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Barcelona – the Heaven of Architecture

“We have given a diploma either to a crazy person or to a genius,” these were the thoughts of Gaudí’s professor who gave him the diploma when Antoni Gaudí graduated from his architecture school in Barcelona. He was a good prophet, wasn’t he? Therefore, brace yourself for an architectural odyssey.

Before I went to Barcelona, for some (peculiar) reason, I was not overtly excited about going there. I mean, it has been one of my dream destinations in Europe, but I didn’t devote too much of a time to reading and researching. In the end, this turned out to be a better strategy since I was not too stressed to see everything I have read about (or haven’t read about) – that’s next to impossible even for a month there.

What I did, instead, was: immerse myself into the city’s unique atmosphere, breathe, and “hungrily” devour the spellbinding beauty which was seeping from everywhere. My journey to Dubai was also not so well-researched in advance (I have a friend who told me where to go, etc.), but also had the same outcome.

Truth is, exhilaration gathered momentum in the last couple of days before the trip. The night before the flight, I only slept for a few hours and then hopped on seething with more excitement. I am sure I am not the only one who loves flying. So, when I saw the mesmerising sunrise from the plane, I was more than ready to start my dive into “las bellezas de la Perla de la Mediteranea”.

Introduction

I was wondering how to start telling you about my experience in certainly the most beautiful city I have ever set my feet so far – Barcelona. But before I do, what is Barcelona?

¿Is it Gaudí? Is it Camp Nou? What about Sagrada Familia? Bread with tomato? Catalan language? ¿Es una playa bonita o montañas serradas? Columbus, stunning architecture, or humidity?

I guess I don’t have to decide since it is a conglomerate of all of the upper mentioned and a throng of other things.

Architecture. Sumptuousness, opulence – but not in that lavish Emirati style. It was just the right amount for your eyes to ponder in awe and your mind to contemplate in regal silence.

Let’s start day by day.

Day 1 – La Rambla, Citadel Park, and Park Guëll

My trip to Barcelona was enjoyed in the company of a friend. We got an apartment just 5 minutes away from Plaça de Catalunya (Catalonia Square) and this is where our journey started.

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Plaça Cataluniya in the early morning.

La Rambla de Barcelona

Plaça Cataluniya is a gargantuan square at which hundreds of public buses make a stopping to take the swarms of tourists back to the airport. From the square to the statue of Christopher Columbus stretches the notorious La Rambla.

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View of the La Rambla in the morning.

You’d ask, “Why notorious?” I jumped to this adjective because the street (and many others, in fact) has this grim reputation of recurring thefts. So, it was no wonder that we saw the majority of people (and, believe me, there were literally legions of people, marching this street all day long) had turned their backpacks into frontpacks – meaning that they were carrying (or rather hugging) their belongings in front of them. Although I was not robbed of anything, be super attentive there.

I called La Rambla notorious for another reason – it’s quite expensive to have a meal there, plus the dishes are not really that delicious. Yes, we did fall victim once (or twice). Besides, the pedestrian area is quite small and there are two streets around it with countless cars and public transportation. Therefore, I suggest to just ramble, but not “gamble” (eat and drink).

On the way to the monument of Columbus, we passed by the Main Theatre, the Military Government, and, surely, lots of sophisticated examples of gorgeous architecture.

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Some of the stunning architecture along the street.

Erected for the Exposición Universal de Barcelona (1888), the monument was in honour of the first voyage of Columbus to the Americas.

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The Columbus monument in all its glory.

Measuring around 60 m (197 ft), the monument represents Columbus, pointing to the New World.

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Close shot of Columbus.

The Seaside Walk and Citadel Park

After taking numerous photos of the “explorer”, we continued our tour on Passeig de Colom, a broad avenue generously lined with palm trees, to the Parc de la Ciutadella (“Citadel Park”).

While sauntering towards the park, we passed and stopped for a minute to marvel at Estació de França (“France Station”). Constructed in the 19th century and as the name suggests, it served as a terminus for trains coming from France. It’s quite imposing a building and currently, it is the second busiest railway station in Barcelona.

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Quite impressive, isn’t it?

Citadel Park is a beautiful 70-acre green space which houses the Zoo of Barcelona, the Catalonian Parliament, a pond, some museum halls, and also a gorgeous fountain (Antoni Gaudí might have had a contribution there, too).

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The pond in the park.
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The fountain is truly remarkable a landmark.

