Cheap flights from the US to Barcelona were quite prevalent in 2018, which sparked a spontaneous decision to book a week in this beautiful city! With stunning architecture and rich history, I can see why Barcelona is a popular destination among tourists. Here are the highlights of my week in the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region:
This stunning park was designed by the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí and was my favorite destination to visit in Barcelona. Gaudí had originally planned for this park to be a residential park intended for sixty wealthy single-family residences. However, he was unsuccessful and the park became city property in 1923. Gaudí then let his imagination run wild, incorporating nature into his archways with his palm tree trunk columns, vibrant colored mosaic tiles, and even a magical dragon to greet visitors.
The park is easily accessible through the “hop on, hop off” bus tour or about a 15 minute walk from the local train station. While it’s free to enter and explore on your own throughout most of the park, I highly recommend booking a walking tour throughout the park with a local guide, to learn more about Gaudí’s life, inspiration and influences behind the park itself.
Another incredible work from Antoni Gaudí, this church is one of the most well-known sights of Barcelona. This Basilica has been under construction since 1882 (that’s right, 1882!). Still in construction, it is anticipated to be completely finished in the year 2026, the 100 year anniversary of Gaudí’s death (at the elderly age of 73 during that time, Gaudí actually died from being suddenly struck by a streetcar and is buried at the Sagrada Família).
When complete, the church will be composed of three major facades, two of which — the Passion facade and the Nativity façade — have already been completed, while construction of the Glory facade continues to be created.
Continuing a naturalist theme (as seen in Park Güell), the church’s interior is defined by columns that stretch like tree branches toward the ceiling. Gaudí also divided sections of the church’s stained glass windows into warmer colors and cooler colors. The best time to visit the church is either in the early morning or late evening as the sun shines through the stained glass windows on the walls filling the church with an abundance of color. I highly recommend booking tickets in advance as the lines usually extend out into the street.
Seeing a Live Flamenco Show
I think one of the best ways to get a taste of Spanish culture is to see a Flamenco show! The Flamenco dance is a highly expressive Spanish dance form, characterized by hand clapping, percussive footwork, and intricate hand, arm, and body movements.
Words cannot give this incredible performance and art form justice. You can check out a sample of the Flamenco Show I saw and witness the incredible performance here!
The Santa Maria de Montserrat is an abbey located on the mountain of Montserrat just outside the city of Barcelona. The monastery was founded during the 11th century, then rebuilt between the 19th and 20th centuries. It still functions today with approximately 70-80 monks in residence.
You can take either a bus or a train to the top of Montserrat! It’s easy to book a half day tour to the Monastery, either online or in person at one of many travel agencies throughout Barcelona. My half day tour was during the late afternoon, to watch the sunset, and included a one-way train ride up to the mountain.
Visiting Barcelona’s Beaches
I always have to visit the local beach, no matter what time of year I’m visiting! Even though I visited Barcelona during November, I was lucky to have sunny 60F days during a majority of my trip and was comfortable weather for wandering the beach and eating tapas.
Frank Gehry’s Peix marks the end of Barceloneta beach and the start of Icària Beach.
Taking a Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour of the City
If you want to explore as much of the city as possible, I highly recommend either a one or two day ticket for the hop-on, hop-off bus. Ever since I discovered this amazing way to see a major city back in Auckland, I have to say it is one of my favorite ways to get to know a city while sight seeing at the same time.