Hola! We made it to Barcelona three weeks ago and have loved every minute of this incredible city. To change things up a little bit I thought I would highlight the top 10 sites we have been to so you a) aren’t reading forever and b) can see some of our incredible pictures we have taken thus far.
Before I get onto the list, here are some fun facts about Barcelona
- Not all the shops close for a siesta, but they do operate at completely random times and I cannot keep track of when they open for business, are closed for the day or go on vacation
- Every street is lined with at least six ice cream shops, bakeries, supermarkets and pharmacies. When you turn the corner you will undoubtedly be met with more bakeries, more ice cream shops and more pharmacies
- Diapers are cheap, food is cheaper and liquor is cheapest
- You rarely see dogs on leashes, no one asks to pet them and they all pee in the street (which is also cleaned every morning)
- You are constantly finding hidden treasures within the streets and alleyways
- There are not as many incidents of pick-pocketing as we were warned about (currently knocking on wood)
- Actually getting to sit outside without having to wait for an hour is kind of an honor here, although you won’t get to stand on a podium to receive a metal—mostly because you don’t want to give up your spot
- There aren’t as many cats as I imagined there would be. Actually we’ve only seen 3 and one was a giant statue
- Spaniards LOVE the Virgin Mary….like they really, really, really love her… and Gaudi
- Don’t expect to buy coffee before 8am unless you are ready to go on a long walk
- I still can’t figure out where people work
- I cant believe she left the donuts off the list. They’re delicious, and I go get her one almost every day while she naps with the kids. (We have to call them bagels so that Nolan is OK when we talk about them.
Okay, with that out of the way we can get on to our visual portion highlighting ten of the best sites we have experienced here in the city, specifically in the Gothic Quarter which is where our apartment is located. When Gregg and I were talking about what we wanted to add on our list, honestly our apartment’s location was agreed it should be #1. To understand why, you have to understand what the Gothic Quarter truly is. This is an area that has been relatively untouched since the medieval period. This means that all of the buildings, including our apartment, are beautifully decorated in original design or at least has been refurbished on top of original designs.
The streets in the Gothic Quarter are like labyrinths, and you never know where you’ll be spit out and what you’ll see in the neighboring square. Many of the Cathedrals and Basilicas in the Gothic Quarter are hidden treasures you make the happy mistake of stumbling upon. It has been just an absolute joy and privilege to stay where we are, and we couldn’t have done it without Air BnB.
That being said, we still have some amazing sites inside and outside of Barcelona to check off our list AND there is no way we could do a top 10 sites and include restaurants because there is just so much delicious food all over the place unique and themed in its own way.
Here are our top 10 sites for the first two weeks in Barcelona ….
- Arc de Triomf: Built in 1888 for the Barcelona World Fair this used to be the iconic gateway into the city. We walked here from our apartment on a super hot day, but the streets were filled with tourists, bubble blowers, street vendors, groups of Barcelona’s hipster youth and more tourists. If you visit it should be dually noted that the main TRAM station is located near the arc and shouldn’t be confused with the TRAIN station on the other side of town. This suburban girl made that mistake and it made for 1,000 extra steps in the right direction. What can I say, I’m directionally challenged. More photos of the Arc
- L’aquarium Barcelona: The aquarium is talked about as one of the best activities you can do with your kids while here in Barcelona, so naturally we had to do it. The kids and I made this our first venture out into the streets of Barcelona without Gregg on our aquarium day and aside from the walk home had a great time. The inside is air conditioned (score) they have sharks (double score) and tons of different displays with local fish that you can probably purchase at a nearby market (☹ ). The downside to the aquarium was that it was super expensive to visit for as small as it is. If you’re wondering why the walk home was the only other negative portion of our journey it was because your directionally challenged friend got lost then my phone died, but not before sending Gregg the text “we are lost.” Sorry honey.
- Basílica Santa Maria del Mar: This Basilica is literally right around the corner from our apartment, so we have visited quite a bit. What makes this Basilica unique is the design and architecture of the actual structure. It is designed in the Catalan Gothic-esque style which usually is eclectic, dark and somewhat gaudy, but not this place. It is pure, uniform, bright with stained glass and sooooo tall. The ceiling is truly something to behold. Truly if you visit Barcelona, come to this place and blow our apartment a kiss goodbye along the way. More photos.