At the promenade’s northern end is situated the Arc de Triomf (“Triumphal Arch”) which is the principal access gate to the park and is constructed in brickwork with reddish colours in the style of Neo-Mudéjar.

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Arc de Triomf de Barcelona is a bit different from that in Paris, but it is still very beautiful.

Park Guëll

Probably one of Gaudí’s most stupendous creations, the Park is nestled on Carmen Hill, overlooking Barcelona. Every single bench there is extensively decorated and inlaid and architectonic elements reign over the wonderland called Park Guëll.

The park, built 1910-1914 and officially inaugurated in 1926, was pronounced a UNESCO World Heritage Site and put under the “Works of Gaudí”. The ambience revolves around organic shapes and figures, influenced by the architect’s naturalist phase.

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Panorama from the park.
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Some of the many peculiar creations.
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One of the most famous houses inside the park – la Casa del Guarda.

Yes, it’s hardly possible to take a photo without someone else’s selfie stick poking you in the tushie or taking at least a minor, but annoying, portion of your picture. Nevertheless, the throngs of tourists were determined to do so regardless of the vivid opportunity to lose an eye or, at least, their dignity.

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Here are three photos I barely managed to take without tourists inside.
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The famous salamander. Or only its head.
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Another lizard fountain.

Sin obstante, there are a couple of spots one might find amusing or even exciting. A view from the top of the park offers splendid views of the city and one can also see Sagrada Familia.

Park Guëll is also home to a house where Gaudí lived for twenty years from 1906 to 1925. It was opened to the public as a Museum House in 1963. It contains objects of the more intimate side of the architect.

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The house where he lived.
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I began to grasp his creativity 🙂

Day 2 – Montserrat and Sagrada Familia

Montserrat – Catalonia’s Natural Phenomenon

We took the first train (Line 4) to Montserrat from Plaça Espanya. As you can see from the link, there are two stops – Aeri de Montserrat (cable car), which is at the foot of the mountain, and Monistrol de Montserrat (Cremallera Funicular Rack Railway).

We got off at Aeri de Montserrat station and took the cable car which took us from 139 m elevation to 683 m in less than 5 minutes. The ride was quite refreshing as it was very misty and a bit chilly in the morning.

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The cable car to the monastery.

Little did we know before we went to Montserrat Monastery, located at 717 m, where our jaws dropped again. Montserrat´s beauty enchants. As if the Catalan God has been going around with his saw serrating everything he saw (pun intended). Montserrat means “serrated mountains”.

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Montserrat rocks and the monastery.
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The serrated mountains – close shot.

We entered inside the monastery’s yard and saw a huge line of people, queuing to see the Virgin of Montserrat (one of the few Black Madonnas on the European continent). Due to our packed schedule, we only visited the church, but we did not wait to peek at the Madonna. However, I saw a replica of the Madonna in the Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral in Barcelona so if you don’t mind that you will see a replica, you can easily skip the queue in the monastery and head to the Santa Maria.

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Inside the basilica of Montserrat.
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A replica of the Black Madonna in Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral.

The Montserrat Monastery is a wonderful starting point for hikes as some of the serrated mountains reach a height of more than 1,100 m (~3,600 ft). If your feet are tired of marching around, you can take the funiculars to Santa Cova cave, an important pilgrimage site also known as “The Holy Grotto”, or to Sant Joan, offering a stupefying view of Montserrat from the top.

We did not go to Sant Joan, but we managed to capture some drop-dead gorgeous moments from the site of the monastery.

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A photo of Abat Oliba – founder of the Montserrat monastery.
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The stupendous view from the monastery area around noon.
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On our way back. The rock formations remind me of Belogradchik in Bulgaria.

At around 12:30, when the bell started tolling, it was so magical I just listened in astonishment.

Sagrada Familia

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Sagrada Familia – the true masterpiece, the crème de la crème, la obra maestra de Gaudí.

I felt goosebumps prick my arms as Sagrada Familia’s resplendence mesmerised my body, tingled my skin, and captivated my mind, sending pleasant shivers down my spinal cord. I didn’t exactly scream, but I do recall the goosebumps. Now, you can feel them with these photos.

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Inside the basilica.
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The different stained glasses are amazing.
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They let the light inside in a vivacious way.

The crypt of the basilica is its oldest part where lie the remnants of Gaudí. He was buried there in 1926 “after a multitudinous final farewell” by myriads of Barcelona residents who came to pay their respects to the work of the prodigy.

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The crypt which was not accessible.

