We woke Saturday morning, it was raining and despite my reluctance to take a long day trip in the rain, off we went. The rain continued throughout our drive along the Mediterranean coastline. As we approached Barcelona, the skies began to lighten and by the time we parked near the port, the skies had cleared and sun was shining.
I had done some checking and discovered Barcelona is capital of Catalonia and second largest city in Spain (1,620,943 people live within the city limits). The city sits on the Mediterranean coast between the mouths of the Llobregat and Besòs rivers and is bounded to the west by the Serra de Collserola ridge.
Founded as a Roman city, Barcelona became the capital of the County of Barcelona. Barcelona has a rich cultural heritage and is a major tourist destination. Particularly renowned are the architectural works of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner, which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The first thing we saw when we exited the parking garage was the Columbus Monument, a 197 foot tall monument to Christopher Columbus near the port. It was constructed for the 1888 Worlds Fair in honor of Columbus' first voyage to the Americas. The monument is a reminder that Columbus reported to Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand V in Barcelona after his first trip to the new world.
Jean-Marc had been to Barcelona previously so he knew the major attractions we should see including La Rambla, a pedestrian street in central Barcelona, popular with tourists and locals alike. Tree-lined, it stretches for 1.2 kilometers between Barri Gòtic and El Raval, connecting Plaça de Catalunya in the center of town with the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell.
If you are so inclined, join us as we visit Barcelona.
The Gothic Quarter known as Barri Gòtic is a beautifully preserved neighborhood of Gothic buildings, medieval squares, and narrow alleys in the center of old Barcelona. It stretches from La Rambla to Via Laietana, and from the Mediterranean seafront to Ronda de Sant Pere.
Despite several changes in the 19th and early 20th century, many of the buildings date from Medieval times, some from as far back as the Roman settlement of Barcelona. El Call, the medieval Jewish quarter, is located within this area too.
|A street in Barri Gòtic|
You will notice that many of the building facades are decorated like the one below.
|Artistic Facade on Building|
|A street in Barri Gòtic|
There is random artwork throughout Barcelona.
The Palau de la Generalitat is a historic palace in Barcelona that houses the offices of the Presidency of the Generalitat de Catalunya. It is one of the few buildings of medieval origin in Europe that still functions as a seat of government and houses the institution that originally built it.
|Palau de la Generalitat at Plaça de Sant Jaume|
Barcelona City Hall, also known as Casa de la Ciutat, stands on one side of the Plaça Sant Jaume, in the middle of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter across from the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya. There is a tourist office on the ground floor of the building if you need help or directions.
|The City Hall of Barcelona at Plaça de Sant Jaume|
In ancient times, the Plaça Sant Jaume was the site of the Forum, the meeting place and stage for political debate. The square functions the same way today, connecting Barcelona’s two political power houses: Barcelona City Hall and the seat of the Catalan government, the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya.
|The City Hall of Barcelona|
As I said before, the Gothic Quarter is the center of the old city. The Carrer del Bisbe Bridge seen below connects a Catalan government building with the Catalan president's ceremonial residence.
|Carrer del Bisbe Bridge|
The Monument to the Martyrs of Independence seen below depicts five Barcelona patriots calmly receiving their last rites before being strangled for resisting Napoleon's occupation of Spain. According to the plaque, these martyrs gave their lives "por Dios, por la Patria, y por el Rey" - for God, Country and King.
|Monument to the Martyrs of Independence|
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia also known as Barcelona Cathedral, is the Gothic cathedral and seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona. The Cathedral was constructed from the 13th to 15th centuries, with the principal work done in the 14th century.
|Cathedral of Barcelona|
Roman towers which once guarded the entrance gate of the ancient Roman city of Barcino flank the street below. At Barcino's peak, the Roman wall was 25 feet high and a mile around with 74 towers. The left tower has a section of the Roman aqueduct that at one time carried fresh water from the hillsides into the walled city.
|Ruins of the Aqueduct and Gate of the Roman Wall|
I took the picture below for my friend Josef who owns Renga Arts where they sell gifts, and accessories made from reclaimed and recycled materials. I thought he would like the fact this man was making ash trays from recycled soda cans.
Plaça del Pi is surrounded by old decorated facades, antique shops, bars and restaurants; There is also a nice little market.
|Plaça del Pi|
|Plaça del Pi|
Santa Maria del Pi Church, meaning "St. Mary of the Pine Tree" is a 14th-century Gothic church on the Plaça del Pi, in the Barri Gòtic district of Barcelona.
|Saturday morning market sets up in front of Santa Maria del Pi Church|
The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, usually referred to as La Boqueria seen below is a large public market hall in the Ciutat Vella district of Barcelona and one of the city's foremost tourist landmarks, with an entrance from La Rambla, not far from the Liceu, Barcelona's opera house.
