Barcelona, The Vibrant City

If I had to describe Barcelona in one word it would be ‘vibrant.’ Barcelona is a city, not only of history, but of colors. It’s built on the ruins of the original Roman city and was home to gifted artists, including Gaudi and Picasso, who changed its landscape in interesting ways. It’s popularity has waxed and waned across time until it hosted the Summer Olympics of 1992. When Barcelona was accepted to be the host of the Olympics its residents rallied together, working to no only build Olympic stadiums, but a destination city worth hosting. They brought in palm trees, extended the beach, and invested in their future. Now, they can see the pay out in their extensive tourist economy. According to our walking tour guide, Barcelona hosts more visitors than residents every year!

Where we stayed:

We got a private room in this hostel nearish to Plaza Catalunya. It was clean, had a fun view, and was within walking distance to Old City, which we liked. We ended up walking a lot in Barcelona because it was easier than figuring out the buses and trains.

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What we did:

The first thing we did was find our walking tour. Of all the tours we walked in Europe, this was my favorite, mostly because our tour guide was enthusiastic, entertaining, and knowledgeable. The tour started at the Cathedral of Barcelona, wound its way through the Gothic Quarter, and ended on the boardwalk to the beach.

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Cathedral of Barcelona

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Classic old city streets.

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The large bricks at the base of this tower are from the original Roman town!

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Just some real Picasso decor on a building.

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The steps where Columbus returned to meet Ferdinand and Isabella after discovering the Americas.

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Boardwalk to the beach.

My favorite thing we learned about, on our tour, was the local Catalan culture. Barcelona is in the Catalonia region of Spain and carries its own unique mix of culture and language. For example, they speak Catalan, a mix of Spanish, French, Portuguese, and I don’t know what else. They also have a culture highly steeped in group connections. Case in point, they have their own competitive sport called ‘Castell’ where they work together to make human castles- or human towers. The highest on record was 10 levels of people standing on each others’ shoulders. These towers require over 100 people in order to build a strong base, with the following levels decreasing in size, and the last level consisting of a small child (5-7 years old). The goal is to construct and deconstruct the tower without falling and they actually compete in it! The whole phenomenon is so interesting I’ll share a video here.

After our tour we trotted back through the city finding “Las Ramblas” (a tourist walking street), plazas, and chocolate drinks.

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We walked Las Ramblas for about 2 blocks just to say we were there.

We had dinner at Granja Viader. They are known for their dairy free chocolate drinks. Briana was as happy as a clam with her restaurant find.

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Placa de Catalunya

The next morning we started our day off in Park Guell. It was designed by the artist Antoni Gaudi with the owner of the land, Eusebi Guell, to be a state of the art neighborhood. For several reasons it never ‘took off’ but has now been turned into a park. I think the most interesting thing about Gaudi’s works (he designed several houses throughout the city as well as a church that I will mention later) is how they differ from the architecture of the city. Often I feel that older cities have a way of keeping their buildings with a theme, but Barcelona breaks that stereotype by adding symbolic splashes of color and curves across its standard European backdrop.

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From Park Guell we walked to the Sagrada Familia in sprinkling rain. We would have preferred to take a bus, but we couldn’t find the right line, so we walked it.

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Walking in the drizzle.

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We found it! The Sagrada Familia (The sacred family) is a church over 100 years in the making. It was designed by Gaudi with 3 ‘fronts,’ one of Christ’s birth, one of His death, and one of His resurrection. Only this side was completed in his lifetime.

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It’s hard to take selfies with tall objects.

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The only back side of the church.

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Started in 1882, this church has yet to be completed.

From the church we found lunch. I can’t say that we totally figured out the meal situation in Spain, even on our last day there. It seems like all the meals are tapas (appetizer dishes), but maybe we missed something?

Since this was our last day in Europe after 3 weeks of travel, we wanted to squeeze the most out of every last moment, so we marched on from lunch to a museum. Our fabulous tour guide from the day before had suggested the History Museum of Barcelona, so we went to check it out. Almost the entirety of the museum is underground walkways through uncovered Roman ruins. It was very, very cool and we would definitely recommend it!

Our last stop of the day was to The Olympic Sports Complex. We didn’t play anything but it’s at the top of a hill and lends itself to a beautiful view. Also, we were told that we could ride outdoor escalators to the top, which has since become one of my favorite forms of transportation!

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View on the way back down from the steps of The National Art Museum of Catalonia.

And that was it. The end of our time in Barcelona, and in Europe.

Why you should go to Barcelona:

  1. All the Gaudi architecture. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen in any city and is very cool to see first hand.
  2. It is very visitor friendly. I speak Spanish and I barely used it there because if I took too long to respond, they switched to English. Barcelonians are well accustomed to tourists.
  3. It is an interesting time politically for Barcelona, as it’s vying for its independence from Spain and clinging very much to its Catalan culture.
  4. There’s a million things to see and do.
  5. Everyone stays up late and sleeps in, which is perfect if you are on vacation mode.

This was part 2 of country 6 of our 6 country Euro Trip. To read a summary of the trip, click here.

Country 1: Czech Republic

Country 2: Austria, read here and here.

Country 4: Switzerland, click here and here.

Country 5: Italy, read about Lake Como, Venice, Portovenere, Cinque Terre, Rome, Florence, or my final thoughts. (I had a lot to say about Italy, as you can see.)

Country 6: Spain, part one: Granada

Phew! That is a lot of posts about one trip! And yet, I’m missing one more country. Come back next week for my final thoughts on our Europe Trip, including our time in Germany.

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