Here are all the essential places to visit – modernist buildings and much more, the best gastronomy – from restaurants with Michelin stars to the bars and wine cellars of all life, curious places, ideal plans to do with the family, parties to discover Barcelona by night and shops to buy local treasures.
The Sagrada Familia
This famous building will be finished in 2026. This is the centenary of the death of its creator – Antoni Gaudi. A working church and a work of art. The spires are magnificent but the interior is awe-inspiring. A place of worship that gives you the feeling of a stone forest.
The columns represent trees and the light pours in through exquisite stained-glass windows. A modern church with a historic feeling. It is hard to believe that it was only consecrated in this century, in 2010. It is a modern building and you can access the towers by elevator.
There are two towers called the Nativity and the Passion. Access to the towers requires an additional ticket which can be booked online together with entrance to the church. The best view of those distinctive spires is obtained from the Nativity Tower. This tower allows an elevated view of parts of Barcelona.
An audio guide will explain many of the fascinating details of this church. The tickets specify both the date and the time. In high season (summer) it is vital to book several days in advance.
Metro Stop: Sagrada Familia
Marvel at La Pedrera
A wealthy industrialist commissioned this fascinating apartment building. Now it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The mountains of Montserrat inspired Gaudi’s design of the façade. Gaudi is responsible for every element of this building: from the oval courtyards to the amazing rooftop space.
The attic space with its vaulted ceilings hosts an exhibition of Gaudi’s works and inspiration. Objects are displayed along with a multimedia show explaining his career.
An apartment has been furnished as a complete modernista apartment of the early 20th Century. Walk around it and get a feel for how the use of natural light enhances this living space. Take the elevator from the courtyards to the roof to see fantastic views of the city.
Return after night has fallen for a tour of the spookily lit rooftop. Enjoy a glass of cava while you look out at the city lights.
Tickets can be booked online. The entry time is specified.
Metro stop: Diagonal
Swimming on dry land at Casa Batllo
This building was given a Gaudi makeover in the second half of the 19th Century. Taking marine life as inspiration, a dull building has been transformed. Try and find a single straight line inside or out. They are replaced by rippling sinuous curves.
The balconies remind you of gaping fish jaws. Pick up one of the high-tech audio guides. Point it at a room and the screen will display the marine creatures on which the elements of the room are based. Everything from the shell patterns on the ceilings to the wavy walls and door frames suggests being in a marine environment. Even the natural light that floods into the whole building is designed to give you the feeling of swimming underwater.
The roof terrace has been remodeled with the chimneys arranged like the scales on a dragon’s back. Not any dragon, but the one slain by St George. Covered with sparkling glass and fragments of tiles they reflect and color the light.
An amazing and unique building with an excellent gift shop.
Metro stop: Passeig de Gràcia
Visit the market
Not just any market. But the famous market – St Josep La Boquería. It sells the abundant local produce. Tourists flock here to experience the bustling market atmosphere. This is a working market and the stallholders do a brisk trade in selling their wares to locals and famous chefs alike. The best prices are obtained from the stalls furthest from the entrance, where the serious shoppers go.
All the produce of the land and sea can be found in this colonnaded courtyard. Once part of the long-gone monastery of St Josep but now dedicated to trade. The main market area is dominated by stalls selling sun-ripened fruit and vegetables. The meat stalls with cured hams and regional spicy sausages.
The seafood stalls with fresh from the sea clams and shrimp. Stalls selling tapas are located around the main market area. Thirsty visitors can refresh themselves with any fruit juice combination they want.
Saturday is the busiest day. On Sunday the market is closed. The market is located halfway down Las Ramblas.
Metro stop: Liceu
Stroll along Las Ramblas
A 1.2km walk from Plaça Catalunya to the waterfront along a pedestrian boulevard. To one side the Barri Gòtic and on the other El Raval. This half-hour walk draws the crowds and street traders such as caricature painters and palm readers. The historic buildings lining the route have been converted into restaurants and souvenir stalls.
Placa Catalunya features art deco buildings and a fountain. Strolling further down you will first pass the Canaletes fountain resplendent in black and gold. Pause and sip the water and legend has it you will return to Barcelona. Admire the Betlem Church, at Christmas, this area will host scenes from the nativity. Through the flower sellers and halfway along you will find the famous market – La Bouquería. The Liceu Metro contains the floor mosaic designed by Joan Miró. It is called ‘the opera house’. Then the Plaça Reial with its palm trees and cafés. Finally reaching the waterfront and the impressive Columbus monument. Erected in 1988 as a feature of that year’s Universal Exposition Fair.
