Barcelona really does have it all: a history dating back to medieval times, avant-garde architecture that borders on the hallucinogenic, soft sandy beaches and a picturesque setting.
One of the great things about Barcelona is that you can cover the essentials in the space of a long weekend but there is plenty to do to fill a longer stay. Less than two hours drive from the Spanish-French border and Pyrenees Mountains, Barcelona is a perfect stepping stone for exploring the rest of the Catalan region. Hire a car in Barcelona with easyCar and see all that the area has to offer.
Get acquainted with Gaudí’s Geometric Giants
You see them dotted amongst the Catalonian streets and they are truly unmistakable; these quirky art nouveau buildings are the work of architect Antoni Gaudí and are a great framework for a day tour of central Barcelona. Casa Batlló and Casa Milà are both on the same street making them an easy starting point. Casa Batlló is notable for its balconies that resemble the toothy jaws of a terrifying beast and its roof that is scaled like the spine of a dragon. Its equally unusual neighbour, Casa Milà, has a rippled water-like surface and is know by the locals as the ‘quarry’, as its pockets resemble the fissures and cavities of a rock face. A little further out from the city centre is Gaudí’s La Sagrada Familia, the architect’s last and most popular work. The church is still unfinished with the price of a ticket to visit going towards finishing the building work. Finish your tour with a visit to Park Guell (a park with strong architectural elements) and gaze out at the view across Barcelona from one of the mosaic covered seats.
Vibrant Central Spots
The five linking tree-lined streets of Las Ramblas make a great boulevard for a little promenade. Thronged with buskers, street sellers and mime artists, this is the tourist walkway of the city and is great for people watching. Visit Mercat de la Boqueria for a more local shopping experience and sample the delicious fresh fruit, meat, fish, and cheeses for sale. Escape the crush of Las Ramblas and retreat to Plaҫa Reial. This beautiful square is adorned with Gaudí lampposts and is a peaceful place for a coffee in the day time. Visit the square at night for a much more lively vibe – try some of the restaurants or dance the night away the city’s most famous clubs.
Sail off to the Sand of Sitges
Sitges, a peaceful fishing town, is just a forty-five minute drive away from Barcelona. Sitges’ micro-climate keeps it warm all year and the coastal town boasts several kilometres of beaches, making it a great day out for sun worshippers and water sports enthusiasts alike. The architecture is eye-catching and there are plenty of historical buildings to see, including a baroque church. There are even Roman ruins at the UNESCO world heritage site at Tarragona if you fancy a drive along the coast. Sitges is not wanting for cultural events either, with its magnificent Carnival celebrations and world-renowned film festival. If you stay until evening, there is a palm tree lined promenade to stroll along and the night life is truly buzzing.
Motor to Montserrat
Pack your walking boots and head to the sacred, serrated mountains of Montserrat. There are some great hiking routes and the woodland is popular with nature-lovers. Take a cable car or funicular to the top and enjoy breathtaking views over the local landscape. The mountain is also home to Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey where you can view a statue of the Black Virgin and the world’s oldest printing press. The Escolania boys choir is based at the abbey and their exquisite singing can be enjoyed everyday at midday in the Basilica.
Drive an hour north from Barcelona to visit Girona. This attractive town on the banks of the River Onyar has winding cobbled stone roads, porticoed squares and brightly painted houses. In medieval times the town was a centre of learning and had a large community of Jewish intellects. If you’re interested, Museu d’Història dels Jueus de Girona is a great place to visit to learn more about Girona’s Jewish heritage. Girona hosts a flower festival every year when the town is bedecked in colourful, sweet-smelling flowers. If your visiting in May, there are plenty of floral displays to see, an exhibition route to follow and flower-based activities to take part in.