I’ve recently returned from my third visit to this fabulous city. As a huge fan of art nouveau architecture, cava, Spanish fashion and Picasso, I just can’t get enough of Barcelona. And with direct flights to/from Marrakech, it’s an easy two-hour flight from one great city to another. (RyanAir flies in to Girona which is well worth a little visit!)
There’s more to Barcelona and art nouveau architecture than just Gaudi
Spend an hour wandering through the Art Nouveau wonderland that is the Hospital de la Sant Pau i Sant Pau complex comprising 12 pavilions by Lluis Domenech i Mantaner.
Completed in 1930 as a “city within the city” each pavilion housed a specific medical specialization and linked together by underground galleries. Wandering around the tranquil site, admiring the flowery and colourful architecture I couldn’t help but wonder why we don’t have such beauty in our institutions today, especially ones where patients are recovering or spending their last days.
Skip the guided tour of the Museu de la Palau Musica Catalonia (also by Lluis Domenech i Mantaner) and scoop up tickets to an evening performance.
The interior is quite simply stunning and I could admire the stained-glass ceiling for hours, but the opera/flamenco I saw here was just great. Book a floor seat for best views.
Wander along the Passage de Gracia and admire the grande homes and storefronts. It’s one of my favourite streets and I never tire of walking from one end to the other. More and more of the private residences are offering guided visits including Casa Lleo Morera which seems to crown the avenue just steps from Casa Batlo.
After my last trip to Barcelona I have seen all but one of Gaudi’s works which I’ve written about in a Must-see Gaudi architecture in Barcelona.
Art and cultural centres
Housed in a cast-iron market, the El Born Cultural Centre is a fabulous way to learn about Catalonian culture and history in 1700 before years of attacks that devastated the city.
With ruins of the former walled colony below and great exhibits in rooms on either side, this is a great place to spend a couple of hours learning about the history of and life in Catalonia prior to the invasion. The museum does a great job in explaining Catalonia’s case of independence for those unsure of the political and cultural reasons.
If you’re going to visit the Museu d’Historia de Barcelona, avoid the free visit on Sunday afternoons unless you speak Castillan or Catalan. The audio guides are unavailable during these times and the placards are not in English. An interesting place to visit to see the ruins but I was not able to understand anything. I much preferred the El Born Cultural Centre.
Located in the Montjuic area is the Joan Miro Foundation, presenting a retrospective of his sculpture and paintings. I was rather unfamiliar with the artist’s works prior to my visit, but left feeling very interested.
Don’t miss the outdoor sculptures located on the first floor, but it’s best to arrive before dark as the area is not (well) lit. Miro Park at the Placa Espanya is not much more than a dog park with his Woman and Bird sculpture looming over.
The Picasso Museum may just be one of the top tourist attractions in Barcelona and the collection of his early works is comprehensive. The museum is free on Sunday afternoons and Thursday evenings, but expect long line-ups.
Wandering through the El Born neighbourhood on Sundays is a true delight. Puppeteers present street performances, sidewalk cafes are full and locals spill out on to the streets at the cava bars.
Be sure to wander off the main streets to explore the artists’ galleries and indie shops for great little treasures. And admire the street art every where!
And don’t miss the Santa Maria del Mar church, it’s where I fell in love with Gothic architecture on my most recent visit.
It’s one of my favourite neighbourhoods of Barcelona and where I spend most of my time.
I loved the ambiance in the Barceloneta neighbourhood. On a warm day, head on down and admire the views of the Mediterranean Sea while enjoying an (overpriced) glass of wine at one of the street-side cafes while admiring the architecture.
Name unknown, churrios bar
Located on the busy Via Laietana near the Palau de la Musica Catalona heading towards El Born is a very local and very delicious churrios bar. Forget the fancy spots, this place was packed with locals sitting as the bar as the owner prepared fresh churrios to the line-ups of customers. I knew it had to be good so I had to give it a try. And I wasn’t disappointed!
Name unknown, tapas bar
Located on Carrer del Baluard in the Barceloneta neighbourhood, this small, simple and unmarked tapas bar housed behind to large wooden doors was the place to be during lunch hour. Expect long line ups or to eat at the bar, but the tapas is quite simply some of the best I had.
With locations throughout the city, I love this place for its cozy ambiance, yummy coffees and mouth-watering desserts. I love coming here when in the Palau de la Musica Catalonia area.
La Alcoba Azul
This adorable little wine and tapas bar fits in perfectly with in the Gotica neighbourhood. I had the stuffed red peppers with a glass(es) of delicious local red wine and it was one of the nicest evenings out during my stay.