“There is no other place quite like Barcelona” – said Sheila, a Catalan in every sense of that word. I usually do not agree with such subjective statements, but Barca really is an exception. If I had to describe the city in two words they would be “life” and “colours”. There is such an abundance of both!
Just like any other big city Barcelona has two faces. The first is what attracts millions of tourists. The second is a lot less glamorous and it takes more than a week to get to see it. I will tell you a story about each one of them because they both have their charm.
The most visited places in Barcelona are incredibly popular all over the world, mainly because they are worth it. Here are my favourite sights of Barcelona for tourists:
I believe it is safe to assume that every single person who has visited Barcelona has had a stroll down La Rambla. This boulevard, which actually consists of five smaller streets, is a two-kilometer promenade from Plaça Catalunya to the beach. Going down the street there is one place you definitely need to stop by – La Boqueria. The colours and flavours of the market can dazzle you. What would taste better: the unknown fruit in bright pink or the sugarcoated Chilean nuts? I honestly don’t know. What I do know, though, is that you should not miss the fruit juices. They are sold at many of the stalls, offered in a variety of tastes and are worth every cent. That is not only my personal opinion but also a view I share with many other visitors who lively discussed what flavours they got to try.
Bonus tip: The mango and coconut juice is to die for. Visit La Boqueria around the end of their opening hours (Monday – Saturday between 8 am and 8:30 pm) to get the fruit drinks at a discount price.
Basilica of the Holy Family (La Sagrada Familia)
The greatest masterpiece of the architect Antoni Gaudi is almost mythical with its ongoing construction for 133 years now. There is even a joke, which says that Real Madrid will win in a match with Barcelona only when La Sagrada Familia has been finished. Apparently Catalonians do not really wish to finish the building!
I have to admit, the basilica is one of the greatest deceptions in Tourism. Most photos on the internet and absolutely all post cards of the “Holy Family” show it in its full splendor. In reality, there are always cranes, scaffolding and other not so picturesque elements on the outside.
On the inside, however, the building is absolutely stunning. The sunlight passes through the colourful stained glass and “paints” vibrant reflections on the walls and the columns. What glow you will see depends entirely on when you want to visit. In the morning the cold colours such as blue and green shine brighter. At sunset red and yellow shades would be blazing.
Bonus tip: Purchase your ticket online to skip the queue. I would also recommend going inside with a tour guide so you can learn about the brilliant Gaudi, designing the building with attention to the tiniest of details.
The Magic fountain of Montjuic
The hill of Montjuic is home to various places of interest such as a 17th century castle, the Olympic stadium for the games of 1992, the National museum of Catalonian art and more. The most popular is the Magic fountain that enchants a multitude of tourists a few times per week. Find a comfortable spot before the beginning of the show and enjoy it thoroughly. Traditionally the spectacle begins with a Freddie Mercury song devoted to Barcelona. The combination of vivid lights, music and the dance of the water is charming, especially with the view over the city in the background. That is the only tourist attraction that I re-visited, repeatedly.
Useful information: Getting off the metro at Plaça Espanya is the easiest way to get to the fountain. During spring and summer there is a show every 30 minutes between 9 and 11 pm, Thursday to Sunday. From November to March the light spectacle is held only on Fridays and Saturdays from 7 to 9 pm.
I have heard that some scientists have proven the dope effect of the air in Barcelona which causes people to feel happy. I am inclined to believe in that because I know how addictive this city is. You come here and you never wish to leave. Even if you manage to do so, you still dream of returning here. But I doubt it is all about the air and the popular sights. I suspect the secret is in the atmosphere of this city – free, young, colourful and full of life.