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Barcelona City Trip

Local residents of Barcelona come to La Boqueria Market for a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, breads, cheeses and meats

72 Hours in Barcelona, Spain

Spain's City of Modernism, Architecture and Food

Visitors arriving at Barcelona's El Prat de Llobregat Airport have many options to choose from to get into town. Taxi may seem like the simplest option, and with many cars waiting outside the medium-sized airport, catching a ride shouldn't be a problem. For quick local cash, quirky ATMs are located near the baggage claim area, but official bank ATMs are located a short walk away at the end of the arrival area, on your left if you are facing the street. A taxi into Barcelona should cost about €20 and take about 15 minutes to most locations inside the city. The Barcelona Aerobus, located in front of the arrival area, offers a twenty-minute ride to the center of Barcelona for just under €4. Buy a ticket from the driver. The Aerobus departs every 15 minutes and takes riders to the centrally located Plaça de Catalunya. Yet another option would be the RENFE train, which departs the airport at a quarter to and a quarter past the hour. These trains cost about €2, take 20 minutes to get into town, and will drop you at the Sants Station and the Plaça de Catalunya. A subway is located under the Sants Station and beneath the Plaça de Catalunya. Barcelona's subway system is quick, cheap, and easy to use. Individual rides cost €1. A T-10 card is sold for €5.60, which offers ten rides on the subway, the local buses, the FGC, and the RENFE trains. Three-day passes for the subway are available for €11.

Barcelona's Tourist Information centers, known as TI's are located throughout the city and are marked by a big red sign. The best of them is at the Plaça de Catalunya, on the far-left side if you are facing the Ramblas, and down some stairs. These offices offer city maps, subway maps, and a free quarterly called See Barcelona, with useful tourist information like museum hours, restaurant recommendations and timely cultural events. Tiquet 3 offers same-day, half-price tickets in the evening (about three hours before show time) for plays and concerts.


DAY 1: Las Ramblas, La Boqueria Market and Bari Gòtic

Park Güell

Start your first day at the Plaça de Catalunya. Drop into the Tourist Information office, possibly pick up any forgotten items at the gigantic El Corte Inglés department store (a ninth floor terrace offers a great view of the city), and orient yourself. With the department store on your left, old Barcelona-Ramblas, Bari Gòtic, and the port of Barcelona-lie in front of you. New Barcelona—built in a modern grid pattern when Barcelona absorbed the outlying towns in the 1800s—expands behind you to the mountains, which contain Antoni Gaudí's Park Güell.

A walk along the Ramblas from the Plaça de Catalunya to the Columbus Monument takes about 20 minutes without stops. Begin by walking to the top of the Ramblas and checking out the interesting mix of tourists and locals resting on benches, sitting at small tables, talking amongst the chairs. Years ago these seats were so coveted that they used to be rented for either the morning or the afternoon. These days, the seats are free, but the people-watching is just as good.

To your right is the Canaletes Fountain, site of the legend that if you drink from the fountain, you will become an honorary citizen of Barcelona destined to return again and again. As you walk down the Ramblas, which used to be a small stream along the wall of the medieval city, you will notice a number of interesting stands with international newspapers, turtles, all kinds of birds, and fish, as well as flowers. A number of street performers gather crowds. Beware that pick pockets love to prey on entranced tourists. A bit further down on your right is the Academy of Science. The clock on the outside of the building is the official time of Barcelona. Just down the block, take note of the Baroque Church, one of the few Baroque structures left in the city of modernist architecture.

The next block boasts the entrance to La Boqueria Market. The city's covered, outdoor market where the locals do their daily shopping is a slew of tiny stands selling sausages, cured meats, more varieties of raw meat than we normally see in the United States, fresh fruits and vegetables, breads, and cheeses. Pick up a coffee here or at the Pasteleria Escriba at the corner. The entrance to this 100-year-old pastry shop is an example of the beautiful mosaics of the Belle Epoque period. Inside the pastries are good but the chocolates are outstanding. Across the Ramblas, a cigar shop sells Cuban cigars. A few steps farther along, the midpoint of the Ramblas is marked by the mosaic anchor embedded in the pavement that was designed by Joan Miró.

A few blocks further down, make a right onto Nou Rambla. Here Palau Güell stands dark and heavy in its architecture. Inside is your first look at an interior by Antoni Gaudí, Barcelona's most famous architect. When the building was proposed in 1886 no budget was set. Subsequently, Gaudí spared no expense on the stone, metal and wood he used as materials for the sweeping, otherworldly designs. Be sure to check out the rooftop complete with Gaudí's signature tiled chimneys.

The Cathedral

Across the Ramblas is the neoclassically designed Plaça Reial. Patio tables spill out from the taverns and restaurants in the palm tree-lined square. Street musicians and suspicious characters mingle amongst the revelers. Take note of the two colorful lampposts. These were Gaudí's first public commission for the city of Barcelona. Head back to the Ramblas for the final blocks to the harbor and the Columbus Monument. The small streets that lead to the water from the Plaça Reial are the least safe in the neighborhood. The Columbus Monument, built in 1888, marks the spot where Queen Isabelle and King Ferdinand welcomed Columbus back from his first trip to America. Take the elevator to the top for a fine view.

Head back up the Ramblas taking in sites and shops that you missed on the way down. Els Quatre Gats would be a nice place to eat lunch and take in some Barcelona history. It was here in the beginning of the 1900s that artists and bohemians met to eat, drink, and socialize. A young Pablo Picasso showed his art here and designed the restaurants first menu. Classic Spanish bistro-style food can be had from potato and onion tortilla to grilled meats to tinto de verano-a typical warm weather beverage of red wine and soda over ice. The room has been splendidly cared for, retaining much of the original décor and atmosphere that the young artists reveled within.

After a leisurely lunch explore the Bari Gòtic neighborhood. The warren of narrow, twisting streets is a perfect place to get lost. Fortunately the neighborhood is small and it is impossible to stay lost for too long, so enjoy the freedom. Dip down small alleys and come upon quiet squares enclosed by towering stone buildings. The highlight of the Bari Gòtic is the Gothic Cathedral began being built in about 1300 and wasn't completed until the 1900s. This building is the symbol of Roman rule in Barcelona, in fact Barcino, Barcelona's Roman name, is spelled out in inlaid letters in front of the cathedral. Climb the narrow, spiraled staircase to the top and take in a bird's eye view of the city.

At the Plaça de Sant Juame in the center of the Bari Gòtic two top government

buildings face each other: Barcelona's city hall and the seat of the autonomous government of Catalunya. Locals gather almost daily at 6 p.m. to participate in the Sardana dance. The group forms a circle placing their personal belongings in a pile in the middle of the group and begins to sway with their arms above their heads to the music of a band playing uniquely Catalonian instruments. The dance is a symbol of patriotism and community for the citizens of Catalunya.

For dinner drop back down towards the harbor of Barcelona, near the Columbus Monument, to the border between the Bari Gòtic neighborhood and the El Born neighborhoods. Wander up through the lively El Born neighborhood to Palau Dalmases located across from the Picasso Museum. The bar is the inside of a former palace from the 15th century. The address is an old wood door in a stone wall. Just push, or knock. An older gentleman should be sitting just inside the door. Let him know you are coming to the bar and he will direct you across the square to the entrance to the bar.

Day 2: Gràcia & Day 3: Gaudi's Park Güell


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Port Forum Marina in Barcelona, Spain

Park Güell image courtesy of Jonathan D. Meltzer of Gaudí Central

(Updated: 01/30/13 BA)

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