Barcelona is the most popular cruise ship port in the Mediterranean, and many ships embark or disembark in the city. One could easily spend a week in Barcelona, but travelers can see a good part of the city in just a few days. Barcelona is lively, with unbelievable architecture and flair. People crowd the pedestrian streets until late at night, and the outdoor cafes and bars are fun and feature excellent food and drink. A good way to tour the city is via one of the hop-on, hop-off buses that cover a large part of Barcelona. Here are some things to do in Barcelona.
Riding the hop-on, hop-off sightseeing bus is one of the best bargains in Barcelona. The buses run two main routes, one on the north of the city (red line) and one on the south (blue line). The two routes connect at Placa de Catalunya at the west end of La Rambla furthest from the harbor.
One ticket allows you to ride on both routes all day long, exiting the bus whenever you like to explore. The one- and two-day tickets also include good discount coupons for other transportation around the city and to some tourist attractions. Tickets are sold by the bus driver, and run about every 20 minutes. It takes half a day to ride the entire routes without getting off the bus, but be sure to stop at some of the sites discussed below.
La Sagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family) in Barcelona is the symbolic landmark of the city. Barcelona architect Antoni Gaudi dedicated over 43 years of his life to the project, and the basic Modernista design is his creation. The cathedral has been under construction since 1862, and today over 300 workers continue Gaudi's dream, with construction dependent entirely on donations. Although Gaudi's original plans have been scaled back, about 50 percent of La Sagrada Familia was completed by 2010, and the remainder of the church is not scheduled for completion until at least 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.
Parc Guell is about 3 miles inland from the cruise ship port in Barcelona, but is well worth the ride. Antoni Gaudi designed the park for one of his patrons, Eusebi Guell. The 50-acre site was originally supposed to be a garden city, but was never completed. Today it is a magical park, filled with mosaics, sculptures, and flower gardens.
AddressCarrer del Call, 12-22, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
The old town district of Barcelona is the Gothic Quarter or Barri Gotic. It dates back to Roman times, and some of the old city wall still remains. The streets of old town are narrow, and the buildings are fascinating. The highest building in the old town is the Barcelona Cathedral, which is in the Gothic style and should not be confused with the more famous La Sagrada Familia cathedral, which is modern, unfinished, and in the Eixample district.
AddressLa Rambla, Barcelona, Spain
Although Barcelona has inexpensive taxis and an easy-to-use subway system, walking is my choice for viewing the architectural wonders of the city. La Rambla is the most famous boulevard in Barcelona, and visitors can spend hours strolling its one mile length. The avenue includes vendors selling birds and flowers, entertainers eating fire and volunteering to tell your fortune, and sidewalk cafes for watching the world go by.
Be sure to stop by the Boqueria market, which sells food to the top restaurants in Barcelona. It has wonderful colors and fascinating smells!
Address08007 Barcelona, Spain
You can't visit Barcelona without seeing numerous examples of the work of Antoni Gaudi, one of the best-known Modernista architects. Although the unfinished La Sagrada Familia cathedral is Barcelona's most visited Gaudi-designed builiding, other examples like Casa Batllo provide a fascinating look at his creativity.
Casa Batllo was built in 1904-1906 as a residence for the Batllo family. Today it is a museum. The exterior is covered with mosaics, glass, and ironwork. One thing you will not see in the interior is a straight wall or line. It is filled with curved walls, doors, colorful windows, and stairways. The roof is topped with artwork similar to that seen on other Gaudi designs.
Although exploring Barcelona on foot or the outdoor seats on the Bus Turistic is great fun, sometimes (if rarely) the weather is bad. If so, Barcelona has many interesting museums, including an excellent Picasso Museum. Picasso moved to Barcelona when he was 14, and his work is appropriately displayed in the magnificent Palau Berenguer d'Aguilar. Picasso had his first exhibit in Barcelona, and much of his Blue Period art was done in the city.
The massive Barcelona Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC) is another good place to spend a rainy day. It is found near Placa Espanya and features numerous exhibits of Catalan art.
The Joan Miro Gallery on Montjuic includes both works by this famous Spanish sculptor as well as other exhibits.
Explore Montjuic in Barcelona
AddressMontjuïc, 08038 Barcelona, Spain
This hill overlooking Barcelona was at the center of the 1992 Olympics. The bus turistic stops several times at points of interest on Montjuic. If you take the Metro line 1 or 3, you will exit and walk up the hill through the Venetian pillars lining the Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina.
At the top of the avenue is the Magic Fountain, designed in 1929 for the Barcelona International Exposition. It's beautiful at night! Visitors can follow the rising hill to the Teleferic funicular cable car station. The cable cars ride over the old Montjuic amusement park and end at the castle on top the hill.
A visit to Montserrat, about 30 miles from Barcelona, is an excellent day trip for anyone who has more time in the city. This mountain features beautiful views and has a small monastery tucked into its rocky cliffs. Many people make a pilgrimage to Montserrat to see the Black Virgin statue in the monastery's basilica. Others go to Montserrat to ride the cable car and funicular train to the summit for hiking and to see the weird rock structures that give the mountain its "serrated" name. For whatever reasons, if the weather is clear and sunny in Barcelona, a day at Montserrat is well worth the visit.