Pottering through Barcelona, as designed by Gaudi
Spending four nights in Barcelona provides one with enough material to write dozens of blogs, so condensing it into just one is quite tricky!
From the winding cobbled streets of the Gothic quarter, to the bustling bars of Born – an of course the amazing trail one can take to sample the sublime architecture of Antoni Gaudi – Barcelona is a wonderful city full of curiosity and inspiration. In the few hundred words below I have picked what were, for me, some of the highlights of the Catalan capital
Barcelona is full of variety; it is a city that is beautifully liberal and cosmopolitan. Perhaps the are which best reflects this variety if Born, the neighbourhood of winding streets, delicious restaurants, cool bars and cheeky gelatarias found close to the Basilica Santa Maria del Mar. Born is brilliant for doing one of the things I love to do most while travelling, and that is to walk the streets and see what I can discover while soaking up the local atmosphere. In Born this led to the discovery of a great pizzeria, an amazing vegetarian restaurant and some of the best ice cream in Barcelona. I feel that it would take many a night of exploring to charter the whole of the neighbourhood.
Wondering the streets of Born also led is to some striking street arts – with even shop shutters being utilised as blank canvases by local artists celebrating SPanish heroes such as Salvador Dali.
Barcelona is full to the brim with artwork from across all eras of human history; from medieval to contemporary, but perhaps the most famous is that of one Antoni Gaudi. The city is his finest canvas, containing many of his most famous works. Casa Batlló was one of his buildings which I found particularly captivating, with the balconies reminding me of the Calaveras associated with Dia de los Muertos – seemingly gazing out at the streets below.
Park Güell is Gaudi’s magical dreamland; originally conceived as a housing development before being designated a public park. It is part Brothers Grimm, part Dr Seuss and part tribal village. The quirky structures have a wonderful, organic and fantastical look to them with exquisite detail added by the thousands of ceramic tiles found across the site.
Gaudi’s, and perhaps Barcelona’s most famous landmark is the spectacular Sagrada Familia. The basilica remains unfinished after 134 years of construction (completion is forecast for 2026) partly due to delays caused by the Spanish Civil War and finance issues – but looking at the incredible building makes it easy to understand why it has face such a long project history. A full circle of the exterior allows one to fully take in the towering spires, the stunning carvings and the subtle additions of bright colours. Inside the scene is even more stunning, with stained glass casting an almost psychedelic tint. Gaudi’s organic structures are here at their most gothic, making for a building which to me looked like a sleek, modern take on an enchanted forest.
For me, after gazing at all the marvellous art and architecture of the city up close, the best way to end the trip was to get a little perspective and look at everything from a little further away. Cue, Mount Tibidabo! The adorably retro funicular railway took us to the top of the mountain, with its stunning views of Barcelona and the surrounding area. A church sits atop the mountain, and this had an amazingly serene atmosphere to it. There is also a fairground at the top, though as were visiting the city during school term time this was rather empty and almost eerie!
Barcelona is a truly brilliant city; combining the all the advantages of a vibrant, bustling and stimulating capital city with all the laid back, friendly vibes of a far smaller one. It’s easy to see why visitor numbers continue to rise.