This boulevard is a magnet for tourists and the restaurants along the way have sprung up to cater to them. A few blocks across and the food is better and a more budget-friendly.
Metro stops: Catalunya or Drassanes metro.
Glimpse the Past in Barri Gótic
One of the oldest parts of Barcelona lying east of Las Ramblas. The buildings have been here since the 14th and 15th centuries. A walk through the maze-like streets is to be transported to the medieval era. Small narrow streets with lots to discover. Tapas bars next to museums, along with cafés and shops.
Search out the Els Quatre Gats café, patronized by Picasso. Find the 14th Century Christian Cathedral, the huge Catedral de Barcelona. Gaudi attended the church at Plaça Sant Felipe Neri. Look carefully and find the scars left by civil war shrapnel. An older faith was witnessed in the Plaça de Sant Jaume in the Roman Temple of Augustus. And once, there was a thriving Jewish population in this gothic heart of Barcelona. Visit the small synagogue that now houses a museum. Small traces of the past down every winding little street.
Metro stop: Liceu
Ponder Modern Art at MACBA
The Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona can be found in El Raval. The area to the west of Las Ramblas. The building is a modern-looking structure. Glass fronted and an eye-catching white. Skateboarders perform their stunts in the square outside. Inside, natural light is used to great advantage. Only parts of the permanent collection are displayed at any one time. There is always something fresh to discover. The focus of the museum is the art movements since 1945. Particularly Catalunya but also general Spanish artists. Over the course of the year, two or three visiting exhibitions will be showcased.
The art exhibited covers a wide range of genres – sculpture, installations and video productions. As well as paintings. The artists on display are drawn from the Catalan greats such as Joan Miró and Antonio Tàpies to other notable names.
Metro stops: Universitat or Liceu
Discover the Roman Ruins at MUHBA
Before Barcelona there was Barcino. Emperor Augustus founded this Roman town. Visit the Museu d’Història de Barcelona to uncover Barcelona’s ancient roots. An introductory video outlining the city’s history sets the stage. Then you have the opportunity to walk around the original Roman architecture. These excavations are spread across the buildings at the Plaça del Rei. An elevator takes you down to the ancient layers. These are dated between 12 BC and 600 AD. Barcino was a thriving town, producing fish sauce (garum) and dying clothing.
On other levels of the museum, you can see exhibits explaining how Barcelona became a prosperous medieval town, building on its Roman roots. Other highlights of the museum include the 14th Century gem that is the Santa Agata Chapel. Sometimes a temporary exhibition will be on display there. An impressive model of 16th Century Barcelona lets you compare the past and present stages of the city. Finally, stand in the gothic Saló de Tinell. This hall was where Colombus told Ferdinand and Isabella about the New World. This hall also provided headquarters at a later date for the infamous Spanish Inquisition.
Metro stop: Jaume I
A Brush with Picasso at Museu Picasso
Picasso was involved in not one but three different art movements – Cubism, Surrealism and Expressionism. A famous son of Spain with international fame. He is acknowledged as one of the 20th Century’s greatest artists.
This museum is built from five medieval palaces. It documents the entire history of the life and works of Pablo Picasso. The famous paintings are hung in galleries around the world. This museum produces a behind the scenes glance at how Picasso developed.
The galleries display the drawings he made as a young boy. Moving on you can see the first paintings he produced. At this stage, he was attending art school in Barcelona. The paintings focus on familiar landscapes and people. It is a tradition among painters to learn by copying the masters. Pablo followed this tradition at the Prado museum in Madrid.
His rendition of a Velázquez portrait hangs in this gallery. He embraced the avant-garde movement during his late teens and early twenties. At 23 he left Barcelona for Paris. The paintings now display a move to impressionism. The subjects being can-can dancers, still life and landscape. He matured into his blue period and flowered as a cubist. Examples of this work can all be found here.
Finally, there are exhibits covering his last days when he lived in Cannes. There is a gallery devoted to his ceramic pieces.
Avoid the crowds by visiting on a weekday.
