aNewDomain — Anyone who has the opportunity to visit Barcelona earns my eternal envy. The second largest city in Spain is a jewel of the Mediterranean, a place where locals and visitors have never-ending opportunities to see how great life can be. And if you’re leaving the US for MWC 2015 in Barcelona later this week, and you’re a first-timer, you’re in for some great sights.
Rich with history and as beautiful as any place you’ll ever see, Barcelona has numerous must-see spots. Since not everyone can take in everything on a visit, we’ll stick with the top 10 things you must see or do in Catalonia’s capital city. Read on and get ready for the trip of a lifetime.
Here’s what to see in Barcelona.
Basilica of the Sagrada Familia
Ranked as the No. 1 site in Barcelona by Trip Advisor users, this medieval cathedral is visited by more than 2.8 million people every year. Constantly in a state of construction, the basilica is a stunning testament to the genius and creativity of Antoni Gaudi, whose Catalan Modernism crops up all over Barcelona. While much of the work on the church was completed after Gaudi’s death in 1926, the famed Nativity Façade was his vision.
A main drag for tourists, this nearly mile-long stretch is filled with stores and sidewalk cafes that stay open long into the night. Pavement mosaics and flower shops and stalls add even more color and life to the area, conveniently located near the city center and the Port of Barcelona. As is often the case in such areas, be mindful of your wallet because Las Ramblas is also a favored spot for pickpockets.
Countless restaurants in Barcelona offer tapas, small samples of meat-filled pastries, seafood, deep-fried foods, salads and open-faced sandwiches. Prepare to eat late, usually around 9 p.m., then drop into any establishment that offers these snacks. To save a little cash, although these substitutes for meals are usually inexpensive, just stand while you polish off your dinner. Sitting often gives you away as a tourist and drives up the cost.
The Gothic Quarter runs from Las Ramblas to Via Laietana and is the heart of Barcelona’s old city. Highlights include City Hall, Basilica of La Merce and Cathedral of Santa Eulalia. The streets are cobbled and mostly open only to pedestrian traffic. It was also home to Picasso in the late 19th and early 20th century. If it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for we travelers.
Home to the legendary FC Barcelona club, Camp Nou is one of those rare stadiums you have to see. The FCB Museum has the 22 La Liga and four Champions League trophies won by the home side over the years. If Barca doesn’t have a home match, visitors can still take a tour of the turf dominated by legends of the game, most recently Lionel Messi, the Argentine footballer who’s annually among the best players in the world.
The City of Modernisme comes together in this monumental project filled with buildings and works by Gaudi. Part of the city’s public park system, Park Guell opened in 1926 and has since been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What started as a housing development turned into a municipal treasure with incredible views of the city.
More Gaudi modernism on display in the middle of Barcelona, Casa Batllo was built as a private resident in 1877. Renovations performed over the years turned an unremarkable structure into a modernist masterpiece with a facade representative of the spirit of Barcelona. Quirky and beautiful at the same time, Casa Batllo is an amazing museum and must-see during a Barcelona visit.
Santa Maria del Mar
One of the most important religious centers in Barcelona, the basilica was built in the 14th century. It’s more than just a beautiful church in this city; there are more of them that you’ll have time to count. The gothic structure from the 14th century boasts a stunning interior with towering columns and stained glass unlike any other basilica in the city.
With more than 4,200 works on display, the museum holds one of the most comprehensive collections from the renowned master. The museum opened in 1963 and accepted hundreds of contributions from Picasso himself, gifts to the city he called home and to the thousands of visitors who come to the facility every year.
What would a trip to Barcelona be without a visit to one of the city’s many beautiful beaches? With an agreeable climate and such ready access to the Mediterranean Sea, this city is the perfect location for warm, sandy beaches that shimmer and gleam in never-ending sunlight. Barceloneta Beach is the most popular and many are just short walks from public transportation.
Photos of Basilica of the Sagrada Familia and Casa Batllo by Jolene Campbell.