Brilliant Streets and Genius Architecture: Two Days in Barcelona, Spain
We had lots of leg exercise during our walking tour in Madrid, Spain, during the previous days. We were able to see a unique blend of old-fashioned traditions and hipster culture, and although we loved Madrid, we had to move on to our next destination, Barcelona.
Barcelona is the capital city of Catalonia. It is Spain’s second most populous city. I have heard and read about Barcelona several times in the past, and although I was really looking forward to exploring more of Spain, a part of me missed Madrid. Nevertheless, when I got to Barcelona, I was in for a fun tour that reminded me that each part of Spain was unique, beautiful, and definitely unforgettable.
Day One: Arrival in Barcelona
I left my heart in Madrid via a two-and-a-half hour train ride to Barcelona. It was such a comfortable train ride that I forgot we already left Madrid haha. How I wish the Philippines had such an efficient train system like this as well!
When we arrived in Barcelona, thats the only time I realized we already left the Spanish Capital. I was in Barcelona and it was, once again, a whole new adventure for me. We checked in our official accommodation for one night, Hotel del Mar (hotel info)(which translates to “Hotel by the Sea”).
While my other companions went to his respective hotel room, I waited for Monette, a good friend of mine who flew from Switzerland to Barcelona just to meet me in Spain.
Monette and I had a very long, catching-up conversation, that we were not able to take note of the time. Before I knew it, Maria Martinez, our English-speaking tour guide, was already in the lobby of the hotel. Since Monette did not have any specific plans for that day, I offered for her to join us in our tour. I asked Maria for permission and she gave a nod and a gentle smile.
And with that, our walking tour began.
Our first stop was at El Born District, an area with walkways filled with cafes, bars, and various shops that all appeared fashionable and interesting on their own. Amongst the shops were galleries, such as the Textile Museum that had a café as well. Visiting at least a shop wasn’t on our schedule, but walking on the streets with the shops bustling and with the walkways covered with trees was very relaxing and enjoyable.
Next to the El Born District was the La Ribera, where our next destination, the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar, was located. The basilica was competed in 1383 and continues to overlook La Ribera today. The massive door of the church is decorated with figures that show how the church was constructed centuries ago.
The façade of the church is grandiose, but its interior had more impressive displays. It had dome ceilings and high, stained glass windows. The windows, which were hit by the sunlight from outside, illuminated the inside of the church with their various colors.
While on our way to the next place in our itinerary, our tour guide Maria reminded us to take extra care of our belongings while touring the streets, especially in La Rambla, Barcelona’s famous, tree-lined pedestrian shopping street. As a person who comes from Manila, I understood what Maria was trying to say and of course, I knew well enough how to avoid perpetrators of the sort. It was unfortunate that Barcelona had the problem of pickpockets (I guess all cities does), but we did not let that issue affect us in enjoying our walking tour. After all, we were headed next to Viana Restaurant for lunch.
Viana had a very clean and chill atmosphere. It was mildly busy when we got there but we were able to enjoy our meal. We had some of their highlight pinchos, drinks, and of course, desserts.
Our last stop for the day was the Catedral de la Santa Creu y Santa Eulalia, or simply called Barcelona Cathedral. The construction of the church took place from the 13th to the 15th century and is the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona.
The church has towering spires which contrasted greatly with the afternoon skies. I was also able to see the gargoyle statues on its roof from afar.
Since the church was yet to open in 30 minutes, we decided to drop by the street bazaar that was just located in the street across the cathedral. The vendors sold a variety of items, ranging from old books, jewelries, and antique-looking items like rosaries made from gemstones. Crowds of locals started to gather when the church finally opened.
The interior of the church was mostly dipped in golden hues, probably because of the orange of the afternoon light outside. The chatters of our group, as well as of the other people who visited the church, reverberated.
Before heading back to Hotel del Mar to retire for the day, we took our time to visit some souvenir shops, as well as a few snack bars, along the way. I’m so glad I was able to travel again with my friend Monette, who, although went to Barcelona without much plans, was able to enjoy herself.
We started our second day in Barcelona earlier than the first. If our tour on the first day focused on the local way of life, our second featured more of Barcelona’s artistic and architectural culture.
Our first destination was L’Eixample District, which is known for its artistic, modernist buildings. Walking along the streets of the district was very refreshing. It had a clean, grid-type city planning, which reminded me of Sapporo. However, what is unique about this district is its octagonal blocks. Although it is not immediately visible on a street level, an aerial view of L’Eixample shows the very organized and clean urban planning of the district.
Around the corner was the Casa Batllo, a very artistic building that stands out among the block it belongs to. The Casa Batllo is a house that was constructed in 1877, and was bought by a Batllo family a few years later.
From afar, the building looks like the back of a scaly dragon, and is very eccentric compared to its very traditional neighbors. This building was artistically transformed by the famous architect Antoni Gaudí, whose obra maestro we were also set to visit afterwards.
Casa Batllo’s interiors were equally as stunning. This is one of the only former-residential buildings with intricate stained glass windows that I have ever seen. In fact, it was one of the most colorful houses I have ever seen! The furnishings were bizarre, the roof was colorful, and almost every corner was decorated.
After the colorful attack on our eyes, we headed out for La Sagrada Familia, one of the world’s most monumental unfinished churches. Like the Casa Batllo, the La Sagrada Familia was partly constructed under the direction of Gaudí, who unfortunately passed away before the church could be completed.
We shrunk as we neared the church grounds. La Sagrada Familia was colossal, and we felt like tiny ants walking near it. Its construction began on 1882, and is still ongoing. The church exterior was grandiose and intricate, and I couldn’t wait to explore its interiors by 2026, the year when the church is expected to be finally completed, as well as the same year that marks Gaudí’s 100th death anniversary.
An interesting thing about the La Sagrada is that its construction is solely funded by the entrance fee and by private donations. It is amazing how such an iconic church is only being ran by dedicated individuals from all over the world.
The Basilica was our last stop for the day, and when we left as a group, I breathed in as much Barcelonan air as I can. With that, our stay in Barcelona was about end. We headed back to our hotel afterwards to pick up our bags then headed to the train station for our trip to Logrono. More stories coming up!
This 12-day street photography tour of Spain was a sponsored trip organized by Spain Tourism Board. We would like to thank Barcelona Turisme for providing us with press passes to some of the most important tourist destinations in the city. I would also like to thank Maria, our English tour guide for Barcelona, for giving us such a fun and informative two-day tour.
To know more about Barcelona, check out VisitBarcelona.com. Follow them as well in their official Facebook page (facebook.com/VisitBarcelona), Twitter (@VisitBCN_EN), and Instagram (@visitBarcelona) for more updates.
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