It's hard to find a person who has never heard of Barcelona. This city gives a wide range of associations for anyone. For football fans its home of one of the strongest modern teams, FC Barcelona; for art lovers it’s the biggest museum under an open sky of works by Gaudi; for those who choose vacation destination, it’s a place with great beaches and nice Mediterranean climate.
Barcelona is the second largest city of Spain with 1,6 mil people living there and 4,9 mil more in its suburbs and provinces. Though if you say this to the locals, they would definitely correct you that first of all Barcelona is a capital of Catalonia, independent district on the Spanish territory. Indeed, even those who know or learn Spanish feel that all the signs are 'slightly not Spanish'. There are two languages in Catalonia, Spanish and Catalan, and all signs are in both.
Climate of Barcelona worth separate mention and admiration: its winters are soft and dry while summers are warm and humid. Even in the coldest period which is from January to February, the temperature rarely drops to 10 degrees above zero.
Sightseeing in Barcelona
One of the first pictures that come in mind when someone mentions Barcelona is Sagrada Familia designed by Gaudi. The cathedral has become one of the most recognizable European buildings and definitely one of the symbols of Barcelona. Actually 'one of' is often used with regards to this monumental Cathedral. One of the most recognizable cathedrals in Spain, one of the biggest catholic cathedrals in the world, one of most monumental works of Gaudi... And of course one of the longest constructions of Europe: the works started in 1884, and are still not finished. It is planned that the Cathedral will be ready by 2030, but a lot of people don't believe in that saying that unfinished of the Cathedral has become its significant attribute which won't be lost.
Famous Las Ramblas street is another tourist attraction in the city situated right in the centre of an old city several metres from the Gothic quarter. Any time of the day any time of the year Las Ramblas is full of people. Both sides of the street you can find numerous street shops with everything necessary and more. Life sculptures, street actors and musicians add something special to the atmosphere of the street. Another sight which adjoins Las Ramblas is the oldest market in the city, La Boqueria. Fresh and extremely delicious fruit, vegetables, and surely jamon can be bought there. But be careful, this is a place where a lot of pickpockets work.
Park Guell one more place of Barcelona filled with Gaudi works. Created by him in the beginning of the 20th century this park is as unlike other parks as Sagrada Familia is unlike other Cathedrals. Two sand houses (in one of which Gaudi lived during construction works of Sagrada Familia) at the entrance to the Park, colourful architecture, winding paths, and breathtaking view of the city - it's just few things with which the Park amazes its guests. For those interested in Gaudi lifestory, his House-Museum operates in one of the sand houses.
On the day you visit Park Guell it might be a good idea to visit Tibidabo mountain which is located in the same part of Barcelona and which is its highest peak. It's really hard to find another place in the city which provides such an amazing view of Barcelona. It's easy to get to the top by a bus or funicular which brings you directly to an amusement park. When else will you get a chance to ride a carousel 500 metres above the sea level?! A must-to-do at Tibidabo is to get to the highest point of the Christ monument at the top of the Cathedral - no photo or words can express the beauty of the views from there.
Another obligatory tourist sight is a show of singing fountains Montjuic. During summer months the show performs daily while all other times of the year - several times a week. Music, lights, fountains, fairy show. Earlier the same day you can visit Montjuic mountain where a lot of museums and parks are located. Poble Espanyol, or Spanish Village, is also located close by. It's a unique museum under an open sky where small models of all of the most beautiful buildings of Spain are concentrated. A walk from Madrid to Sevilla, or from Barcelona to Malaga will take you only 5-10 minutes.
Art-lovers would hardly miss a chance to visit Picasso museum in the Gothic quarter. All works of Picasso of 1895 - 1904 are exhibited here.
Narrow streets, small houses and picturesque balconies - all that is a Gothic quarter. It's easy to get lost here, but it's also easy to find yourself. A lot of citizens of Barcelona claim that to feel the city you should slowly walk around the streets of this area and enjoy its atmosphere and spirit.
The whole city is a museum, at every step you see unique buildings, unusual architecture, unbelievable monuments. Besides, how can you travel to Barcelona and not visit Montserrat? Or not to go to theatre-museum of Dali? Or not to walk along the port and wave to Columb monument? There is always something in Barcelona you won't have time to explore. But all the other things you see won't leave you indifferent.
There are two international airports in Barcelona, one in the city and the other nearby, in Girona. Both airports have great links with the city: from the city airport shuttle buses go to the centre of the city even at night. Timetable of the shuttle buses is available at the airport or any tourist information centre in the city.
Way from Girona airport will take no longer than an hour, and timetable of the buses is based on airlines timetable for this airport to ensure you won't need to wait long for the right bus.
As Barcelona is a beloved destination for European youth travellers, a lot of low cost companies fly here, including Ryanair, easyjet, airbaltic, Spanish vueling, etc.
What should you know before your trip?
- Almost everything that is told about siesta is true. A lot of shops, cafes and restaurants are really closed from noon till 3-4 pm. Especially if we're not talking about the very centre of the city.
- If you plan to go to the shop, make sure you plan it beforehand as it's practically impossible to find a shop which is open round-the-clock. Most shops close at 9-10 pm, on Sundays and holidays at 4pm. Anything you haven't bought by then, you most likely won't buy.
- The most convenient way of travelling along Barcelona is underground which operates 5am to 11pm from Mon to Thu, from 5am to 2am on Fri, Sat and holidays and from 6am to 12.00 on Sun.
- The underground is fully automatic, there're no ticket offices, only ticket machines which don't give change
- Best shopping area is Passeigh de Gracia where numerous shops and shopping malls are located
- Spanish people rarely know any foreign languages, so it's a good idea to buy phrase-book