My Barcelona Top
Barcelona is one of my favorite European cities, second only to Lisbon which tops my list. It is vibrant and pulsates with life. Walking around its streets and narrow alleyways, it’s easy to understand why travellers fall in love with it so quickly and so passionately. Here is my list of top things to do in Barcelona. If you have a day to spend in BCN, consider the following itinerary…
See Barcelona from the Top
The best way to get a sense of the magnificence and architectural ironies of Barcelona is to see it from above. Gothic, art nouveau and modern architecture dominate its skyline and up on Mountjuic, one can take in the cityscape in all its glory.
From here, one can also see the harbour that leads out to the Mediterranean Sea. The Port of Barcelona dates back 2000 years and is today’s 9th most important container port in Europe.
My father, who was a seafarer in the 70s up to the early 90s, sent me a letter from Barcelona once when I was a kid. Back then, I could only imagine what he saw of this famous port from his cabin window. So seeing the port for myself during my visit was really meaningful. But I digress…
Explore Las Ramblas
If you want to have an immediate feel of the city, exploring Las Ramblas should top your list (yes, as all guidebooks say). The 1.2km-long strip (from Port Vell to Plaça Catalunya) is replete with shops, restaurants, bars and coffee shops of every kind and size. But don’t ignore the warnings of travellers past. Las Ramblas is not just famous for its entertaining street mimes but is also well-known for its very clever pickpockets. Speaking of street mimes…
Be Entertained by the Mimes
Being a mime in Europe is a very serious affair. It requires passion, diligence and a certain set of skills (such as putting on theatrical make-up, creating fantastic costumes and standing, sitting or hanging still for hours). The mimes that work the Las Ramblas strip are some of the most talented I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a few including those from Sacre Coeur in Paris). These two scared me, though. Talk about production design!
I know it’s so touristy but I recommend posing with them and throwing in a Euro or two in their hats or, well, flower pots. It’s a nice gesture to show your appreciation of their efforts. Even if some of them freak you out.
Shop at Mercat de La Boqueria
Some people say if you want to feel the heart and soul of a place, go to the public market and eat what the locals eat. Okay…I just made that one up. But you have to admit, though, that there’s some truth to this. So while in Las Ramblas, drop by La Boqueria and get yourself some local sweets and snacks that you can take with you in case of gastronomic emergencies during your day tour.
Get intimate with Gaudi and Picasso
Once you’ve exhausted the sights and sounds of Las Ramblas, you can then move on to the more cultural side. What makes Barcelona so interesting is that the works of two of her world-renowned sons– architect Antoni Gaudi and painter Pablo Picasso– are easily accessible.
Gaudi’s most prominent work, La Sagrada Familia Cathedral, is just a train ride away from Las Ramblas. 128 years after construction began, La Sagrada Familia is still under construction and is expected to be completed in 2026. That’s a world record right there! Above, the crane looks like part of the cathedral’s design already.
Filmed at La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s masterpiece. Was thinking I have much in common with the great Spanish architect. We both defy convention, he with his breathtaking designs and me by wearing a lobster bib in the shower. -Woody Allen
The Picasso Museum on the other hand is a only a few blocks away from Las Ramblas. Much of the exhibition chronicles Picasso’s early years. A real treat, though, is Las Meninas, his homage to Diego Velazquez’s masterpiece.
Having a cold one with a plate full of Tapas is an acceptable (if not compulsory) pre-dinner preoccupation in BCN. I love pulutans so it’s really nice to know its origins.
Tapas are Spanish pica-picas. They can be eaten at all hours of the day but Spaniards prefer to eat them over beer and a good conversation between 4 to 8 in the evening.
Watch the Sunset in Mare Magnum
Finally, to end your day, appreciate a spectacular Castillan sunset at the Mare Magnum (or anywhere near the beach). The sunset here is glorious and is (slightly) comparable to Manila Bay’s. Of course taking it all in would be perfect stretched out on a bench by the dock with a glass of red wine in one hand and well, comfy boots on your feet.
Have you read Delectable Tapas, Scary Mimes, Biting Cold and Borrowed Boots? How about Solo in Europe or The Wonderful Mercat de La Boqueria?
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