- Basílica de la Mercè: The Basilica de la Merce is one of my favorite spots in town. It is so understated on the outside I didn’t even know I was walking alongside the outer wall until I happened upon the square it resides within. The inside is just immaculate with gold details, high rise ceilings and is truly the definition of gothic. It is dedicated to Mary and that can be seen by the center isle that leads up to a throne of worship. You can climb a set of side stairs to see her up close and personal if you choose. I had a rather incredible experience there and hope all of you who choose to visit Barcelona come to this beautiful place. More images here.
- Montjuïc: Don’t let the name fool you, this isn’t really a castle. It was more of a place to store artillery, cannons, gun powder, that kind of thing. Now it is an incredible spot to see the streets of Barcelona from above, which is a rare treat. Admission is super cheap and you can feel like a Queen for an hour or two. See all 40 images of Castle Montjuic here.
- Cathedral Barcelona (Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia): You can get lost in the gardens of the Cathedral with the geese, architecture and incredible mass they hold on Sunday, although it is a mystery as to how the geese actually got there. The Cathedral is so, so beautiful. Don’t forget to look closely for the coat of arms from the Order of the Golden Fleece. Admission is free but you have to remember to wear clothes that cover your shoulders and knees (yes, I’m talking to you guys… they care about your outfit too). I learned the hard way and had to sit out during the first visit. I really like this place and returned a couple times because there is a lot to explore here and around this building. Check out some of our photos here.
- Parc de la Ciutadella : Best. Park. Ever. Not only is there a zoo, but there are three, maybe even four small parks (playgrounds) with swing sets, long isles for playing soccer (Nolan’s new favorite sport, YAY!), fountains that are incredibly beautiful and a lake you can rent a canoe or paddle boat on. Nolan loves going here and it is nice for us to kill some time. If you get lucky you’ll run into more bubble making men which will also provide endless entertainment for the littles. More photos of the Park de la Ciutadella
- The beaches of Barcelona (and Montgat, although it technically isn’t in Barcelona): Pretty self explanatory, the beaches are amazing. We were told to visit Montgat which was also super fun and smaller, but not quite as busy.
- The Sagrada Familia: If you are familiar with Barcelona you are also probably (hopefully) familiar with the Sagrada Familia. It is still under construction and will be until 2025 (or 2030 according to our cab driver). It is breathtaking inside and unlike any cathedral, church or basilica (I’m still unsure as to what the difference is) I have ever seen. It is a perfect blend of modernism and Catalan gothic. PLEASE NOTE and LEARN FROM OUR MISTAKE—buy your tickets WAY beforehand. We showed up on a Saturday and found that it was not only sold out but we weren’t allowed inside at all. When we got out of the cab to get here, both of us were dumbstruck with how large it is. This is the first building that I think both of us experienced the same type of awe from the outside. Check out photos of the inside and more shots from around the Sagrada Familia here.
- La Basílica dels Sants Màrtirs Just i Pastor de Barcelona: Okay, I’m sure you’re wondering what on earth could trump the famous, monumental Sagrada Familia on our list. You’ll undoubtedly be surprised that it is La Basilica dels Sants Martis Just I Pastor de Barcelona which is as amazing as the name is long. Around the Gothic Quarter you have to pay anywhere from 8-15 Euro to go on a tour and even more to go on the roof. Here you are allowed free entrance (leave a small donation if you can) and you are allowed to climb up these windy stairs that you aren’t sure you will even fit through to the top of the Basilica for some of the best views in Barcelona. No tour guide, no lines, no waiting, just views that will knock you over. Just when you think you’ve seen it all you are allowed to climb the bell tower for TIP OF THE TOP views. You won’t find this anywhere else and it is only 2 Euro per person (kids were free). The inside of the basilica is beautiful as well. We highly, highly recommend this place! Check out the view from the top!
Sites aside, we have really been enjoying our stay here (can you tell?). After just a week and a half we kind of considered ourselves locals as we knew the best spots for shopping, pictures and ice cream. It is a real treat to live in a place like this where you constantly feel surrounded by history, cultural richness and beauty—not to mention the people here are kind, welcoming and diverse… everything we could want in a city!
As always, thanks for reading and please leave a comment and let us know if you want to learn more, hear more or just super love my writing. Cheers!