Metro stop: Jaume I
Museo De Cultures Del Mon
Facing the Picasso museum is the Museum of World Cultures. Two medieval palaces have been remodeled to house objects from the four quarters of the globe. The majority of the displayed items relate to matters of life and death in a spiritual sense.
In the African quarter, you will find fertility statues, ancestor worship and death rites. A hall of elaborately decorated African masks adorned with cowrie shells and feathers. Guardian statues from Sudan along with art from the court of Benin. These artworks date back to the 15th and 16th Centuries.
Onwards to Oceania. The guardian figures are now Sumatran. The objects have changed to totem poles and spirit house decorations. Papua New Guinea has contributed impressive crocodile carvings. Look out for an enigmatic stone figure from Easter Island.
In the Asian galleries, there is a range of exhibits. Japanese Noh masks alongside displays of carved furniture originating from the Hindu Kush. Look out for the beautiful Korean ceramics and examples of Buddhist art from all over the region.
In the Americas section, many of the artifacts date from the time before Columbus. These include textiles from the Andes, Incan gold and ancient Nazca pottery.
Metro stop: Jaume I
Palau de la Música Orfeo Catala
Barcelona abounds with modernist masterpieces, mainly built by Gaudi. This building is one of the others. Lluís Domènech i Montaner is the modernist architect who built this magnificent concert hall. The hall will seat 2,138 people. It was erected in 1908. The outside is covered in tiles and mosaics that catch the light. The façade is suitably impressive for such a grand building.
The interior is a tribute to Catalan music with delightful sculptures of classical muses surrounding the main stage. In keeping with the modernist approach, the beautiful skylight is designed to create a ‘box of light’. At the time it was considered impossible to achieve but there it stands. Nature and music are both portrayed in the exquisite stained-glass windows.
The concert season runs from September to June. This space is primarily designed to host live music and this is the best way to enjoy it. Alternatively, take an organized tour. The tour lasts about an hour. If you specifically want the tour in the English language then book a couple of days in advance.
Metro stop: Urquinaona
The place for chocolate lovers: Museu de Xocolata
There is always time for a chocolate break. The entrance fee to this delightful museum comes with a free sample. A museum the whole family will enjoy. There are exhibits charting the history of this delicious product. From its origins as a crop for the Aztecs to its debut in Europe.
This place is a tribute to the art, as well as the taste of chocolate. Every year top designers contribute elaborate sculptures constructed out of chocolate. Football players, iconic buildings and other legends.
Next door in the kitchen of Escola de Patisseria, students demonstrate their sculpture skills. Visitors are welcome to watch.
Naturally, the museum café serves chocolate in both solid and liquid form. A delicious place to visit whatever the weather.
Metro stops: Arc de Triomf or Jaume I
Casa de les Punxes
This spectacular building with its amazing turrets was opened to the public in 2016. The patron saint of Catalonia is Sant Jordi (Saint George). There are exhibits telling his story and that of the dragon. Interactive displays encourage children to search for dragon traces in the design of the house. Most kids (and some adults) find the dragon far more interesting than the hero.
Be sure to take the lift and explore the roof terraces. Inside the turrets, you can find out more about both the architect and the family who lived here
Josep Puig i Cadafalch designed the house for the Terradas family. It was built in 1903 in the Eixample neighborhood. Its exterior has the appearance of a fairy-tale castle. Wrought iron balconies and tiled conical towers topped by wicked-looking spikes. The name Casa de les Punxes means the House of Spikes. The gothic appearance is enhanced by several sculptures. These are by Alfons Juyol.
Metro stop: Verdaguer
Visit Park Güell the home of Gaudi
Book ahead for the Zona Monumental. The visitor is restricted to a half-hour time slot.
Antoni Gaudi designed a housing estate. Only a few of the houses were built. Now, this plot is a quirky park in the north part of Barcelona. It opened in 1922 for the public to enjoy.
Just after the main entrance, you pass two houses. On first glance, they will remind you of the gingerbread cottages. One of these houses a small museum. Look out for a fountain that is a ceramic dragon. Then climb an enormous staircase to enter the Hall of Columns. Gaudi had envisaged that this would be a market place. Gaudi’s unconventional approach has the Doric columns leaning at angles. Nature was his inspiration and this area is like coming into a stone wood. Continue going uphill through the pathway of columns. Stone arches based on natural forms. Reach a terrace at the top and enjoy a rest on the sinuous ceramic bench. The bench is lavishly decorated in broken tiles and glass. From here you can see wonderful views across the city.
