Last week I spent 4 days in beautiful Barcelona, this was my first trip to the city and there was plenty I wanted to see. Aside from all of Gaudi’ great works, which I will blog about separately. I wanted to explore the other parts that have put Barcelona on the map and made it the ‘must see’ cultural city of Spain.
The only way to see is to set off on foot, so after taking the metro which is so easy and cheap to use, 4 stops from my hotel SB Glow to Placa de Catalunya station. As you walk up the steps from the metro you arrive in Plaza de Cataluna, which is a large square in the the centre of Barcelona. Known as the city centre and the place where the ‘old city’ Gothic areas and the 19th century built Eixample meet. The plaza is known for it’s large space of 50,000 square metres, the fountains and statues adorning it. I loved seeing the fountains lit up at night. From here you simply cross the road to arrive at the top of La Rambla.
La Rambla was once a sewage filled stream bed, that worked as a drain for heavy rainwater from the hills above, this is where the name derives from. From 1440 it became a street. I wandered down this famous area that stretches 1.2 kilometres connecting Plaza de Catalunya to the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell, oohing and aahing at the buildings and architecture on display. The Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca had said La Rambla was “the only street in the world which I wish would never end”. It’s popularity is obvious as all are there to see, busy and bustling it adds to the experience. There are so many places to stop off and have a drink or some tapas, day or night. My favourite part of La Rambla are the trees that seem to frame it as you walk down the streets. There are street performers galore, along with the Joan Miro mosaic which I was so happy to see being a fan and fellow art lover. Miro created this large mosaic to welcome visitors to Barcelona arriving by sea and it was installed on La Rambla in 1976, it is a representation of the cosmos. This was one part of a series of three works of art Miro donated to the city. At the very bottom of La Rambla you will see the statue of Christopher Columbus, this was erected in 1888 in honour of Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas. Whilst I was in Barcelona there was the public holiday on Thursday 12th October for ‘Fiesta Nacional de Espana’ a day that commemorates “Christopher Columbus first set foot in the Americas in 1492” and many local people were out celebrating with flags on La Rambla.
A great place of interest for myself was to find La Boqueria market, you may laugh but being new to the city I had not realised at first it was on La Rambla, so after asking someone in one of the shops, I was guided back up to this famous icon! If you want a ‘real’ experience of Barcelona, look no further. The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria is the full name, everyone else refers to it as La Boqueria, it is a public market and a ‘tourist landmark’, with it’s entrance from La Rambla and near the opera house Liceo. The origins of the market are said to date back to 1217!! Although it took till 1826 for it to be legally recognised. The name is thought to have come from the Catalan word “boc” meaning goat, which meant a boqueria would be a place that sold goat meat. My first visit was early evening on my first full day and I walked around the market getting a feel for it, buying some food and being taken aback by the amount of choice there was on offer at great prices. From meats to fish and fruits, to name just a few this food market is amazing. I was told they were going to be closed the next day due to the public holiday, so I returned the morning after to sit at one of the food outlets called Pinotxo Bar and eat breakfast. Let me tell you it was definitely in my top 3 favourite things to do in Barcelona, mainly down to the atmosphere, delicious food and real experience! If you go nowhere else, go here…
Whilst I was in Barcelona the weather was amazing, blue skies and warm, perfect for exploration. One morning after breakfast on La Rambla at Escriba, I recommend it! My husband and I walked through the gothic quarter and came out near the Port. We decided to walk over to see Port Vell, there was a boat show on and it was busy. Yachts upon yachts on display, as well as stalls selling goods around the harbour, it is a very modern area of the city and the name means ‘Old Harbor’. The waterfront harbour was built as part of an urban renewal programme just before the 1992 Olympics. It is a tourist attraction in its own right, as there is a mall called the ‘Maremagnum’ with shops, a cinema and Europe’s largest aquarium.
If you continue on walking you will arrive at Barceloneta and Sant Sebastia beach. Which we did, walking along the promenade, there are no shortage of restaurants, shops and bars, it has a very ‘cool’ feel to it and we spent some time here enjoying the good weather and ventured onto the beach. Toweless due to hand luggage only on our flight, we bought a towel from one of the many sellers, as it was a public holiday the beach was getting fuller by the minute. I had to have a swim in the sea, which I did, it was glorious! After drying off I wandered over the beach to look at the sculpture of what looked like a tower block, it was the “L’Estel Ferit” a work of art by German Artist Rebecca Horn which means the wounded star or the injured comet. There are blocks that form a tower of leaning cubes, I just love it!! Obviously they have become a focal point of interest to people and it was commissioned for the 1992 Olympics as the “wounded star pays homage to the Barceloneta borough, originally the sailors quarters”. I am told at night they are lit up and the bottom cube has sea related items inside. I think this is what I love about Barcelona, it has an originality about it without trying too hard. Offering modern that fits in with tradition.
Barcelona offers the tourist and traveller alike a host of attractions and areas to explore in this captivating city and after visiting for myself I can see why people love it!