IPA Magazine-Luxury Travel Reviews

The Best of Barcelona

sagradaBarcelona, the second largest city in Spain with some 5 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area, is considered one of the world’s leading tourist, economic, cultural, and trade fair centers.  With roots that go back to Roman times, the Mediterranean port city has been catapulted to new heights in the late 20th century largely due to two key events, the 1975 death of its dictator, Francisco Franco and the comprehensive transformation of the city as a result of winning the bid to host the 1992 Summer Olympics.

Barcelona’s continuing evolution and innovation are expressed in a variety of cultural contexts—in the arts, in civic planning and in hospitality, to name just a few. The city of ceramicist and sculptor Joan Miró, artist Pablo Picasso, and modernisme architect Antoni Gaudí continually finds ways to push itself forward in multiple ways.  Barcelona’s renovation, hastened by the Olympic wave of construction in 1992, was an event that utterly transformed Barcelona and propelled it to its present acclaimed status as one of the world’s major global cities.

First Time in Barcelona?  Start Here

Located in the heart of Barcelona, the Tourism information center has a huge amount of floor space providing service to tourists in different languages.  It also offers help in finding last-minute hotel bookings for over 300 hotels and pensions in the city.  Here you can obtain information maps on the city and a variety of passes for seeing the best of Barcelona:  The Barcelona Card, The Barcelona Tourist Bus (and Night Bus tour), and city transport cards, to name a few.  Check out their website here: http://www.barcelonaturisme.cat/#

Get on the Bus!

We found the best way to see Barcelona in the space of a few hours was to utilize the Barcelona “Bus Turistic.”  For one fare, patrons can access all three city tours—Red, Blue and Green—to see all Barcelona has to offer.  The benefits of using this system are several.  First, tourists are provided with ear buds to plug into an audio port at your seat, providing recorded information about the sites as you travel past.  Several language translations are provided—merely dial to the desired language. The buses, running every quarter hour or so, encourage tourists to “hop on, hop off,” to investigate further any sites that might be particularly interesting.   Ticket prices for 2014 are the following:  One day passes are €27 for ages 12+ and €16 for ages 4-12. (Children under four travel free).  Two-day passes are €35 and €20 respectively.  Take the first bus at 9 am from Placa Catalunya or board at any of the stops near your hotel.

We began our journey at the Passeig de Gracia stop, near the Diagonal Metro station.  Here we boarded the blue bus and began our journey heading toward one of the most famous sites in Barcelona.

Sagrada Familia

The Temple of the Holy Family is the great unfinished work of Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926).  He devoted the last years of his life exclusively to the basilica, living only to see one of the bell towers (St. Bernabé) completed.  Construction on the extravagant, controversial monument to his faith began in 1882 and is scheduled to be completed by 2026, one hundred years after the architect’s death.  You’ll want to get off the Turistic Bus here and gaze within this most popular monument in Spain, visited by more than 4 million persons a year.

Futbol Club Barcelona

Continue riding the blue bus until you get to the Barcelona soccer stadium, home of the city’s beloved Barça team, the second most valuable sports team in the world, worth $3.2 billion.  The stadium holds nearly 100,000 making it the largest stadium in Europe.  One of the most successful soccer franchises of all time, the team has featured players such as Diego Maradona, Ronaldhino and Lionel Messi, to name a few.

The Red Line

At Frances Macia/Diagonal transfer from the Blue Line bus to the Red Line.

Montjuic 

A relatively low “mountain” overlooking the Mediterranean, Montjuic has had spiritual, military and cultural significance over the centuries.  The 1929 World’s Fair was hosted here and the Poble Espanyol was built for it, conceived as an architectural tour of Spain featuring a collection of houses and villages where more than 40 artisans show their skills in embroidery, ceramics, glassworks, puppets, etc.  Three museums are here too: The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), the Museu d’Arqueologia, and the Fundacio Joan Miro, devoted to the great Catalan artist (1893-1983).  In 1992 the Olympic Stadium was built here and the games began when the Olympic flame was ignited with a burning arrow.

