Barcelona, the capital of the Catalan region of Spain, is a beautiful city. In 2014, I had the pleasure of visiting Barcelona but it was only for 4 days. This visit was for two glorious weeks! This city has so much to offer – beaches along the ocean, nearby mountains, history dating back to the Roman empire, modern art and architecture. Barcelona has it all!
I will start by walking down La Rambla, which is the famous pedestrian mall. It is visited by tourist and locals. Plaza Catalunya is the beginning of the walkway.
This plaza is located in the center of Barcelona and connects the ancient city with the 19th century neighborhood of L’Eixample. In the back area, are large twin fountains, surrounded by flower.
There are plenty of pigeons. David loves feeding any kind of bird. There was a vendor selling bird food and of course, David bought some to feed the multitude of pigeons. We both had a turn and when it was time to leave, David still had some bird food left. He saw this cute little boy running among the pigeons. David offered the bird food to the parents hoping the little boy could feed the birds. He did and did he have fun!
I had to share the photo below because I thought it was cute. It is a little blurry because I was rushing by when I clicked it. It kind of reminded me of the time David and I drove through the state of Wisconsin during deer hunting season. We were traveling along the interstate in farm country. There was an old truck parked off an access road that ran parallel to the interstate. It was obvious to us that it was a hunter’s vehicle and he was off hunting for deer. Well, there were about six deer around his truck….we both had a good chuckle over it.
In this photo, the large bag, the bird is eating from, is bird food. The vendor had just received a delivery of it and was getting ready to divide into one and two euro bags to sell. I thought this bird was quite smart to go directly to the source.
Walking from the fountains to the end of the plaza, will bring you to the beginning of the famous pedestrian walkway, La Rambla. La Rambla divides the ancient neighborhoods of El Raval and Barri Gotic.
There are a variety of vendors….flowers, gelato and souvenirs.
To the east of La Rambla is the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarters) neighborhood. These streets date back to when the Roman’s had control over this land. This is just one of the many, many narrow streets in the old part of Barcelona.
There are some ancient ruins from the Roman times and part of the Roman wall is still visible near the Barcelona Cathedral.
The Barcelona Cathedral
It was beautiful inside but honestly, my favorite part of the cathedral was the cloister. This ambulatory went around the open cloister area that had fountains and a flock of 13 geese!
Not far from the cathedral and off La Rambla, is one of the nicest squares in Barcelona. The center of the square has a fountain and on the perimeter are several cafes. It is a nice place to “escape” from the crowds of La Rambla. It is very busy on a sunny day, though, as people gather at the cafes for tapas (appetizers) and beverages. Tapas are a Spanish tradition. People will meet at the end of the day to have a few appetizers and socialize before heading home for their typically, late dinner that is served between 9:00 and 10:30. There are several squares throughout these ancient neighborhoods where you can find a bench or a cafe to relax. I think Plaça Reial is one of the nicest, though.
Mercat de la Boqueria
It seems like this market has been in existence from the beginning of time. In 1217, a representative of the king, gave a piece of land to a citizen so that he could sell his goat meat (boc in Catalan) which explains why it is called Boqueria today. The first stone for the market was laid in 1840 in the old St Joseph convent. It was the beginning of the market that is existing today. Beneath the cornerstone, an ounce of gold and some gold coins were placed to symbolize the wealth that the market would generate.
It was in 1914 that the open-air market was covered with a metal roof that is still there today. It is the largest market in Spain covering 13,631 square meters (146,723 square ft) and is definitely a major tourist destination. The vegetable and fruits are displayed in colorful and artistic ways. There is something for everyone….even a few eateries where you know the food is just about as fresh as it can be.
We ate at El Quim’s in the market. It was recommended by my “foodie friend” Joan and we are glad that we listened to her suggestions. El Quim’s has been in the market since 1987 and was just a small 3 meter (9.8 ft) counter with 5 stools. In October, 2000 an opportunity to move to a larger area became available and the counter is now 16 meters long (52.5 ft) and has 18 stools. Everything is fresh from the market.
David and I enjoyed glasses of Sangria wine and Cava – a sparkling wine that is popular in Barcelona, along with a plate of mussels that were so fresh and sweet. Just delicious!
We were so lucky to get a seat! There was a waiting line and they only serve from 7:00 AM – 4 PM. I think we were the last ones to be served!
