Barcelona in a Weekend | Gaudi, Barri Gotic and Good Food
However many times I've visited, whatever the season, the one European city that forever beckons me back is Barcelona. Reasonably priced, ideally located on the Mediterranean coast, and with a culture scene rivalling that of Paris and Berlin, it boasts the best of many without compromise. So when three of my friends from university suggested a weekend break last October I wasted no time in winning them over to La Ciudad Condal.
The aim was pretty straightforward, experience as much culture and beautiful architecture as we could in 48 hours. We didn't set out to do anything particularly fancy (festivals, etc) so any recommendations noted below should be good for 2017 and beyond.
Gothic Quarter | Ramon Berenguer III Statue.
Overall, the weather was excellent for the time of year. It did get a little too hot at certain points in the day, but in this regard the hop-on hop-off bus service provided a welcome lifeline. It let us escape the heat and experience all of the city’s greatest sites in comfort. People travelling aboard the Barcelona City Tour are presented with a choice of two routes; a green route with 16 stops and an orange route with 19 stops. We spent the majority of our time on the green route. It's main highlights include, amongst others, the Museu Blau and La Sagrada Familia.
Barcelona City Tour Bus.
The buses are so frequent that you'll rarely find yourself stuck in one place, and you are always guaranteed to see all the amazing sites. Also the price for what you get to see and do is pretty remarkable. The bus also comes fully equipped with an audio guide and head phones, giving you facts and figures about the city and landmarks there in. All staff were very helpful and clearly explained the different routes to us, showing us where they both go.
Open-Top Bus Sightseeing In Barcelona.
The La Sagrada Familia (stop 11 on the bus tour) was Gaudi’s Masterpiece - 130 years in the making and is still unfinished to this day! If you think that Sagrada Familia is beautiful on the outside, step in and prepare to be wowed by flamboyant colours from the stained glass windows. If you visit in the afternoon when the sun is at its peak, the colourful pigmented stained glass windows are blindingly beautiful, these assets of the building truly give show off its authenticity. The towers are decorated with vibrant Venetian mosaics and the building’s stonework is carved with representations of the Nativity. Inside we ensconced ourselves amongst the stone columns that look like souring trees.
Looking Up A The Sagrada Familia Nave.
After the bus tour we crossed the road and took a walk down Las Ramblas: ‘The most beautiful street in the world’ (so saith Victor Hugo) which was relaxing, with the sun beating down on us from the cloudless sky. The avenue was awash with a sea of people walking past colourful flower sellers and kiosks. Lose yourself in the hectic La Boqueria Market just off Las Ramblas, a huge indoor market crammed with fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and butcher stalls. The fresh produce is cheap and around the outside of the market there are various tapas bars. We visited the markets late afternoon, which is said to be one of the quieter times as everyone seems to go during the cooler evening.
Mercat St Josep Barcelona | La Boqueria.
La Boqueria - Las Ramblas Food Market.
After our ‘lunch on the go’ that consisted of small tapas dishes with a side of the famous Potatas Bravas, plus a punnet of delicious strawberries from Las Ramblas market, we strolled down Barri Gothic. Better known in English as 'The Gothic Quarter', this medieval guild district, which aligns with Park de la Ciutadella, it is full of atmosphere and history. The narrow streets were littered with independent workshops, galleries and quirky fashion stores that have settled and set up shop over time. Both men and women can browse the racks for unusual, ‘one of a kind’ fashion items.
Strolling Through The Barri Gotic.
However, it's not all art and shopping stalls in the Barri Gothic. La Sagrada Familia fresh in our minds, we wandered across to the city's eponymous Cathedral. Constructed during the 13th century, it's much older than Gaudi's 19th century masterpiece and couldn't be more architecturally distinct. The huge, vaulted nave is conspicuously less colourful, but what it lacks in lustre it more than makes up for in scale and historicity.
Outside Barcelona Cathedral.
Next door to the cathedral we discovered the Museu Diocesà. While it still functions as the museum of the diocese of Barcelona - displaying art and architecture from its various churches - we were delighted to discover that it now houses a new exhibition about Antoni Gaudí. The Gaudí Exhibition is located in its own own dedicated wing of the building, and is filled with amazing sculptures and scale models. There's also a modern VR experience that takes you on a digital journey through Gaudi's most famous buildings.
Gaudi Exhibition Centre At Museu Diocesa.
After checking out various articles about where we could source authentic paella, we choose number 2 on this list of Best Paella Restaurants in Barcelona; Barca del Samanca, which was situated near the Marina. We read that the restaurant was very well known for its exquisite paella and beautiful views of the sea . We drank and ate until we couldn’t anymore, everything was just so delicious. We had a variation of different tapas and breads as well as a huge seafood paella and many other superb dishes. The atmosphere was authentic Spanish and all the staff were very helpful and friendly. Many of them spoke English which suited us nicely on account of our rather dodgy high school level Spanish.
Barca Del Salamanca Paella Restaurant, Barceloneta.
Next stop was the IceBarcelona. I’d advise anyone who wants to visit to buy tickets online before you go so you can save money as on the door tickets are double the price. They give you a jacket and gloves before you walk into the ‘decorative freezer’ which is a fantastic Instagram opportunity. We enjoyed a variation of selected cocktails which were reasonably priced. It is honestly a great experience, you walk away with a printed photo and a free shot of hot chocolate. When we visited they even had a Star Wars theme with various characters sculpted out of ice.
Barcelona Ice Bar | Just A 7 Minutes Walk From Barca Del Salamanca.