February is a great time of year to escape the grey days in England and look for a little winter sun! We decided on Barcelona. We took a short 2 hour flight with Ryan Air from East Midlands Airport. Stepping out into a very comfortable 18 °C, was just what we needed.
Booking through Air B&B we found a very comfortable flat, booked for four nights in the Gothic Quarter, as it seemed a good central location within walking distance to most of the top sights. (If you’ve never used Air B&B before you should check it out click here).
Check out what we saw and recommend if you take a trip to Barcelona.
Our first stop and the nearest to our flat. This famous street, is one that attracts a lot of tourists (and pickpockets, so beware and only carry what you need to, everybody says it – but it is a real warning! with common sense you will be fine). We started at the top – a long street with street performers, shops and restaurants. Although busy, it must be a lot more crazier in the summer months.
Walking down the centre of this long pedestrianised street, the restaurants are all geared towards tourists and tend to be a bit more expensive than if you head off into the side streets and go off the beaten track.
About a quarter of the way down on the right is a narrow entrance to the market. Wow, if you love food you are going to love this – its like Harrods food hall on steroids!. Meats, seafood, chocolates, fruit – its all there. Again more expensive that other markets as its in a tourist location – as we found out when Marianne posed for a picture and maybe got a bit personal with the strawberries (picture of the strawberry on instagram) and then ended up buying half the stall. I’m sure she did it on purpose so we had to buy fruit !
I was in food heaven !
At the bottom of La Rambla it opens out and across the road is the sea front. A bridge takes you over to a large shopping centre full of known branded shops, restaurants and a cinema. This leads onto the main port where you can spot exclusive super yaghts and it a great spot to sit and watch the sun set over Barcelona.
Located in the Barri Gotic (gothic area) is La Catedral. If you go in the morning, as we did, it was free to enter. It was a very beautiful cathedral with a nice courtyard housing a pond, orange trees and geese. Out side the entrance is a large pedestrian area with stalls and entertainers.
Arc de Triomf
The Arc de Triomf was built in 1888 as an entrance gateway to the Barcelona world fair. It’s an impressive structure and located on a long straight pedestraniased walkway with the Parc de la Ciutadella at the bottom.
Parc de la Ciutadella
A short walk from the Arc de Triomf, is this beautiful park. The history of the park is not quite so beautiful – After winning a war, in the early 18th century, King Felipe V demolished this part of the city to create a military citadel so he could control Barcelona. Then a hundred or so years later, this was destroyed to create a large park where the people of Barcelona could escape the mayhem of city life.
In the North West corner of the park is the Font de la Cascada – with a beautiful fountain. Worth the steps if you want a nice aerial view over the park.
Basilica of the Sagrada Familia
This is a must visit attraction if you go to Barcelona. Towering above the city sky line is this magnificent building, which started being built way back in 1882. Yes that’s right 1882 ! This is Antonio Gaudi’s most stunning work and with still many years of construction to do, numerous cranes tower over an already very tall building.
Marianne’s dad, David and friend Pam were also in Barcelona and we arranged to meet them at the entrance to the Basilica. We waited at the entrance next to the lake, which was clearly the entrance as visitors were queuing to enter. It was fascinating watching the street vendors selling their selfie poles, fridge magnets, etc. who would get a warning from their look outs, then pack up in a panic and flee when the police were nearby only to set up again as soon as the police had left.
After nearly an hour we decided to go in on our own and then realised that the tickets were sold on the other side of the building, and you then had to walk back round to enter. It didn’t make any sense but as we joined the line for the tickets we spotted them, when we asked the ticket office if ‘this’ was the front ? they explained that the the front had not actually been built yet !!
There are a number of ticket options available. If you only have a short time a basic ticket will be fine at 15,00 €. There is also an option that includes an audio tour, which is the option we choose it was very informative and gave lots of facts that you wouldn’t normally know.
We also made sure our ticket covered the lift to the top. Not to be done if your scared of heights as it is very high but gives you a great view over Barcelona. The spiral staircase down seems to go on forever and you will definitely be a little dizzy by the time you reach the bottom.
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
Abbreviated as MNAC this is the national museum of Catalan Visual Art. If you like art the this is a must. However even if you are not into art, the area around the museum is well worth a visit.
The museum sits on top of a hill over looking the magic fountain. There are escalators up to the top for those that are unable to take the stairs. Its a wonderful place to sit and listen to the entertainers with an amazing view of the city below.
Behind the museum is the park – Sant-Mont Juic. A large area of parkland – we strolled through on the way back to town. En route we came across an old amphitheatre. I couldn’t resist running down to the front to bellow out a couple of lines of Shakespeare to Marianne. Although a word of warning there is moss on the stones and some are very slippery as I nearly ended my rendition by falling off the stage!!
We had a great time in Barcelona and it is highly recommended. If like us, you are foodies check out our post on our eating experiences in Barcelona.