Exploring Barcelona

by Sarah Boxall

Before visiting Barcelona I knew very little about it. However, since spending a week there last year, I have now concluded that it is one of my favourite places to visit. My second visit is already booked for later this year!

My guidebook had given me a rough idea of the places to visit, but it didn’t highlight just how creative and full of history Barcelona is. It didn’t note how Barcelona was once within an independent Catalonia or that most people within Barcelona wanted to be independent from Spain once again. I didn’t know that the most spoken language is Catalan, not Spanish.  Nor did I realise how diverse the architecture was between ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Barcelona.

One of the main things I love about Barcelona is the fact that art is everywhere you look. Of course, the most well known of Catalonia’s artists is Gaudi, who designed Sagrada Familia, Park Guell and Casa Batllo to name a few. The quirkiness and sheer impressiveness of the buildings he has created make them a must see for anyone visiting Barcelona. It is definitely worth purchasing your tickets ahead of your visit to save time queuing.

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The Gothic Quarter, set in the centre of ‘Old’ Barcelona, is the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon. Whether you are looking for quaint shops, bustling food markets or a picturesque Cathedral, the Gothic Quarter has it all. Make sure to cover up if you are hoping to go inside the Cathedral – they didn’t take too kindly to under-dressed tourists.

One of the key monuments I wanted to visit whilst in Barcelona was Montjuic Castle and it didn’t disappoint. Set at the top of a hill, it boasts some of the best views of Barcelona. Although my walk up to the castle was entirely unintended (the cable cars are genuinely quite hard to find!) it was definitely a beautiful one, full of interesting things to see.

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The Palau de la Musica Catalana, designed by Lluis Domenech I Montaner, is the most unique concert hall I have visited. With a gorgeous stained-glass skylight, detailed mosaic design on stage and sculptures surrounding you, it is the definition of opulence. The guided tour isn’t too expensive and also treats you to a listen of the huge pipe organ that sits above the stage.

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Another experience that you will definitely not regret making the time for is a Flamenco Show. The Tablao Flamenco Cordobes was recommended to us and I can see why. The food (you can choose a package that includes a buffet dinner, all inclusive drinks and the show) was gorgeous and the show is something that I will never forget. The intensity of the dancing draws you in and the time quickly disappears. I have already booked to go again when I visit later this year.

If you wanted to book any excursions then one excursion I would definitely recommend is a trip to Montserrat. With beautiful views over the Pyrenees, a Benedictine Abbey and a market selling locally made cheese and other goodies, it was one of the highlights of my trip.

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If you like wine then I would definitely recommend a trip to one of the many vineyards near Barcelona. I took a trip to Oller Dl Mas and thoroughly enjoyed tasting several of their wines, as well as being able to see the wine making process. Cava, a sparking wine, originates from Catalonia and is therefore very cheap in Barcelona – making a treat become very affordable!

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Finally, one of the best tips I can give you is to make good use of the reception desk at your hotel! We spent many hours chatting to the receptionists and they were more than happy to suggest places to visit, help us book excursions and give us a history of the country.

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