Do visit the pink house in the center of the park. Gaudi lived here. It now houses a museum dedicated to his life and work.
Metro stop: Vallarca
The highest funfair is also the oldest in Barcelona. It is positioned on the highest mountain of Barcelona. A beautiful collection of traditional fairground rides with a fantastic view. On a clear day, you can see the Mediterranean Sea. The rides cater to a wide range of ages.
Plan your trip as you will experience three types of transport. First, the metro, getting off at Tribidabo. Then catch the tram -Tramvía Blau. This is the last tram in Barcelona. The final stage of the journey is on the funicular. Then at the top of the mountain, you can enjoy all the rides. Refreshments are available at various snack bars.
It’s a popular attraction, weekdays are less crowded.
Metro stop: Tribidabo
Camp Nou stadium
The game is football (soccer). This place is home to the legendary Barcelona FC. If you are a football fan then you have probably already organized your tickets. Even if you are not a football fan it is worth signing up for one of the tours of the stadium.
The museum on site has interactive exhibits covering the highlights of the football team over the years. The tour will take you through the whole experience. Walk through the press room, the warm-up areas and out onto the field. Marvel at the sheer number of splendid trophies on display in the Trophy Room. The gift store is sure to provide a present for the dedicated football fan.
Metro stops: Collblanc or Maria Christina
A Jewish community once lived on the slopes of this hill. They are remembered in the name – “Mountain of the Jews”. This attraction can be explored from the top down or from the bottom up. The hill is very steep.
The hill is topped by a fortress that overlooks Barcelona’s port. This is the Castel de Montjuïc. Built in the 18th Century as both a military fortress and a prison.
The slopes have been landscaped into many gardens. These are lush and beautiful. The International Exhibition of 1929 took place on the northern slope. This area has Neoclassical buildings, fountains and terraces to enjoy. The Olympic Stadium is here along with two excellent art galleries. The paths are well signposted.
An easy way to explore the mountain is by cable car and funicular. The funicular starts from the metro. There are four cable car routes. Three go to the summit. They start from the steps leading up to the Museo National; the Olympic terraces and the ramparts of the fortress. Excellent views over the city from the cable cars. The fourth cable car route runs from the lower slopes to Barceloneta. Great views of the harbor.
Metro stop: Paral.lel. Funicular: Montjuïc.
Fundació Joan Miró
Joan Miró is an abstract artist born in Barcelona. This modernist building houses the greatest collection of his works. His work is marked by the joyous use of color and shape. The exhibitions follow his progress as an artist. In his later years, he produced many excellent sculptures, tapestries and paintings. He is celebrated in Barcelona but lived and worked in both Paris and Catalunya. His last years were spent in Majorca.
There is a brilliant audio guide that will talk you through the various works on display. In 1914 he was painting landscapes in the Impressionist style. Then he moved onto portraits. Look out for Portrait of a Young Girl painted by him in 1919. Then he began to develop his signature reds and blues with images drawn from observation of birds and women. These coupled with the sun and the moon inspired his 1930’s Constellations series.
Following this in 1939 to 1944 he was deeply affected by the chaos and misery of war. This is reflected in the monochrome lithographs he produced. These are known as the Barcelona Series. The enormous tapestries and the sculptures on the roof terraces are quite awe-inspiring.
In addition to the works by Joan Miró, there are temporary exhibitions featuring new experimental artists. Famous artists often produce tribute pieces in his style to be displayed here. There are a children’s theatre and film screenings on this site.
Access by Paral.lel metro and Mointjuïc funicular.
Hospital de Sant Pau
This stopped being a working hospital in 2009. The building is a spectacular Art Nouveau complex designed by Lluís Domènch i Montaner. It is an extravaganza of architectural excess. A Unesco World Heritage Site is a museum and cultural center. Open to visitors since 2014. There are 23 pavilions topped with golden domes in landscaped grounds. Orange trees are dotted around. Marvel at the sculptures, stained glass, mosaics and ironwork.
Enjoy wandering the grounds and be amazed by the sheer exuberance of the decorations. Concerts take place in the main administration building. There are occasional displays and exhibitions in the pavilions.
