We arrived in Barcelona around midnight to find that the city was absolutely packed
with people. Las Ramblas, the main pedestrian thoroughfare was filled with street
performers, locals and tourists alike. When we finally got to our hotel (which means when
we finally found someplace to park for our hotel, which was just off Las Ramblas) we had
no problem finding a restaurant open past 1 AM. The next morning the first place
we visited was the Barri Gotic (old quarter). This is the oldest section of town
filled with Gothic buildings, antique stores and street musicians performing Abba songs
on the hammered dulcimer.
This is the Cathedral of Barcelona, with scaffolding of course. It also includes a
substantial set of cloisters attached to it that can be visited, although not during
lunch time. This is possibly the most crowded place in Barcelona, narrowly edging
out Las Ramblas on a Friday night.
Inside the main cathedral is pretty much what you expect. A lot of little side chapels
that you can't technically take pictures in, although possibly everyone else except us
did anyway. These are the choir stalls in the central section of the cathedral. It's
a bit fuzzy but near the bottom right of the picture you can see some of the coats
of arms that are engraved/painted on each of the stalls.
L'Eixample is an upscale shopping and residential section of central Barcelona.
This is one of it's best known sites, the Block of Discord (which works as a pun
in Spanish). The building at the far end with the unusual top is Casa Lleo Morera
which was designed by Domenech I Montaner who is the other exceptionally big name
in Barcelona architecture besides Antoni Gaudi. The building with the stepped roof
is Casa Atmatller designed by Puig I Cadalfalch. Next to that is a Gaudi work (if
you couldn't tell), the Casa Battlo. This building is supposed to represent the
victory of St George over the dragon. You can see the scaled back of the dragon in
the roofline. We're not sure what the skull-like balconies represent.
Every hour or so you can tour this building, which is Domanech Montaner's masterpiece,
the Palau de la Musica Catalonia. Of course this picture doesn't really do it justice,
but this concert hall is placed into a tightly packed city block. The hall itself
is amazing, but no pictures are allowed on the tour. It's a 45 minute tour with a lot
of buildup before they finally take you into the main hall which features an enormous
glass-domed ceiling. It is rather rare for a concert hall in that there is an abundance
of natural lighting. The stage itself is decorated in a mix of Greek mythology and
This is the plaza real, located just off Las Ramblas and close enough to our
hotel that we spent quite a lot of time here. There are a lot of restaurants
and bars surrounding it, all of which have outdoor seating so anytime we were in the area and needed some food or drink, it was generally here that we
ended up. We also tried the fast-food falafel elsewhere on Las Ramblas once
but that turned out to be a mistake.
We keep referring to Las Ramblas so here's a picture of it in the daytime. The
boulevard runs for maybe two miles (3 Km) from the waterfront into the center of Barcelona.
There are lots of little temporary shops set up in it and at night there's at least
one street performer of just about every type.
Where Las Ramblas hits the waterfront is Plaza Colon featuring an exciting traffic
rotary and this statue of the plaza's namesake, Cristopher Columbus. Cruise ships
visiting Barcelona dock here in early evening mostly it seems. The end of Las Ramblas
closest to the port gets a little bit rowdier and also borders on the red light district.
Farther up into the center of town, the shops and restaurants seem to be a little nicer.
Mont Juic (Hill of the Jews) is a dominant landmark in Barcelona. It rises
along the coast just south of the center of town. It was the feature location
of the 1992 Summer Olympics as well as at least one major exhibition before that. Now it has a slew of museums, palaces, sports venues and landscaped gardens. This is the Catalonian Art Museum which features huge collections of Romanesque and Gothic art from Catalonia and very little else. It's still definately worth a visit though, especially since most of the surviving artwork from the Romanesque churchs in the Pyrenees has been relocated here, sometimes along with half the building it was originally in.
This is the view from Mont Juic out at the city of Barcelona. On the hill
in the distance is Tibidabo which is now a theme park. Closer in is an exciting traffic rotary which we survived twice and in the foreground is Barcelona's
magic fountain as it appears in the daytime, which is not all that interesting.
This is about the same view except at night. It's a little blurry but Tibidabo is now the yellow light in the distance. What was previously a bunch of reflecting pools is now a line of fountains and amazingly this picture has no tour buses in it. Tour buses arrive on Friday and Saturday nights because that is when the magic fountain is 'on'.
This is what the fountain does when it is on. It performs to music - a mixture of ballet, opera, jazz, classical and whatever might be seasonal. There are countless individual jets within the fountain and a ridiculous number of colors available and shows seems to start every 20 minutes or so and last for about 10-15 minutes. It's an impressive bit of engineering and the setting beneath Mont Juic overlooking the city makes it even more fantastic.
Barcelona has a network of city markets. Just off La Rambla is the largest outpost, La Boqueria which opens early in the morning and becomes less active as the day goes on. It closes for good in mid-afternoon but many of the stores are closed by lunchtime. This is one of countless fruit stands in the market which are also good places to get a cheap lunch. We had a mixed fruit salad of various melons (some of which we even recognized).
Even more exciting are the meat markets, like this one. Particulary the mountain (serrano) or country hams that Spain is known for. You don't have to buy the entire ham of course, many of the shops sell sealed packages of the different hams. The different types are generally named after the city or region where they are from.
We came across this in a less traveled area of the market. Unfortunately
the picture didn't come out great but we also didn't want to disturb the scene too much. The husky dog in the picture sat patiently for a couple of minutes and was finally rewarded with a few scraps of meat. This is of course part of Melanie's continuing project to find photogenic dogs in every city we go to.
This is an aerial view of Barcelona as taken from the window of our plane as we left. The big spot in the center is the city park. Las Ramblas is a diagonal stripe near the bottom of the picture that runs from the harbor to the giant square plaza in the middle of town.