BARCELONA, which ranks No. 14 in the BEST CITIES in the World: Readers’ Choice Awards 2015, Conde Nast Traveler magazine, is one place not only worth visiting but deserve treasuring and falling in love with.
Why? Because there are 1,000 and 1 reasons to love this amazing travel wonder which include a lot of interesting places to visit and awesome things to do in this city, described by Hans Christian Andersen as the “Paris of Spain.”
Related Article: List of Best Hostels and Hotels in Barcelona, Spain
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Barcelona.
GO ON A GUIDED TOUR
HOP ON HOP OFF BUS TOUR
To have a bird’s eye view of Barcelona, it is best to ride in a Hop-On Hop-Off bus to get awed by its surprises. There are 2 bus companies offering various tours of the city namely, 1) The Barcelona Bus Turistic, which calls itself the “official sightseeing tour of the city” with Red, Blue and Green Routes and, 2) The Barcelona City Tour with East and West Routes.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Barcelona.
My family and I chose the Barcelona Bus Turistic where we marveled at the various popular destinations while comfortably seated in the open top double-decker bus.
The weather was just perfect, cool in the summer heat, but it is advisable to wear a hat in this sunny Spain city. There is an audo guide in different languages to learn more about the place – its history, etc. – while the bus navigates around the city.
Once we got a glimpse of the different sights, we figured out which landmarks we will explore more by hopping off to these places. There’s a timetable once on board the bus so you know when the next bus will arrive and can plan the length of time to stay in one destination.
Among the numerous paid and free walking tours offered in Barcelona, we came across the free walking tour at Travel Bar which offers Introduction to Barcelona, Introduction to Gaudi, Gaudi and Modernisme Bicycle Tour, Alternative and Street Art and Old Town Photography.
Being first timers in Barcelona, we chose the Introduction to Barcelona, a 2-hour free guided tour of the Gothic Quarter, where we walked the hands of time to discover its history and hidden mysteries woven in its culture, art, architecture and churches.
Our tour guide, Chrissy, shared not only her expertise, but her warmth, her smile and her ready answers to us, info-hungry wanderers.
PLAZA DE SANT FELIP NERI
This square, described as one of the most beautiful and romantic squares in Barcelona, has a tragic past. It was a witness to the death of 42 people, 20 of which were children, when Franco’s air force bomb this shelter during the Civil War in 1938. But there are still children peacefully playing around the area since a school has been built there. The fountain was the backdrop of a lunch scene in the movie, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” I was smitten by the simple beauty of the square and the romantic ambiance but felt sad knowing little lives were lost because of the ugliness of war.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Placa Sant Felip Neri.
This is where the old meets the new. We were led to two circular towers which we learned, were one of the 4 gates leading to the Old Roman City and into the heart of the Gothic Quarter. The last remaining bit of the aqueduct can also be seen.
CITY ARCHITECTURE SCHOOL
Barcelona, being an art city, is birthplace of 3 great artists – Gaudi, Picasso and Miro. Across the other side of Placa Nova is the Architects’ Association building, where Picasso designed the sand-cast friezes around the facade.
BARCELONA GOTHIC CATHEDRAL
Another heartbreaking piece related to a landmark is the Gothic Cathedral, dedicated to St. Eulalia, a 13-yr old Barcelonian virgin, who suffered during the persecution of Christians. It was painful to know the agony she experienced – having her breasts cut off, being crucified and even decapitated!
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Gothic Quarter Barcelona.
The interior is beautiful, the highlight of which is the crypt, which contains St. Eulalia’s sarcophagus, below the Capella Major (chancel).
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Cathedral of Santa Eulalia / La Seu.
THE KING’S STEPS at PLACA DEL REI
The historic steps at this square was believed to be where Christopher Columbus was greeted by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella when the former arrived home from his first voyage to the New World. During evenings, the steps become comforting benches to people sharing beer or playing music. The square is also a venue for Catalan dancing evenings and free city concerts.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Placa del Rei.
Another Roman remnant can be found on Carrer Paradis, the four columns from the Temple of Augustus.
PLACA DE SAN JAUME
In the heart of Gothic Quarter lies the centre of power or Barcelona, where the city hall stands and facing it is the Generalitat, or center of power for the Catalunya state. This square is a venue for festivities, celebrations and demonstrations.
After a two and a half-hour of a tiring but very enlightening journey, Chrissyi led us to Kulas Bar, to cap the walking tour. Since it is a free tour, the guide relies on tips so those who joined can give tips which they feel is the tour’s worth. We are pretty sure the friendly and accommodating Chrissyi was valued for her passion-filled guided assistance.
