Aside from the classic tourist sites, Barcelona has some amazing lesser known places to visit.
This huge square, with its central area peopled with strollers, street musicians and pigeons, is Barcelona's nerve centre, not just because of its shops and financial buildings, but because the city's main thoroughfares radiate from here. These include the world-famous Rambla which extends to the sea. Five minutes walk from the square you'll find the Palau de la Música, a stunning jewel of the modernista era which is a World Heritage Site and a must-see landmark. Remember that the tourist information office and the tempting gift shop, BCN Original, are located in the basement of the square. As you head down La Rambla, you'll find the Museu de l'Erótica, a private collection of erotic art and artefacts.
The Passeig de Gràcia links the Plaça de Catalunya with the old village of Gràcia (from which it gets its name). Since the construction of the Eixample, important urban planning project designed by Cerdà in the 19th century, it has been a district of the city. Along the so-called "block of discord" lie the three masterworks of Modernista Architecture, the Casa Lleó Morera, by Domènech i Montaner; the Casa Amatller, by Puig i Cadafalch; and the Casa Batlló, by Antoni Gaudí. The opportunity to contemplate them side by side gives the spectator an idea of the variety of styles and the wealth of decoration deployed by the imagination of the period. Nearby is the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, housed in another interesting building of early Modernism that the artist himself crowned with an extremely original wire sculpture. Inside, you can discover the creative trajectory of Tàpies, one of the greatest exponents of contemporary art.
The Casa Milà, better known as "La Pedrera", was built by Gaudí between 1906 and 1910. In this mature work, the original architect stamps the movement of waves on the imposing stone façade, highlighted by wrought iron balconies, each of which is different from the others. The interior of this house, declared Patrimony of Humanity, is full of surprises: the "Espai Gaudí" of the attic which contains an exhibition of all of Gaudí's work, the impressive roof terrace with its forest of chimneys covered with tile, and the re-creation of a flat of the period. The main floor has been remodelled as an exhibition hall and there is an auditorium in the basement. On the Passeig de Gràcia, pay special attention to two unique elements; the hexagonal shaped pavement tile which reproduces a design by Gaudí and the magnificent streetlamp-benches which line the entire avenue.
The Sagrada Familia is the only cathedral in the world which is still under construction. It is only funded by churchgoers and devotees, and through ticket revenue from visitors like you. It is Gaudí's dream, to which he devoted much of his life. At the time of his death in 1926, only one of the towers had been completed. The continuation of Gaudí's project has become an unmistakable symbol of the Barcelona, not just because of its spectacular size, but because it also reveals the spirit of a city which always been committed to building its future. Walk from here up the Avinguda Gaudí, a pedestrian boulevard which leads to the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, another of Barcelona's modernista buildings.
This park, a world Heritage Site, is named after Gaudí's great patron, Count Eusebi Güell. Although initially planned as a residential garden city in the English style (hence the name "Park"), the initiative was unsuccessful and only one show-house was built, like the one which was Gaudí's home and today houses the museum devoted to the architect. Finally, Güell donated the park to the Municipal Council in 1923 and since then it has belonged to the municipality and been a unique public park enjoying a prime location. Nowhere else so successfully integrates Gaudí's work into nature: his main source of inspiration.
A romantic tram ride to Barcelona's great observation deck It's easy to get to the top of Tibidabo and enjoy an impressive view of the city as it stretches down to the sea. Two charming means of transport await you: the Tramvia Blau, or blue tram, a much-loved jewel of the past which is still running, and the Funicular, which connects with the former and covers the final steep stretch up the mountain. Once at the top, besides the breathtaking views, the Amusement Park has many surprises in store, from the traditional to the hi-tech. Tibidabo has also been called the "Sensations Park", and with good reason.
Uptown, far from the bustle and noise, we find a magnificent Gothic enclave of extraordinary beauty: Pedralbes Monastery. Founded by Queen Elisenda de Montcada in 1326, ¡t is one of the finest examples of Catalan Gothic art. Although a small community of nuns from the Order of St Clare still lives in one wing of the monastery, most of the building is now a museum which is open to visitors. Since 1993, works from the Thyssen Collection have been on view in this imposing setting: they include paintings by Fra Angelico, Rubens, Canaletto and other great masters.
If there's a place in Barcelona where contrast gains both strength and harmony, that place is the Raval district which is home to the Museu d'Art Contemporani (MACBA) and the former poorhouse which was converted into the Centre de Cultura Contemporània (CCCB). The white, luminous structure of the museum, designed by Richard Meier, will come as a surprise after you have been walking through the narrow streets of the neighbourhood. Next door to the museum, the CCCB, a cultural centre dedicated to the theme of the city and urban phenomenon, organises excellent exhibitions, and is a perfect example of architectural renewal. It's a must see.
The Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya is one of the most visited museums in Barcelona. It is a must-see for art lovers as it has one of the most important collections of Romanesque art in the world. You will also be able to review Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic artwork. The MNAC was built in 1929 for the International exhibition held in Barcelona. The location of the museum offers great views on Plaza España and on the rest of the city.
This unique attraction invites you to take a peaceful and relaxing stroll through the streets and squares of an authentic Spanish "town". Built in 1929 for the International Exhibition of the same year, ¡t is now one of the city's main leisure venues with a wide variety of bars, shops and many craft workshops. A wonderful opportunity to see how glass, wood and clay are transforms into delicate craftwork. The Poble Espanyol often hosts entertainments, festivals and concerts. Nearby -as you head down towards Plaça Espanya- you'll find the german pavilion designed for the 1929 exhibition by Mies van der Rohe. It's well worth a visit.
This stop is a must if you don't want to miss one of Barcelona's foremost museums. The Fundació Joan Miró and the Centre for Contemporary Art Studies opened back in the year 1975. Besides the permanent collection by Miro, where you will find a broad spectrum of his abilitites: Sculptures, paintings ceramics, tapestries, the Fundació is also fully involved in promoting contemporary art. The building itself, designed by the architect Josep Lluís Sert, is considered by many to be as interesting as the collections.
If you love heights and panoramic views, the Montjuîc cable car provides a magnificent opportunity to enjoy your visit. The cable-car station is located opposite the modern funicular station which links this area of the park to the central Avinguda Paral·lel. This unique means of transport comprises a series of red cabins running on a cable which can carry up to four people to the castle at the top of the mountain. A stop midway provides access to the "Mirador del Alcalde", an attractive, landscaped observation deck which commands views of the harbour. The journey is well worth it, particularly on clear days. And, in the summer, if you feel like a swim while enjoying spectacular views of Barcelona, visit the swimming pool on Montjuîc.
The Port Vell, which means 'old port' in Catalan, is precisely that: Barcelona's oldest part of the harbour. It has been fully modernised for the 1992 Olympics. We are in the major leisure complex, the Maremagnum, is a good place to do some shopping, and spend some time by the sea, minutes away from the bottom of Las Ramblas. city centre. It's got everything: shops, fast food chains, cinemas, bars, cafés. You will also find the Aquarium, taking you to the fascinating world of the ocean. A walk through the glass tunnel beneath the shark pool is a truly magic moment. From this stop you can also board the modern Catamaran Orsom and take a pleasant cruise around this unique area.
The greatest urban transformation brought about by the 1992 Olympic Games took place in this area, with the construction of the Port Olímpic and the regeneration of its surroundings. The new marina was used for the sailing competitions, and the blocks of flats which housed the athletes and other competitors are located nearby. Today, the legacy of the Games is a modern residential neighbourhood facing the sea, with reclaimed beaches suitable for swimming and public use. The marina, which has over 700 berths, has become the focus of a major leisure and dining complex, a place where you can enjoy water sports or just take a stroll along the shore. The Casino de Barcelona is located on the ground floor of one of the towers flanking the entrance to the Port Olímpic. Try your luck and take away an even more rewarding souvenir.
The Parc de la Ciutadella stands on the site of a military fortress and was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1888. It transcends the mere concept of a park as a showcase for plant life and a place for taking a walk, although there is no question that it fulfils these functions. Inside lies the Barcelona Zoo with more than 7,000 animals of 400 different species from around the world. In addition to the unmissable visit to the zoo, a walk through the park has a whole host of surprises in store: the spectacular waterfall and navigable lake; the white and glass structure of the Hivernacle, together with the cooling and shady Umbracle; or the Museu de Ciències Naturals (Museu de Geologia and Museu de Zoologia). The park is also the site of the Catalan Parliament. As you can see, the Ciutadella is much more than a green area.
It all started here. Barcelona's two thousand years of history has its origins in the area known today as the Gothic Quarter which was built on the old Roman town. Parts of the city walls and Roman city can still be seen today. Remains of the latter are on view in the basements of the Museu d'História de la Ciutat. The Cathedral is the focus of religious l¡fe, and the historic and political core of the city is to be found in the Plaça Sant Jaume, where the Palau de la Generalitat (seat of the Catalan government) and City Hall stand. On the ground floor of City Hall you'll find a tourist information office and the BCN Original gift shop. There's no better way to get to know the area than to take one of the Barcelona Walking Tours which depart from the tourist information office in Plaça de Catalunya. You will be captivated by the streets and squares of this historic neighbourhood.
Thanks for your assistance in securing tickets for us at Camp Nou. We were so pleased with the seats and had an unforgettable night. The next day we went back for the Museum and Stadium Tour, which is a MUST-DO for anyone considering game tickets. It was so good to have constant email contact leading up to the game and personal notification of the time-change before the FC Barca site posted the same information.
Julia Johnston - 2010/01/02