We travelled to Barcelona by plane on a rather uneventful afternoon flight with Vueling; it cost £50 each and took an hour which compared to the alternative of 13 hours on a coach was a no brainer! An easy taxi ride and we arrived at our hotel at 6pm. Nigel had never been here and his main interest was Camp Nou, not my idea of fun but there were a few things I hadn’t checked out on my last visit some 12 years ago so I was excited to be back. Gaudi city here we come!
We stayed at Hotel Auto Hogar after doing some significant research online; the hotel was fine for 5 nights, it had a metro station Paral-lel just outside and had some bars, restaurants and a supermarket round it. It wasn’t the cheapest hotel we had stayed at at £50 a night but everywhere in Barcelona was expensive. All set we were ready to explore the city. Below are our some of our highlights.
Our hotel was very close to Las Ramblas, within walking distance which was another reason we picked it. I’m pretty sure my last trip didn’t include a visit and it was highly recommended to us; we had a couple of trips around the area during our time here. La Ramblas is a tree lined street which spans 1.2 km and is the most popular tourist destination through the centre of the city. There are several bars and restaurants (which are extortionately priced in a high tourist area) and street art, statues and artworks, souvenir shops and street performers. It is certainly a lively place although our visits focused more around the Liceu area.
There are several lively cobbled streets and squares off of Las Ramblas all with their own charm, offering shopping experiences and more bars and restaurants. It’s easy to just meander around them aimlessly for a few hours just having a look. There are also several attractions around the area and we did visit a couple of them.
No visit to Barcelona would be complete without a mention of Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) because of how influential and widespread his artwork and architecture is around the city. There are seven properties around Barcelona which represent his eclectic creativity and the free reign he was given when being asked to design them. Near to the Liceu Theatre is Palau Guell one of these properties and I visited here one afternoon whilst Nigel was at a football match; certainly from my point of view a lot more interesting! For a rather reasonable €5 entry fee I spent an hour exploring this mansion.
Gaudi was commissioned by industrial tycoon Eusebi Güell to design Palau Guell and his work on the property was completed between 1886-1888. The inside was pretty interesting with some rather quirky features. I did download the audio guide but it didn’t seem to correspond with what i was seeing so I quickly gave up on that but the stained glass windows and the ceilings really were unique. The most wacky part of the visit showing true Gaudi style however was the roof. I couldn’t help but wonder if this guy was influenced somewhat by some illicit substances but somehow his art kinda works!
The Erotic Museum
Apologies if you are eating your breakfast or drinking your coffee because the next few pictures may shock some sensibilities…. Right in the heart of Las Ramblas you will find a rather saucy museum which quite frankly is a little like something you would find in Amsterdam. Of course as it was a bit of smut we had to visit 😉 For €5 each it gave us an hour or so of some amusement.
There were several different rooms with different themes; from sex toys to different pornographic art. They even showed an old fashioned porn video in one room. If it gets all too much you can go out onto their terrace area to get some air and sit in a seat shaped like giant labia! If you’re not prudish or easily embarrassed and want a giggle it’s worth a visit.
A little walk off Las Ramblas in the Gothic Quarter is the quite stunning Barcelona Cathedral; seat of the archbishop of Barcelona. It was constructed between the 13 and 15th century. It wasn’t open to visitors when I was there so I just took some pictures outside along with some interesting artworks nearby.
La Sagrada Familia
No visit to Barcelona would be complete without visiting the most famous landmark, La Sagrada Familia. For those who are not aware the basilica is an enormous but unfinished Roman Catholic church and is the most famous example of Gaudi architecture.
Construction started in 1882 by architect Francisco de Paula del Villar; however he resigned in 1883 and Gaudi was commissioned to complete the work. Gaudi spent the rest of his life devoted to this project, combining art nouveau and gothic styles as well as his own quirkiness. Work has continued using Gaudi’s original plans after his death and was planned to be completed in 2026; however this has been delayed due to the covid pandemic. La Sagrada Familia was consecrated on 7th November 2010 and is open to visitors. We had to book tickets online which wasn’t cheap at €26 each but it was definitely worth the money – it was absolutely stunning!
Underneath the main Basilica is a museum where you can learn all about the history of La Sagrada Familia’s construction, see the original plans and models and how they chose the stain glassed windows. I had only seen it from the outside before but was so glad we had more time to spend a few hours.
Montjuic Funicular & Cable Car
Very near to our quarters we saw signs that you could access the Montjuic funicular through the Paral-lel metro station so we did a bit of google research. We found out the funicular takes you to the 752m high Telefèric de Montjuïc or cable car which stops at the top Montjuic hill by the castle. It was a nice day for a cable car so we decided to go and check out the views. It was €13.50 each return so not the cheapest but the views across Barcelona from the cable car were breathtaking.
At the top you reach the castle and the surrounding parkland. We walked a short way around the castle walls watching archery and enjoying the lovely summer’s day. It was a popular spot for people exercising with several different trails available all at different inclines. There were even people horse-riding up here. It was a nice place with lovely gardens and although we didn’t go in the castle the whole area was a lovely place to spend an afternoon just chilling in the sunshine and taking in the views.
We couldn’t not include Nigel’s football experiences; after all that was the main reason he wanted to come here! Although his primary interest was to see the stadium he was lucky enough that there was a match on whilst we were there between FC Barcelona and Getafe and he managed to get a ticket although quite an expensive one at €76.50 – one happy boy. It was a Sunday 5pm kick off and he used the tube to get there; all be it a little early as he wanted a look around the stadium. It was an 800m walk from the Collblance metro station before he reached it.
Despite FC Barcelona’s iconic status in European football, he reported that the stadium was really quite disappointing; it was built in 1957 and is now showing its age. Tired is an understatement as the concrete is actually crumbling. The stands were mostly uncovered and he was in the sun for the whole game due to the lack of shade.
It took FC Barcelona less than 2 minutes to take the lead, an equaliser silenced the crowd before Barcelona went on to win 2-1. Overall he felt it was an unconvincing display of football skills and they are not the power they used to be; especially since Lionel Messi left their ranks due to the clubs financial difficulties. Despite the fact the capacity of the stadium was 99,000 spectators there was a poor official attendance of only 26,000; however despite this he still enjoyed the game and actually with less people it was probably safer in covid times – Camp Nou – tick!
Another reason we visited Barcelona was because we were in close proximity to Andorra, one of the countries in Europe we were yet to visit. It’s another place worthy of its own page so you can read about our time there in our next blog post. For now though it was time to say goodbye to lovely Barcelona – until next time.
Carol & Nigel xx