From outside, the Basilica is nothing short of an architectural miracle. The highest tower, dedicated to Jesus, measures an imposing height of 172,5 m. Besides, there are four other towers, measuring 135 m and dedicated to the four evangelists. There are numerous other towers and façades, dedicated to different Saints and to the life of Jesus. Sagrada Familia will be finished in 2026 (commemorating 100 years since Gaudí’s death).

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The imposing basilica.

Day 3 – La Boqueria, Montjuïc, and Poble Espanyol

The third day was marked by a visit to the hill of Montjuïc. But before that, we paid La Boqueria market a visit.

La Boqueria

As one of the foremost go-to tourist places, even in the morning, it was crowded. The market’s sundry assortment of goods ranges from fresh fish through cured ham (jamón) and dried cheeses to traditional Spanish and Catalan food.

At the market, my friend and I also found many stalls which sold freshly squeezed juices from various exotic fruits, ranging from guanabana through guava to coconut and mango. We found one place where the juice was solely 1 EUR for a cup of 200 ml. Its location is just several steps away from the main entrance on your right.

But let’s get back to Jamón. It is this scrumptiously palatable meat that is “extracted” from boars who have been fed with grass, herbs, and, most of all, acorns (or oak nuts). Depending on the quality (which is determined by the amount of acorns the boars consume), the prices vary greatly – from as low as 10 EUR to as much as 300 EUR per kilogramme.

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The main entrance from La Rambla.
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Jamón, hanging from the stalls.
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Jamón and cheese in small portions ready to be consumed.

It’s said that one of the best varieties is Jamón de Bellota Pata Negra (literally “Bellota Ham from Black Leg – because of the colour of the pig’s skin).

Montjuïc Hill

We first headed to Plaça Espanya. It’s a humongous round-about and at one of the metro’s exits is located the Arenas de Barcelona. It is a huge shopping mall, but what’s marvellous about it is its panoramic roof that offers a pants-dropping view of the city, Montjuïc Hill, and the Magic Fountains.

One can go to the roof via using an outdoor lift (1 EUR) on the left or use the escalators inside the mall (for free, of course). Either way, it’s so worth it, especially at sunset.

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The mall from outside.
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View from the top of the mall.

Overseeing the Magic Fountains of Montjuïc is the National Museum of Catalan Art (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya). It’s a fabulous building, holding amazing collections of Catalan art and church paintings from the Romanesque period.

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Zoomed shot from the mall.
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The fountains with epic clouds.
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In front of the fountain.

Already atop the hill, we strolled around the Olympic City and then headed to another magnificent place which is called…

Poble Espanyol

Literally “Spanish Town”, the complex area may be defined as an architectural museum, uniting many of the Spanish regions into a great village and representing fifteen communities with their distinct cultures, crafts, and architectural styles. Only the Canary Islands and La Rioja are not represented.

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First impressions of the village.
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Gorgeous pots with flowers strewn on a wall.

We witnessed glass making (video coming soon) and had a mouth-watering lunch with delectable sangria (the low-alcoholic beverage was very refreshing and only cost us around 3 EUR).

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The glass was sizzling hot.
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Patatas bravas y calamari – delicious!

In summer, the village is also a venue to pounding techno music and revolutionising house music. If you happen to be an electronic music fan, then Poble Espanyol is definitely a must-visit place.

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Stunningly beautiful architecture inside.
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The main square of Poble Espanyol.

Montjuïc Castle

The famous castle of Montjuïc is at the very top of the hill and is accessible through a cable car or on foot (a single ticket is 8 EUR, while the return is 12 EUR). A better idea is to take the cable car up (because it offers jaw-dropping views) with a single ticket and then either walk down the hill or take the bus for around 1.5 EUR.

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View from the cable car going to the top.
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The fortified walls of the castle covered by moss.

One of the most staggering views of Barcelona and its remarkable beach is from the castle. From there, one can also see the port which is one of Europe’s largest.

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The container port of Barcelona as seen from the castle.

The watchtower at the top reminisces of the primary defensive structure of the hill dating back to 1073. Via a system of sails throughout the day and bonfires during the night, the lookout tower signalled the arrival of ships.

Barcelona’s defence was executed from Montjuïc owing to the fact that the hill controlled the inland plain and the coast. The fortress on top is to Barcelona what the Paul and Peter fortress was to St. Petersburg or the Bastille to Paris – both a bloodcurdling prison and an awe-inspiring citadel. Even under Franco’s rule, the fortress continued its operations as barracks and a military prison until 1960.

