Even though Barcelona has over 2,000 years of history, it is mostly recognized for its daring and unusual architecture created by one man in the early 20th century. I’m talking about Antoni Gaudí, the architect behind the famous Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, Casa Battló, and many other unique sights not found anywhere else in the world.
While Gaudi’s architecture is impressive, to say the least, there’s a lot more to see in Barcelona that is just as stunning, if not more. Here I’ll share five sights that should be on everyone’s itinerary when visiting Barcelona (in addition to some Gaudi, of course!):
This is one of the greatest surrealist museums in the world and home to a collection of over 225 paintings, 150 sculptures and graphic pieces by Spanish surrealist artist, Joan Miró. In addition to Miró’s art, the museum also houses a number of works by his contemporaries. The building, designed by architect Josep Lluís Sert, is also considered a piece of art in its own right that takes into consideration the display of Miró’s best pieces. One of the most curious work in the museum is a mercury fountain, so be on the lookout.
Even though it is quite overcrowded most of the time, not listing Las Ramblas in a “must-see” post is a sin. Las Ramblas is Barcelona’s most famous street. Within minutes of walking the pedestrian boulevard, you’ll see dozens of street performers and a variety of interesting architecture – all in a vibrant atmosphere. Perfect for people watching, shopping, or having some down time for coffee or tapas at any of the dozen cafes and restaurants lining it.
It runs for two kilometers, starting from Placa Catalunya and ends at the Columbus statue by the waterfront. Las Ramblas is the major center of activities in the city and is undoubtedly the most famous promenade of Barcelona, and probably in all of Spain.
Right by Las Ramblas is the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter), which is Barcelona’s “old town” and its most famous district. The Gothic Quarter encompasses the oldest parts of the city and includes the remains of the city's Roman wall as well as several medieval landmarks. However, most of what we see today dates to the 19th and early 20th century.
Just walking its narrow, labyrinth-like alleys is an experience in itself. Hunt for some of Gaudí’s works, eat at the famous Boqueria (located right at Las Ramblas) or search for a local mom-and-pop restaurant to have a typical Catalonian dish.
Don’t miss the façade of the Barcelona Cathedral – built between 1882 and 1913 by Josep Oriol Mestres and August Font i Carreras with strong Gothic-style elements. Also not to be missed are the remains of a Roman Temple, the Cathedral of Santa Eulàlia, Plaça Reial, and the Roman and Medieval walls, among other landmarks.
You can easily spend an afternoon in the Picasso Museum, located in the Barri Gotic of Barcelona, just next to Las Ramblas. Here you’ll see some of the most famous masterpieces of Pablo Picasso as well as his formative years as an artist, from his early years, going through his “blue stage,” and the later years of his career.
Picasso, who is considered one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century, is known for co-founding the Cubist movement.
You can also follow the footsteps of Picasso’s youth in the Barri Gotic; strolling along the Calle Reina Cristina and then crossing over to 3 Carrer de la Mercè to see where his family lived (though the building no longer exists).
This is one of the most photogenic squares in Barcelona and a delightful retreat from the traffic and pedestrian mobs on the nearby Las Ramblas. Take some time to drink a coffee and relax. Enjoy the scenery, and people watch. Don’t forget to take a look at the lampposts by the central fountain, which are Antoni Gaudí’s first known works in the city.
If you’re interested in seeing a Flamenco Show, I recommend going to Los Tarantos, which is located right on the square, to see one of the oldest flamenco shows in the city. It is well worth it!
These sights, mixed with some Gaudí landmarks and some modern architecture sights create a right balance to see the best of what Barcelona has to offer.
What do you think? What other landmark or site should be included?
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Norbert Figueroa is an architect who hit the pause button on his career in 2011 to do a round the world trip. He's been blogging for over three years at globotreks.com, where he shares his travel experiences, budget travel tips, and a good dose of world architecture. From hiking Mount Kilimanjaro to diving with great white sharks, he is always on the search of adrenaline and adventure. Norbert is originally from Puerto Rico and he is currently based in Milan, Italy... when not roaming around the world, that is. He has traveled to more than 80 countries in 5 continents and his goal is to travel to all 193 U.N. recognized countries. Follow Norbert on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus.
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