The street called Passeig de Gracia itself is a gallery full of art. My reccomendation would be to start from the corner between Avinguda Diagonal and Passeig de Gracia. From this point you should go down the street till you find the precious Pedrera. It is easily recognizable due to its curved balconies and its nature-shaped face. From the inside, you will be able to see the amazing columns and architectural forms that Gaudí created. Ah! and don't forget to go to the rooftop! The views of Barcelona are simply breathtaking.

3. Casa Batlló - The Essentials

If you come from the previous mentioned place La Pedrera, you just have to follow the same street Passeig the Gracia to the direction of the sea to find La Casa Batlló. I don't know how many times I have passed in front of this Modernist building but I can swear that I always look twice to it. It irradiates light, colour. If I were you I would also visit the interior, it is magical. See here some pictures.

After these pair of unforgettable experiences you'll want to take a breath and probably eat something. This is the most touristic zone of the city so you can easily find restaurants on your way. The ones I have tried are Konig (best hamburgers at affordable price) and Divinus (good menu on weekdays).

4. Plaça Catalunya - The Essentials

This is literally the heart of the city. From here you can see on the north the street of Passeig the Gràcia, wide, majestic, luxurious..., on the south there is the vibrant street of Las Ramblas, which separes two neighbourhoods with narrow streets full of history and adventures. The square is big and -unfortunately- full of pigeons. But anyway, from here the typical route is entering Portal de l'Àngel, a street for pedestrians that concentrates the highest amount of shops per square meter. Getting lost through the streets that derive from there is a funny experience, if you don't have internet I recommend you to get a City Map. You will suddenly notice the change of the street-disposition when you enter the District of Ciutat Vella, that is the oldest part of the city. 
I would follow the journey going to Las Ramblas. There you will find El Mercat de la Boqueria, market famous for the fresh aliments and authentic food. Then you can:
a) either go down till the end of Las Ramblas and see the Cristobal Colon statue pointing America together with the Maremagnum Shopping Centre floating on the sea and the harbour; or maybe... 
b) venture yourself again and discover the (5) Gòtic District, which hides bohemic squares, gothic churches, governmental locations and good restaurants. Once having passed the Gòtic, you will soon enter the (10) Born. This last one has recently been updated as one of the coolest sites of the city, with charming bars and beautiful spots to explore. Finally, after the big Mercat del Born you will be able to see the Arc de Triomf and furtherly the biggest park inside the city: Parc de la Ciutadella.

6. La Barceloneta - The Essentials

Just under the previously mentioned Parc de la Ciutadella, there is the one and only beach of the metropolis: La Barceloneta. If Barcelona is known for something in special is for being on the seaside. The Mediterranean sea has given to the city a kind of friendly culture, a kind of dynamism, as well as economical power. Starting from the two high towers (Torre Mapfre and Hotel Arts) that have their symbolic contribution to the city's skyline, anyone can enjoy the quiet-but-eclectic walk by the beach till the point of reaching the particular Hotel W, whose shape resembles a sailboat and that's why we call it "Hotel Vela". During all this way, there can be found "chiringuitos" or beach bars that offer number of cocktails and spanish beers. My advice is to go till the end of the Passeig Maritim, where, under the Hotel W there are some restaurants that immerse the visitor into a unique athmosphere.


12. Parc Güell - Last but not Least
In order to complete the full Gaudí-experience, any visitor has to go to this singular park. Here is where the famous colored lizard started his fame. The park was also built by the architect Gaudí when his contact with nature arrived at its extasis. As it is pretty far from the center, I would take the public transport to get there. However, if you are staying more than 3 days in the city, you can dedicate a whole morning or afternoon of relax there.

13. Barri de Gràcia - Last but not Least
If you ask yourself where most of the locals live and spend their afternoons at a terrace... here you have the answer. This neighbourhood has the name of one of the main streets: Passeig de Gràcia and the reason is because it is its nest. Talking about narrow streets again, Gràcia has many gastronomic offers and gathers most of the young citizens at nights.

9. Plaça Espanya - Last but not Least
This square is one of the main doors to the city for those who come from the airport by car/bus/taxi. (Tip: There is a fixed fee for taxis to take you to El Prat Airport, it is 30€. Otherwise you can take the recently opened metro or the Aerobus). From this square you can see on the mountain-side the Arenas Shopping Center, that was once a "Plaza de Toros" or bullring. On the sea-side you can walk through the Avinguda Maria Cristina, where you will pass between two tall columns. At the end it is easy to see the huge National Museum, MNAC, where you can also have incredible views of Barcelona. I specially reccomend you to sit a moment on that stairs and contemplate the panorama.

- Bunkers 
The view from here is simply amazing. All the city of Barcelona, its skyline and the sea on the back. It is a little bit far from the city center but easy accesible by public transport. If you wanna have a bird view of the metropolis, go there.

This modern tower has contributed to the late landscape of Barcelona. Illuminated at night, it has helped the city to expand its territory to the north-east side, renewing it all.

- 8. Camp Nou
There are no words needed to explain what is this stadium about. Football Club Barcelona has won many matches here, and maybe this place has been also one of the key points to make Barça the best team of the world (excuse me for the statement, but you have to admit it). If you are a lover of this sport, you'd better visit it. Here is where stars are created.

- 14. Sarrià
Finally I would like to tell something about this little-integrated-village called Sarrià, together with Sant Gervasi. Unknown by most of the tourists, this is the "upper east side" of Barcelona. We could even include to this area, all the streets from Francesc Macià Square upwards. Mostly residential, there is the place where all the upper-middle-class habitants live. In my opinion, it is also nice to go around there if you want to understand the character of our population.

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