5 things I loved about Barcelona
I don't usually visit the same place twice, but three trips later, I would still happily go back to Barcelona.
I love absolutely every part of this amazing mediterranean city; from the crowded streets of the Gothic Quarter, to the open spaces of Park Guell. I love the fiercely independent catalan culture that reminds me so much of Panjab and the welcoming nature of the locals. In fact, it was a visit to a local Gurdwara where the Giani (Priest) told me the local community was very supportive of Sikhs within Barcelona.
I had a couple of short trips that were stag parties for my friends and a longer more extended stay where I attended a summer school at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics. Each trip allowed me to see a different side to the city.
Out of all the places I have been to, this was perhaps the most difficult to whittle down to just 5 things I loved, but here are my 5 favourite things in Barcelona.
5. The Gothic Quarter
What's not to like about the Gothic Quarter? A history that dates back to Roman times coupled with quirky bars and restaurants makes this one of my favourite parts of the city.
Many of the buildings date back to the medieval period, although some are substantially older and its very easy to get lost in the narrow streets. I prefer the area at night where electric lanterns light the streets and the narrow passages almost transport you to another time period.
I'm not sure how to describe it, but there is an ambience about this area that is quite unique compared to anywhere else in the city. Unlike the Old Town in Valencia, parts of the Gothic Quarter are a little too commercialised but as a whole no trip is complete to Barcelona without a visit here.
4. Park Guell
Whilst famed architect Antoni Gaudi's most famous masterpiece makes an appearance later on this list, Park Guell was perhaps his most unique work.
Although originally conceptualised as a housing development, Park Guell has become one of the city's most famous public spaces. Every part of the park reflects Gaudi's unique take on Catalan Modernism and some of the sculptures and buildings look downright strange. It's what I'd imagine would be the result from some crazy high (stay off drugs, kids).
Whatever was the inspiration behind the design, the park is very unique and the views of the city alone make it worth the short trip outside the city centre to the La Salut neighbourhood where it is located.
...and talking about views. I haven't seen too many city views that are as spectacular as those from Bunkers. The site is located in the El Carmel district, a short walk from Park Guell and is an old anti-aircraft bunker.
It takes about 20 minutes to climb to the top and it can be steep in a few places, but it is definitely worth the effort for the incredible 360 panoramic views from the top. One of my favourite parts wasn't the end of the climb, but about two thirds of the way up where you cross a small bridge. The view from the bridge was just incredible. You can see the port, all the famous attractions with the Torre Agbar and the Sagrada Familia particularly easy to spot.
2. Nou Camp
I have been to football stadiums all across Europe, but my favourite so far has been the Nou Camp. The stadium is the home of Barcelona Football Club and is the largest in Europe in terms of seating capacity. Although its capacity is not significantly larger than that of Wembley, there is a difference that you just have to experience. This just felt substantially bigger.
As the stadium is relatively old, it hasn't been constructed with the sort of sight lines that are apparent in the Emirates Stadium or Wembley, but nothing can substitute for the atmosphere and just the feeling of being somewhere with so much history.. At half time we took a walk to the top of the stand and you could see across the city, intact, sitting on some of the higher tiers meant you could the city on the sides of the stadium. It was simply breathtaking.
Finally, if you find yourself in the Nou Camp, chances are you will be treated to a game of football played in a manner befitting such a great stadium. The club has a style of football that lent heavily from the Dutch Total Football system of the 1970's that was again influenced by the Hungarian national team of the 1950's. Over the decades this has been perfected and is currently under the guise of tiki taka football, characterised by short passes and fluid movement.
1. Sagrada Familia
It's been under construction for over a century and still has a long way to go, but the Sagrada Familia is still a magnificent landmark worthy of topping any list.
You can see the Sagrada Familia from many different places in the city and I remember when I first saw it I felt like it was something out of Lord of the Rings, with those long tall spires reaching out into the sky.
Gaudi began constructing this large Catholic Church in 1882, in his own unique modernist vision and as the project is privately funded, construction is painstakingly slow. The detail on the exterior of the building is so intricate and incredible I'm not surprised that its taking a long time to complete, but its once you step inside that you fully appreciate the depth of Gaudi's vision. There is so much going on with different colours and shapes that it takes time to process everything. It's worth paying a little extra to take a trip up on of the spires as the narrow staircases lead to pretty good views of the city.
The obvious omission from the list is Barceloneta beach, one of the best city beaches in the world. I personally feel its comparable to the Copacabana its that good, however I'm not much of a beach person and thats why it misses the top 5.
La Rambla is marketed as the main tourist destination, but for me its my least favourite part of the city. Overcrowded, overpriced with nothing more than street entertainers, bars and restaurants, I personally don't see the attraction. However, the central Gurdwara is located a stones throw from the area and that is definitely worth visiting.
One landmark that I did enjoy, was the Torre Agbar. The building is pretty divisive to the locals, but lit up at night in the city colours, it just stands out. Located opposite the Torre Agbar is a building with a flight of stairs on the side that leads to a rooftop. At night, this rooftop provides a great view of Montserrat and is a great escape from the crowded streets below.
Is there anything on the list you didn't enjoy or anything that I have left out? Have you visited the dancing fountains or Montserrat? Leave me a comment or Tweet me @travellingsingh
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.