Now that I have lived in Barcelona for two years, here are my all-time top five things to do and see in this city:
- Park Guell
Visit this huge park at the north end of Gracia for a winning combination of nature and Gaudi’s modernismo. This park is definitely a favourite among locals as it provides a cool, green oasis in the middle of our concrete city. Park Guell was designed by Barcelona architect Antoni Gaudí and built between 1900 and 1914. The park started out as a development project; Count Eusebi Güell planned to turn the area into a residential garden village based on the English model. Sixty houses as well as several public buildings were planned. Luckily for us, Guell’s exclusive community failed and only three houses were built; the park is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Works of Antoni Gaudí”. Sit on one of Gaudi’s curved benches overlooking the city. Admire the mosaic work. Breathe in the fresh air!
Getting There: Metro stop “Lesseps” (Green Line, L3). After you leave the metro, follow the signs to the park. The park opens at 10:00 a.m. Closing time varies at different times of year but it is normally around 19:00. The entrance fee is free!
Luz de Gas
For romance, this is the place to go on a summer evening. The owners have turned a boat into a restaurant/bar and, after the sun goes down and the candles have been lit, this is my favourite spot for romance in the city. From your table, you will have an amazing view of the harbour. The tapas are great too!
Getting There: Luz de Gas in Port Vell – Davant del Palau de Mar, Moll del diposit s/n, Barcelona. Telephone: 93 209 77 11
Palau de la Musica Catalana
For lovers of art and music, nothing beats the extraordinary Palau de la Música Catalana (Palace of Catalan Music) built between 1905 and 1908. This concert hall was designed for the choral society Orfeó Català by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner. (I love that in Barcelona great architects are revered like rock stars!) The Palau was built in the Catalan modernista style in which curves conquer straight lines and dynamic shapes are preferred over static forms. The Palau is dressed with ornate decorations, many of which feature floral and other natural motifs. Recently I learned that the Palau is the only European concert hall that is illuminated during daylight hours entirely by natural light. You could spend a month inside the Palau and still not get an opportunity to see everything that is beautiful about it.
Over the last two years we have seen the following acts at the Palau: Madeleine Peyroux, Jessye Norman, Misia, and Dianne Reeves. Tomorrow night, we will add Sinead O’Connor to that list. Even if you don’t get lucky enough to see a concert at the Palau, you can take a tour for 10 Euros.
Getting There: Carrer Sant Francesco de Paula, 2. Metro: Urquinaona.
Our local market, the historic Mercat de Llibertat in Plaza Gal.la Placidia in Gracia, is currently under construction but, because buying fresh produce, meat and cheese at the market is still at the centre of daily life in Barcelona, a temporary market has been built just one block away. We also like the Mercat De L’Abaceria in Gracia. Four of the Gracia markets have hosted a series of weekend folk concerts over the last two months. La Boqueria Market is the most famous of all the Barcelona markets but almost all los Barceloneses shop at the market closest to their home.
Getting There: Mercat de Llibertat in Plaza Gal.la Placídia, 22, in Gràcia
Rambla de Catalunya
Most visitors to Barcelona have heard of “Las Ramblas”, that crowded touristic shuffle that runs between Plaza Catalunya and the sea. I recommend another “rambla” – a wide boulevard called Rambla de Catalunya that runs from Carrer Diagonal in Gracia to Plaza de Catalunya. It is not nearly as crowded, drinks and tapas are more affordable than on las Ramblas, and you’ll be in for some fascinating people-watching. It’s also a great place for an old fashioned promenade with your partner or family.
What is your favourite Barcelona thing to do?