In the neighborhood of La Ribera (The Seashore), (still in the ancient part of Barcelona) is the most amazing museum of Pablo Picasso’s work.
I am not a huge fan of Picasso’s modern work but after visiting this museum, I appreciate what a talented artist he was. His paintings at 13 years old are incredible! Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside the museum. I took a couple of the building the museum is housed in because it was very beautiful as well. The museum is located in five adjoining medieval palaces.
Picasso spent a considerable amount of time in Barcelona and although he had a very nomadic life, Barcelona might be the place that he most considered home. There is a whole wing that is dedicated to the study of Diego Velazquez’s painting, Las Meninas, that Picasso painted. He painted this series of 45 paintings in 1957 and donated all the paintings in 1968 in memory of his dear friend, Jaime Sabartes who had died earlier that year. These paintings were more abstract than I really like but having the recorded guide helped me appreciate and understand Picasso’s interpretation better.
There were a few pictures that Picasso painted of the doves on his balcony in Cannes, France. I really liked these and the simplicity of them….these paintings were created when Picasso took a break from Las Meninas paintings and stayed a few days in Cannes.
I am really glad that I visited the museum. If you plan to go, I encourage you to buy your tickets well in advance to avoid spending time in a long, long line. Also, even though the museum is free on the first Sunday of the month and every Sunday from 3 PM – 7 PM, you still need a ticket. Go on their website and get one….it will save you soooooo much time!
Basilica of Santa Maria Del Mar
A five minute walk from the Picasso Museum is the Church of Saint Mary of the Sea. Gosh, how I love this church. Yes, it is so similar to many other churches, cathedrals throughout Europe but what I love the most about it is the tribute that is made to the people whose blood, sweat and toil built it. Throughout the church, are pieces of art honoring these artisans and their hard work. This plaque is on the front door commemorating the work of the laborers…..
There has been a church on this spot since the beginning of Christianity. It was built to support the small seaside Christian community in 303 AD and was called Santa Maria de Les Arenas (St Mary of the Sea Sands).
As the city grew, the area we know today as La Ribera (the Seashore) but back then was called Vilanova del Mar, was well-known for ship-building, imports-exports business and workshops of artisans and craftsmen. Montcada Street was where wealthy merchants and minor nobility chose to build their homes. (Picasso’s museum is located on Montcada Street and as I said earlier, is housed in several medieval palaces.)
It was decided that this area needed a more impressive church and efforts were made to construct one in 1329. To make it happen, the Church gave its blessings, merchants donated money, King Pere III allowed the use of the quarry for the stones. It was the fishermen, people of the working class who donated their boats to transport the massive stones from the quarry and “bastaixos” (porters) who unloaded the ship of these massive granite stones. The basilica was consecrated on August 15, 1384.
Throughout the years, this remarkable church has suffered damage due to social and political strife experienced in the Catalan region. The worse damage occurred on July 19, 1936, during the Spanish civil war, when fire was set to the church and burned for 11 days straight. The fire destroyed the original baroque alter and historical archives. The walls, upper level and stain glass windows escaped. Over the years, restoration has taken place to pay tribute to the beauty of the Gothic style.
Parc de la Ciutadella
Also found in the Ribera neighborhood is the beautiful Parc de la Ciutadella. David and I spent an afternoon exploring it. It is a nice place to stroll and take an afternoon off from sightseeing. The entrance to the park is the Arc de Triomf (Arch of Triumph) that was built for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair. Entering through the arch you walk along the wide promenade which leads to the park.
Along one side of the park are three impressive buildings that are of the Modernism movement.
Beyond the Greenhouse is the Umbracle (Shade House).
All three of these buildings are wonderful examples of the modernism style which Barcelona is well-known for.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Barcelona is located on the ocean. David and I never made it to the beaches but we walked along the water and took a short boat ride to see the city in a different perspective.
This is a floating sculpture by Robert Llimos. It is inspired by the poem “El Saltamarti” (Tumbler ) by Joan Brossa. Here is the poem….I love Llimos art created from his interpretation of Brossa’s poem.
A doll that has a weight in its base and that,
tipped from its vertical position,
rights itself again.
Our boat ride was a quick 45 minute spin around the harbor. It was a beautiful, sunny day and gave us views of the beaches and a cruise ship that was in port.
If you are reading this blog because you are searching for a place to visit for a trip, I highly recommend Barcelona….there is something for everyone in this beautiful city!!
I wish you blessings…….