WhenInManila visits Barcelona! Barcelona has given us the great artistry of Antonio Gaudi, legendary football games with shouts of Barca! that still ring in your ears, epic wins of the 1992 Olympic games, and Tapas, there’s always Tapas in Barcelona.
Getting on that much awaited trip to Europe will leave you in excitement and stepping into a boisterous Barcelona is a realization of that visual splendor that has been on your mind for so long. Barcelona is bounded by the mountains of France and kept at bay with the Mediterranean sea. You can say that because of these romantic geographical boundaries, it is a city that will never grow, but that limitation will just make it burst more with a mixed plate of experiences.
Here are the top hot spots in Barcelona for a fantastic getaway in one of the world’s most captivating cities.
(1) La Sagrada Familia
Might as well start with one of the most breath-taking views. You walk into this place, look up and just be taken in awe…for a very long time. Speaking of long time, this place started its construction in 1882 by none other than the legendary Antoni Gaudi. It is targeted to finish by 2026.
If there’s one person who defines much of Barcelona, its Gaudi (1852 – 1926). This artistic genius incorporated Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms in this UNESCO World Heritage Site which is also a proclaimed minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.
This is a world of light and color. Gaudi, a man of deep religious convictions, wanted a church that will be luminous. He says it will be the church of harmonious light. And yes it does as it draws in the Mediterranean light as the sun sets. He had an obsession of regulating the light in this church which shouldn’t be too much or too little.
This is a favorite unfinished building of the world for many, and why its taking so long can be attributed to 3 basic reasons : (1) Its a complex and detailed building (2) It relies on donations and sponsors for the construction (3) Gaudi didn’t really leave a detailed plan and a lot of discussion happens on how Gaudi would have solved the technical challenges. Apparently, its going pretty fast for a world-class Cathedral, with Notre Dame taking 182 years, St. Paul in London 200 years and Cologne at 600 years.
(2) Park Güell
Originally intended for a housing project for the rich, Count Eusebi Güell commissioned Gaudi to develop this place. However, it didn’t turn out that way because this place was on a hill and the rich at that time wanted to be down in the city where their glitter could be seen.
So only two houses were built in this area, none of it even designed by Gaudi but he did buy one of them and lived there until 1926. This is now the Gaudi House Museum which contains original works.
Park Güell is a celebration of curves as Gaudi did not like straight lines. His preference of fluidity can be observed throughout the rest of the park.
Edgy art can be found on the focal point of this park which is the main terrace. This long span of a bench, the longest in the world is called the ‘Banc de Trencadis’ which is made up of used mosaic tiles. You can lose yourself in the different designs in each section.
Gaudi must have been really ahead of his time because of the ergonimic design of the bench. When you sit on it, its cool, and very comfortable on the back.
Right beneath the main terrace is a forest of columns called Sala Hipostilla. The columns are hollow inside and were meant to collect water from the main terrace.
Very nature inspired and when you look up, instead of leaves, you still see that same gorgeous mosaic artwork.
You will also see a house that looks like it came from Hansel & Gretel and true enough it was inspired by that play, ergo the Hansel & Gretel gate house. There is so much flair in this magical place.
(3) Casa Milà / La Pedrera
As you walk down the main streets of Barcelona you will notice a house that stands out in curves and character. This is called the Casa Mila, also popularly known as La Pedrera. Barcelona’s favorite son, Gaudi constructed it. He was commissioned by the Mila couple to make a house that would stand out.
And it really did stand out. For its uniqueness, artistic and heritage value, it has received major recognition and in 1984 was inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List, for its exceptional universal value. Here’s how it looks like, small scale – this is in museum inside.
This house is also nicknamed “Quarry”. As you go up, to the rooftop you will see why. These large stone slabs were first mounted here and then crafted this way. For the love of curves and natural forms, not a single angle could be found in this house.
Inside, you can get a taste of an apartment in the style of early 20th century modernism.
(4) Casa Batlló
One of the reasons Casa Mila came into existence is because the owners were inspired by another house that Gaudi previously built, which is Casa Batlló. The facade is a joyful and allegorical representation, full of organic elements and colours and charged with symbolism, a wonderful spectacle in the city which inspires the most sublime sentiments in all those who gaze upon it. The house is a dialogue between light and colour.
It is one of the city’s most emblematic houses. Casa Batlló is a masterpiece of shape, colour and light. In this work, Gaudí is pre-empting the theory of rationalism, which would come 30 years later as the notion of ventilation.
(5) Las Ramblas
Las Ramblas is the busiest street in Barcelona. Its a vibrant 1.2km walk where you get to experience different kiosks and facets of a streetlife here.
It is composed of shorter streets :
(a) Rambla de Caneletes
There is a fountain here called the Font de Canaletes where legend has it that whoever drinks from it will come back to Barcelona – which isn’t a bad idea at all. Fans of Barcelona’s football team have also been coming here to celebrate the team’s victories since the 1930s.
(b) Rambla Des Estudis
This is popularly known as La Rambla dels Ocells (Birds) because of a twittering bird market that was once there although now it has been replaced with kiosks of sorts. This section gets its name because it was the location of the medieval Estudi General – the original University of Barcelona – which was closed and demolished by the Castilian invaders after the Siege of Barcelona in 1714
(c) Rambla de Sant Josep (or de les Flors)
As each section of Las Ramblas has a character of its own, the Rambla de Sant Josep is defined by the flower stalls there. It was the only place where flowers were sold in the 19th century.
Dig deeper into Barcelona with its local market, and a favourite is the Mercat de La Boqueria where a bountiful market scene welcomes you with colorful produce from fruits, to nuts, candies and more.
I would recommend to get into the local market scene for any place that you visit to get a raw experience of the place. This market dates to the medieval times where farmers used to sell produce outside the city walls.
(d) Rambla dels Caputxins The ground here is higher so people also call it the “Terrat” or terrace. This is also the site the site of a former Capuchin monastery, now dominated by the Liceu opera-house
(e) Rambla de Santa Mònica This is the last section to the port of Barcelona and is a cultural center that mostly exhibits modern art.
Gothic Quarter One area to note in this area is the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic). Its a cultural hub, a labyrinth of history intended to have a nice afternoon stroll in. As you walk the narrow streets you can just imagine how it was as a village in the medieval times.
The small streets open up into charming squares. The Gothic quarters is home to the Cathedral and other Gothic churches, the city hall, Palau de la Generalitat, Santa Maria del Pi and Sants Just i Pastor and Placa Del Rei.
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