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Here are jumping Svet and the watchtower behind me.

If you head from the castle down and then to the left, you will find Teleférico del Puerto (a cable car) that for 11 EUR (one-way) will take you down to La Barceloneta – la playa de Barcelona – which is what we did. Check out these flabbergasting photos taken from the cable car.

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The view from the cable car.
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Columbus as seen from the cable car.
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The yacht port as seen from the cable car.

Day 4 – Barceloneta, the Gothic Quarter, and the Magic Fountains

La Barceloneta

The tonnes of palm trees, cute beach bars, and tiny pedestrian streets, meandering between the imposing buildings, make La Barceloneta area a terrific place and a must-visit. I also found bars for working out so I flexed my Bulgarian muscles.

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Palm trees at the beach.
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The streets were quite narrow but very charming.
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I made some guys take a photo of me showing off.

Around the Gothic Quarter

What stroke me most about Barcelona, however, were the amazingly ornate buildings all around the city. Almost every single construction was exquisitely decorated. Gaudí’s genius, sheer opulence, and resplendence were streaming off of every corner.

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One of Barcelona’s finest Gothic cathedrals.
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Around the Gothic quarter and its captivating streets.
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The Palace of Music at night.

I was breathing deeply every time I entered a new cathedral in the Gothic quarter. The gargantuan columns, magnificent stained glasses, and pointy domes of every one of those made me ponder in awe.

The Magic Fountains of Montjuïc

One of the must-sees, if you are into lights, is the magic fountain show which usually takes place on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night from 21:30 to around 23:00. It’s strongly advisable to be there around 20:00 to get a great position for observing the spectacle.

What I did was hop on one of the four gigantic columns, sit cosily there without being pushed, and contemplate the music and light show. Here are photos.

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A view from one of the four columns – I strongly advise you to take your place there.
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A view of the other fountains and the Museum of Catalan Art.

Downsides

I decided to write a short paragraph on some of the downsides of the city so that you are prepared for some of them.

As I mentioned, at La Rambla, everybody was hugging its rucksack and everything was overpriced. Besides, every single person whom I saw smoking dropped his cigarette leftover on the ground (maybe this is not a trend, but still). I found the metro of Barcelona a bit confusing and inside it was boiling hot.

A downside for some of you might be that not everybody spoke English, but every Catalan would understand Castellano (Spanish) so that’s fine.

Food in Barcelona

Paella is a must-try (despite it having its origins in Valencia) but beware because multitudes of places offer paellas but in many of them, the paella is not really good (avoid La Rambla).

Pulpo a la gallega or “Octopus in Galician style” is another must-try should you be a fan of seafood. It’s a little piquant and comes with sea salt and an occasional potato – simply scrumptious.

And, of course, don’t forget the yummy tapas!

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Pulpo a la gallega.
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Seafood paella with a lot of saffron.
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Black paella with squid ink. Not that great, but interesting in colour.

And when you get your teeth on that cured Iberian ham, sniffing the aroma of acorns and the light sense of mold, all your senses cheerfully celebrate life and its blessings.

Conclusion

The architecture slaps you in the face, permeates in you, and leaves you wanting more and more. Severely fascinated by what’s around, you continue walking as if a magical Fairy is dragging you gently by the nose. Every time she wants to show you an ornament, arch, or something else worth seeing, she will gently scratch your nose in the right direction, leaving you to experience petite orgasms every single time.

Barcelona, you hugged me with your warm Mediterranean sun and kissed me gently with your caressing wind. It’s a bit disheartening to leave you, having been part of your warm, powerful embrace, but to miss you will bring me back. Barcelona, my love for you is excessively saccharine. I can’t wait to meet you again.

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Were you as fascinated as I was (and still am) by Barcelona?

29 comments on “Barcelona – the Heaven of Architecture

  1. Hung Thai

    Tapas! Tapas! Tapas! Once again, the tapas make an appearance. We had some in Chicago but I’m assuming the ones in Barcelona are much better hahah. Great article with a lot of good pictures Svet. I’ll definitely have to spend a good amount of time here… sometime in the future.

    • Svet

      Yep, tapas are amazing – especially the octopus! Oh, I just started salivating… Or the jamón..

      Don’t you tell me that you read the whole thing, it’s so long, ha-ha! Thanks, we should ride a bicycle there together. okay?

