The capital of Mediterranean, as Barcelona is sometimes called, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is a place superior in many areas: its medieval old town is one of the largest, its beaches are among the longest, and the number of ‘modernist style’ buildings it possesses is among the highest. A lot of us would argue that its restaurants, bars and clubs are also amongst the best in the world. In any case, the abundance of things one can do or see in Barcelona cannot be ignored, even in peak season when the number of tourists can be annoying.
The urbanism of Barcelona is quite unique in two aspects: first it includes several old towns and cities, which are completely incorporated in the urban fabric, and secondly, its dominating urban grid consists of a large quantity of identical or almost identical city blocks with cut edges, that can’t be found elsewhere. The City center is represented by the Ciutat Vella or the Old town, which is divided between Raval, Gòtic and Born. The main square Plaça Catalunya is a point of connection between the old town and the modern Eixample. Main streets cross the whole city parallel or perpendicular to the sea and the mountain. Two of the most important ones are Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes and Passeig de Gràcia.
There are so many places of interest in Barcelona that I will only focus on the most important ones. Major spots are located in the magnificent Old town, where the Cathedral, gorgeous squares like Plaça Reial and Plaça del Rei, medieval palaces and the famous la Rambla have a special place. The modernist architecture with Gaudi’s works as a highlight, squares like Plaça Catalunya and Plaça Espanya and parks such as Montjuïc and Parc de la Ciutadella are some of the additional marvelous locations. And of course, a perfect holiday in Barcelona cannot end without visiting its 5km long beach. If you are short of time you can take the hop on hop off bus.
Barcelona accommodation is varied in terms of price, standard, location and service. There are several areas where staying can be a good option. The Old town is the best place if you want to be where everything happens, but don’t mind the noise. Barceloneta is a great choice if you want to be centrally located, yet close to the beach. If you prefer something classy and bit more up range then Eixample is the place for you. If your budget is limited and want to be near the action then Poble Sec can be the perfect destination. If you like to enjoy an old town’s charm but be surrounded by young people and locals Gràcia is the best neighborhood.
It is easy to walk around Barcelona. Although we are talking about one of the largest cities in Europe, its size is comparatively small, due to a very high density. The splendid weather common for most of the year helps a lot. Biking is very enjoyable too, and it’s easy to find a reliable bike rental almost anywhere. Other ways of moving around include the extensive metro, which is by far the most popular means of transport, a tram that leads to periphery, buses and suburban trains. In most cases a taxi is not necessary, although its prices are quite moderate compared to other big European cities.
Culturally unique, Barcelona is a place where Catalan reserved mentality blends with the Spanish warm temper to be joined together with European cosmopolitism. It is an international city that has always attracted creative and open minded people like Picasso, Dali, Miró and Gaudi, amongst others. In Barcelona art is everywhere, in its independent galleries, small designer shops, creative associations and colorful deteriorated bars. But perhaps its highest art is its laid back environment that quickly seduces everyone.
Barcelona Travel Guide
- Stay in the Old Town, or in l’Eixample. Happy Frog recommends Hotel Brummell
- The Old Town including the Cathedral, Plaça Reial and la Rambla;
- National Museum and Montjuic hill;
- Park Güell, Sagrada Família and Palau Güell;
- Hospital de Sant Pau, CCCB and Cosmo Caixa.
- Eat tapas and drink homemade sparkling wine in el Xampanyet in Born.
- On foot, by bicycle, metro, bus, tram and train.
- Visit the beautiful mountain of Montserrat or any of the outstanding Costa Brava wineries.
DO NOT MISS:
- Go on a concert in Palau de la Música;
- Have a drink in la Rambla del Raval and party in plaça Reial;
- Climb to las Arenas and visit el Parc de Miró;
- Hire a bicycle, tour the coast and spend time on the beach;
- Have a picnic in Parc de la Ciutadella.
* Happy frog recommends ajo bike rent