Pros: Beautiful, cheerful and friendly Spanish people, lots of culture, good food and GAUDI's work
Cons: I didn't have time to see everything I wanted
I must begin by saying that this isn't going to be a very complete review on Barcelona. Barcelona really deserved a more complete review, being such a beautiful and complete city, with so many things to see and do. The fact is, that having been there three times already, I only stayed there once, and for two days. The other times I was in Barcelona, I was just passing by, on the way to a cruise and coming back from a car trip to Switzerland.
So, I am only writing about my impressions and what I've seen in those two days.
Barcelona is the capital of Cataluna, a Spanish Mediterranean province. Though our visit took place in December, we had an excellent weather, with the sun shining and a clear blue sky. We arrived there on Christmas day, in the evening. The 26th December was also a holiday, so my husband and I were a little limited on what we had planned to see.
Being a neighbor of Portugal, during all these years I had the opportunity to visit some of the most famous cities of Spain. But Barcelona really turned me on! What a fabulous city it is! Of course, ANTONIO GAUDI's works , the Catalan modernist architect, give character to Barcelona, and they are Barcelona's postcard. His exquisite chimneys, colorful mosaics and the curved and wavy lines are spread almost all over town, in his works. Casa Mila, Casa Vicens and the Sagrada Familia ( Sacred Family), the most famous of Gaudi's works, were some of his masterpieces we saw.
CASA MILA is a eight floor building with a wavy facade and several exquisite sculptural chimneys . Its name comes from the Mila family, that used to live there. It's located in Paseo de Garcia, a well known avenue for its shopping. It is possible to have a guided visit to Casa Mila but it was closed on the day we were there, so we only saw it from outside.
CASA VICENS is a moorish style building, with a turret, filled of tiles and mosaics with pictures.
The SAGRADA FAMILIA is an unconventional and original church. This incredible and beautiful monument is still unfinished. Gaudi died before he was able to finish it. Nevertheless, his initial project was continued and the Sagrada Familia's works still continue today. This project had ten towers, one for each apostle, though only eight have been built, and are covered with mosaics. The Nativity Facade, the main one, has fabulous sculptured scenes of Jesus Birth and childwood. Gaudi is buried in the Crypt. This monument is simply beautiful, and we can stare at it for a long time , because it is full of small details and images. At night it's wonderful when lighted.
In Barcelona there are many Palaus ( Palaces). The PALAU DE LA MUSICA CATALANA (Palace of Cataluna Music)was one of the buildings we saw that pleased me most. Again, it was closed because of the holiday and we only looked from the outside.It's located in the Barri Gotic ( Gothic District), in a narrow street. It has beautiful and colorful flower mosaic pillars. I heard that its inside is also fabulous.
One thing that we were able to see and visit was the PICASSO MUSEUM. This Museum is also located in a narrow street of the Gothic District. There are many Picasso's works, from drawings to ceramics and paintings. But what really impressed me were his first paintings. I didn't know his early works and was surprised to see some paintings he did when he was only 16 years old. The portrait of his mother is an incredible painting he did at that age and it has nothing to do with his known works. He really was a genius! This Museum offers us the opportunity to follow his path as an artist, and it exhibits about 3000 works.
We also went to LA RAMBLA, a very popular and long avenue, with some small restaurants, artists playing, painting or doing and selling crafts. This place is always crowded, specially at night. I love markets and I had to go to Barcelona's most famous market, LA BOQUERIA, located in la Rambla. Beautiful and fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and seafood, all kinds of meat, Spanish ham and other Spanish products are nicely displayed, making us want to buy them all.
Although Barcelona has wonderful shops and large stores, we didn't have the time to go shopping. The only shopping we did were some t-shirts for my adult kids in the Picasso Museum and in the small shop outside the Sacred Family. I then managed to buy some more things at Barcelona's airport, before we flew back to Lisbon. This airport is one of the best I've ever been to. It has very good shops, like Agatha (jewellery), Tommy Hillfinger, and a fine grocery shop with Cataluna's products. If you go to Barcelona be sure to buy some Jamon Iberico ( smoked ham), Spanish chocolates,"turron", some bottles of Cava ( Cataluna's sparkled wine, their champagne) and wine.
Barcelona has also very good food. These are the restaurants where we went:
- "SETPORTAS"- we had Jamon Iberico , a fabulous "seafood paella"( rice with zafran, red pepperoni and seafood) followed by a "crema catalana" ( a creamy dessert made with eggs and milk).This restaurant has moderate prices.
- " BOTAFUMEIRO" - we went there for dinner on Christmas day. It's a large restaurant, nicely decorated. We had a "Cocido Extremano" (several boiled meats with different types of sausages and chick peas). It is rather expensive.
- "LA BARCA" - the best restaurant. This restaurant is located in the Marina. We had Jamon Iberico, a superb grilled seafood mixture, served with a sauce of butter and garlic, and cheese as dessert. It was very cheap.
Almost all the restaurants in Barcelona serve bread with a mixture of tomato and olive oil as a starter.
I found people from Barcelona to be the most friendly and cheerful Spanish I have ever met. From taxi drivers to waiters, they all made us feel at home.
There were also many places, museums , palaces I would have loved to see, but our time was limited. The Illa de la Discordia, the Juan Miro Foundation, the Cathedral , several Museums and Montjuic were some of the places I missed. Anyway, Barcelona is a fabulous city, where I intend to go again and again if I can. If any of you plan a trip to Barcelona, make sure you will be staying there at least five days.
There is a wide variety of lodging in Barcelona, from budget to luxury hotels.
Fred Mercury and Montserrat Caballe really made a tribute to this awesome city, with their famous song "Barcelona". And after being there, I can also say " Barcelona...How can I forget......"
Thank you for reading!