“Barcelona” – you can hear the beautiful operatic voice of Montserrat Caballé complemented by Freddie Mercury’s dulcet tone as they sing the chorus to this song that was chosen as the theme for the 1992 Summer Olympics held here. Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain, is indeed a jewel in the sun that shimmers and glitters, showing off the architectural legacy left by Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926).
No visit to Barcelona can be complete without visiting Gaudi’s greatest work, La Sagrada Familia Basilica, still under construction since 1882! Gaudi’s distinctive style, with its curved construction stones, twisted iron sculptures, organic-like forms and colourful designs, is instantly recognisable and provides a feast for the eyes. Be aware that you should book tickets for many of the attractions beforehand, especially for La Sagrada Familia where the queues can be extremely long. Also be alert to the fact that prices are not cheap and that to visit the Basilica and the Towers costs 19.30 Euros (August 2013). Other Gaudi attractions include Park Güell, featuring buildings, sculptures, and tile work designed by Gaudí as well as his old home, now open to the public as a small museum. Casa Batlló and La Pedrera (formerly known as Casa Milà) are the other two must-see Gaudi sights.
Ramble down Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s famous wide boulevard that connects the Plaça de Catalunya with the Columbus Monument and the city’s waterfront. This popular street, usually swarming with tourists, has a pedestrian area running down the middle bordered by stalls selling souvenirs, flowers and arts and crafts. A quick reminder to make sure your personal belongings are safe as the area is known to be rife with pickpockets. Another ‘must see’ sight is the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, a glorious mix of water acrobatics and music in a similar vein to that of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, but better!
Remember that they speak Catalan in Barcelona, which interestingly has more in common with French than with Spanish, although we did manage to get by in restaurants and bars when using our Spanish because many of the workers are from regions or countries where Catalan is not spoken. During our long weekend in Barcelona we came across a Pakistani waiter and a Lebanese bar owner who both spoke perfect English. Strangely, the taxi drivers in Barcelona do not seem to be as au fait with their city as, for instance, the taxi cab drivers in London who have taken ‘the Knowledge’, and we seemed to spend a good deal of our time telling the cab drivers where to go! However, our long weekend break was excellent and because there are so many things to see and do, we will have to return again in the not too distant future.
As Freddie wrote:
“Barcelona – Such a beautiful horizon
Barcelona – Like a jewel in the sun”