Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Barcelona From Top to Bottom

A vivacious city with an unrestrained energy, bursting at the etched tile lined sidewalks with things to do and see, Barcelona offers both urban charm and and coastal beauty to her 1.7 million residents and a constant slew of globetrotters. From the eerily haunting twists and turns on the dark streets and medieval squares of the Barri Gothic, to the extraordinarily matchless Gaudi architecture, there is a constant sense of wonder and amazement instilled as you explore. The beauty extends far past the man made facades and what lies behind them, to the sparkling teal blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains of Tibidabo and Montjuïc.
Palm Tree lined harbor fronts sandwich beaches equally fit for sunbathing and partying, while mountain tops reached by funicular train and cable car provide stunning views of all that lie in their foothills. We opted to visit Montjuïc instead of Tibidabo, we felt as if this area had a little more to offer for our tastes, and we absolutely wanted to ride the gondola - or Telefuric as it is called in Spain. Technically not a mountain, but a broad hill with a flat top, it is home to the Castell de Montjuïc.We couldn't get enough of the commanding views of the city and had a fun time exploring the castell. No visit to Barcelona would be complete without a stroll down Las Ramblas, and stopping to enjoy a cava and a sangria along the way.
Las Ramblas is a famous promenade that starts at Placa Catalunya in the city center, and ends at the Columbus Monument at Port Vell.
The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc located in front of the Palau Nacional at Placa Espanya gathers a crowd on Thursday through Sunday evenings with a dazzling spectacle of water and lights set to music. Free shows are every 30 minutes (from 9pm-11pm) and definitely worth checking out.
Head to the Eixample (ay-shoomp-la) District, a large area of the city created in the late 19th century, its name meaning "expansion" in Catalan, to view the famous modernist buildings on the "Illa de la Discòrdia" or Block of Discord along Passeig de Gràcia. The architectural styles of the buildings are vastly different, clashing with not only each other, but the rest of the neighborhood as well. The most striking among them are Casa Batllo (above) designed and built by Catalonian Architect Antoni Gaudi and Casa Amatller (below) designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch. Just down the street is another prominent display of Gaudi Architecture - Casa Mila or as it is more commonly known, La Pedrera.We toured both Casa Batllo and La Pedrera, each fascinating for their unconventional and completely irregular construction, displaying an organic style attributed to Gaudi's constant inspiration from nature. The roofs of these buildings are like an adults playground! But his most notorious work of all would have to be La Sagrada Família a Roman Catholic Church displaying his personal interpretation of Gothic architecture as it combines with curvilinear modernism. Perhaps the most intriguing fact is that the construction of La Sagrada Familia commenced in 1882 and currently, it is still being built. If that isn't enough, Gaudi also designed an entire park. Park Güell was originally a 15 hectare private garden estate, which was never finished. The public park is located further north of the city center in the Barri Gracia. Park Güell is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the longest park bench in the world. It is a completely stunning scene and a gorgeous example of how Gaudi blended architecture into natural surroundings. Finally, to round out the Gaudi experience, Palau Güell located just off Las Ramblas on Nou de la Rambla is worth a visit if you can dedicate time for another self guided tour. Here you learn about Gaudi's dynamic relationship to the wealthy Catalan Industrial Entrepreneur Eusebi Guell. Their business partnership and friendship resulted in years of collaboration and fostered much of Gaudi's inspiration behind this incredible mansion. The ceramic rooftop chimneys were probably one of my favorite parts, but the Palace in its entirety a sight to be seen. You'll want to leave plenty of time to spend in the aforementioned Barri Gothic. We wandered the tangled labyrinthe of streets in this ancient neighborhood both during the daytime and at night. While exploring the narrow corridors we stepped inside the Catedral de la Santa Cruz y Santa Eulalia (also known as the Barcelona Cathedral.) I decided to marvel at the interior from in front of the camera lens, it was absolutely breathtaking. Once I stepped into the garden, I captured a few shots of the fountains and palm trees. This church is extraordinary, I would definitely make it a point to wander inside; despite how many churches you may have already seen along your travels. ;)Art and history lovers have their choice of museums abound from one dedicated to Picasso (that houses his earlier sketches and lesser known paintings) to the Fundacio Joan Miro, the Museu d'Art Contemporani (MACBA), the Museu National D'art Modern (MNAC) and even a Museu de Historia dedicated to the cities two thousand year existence. After Madrid, we were feeling a little "museum-ed out", so we decided to focus in on just one, giving the Fundacio Joan Miro a few hours of our attention was completely worthwhile. I did not know much about Miro prior to the trip, but I grew to love his artwork immensely. His paintings and sculptures are equally though provoking and fascinating. I would have loved to visit all the other museums, but beach days at Barcelonetta, beers in the sun and Gaudi took precedence.Saving the best for last, the cuisine that is defined of course by the iconic tapas, both modern and classic, and just as notably, the famous seafood and rice dish of Paella, is remarkable.
The restaurants and tapas bars embody the spirit of the city, from trendy to traditional, Spanish to Catalan, eating out in Barcelona, specifically at the Michelin starred Comerc 24 was undoubtedly a highlight of the entire trip.
A visit to this beautiful, crazy, thrilling, spectacular city has everything an open minded European traveler can appreciate. Visually stunning buildings and streets steeped in both ancient history and art nouveau, Mediterranean beaches to soak up the hot sun during the day and experience the racy nightlife scene long after it goes down, combined with impressive museums and cathedrals and an eloquent culinary scene, Barcelona is the best of the best, in essence, five days of my life I will forever cherish.

