let yourself go into the happy...
let yourself go into the happy Mediterranean way of life. Then take your time and enjoy the city’s beautiful sites. Most tourists link the city with Gaudí’s masterpieces Sagrada Familia and Park Güell. In fact the city is filled with examples of this crazy richly decorated kind of architecture. Gaudí is the most famous artist of this artistic trend called “Modernisme” (Catalan equivalent to “Art Nouveau” in Paris or Brussels, “Jugendstil” in Germany and Austria), but you will be able to admire many buildings by other important architects like Domènech i Montaner or Puig i Cadafalch. I suggest that you buy a good guide to find out more about it. You will learn that in the second half of the XIX century, the city decided to demolish the old medieval wall in order to extend itself and host the increasing population. A whole new residential area was planned (by engineer Ildefons Cerdà) and the prosperous industrials in Barcelona let their new palaces be built in the new trendy architectural style. This area of the city (called Eixample) is characterised by its long tree-lined avenues and its structure can be admired from the top of nearby Serra de Collserola, where the famous luna park Tibidabo stands.
Barcelona is celebrating during 2002 Gaudí’s 150 anniversary, so plenty of cultural activities will take place during the year. Gaudí’s most admired works in Barcelona are:
- the Sagrada Familia: this unfinished temple (it is not a cathedral) is awesome. Even if only two lesser façades stand and a part of the abses stand, it continues to marvel any traveller who visits it. You can climb to the towers, but it’s not recommended if you suffer from vertigo.
- Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera, is an apartment block in Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona’s most elegant avenue. On this same avenue you will find Casa Batlló (by Gaudí), Casa Ametller (by Puig i Cadafalch) and Casa Lleó Morera (by Domènech i Montaner).
- Park Güell: situated on the upper part of the city, it provides awesome views over the city and sea and it is full of sculptures, fountains and romantic corners.
- Palau Güell: situated near the Rambla, is one of Gaudí’s first works.
You can see more pictures on Gaudí in my travelogue.
But, don’t forget to visit other important “Modernist” buildings in Barcelona, like Hospital de Sant Pau (close to the Sagrada Familia) or the Palau de la Música Catalana (in the old town). strolling in the narrow streets of the old Gothic quartier, skating along the sea promenade, al fresco eating in an old Mediterranean patio, enjoying the sun and the beach, watching life go by in the Rambla, partying in the disco's...
The Plaça del Rei, formerly the medieval marketplace, is said to be where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella welcomed Christopher Columbus home from America in 1493. Nearby is the Plaça Reial, a fine arcaded square built in 1848. Gothic mansions line the atmospheric streets, and you'll find museums, historic churches, and bars and restaurants.
learn some of the...
learn some of the language...make an effort. Like you, when someone foreign comes to your country, you like it if they try to speak a bit of your language. So, try to go out of your way to make life easier for everyone & you'll find the people are fantastic. We can only speak very basic Spanish & we got by as everyone helped us out heaps. It's a fallacy that all the people in Spain can speak English. So, it's their country...make the effort!!
Monasterio de Montserrat
Catalonia's most important religious retreat is Montserrat. Here athletes pledge barefoot pilgrimages if prayers are answered and vital competitions won. Groups of young people from Barcelona and all over Catalonia make overnight hikes at least once in their lives to watch the sunrise from the heights of Montserrat. "La Moreneta" (the black virgin), Catalonia's favorite saint, resides in the famous sanctuary of the Mare de Deu de Montserrat, next to the Benedictine monastery nestled among the towers and crags of the mountain.
Montserrat, whose name means serrated mountain, is 48 kilometers (roughly 30 miles) west of Barcelona, and can be reached easily and spectacularly by train and cable car. Just take the FGC train from Plaça d'Espanya station (R5) and go to either the cable car stop or the funicular stop. I suggest the first stop, the cable car for it's remarkable view! Make sure you buy the combination ticket before leaving (saves you some money!)
Looming 1236 meters (4055 ft) over the valley floor, Montserrat, the highest point of the Catalan lowlands, stands central to the most populated part of Catalonia. The massive conglomerate stone monolith is ideally located to play an important role in the cultural and spiritual life of Catalonia.
The Basilica houses a museum that is packed with works of art by a long list of prominent painters and sculptors including works by El Greco, Dalí, Picasso and many more.
Lastly, Montserrat's highest point, Sant Jeroni, can be reached by funicular (price included in combination ticket) from the Romanesque monastery of Santa Cecilia. From Sant Jeroni, almost all of Catalonia can be seen. You can see more about this monastery soon on my Monistrol de Montserrat page.
Mercat de Santa Caterina - food markets
The main food market that everyone visits in Barcelona is Mercat de la Boqueria (see 'Things to Do' tip), but if you are in the La Ribera district make sure you also pay a visit to Mercat de Santa Caterina.
This market was only opened in 2005, and is hard to miss with its wavy roof! The colourful ceramic roof was built in the style of the modernista tradition (think Park Guell) and is quite a sight. Inside is also impressive, with its high wooden ceiling, and modern market stalls. You will find the usual produce-market goodies for sale here. The fruit & veg looked very fresh, and there was a great range of fish and other seafood. I was most intrigued by the egg stall, which was selling both Emu & Ostrich eggs.
Opening Hours: 8am-2pm Mon; 8am-3.30pm Tue, Wed & Sat; 8am-8.30pm Thu & Fri