A March 2000 trip
to Barcelona by davidx
Quote: I had flown to Gerona and stayed there two nights. I went to Barcelona for two or at most three nights and left reluctantly after five with lots still not done.
I guess the Sagrada Familia would be nominated by most people as the single most important sight. I readily admit that I did not expect to like it and I have never seen a photo that does it justice. The real thing I found breathtakingly beautiful and was moved to see some more of Gaudí's works. However, even in his own time, Gaudí is not the only architect to see in Barcelona. The dazzling Palau de la Música owes nothing to Gaudí but is a splendid Moderniste building.
Then, of course, there are museums given over to the work of Picasso, Joan Miró and Tapiés.
This is all in addition to the Barri Gòtic, winding streets, and terrific old buildings such as the Cathedral, Santa Maria del Mar, old palaces and the town hall.
Then there is the Maritime Museum, the buiding of which is just as important as the galleon and the 13th century dockyard!
Then, if you want a really delightful open area, there is the hill of Montjuic, which features buildings built for the recent Olympics, and a tremendous view over the docks and the city.
I cannot stop this list without a mention of La Rambla - sometimes given the plural name of Las Ramblas because it has five separate stretches (each one a Rambla). I know no other boulevard which perpetually attracts so many people who just love being there.
Attraction | "Barri Gòtic"
The old cathedral has to be mentioned first. Its vast size does not detract from its appeal as a splendid Gothic building, and the streets to one side of it are narrow, picturesque and interesting. On the other side is a huge square where local people were dancing in great circles on a feast day. The interior is well worth a look and the cloisters are great.
But stay awake - I was set up for a scam here. Something must have gone wrong and I ended up OK, but not everyone has been taken to the fountain in the cloisters for a wash!
Next I will mention another church which I think is just as good, the interior at least, for the quality of its stained glass windows. This is Santa Maria del Mar. There are other churches mentioned in the Rough Guide as well, but it is not possible to do everything.
The old Palau Reial now houses the Museu d'Historia de la Ciutat. The building itself is sufficient justification for going in, but inside you can see in situ the remains of Roman and Visigothic Barcelona.
Other old lay buildings are the Ayuntament, the Town Hall (where all sorts of figures in stilts were preparing to go in procession last time I was there), the Palau de la Generalitat opposite (the home of the Catalan Provincial Government), the Museu Marès (which I defied the Rough guide by not visiting) and the Picasso museum (which is biased strongly in the direction of his early life and works, but very interesting, and again the building justifies entry).
Then on the other side of La Rambla, but still in the Barri Gòtic, are several important sights. I did not go in the Liceu although I am sure it would be good, but I bought my lunch to carry from the market every day and everybody should see it. It is a real gem, probably exaggerated by the fact that such a central market is becoming rarer. Lastly, of the older buildings, is the Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu, now used by the University. You can wander around the old garden and cloisters, sadly I saw overmuch litter when I did.
The Palau de la Música Catalana is probably in the Barri Gòtic but I include it under Modernisme.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 26, 2002
Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter)
La Rambla To Via Laietana
Barcelona, Spain 08002
Attraction | "La[s] Rambla[s]"
Anyway, one or five, there it is or there they are. Huge numbers of residents of the city walk on it in informal processions in the evenings and at Sunday lunchtimes, and most of the many tourists attracted by the city will be there at some stage of the evening.
There are trees throughout the route and under them are the stalls, most of which sell either flowers or caged birds.
Going up from the bottom, you will encounter some areas that are a bit dodgy area after dark, including the big Colón [Columbus] statue, the superb Maritime Museum in the old Drassanes shipyards, the Liceu Opera House, reopened after extensive fire damage, and a marvellous market, mainly for produce, fruit and vegetables. Barcelona has not, thankfully, joined in the trend of moving its markets out to where nobody can find them. This is all in addition to numerous eating places and hotels. Then nearer the top there are garments for sale, laid out on the pavements with cheap but very attractive silk scarves with pictures by Picasso, Dali and Miró.
Then just near to the street are the Plaça Reial where the lamp standards were Gaudi's first commision, the old Hospital de la Sants Creu now used by the University, and the whole of the Barri Gòtic with its fine buildings.
It is easy to find accommodation in this area but I have kept to the Rough Guide's guidance and restricted myself to the area north of the Liceu. Check this website for a map link to all the many hostels and hotels that it lists.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 25, 2002
La Rambla (Las Ramblas) Pedestrian Mall
Attraction | "Museu Maritim, Drassanes"
It was originally the Drassanes Reials [Royal ship-building yards] which made ships for the joint kingdom of Aragon and Catalunya. It consists of a succession of Gothic naves with a gable roof supported by stone pillars.
By the second half of the 17th century it was largely used to accommodate troops, and in the 18th century it became an artillery depot. It was finally given to the city by the military in 1935 and has been the Museu Maritim since 1977.
As well as the galleon, there are fine collections of navigational instruments here, and figureheads, nautical maps and pictures.
I know that many tourits are attracted by the art and the ecclesiastical buildings of the city, but this museum should NOT be forgotten when you plan your itinerary.
