Back in May, I spent nine days in Barcelona, one of Spain’s and Europe’s largest cities and while I have been to the city on a few occasions previously and had a decent grasp of the language, I recognise that not all travellers are in the same relatively-comfortable boat. Going to somewhere for the first time, whether it be a city, a country, a continent or all of the above, can be as daunting as it is exciting. Those that know me personally have learned of my travels so far and what I have planned for the future but the present is a good a time as any to start writing guides for visiting locations on this blue marble we call Planet Earth.
I stayed in an apartment a stone’s throw away from the base of Montjuïc mountain so it seemed like a logical starting point. There’s so much to see and do in this area of Barcelona, especially if you’re a lover of art or nature. Just off the Plaça d’Espanya stands the magnificent Palau Nacional, a huge palace that houses the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (National art museum of Catalonia) within its stone walls. The climb from the main road at the bottom to the museum at the top is a pretty lengthy one, especially on a hot day like was the case for me, but the views alone are well worth it. Even on a busy Sunday, with tourists everywhere you looked, photo opportunities were abundant. Picturesque fountains and waterfalls lined the centre of the ascent and the panoramas of the city below are stunning.
Pro tip: Entry to a lot of museums in Barcelona is free on the first Sunday of the month and almost all are discounted for university students.
As I mentioned before, inside the Palau Nacional, there’s one of the largest exhibitions of art in Barcelona. There’s a wide array of collections from Medieval Romanesque to Renaissance and even examples of modern pieces on show. Paintings, sculptures, statues, metalwork, pottery, odds are if you want to see something, it’s there.
However, the real beauty of Montjuïc is arguably not man-made. Surrounding the National Palace are huge areas of park land, with lush trees that looks as though their branches are like black lightning. This is also where the Olympic village for the 1992 Summer games is located and the remnants of the old Montjuïc Formula 1 circuit which was used back in the 1960’s and 70’s.
I made a full article detailing the old F1 circuit a few weeks ago, if you’re interested, check it out via this link: https://georgehowson.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/f1s-lost-circuits-montjuic/
This is probably the most popular area of Montjuïc, but it is not the only part of it. If you’re in the area, I’d highly recommend that you head up to the Castell de Montjuïc which, judging by the outward-facing cannons all around it, used to be an old army fortress. The climb up is steep but there are steps and signs directing you for pretty much the entirety of the ascent. Much like the Palau Nacional, for just a few Euros you can be treated to some of the best views in Barcelona and, if you’re there at the right time of the year, you can watch the sunset from up there.
I’d advise going as late in the day as possible, as the setting sun is an awesome sight from up there, but make sure to leave yourself at least an hour or so to discover the castle’s secrets.
When you go to Barcelona, you go to La Sagrada Familia, it’s as simple as that. The humongous Gaudi-designed church is a tribute to the holy family (that’s what Sagrada Familia translates to in English) and it is epic. I used to wonder why it’s taken over 100 years (and counting) to build but when you get close, you realise why. Every inch is carved and planned to the finest detail, with sculptures, symbols and messages all around its exterior. Couple that with its absolutely awesome scale and it’s somewhat amazing that it’s only taken a century to get to this point. The size of the structure would suggest that it’s not a man-made building at all, it’s more akin to a hill or a mountain in this regard.
And that’s just the outside, when you step inside it’s almost beyond comprehension:
Giant white columns dart out of the ground to its incredibly high ceilings and windows filter the sunlight into its individual colours to make sections look like the Northern lights. Without a doubt, it isn’t what I was expecting to see and to truly appreciate it you have to see it in person.
The overall design of the interior reminded me of those old space operas where man would land on an alien world and be taken to their leader’s grand palace. When you consider that it was designed in the nineteenth century, you realise what a genius Antoni Gaudi was. This remarkable feat of architecture is what makes Sagrada Familia a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is fully deserved.
If you are planning on visiting, make sure you buy your tickets in advance online, as they have a limit of how many visitors are allowed inside on a given day. You can even go up to the top, but this is rather pricey for someone travelling on a budget.
Gaudi didn’t just build churches, though…
Gaudi also designed Park Guell, an area that was originally meant to be a housing estate. Thankfully, however, it ended up becoming a tourist attraction, and what an attraction! I started at the top and worked my way down, traversing the paths and soaking up the views of the city below. Barcelona seemed as though it was a world away, it was like I was in a fairy-tale world where the houses appeared to be made out of gingerbread. Or maybe that was hunger getting to me…
You should be warned, though, don’t enter through one of the side-entrances, go in the front. It’s easily done (as I found out) because Park Guell is next to a fairly seedy-looking regular park. You can buy a ticket to go into the inner areas of the main buildings but you can see pretty much everything in the free-to-access areas.
Overall, all three of the aforementioned areas should be on all travellers’ buckets lists, they’re not just some of the best attractions in Spain, or even Europe, but the world itself.
This was a very different article from me, and I really hope you enjoyed it. The next part will cover areas such as The Camp Nou and Barcelona’s Cathedral. Would you like to see more of these in the future? Comment below and let me know!
All of the images in this article have been provided by my photography page, GH Photography, if you’d like to see more photos from Barcelona and elsewhere on my travels, check out the links below:
Instagram: @GH_Photos123, https://www.instagram.com/GH_Photos123/?hl=en