Barcelona. Even the name is glamorous. I have wanted to visit the Catalan city for a long time. I have imagined myself wafting through mediterranean markets and designer boutiques, sipping Sangria in Old Town elegance and admiring the young and beautiful sauntering along the city-side beach.
On paper it’s a city that has everything a visitor desires and last weekend I finally got to see it for myself – in what can only be described as the best surprise birthday treat of ALL time!
I’ve reached the age where a birthday is a bitter pill to swallow. However, I am a firm believer that a glass of local tipple helps to dissolve that pill like nothing else. Fortunately my boyfriend knows me rather well and pulled off a secret mission that resulted in three nights in Barcelona.
We stayed in Hotel Picasso. The location was excellent, just a short walk from the Arc de Triomf underground station. There is a rooftop terrace and pool, an amazing breakfast, helpful staff and a romantic bar where I indulged in some tipsy star gazing whilst quaffing the bottle of birthday bubbles that the hotel had very generously treated me to. Highly recommended for quality, service and location.
Barcelona is absolutely glistening with beauty; whether you hit the tourist trail or just wander around soaking it up Mediterranean-mañana-style, you can’t fail to absorb it.
For obvious, open-mouthed awe make sure you visit Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. You don’t even have to venture inside to be impressed as the view alone is outstanding, so it’s worth a visit even if art doesn’t interest you.
DO NOT (as I’m ashamed to say we did) miss the magic fountain light and water show – Magic Fountain of Montjuïc… (This enormous tourism faux pas was in no way connected to drinking our body weight in sangria and over-staying in Egyptian Hookah lounges on La Rambla).
The fountain glows in a stunningly colourful display but at this time of year (Oct-Mar) only on Friday and Saturday evenings and from 7pm-9pm. It’s ‘reportedly’ unmissable…
Other places not to miss include Park Güell, beautiful gardens with views over the city; entry to the main park is free and well worth a look. We also made time to stare up at Torre Agbar wondering whether it was remarkably ugly or strikingly impressive and failing to reach a conclusion.
Of course, the most famous landmark is the Sagrada Familia, this feat of architecture has been in the making since 1882 – lengthy even by mediterranean standards. It’s the instantly recognisable emblem of the city with towers corkscrewing upwards, a patchwork of stone and incredible ornate detail on every outward surface. However, I must confess to being a shade disappointed with how vastly different the real thing is from the images we see on postcards and in guide books.
I absolutely adored the vibrancy of this street. From performers and flower markets to theatres, bars and alfresco dining with paella dishes the size of coffee tables, it’s buzzing from dawn ’til dusk and beyond.
On the final evening we took a skyride over the city just as the sun was setting. Take the Montjuïc gondola cable car 750 metres up to the top of the mountain at Montjuïc Castle for incredible views over the city and down to the port. In winter it operates 10am to 6pm and the return ticket was €10.80 per adult.
We were warned severely and repeatedly by hotel material, books and tour guides that pick-pocketing is a huge problem and to be on our guard at all times. Do not stop to engage with strangers that try to get your attention, don’t use the underground late at night and don’t carry more valuables than you absolutely have to – that said, we had no problems and it’s advice I would follow as standard in any city in any country in the world.
*The golden beach looked inviting and that’s hard to do on a rainy November day. Best enjoyed in summer, naturally.
*Entry to the Olympic Stadium, Estadi Olímpic, is free and you will find it in the Avinguda De L’Estadi behind the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.
*Take a trip to the waterfront at the port for fresh fish and dining with a view and see the ‘Barcelona Colon’ en route – it’s a 197ft monument, if you’re wondering!
*Wander around the old town – we had a lovely meal at one of the restaurants right in front of the Santa Maria Del Mar, a beautiful Catalan Gothic style church.
If you’ve visited Barcelona and there’s anything else I should have seen, please let me know. After the whole Magic Fountain of Montjuïc debacle, I have vowed to return to the city with culture and sobriety higher on the agenda.