While in Spain we used a rainy beach day to visit sunny Barcelona. We parked the car at the train station and hopped on the metro, our favorite way to travel through foreign cities. Guidebook in hand, we headed out into the city to check out the sights.
We started at the north end of La Rambla, the pedestrian street full of shops, street performers, artists and souvenirs. A very nice place for a stroll as long as you have your purse strapped around you and your wallet hidden in an inner pocket. As with most large cities that are popular with tourists, the pickpockets are everywhere, or so we’re told. We have never had a problem with them, no matter where we’ve travelled.
We headed into the Barri Gòtic, the Gothic Quarter, to find the Barcelona Cathedral. You know, your typical great big church, as opposed to the anything but typical great big church we would see later in the day.
Eventually we made it down to the harbor, guarded by a huge monument to Christopher Columbus, all full of cruise ship terminals, chain restaurants and an imax theater. We could have easily been at Navy Pier in Chicago. Well, this was our day away from the water anyway, so back inland! We had a lunch of tapas (and burgers) at the Placa Reial, surrounded by palm trees and a former royal palace. Just a side note here… Did you know that Barcelona is full of wild parakeets? Brilliant green and very loud, they love the palm trees that dot the city.
After picking up a few geocaches, we took the Metro out to visit the only site we had tickets for. La Sagrada Familia. This place is all kinds of crazy. Construction began on the cathedral in 1882 and is still going on. Designed by Antoni Gaudi, it’s famous for its off the wall, art nouveau style. Gaudi is all over Barcelona, from apartment buildings to lampposts, but his most famous contribution to Barcelona is this church, technically a “minor basilica”. It is by far the most unique church we’ve seen in Europe, and we’ve seen quite a few. I find it sort of enchanting that, in this century, when new buildings go up practically over night, this church will have taken nearly 150 years to complete once it’s finally done in 2026. Granted, that Spanish Civil War did get in the way for a few years.
It’s pretty difficult to describe. Part monument to religion, part monument to nature, part drip castle. It’s got the basic floor plan of the large churches you’re used to, but the decoration is like nothing you’ve ever seen in a religious building. Columns in the shape of trees, animals carved everywhere, a magic square.
We spent the rest of the day wandering. Through the streets and quirky stores in La Ribera, winding through parks, past the Arc de Triomf where people were spending their evening playing petanque, roller skating, blowing enormous bubbles for children passing by. Then is was time for more tapas and a Messi jersey. Can’t escape without some FC Barcelona gear.
Barcelona? We liked you. Get that big church finished and we’ll be back to take another look.