Metro stop: Hospital de Sant Pau
Museo Egipci de Barcelona
Three floors of wonderful displays of a private collection of ancient Egyptian objects.
The basement houses an exhibition devoted to the boy king Tutankhamun. Photographs show the excavation process and there is a model of the tomb. Artifacts from the tomb include mummified animals, signet rings and other gold jewelry.
The ground floor has a display of funeral objects. Sarcophagi and inscribed coffin lids Assorted mummies and grave goods. The grave goods mainly consist of small amulets, beads and coral. Objects which are typically included in mummy wrappings.
The first floor’s exhibits focus on fragments of papyrus and stelae with funeral writings. One display case houses many ushabti. These are small figures made in fired clay. These are symbolic servants.
There are children’s activities and you can refresh yourself in the terrace café.
Metro stop: Passieg de Gràcia.
Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC)
A thousand years of Catalan art are housed in this museum. You will find this exceptional museum inside the grand palace (Palau Nacional) on Montjuïc.
The earliest works are the Romanesque art. These are frescoes of biblical scenes from 11th to 13th Century Catalan churches. These are displayed inside reconstructions of the ceilings and apses of the original churches.
Moving on to the 14th Century there are displays of paintings on wood panels. These feature portraits of kings as well as the saints performing miracles. These works were produced under the influence of the Flemish and Italian painting styles of that time.
The section devoted to the Renaissance displays works by a wealth of Catalan artists. Minor works by such famous artists as El Greco, Goya, Tintoretto, Rubens and Velázquez. On display are paintings of religious scenes and the Catalan landscape by Zurbarán.
The next floor is accessed by a glass elevator. This floor displays the collection of more recent artworks. Both the Noucentista and Modernista art movements are well represented. Early in his career, Picasso was influenced by the art of the Catalan artists Santiago Rusiñol and Ramon Casas. Their paintings were produced in the first half of the 20th Century. Picasso’s paintings of women are on display. Civil War graphic art and sculptures from the avant-garde movement are both exhibited. Also, a modernist interior design by Gaudi is a highlight of the modern art era.
Metro stop: Espanya
Visit the Font Màgica for the free evening show
The Magic Fountain (Font Magica) can be found in the middle of the grand pedestrian esplanade at the bottom of Montjuïc. This esplanade joins Plaça d’Espanya to the Museo d’Art de Catalunya. During the show, the fountain rises and falls and changes color to complement the music of Montserrat Cabellé and Freddie Mercury. The fountain performance typically lasts about twenty minutes. It is played at half-hour intervals. In high season (May to September) the performances take place on Thursday through to Sunday. Timed between 9 and 11 pm. Otherwise, the performance takes place on Friday to Saturday only at the earlier times of 7 to 8.30pm. In addition to the Magic Fountain display, there are many street musicians to entertain the crowds.
Metro stop: Espanya.
Parc de la Ciutadella
Citadel Park is the largest in Barcelona and it includes a zoo. The main way in is the large Arc de Triomf. Wide walkways accommodate strolling crowds and live performers. Expect large floating bubbles and perhaps the odd living statue. There are some impressive buildings the Catalonia Parliament Building in the middle is one of them. Antoni Gaudi’s early work as an assistant to Josep Fontseré i Mestrès is on display in the northeast corner. A delightful baroque fountain. In the northwest area, you will discover a modernist building. This one was designed by Lluís Domènch i Montaner. It’s called Castel dels Tres Dragons. It is of course castle shaped.
The Parc Zoològic (City Zoo) covers the area in the south. As well as endangered animals such as the Sumatran tiger and the Iberian Wolf, you will find a collection of small animals for children to stroke. Along with the chance to ride small ponies.
Metro stops: Ciutadella/Vila Olímpica or Arc d’Triomf
Aeri del Port
Take a walk along the Barcolenta peninsula and to ride the telefèric to the Miramar viewpoint park. The park is part of the way up Montjuïc. The cable car was built to carry visitors in Barcelona’s World Expo in 1929. This ride will be uncomfortable if you suffer from vertigo.
You will be rewarded with some stunning views of the city from a unique angle. The view from the cable car includes the yachts in the Barcolenta harbor and Las Ramblas. On a clear day, you can see the distant spires of La Sagrada Familia. Weekdays are less crowded. Once you have reached the park it is a gentle walk to visit some of the other Montjuïc attractions.
