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Catalonia: Barcelona

Barcelona in 24 Hours

by Matt Thomas

I arrived via train from Tarragona, accompanied by something of a post wedding hangover on a Friday afternoon. With hindsight, I could have done with at least 2 full days to adequately explore Barcelona, however with a flight back to the UK the following evening, 24 hours it was.

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Barcelona is great city to visit. Orientation is quite straightforward – many of the main sights are within walking distance and if not the street signs are plentiful. Similarly the metro system is convenient, not overly crowded and easy to use.

The city’s wide open palm tree decked boulevards also make walking/strolling around a pleasant way of seeing Gaudi’s city.

My first stop was La Sagrada Familia Basilica. Gaudi’s (1852 – 1926) gothic masterpiece is the largest unfinished cathedral in the World. As an architectural achievement it is mind bogglingly complex in its ornateness and attention to detail. A relevant comparison might be Angkor Wat in terms of scale and ambition of design. Like Angkor Wat it is perhaps in terms of world sights, one of the best things you will ever see. To enter, booking in advance is required. I settled for 30-40 minutes of walking around it, somewhat awestruck.

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With the afternoon drawing on and keen to hit as many of the top spots as I could, next up was La Pedrera. Like many, I again settled for a few photos and the contentment that I had at least been there. Gaudi’s rooftop creation of modernista scuplture sits atop an apartment block – you probably need to take the fairly expensive tour to fully appreciate it.

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Last stop of the afternoon was Gaudi’s House – a stone’s throw across and south (towards La Rambla) from La Pedrera.

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I would suggest an evening stroll around the old Gothic Quarter. It’s perfectly safe but a little creepy if you happen to find yourself alone in a dimly lit section. This is Barcelona’s celebrated art district and packed with cool dive bars, restaurants and art galleries. It’s a case of go round the next corner and see what you find. It’s deliciously atmospheric and the clientele is eclectically beautiful.

Onto Day 2 and a quick stop to photograph the Cathedral via a morning stroll through Gothic quarter.

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On the way to the outstanding Picasso (1881-1973) Museum I passed the Museum of Modern European Art and several other galleries that with a little more time would have been great to explore. The Picasso Museum focusses mainly on his early work up to World War I, and then there is a gap to 1947 when he returned to the city and entered his cubist phase. The highlights for me were Still Life, the Blue Glass, The Pigeon Collections, the Ceramics and noting “there is always a Cat”. At 13 Euros entry and no prior booking required, it is probably one of the best value and convenient of the main sights.

My final stop was the Gaudi designed Parc Guell – reached via a short trip north to Lesseps station on the metro. The aqueducts, palm tree lined paths and colourful almost disney style with clear Spanish infusion buildings and sculptures make for a beautifully unique park trip. If you are lucky you’ll see some live Spanish Guitar Music. Advanced booking is required for a time slot.

barcelona photo, travel writing matt thomas, travel and talk, parc guell aqueducts photo

Barcelona is a city like no other. Gaudi’s creative imprint is ubiquitous – I can’t think of another city so linked to an architect in such an idiosyncratically brilliant way.

A few tips

Accommodation is best reserved as far advance as possible for the best deals – peak season is expensive.

Book in advance for the main sights such as La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell. If on a budget of sorts, prioritise in line with your interests would be my advice.

To avoid the huge crowds visit a little out of season if possible – fairly standard advice but particularly applicable with Barcelona I would say.