Friday, 23 May 2014

City hopping: Barcelona


I stayed near to Plaça de Catalunya, which was lovely in the evening – it wasn’t so busy as in the daytime and the weather was a lot cooler, making it easier to walk around. Like any other Spanish square, there were fountains and monuments, so it was an ideal meeting point. It was nice to relax and it helped that were many bars and restaurants to dive into
I was lucky enough to go to a Barcelona game while in the city and actually got to go to the Nou Camp twice! The match was on Saturday evening and I then did the stadium tour on the Monday. On match day, there were over 81,000 people – but it really didn’t feel that busy at all and the metro service was quick (so much better than London!)
Imo, the best way to see the city is to the hop on the open top bus. You can buy one day or two day tickets and get on and off as many times as you like – you can even change which route you wish to take and there are three options. I chose the blue route which was the longest and had most stops. I’d definitely recommend researching the places you want to go to, particularly to see when they’re open and to pre-book tickets if you have a vague idea when you’re going to visit. There is a queue at some stops though and sometimes you have to wait longer if you want the top deck
No trip to Barcelona is complete without seeing La Sagrada Família (The Holy Family), the basilica designed by Antonio Gaudi. Despite construction commencing in 1882, the building is still unfinished but that adds to the charm. It’s just as impressive on the inside as it is from the outside. The detailing of the columns and roof of the nave are truly spectacular, but I loved the stained glass windows best
Park Güell is another Gaudi masterpiece and is perfect for a serene couple of hours... in fact, I could easily spend all day there, with a picnic and bottle of sangria! There are two zones: there’s a fee for the main park, while the surrounding grounds are free and vast. As I hadn’t booked, I only visited the free zone – I recommend booking as they only release something like 300 tickets every hour; it’s incredibly popular
The blue tram is a great way to travel and although the transport dates back to 1901, the journey is smooth and very enjoyable. Going through a residential area initially, you end up 1,726m higher and the views when you reach the top are breathtaking. There are a couple of bars and the one I went to offered 270o views – I happily sat and watched the world go by for half an hour. You can even take the cable car and go higher
A visit to the Royal Palace (Palau Reial de Pedralbes) culminated in sitting in the grounds for hours and listening to the birds. It was so peaceful, I ended up visiting twice! The palace used to house the royal family, which ended up being a museum, but this was closed when I went. The gardens were huge, with joggers, people enjoying picnics and nature enthusiasts. The bamboo gardens were my favourite and the benches sheltered by the canopy were an ideal spot
A walk down Las Ramblas meant looking at all the little shops and stalls, taking free samples and stopping for an ice cream (watermelon and kiwi – wow!).  Of course when walking, you need to keep an eye on your bag, particularly as it’s always so busy. There wasn’t as much entertainment as I remembered from the last time I went, but these days you need a permit and the area is pretty well policed. The gold lady was my favourite as she wasn’t as weird or scary as some of the other buskers. There were a lot of street artists, some more impressive than others
After getting to the end, we were at the port, where the cruise ships dock when in the city. The Christopher Columbus monument is also at this point and is popular spot as well as a good meeting place. The column was built in honour of his first voyage to the Americas. One of my favourite things about Barcelona is all the monuments and statues, which have unique stories from history; it’s all so interesting

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