Metro stop: Paral.lel or Barceloneta
You can find out about four different marine habitats in this excellent and well laid out aquarium. These are the Red Sea, the Caribbean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Great Barrier Reef.
Closer to home there are exhibits that focus on specialist marine habitats in Spain: the Medes Islands and the Delta del Ebro. See the underwater life that would only normally be seen by divers.
There is a shark tunnel as this is one of the best ways to observe these predators. If you would like to get even closer… book to cage dive with the sharks. Other tanks are devoted to the ever-popular clownfish, the endearing sea horses, the intelligent and versatile octopus and an aquarium filled with poisonous fish.
Other creatures are also displayed penguins, piranhas and basilisk lizards to name a few.
Check the feeding times on line. There are daily feedings of the sharks, moray eels, rays and penguins.
The aquarium is located south of Las Ramblas in the Port Vell area. It is located next to the waterfront. Very popular with families and weekdays are less busy.
Metro Stop: Drassanes
Pick up a souvenir or gift
All the big art museums have a gift shop. Here you can pick up prints and gifts inspired by well-known artists such as Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró.
There are little markets and shops throughout the city. In the Barri Gòtic area, you can find fountain pens and other writing-related items at Papirum. Handmade leather goods can be purchased at Iriarte Iriarte. Artesanía Catalunya showcases items made by local artisans. A wide range of products such as leatherwork, ceramics and jewelry. For decorative glass, ceramics and tile work visit Art Escudellers.
For fashion visit the L’Eixample area. High street fashion stores such as Zara can be found lining the Passieg de Gràcia. When in Barcelona… visit the city’s own famous designer label – Desigual. The flagship store can be found on the Plaça Catalunya. Three floors to delight the fashionistas. Antonio Miró is the place to go for suits and accessories.
Prefer smaller arty boutiques? Go and search out a bargain in El Born. The narrow back lanes of Carrer dels Banys Vells, Carrer dels Flassanders and Carrer del Rec abound with this type of shop.
Metro stop to visit Barri Gòtic: Liceu
Metro stop to visit L’Eixample: Passieg de Gràcia
Metro stop to visit El Born: Jaumi I
Fun on the Beach
Barcelona is blessed with a three mile stretch of beaches. These are found on the east side of the city.
Older sun worshipers and families tend to favour the white sands of Sant Sebastià Beach. A good central location in that it covers the seafront between W Barcelona hotel and Club Natació. Moving east you will find Barceloneta Beach with its volleyball nets and showers. Small cafés and restaurants fringe the beach. Running alongside is the Passeig Marítim. This esplanade is studded with palms and very busy with people walking, rollerblading, cycling and running. Barcelona hosted the Olympic games in 1992. The seafront development of Port Olímpic was constructed for this event. Here you can see Frank Gehry’s giant sculpture of a fish.
Nova Icària followed by Bogatell are beaches with playgrounds and open-air cafés. Mar Bella has an area set aside for nudists.
Metro stop: Barceloneta
PortAventura World Park
An hour’s drive to the Costa Dorada, south of Barcelona will take you to this theme park built by Universal Studios. The park is divided into six zones names after parts of the world. Mediterrànea, Polynesia, Sésamoaventura, Mexico, China and the Far West.
Appropriate rides for younger children can be found in each zone. In the Mexican zone there is the El Secreto de los Mayas maze and twirling tea cups in China.
Older children and adults can thrill to rides such as 100m free fall provided by the Huracan Condor (Mexico), horizontal catapult (Mediterrànea) and the dizzying loops on the roller coaster in China.
There are plenty of water rides to provide a refreshing splash on a hot day. These include the Grand Canyon Rapids, Silver River log flume and the wet and wild splashy fun of the Tutuki Splash.
Plenty of places to get a snack and a drink at the many restaurants and snack bars. Look out for fun activities such as parades and shows for younger family members. Book online to access family discounts.
Travel along the coast of Barcelona on the C-32 and then catch the AP-7 for the last part.
It will take about 1 ½ hours to reach Montserrat when traveling from Barcelona. Pilgrims have been visiting this site for over a thousand years. An amazing monastery perched on a mountain top. It remains one of the two major pilgrimage destinations in Spain. The main attraction for the faithful is La Moreneta or the black Madonna. Carbon dating says that this image is at least 8 centuries old. The legend is that St Luke carved this image. St Peter is credited with bringing it to Spain to keep it out of the hands of the Moors. She is located in the basilica Chapel. She is protected by glass. She is venerated by the many pilgrims who come to pray before her.
