Barcelona is full of amazing art, great food and day trips so I knew we had to have a decent amount of time there. I scheduled 7 days for us in Barcelona and am really glad I did. We didn’t feel rushed so we were able to enjoy everything, the culture, the food, the architecture, the day trip to Montserrat, and the long walks around the city.
Being completely honest I found Barcelona to be the dirtiest city in Spain. It was full of graffiti (which is found everywhere in Europe but seemed more intense here), there was a lot of trash around, not great maintenance of the sidewalks and a lot of the buildings looked kind of grungy. Having said all of that we still really enjoyed our time here and would highly recommend people visit. In my opinion the Sagrada Familia is absolutely one of the most moving things I have ever seen, along with the beautiful nature of Montserrat, the great vibe of the gothic quarter, and some of the fantastic Gaudi-era architecture.
We made the most of our trip by walking everywhere we could which amounted to about 8-10 miles of walking a day. Barcelona is such an easy city to walk I can’t imagine seeing it any other way. If you aren’t into that much walking there are tons of hop-on-hop-off buses, taxis or the metro which was so easy to figure out.
We spent a few hours outside of the Sagrada Familia one day just taking in all of the architectural details and then returned another day to tour inside. Outside we were in awe of the details, the symbolism, the men working and the vision. At first it appeared smaller to me than what I had thought it would be but after studying it for a while the details seemed to make the building larger.
The day we visited inside we bought tickets online for a specified time (I wouldn’t visit there any other way). As we approached the entrance it felt like entering a completely different world. The moment I stepped inside I was so overcome with the feeling of the space, the beauty of the architecture and the creativity of Gaudi’s vision tears flooded my eyes. I, a woman full of words, was left completely without. I didn’t want to move, I only wanted to stand and take in the space, the moment, the feeling and the beauty. The colors in the church which stream through the carefully planned windows, the white tree shaped columns, the incredible altar all come together to create a church which I feel truly honors the religion it represents. The forethought of the role the light will play in the space is completely beyond my comprehension while the effect is absolutely magnificent.
While in the Sagrada I was struck with the reminder that it takes a long time to build something beautiful and it is worth the patience to do something the way that you want it, not to compromise for the sake of speed or convenience. I have lost sight of that in my life, sometimes putting too much pressure on myself to succeed or finish something at a rapid rate, to keep up with the demands of our culture or my impatience. Each time I have not succeeded in the way that I had hoped. Yet, standing in the Sagrada I was reminded that everything takes time and through that time is actually the beauty and the success because of the lessons we learn along the way, and the sense of accomplishment by each milestone met.
Montserrat was a very special day for me. We went back and forth about whether to take the time away from the city of Barcelona or not, in the end the decision to go was the best one. It is an easy train ride from Barcelona and then you can either take the smaller train up the mountain or the cable car. Since I am not a fan of any mode of transportation in the air we opted for the train. It was pretty intense. It is a small track which winds up the mountain, often on the edge of cliffs, while a bit nerve racking for those afraid of heights (J.) it offers some pretty amazing scenery. I wanted so badly to hear the boys choir but they were traveling while we were there so instead we were able to hear a visiting girls choir from Ireland. Sitting in the church listening to their angelic voices was an incredible highlight of our time in Barcelona. It was so moving to hear them sing in such a beautiful church high above the Catalonia region.We also took the funicular to the top and trekked down the paths. This was such a great experience. I couldn’t believe how visible the evolution of our planet was, with year marks left on the mountains as the water receded over the last several million years. I had no idea I was so into the history of the planet until we started this journey. It is just incredible to see what nature is capable in so many different regions of the earth. We really enjoyed the quiet of Montserrat along with the incredible landscape. I was quite reluctant to go back to the hustle and bustle of Barcelona.
I became completely obsessed with Gaudi while in Barcelona. I don’t know honestly how you can visit Barcelona without taking in every Gaudi work you can. We toured the Casa Batllo home which was so inspiring to me. I loved the soft curves, the movement of the wood throughout the house and the incredible attention to detail. Gaudi was careful to never lose sight of the functionality of the spaces he designed, like the ventilation in the upper floor laundry area (pictured below). I can’t imagine being fortunate enough to live in an apartment here and see the world through Gaudi’s eyes everyday.
We also visited the La Pedera building. This was a bit of a let down after Casa Batllo and the Sagrada Familia. It is said to be one of the best buildings he ever did, but for me it felt confined by normalcy. There are little details worth noting like the way he uses the building design to help keep the house cool, to provide ventilation and to artfully accomodate the necessary functional spaces. (My favorite was the attic design, pictured below.) There were some amazing features like the entrance hallway and the incredible chimney designs on the roof so I thought overall it was worth the visit, just not as moving as the other things we had seen.
One of our daily walks led us to the Cascada Fountain in the Park de la Ciutadella. This park has a hippie vibe to it which is in contrast to the traditional beauty of the fountain Gaudi designed. We had a great time hanging out at the fountain watching a group of students practicing their tap dancing in the gazebo. It was a great way to spend an hour on a Sunday afternoon.
The Gothic Quarter was one of my favorite parts of the city with the tiny streets, cobblestoned and filled with small boutiques, cute restaurants and bars and funky shops. I loved the feeling here of tourists mixed with locals, older people mixed with young people and hipsters mixed with hippies. It is worth spending the afternoon walking the streets here, and in many parts of the city. We found the walk from the Gothic Quarter to the Park de la Ciutadella to be full of fun little restaurants, and cute neighborhoods, so take the walk if you can, you get a great sense of the Barcelona people here.