It’s a city full of flavor. Barcelona is distinctly and proudly Catalunyan, rising forth from centuries of repression, through the Spanish civil war, through depression to become one of the richest cities in Spain & the 3rd most visited city in Europe (after Paris & London).
It’s a city that never seems to sleep with diners eating dinner well into the night. A city transformed by the 1992 olympics. A city with an everchanging face of shops and street performers. Below we have compiled a list of our favourite facets and tips of Barcelona for your enjoyment.
I have lost count of how many churches I’ve visited in Europe but there is NOTHING quite like visiting Sagrada Familia. The church is most famously associated with Gaudi (though not exclusively designed by him) & certainly catches the Gaudi flavor. Walking inside the building that is so brightly painted by its vivid glass windows is reminiscent of scenes from a bugs life; the archtcture feels so natural that you could imagine yourself as an ant walking through tall grass or trees. With statements like this it goes without saying the place is huge (& its only going to get bigger) in fact when its finished its said that it will be the largest church in the world. It’s a marvel, if you get the chance, you must visit this church, visit soon & visit again in 2026 when its due to finish. As you walk through it I encourage you to consider the famous quote by Friedensreich Hundertwasser; “The straight line is Godless” it will help you to appreciate the natural lines you see.
While you’re in the area of Sagrada Familia you’ll probably find yourself hungry, should this happen to you I highly recommend checking out Hollyburg burger store that is in close proximity to the church. This store with burgers themed on famous movies and tv-shows is great value and serves some seriously scrumptious burgers, some the best I’ve ever had. I wish we’d had time to go back for another.
Probably one of the most interesting unexpected discoveries of Barcelona was the ever-changing nature of each street we walked down. As in many hot latino countries many stores in Barcelona adopt the siesta lifestyle; where they open in the morning and late afternoon but close in he middle of the day to avoid the heat. I’d expected that. What I hadn’t quite anticipated was how varied each store’s hours were from each other on the same street. When a store closes, the rollers go down and not many clues indicate what the store holds. With this practice we could literally walk down the same street several times and have it feel like a different street each time, offering different goods, services and oddities.
Subliminal level of stress
One of the things modern day Barcelona is known for is its reputation as a pick-pocket’s paradise. There are obvious steps you can make to avoid this; not storing your valuables in your back pockets, a retractable cable lock through your zip loops being extra aware in crowded areas such as markets and subway. What I hadn’t quite anticipated was the subconscious level of stress and energy goes into being aware of your belongings, keeping them safe. It wasn’t until we moved on from Barcelona that I actually started to feel a little more relaxed.
If you have a moment, you’ll find a great variety of antique shops in gothic old town; each shop has its own subtle emphasis from religious art to historical machines. Spending an afternoon checking out the area you’re bound to see some fascinating sites and save money going the museums. If you’re anxious about being seen as a window shopper in these high-priced antique shops its not a bad idea to have a rare item in mind that you ask each shop keeper for, this way there is no loss of face when they don’t have it and it comes time to leave. For Jenny and I, one of our missions on this trip was to locate and purchase genuine cool looking antique doorknocker for our future house that we’ll build when we return to NZ. Turns out everyone wants to buy as cool doorknocker so It took us 4.5 months to find it but as of Barcelona we are the proud owners of this beauty of a door knocker…the next mission will be to get it back home – its pretty darn heavy.
Get an areal view of the city
Finally, if I could impart one final piece of advice in Barcelona it would be to make sure you get to see an areal view of the city, whether it be one of the cities surrounding hills or by cable car. Either was, the city from above is fascinating, there is nothing quite like it, so much variety, so much to see. It will help you to appreciate the bustling metropolis that it is!