Avinguda Drassanes, 1
Barcelona, Spain 08001
+34 93 3429920
Attraction | "Modernisme - Gaudí and Domènech"
So to Gaudí. Obviously I did not see everything of his and I am concentrating on what I have seen - in chronological order of building.
First, in the Plaça Reial near to La Rambla are lamp standards representing his first commissioned work, which are worth a look though it can be a bit of a dodgy place. [photo]
Casa Milà - Passeig de Gracia - Example: This is one of Gaudí's more familiar lay buildings and has the most amazing wave-like shapes and convoluted chimneypots - unfortunately my photo of it floodlit was a disaster.
Parc Guell - metro and bus: [photos] This is absolutely amazing. Ridiculous pieces of coloured stone or glass are incorporated into the most glorious structures; pavillions with slanting pillars abound. In the setting sun of the evening this is definitely a fun place to be. The mix of bright colours and strange structures beggars belief.
Templo de Sagrada Familia. - metro or walk. In later life Gaudí gave up all other work to concentrate on building this, and it was unfinished when he was run down and killed by a trolleybus in 1926. Its size is a necessary part of seeing it - to me no photography does it anywhere near justice. It is simply of enormous height. Unfortunately walking up long flights of steps is something I can no longer do, and I was restricted to the viewing gallery near the lift exit. From here it still sems like an infinite distance up to the top.
There is a general impression of roughness about it at first sight which does not fit well with the massive concentration on details which is seen on closer inspection.
Gaudi House Museum (Casa Museu Gaudi)
Park Guell, Carretera Carmel
Barcelona, Spain 08024
34 93 2193811
Attraction | "Magical Montjuic"
Far from being an ancient palace, Montjuic dates from an exhibition in 1929 and the Palau now houses the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya; a collection of Gothic church art on one side of the building. The collectoin is attractive enough, but on the other side lies what is probably the world's finest collection of Romanesque frescoes, mostly taken from ancient Pyrrenean churches for safe-keeping. In some cases walls have been built to display the work practically exactly as it was.
Anyone who has seen any of the superb churches of the Val de Boi ought to come here [and vice versa - see my journal on 'Catalunia.']
Behind the Palau you can easily get onto the road that goes in delicious shade under fabulous trees to the Fundacion de Joan Miró. I have never enjoyed an exhibition of this kind of art so much and I urge anyone like me with virtually no prior knowledge of Miró to pay the small amount required for headphones.
Shortly after that, you reach the cable car at the top of Montjuic. At the top of the hill are superb views of the city, where the height of the Sagrada Familia can be appreciated, and particularly of the port stretching away below into the distance. I heard stories about being able to see Majorca but there was only haze in that direction. This was all I did, but it would be good to take in the stadium of the 1992 Olympics on the way down.
Southwest of City Center Overlooking the Harbor
Attraction | "Montserrat - wonderful rock scenery but - - -"
I guess that if I had arrived in time to hear the famous boys’ choir do their bit at 1300 hours I might have gone in but my general view is that a superb piece of rock scenery has been wrecked by people putting a grotesque monastery in the middle. If I ever go again, which I doubt, I should make straight for the upper funicular and hope for cloudless skies for a walk, preferably out of sight of all the pandemonium below. I think I should be more interested in seeing other sights but I am not sorry I went and the scenery is sufficiently striking to justify one visit in spite of the major downside.
Ticks in the boxes below relate solely to the top but the final appraisal is an overall assessment of the trip.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 23, 2002
However, two particular experiences of mine may be instructive to others.
The first was on the Metro when I first arrived at Sants station. With a largish case and a shooting stick, on account of my heart condition, I must have seemed pretty vulnerable and I was 'marked' for robbery by a firm hand on the back at the exact moment that the train was drawing up. The person involved then walked away and left me to the mercies of his friend in the train who neatly removed papaers from my back pocket and alighted, all in no time at all. I do not feel sorrow for his disappointment when he found what he had taken! Message: it could have been much worse. Use a taxi if you are burdened with luggage.
The other experience was in the Barri Gòtic, or, to be more precise, in the cloisters of the old cathedral. I was sprayed on my clothes with someting that looked like s--t; interestingly enough, they put it where I could not see it. A gentleman drew my attention to it and offered to help. I have heard stories similar to this that happened to three separate people, so I will describe what happened to me as A and to them as B; your guess is as good as mine on why I was lucky.
A] Victim led by helper into cloisters, having just left them. Woman caretaker expresses interest. Helper surrenders victim to care of caretaker. Victim led to fountain for a very public clean-up.
B] Victim led by helper to a toilet. Group waiting - mugging and robbery.
Incidentally the substance was not what it looked like and seems to have been some sort of chocolate.
Message: should you be sprayed, thank your would-be helper but get to somewhere that you know is safe before you clean up - and in the one case that I know of the other person was actually rescued from the beating by other members of his group; the 'helper' had been middle-aged and appeared respectable.
I repeat, be careful and you should enjoy this magnificent city. I certainly hope to go again.
Todmorden, United Kingdom