The path to the chapel is called the Ave Maria path. Votive candles line the way. There is a room in which believers leave their votive offerings. In here you will see body parts sculpted from wax, baptism outfits and small toys. These votive gifts are indicative of the reason for the prayers of the faithful.
The monastery is still in use today. There is a small museum on the site which hosts a superb collection of artworks. From Catalan modernistas to Byzantine icons with Old Masters as well.
There are hotel and restaurants on-site. Walkers can enjoy the many trails that criss-cross the mountain. They are well signposted and have wonderful views over the landscape. A pair of funiculars can take visitors up some of the slope, access to the monastery is then by foot.
Travel by rail: From the Plaça de Espanya travel on the FGC train to Montserrat Aeri. Then ride the cable car to the top. The alternative is to take the next stop, Monistrol de Montserrat and ride the mountain railway (Cremallera de Montserrat).
Visit and explore Sitges
This old town with its lovely beaches is a very popular resort. It is very crowded in high season (June, July, August and September) at this time the beaches are crowded. The string of beaches are divided by breakwaters. They are easily accessed by a long decked path that runs along the entire length. Families tend to cluster on the central beaches. The waters here are very calm and the seafood restaurants are readily available. The more secluded beaches east of the headland are gay-friendly and provide the opportunity for permitted nudity.
When you need a break from the sun and sand head into the medieval heart of the town. In the center, you can visit the traditional whitewashed church of Sant Bartolomenu i Santa Tecla. Explore the maze of narrow streets to discover small cafés and shops.
Two events that may be of interest if you are visiting at the right time of year. Carnival takes place in the spring (February/March). In late summer (August/September), there are the festivals dedicated to Santa Tecla and Sant Bartolomeu. These are celebrated by competitions to build the biggest pyramid constructed by human bodies. These gymnastics are performed by teams of castellers.
Travel by rail: From Barcelona Sants or Passeig de Gràcia take the Rodalies train heading to Sant Vincenç de Calders. Get off at Sigtes. The trains are frequent and the journey time is about 40 minutes.
The medieval city straddles the river Onyar. The city has been here since 75BC. It has seen waves of different rulers from the Romans to the Visigoths. Followed by the Moors and then by the Spanish monarchy. As in so many towns and cities in Spain it once had a thriving Jewish community. The Jewish quarter is still very well preserved. Visit the Museu d’Historia dels Jueus to see exhibits relating to this historic community.
As with all medieval cities, the old part is very compact and the streets are narrow and winding. A large gothic cathedral dominates the center. The interior contains Romanesque cloisters and a huge nave vault.
There are still traces of the Moors in the preserved Banys Arabs – the ancient baths. For an elevated view of Girona walk along take a stroll along the ancient city wall. The central section overlooks the rooftops and the great cathedral.
Travel by train: Take the train to Girona from Passeig de Gràcia or Barcelona Sants. The high-speed train runs hourly and the journey will be less than an hour. There is a slower service which will take just under 2 hours.
Visit Figueres to explore Dalí’s museum
Salvador Dali was born in Figueres and is buried there. The Theatre-Museu Dalí is dedicated to the life and work of this Surrealist artist. His paintings are well known throughout the world but he sought self-expression in other ways. He designed jewelry and clothing. He also was a competent film director.
Dalí’s most famous paintings are exhibited all over the world. This museum contains a large collection of his sketches, prints and oil paintings.
The museum is exuberant and entertaining, much like the artist himself. You can experience the rainy taxi. Most people take a taxi to get out of the rain but in this taxi … In the Mae West Room, all the furniture has been cleverly arranged as a portrait of the actress’ face. There is an exhibition of his jewelry and look out for the quirky details. The towers are topped by eggs and the golden statues so reminiscent of the Oscars are clutching… what else but baguettes? You can also see Dalí’s sailboat. He and his wife, Gala were both fond of sailing.
It’s a fun day trip even if you have no interest in Dalí’s art.
Travel by train: Take the high-speed train from Barcelona to Figueres. Frequent trains and a journey time of an hour. An overnight stop is not recommended unless you are continuing on to France or combining this with a visit to Cadaqués.