The displays of food were amazing, unlike any I have ever seen elsewhere. Unfortunately, the hall was jammed full of people and it was impossible to really enjoy the hall. Also, I was worried the entire time we were there that one of the sticky-fingered pickpockets that Barcelona is known for would try to take my wallet but I got out without any damage.
|La Boqueria Market|
Plaça de Catalunya seen below, in English, "Catalonia Square" sometimes referred to as Plaza de Cataluña, is a large square in central Barcelona that is generally considered to be both the city center and the place where the old city and the 19th century-built Eixample meet.
Some of the city's most important streets and avenues meet at Plaça Catalunya: Passeig de Gràcia, Rambla de Catalunya, La Rambla and Portal de l'Àngel. The plaza occupies an area of about 50,000 square meters. It is known for its fountains and statues, its proximity to some of Barcelona's most popular attractions, and for the flocks of pigeons that gather in the center.
|Plaça de Catalunya, Francesc Macià Memorial.|
The inverted-staircase monument represents the shape of Catalunya, honors its former president Francesc Macià who declared independence for the region in 1931. The monument was designed by the sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs.
|Francesc Macià Memorial|
|Fountain in Plaça de Catalunya|
|Children play with the pigeons at Plaça de Catalunya|
|Plaça de Catalunya|
|Plaça de Catalunya|
Els Quatre Gats, Catalan for "The Four Cats", is a historic café in Barcelona which opened on 12 June 1897. Els Quatre Gats became one of the main centers of Modernisme in Barcelona. The artist Ramon Casas i Carbó largely financed this bar on the ground floor of Casa Martí, a building by the architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch. Pablo Picasso visited this pub–restaurant often in his early art career.
|Els Quatre Gats|
“Four Cats” is a colloquial Catalan expression for “only a few people” and the name of Els Quatre Gats is derived from this saying. The four founders of the café, Pere Romeu, Santiago Rusiñol, Ramon Casas, and Miguel Utrillo, also chose this name as a tribute to Le Chat Noir, “The Black Cat,” a celebrated Parisian café. They modeled Els Quatre Gats largely after the Parisian café.
|Interior of Els Quatre Gats|
The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família is a large Roman Catholic church designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site,and in November 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and proclaimed it a minor basilica, as distinct from a cathedral which must be the seat of a bishop.
Construction of Sagrada Família commenced in 1882 and Gaudí became involved in 1883, taking over the project and transforming it with his architectural and engineering style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. Gaudí devoted his last years to the project, and at the time of his death at age 73 in 1926 less than a quarter of the project was complete.
Sagrada Família's construction progressed slowly, relying on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, only to resume intermittent progress in the 1950s. Construction passed the midpoint in 2010 with some of the project's greatest challenges remaining and an anticipated completion date of 2026, the centenary of Gaudí's death.
|View of Passion Façade of the Sagrada Família|
Gaudí's original design called for a total of eighteen spires, representing in ascending order of height, the Twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and, tallest of all, Jesus Christ. Eight spires have been built as of now, corresponding to four apostles at the Nativity façade and four apostles at the Passion façade. The completion of the spires will make Sagrada Família the tallest church building in the world.
|Spires of the Sagrada Família|
Park Güell is a garden complex with architectural elements on the hill of El Carmel in the Gràcia district of Barcelona. It was designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and built in the years 1900 to 1914. It is one of the largest architectural works in southern Europe. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Works of Antoni Gaudí".
|Building at the entrance to Park Güell|
The park was originally part of a commercially unsuccessful housing site, the idea of Count Eusebi Güell, after whom the park was named. It was inspired by the English garden city movement; hence the original English name Park. The park was another area that was jammed shoulder to shoulder with people.
|The view past the entrance to Gaudi's Park Güell over Barcelona|
|Panoramic view over Barcelona from Park Güell|
|The Gaudi House Museum|
|Jean-Marc, Shirley and I pause for picture|
This sculpture created for the 1992 Summer Olympics by American artist Roy Lichtenstein brings together the colors of Miró, the tiles of Gaudi, the Cubism of Picasso and the comic-newsprint trademark of Lichtenstein.
Barcelona is a beautiful and very busy city; crowds of people everywhere. Although we saw a lot, there is so much more to see and do so we will be going back...soon.
Have a great day. See you soon.