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Spain

Barcelona – A City of Art and Architecture

Barcelona was a surprise package for us. The city oozed Spanish culture. So, with its architectural masterpieces, friendly locals and sights a-plenty, would we plan a return visit to Barcelona? Most definitely!

Arriving in Barcelona by ferry from Sicily via Rome, we made our way to a free campsite about 10 kilometres from the city centre. We were one of about 12 other campervans on site, which was a bit of change from being alone most of the time.  

Barcelona, Here We Come!

The next day, we caught the train (return tickets at €6.20 per person) from the Colonia Guell station to Espanya entrada FGC towards central Barcelona. The drop off point, pretty much on top of Plaza Espanya, was a great launch point to our first stop of the day – the hill of Montjuic.

This is home to the National Palace of Montjuic which houses the National Museum of Art Catalonia.

4 white pillars in front a tiered stairwell leading to a palace
National Palace of Montjuic with the Four Columns in the foreground

To access this building, you pass the Four Columns (symbolising the four bars of Catalan flagship), the Magic Fountain of Montjuic and Les Cascades. Unfortunately, the Magic Fountain and Cascades were not working due to renovation,  but the Fountain Steps didn’t disappoint. Behind the National Palace of Montjuic lies Barcelona Olympic Park,  used for the 1992 Olympic Games.

Many steps with levels that have a fountain on each side
Fountain Steps

 

Blue tiled area around a fountain dripping water
Fountain on the Fountain Steps

La Rambla

Afterwards, we re-traced our steps to the Plaza Espanya and meandered along the walkways towards La Rambla. This is a 1.2 kilometre long promenade, which connects the centre of Barcelona to the old port. It runs between two streets and is pedestrian only access, leaving plenty of room for street markets, artists, food stalls and street performers. It had a real pulse to it but with that feeling that you could just amble by and enjoy it all without any obligation to spend.

Man dancing with castanets
La Rambla -and of course, a Spanish dancer playing castanets!

As we approached the seaward end of La Rambla, we came across the fantastic marketplace called Mercat de Sant Josep – La Boqueria. 

Busy indoor marketplace with colourful lights
Marketplace off La Rambla called Mercat de Sant Josep – La Boqueria was alive

This packed market contained stalls with all sorts of edible delicacies. Fruit and fruit drinks of many different flavours, seafood, sushi, a myriad array of sweets and delicious treats of all kinds.

A colourful stall with types of food inside La Boqeria
Just one of the many colourful stalls inside La Boqueria

 

Multi-coloured sweets on display in a stall
Maybe something for those with a sweet tooth from this stall inside La Boqueria?

It was super busy with customers but you can understand why, as the produce was ultra fresh and prices very reasonable. We scored a big, fresh fruit salad for €1 ! 

The remaining few 100 metres, down La Rambla towards the sea, found us among a much thinned crowd. Ahead of us was the mighty Christopher Columbus Monument.

Christopher Columbus Monument
Christopher Columbus Monument

This was built in 1888 in honour of his trip to the Americas. It was a popular stop for photo shoots, with the lions at the monument base getting plenty of attention.

Turning about face, we now headed north-west back along La Rambla passing the Mercat de Sant Josep – La Boqueria. Opposite this market, we caught a glimpse of Marilyn Monroe parading on a balcony of the Erotic Museum but it wasn’t enough to lure us in. Our goal was to see some of the much heralded architecture on the streets of this cultural city. 

Marilyn Monroe look-a-like
Marilyn Monroe look-a-like

Absorbing the Cultural Aspects

Further along La Rambla we passed the eye-catching Casa Bruno Cuadros which used to sell what?  Yes, you guessed it … umbrellas!  However, that was back in the 1880s and it now exists as a bank.

Building with umbrellas on its facade
Casa Bruno Cuadros

Just off the La Rambla promenade lays the Casa Batllo. Built between 1904 and 1906, it has a very unique style of architecture. The designer was Antoni Gaudi, a Spanish architect and the leader of Catalan Modernism, who gained his inspiration from forms within nature. It is certainly flamboyant but not overdone!

Casa Batlo - a multi coloured facade with balconies that look like masks
Casa Batllo

After this, four blocks walk northwest of here,  took us to yet another of Antoni Gaudis’s modernistic works of art. Casa Mila, built between 1906 and 1910, also reflects his creative styling.

Casa Mila - a building with wrought iron railing around its balconies
Casa Mila

We’re not finished with him yet.  In our sights was the Sagrada Familia Church and you might have guessed, Antoni Gaudi was the chief architect. With about 1.5 kilometres walk ahead of us, we didn’t waste any time and set forth.

This is the largest, unfinished Roman Catholic church in the world. Gaudi worked on this project until his death, which at that time had realised only one-quarter of the complete build. Final completion date is predicted to be 2030.

Approaching the Sagrada Familia Church from the south-west, we were surprised that the building didn’t have the wow factor that we had seen online.

Sagrada Familia church looking at the spires from behind
Sagrada Familia church looking from the back

Where was all that intricately detailed façade?  Well, that was facing the other way! We had approached from the city centre and were looking at the backend. So, venturing around the church to view from the north-east gave us what we were looking for… Sagrada Familia Church in all its splendour. 

Sagrada Familia church from the front
Sagrada Familia church from the front

Adios Barcelona

Finally, with the light fading fast, we caught the subway at Sagrada Familia (at €2.20 per person) back to the Espanya entrada FGC. From there, we caught the subway using our return tickets and were soon back to the campsite. 

Barcelona was a surprise package for us. The city, with its open central boulevard, gave enough breathing space to soak up all this Spanish culture. So with architectural masterpieces, friendly locals and sights a-plenty, would we plan a return visit to Barcelona? Most definitely!

Lars

Author: Lars

Being an Australian boy brought up in the country, I learnt at an early age to enjoy the freedom and beauty of nature. Leaving Australia at the age of 20, although I didn’t know it then, would be the beginning of a life of adventure. So join me here on our travels and see the world through my eyes.

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