BARCELONA, May 11, 2017 – Yes, Barcelona spreads out along the central Iberian coast on the Mediterranean Sea, the country’s second-largest city, and an integral part of the economic, social and cultural fabric that makes up the Kingdom of Spain. And yes, everyone in Barcelona speaks Spanish.
But their first language and the one most often overheard in the streets and coffee shops and boutiques is Catalan. There is a palpable passion for these roots that can be seen in almost everyone’s eyes when they speak of their heritage.
That said, the people of Barcelona are incredibly warm and welcoming, gracious, and incredibly full of life. It’s not at all unusual on a summer evening to pass a local small square in districts like Ciutat Vella or Gracia and find hundreds of people hanging out, eating gelato, playing guitar, or just talking, often till past midnight. And they all have to go to work the next day!
If you only have a week in Spain, spend it all in Barcelona. If you can squeeze in ten days or two weeks, spend it all there as well! There is so much to see and do and eat and drink.
Barcelona, como mola!!
Gargoyle Umbrella Store You never know what you may see walking along La Ramblas, a mile long pedestrian mall, like this former art deco umbrella shop just off the main street. Flower sellers, cafes and street entertainers abound.
Casa Batllo, Designed in 1904 by Barcelona’s favorite artist, architect Antoni Gaudi, Casa Batllo features Catalan Art Nouveau that includes ceramics, stone, and forged iron. Gaudi was well known for breaking all kinds of design norms, and often won major planning awards for creating out of the box.
Casa Batllo represents a dragon, which refers to Catalonian folklore in which Saint George killed a dragon.
There is perhaps no greater iconic view of the city than one that includes The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, usually shortened to simply Sagrada Familia.
Construction of the Catholic church started in 1882, with Gaudi taking over the project a year later. At the time of his death, it was only one quarter completed. To this day, they are still finishing construction on this monolith, a supreme example of Gaudi’s fusion of Nouveau and Gothic styles. It’s almost impossible to find a snap shot of the monolith without cranes in the background.
Parc Güell is a former residential area that Gaudi designed for the Güell family, and the architecture is truly one of a kind. Parc Güell is open to the public, and if you’re visiting in the summer, get tickets for entrance ahead of time.
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, also known as the Barcelona Cathedral, dates from around the 1300’s although its breathtaking neo-Gothic façade was added hundreds of years later, toward the end of the 1800’s.
Although the name is admittedly a bit strange at first, Monjuic, or Jew Mountain, was named so because of the Jewish cemetery that was located there in the Middle Ages. Through twists of history, it went on to serve as several fortresses and a prison.
Although there is not very much to do at the very top of the Mountain today, the view of the region and the sea is expansive and quite lovely.
If you are able, walk down from the top of Monjuic, and spend some time in the gardens of Mossén Cinto Verdaguer. The blooms are perfect contrasts to the fountains and lush green grass.
Be careful when walking on, and near, La Ramblas. Each facade is deeply captivating, and it’s easy to walk right into another person as your eyes are gazing skyward to take in each passing building.
Now we’ve had some good tomatoes before, but never ever have we seen one this big. There were dozens this size, and they were all beefy and sweet.
Even if you are staying at a hotel and will not be cooking your own meals, make a pit stop at La Boqueria, a bustling indoor market where you can find everything from sliced hams to spices to every kind of egg imaginable.
Treat yourself to something there. It’s all delectable.
Barcelona was home to an active Jewish community in Medieval times. Sadly that all came crashing down during the Crusades, when the entire community was either banished, forced to convert, or simply killed. In 1391 the ancient Synagogue was taken from the Jews.
It was not till 1996 that local Jews and others decided to rebuild the site.
Pimientos de Padron. Patatas Bravas. Jamon. Chocos. Croquettes. Tapas will make your head spin. Forget the entrees! Just order a couple of Sangrias, two or three tapas, and enjoy the variety.
Another spot that’s not likely on your itinerary is the Encants Vells flea market, but if you love a bargain or antiques, it’s well worth the visit. Today it’s housed in a stunning new three-story structure opposite the Agbar Tower, altho the market dates back to the Middle Ages.
Be especially vigilant if you’re into old books. We saw many dating from the 1800’s.
All copy and all photos are by R.S. Kaye
Author bio: R.S. Kaye is a long time journalist and business consultant based on the west coast of Florida.