Next in our series on city breaks, Gemma Kavanagh visits Barcelona, and explores it’s rich history and beautiful markets.
Barcelona is the most amazing city to get lost in. For me, it did not create the same pressure as other cities. It was not like my trips to Paris and New York where I felt I had to go see the Empire State building, Times Square and the Eiffel Tower.
(Source: Gemma Kavanagh)
Sightseeing can be stressful as there is only so much time during your trip to fit everything in. You can end up running around trying to take everything in while making a mess of navigating the local metro system. What is amazing about Barcelona is that you can just wander. The architecture is stunning. There are a million beautiful little shops, cafes and restaurants. The Gothic Quarter is an absolute must-see. Imagine narrow winding streets snaking through the city like a maze, lined with quirky, artistic shops, bakeries and cafes. It is a feast for the senses.
We arrived in Barcelona Sants train station and got the Metro straight to Sagrada Familia, a Basilica designed by Antonio Gaudí, which has been under construction since 1886. Gaudi died in 1926 but it is estimated that the Basilica won’t be finished until 2026. It is an amazing sight towering over the city. I would recommend booking your tickets online in advance to avoid waiting around for hours in the hot Spanish sun.
Start your journey on La Rambla; a large street home to a huge array of shops and restaurants. Everything is relatively close to here and it is served by the Metro system. Stalls with traders selling souvenirs and flowers line the middle of the street and the area is always buzzing with people. Just off La Rambla is a gem we came across by accident – La Boqueira market. It was heaving with people so we went to investigate what was going on. Unfortunately, we had already eaten which I thoroughly regretted as this market holds everything you could possibly want to eat.
The market was so alive I can barely explain it, so I’ll have to refer you to my pictures, which don’t do it justice. There were stalls piled six feet high with fruit of every kind; some of which I had never seen before. There were smoothies and juices in the most amazing colours for €2 each. Seafood bars served huge platters of shellfish and brightly coloured lobsters to people who sipped glasses of wine while sitting around on tall stools.
Butcher’s stalls offered every part of the animal you could imagine including heads, feet, and eyes. Fishmongers sold single oysters at €2 each for you to try as well as little cones of fried fish to munch on as you walked around. There were spices and nuts and stalls filled with gourmet chocolate sweets, it was unlike anything I had ever seen before.
Among the winding streets of the Gothic Quarter stands Barcelona Cathedral. Even if you are not religious, this building is still worth a visit. It is huge and stunningly beautiful, and there is a museum with a huge array of religious and historical artefacts as well as an alluring garden in the middle of it. The garden is closed off by railings and is home to a rather large gaggle of geese and a pond filled with Japanese Koi. It is open to the sky and surrounded by tall trees and greenery.
On our last night in Barcelona, we ate in Placa Reial, just off La Rambla. A beautiful fountain is the centrepiece of this plaza, with palm trees dotted around it. Restaurants line the outside of the square so you have plenty to choose from. This was the perfect place to end our little Spanish getaway. I sat with a steaming bowl of paella in front of me and watched the other tourists wander around, obviously just as amazed as I was with the beauty of Barcelona.