The Waterfront

Historically, Barcelona was known as the city “with its back to the sea,” due to the rundown appearance of the industrial seaside area.  The ’92 Olympics changed all that, transforming the area into a magnificent marina with restaurants, modern residences, waterside promenades and parks.  Here you can find the 60-meter Monument a Colom (Christopher Columbus tower) where a tiny elevator takes visitors to the top for expansive vistas of the city and the sea, and the Museu Maritim with exhibits of the history of sea travel.  At Port Vell you can find a complex of cinemas, boutiques and cafes—one of the few places in Barcelona where shops remain open on Sundays.  See why Barcelona has become the biggest cruise port in the Mediterranean and the fifth largest in the world!  Here also is the Port Olimpic, once the site of the Olympic Village and venue for the sailing events of the 1992 Olympic Games, today it is a great promenade of restaurants, terraces, hotels and shopping centers.

Barri Gotic

The historic center of Barcelona is the Ciutat Vella (Old Town), the site of the original Roman settlement and the Barri Gotic or medieval (Gothic) quarter.  Here you may visit museums (Museu Frederic Mares, Museu d’Historia de Barcelona), and churches (Catedral de la Santa Cruz y Santa Eulalia, Basilica de la Merced).

El Born

The Ribera district or El Born is where many artists set up their studios.  In the 13th century this district was were the merchants and wealthiest families came to live.  Now this district is a showcase of color where restaurants, wine bars, cocktail lounges, dance clubs and designer boutiques are found.  Check out the Santa Maria del Mar and the Picasso Museum.

Museu Picasso

The Picasso Museum houses 4,251 works that are part of the permanent collection.  The museum’s focus is on the formative years in the life of the artist, considered to be exhaustive up to his Blue Period.  Of the five large Picasso museums in the world, this one, having opened in 1963, is the first and only museum to be set up on Picasso’s express wish.  Jaume Sabartés (1881-1969), a close friend from youth who became Picasso’s secretary in 1935, was largely responsible for the creation of the museum. The artist spent his formative years in Barcelona as the prints and paintings depict.  Arriving from Malaga when he was just fourteen years old, Picasso attended the La Llotja drawing school and painted rooftops of Barcelona as a young artist.  His solid academic training is on display in works that precede his approach to avant-garde trends.

Free Guide Books

Don’t know what to do next?  Pick up one of the free guidebooks that are filled with numerous suggestions on what to do and see.  We found Time Out BcnGuide, Barcelona en sus manos (Barcelona in your hands), and miniguide Barcelona to be helpful.  In addition to the sites mentioned above, these guides have current information about art shows, shopping, the music scene, film, fashion, clubbing, and dining.

Getting Around

There are 11,000 taxis in the city, easily identified by their yellow and black colors.  A green light on the roof means it is available.  There are miles of bicycle lanes in the city and renting a bike is an option.  Seeing the city by motorbike is another option.  There are over 1,000 buses that serve the city.  An integrated fare system means travel cards can be used on the metro and trains.  The metro was one of our favorites.  The system was inaugurated in 1924 with two stations and only used by 10% of the people in the 1930s.  Today, 90 years later, there are 141 stations and 102.6 kilometers of track carrying one million persons a day.

Barcelona Tourisme

Address: Plaça de Catalunya, 17-S

Phone: 932 853 834

How to get there: Metro: L1 and L3 stop Catalunya.| Bus: 16, 17, 24, 41, 42, 55 and 58.| Trains RENFE: stop Catalunya.| Trains FGC: stop Catalunya.

E-mail: info@barcelonaturisme.com

Another location for tourist information is:

Barcelona Tourisme

Passatge de la Concepció, 7-9

08008 Barcelona

Tel. 932 853 834

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