If you ever venture to Barcelona, pay close attention to every moment. For, if you happen to drift off, Barcelona is sure to snatch your heart up forever. You can beg to get it back, but it will be too late. You will irrefutably leave a piece of yourself there, and be forced to return again and again, for the rest of your life.
I traveled to Barcelona because I felt like it was something I needed check off my bucket list. My bucket list is rather extensive, but a good portion consists of specific pieces of art and monuments. Antoni Gaudí is an artist famous for his beautiful structures in Barcelona, and I have always wanted to see them. As for the rest of Barcelona, I figured it would be great to explore, but I NEVER thought it would be quite as breathtaking and life changing a place as it was for me.
Here are some of the pieces of Barcelona that completely stole my heart.
Antoni Gaudí’s Works
Antoni Gaudí is the entire reason I chose to visit Barcelona, but not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how spectacular Guadí’s works are. Antoni Gaudí is famous for utilizing forms in nature to cultivate and inspire his art, in the Art Neveau style. His pieces are incredibly well thought out, symbolic, and organic. He used very few edges and points, which reflects nature, and conveys a feeling of fantasy to the viewer. It is almost as if you stepped into a fairy tale and are experiencing the swirls and curves of an illustration come to life. Whether you are an art lover or not, Gaudí’s expressive works in Barcelona are sure to wow you.
We began at Park Güell, his surreal depiction of a park located at the edge of the city at the foot of a mountain. A Grand stairway greets you as you enter, and several examples of his organic and imaginative buildings stand in the front of the park as well. This park is famous for its extensive and intricate mosaic work, its progressive structures, and its peaceful garden atmosphere.
Park Güell is a beautiful place to take an evening stroll, and have some quiet time for reflection while taking in all of the gorgeous scenery and fantastical structures.
And as you move up the mountain, you are rewarded with an extensive and stunning view of the entire city! I am very glad we chose to explore this particular one of Gaudi’s works first. It was a peaceful and welcoming activity for our first night in Barcelona.
I will also say that I was a bit surprised at the size of the Park center. The Park itself is huge, and beautiful in its own rite, but the courtyard, completely designed by Gaudi, was much smaller than I had envisioned it. I was certainly not disappointed by any stretch of the imagination, but I did expect a much more spread out design regarding Gaudi’s mosaics and buildings. I am so glad we were able to experience this one first, and would recommend doing so to anyone traveling to Barcelona. Following Park Güell, Gaudí’s other works of art seem to continue to get progressively more unbelievable with each one you see!
Tip: Buy tickets in advance so you will be able to skip some of the line, and to ensure you get in.
They only allow a certain amount of people into the park at a time, so you want a specific time slot that guarantees entrance. Also, it is very dusty there so just FYI. Make sure you dress accordingly.
Casa Batlló is truly a sight to behold. Literally sandwiched in between two other homes, on what is seemingly a normal city street, this building resonates fantasy. It perplexes and captivates the viewer, and it raises the question of whether or not such a strange and enigmatic sight is actually in front of your eyes. The complex juxtaposition of reality, fantasy, and nature that Gaudí is able to capture with his art (and an actual home nonetheless) is simply fascinating. (No one currently lives in the home, but it was designed and used as a home for some time.) It is a UNESCO World Heritage site but is still owned by the Batlló family.
Casa Batlló has an enchanting exterior, but you must go in. For it is then that you are completely enveloped in a fantasia of magic and whimsy from every angle.
I have never truly experienced a physical space that better emulates a dream. Antoni Gaudí believed that “Nothing is art if it does not come from nature.” And this philosophy is apparent in his Casa Batlló. He did not waver for one second from his organic origin, from the light fixtures, to the doors, to the walls themselves. There are no crevices in the home, no corners where the ceiling meets the wall, No straight panes of glass for windows. These all exist in an organic and curved reality. Even the fireplace is organically shaped like a mushroom.
I could literally go on for pages and hours about this place. So I will have to create another, more in depth post designated to Gaudí to share all the beautiful photos and finish painting the incredible picture that is Casa Batlló. Also, writing about it makes me sad and angry that I am so far away from it now. So that is the end of that. Check back soon for my Gaudí post!
Tip: GO INSIDE!!
You can enjoy it from the outside, but you really must go inside to fully understand the wonder of this place.
Also, bring your own headphones.
There is a self guided tour that comes with the purchase of admission, and the headphones are the WORST. Do the same for La Sagrada Familia if you are taking a tour of any kind.
La Pedrera/ Casa Milá
Case Milá, or La Pedrera, is another sensational work of Gaudí. This building sits on a street corner, but doesn’t actually have any corners itself. Like all of Gaudí’s other works, and much like Casa Batlló, the design for this wondrous large structure is based largely on nature. This building is incredibly impressive from the outside, and does not need to work very hard to make a statement. It is quite an unbelievable sight to see exist on a busy intersection, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city.
