City Highlights Within Easy Reach
Barcelona is one of the Mediterranean’s most captivating cities, with plenty of attractions to fill several weeks of a holiday itinerary. Yet cruise passengers rarely have so much time to explore the Catalan capital. With that in mind, we have put together some suggestions for the most interesting things to see in Barcelona on a tighter schedule. These activities are divided into times of day, as it all depends when your ship comes in.
The Catalonia cruise port is located in the city centre, right at the bottom of La Rambla, so where better to spend a morning on-shore? Here are some of the highlights on and around Barcelona’s most famous street.
Photo Credit: Lawrie Cate
Spanish poet Federico García Lorca proclaimed La Rambla “the only street in the world which I wish would never end,” and it’s easy to see why. This tree-lined boulevard, which starts at the Monument of Christopher Columbus and ends at the pretty Plaza Catalunya, also offers a host of sights along the way, including a beautiful fountain, an intricate Miró mosaic, varied shopping and dining options and dozens of street performers. Early morning visitors should make a beeline straight for La Boqueria, a wildly colourful market selling fruit and vegetables, frozen fish, sweets and more – making it a rewarding stop for breakfast.
Photo Credit: thierry llansades
Located just moments from La Rambla, Palau Güell is a unique mansion designed by local Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. The façade of this magical Modernisme building has the feel of a Venetian palace, though with a few conspicuous twists, while the dark interior reveals an even greater mix of the old and new. The main joy for visitors is climbing up to the roof, lined with chimneys that are each adorned with individual, multi-coloured tiles. (You can also walk a little further for Gaudí’s equally-impressive CASA MILÀ).
Photo Credit: clavel9
Pablo Picasso may have been born in the southern city of Málaga, but he always thought of Barcelona as his true home. So it’s fitting that the world’s most complete collection of Picasso art is to be found in the Catalan capital. The Museu Picasso, opened in 1963 (during the painter’s lifetime), boasts more than 3,500 works by Picasso, including the early pieces The First Communion (1896) and Science and Charity (1897). It is the only museum where you can clearly chart the evolution of his work from realism to Cubism.
Photo Credit: hkpuipui99
The labyrinthine Gothic quarter of Barcelona is home to some of the city’s most impressive medieval buildings, from those small side-street houses to the imposing Barcelona Cathedral. What’s more, it’s closed to most traffic. This makes Barri Gòtic an ideal place to take an absent-minded stroll, taking in the narrow alleys, pretty squares and striking buildings. This area is also home to city’s medieval Jewish Quarter.
Afternoon is the time to spread your wings and really explore. So here are some places a little further afield.
Photo Credit: Reinhard Schuldt
LA SAGRADA FAMILIA
It may be a work in progress, but this church is by far the most famous building in Barcelona, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Designed by that renowned Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, construction began all the way back in 1882, but is not scheduled for completion until at least 2026. Nevertheless, visitors can already head inside to explore the portions of the striking Gothic and Art Nouveau cathedral that are now completed – including the nave, the crypt, the passion tower and the nativity tower. Nothing prepares you for the stunning originality, intricacy and sheer scale of this architectural masterpiece.
Photo Credit: Marianne de Wit
Remember Palau Güell? The man who commissioned this was so impressed with Gaudí he asked him to transform an arid hillside into a peaceful garden. Gaudí certainly delivered. The park features stunning structures (including tree-like stone columns), fine sculptures (like the multi-coloured salamander), and lovely open spaces (such as the terrace with vibrant tiled mosaics). Gaudí also constructed two unique buildings at the entrance to the park; these have the look of two elaborately-decorated gingerbread houses.
Photo Credit: dsevilla
A broad, shallow hill southwest of the centre, Montjuïc comprises several significant buildings and collections. There’s the imposing Palau Nacional, which houses the National Art Museum of Catalonia. There’s the 1992 Olympic Stadium, which is now home to the excellent Olympic and Sports Museum. And there are the Archaeology Museum of Catalonia, the Museum of Ethnology and the botanical gardens – not to mention the Joan Miró Foundation (below). And all accompanied by gorgeous vistas across the harbour…
Photo Credit: veritatem
JOAN MIRÓ FOUNDATION
Gaudí’s fingerprints may be all over Barcelona, and Picasso may claim the city as his own, but when it comes to the most-loved Catalan artist, that title belongs to Joan Miró. A surrealist painter, sculptor, and ceramicist, Miró enjoyed huge popularity during his lifetime. This museum showcases many of his most revered works including some donated by the artist himself. A must for modern art-lovers.
There may be a plethora of daytime attractions for visitors to the Catalan capital, but it’s when the sun sinks that Barcelona really springs into life. Here’s a selection of some of the best after-dark attractions in the city.
Photo Credit: Tab59
Spanish La Liga football games often kick off late, even during weekends, so if you are due to visit Barcelona on a match day you should look to reserve Camp Nou seats far in advance. As well as being home to one of the most successful football sides to ever grace Europe, the stadium also happens to be one of the largest arenas in the world, filled every week with loud, passionate Catalans – so even non-football fans will enjoy the cultural experience here. On non-match days, hardcore fans can also join a stadium tour.
Photo Credit: jp3g
MAGIC FOUNTAIN SHOW
Situated below the Palau Nacional on Montjuïc hill, this ornamental fountain is a pleasant sight during the day – but it takes on a whole other dimension at night, as it becomes the centre of an elaborate water aerobics, light and music performance. Performed on selected nights all year round (in summer, every half-hour from 9pm and 11pm, Thursday to Sunday), powerful jets of water, glistening in various shades and colours, delight the audience by dancing to classical music, modern pop and film scores.
Photo Credit: sfer
GRAN TEATRE DEL LICEU OPERA
After the Paris Opera, this is the largest opera house in Europe, and it hosts a mix of opera, dance, classical concerts and recitals. Visitors to the majestic opera house in 2014 can enjoy classical Italian operas like Il Tabbaro (by Giacomo Puccini), Il Barbiere di Siviglia (by Gioachino Rossini) and La Traviata (by Guiseppe Verdi), as well as international productions such as Porgy & Bess (an original jazz opera by George Gershwin) and Los Miserables (an Italian-language adaptation of the popular musical).
Photo Credit: pikadilly
Those who want good food and a few drinks in the evening should head back to the heart of Barri Gòtic – Plaça Reial. The picturesque plaza, designed by Francesc Daniel Molina i Casamajó in the 19th century, boasts a number of high quality, affordable restaurants, as well as open-air wine bars and ice cream shops. It is also home to some of the city’s most famous nightclubs, including Karma, Jamboree and Sidecar.