Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, which lies at the heart of the city,
is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets, medieval buildings, and remnants
of the past. Here visitors will find several of Barcelona’s most
esteemed museums and monuments, as well as a plethora of art galleries,
artisan boutiques, shops, and restaurants. Most of the buildings date
from the 14th and 15th centuries, when Barcelona was at the height of
its commercial prosperity and before it had been absorbed into Castilla.
A masterpiece of its medieval heritage, the Barri Gòtic's catedral,
is one of Spain's greatest Gothic buildings.
Once a separate village north of L’Eixample, and then in the 19th
century an industrial district famous for its Republican and liberal ideas,
Gràcia was incorporated into the city of Barcelona in 1897. In
those days it had some catching up to do, as the town had poor roads,
schools and clinics, and no street lighting or sewers. In the 1960s and
'70s the area became fashionable among radical and bohemian types, and
today it retains some of that flavour – plenty of hip local luminaries
make sure they are regularly seen around the bars and cafés of
La Pedrera was designed by Gaudí and built between 1905 and 1910
as an apartment/office block. Formerly called the Casa Milà, it's
better known as La Pedrera (the quarry) because of its uneven grey stone
facade that creates a wave effect, which is further emphasized by elaborate
Casa Mila, also called “the Quary” because of its rock-like
façade, was Gaudi’s last private commission. Although the
apartment building still maintains some residences, most of the structure
is open to visitors. There is a special exhibition housed in the attic
of the Casa Mila, which includes models and explanations of all Gaudi’s
projects. Especially interesting, is the wonderland of rooftop chimneys
and staircases that visitors can traverse, while circling a large opening
to the building’s central courtyard.
Another one of Gaudi’s amazing creations, Casa Batllo was built
for the private residence of a wealthy textile industrialist, Joseph Batllo.
The house is a modern interpretation of Barcelona’s medieval roots,
with a rainbow of dragon scale shingles on the roof, and skeleton-like
railings for the balconies. The inside is open to visitors, and displays
some of Gaudi’s furnishing creations as well.
This colourful strip of Barcelona culture, whose name comes from the Arabic
word for riverbed, was originally just a path beside a stream running
through the centre of the old city. Today, however, this famous avenue
is a bustling centre of activity. From the early morning to the wee hours
of the night, one can find nearly everything under the sun on the Ramblas.
There are street performers by the dozens, baby ducks, snakes, and bunnies
for sale, florists galore, as well as endless restaurants and snack shops
for when you need a break from all the excitement.
Las Ramblas runs from Placa de Catalunya, a main square full of shops,
restaurants, and banks, located at the centre of the city, down to the
monument of Columbus on the waterfront. The avenue is broken up into five
distinct sections, each with its own name and characteristics.
La Sagrada Família
The most complete part of Barcelona's favourite son, Antoni Gaudi´s
church, finished in 1904, has 3 doorways which represent Faith, Hope and
Charity. Each doorway has four towers, symbolizing the 12 apostles. The
Temple is still a work in progress. Despite being very much a building
site, the cathedral has a certain beauty that counts as his greatest work.
Gaudí died in 1926 before his masterwork was completed, and since
then, controversy has continually dogged the building program.
The mountain, which acts as a backdrop for much of the city, is home to
exotic gardens, the Greek theatres, several of Barcelona’s museums
and sculptures, as well as the Olympic stadium. At its summit sits the
castle of Montjuich, an old watchtower from the late 17th and early 18th
century. However, mount Montjuich’s most popular attraction is by
far the Magic Fountains. This wonder of light, water, and music was constructed
for the 1929 Universal Exposition. Today, the fountains’ shows awe
hundreds of visitors each weekend, while providing a spectacular view
of the National Palace in the background.
The Picasso Museum reopened in 2000 with two new exhibition spaces that
will host temporary exhibitions. The permanent collection is devoted to
the artist's early work, including a large number of Rose and Blue period
paintings, exhibition posters and childhood sketches. The delightful collection
is housed in two fifteenth-century palaces close to the Parc de la Ciutadella.
Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC)
The Palau Nacional on Montjuïc was the focus of Barcelona's International
Fair in 1929 and now houses the National Museum of Catalonian Art. The
museum boasts a stunning collection of Gothic, Romanesque and Medieval
treasures and religious artefacts. The most impressive approach to the
Palace is up Avinguda de La Reina Maria Cristina from Plaça Espanya;
the Avinguda is lined with fountains that are floodlit at night.
Monestir de Montserrat
Montserrat, 50km (31mi) northwest of Barcelona, has weird rocky crags,
ruined hermitage caves, a monastery and hordes of tourists taking a break
from their holidays on the Costa Brava. The Monestir de Montserrat was
founded in 1025 to commemorate visions of the Virgin Mary. Today it houses
a community of about 80 monks, and pilgrims come to venerate La Moreneta
(the Black Virgin), a 12th-century Romanesque wooden sculpture of Mary
with the baby Jesus; La Moreneta has been Catalonia's official patron
since 1881. The most dramatic approach to Montserrat is by cable car,
which arrives just below the monastery after a thrilling whoop up the
With Parc Güell, Gaudí created a fantasy land that seamlessly
combines the natural and the man-made, as well as offering good views
back over the city. The park, originally conceived as a garden city, covers
a hill to the north of the centre. The gardens are enlivened by fantastic
pavilions, stairways, columned halls and an organic plaza decorated with
stunning broken-mosaic work (trencadís) by Gaudí's assistant,
Josep Maria Jujol. At the base of the hill is a house designed by Francesc
Berenguer that now houses a collection of Gaudí's furnishings and
Barcelona’s second landmark hill is Tibidabo, about four miles (six
km) northwest of the city in a wooded range that forms a backdrop to the
city. Tibidabo can be reached by funicular, and is particularly popular
at weekends with locals because it is home to the Parc d’Atraccions,
an amusement park with some thrill rides and renowned house of horrors.
Tibidabo also features the soaring Torre de Collserola telecommunications
tower which offers visitors the chance to ride in a glass lift to an observation
platform 377 feet (115m) high to enjoy a spectacular view. There is also
a large, interesting church called Temple del Sagrat Cor surmounted by
a giant Christ statue which also offers a lift to a rooftop viewing platform.