  2. Zane

    Barcelona is the best 🙂 I enjoyed your writing 🙂

  3. thetravelpockets

    I’ve never been to Barcelona, but it seems like every corner you turn is just gorgeous. The architecture there I could just stare at for hours. And don’t get me started on the food. The Seafood paella looks amazing and I love that they put a lot of saffron. Saffron is super expensive! 🙂

    • Svet

      You are absolutely right! The architecture is just out of this planet! And yes, saffron is so expensive and sooooo delicious! I love it too!

  4. Claire

    I love Barcelona, I lived there for 4 years and still didn’t eat enough paella or pulpo! There is so much to do though, and I agree with you about La Rambla, I actually hate that street and avoid it like the plague, but for first time visitors its a kind of initiation!

    • Svet

      Wow, that’s great that you lived in Barcelona for so long! I am sure once you settle, you don’t that much of an attention to eating paella or pulpo, but La Rambla really got me irritated. Not only was it overpriced but the food was so bad…

  5. carmyy

    Barcelona looks beautiful! The architecture is gorgeous. However, the cheese caught my eye! I love how they have such easily severed portions to grab and go.

    • Svet

      Barcelona is beautiful, its architecture is absolutely gorgeous, too! But the way they have neatly arranged cheese and ham in small portions is just amazing, isn’t it? 🙂

  6. nycgingeronthego

    Wow, Barcelona is an impressive city. The architecture is amazing, but the parks are too. No detail left forgotten. Every fountain is more beautiful than the next. I really hope to visit one day. Great tips on safety and the food. I just had my first paella this summer, but would love to try one in Spain.

    • Svet

      It surely is very impressive with everything you just described. You really need to try a good paella in Spain – it’s out of this planet 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

  7. Christina

    Good food and beautiful buildings, what’s not to love about Barcelona. Gaudi really made his mark on the world and put Barcelona on the map.

    • Svet

      I was thinking how a single man made a whole city a city of this staggering beauty. We should all be really grateful for his creations and cherish them 🙂

  8. mappingmegan

    Agreed that Barclona is a haven of crazy, inspiring, unique and downright fascinating architecture. We were there last month, and I too got goosebumps on entering Sagrada Familia … was one of the more memorable cities we visited on our world tour 🙂

    • Svet

      Yes, isn’t it, Megan! These goosebumps still chase my through my dreams of going to Barcelona again. Definitely one of the more memorable cities and a must-visit-again place :))

  9. eatlivetraveldrink

    One of my favorite cities full of architecture. Anton Guadi is simply a genius when it comes to creating artistic buildings. I was able to see most of his work in less than 48 hours when I was in Barcelona!

    • Svet

      Wow, covering most of Barcelona in 48 hours is truly a heroic act! How did you manage to do it! 🙂 Gaudí was really a genius!

      • eatlivetraveldrink

        haha with a lot of determination. We took the hop on hop off and visited most of the Gaudi attractions. Wwe did Sagrada around dinner time and no one was there – so there was no line AND it was nearly empty.

        • Svet

          Ah, I see, that’s great! We also visited Sagrada Familia around 18:30 and it was not full. What I want to do next time I go there – ride a bike around Barcelona – that would be stupendous!

  10. Ivy

    MMM TAPAS AND PAELLA! Yum. Barcelona’s still on the list for us- good call on the cable car. I think we’ll take that too when we finally get to visit. And MAN the details on the architecture here is amazing. They said the Sagrada Familia will FINALLY be complete in the next few years right? Maybe we’ll go when that happens 🙂

    • Svet

      Yes, Sagrada Familia will be completed in 2026, marking 100 years since the unfortunate death of Gaudí. Tapas and paella is a wonderful combo!

  11. Jo

    Oh wow what a coincidence? My latest post is also about architecture in Barcelona 🙂 Even though I visited a while back, I just got around to blogging about it. Park guell was undoubtedly my favorite piece of Gaudi architecture so far.

  12. ANne

    I’ve been to Barcelona a number of times but never made it to the monastery which looks truly beautiful. Definitely need to head there if I go back

    • Svet

      Oh, lucky you for being so many times to Barcelona. Do head to Montserrat – it is really drop-dead gorgeous there! Did you try riding a bike in Barcelona, too?

  13. Guna Meldere

    Beautiful! I would really love to go to Montserrat rocks and the monastery and … aww everywhere! Basilica, gothic cathedrals.. nature… give it all!

    • Svet

      I am also going again to Montserrat! And everywhere. Barcelona, brace yourself for a lot of BBS-ers! Haha. Right?

    I bet you enjoyed what you just read! Share what impressed you most.

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