Places to Visit in Barcelona That Aren’t Beaches
Barcelona is one of my favorite destinations at any time of year. This is so because the relaxed, hospitable nature of the Catalonian people usually stays with me long after I leave. Barcelonans are proud of their city’s amazing sights and architecture and visitors are treated warmly. So what does this vibrant city offer travelers and backpackers? There are too many options in fact and here are a few of places to visit in Barcelona that aren’t beaches.
Places to Visit in Barcelona That Aren’t Beaches
In my opinion, walking is a great way to see a place and Barcelona is a pedestrian-friendly city. You can get your bearings by starting at the Placa de Catalunya and several of the city’ center’s attractions can be easily reached on foot from there. It is a large open square where you can take in the fountains and ornate statues and even feed the pigeons. The metro station is called Catalunya and you can pick up a free street map at the nearby tourist information office.
From the square, it is easy to find the Barcelona’s most famous street La Rambla. It is a tree-lined Pedestrian Avenue with souvenir stalls, flower sellers, pavement cafes, bars and street entertainers of all kinds. It is very pleasant to wander the 1.2 kilometers of La Rambla, watch the locals and tourists, and soak up the ambience. At the end of the street, Christopher Columbus gazes out to sea on top of his 60-meter column.
Stretch Your Legs
If you retrace your steps halfway back and take a narrow road to the right you can admire the elaborate facade of the Palau de la Musica Catalana – a distinguished concert hall. Despite the cramped surroundings, the outside of the building is magnificent with an overhanging sculpture of famous composers together with mosaics and stained glass. The Art is directly above you and I suffered from a stiff neck getting the photographs needed to do it justice! Continue along the narrow lane and consult your map to find colossal Barcelona Cathedral. The lane opens to another extensive square and you are sure to be awestruck by the size and magnificence of the structure.
You can happily spend hours in the nave and crypt of the Cathedral but I would very much recommend climbing the steps to the rooftop. From this vantage point, you can enjoy great views over the labyrinthine lanes of Old Barcelona.
In front of the Cathedral is a square where street performers operate. On the day I visited a very talented jazz group performed, followed by a classical guitarist who played his instrument with immense skill.
Take the bus
Of course, there is far more to this extensive city of 1.7 million people, and I think the best way to get a taster is to take one of the Official City Bus tours. These leave from Placa de Catalunya at regular intervals and you can hop on and off, at any point. There is a choice of routes, East and West. I took the West route, which takes you on a circuit of 18 tourist-friendly sites, ranging from grand civic buildings to commercial centers to gardens to churches and even the Nou camp – the well-known stadium of Barcelona Football Club.
The bus is open topped and a commentary in the language of your choice is available on a headset. There is a lot of interesting and detailed information. The idea is that you select a destination of particular interest, leave the bus to explore, and then take a later bus. It is indicative of the number of places of interest that the East route offers another 16 tourist sites. There is lots to see in Barcelona.
Visit Gaudi’s Quirky Buildings
Barcelona is synonymous with the distinctive buildings of the world famous architect Antoni Gaudi. I admired his works at many locations around the city and they are instantly recognizable. I went along on the metro to the Park Guell at Carmel Hill. Gaudi designed this place as a public park, although there is now an admission charge. It is well worth the cost to see an artist’s imagination truly at work. It is one of Gaudi’s most famous projects, built between 1900 and 1914. His style is unique and individualistic and the park is reminiscent of an adult-sized fairyland. Many visitors head for the park, but only a limited number are permitted at any one time, so you should buy your ticket in advance,
Another of Gaudi’s splendid works is the unfinished Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, a large Roman Catholic Church with many ornate spires. This has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is very popular with visitors and thus worth arriving early.
See the Magic Fountain
The Font Magica de Montjuic is the local name for this ‘must-see’ in the city. It is an atmospheric sound and light show where the illuminated spurting fountains are coordinated to classical and modern music. It is a very pleasant way to spend some time during the evening. Local vendors sell snacks and drinks and it is a popular meeting place for locals. Varied performances take place every half hour at weekends, and it is free of charge.
Visit the Spanish Village
El Poble Espanyol is also at Montjuic just 400 meters from the Magic Fountain. This is an open-air museum in the style of a Spanish village with squares, cafes, craft workshops and gardens. For a truly memorable evening, eat at the Tablao de Carmen in the village. The food is authentic and good but the highlight for me was watching the amazing flamenco dancing afterwards. This is a nightly one-hour show when expert classical guitarists accompany the dramatic dancers – it will leave you spellbound!
Do as the Locals Do
A love of good company and good food is very apparent in the city. That is why you should partake in a favorite activity of the Catalonians while you are there. Find a pavement café, enjoy some tapas, drink a few glasses of Estrella and sit and chat and watch the world go by. There are few finer places enjoy such a simple pleasure!
Barcelona is an exuberant city with a lot going on. It is a city with a fascinating history, which is reflected by a large number of sights and monuments. I have only scratched the surface with my recommendations.