20 comments:

freefoodboston said...

Ok, your Barcelona posts are going to be fun for me because I've been there, vs your Madrid posts which just drove me crazy. Though I am jealous you were there in the warmer months. The photos are gorgeous!

Shannon said...

totally saving these posts for when i can make the trip :)

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

that paella looks stunning! Glad you treated yourself to a Michelin starred restaurant!

In and Around Town said...

So I immediately want to pack my bags and head to Barcelona! Having never been there I am now dying to go. The architecture there is simply amazing! Great photos!

Betsy said...

Gorgeous photos. Barcelona is near and dear to my heart as well and this post has me longing to go back, cannot wait for my trip there next summer! I've starred all of your posts in my google reader!

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

Barcelona looks SO beautiful! As does the paella :-)

Tracey said...

Absolutely stunning photographs. You make me miss Europe so much!

kfenton917 said...

I just spent 5 amazing days in Barcelona in 15 minutes on your I.I.I. Blog. Soaking up every sentence written & beautiful pictures taken from your wonderful journey of a lifetime. Loved it! Thank you!

A Boston Food Diary said...

I have to say- a glass of Cava surrounded by that atmosphere must have been perfection! Gorgeous

Lizzy said...

Aww all of this looks so familiar- I want to go back, like now!! So insanely jealous of your trip : )

Amber Blue Bird said...

wow the architecture is insane. i especially love the Casa Battlo. it reminds me of skeleton bones.

meghan said...

I love Barcelona so much! You have so many beautiful photos.

mr. pineapple man said...

every picture looks like a postcard.....I want to try the paella!

Jaime @ La vie...J'aime said...

i want to go there so badly~ one european city i didnt get to when studying abroad. the gondola ride would scare me bc i am afraid of heights, but i'd force myself to do it!!

Megan said...

Barcelona is definitely on my must-visit list now!

MOLLY GALLER said...

Barcelona is one of the most incredible cities in the world. When I visited, I thought - I could really live here. Between the Gaudi architecture, the metropolitan city center, Las Ramblas and the beach? What more could you ask? For me, Park Guell and the magic fountain were the highlights. The Picasso museum is also incredible. It happens to be right next to all the artisan chocolate shops :)

fancythatfancythis.com said...

I'm getting more and more excited about my trip...after reading this post and the comments from others.

Ideally the summer is probably the best time to visit though, I hope we won't be freezing!

Kerstin said...

I loved Barcelona, your posts are making me miss it - great recap!

Edena said...

Awesome blog-a-tour of Barca! Great pics too!

Tricia said...

i need to go back. i never really got to do anything but the ramblas!