beautiful BARCELONA - my 'top 8' city center stops
I've been to Barcelona a couple times now and it truly has so much to offer - great food & wine, amazing architecture & attractions - the biggest problem you will have is 'enough time'. So today I'm sharing what I consider to be my 'top 8' city center stops, as the first part of my 'beautiful BARCELONA' series.
1. La Sagrada Familia
Every stop in Barcelona should include a visit to Sagrada Familia, and not just a 'walk by'! A planned, full inside-out, with a human guide or at very least audio guide - VISIT. This Basilica (Pope Benedict XVI declared it a Basilica in 2010) dates back to when construction started in 1882 and is totally amazing. Usually known as 'Gaudi's Sagrada Familia' because it ultimately grew with his vision, this structure has major history and has changed hands a few times now - scheduled to be complete in 2027. This is a place that if you are lucky enough to see it, you better take in all the WOW factor. I could dedicate an entire post to La Sagrada Familia, but I will trust you to take the time and absorb all the detail, all the history, all the color of this truly amazing masterpiece. Two important tips? The 'skip the line' tickets you can purchase through Viator are definitely WORTH it and the best time of day to go is between 3-4pm when the sun is directly hitting the windows at its peak.
2. Parc Guell
If you’re looking for spectacular views of the city, a tribute to nature, designs by Gaudi - this is the place for you! I believe it is one of the most beautiful, definitely unique public parks in the world - and one of Gaudi's former residences. I can't imagine visiting Barcelona and not spending at least a couple hours at Parc Guell. Make sure you pre-purchase your tickets online though or you'll have to wait (on some days a LONG time) as they only let so many people in every 30 minutes. This is another MUST see!
3. Mercat de la Boquerìa (Mercat de Sant Josep)
Nowhere in Barcelona is there a tourist attraction so reflective of the daily life of locals, like this market, right off the Rambla in the Gothic District. Here you can find almost anything the 'cook' desires: pastry, chocolate, candy, cheese, flowers, nuts, oils, olives, fruit and vegetables, meat, seafood - enough choices for you? You can also sit at one of several bars and eat and drink prepared fare in the midst of one of the BEST city markets I have ever visited. I simply could not take enough photos and even though I went daily (our hotel was 3 blocks away) - I saw something new every single time! This market is a definite NOT MISS, and go hungry!
4. Parc de la Ciutadella
Great for morning walks, an afternoon gelato, or a fun row boat on the lake. There are several attractions here such as the zoo, which I highly recommend. The modern art and Picasso museums are also very close by and worth a view if time allows. This is not in my top 3, but it is a good stop.
5. Barceloneta District
Barcelona's beach begins at its south end at the district of Barceloneta, full of restaurants and places to relax. You'll see a few bars, sand sculptures and vendors selling various goods (and junk). It is a nice Sunday afternoon spot where you can walk around seaside, drink sangria and admire the street markets. Tired of walking? You can take the cable car up to Montjuic from here and the view is spectacular!
6. La Ramblas & Gothic District
Barcelona's most famous street really makes it unique. Ramblas is about a mile long, and in the middle of the road (cars on either side) is a "pedestrian zone" full of vendors and cafes. Want a glass of sangria the size of your head? You'll find it here. Ramblas goes from Placa Catalunya, all the way down to the port where you will see the monument of Columbus. The Rambla divides the Gothic and Raval districts, so make sure you spend some time walking through the gothic district as well - including a glass of wine or coffee in Placa Reial.
7. Barcelona Cathedral
One of the most beautiful and holy buildings in Barcelona, the cathedral is in the center of the Gothic District. There are a lot of performances in the square in front of the Cathedral during the day and on Saturday evenings and Sundays @ noon, people dance traditional dances of the Catalans. Admission to the Cathedral is free and it is absolutely beautiful inside and worth seeing. You can take the elevator which goes up to the roof and check out the gardens in the back where you can light a candle in dedication or even visit the birds.
8. Tibidabo or Montjuic
I said my 'top 8' but I was having a hard time deciding on the last one - so you get a bonus! Either of these are a great use of your time in Barcelona, but there are SPECIFIC times in which they are worth seeing. Montjuic down past the Castle to Font Magica is a definitely worth of a few hours before dinner (the fountain is good in the evening as the fountain lights up and it is pretty cool, especially for kids). Tibadabo is not only the highest point surrounding the city center of Barcelona with amazing views, it has an old school amusement park at the very top and a beautiful church. The amusement park is only open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11-7pm. If you have the time, check both of them out.