We took the high speed train from Madrid to Barcelona, which took about three hours. We had enough time, after arriving, to do the hop-on bus for a loop around the city. Barcelona is much smaller than Madrid in both area and population, but the bus made it appear larger. We had stayed within a very small area of Madrid, and Barcelona’s sights are much more spread out.
I found the general vibe of Barcelona to be similar to Madrid … lots of people walking around, tapas sharing at the restaurants, and a similar climate. But slowly, Barcelona exerted its personality.
We started our first two days by going up into the hills behind the city. We traveled by metro, funicular, and gondola, to the hill overlooking the harbor. They call it a “castle,” but it appeared more like an older building converted into a fort, complete with cannons to control the sea below of threats.
Here are pictures looking down at the docks and the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, which we visited the next day.
That day started with another uphill trek which became quite arduous, when an escalator which was supposed to transport us up the steepest part was under repair!! We sucked it up and walked to Park Guell, our introduction to the work of Antoni Gaudi.
The park was built from 1900 to 1914, and officially opened as a public park in 1926. It contains a series of homes that were built with the latest technological advancements, of the day, and a flair for the “ artist’s touch.” Gaudi’s work is one of the main attractions that makes Barcelona a very popular tourist destination. We walked up to the high park entrance, and then slowly descended through the houses.
After walking past all these beautiful houses, it was a straight shot down the mountain to the Basilica. The Basilica de la Sagrada Família is Barcelona’s most famous tourist destination. It is actually a little smaller than the Cathedral we visited in Toledo. So I asked my daughter what the draw was about, and she said it was about its being constructed in modern times. And sure enough, the highest spire was slated for completion in 2026, a date which will not be met.
We took the guided tour, which began with a viewing of one side of the building’s outer facade. This is the part of the Basilica that was built first because its completion reportedly brought in a lot of heavy donations. The project has been built exclusively with private funding. The Basilica was started in 1882, but the original architect resigned a year later … Gaudi took over and worked on the project until his death in 1923. The Basilica was about 24% completed. Work was later disrupted by the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, and more recently, by COVID.
I thought the outside was more interesting than the inside. For example, the stone on the far left is different than the stone over the entrance, giving the building a perception of a change of color. There is an image of a chameleon etched into the design. There are so many carvings on the outside that there doesn’t seem to be any empty space.
The inside is exceptionally high and the sides are mainly glass with different colors that represented various components of Christ’s life and transitions. Most chapels seem to have lots of worship spots with their own alters and candle lighting. Those were absent here, with the one major alter shown above.
The tour ended by being walking through to the other side to see the newer facade. Once again, lots of detail and symbolism.
The remainder of our time in Barcelona was spent walking to various plazas for tapas. We did take a buggy ride that stated at the exposistion for a World’s Fair in 1927. The photo at the top of this entry was taken of the Barcelona entry built into the walls of the main building. There was a mosaic for, for lack of a better word, every county in Spain.
We also walked down to the water and checked out Barcelona’s tribute to Christopher Columbus:
And took a sail along the City coastline:
We also toured a second cathedral in town…The Cathedral of Barcelona. This one is more what you expect of a Cathedral … older, a crypt, and multiple alters for worship.
It also had 13 geese in a garden, representing the age of Saint Eulàlia when crucified. This cathedral was built on top of the ruins of a Roman temple and Moorish buildings.
But the real find of this Cathedral was the elevator that lifted us to the roof … No steps to climb or extra fees to pay … Just the ability to go up and see Barcelona from above once again.
I enjoyed touring this Cathedral as much as the Basilica.
A couple little sidelines to finish. As we were walking toward a Gaudi house, we came upon this Stradivarius store. Unfortunately, it was closed because it would have been fantastic to see its offerings. I mentioned this to my daughter and she told us it is actually a women’s lingerie store … What a downer … While I knew there was not going to be a store of priceless violins, it still rang hollow, and I’m glad it was closed.
And finally, my daughter decided to try the green olives that accompany almost every tapas … She was not a fan!!