Barcelona’s mild weather and seaside location make this destination full of things to do year round. With seven beaches, you can lounge by the Mediterranean Sea or if you prefer to be on dry ground, lounge in a café. If you stay in a metropolitan area, you can shop, go to a museum, or take in theater production. However, one of the most popular pastimes in Barcelona is just enjoying being there. Locals and visitors alike tend to take a more laid-back approach to life by hanging out at bars, cafes, and restaurants, enjoying the people and the city.
Even restaurants uphold this tradition by serving tapas. Tapas are essentially Spanish appetizers, but instead only eating tapas before the meal, restaurant goers order many tapas and share. This way everyone gets to try different foods and the dining process is focused on the experience of sharing great foods and drinks. Dr. Brett Ferdinand says, “You never feel rushed at a Barcelona restaurant. Take your time, enjoy yourself – oh and have a glass of port. It enhances any dining experience.”
Before you go, you should know that while most of Spain speaks Castilian Spanish, which is probably the dialect you know (if you learned Spanish), Barcelona natives speak Catalan Spanish. However, most locals speak both forms – so you can still practice your Spanish while you are there.
Barcelona was the home of the 1992 Summer Olympics and several matches of the 1982 Football World Cup. In Barcelona soccer is very popular – also called football or futbol. FC Barcelona is known for its football team, which is one of the most popular in Europe and winner of many championships. While you are visiting, take in a game or at least visit the FC Barcelona’s museum to learn more about the history of Barcelona’s sports.
Two of Barcelona’s most popular attractions include Barcelona Las Ramblas and the Montjuic of Barcelona. Las Ramblas is the most central boulevard in the city. It is located in the Barrio Gotico (Gathic Quarter) and is lined with thousands of beautiful trees, shops, newsstands, restaurants, bars, Gaudi-style architecture, and more. You can also find live performances, human statue art, artists that will draw your picture as well as the Wax Museum, Museu de l’ Ertoica (yes, the Erotica Museum), a Christopher Columbus monument, and the Modernist Boqueria Market.
Monjuic of Barcelona is a long shallow hilltop that overlooks the Barcelona harbor on its eastern side and the city of Barcelona on the other. Because of its height and location, Montjuic served as a fortress.
Montjuic also houses the Montjuic museum and the Magic Fountain of Montjuic. The museum houses art work from all over the world, but also has the largest collection of Catalan art in the world. Plus, Dr. Ferdinand tells us that “you have a great view of Barcelona from the museum.” When the magic fountain was first proposed, no one thought that it was a practical project – they believed it would never be finished let alone in the construction time that was proposed, but with over 3,000 workers, the fountain was completed in only one year. Now visitors can see the fountain’s beautiful displays of water, lights, and music free of charge.
Visit the Beaches of Costa Brava
Costa Brava is a coastal region found to the north of Barcelona on the north end of Catalonia. It is a popular European resort town where the likes of Dali and Picasso vacationed. In the 1950s Francisco Franco’s government instigated intense building and development to make this region into a vacation area. Now you will find many hotels and resorts along the coastline so that visitors can enjoy the summer weather and sandy beaches. There are some areas of Costa Brava that are less developed than the rest, such as the small town of Cadaqués which lies just south of the French border in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. Darrin recommends Cadaqués if you are looking for “a vacation that includes sun, sand, relaxation and nature because if you are a nature enthusiast, Costa Brava’s beautiful mountains and protected wildlife areas are ideal for hiking.”
Sitges is a city just about an hours drive southwest of Barcelona that is known for its excellence in tourist accommodations. The city gains most of its revenue from tourism, which it well earns. Of the 4,500 hotels over half are at least four-star. In addition, the city boasts thousands of fantastic restaurants including many that are traditional Mediterranean-style, which usually features fish and rice. Because of its location, Sitges has more summer-like days than any other surrounding area. It is warm enough to enjoy swimming at the surrounding beaches from April through October. In addition, Sitges is known for its Carnival, artsy reputation and nightlife.
One of the most outstanding displays of architecture in the world lies in Barcelona – the La Sagrada Familia. Dr. Brett Ferdinand says, “You must see this construction – it will take your breath away.” The large Catholic basilica was originally designed by artist Antoni Gaudi. He spent the last forty years of his life working on the design and implementation of the design. His design is celebrated in the fact that the lines between design and decoration are seamless. Gaudi’s architecture does not appear to have abrupt angles, just flowing sequences known as parabolic arches and hyperboloid structures. Gaudi referred to this type of architecture as nature’s organic shapes. Not only did Gaudi apply nature’s architecture to La Sagrada Familia but to what seems like hundreds of buildings in downtown Barcelona.
Because the blueprints for La Sagrada Familia resided in Gaudi’s brain, it could not be completed with his style. As such, it is still under construction but under the direction of designers that aree not mimicking Gaudi’s style. The differences are apparent. However, this monumental building still attracts over two million visitors a year. If you want to see another of Gaudi’s works, check out la Pedrera – the most unusual apartment building you will ever see.
The art of this district is impossible to miss. Not only have many famous artists graced Barcelona over the years, but as you explore the area, you will notice graffiti decorates the walls of buildings throughout Barcelona. Yet this graffiti is perceived as art and commentary rather than as a vulgar display of territory you generally see in the U.S. As a matter of fact, urban graffiti artists are so celebrated, that several websites and exhibitions are dedicated to their work.
The Barcelona area has many art galleries and museums. Two of the most popular are the Picasso Museum and Salvador Dali’s Museum. While the Dali museum is two hours outside of Barcelona, frequent visitor Dr. Brett Ferdinand recommends that you take a day-trip to see it: “Going to the Dali museum is essential. His artwork is so unique and disconcerting. Make sure you check out the Mae West room where you climb 20 feet up a ladder to peer through a telescopic rendering of the very room you’re standing in. The image that appears out of the drapes and furniture is the very likeness of Mae West -intriguing!” Dali’s museum is so unique partially because the surrealist artist designed the museum himself.