Next to Kulas Bar is Sailor Restaurant, an unobtrusive looking resto, where we had our share of the best-tasting sangria and mouthwatering Spanish tapas.
IMMERSE IN SPANISH HISTORY/CULTURE/ART
History, culture and art are embedded in the fabric of Barcelona’s life. It boasts of more than 55 museums, with subjects ranging from art, history, architecture, science, sports, war and maritime.
One week is not enough to visit and be fascinated with all the artwork in the various museums in Barcelona. We decided to take a look at the 3 famous museums.
It was quite difficult to find this museum because we had to take a long walk along Parc Guell. But our tiredness vanished when we walked inside the house, which was the residence of Anton Gaudi for almost 20 years, and learned of the great architect, through the collection of furniture and personal objects which he himself designed.
MUSEU DE NACIONAL D’ ART DE CATALUNYA
Housed in the Palau Nacional, this museum boasts of collection of mural paintings from Romanesque to Gothic, Modern and 20th century art. It also has a breathtaking view of the city.
This museum is home to the paintings of Pablo Picasso, one of the famous Spanish artists of the 20th century, especially his art pieces created in his youth. Our eyes caught the famous ancient courtyard of the palace, turned by Picasso’s former secretary and friend, Jaime Sabates, into a museum.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Picasso Museum Barcelona.
SAMPLE CATALAN CUISINE & SATISFY YOUR CRAVING IN THE LOCAL MARKET
Being colonized by Spain for 300 years, we, Filipinos have the same gustatory passion with that of the Spaniards. My family really love Spanish food! What a delight to savor authentic Spanish dishes and tapas like paella, paella negra, gambas, jamon and queso! Complete the dining experience with the best Sangria!
MERCAT DE LA BOQUERIA
Our eyes literally feasted on the variety of food sold in this local market. Chocolates in a sundry of shapes, colors and sizes abound. We found a chocolate store with Filipino staff who were very friendly and warm. One guy even let us try samples of chocolates so we can choose what we really want to buy.
Everything fresh and a large selection of nuts, fruits (including dried ones), vegetables, meat, ham, fish, seafood, ham and cheese, can be found here. It was difficult to select between the soft and hard famous “torrons,” the Spanich nougat.
STROLL ALONG THE STREETS, PARKS AND PLAZAS
A trip to Barcelona will not be complete if one does not walk along the streets of La Rambla, the famous boulevard stretching from 1-2 kilometers. It is teeming with kiosks, flower shops, and other stores, contributing to the vibrant and active street scenery.
This park is not only huge but is one of the most impressive public parks around the globe because of the structures within the park, as designed by Antonio Gaudi. One interesting feature of this famous Barcelona landmark is a wall which looks like columns of palm-tree trunks. Considering the vastness of the place, it is an ordinary sight to see tourists resting on whatever they can sit on.
Located at the heart of Barcelona is this large plaza surrounded by monumental buildings. This lively square is a favorite meeting place for locals and tourists alike. Shopping centers and department stores abound at its periphery.
SAY A PRAYER AND MARVEL AT THE MAGNIFICENT CHURCHES
One of the things we religiously do as a family when we visit a place is going to the church or churches in the area and say our little prayers. And in Barcelona, one of the sights a tourist should not miss is the La Sagrada Familia, a giant Basilica designed by Gaudi, where construction started in 1882, is still ongoing, and is expected to be completed by 2026.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Sagrada Familia.
The church is one artistic masterpiece, from the exterior like the nativity façade, to the interior – the altar the stained windows, and the roof, to name a few. There is a tower which we decided to climb (you can ride an elevator to a certain point but going down is by foot) through a narrow spiral staircase. This, in itself, is a trip worth visiting and definitely, worth treasuring. We cannot help but be at awe at the ideas, efforts, materials and time that were and are being spent for this sacred, artistic and beautiful building.
SANCTUARIO DE SAN JOSE DE LA MONTAÑA
Another church we came across after visiting Gaudi Museum and Parc Guell is the Saint Joseph’s Church. (54 San Jose de la Montana) It may not be famous but it has its own distinct character.
There are a lot more to do and places to visit in this fascinating city. We would recommend alloting 1-2 weeks to explore the mysteries and surprises that is Barcelona. A second trip is something to consider in the future.
About the Writer
Ma. Cristina Sendin. A lover of nature, a travel bug, a photo buff, a movie fan, a writer-to be – that’s me. Professionally, I am a trainer/facilitator conducting behavioral and attitudinal training for public and private firms. I am a mother of three lovely children and a wife to a great husband. I hope to retire in a few years and devote myself to pursuing the things I love to do – writing, baking, cooking, helping needy children and of course, travelling.