EASILY MY FAVOURITE city in Europe thus far. Barcelona was the second pitstop of our 19-day Eurotrip, flying in from Munich (visited my boyfriend Danial who was doing his exchange). The weather was welcoming having travelled from Germany – sunny Spanish skies yet just the right breezy cold.
A fantastic way to travel through the alleys of Barcelona is by bike, and I would highly recommend Bike Tours Barcelona. You get to cover more places and experience more sights than on foot.
Each cathedral has its own story. The famous one is the Sagrada Familia, a work by the renowned architect of his time Antoni Gaudi. Considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the construction of this gothic-style cathedral was commenced in 1882 – and surprisingly is still undergoing construction! It is estimated, I was told, to complete in yet another 10-15 years’ time. Gosh I’d be close to 40 by then.
Other cathedrals we came across were Cathedral of Santa Eulalia and Santa Maria del Mar. I was amazed by each of its exterior and interior architecture. I was particularly attracted to the gargoyles that were common amongst Medieval cathedrals. Gargoyles are said to ward off evil spirits and protect the church. What I also learnt was that a gargoyle was only called a gargoyle if its purpose was to spout water away from the roof, much like a gutter. Otherwise, the frightening stone statues are called grotesque. Will sure remember that fact for life!
Cycling about, our guide took us not only through the modern part of Barcelona but also the Ciutat Vella which means “Old City” in Catalan. Unilke the rest of Barcelona whose districts are divide into neat squares typical of modern urban planning, the Ciutat Vella is not. In modern times, the Ciutat Vella is also the city centre. Here, you can find ancient roman ruins in its oldest part. That is why it is always good to have a local take you around, as you wouldn’t want to miss out on the stunning architecture of historical buildings.
The Ciutat Vella houses four quarters: La Ribera, El Raval, Barri Gòtic, and Barceloneta.
Some of my favourite architecture were the Cascada Fountain at Park de la Ciutadella, and Musuem of Natural Science – both within Barceloneta. Park de la Ciutadella is particularly pretty and a great place to lounge about for a picnic. However, arguably one of the most beautiful places I came across was Palau de la Música Catalana in La Ribera; or Palace of Catalan Music. Its facade is rich in decorations with red bricks, statues and coloured mosaics. Impressive! No wonder it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Arc de Triomf dominates the whole promenade leading to the park. Built in a reddish brickwork, I personally think it is more attractive than the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Such arcs were used throughout history as a gate by which soldiers would march in triumph after a battle, as the name suggests. Another thing that made me fall in love with Barcelona is the story that, believe it or not, the Eiffel Tower was supposedly built in Barcelona. Thinking that the structure would look like an eyesore, the city council rejected Gustave Eiffel’s plans and it found its way to Paris instead. Our guide scored brownie points with me for having shared such bite-size facts.
A little out of the city is where you can find Park Güell. Designed by Antoni Gaudi (you guessed it!), the attraction is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site that Barcelona has to offer. With its famed entrance, I enjoyed taking a morning leisurely stroll in the park. From the top of the terrace, one can get a bird’s eye view of the city and the sea surrounding it.
Boys will be boys and I was dragged to take a trip down to Camp Nou – home to the Barcelona Football Club. Lucky for us, we had a straight bus directly in front of our hostel. I supposed it is a worthwhile visit for any soccer fans! The museum offers many interactive media platforms showcasing the football club’s history and success. You also get to step foot onto the playing field, VIP lounge and enter the players’ locker room – every fan’s dream.
La Barceloneta was hardly disappointing. I spent the remaining afternoon on my 24th birthday lounging on the beach. It was still mildly cold during the time we were there, so visitors were never in bikinis. Apart from a great place to chill, you also get a stunning view of the Mediterranean Sea. The only downside was that there were many pedlars coercing the many tourists to purchase anything from a beach hat to a cheap Mojito.
I truly loved Barcelona for its unique ways… The friendly Spanish people, the breathtaking architectures, the fantastic food (think seafood paellas and escargot tapas) and its history so rich with stories. Spain is also home to some of my favourite retail brands: Mango, Pull&Bear, Zara, Stradivarius, Bershka and Springfield. Prices are much cheaper than the imported goods I get in Singapore. So what’s there not to love about Barcelona?
Barcelona definitely has not seen the last of me. I think it will always be worth revisiting; simply to have a taste of the laid-back life and being mesmerised by timeless beauty.
My recommendations for hostel-stay and a fantastic tour:
The Generator Hostels Barcelona
Carrer de Corsega 373, 08037 Barcelona, Spain
Visited April 2014, stayed in a private 6-bed dorm for €25/night
Right smack between two metro stations, and a bus stop right in front of the hostel that takes you straight to Camp Nou (think Barcelona FC). There is a lovely bakery across the road La Panella that serves good croissants. Rooms were very clean, loving the design in the main hall and great social amenities too… TV, pool table, random ceiling swings. Vending machines readily available for midnight snacking. -My TripAdvisor review (NaniISG)
Bike Tours Barcelona http://www.biketoursbarcelona.com
Calle Esparteria 3, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Visited April 2014, €22/pax for a 3-hour tour
Enjoyed the bike tour with guide Tito, great knowledge into the history of Barcelona and the makings of the historical sites throughout the city. Halfway pitstop at a beachfront cafe for drinks which was included in the tour price. Tito was also more than helpful to point us directions for great paella and other places not included in the tour. An afternoon well-spent! -My TripAdvisor review (NaniSG)