Barcelona is one of the most popular cities in Europe and that means two things in the first place: fabulous sights and awful crowds. People usually love it or hate it – just as they often say it about Paris. We were unable to decide on which side we are after our first visit to Paris last year. It was much easier for Barcelona: it was LOVE from the first moment!
On our flight back home we enthusiastically discussed with each other why Barcelona is our new favorite European city. I know we often label something as favorite too easily. But our excuse is that we love travelling so much and we really love all the places we’ve visited (well, most of them). Coming home from a newly visited place and labeling it as our favorite means it was a stunning visit. But this time we really mean that Barcelona became our favorite city in Europe.
It has everything that we could ask for in a perfect city: amazing architecture, pretty beaches, walkable streets, lively squares, nice parks with fabulous views, the most unique and astonishing church we’ve ever seen (and it’s not even ready yet…), a city park that’s just as unique, a romantic temple on the hilltop, lots of green and amazing architecture! Did I say that twice? Well, Barcelona’s architecture deserves to be mentioned twice. Even more times.
Now let us share with you the bunch of reasons that made Barcelona our favorite in 5 days! More informative posts will come later – once they are not swept away by our passionate emotions. 😀
Antoni Gaudí was a Spanish Catalan architect whose work reflect one of the most unique and distinctive architectural styles in the world. Most of his works are located in Barcelona influencing the face of the city significantly. And they make Barcelona the breathtaking and unique city it is!
Gaudí’s most famous work is the church of Sagrada Família, the most special, colorful and gorgeous church we’ve ever seen. And it’s under construction – for more than 130 years.
The most unique urban park: Park Güell
Park Güell is also designed by Gaudí but the project turned out to be a failure so it was left unfinished. Today it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 🙂 It’s a magical park with amazing buildings, sculptures and colors.
Stunning Art Nouveau architecture
Gaudí’s architecture alone would have been able to enchant us but Barcelona spoiled us with Art Nouveau, too. Art Nouveau is our favorite architecture style that uses asymmetric shapes and unusual color combinations. Barcelona has some spectacular Art Nouveau buildings and guess what, the largest Art Nouveau building complex in the world is also in Barcelona: Hospital de Santa Creu i de Sant Pau.
The Gothic Quarter is the oldest district of Barcelona. Its narrow streets, historical buildings, enormous cathedrals and lovely little squares took us back in time. And all the colorful laundry hanging from the balconies added a real Mediterranean magic to it.
Speaking of enormous cathedrals, we found Barcelona Cathedral (Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia) the most impressive. It’s a massive Gothic cathedral from the 15th century and it’s the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona. It’s worth taking a look from the inside, too, and it’s free to visit.
Panoramic gardens of Montjuïc
Barcelona is probably the most walkable of all the big cities we’ve been to. And some of its lovely walks lead to captivating views! Like walking through the countless gardens of Montjuïc Hill while getting views over Barcelona, the harbour and the nearby hills. This series of gardens is the ideal scene for romantic walks anyway: pretty fountains, colorful flowers, narrow staircases connecting the terraces, classic and modern statues and hidden benches under the trees.
Barcelona’s city center has three large and busy squares: Plaça d’Espanya, Plaça de Catalunya and Plaça Reial. They are as magnificent as they should be to match with the whole city and they all have that lively Mediterranean vibe we like so much. Fountains, flowers and palm trees may have something to do with it as well.
Arc de Triomf and Parc de la Ciutadella
Barcelona has its own triumphal arch and it’s nice and colorful as anything else in the city. Right next to it is Parc de la Ciutadella – another park we liked very much. Not just because of the impressive building of the Parliament of Catalonia or the majestic fountain designed by Gaudí – you get used to splendid architecture after a while, don’t you? Oh, no, we didn’t! We walked all over Barcelona in amazement, including Parc de la Ciutadella.
But this park is not only candy for the eyes, it’s also a buzzing hub in the heart of the city. It was full of people (and parrots 🙂 ) – having picnic on the grass, playing soccer, singing, dancing, talking, running, boating on the lake, doing group yoga or practicing tightrope walking between two trees. If there’s an interesting place for people watching then it should be the one in Barcelona.
Barcelona has a beach, too, and quite a neat one! Barceloneta Beach is a long, sandy beach surrounded by palm trees and open-air fitness spaces.
Could you resist loving a city that’s full of palm trees? We certainly couldn’t.
The perfect half-day trip: Sagrat Cor
And what if this city has a lonely white church on the top of its highest mountain? Of course, Barcelona has it: Sagrat Cor on the top of Mount Tibidabo is a pleasant half-day trip. And of course, it offers views over the city and the surrounding coastline – well, unless they are lost in the fog.
The perfect day trip: Montserrat Monastery
Why climb a mountain? Because it’s there. Seems like a straightforward answer to us. And there is a mountain near Barcelona: Montserrat. In addition there’s a monastery built on this mountain. Monasteries on mountain tops really have their charm, don’t they? Hiking up to it and then even further to Sant Jeroni (1236 m), the highest peak of Montserrat was just the perfect day trip for us.
A walkable city
Our favorite way of exploring a new city is by foot. If we love walking around in a city – that’s a city we love. Despite Barcelona being such a large city we were surprised that we barely used public transport during our stay. We preferred walking because wherever we went it was nice to walk. The harbor, Barceloneta beach, Gárcia and the Gothic quarters are especially our favorites. Not to mention the parks.
The best time to visit: spring/autumn
One of the main arguments against Barcelona is the crowd. Another is the heat. But visiting in the beginning of May we experienced neither of them. Actually, we would have been happy to experience some of that unbearable heat because early May was colder than we expected. Still, we think the best time to visit Barcelona is mid-spring or mid-autumn. Then the weather is suitable for sightseeing and hiking and it’s not yet high-season for tourists. It’s too cold for swimming though. On the other hand, the 5 days we spent there was barely enough to see the city even without lazy beach days.
Have you been to Barcelona? Love it, hate it? Bonus question: could you even count how many times I used one of the synonyms of beautiful in this posts. I don’t even dare counting…