Interesting fact about Casa Milá: There are no actual load-bearing walls in the entirety of this building. The entire structure is primarily heald up by a self-supporting facade. There are also and curved iron beams on each floor. For such a wild and wonderful design, I find this incredibly impressive!
Tip: This building is amazing in the day and at night.
Try to see both if you can. You can purchase combo tickets to tour the roof during the day and again at night if you want. But you cannot go wrong just visiting the outside of this building any time of the day or night!
La Sagrada Familia
Holy SHIT. La Sagrada Familia.
La Sagrada Familia is by far the most magnificent of the Gaudí bunch. Actually, it is hands down the most magnificent structure in the city. This monumental church, straight out of a fantasy, towers over all around it. The enormous fantastical structure is utterly unreal.
The most fascinating part for me was the symbolism and the scrupulous design of the exterior AND interior – down to every last detail.
At first glance, there is so much fantasia, that is seems maybe frivilous. One would assume that many of the decorative elements have the sole purpose of looking beautiful. But in actuality, every detail, statue, carving, and shape has a rhyme and reason, and symbology behind it. The many details and elements of design allow the Basilica to tell stories, make statements, and bear significance.
For example: there are brightly colored decorative round clusters on the spires of the towers. They look almost like something Dr. Seuss would design. To me, they look artistic and fun, and maybe a silly detail that brings some whimsy to a serious church. BUT, come to find out, they are actually meant to be piles of fruit. They are symbolic of the seasons, a fruitful harvest, and there are several that are grapes and wheat… for the body and blood of christ. This is just one of the ways Gaudí perfectly blended his deep religious side with the art of nature in his art.
Fun fact: This spectacular Basilica is unfinished, so it is constantly changing. It has been under construction for close to 100 years.
There are many artists, master masons, contractors, and many more teams of people working painstakingly to finish Gaudí’s most spectacular work. This evokes quite a bit of controversy, as many of Gaudí’s original plans were destroyed in a fire in his studio. There are collaborations of numerous talented artists working to create complimentary design elements for the church, to hopefully bring it to its final state sometime soon.
I hope to be able to see it several more times throughout the changes it will make on the way to its final state of magnificence!
THE FOOD! Oh my God. The food.
When you think of Spanish food, you generally think of Tapas. After visiting Barcelona, however, I believe that the blanketed term ‘tapas’ we have over here does not begin to do Spanish food the justice that it deserves. Spanish food, and in particular Catalan food… (Catalan is the region Barcelona is in) is completely extraordinary! I am actually working on a post specifically designated to food in Barcelona, so for all the details and specifics on Barcelona’s incredible foodie scene, which will be coming soon! 🙂
But seriously, what a freaking delicious city! It is hard to go wrong in this city with choosing a place to dine. I think what I was the most impressed with overall, though, was the impeccable freshness and balanced flavors of everything we ate. They take such care with every dish, and every piece of food, to make it perfect in flavor and presentation, and it definitely doesn’t go unnoticed! Luckily, we walked about 10 miles a day, so we could eat whatever we wanted and feel great about it! And believe me, we ate everything!
Tip: Try new things! Leave your food fears at home.
And of course, what better to compliment your delectable Spanish meal than some Sangria?! I have a full-blown newfound obsession with Sangria after visiting Barcelona. Problem being? I only want Sangria in Barcelona. Sangria is one of those things that you think is pretty great. Until you’ve had the really good shit. Then you can never go back to the old okay Sangria, and it is devastating. Oh well. Guess I will just have to go back soon. 😉 I mention our favorite Sangria bar below…(Bar Eloneta)… so make a trip!! IT is SO WORTH IT!
Tip: Try Cava Sangria! It is champagne based. And it is everything.
What a fab find! I mean, the market is not a secret… it’s actually a VERY busy place. But as we found out, it is easy to miss if you’re on the wrong side of the street. Located on Las Ramblas, this daily market is an experience in itself. It is absolutely enormous, and is stocked to the brim with everything you could ever want to eat. Ever. And everything is of superb quality. There is no shortage of brightly colored candies, fresh fruit and juices, ham legs, exotic spices, or chiles. And all of it is as picturesque as it looks delicious! This is an awesome place to stop for breakfast, lunch, or a snack anytime. I wish so badly I lived there so I could stock my kitchen up on the wonderful selections. I would officially never need a grocery store again.
Tip: Be super stealth taking pictures. The people working there hate it.
Super Tip: Eat at Pinotxo Bar! You will not be sorry!! Take their recommendations.