Salvador Dalí was born in Figueres but he lived in this exquisite fishing village. This village has been drawing in intellectuals and artists since the 19th Century. Painters like Picasso, Marcel Duchamp and Matisse have all visited this little port with its whitewashed houses dotted over the hillsides.
Salvador Dali lived and worked in his home on the waterfront in Port Lligat. Many of his best works were painted here. You can reach this by a stroll along the coast. The house has been converted into a museum. The museum in Figueres celebrates the public man but here in this house, you can catch a glimpse of the private man behind the great artist. The house is constructed from several interconnected old fishing cottages.
Cadaqués is in the northeast of Catalunya and is accessed by a narrow road winding down through the hills. The village has many guesthouses and small hotels,
Travel: Best accessed by car. About 2 ½ hours drive from Barcelona. A long day and so it is probably worth combing it with another visit and stopping overnight.
Take a Bike Tour
Barcelona has 200km of cycle trails and is blessed with mainly excellent weather for a bike ride. There are plenty of places to rent a bike in the city if you prefer to find your own way. However, if you want to quickly see the hidden gems of Barcelona it is worth taking a guided tour.
The exact tour will vary but the route will take you through the pretty squares and narrow twisting streets. Your guide will tell you tales of the historic (often bawdy) goings-on of the former inhabitants. You can expect to visit the flea market in Encants and will get a great view of the architecture and street art that is the trademark of the up and coming Poblenou district.
The groups are kept small, the limit is 8 people. This means you have plenty of opportunities to ask questions of the knowledgeable guides. Refreshment stops along the route will give you the opportunity to try the local drink – orxata. The route back will take you past the lively beaches.
Metro stop: Jaume I or Liceu
Frederic Mares Museum
The collection of Frederic Mares i Deulovol is housed over four floors of exhibition space. The palace was formerly occupied by the Inquisition. Frederic was an explorer and he liked to collect art and anything else that he liked the look of. He amassed his collections during the 20th Century while he was exploring the world.
There is a wide range of objects but the museum has organized them into three collections.
There are two floors devoted to the sculpture collection. The subject matter is mainly medieval and religious. These are classified as iconography. There are also some rare pieces related to the Romans in Spain.
The section referred to as the Collectors Cabinet is a treasure trove of all sorts of 19th and 20th Century objects. Take a deep breath … you can see eyeglasses, stamps, matchboxes, playing card. If that wasn’t enough there are also collections of pipes and cigarette holders; swords, crossbows and helmets.
The collection is the Frederic Mares Library-Study. In here you will find some of his personal possessions and a selection of his own favorite items from his many collections.
After you have toured this curious little museum take time to enjoy a cup of coffee in the charming Café D’Estiu. It is actually built into the old city walls. Enjoy the view over the nearby courtyard adorned with fountain and palm trees.
Metro stop: Jaume I
Watch the sunset from the Bunkers del Carmel
The Spanish Civil War impacted on the whole of Spain. These bunkers were built on top of the hill in 1937. They housed an anti-aircraft battery to protect the city from aerial attacks by the fascist troops. In the ’50s and ’60s around 7% of the city lived here. In a shantytown that was built around the bunkers. In preparation for the 1992 Olympic Games, the shantytown was cleared away. This area was then ignored.
In recent times this place has been rediscovered as an excellent vantage point to watch the sunset. Pack a picnic with the delicacies of your choice and enjoy panoramic views over Barcelona while you wait for the sunset.
Travel: Take a taxi to Restaurante Las Delicias in Carmel. (Address: Carrer Muhlberg I). Then follow the path up to the bunkers.
Visit Gaudi’s first mansion – Casa Vicens
This mansion was built for the rich Catalan stockbroker: Manuel Vicens i Montaner in Garcia. At this stage, Gaudi had not developed his undulating organic style. This house has a linear geometry. There are beginnings of the Gaudi style in the Moorish inspired decorative features. Colorful ceramics, pretty turrets and flamboyant windows.
The house was privately owned until 2007. It took over ten years to restore the house and open it to the public. From 2017 visitors have been able to enjoy the delightful interior. The elements of the emerging Gaudi approach can be seen in the and reliefs, the use of marble and mosaics. The lavish use of color and the joy of light streaming through stained glass.
Metro stop: Fontana