Things To See In Barcelona

I recently spent a few days in Barcelona, Spain, as an adjunct to attending the TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) Conference in the town of Girona.  It was a great walk down memory lane, as I had been to Barcelona in 1992 for the Olympic Games.   I had an opportunity to revisit some of the same sights, as well as see some new ones.

While there, someone emailed me saying that they would be stopping off in Barcelona in November for just a short visit as an add-on to a bigger trip they are taking.  And they wanted to know what they should see while they are there.  So I’ve put together what I think are the highlights of this wonderful Catalan city, which is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid.

La Rambla

Strolling on La Rambla

In seeing the sites, you will find yourself on this inviting, tree-lined thoroughfare which runs through the center of Barcelona, connecting the Christopher Columbus statue at the harbor end…

Christopher Columbus at end of La Rambla

…to the Placa de Catalunya at the other end…

Placa de Catalunya

Many people think that the name, La Rambla, is a direct derivative of the word “to ‘ramble’” which means to explore idly; wander aimlessly; etc., which would be a good guess, as this is what people do on this street.  But it actually means “torrent” – and it derives its name from the fact that it once used to be a stream.  [This was another little tidbit I picked up from the guide on my “Gaudi in Context” Walking Tour].

La Rambla is full of sidewalk cafes, street performers, kiosks selling newspapers, souvenirs and, my favorite, flowers.  Flowers everywhere!

As you stroll along, you will be beckoned into the Boqueria Market…

Ham, Ham and More Ham

…with its aromas, people and colors.

La Boqueria Market

As you continue along La Rambla, you will come upon many interesting cultural and architectural highlights of Barcelona, both of which are represented by Barcelona’s Temple of Opera, the Liceu Theater, which opened in 1847…

Liceu Opera House

Unfortunately, it was not yet opera season when I was there, so I didn’t get to add a notch to my belt on experiencing the opera houses around the world…(Opera Anyone?).

There are three metro lines off of the 1.2km La Rambla, making it easy to connect to other Barcelona sites.

Architecture of Barcelona

Gaudi’s Casa Mila

You need do nothing more than step outside to enjoy the architecture of this city, in particular many of the buildings that were built during the moderisme period in Barcelona.  You can read about some of these masterpieces in my previous post, “Gaudi in Context.” 

Gothic Quarter

Just off of La Rambla is the Gothic Quarter (or Barri Gotic), which is a must, of course, as it is packed with Barcelona history.  This section of town consists of many small streets, closed to traffic….

Street Scene in Barri Gotic

…opening up into squares.  On my visit, the Merce Festival 2012 was underway, and so the streets and squares were packed everywhere with locals and tourists…

Crowds in Jaume Square for Merce 2012 Festival

…and I happened upon the Jaume Square, where they were building human towers.

Human Tower, Jaume Square, Merce 2012 Festival

Many buildings within the quarter date back to Medieval times….

Barri Gotic

The Cathedral of Santa Eulalia within the Quarter  was built during the 13th to 15th centuries…

Cathedral of Santa Eulalia, Barri Gotic

When I saw the inside of this cathedral on my first visit to Barcelona, I had just read the book, Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett, which is a great historical novel about the building of cathedrals such as this, which helped me understand what went into the building of the great high, vaulted nave within this Cathedral.

Art Museums

There are so many art museums in Barcelona, that it’s hard to cover all of them in one blog post (or in one short trip to this Catalan city).  One of my favorites, however, is the Museu Picasso, which is located on the edge of the Gothic Quarter in the neighborhood, El Born.  The neighborhood itself is worth a visit as it is one of the trendiest in the city, with shops, art boutiques, cafes and bars.

Papier-mache lady in front of shop, El Born neighborhood

The Museu Picasso contains one of the largest collections of his works, including many of his early works, with which I was unfamiliar until visiting this Museum.  It also covers Picasso’s relationship with the City of Barcelona, where he spent his youth, as well as other periods throughout his life.

Another favorite of mine is the Fundacio Joan Miro…

Fundacio Joan Miro

I’m not one who is a modern art fanatic, but I have really come to appreciate Miro’s work through this Museum which houses many of his works.  The Museum also has a garden terrace restaurant which is a good place to rest your feet and have a light lunch.

The Fundacio Joan Miro is easily accessible via the funicular to Montjuic.  And while in the Montjuic neighborhood, there are several other attractions you can take in if you have time, such as the Olympic Museum almost right across the street…

Olympic Museum

…the Olympic venues that were located on Monjuic, including the Olympic stadium…

Olympic Torch Outside of Olympic Stadium

…and the Palau Nacional, which was built for the 1929 World’s Fair, and now houses the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya…

Palau Nacional

And you can take in the view of the city of Barcelona, including the Sagrada Familia…

View of La Sagrada Familia from Montjuic

Day Trips

If you have more than a few days to explore the region, there are several side trips which can be reached via train or automobile.  Three of my favorites are:

MONTSERRAT:  It is about an hour’s journey via train and cable car (or if you are afraid of heights, train and rack railway) to reach this mountain retreat, where you will find a Benedictine Monastery nestled within its peaks…

View of Monastery at Montserrat from top of funicular

There are some interesting walks offering spectacular views of the mountains, or you can take a funicular up to the top to enjoy the vista.

GIRONA:  This is a wonderful town of less than 100,000 in the northeastern part of Catalonia, a little over an hour via train from Barcelona.  The colorful houses built along the river are reminiscent of other small Mediterranean cities…

Girona Riverfront

The old town with its cathedral….

Cathedral of St. Mary of Girona

…and other ancient Roman buildings, including one of the best preserved Jewish Quarters in Europe….

Jewish Quarter, Girona

…make this City a must-see.

FIQUERAS:  This town is 25 miles further north from Girona, and is the birthplace of Salvador Dali.  It has a large museum which was designed by Dali himself, and is worth the trip just to see the building itself, as it is quite unique….

View of Rooftop of Dali Museum, Figueras

There is plenty to see in Barcelona and the surrounding region for 3 days, 5 days, a week or two, or more!   So as you make your plans to explore the world, make sure this city (region of Spain) is on your list!


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1 Response to "Things To See In Barcelona"

  1. Great minds think alike! We have just published Barcelona Free Things To Do And See

    Good to see we are on the same wavelength with our recommendations. Love the human tower picture!

    Love the blog, kind regards, Si

    ps. We would love you to submit a photo to our #PictureTheWorldProject? Check it out

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