Beautiful Baroque Barcelona

September 2014

I arrived in sunny Barcelona at 11.45am. I had already pre booked the Aerobus which would take me from the airport to Placa Catalunya where I would then get the metro to the Barceloneta stop. Word to the wise, pick pocketing does take place in Barcelona but as long as you keep your wits about you then you should be fine, I wouldn’t recommend backpacks as they seemed to be the obvious target. The hotel I was staying in was located in the Old Town area and was called Park Hotel, it was easy to find as it was opposite Estacio de Franca the large train station. I only had a weekender sized bag on wheels with me so travelling with it was easy enough. The hotel didn’t look much from the outside but was clean and modern inside, I had requested a quiet room when I booked through and I was given a room towards the back of the hotel further away from the road where the noise was minimal.

It was around 1.30pm by the time I checked in and had settled in my room. The first thing I wanted to do was take a shower and put some clean clothes on as by this point I was starting to melt! It was around 27/28 degrees but felt a lot hotter with the humidity in the city. I then decided it was time to explore, Parc de la Ciutadella was right next to my hotel so was going to be my first stop. It was very pretty with lots of green open spaces and tree lined paths which often led to some beautiful fountains. Barcelona Zoo was also situated here but as I was only there for a few days I decided to give that a miss.

Next I decided to walk to Port Olympic which was by the sea and offered up a lovely sea breeze. From Port Olympic you could see all the way down to Port Vell and it looked so beautiful so of course I got carried away and walked all the way down there! I have since found out that the beach is about 2 miles long so that’s how far I walked in that heat, I must have been mad! I was really hungry by this point so walked back up into the city itself for a bit to eat, I’m not very adventurous when it comes to food I like to stick to what I recognise so Burger King it was.

After refuelling I wanted to explore further, the architecture in Barcelona is amazing and I ended up at Catedral de Barcelona which dominates the Old Town. The magnificent Gothic Cathedral was begun in 1298 but was not finished until the early 20th century. I took some photos of the eye catching façade. I stumbled across some other interesting buildings but my feet had given up by this point so I got the metro back to the Barceloneta and then a short walk back to the hotel. I then planned what I was going to do the next day and had an early night as I’d been up since 5.30am and had walked half of Barcelona!

Next morning I went to the Maremagnum shopping centre where I found out most shops didn’t open until 12 but there were a few little cafes open so I could have some breakfast before catching the hop on hop off City Tour Bus. I had also purchased the 2 day bus ticket online before arriving. Once on the bus I was given some headphones to plug in for English commentary on the places of interest along the way, which was actually really interesting. I decided I was first of all going to get off at Sagrada Familia, it was an absolutely amazing looking building! Gaudi was commissioned in 1883 to complete a Neo-Gothic cathedral. It became his life’s work and he lived like a recluse on the site for 16 years. He is now buried in the crypt. The building is still unfinished and work continues on it to this day. The queue to go inside was insane and I didn’t have all day to wait so I had to make do with taking lots of photos of the outside which included the Nativity Façade and the Passion Façade. I would advise anyone planning on visiting Sagrada Familia to book tickets online before arriving to save a lot of time and to ensure you actually get in.

Then it was time to get back on the bus and head for Parc Guell. Gaudi was commissioned in 1910 to lay out a private housing estate on a hillside above Barcelona. There are also some beautiful mosaic works by Josep Maria Jujol. From the bus stop it is a steep walk up to the entrance so I would advise purchasing something to drink before you head up. It was also very busy when I arrived and I was told the next available entry was not until 2.30pm, I waited in the shade and had a drink and a white chocolate magnum. It was lovely up there but very hot! I entered at The Square which offered beautiful views over the city and the undulating benches covered in Mosaics were very pretty. I took lots of photos before I moved on to the Hypostle Room which was a covered area with 86 columns supporting the square above. The ceiling was formed of small domes and was decorated with some lovely tiles. Then I walked on to the Monumental Flight of Steps, the steps are full of detail such as gargoyles, mosaics and a large brightly coloured Lizard. Then there are the 2 mosaic pavilions which have intricately tiled exteriors, one of them houses the visitor centre.

I then made my way back to the bus where I got off at the Maremagnum shopping centre and had some food at Macdonalds and then did a bit of shopping because it would be rude not to and because I needed some comfier shoes! I had only been wearing some New Look sandals and had managed to get a blister underneath my foot so I purchased some comfy canvas shoes from H+M. I then decided to walk back into the city via the Wave Bridge and then over to La Rambla which is an historic tree lined avenue that has a Monument to Columbus at the bottom of it. I walked my way up La Rambla and passed lots of little stalls selling flowers, gifts and food e.t.c. There were also palm tree lined squares with lovely fountains in the middle, which is what I had pictured when I thought of Spain. I walked all the way up to Placa Catalunya and then got the bus back as close to my hotel as it went and then a short walk back to the hotel for a shower and an early night. I also planned where I wanted to go on the second tour bus route the following day.

The next morning I got up early and headed to Sagrada Familia so that I could get in the front of the queue to go inside. I was right at the front at 8.15am and I new it opened at 9, great. No, it hit 9am and a guy came around to say it was at full capacity and that you wouldn’t be able to get in until at least midday! I didn’t have the time to waste as it was my last day so I cut my losses and got back on the bus to do the orange route.

I passed the Jardins de Mirramar where lots of different species of plants grow even cactus that date back hundreds of years. Then it was up around the edge of the mountain of Montjuic where there were some amazing views over the city. We also passed the Olympic Stadium and the Olympic Diving Boards where Tom Daley has competed,  I recognised it from when we’d seen it on t.v – it’s certainly a pool with a view!

I got off the bus at stop 8 the Art Museum which was an impressive looking building and I then went down the different levels of escalators towards Placa Espanya. There was an amazing multi level fountain surrounded by beautiful Roman architecture. I got some lovely photos, a couple asked me to take a photo of them and I asked them to take one of me in return. Placa Espanya had 2 massive Venitian Towers which were modelled on the bell towers in St Marks in Venice and a large fountain in the middle of a roundabout also by Josep Maria Jujol. There was also a bullring (built in 1899) which has been converted into a shopping and entertainment centre.

I then got back on the bus and decided to get off at stop 15 L’illa Diagonal a large shopping centre which I had some discount vouchers for and picked up a free shopping bag which had lots of different things all over it that were supposed to represent Barcelona. I also had some food in a café in between shopping and then I ended up with a Haagen Daas ice cream. I then got back on the bus and got off at stop 17 La Pedrera (the stone quarry) Gaudi’s greatest contribution to Barcelona’s civic architecture. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any photos of the outside as it was being re furbished but I went inside. Gaudi designed his eight floor apartment block around 2 circular courtyards. The lift takes you straight up to the roof terrace which has lots of interesting sculptures and chimneys and there were some amazing views of the city including Sagrada Familia. The museum “El Espai Gaudi” was on the top floor and had models and explanations of Gaudi’s work. Then there was the apartment itself with it’s old fashioned bedrooms, bathrooms, living room, kitchen and maids room. It was very fascinating. There are no straight walls in the building at all!

I finished the day by getting back on the bus to go to stop 1 Placa Catalunya to walk down La Rambla to do my souvenir shopping. I managed to find something for everyone and at good prices too. Then it was back to the hotel to pack up and get ready to leave the following day. My stay was short but sweet, I had a wonderful time and have some brilliant photos to show for it. It was some of the hottest/humid weather I had ever experienced and my legs were wrecked but it was worth every minute. I would not hesitate to visit again one day.