Having lived in Barcelona while studying abroad, I get asked what to see and do regularly… so often that I have an email saved in my draft folder that I edit accordingly and send out upon request. Barcelona is my favorite European city; the people, architecture, culture, food, vibe… I could go on and on as to why this city is so fantastic. So, straight from my draft folder, I give you my Barcelona Bests – the seven things you must do in Barcelona!
Manzana de la Discordia/ Block of Discord
Located in Passeig de Gràcia between calle Aragó and Calle Consell de Cent, this collection of modernist architecture is fascinating. At number 35 is Casa Lleò Morera, designed by Domènech i Montaner; then Casa Amatller, designed by Puig i Cadafalch; and finally, Casa Batlló, designed by Barcelona’s most famous architect, Gaudí. My favorite is Casa Batlló, also known as “The House of Bones.” Formerly a private residence, the building has a water theme and its roof is made to look like a dragon’s tail. It’s like an acid trip deep inside a magical sea. In a word – AMAZING!
The Museu Picasso houses 4,251 works that make up the permanent collection, revealing his deep, lifelong relationship with Barcelona and giving insight into the artist’s formative years up to the Blue Period. The series Las Meninas (1957) and a comprehensive print collection also reside here.
The most famous street in the city is a feast for the senses. Street performers, vendors selling colorful flowers, artists painting and drawing right before your eyes. You could spend hours people watching. Start at Plaza Catalunya and meander down at your own pace. If you take a photo with a street performer or enjoy someone’s musical talents, be prepared to give them a Euro or two. Stop at La Bouqueria – a huge, colorful market with fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, cheese, chocolates, and more. Grab picnic fixings here or just sip a delicious fruit smoothie (chocolate banana or chocolate coconut are my faves!) Just off La Rambla, near Plaza Real is the Gothic Neighborhood. Stroll through this area to view the city cathedral and La Seu, the ancient roman walls and ruins. I recommend entering the cathedral. There are always great musicians playing at the steps of the cathedral. Sit for moment and take it all in. Just in front of the cathedral (on Saturdays at 18:30 and Sundays at 12:00,) locals dance the Sardana, the traditional Catalan circle dance. If you stay on La Rambla, you will come to the Christopher Columbus statue, just beyond Chris lies the port and onward to the left, the beach.
La Parc de la Cuitadella
Barcelona’s equivalent to Central Park, this lush 74 acre park is worth a stop. The park’s huge fountain was built for the 1888 World Exhibition and is loosely based on Rome’s Trevi Fountain. Sundays is the most happening day to visit – you’ll find a mix of locals selling handmade goods, families gathering on the lawn, and free spirits dancing and jamming with their instruments – very cool vibe. The Zoo, several museums, and the Acr de Triomf are also located here. You may find your surroundings familiar here as this park has served as a backdrop in many a movie, tv show, and commercials. You can hire a boat for a nominal fee and paddle around the lake.
Perhaps Barcelona’s most iconic structure, this Gaudi designed cathedral has been under construction for over one hundred years. If you don’t have time to tour the inside, at least stroll by and take a look at the incredibly intricate, ever changing façade.
Art and nature combine at this expansive park that began as a housing development, but failed. Guell Park boasts the finest example of Trencadís, a style of mosaic used in Catalan modernism. Be sure to hike up to the beautifully tiled serpentine bench that Dali referred to as “the precursor of surrealism”. Take a load off, the bench was molded to hug your spine. Look for the gingerbread houses down below from this area. Then walk down below the serpentine bench area to the Market Hall to marvel at more of Gaudi’s intricate Trencadís tile work.
I recommend trying Paella – this rice/veggie dish is most commonly served with seafood, but you can also get it with chicken or veggies. I love Tortilla de Patata – kind of a potato omelet quiche dish. To sample a variety of tapas, stop at one of my favorite restaurants – La Tramoia; an authentic brasserie located on the corner of Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes and Catalonia Ramblas. The touristy bar Ovella Negra (The Black Sheep) is also a regular stop for me. At night, this bar is packed with students from all over the world bellying up to bleached communal tables stained by sangria spills. By day, it’s quieter; less crowded, and is a great place for cheap sangria and a sampling of manchego cheese. Located at the start of La Rambla, take a right at the first street after Burger King then take your first left, bar will be on your right.
What are your favorite things to do and see in Barcelona?