Barcelona is just as magical as they say. As a top tourist destination in Spain, millions travel every year to experience the city. However, Barcelona was not always bustling with visitors.
Prior to the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, Barcelona was just another Spanish city on the coast of Spain. Upon hosting the Summer Games, Barcelona would soon create a name for itself in the tourism industry, determined not to fall off the map as so many Olympic host cities do.
I was fortunate to spend two short days in this crazy city, wandering the streets and taking in the sights, knowing full well I will return some day. Here are a few sites to check out for any traveler looking to experience this lively city:
Park Güell is by far one of the most recognizable sites in Barcelona. The entire park is the work of the famous Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí was contracted to design this park for Eusebi Güell, a wealthy man living in Barcelona. At the time, Güell was looking to create a neighborhood away from the hustle and bustle of the streets in Barcelona for his daughter, who was sick. He felt the fresh air and the tranquil lifestyle outside the city would be a perfect area for her.
He hoped his initiative would draw others to join him on the outskirts, therefore looking for Gaudí to create a neighborhood. While his idea didn’t necessarily take off with others at the time, we are fortunate to have the incredible works of Gaudí to admire. From the colorful mosaics and magical gingerbread-looking houses, every part of this park was inspired by nature.
Pro-tip: Buy your entrance ticket online for a lower rate.
La Sagrada Familia
Another one of Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces, La Sagrada Familia is a church unlike any other. Construction on this breathtaking Basilica started in the spring of 1882 and is scheduled to be completed by 2026, the 100 year anniversary of Gaudí’s untimely death. La Sagrada Familia was Gaudí’s first major work, one that he worked on his entire career until he died as a result of a tragic horse trampling and bad healthcare (but that’s another story).
Each aspect of this Basilica has a special significance. Of its 18 towers, the middle tower representing Jesus, four more of which represent the four Gospels, another tower representing the Virgin Mary, and 12 of which represent each of the 12 Apostles. There are three facades on La Sagrada Familia that represent the birth of Jesus; the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ; and his Glory.
Gaudí wanted as much light as possible to flow into this place of worship. Branching columns support the structure from the inside, allowing sun to flow through the stain glass windows, lighting up the interior. La Sagrada Familia is simply breathtaking, a visit that you will not want to miss.
The Barcelona Olympic Park
The Olympic Park sits on top of Monjuic. Barcelona has taken pride in maintaining their facilities over the years, hosting numerous events. The park includes Palau Sant Jordi, a pavilion that can accommodate 24,000 people and serves multiple functions. The Bernat Picornell Pools hosted the swimming events and overlooks the city of Barcelona. Additionally, don’t forget to check out Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, where the opening and closing ceremonies took place for the 1992 Games.
The Gothic Quarter
The Gothic Quarter is home to many old, gothic style buildings, churches, and plazas. This is one of the oldest areas of Barcelona, winding roads that lead to various hidden treasures.
Pro-tip: Prices for a meal out are much lower here than other parts of town.
An area that is popular among tourists, there are street performers, shops, vendors, restaurants, and more on this bustling street. Day or night, the atmosphere is lively which makes it perfect for strolls at your convenience.
Pro-tip: Enjoy the liveliness of the atmosphere, but eat somewhere else. Each restaurant will try to drag you in by offering you the “best food in Barcelona.” Don’t fall for the overpriced food options. The Gothic Quarter is just a short walk away and has much better prices.
Barcelona is a city full of action and charm. Be sure you allow enough time to take in the beauty of the city. One piece of warning when walking the streets of Barcelona: Always watch out for your belongings. Pickpockets are very common. Always put your belongings in your front pockets or a bag that has zippers. Remember to wear your purse or backpack at the front of your body. While it may look cheesy, it may just allow you to walk away with all of your valuables. Besides taking the necessary precautions when visiting a big tourist hub, Barcelona will be sure to sweep you off your feet.