After 9 weeks tripping around South America we decided to round off our trip with a week in Barcelona before heading to Switzerland to spend the Christmas and New Year holidays with family. We didn’t really know a lot about Barcelona before going but everyone we talked to rated this destination very highly. And they were right… I seriously fell in love with this city!
We had booked an apartment with a stunning view of the Hospital de Sant Pau. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is currently undergoing restoration for use as a museum and cultural center. Our apartment was a huge step up from hostel life and I was thankful to have our own space where we could spread out and call home for six nights.
I think the thing I was most excited about was the food and I was not disappointed! Because Barcelona is in the Catalan region much of its cuisine is quite different to the rest of Spain – though we did indulge in many of the more “Spanish” type foods that you may expect like seafood paella and tapas. I love the idea of having small tasters of different dishes – it’s a very social affair and the tapas restaurants we visited were humming with people. We also checked out La Boqueria Market which provided us with a magnificent showcase of Barcelona’s fresh ingredients. We bought fruit and vegetables here, which we thought were quite reasonably priced, as we decided to do a bit of home cooking for a change.
Proud of its own identity and language, Catalonia is one of Spain’s richest and most highly industrialised regions, and also one of the most independent-minded. With a distinct history stretching back to the early middle ages, many Catalans think of themselves as a separate nation from the rest of Spain. A bit of history lesson for you – as both Andrew and I didn’t realise that in Barcelona many locals speak Catalan. It was a bit confusing hearing this new language as we were listening out for Spanish words we knew.
Though I knew of the Sagrada Familia by the famous Antoni Gaudí I did not realise the extent of his other work within this beautiful city. Walking the streets of Barcelona you will intuitively be able to identify a Gaudí building – they are unmistakable, unique, often odd and not to everyone’s taste. Gaudí’s work is admired by architects around the World as being one of the most unique and distinctive architectural styles. We decided to do an audio-tour of the Sagrada and so glad we did – if you think the outside is impressive the inside literally took my breath away. I guess I’m a bit lost for words as to how to describe it, it is truly a must-see. Andrew and I also visited Parc Güell which offers great views over the city. You can actually walk up around the back of the Parc for free though I recommend paying the entrance fee to check out the monumental zone including the main entrance buildings, terrace areas and mosaics.
We took on of those hop on-hop off bus tours one day – it’s a good way to see the wider areas of the city as well as some of the key attractions. Being December (the coldest month) the city and tourist areas were not particulary busy. We visited the beach which was pretty quiet of course, it was about 18 degrees Andrew and I were in tshirts and the rest of Barcelona was rugged up in heavy coats. It was quite nice to be there in the lead up to Christmas the streets were lined with twinkling lights and there were numerous craft and food markets. I would love to come back in the summer months to experience the city in a new light.
Our time in Barcelona went very quickly. We fit in a lot of touristy things but also had some all important down time before we headed off to our next destination… Switzerland!