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It would take a lifetime to get to know Barcelona, but some travelers only have a few days. Here are five picks for finding adventure in this cosmopolitan Mediterranean city.
Art imitates nature, and nature imitates art, according to Park Guell’s design genius, Antoni Gaudí. Natural materials make beautiful, organic structures where rock ceilings whirl upward around like tornado spirals, diagonal pillars support tilted walkways, and a curvaceous bench imitates a sea serpent. The colorful tile work, wavy buildings and paths, and gorgeous views of the city make it a fun, playful place for everyone. Spend at least an hour here and try not to Instagram a photo.
Forget the touristy, gimmicky appeal of the double-decker tourist bus. Barcelona extends widely up hills and toward the sea, and the Bus Turístic gives visitors a complete bird’s eye view of this vast city. Unless you’re deathly afraid of heights, you must get on the upper deck of the bus for maximum enjoyment. Three different routes have 44 stops total, including all major attractions. Visitors get a set of headphones for a self-guided audio tour, and they can hop on and hop off as they please.
A basilica like no other, the Sagrada Familia’s spectacular and unconventional façade leaves visitors wanting to explore its extraordinary interior as well. If you’re one who loves heights, take an elevator up where you can peek out of a balcony. Climb a few more steps to reach the top of the towers that look like colorful asparagus tips. To get down, you’ll have to walk down a narrow spiraling staircase that’s not for the faint of heart.
You can love it or hate it, but you have to do it.
Las Ramblas is a wide pedestrian street with rambunctious activity at all hours. It’s also a wild open-air museum — you’ll see animal and flower vendors, sketch artists, human statues, and random spectacles of breakdancers. The infamous La Boqueria is here also, where your eyes can feast on the hanging meats, colorful fruits, and delightful confectionaries. It’s a breezy walk from Plaza Catalunya to the waterfront. Travel tip: Watch your wallet.
From the Parallel stop on the green line (L3), travelers can have a mini-adventure on the funicular to reach Montjuic, an expansive hilly area with beautiful panoramic city views. The MNAC museum, Poble Espanyol, and the Olympic Stadium are all located here, although they’re spread out. There’s also enough room to stretch your arms and find a quiet place for an afternoon siesta.
On a major pedestrian street, the modern Park Hotel Barcelona is located in El Born, the throbbing heart of Barcelona. The Gothic Quarter, Las Ramblas, and the waterfront are a brief walking distance away.
Located near the Plaza Espanya, the B-Hotel is a great place to stay if you want to stay near Montjuic. Nearby is the old bullring, now the Las Arenas Shopping Center. The eighth floor has a stylish terrace-solarium with a pool.
The problem with visiting Barcelona is choosing which spectacular places to see. Also, where are you going to take your awesome selfie?
California native, churro aficionado, and mom of 3, Justine Ancheta writes fervently about Barcelona and Spain. Since 2008, she's been eating burnt onions (calçots) and tripping on cobblestones in the Gothic Quarter. She shares tips on popular attractions, exposes offbeat non-touristy spots, and gives insight on exploring Barcelona with kids. Her next Catalan culture challenge: top level of a human castle (castellers).
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