Guide to Barcelona: Soaking in Catalan Culture when you visit Barcelona
Barcelona is a Mediterranean and cosmopolitan city with Roman remains, medieval quarters and beautiful display of Gothic architecture and 20th century Modernism, Art Nouveau and avant-garde. It’s also Catalonia’s historical capital city, so Barcelona boosts more Catalan culture than salero. Leave flamenco, bullfighting and any common place images you might have at home, or you’ll be disappointed.
When you visit Barcelona, there’s a surprise at every turn. Pedestrian streets in the old quarter, the ever bustling Ramblas , green spaces, and a splendid seafront with a range of modern facilities intertwine with each other effortlessly, and it rarely feels like the city is trying too hard — it’s simply a reflection of its multifaceted character.
But what do you do in a city that has so much to offer? Well, plenty. But let’s have a look at some of the things that makes Barcelona so special and unique.
What to do in the the city of Antoni Gaudí?
La Sagrada Família
The basilica is synonymous with Barcelona and it is thought to be the most popular attraction in the city, drawing in nearly 3 million tourists every year. When Gaudí died, in 1926, the Sagrada Familia (English: The Holy Family) was estimated to be only 20-25% complete. Nearly 100 years later, it is still a decade away from reaching its mastermind’s planned final form.
But that doesn’t make it any less astounding. It is a basilica that combines Gothic, ArtNouveau and unexpected curvilinear forms that can only be attributed to nature itself and not any particular artistic movement. “Breathtaking” is an expression that is sometimes overused, yet it might be the most accurate adjective for this masterpiece.
Tickets to see the interior of the Sagrada Familia start at 17€ per adult (34.50€ for a guided tour), which can be a little steep for some pockets — but please take into account that these tickets are funding the ongoing construction. Plus, it’s a very affordable admission price for a life-changing experience, particularly if you go in when the rays of light hit the stain-glass windows during sunset. To purchase a skip the line guided tour, Click here.
Alternatively while you visit basilica you can also enjoy panoramic views of the city from one of the basilica’s towers. To book a guided tour of the Sagrada Famillia with tower access, Click here.
Parc Güell is a short break that you can take from the city without truly leaving Barcelona.
You will still be surrounded by 17 hectares of Gaudí’s unmatched works, so allow yourself plenty of time to be able to soak in all the different features of the estate. You will find unpredictable structures that imitate natural shapes, columns that look like tree trunks, animal statues and geometric shapes, most of them decorated with colourful ceramic pieces.
From the central terrace of Park Güell, you will also be rewarded with one of the best views of the city of Barcelona. So, sit back on the mosaic covered benches and plan your next visit to another of Gaudí’s extraordinary buildings.
Casa Milà (La Pedrera)
One of the most iconic buildings of the city of Barcelona, the Casa Milà, popularly known as La Pedrera (The Quarry), is an unmissable stopover. You may be mesmerised by the exterior façade alone — which more closely resembles a rugged curtain made of stone than an engineered structure — but you may want to consider taking a guided visit.
When should you take a guided visit? At night. This is when the remarkable architecture of this space comes alive with an audiovisual presentation that takes you back to the origins of life and culminates in the video mapping of the roof-terrace.
Now that you’re in Passeig de Gràcia, you’re just 5 minutes away on foot from another impossible creation by Gaudí, the Casa Batlló. After the overwhelming Sagrada Família, the astonishing Parc Güell and La Pedrera, you will be shocked to still be surprised by another building.
Gaudí never explained his work, but this façade can be described as marine-life inspired. It is composed of spontaneous sculptures, recycled materials and decontextualised objects: an extraordinary proclamation of joy. The organic surface, made of stone, glass and ceramics, is a noteworthy composition that radiates colour and light, especially when the first rays of light hit the façade in the morning. To purchase Casa Batllo Entrance ticket with Smart Guide – Please Click here.
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
Established in 1934, this is the biggest art collection of Catalan artists. If you’re eager to find out more about Spanish and Catalan culture, this museum is a necessary stop. 290,000 artworks that range from Romanesque Art to Gothic art and Modernism, among many others. With Spain’s and Catalonia’s rich artistic history and culture, you’ll be sure to spend many hours enjoying artists such as Joan Gascó, Bernat Martorell, El Greco, Pablo Picasso, Aurèlia Muñoz Ventura, Isidre Nonell or Modest Urgell.
A good money saving tip is to purchase an Art Passport Card for 6 Art Museums in Barcelona – Click here to purchase. Alternatively if you just want to visit the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya then you can purchase an Admission Ticket – Click here.
Day Trip: Montserrat
Despite all of the beauty inside Barcelona, there is still plenty of see outside. Case in point: Montserrat. Just one hour North West by train, Montserrat is perfect for a day trip when you visit Barcelona.
It is a spectacular Benedectine monk retreat that is surrounded by the breathtaking natural beauty of the Catalan Pre-Coastal Mountain Range. It is also a space of religious interest, given its association with the Virgin of Montserrat, also known as the Black Madonna. She is also the Patron Saint of Catalonia and a figure of significant importance in Catalan culture.
If you enjoy nature walks, you may also take hikes through the mountains at Montserrat. Take in the magnificent views of some of the most unusual rock formations in Catalonia and you will understand why Montserrat literally means ‘sawed mountain’.
It is encouraged that you spend a day in Montserrat, take a cogwheel train to the top of Montserrat, visit the monastery and sample some wine and tapas while you are there. We recommend this full day Montserrat tour – Please Click here to book.
Where to Stay
A first time visitor will benefit from staying in the central areas of the city, close to Plaça de Catalunya, Las Ramblas, the Gothic Quarter or the Gracia neighbourhood. These will be within walking distance to most attractions, and are also the areas best served by Barcelona’s public transit will system.
However, these are also the most expensive areas to stay in. Given Barcelona’s efficient and thorough network of metro lines and bus routes, as long as you stay within walking distance of a station or a bus stop within Zone 1, you will be, at most, 45 minutes away from the city centre, the Plaça de Catalunya. Click here to search for hotels in Barcelona. A Barcelona Card is a great way to save on public transport costs and attraction fees is valid for 3 to 5 days depending the option you select. – Click here to buy. To purchase a standard 48, 72, 96 or 120 hour public transport ticket which gives unlimited access to the Barcelona’s public transport network in the city and it suburbs – Click here.
In addition Barcelona is beautiful city to explore either by walking or by bike. To book a bike – Click here
Try the Go Barcelona for flexible admission to 30+ admission – Click here
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