I absolutely adore the beach. It is one of my favorite things. But as much as I try to be, I am not really a ‘beach vacation’ type person. Usually I am able to lay on the beach for an hour or so. Then my ADHD kicks in and I have to wander around, snorkel, look for seashells, swim, and find anything else to do on the beach other than lay. This is precisely why I love the beach in Barcelona so much! Not only is it one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, with its clear and cool Mediterranean water, but it is surrounded by the city! The beach is in such close proximity to most places, that we would do some sightseeing and just walk to the beach from wherever in the city we happened to be.
Tip: Don’t forget your Sangria!
(Or just don’t buy it from the guys walking up and down the beach selling it.) It is awful.
Parc de la Ciutadella
This Park was absolutely the most wonderful surprise! I had no idea it existed, until a close friend of mine got ENGAGED there, and told us all about it when we met up in Paris. 🙂 And WHAT a place to get engaged?! This park is one of those few places that you will come across in your lifetime that makes you yearn to stay present in the current moment forever. It brings that surreal feeling about; questioning whether you are dreaming or this is real life. It eventually dawns on you that you are experiencing a moment of complete and utter bliss, and you wonder what you did to deserve it. The question arises: “Does life get better than this?” And at that moment, the answer is indefinitely no.
Parc de la Ciutadella is truly a magical oasis. It attracts all walks of life, and is literally the perfect place for a stroll, a picnic, or an afternoon nap.
It was incredibly entertaining and refreshing to see so many different types of people sharing a beautiful place in such harmony. Almost as if it was staged. As we walked, we saw a prayer circle to our left, a young couple making out to our right, some hippies playing guitar up ahead of us, and a family picnicking behind us. No one was bothered by the others. They were all just chilling in complete unanimity. It was beautiful.
So we strolled through the park to the most STUNNING fountain. I was not aware of this at the time, but Antoni Gaudí actually played a part in its design when he was a student. I found this super exciting, as now I had accidentally discovered a piece of his art in Barcelona that I was not aware of previously! He was not the primary artist, but did play a role. Anyway, it is a spectacular fountain, placed in a beautiful large gathering area.
We sipped sangria while sitting in the shade, and observed dogs playing and a bubble guy making giant bubbles for kids to run after and play in. All around us was the sound of laughter, conversation, a slight warm breeze, and the gentle gushing of the fountain. This was the most lighthearted and tranquil place I have found in a very long time. And I did not ever want to leave the place, or the moment.
Long story short, this place is awesome and I HIGHLY recommend a visit! I also recommend walking up through the Arc de Triomf. It is a beautiful walk and a great monument to see.
Tip: GO THERE.
Off the Beaten Path
I think one of the most wonderful parts of Barcelona was wandering around the side streets and alleyways. Not once did I feel unsafe, and there is just so much to discover in these nooks and crannies. At one point, we were searching for a Sangria bar Yaron had heard of. We followed the map off the main road and down an alley. Looking around, we saw a few kids on bicycles, colorful clothes hanging from the balconies, a man walking a dog… but no a bar. No neon signs, no outdoor patio, no hustle and bustle of servers and diners. We were convinced the map had just led us to a random location that didn’t exist. But all of the sudden, there it was! It was literally right in front of us. It was the cutest little bar tucked away in a narrow alley; hidden away from the mainstream world.
It is called Bar Eloneta, and is pretty much the cutest, coziest, homiest place I have ever been. And ohmygod THAT SANGRIA!!! It was an out of body experience. I can’t quite describe it better than that. The unique and creative combinations of flavors, from rose petals to cinnamon, gave it so many layers of flavor. Each layer offered a slightly different sensation, and they all combined absolutely perfectly. It also had great food! And was vegan! A hidden gem, if you will.
We did much more wandering and exploring, and discovered some wonderful new places. We also discovered that we are totally capable of finding our way if we get lost. Yes we used a map sometimes. But some things are not on the map. Some things are too far off the beaten path and can only be discovered through exploration. And trial and error. Those are the best things; in my humble experience.
And in the process of trial and error, we laughed at our mistakes and bonded over our discoveries.
We found that deviating from the main roads and meandering through neighborhoods was when we discovered the heart of Barcelona, and some other truly amazing authentic hidden gems. 😉
There is so much to be gained by gathering up the courage to get lost and allowing yourself new experiences. So much to discover by relinquishing control and letting the universe guide you. This can be literal, in the sense that maybe you put away your GPS, take a deep breath, and figure shit out yourself. It can be figurative; in allowing yourself to hear what the universe is whispering in your ear. Maybe it is a direction, maybe an idea, maybe a sense of freedom.
Sometimes the strength, direction, and faith we need is buried inside of us… underneath a thick blanket of fear and doubt. Let yourself get lost. Sometimes that is where you uncover the hidden gems. (Important lesson of the day brought to you by Barcelona) 🙂
Cheers and Happy exploration!!