I visited Barcelona in July 2013. Visiting the city of Gaudí has always been on my travel to-do list, and it certainly didn't disappoint. Barcelona is extremely well-connected, with many budget airlines flying into one of the three airports around the outskirts of the city. Looking at accommodation, we were rather overwhelmed by the sheer volume of hotels in the city, and so decided to try out something different - AirBnB. The concept is a website full of people offering up their spare room or their apartment to strangers for a night, a weekend, a week or even longer. Usually the price works out as much cheaper than a hotel or B'n'B, and you usually get the added benefit of access to a kitchen of your own, saving on paying for breakfast at cafés while you're away. If you stay in the spare room of someone's flat, you also get to meet at least one of the locals almost immediately, and they can prove a goldmine of information about the destination. We stayed in the La Ribera district in central Barcelona, near the Palau Música Catalana. This neighbourhood felt very authentic, with its narrow streets, small bars and vibrant squares which really came to life after nightfall. It was also very central and allowed us to avoid using the hot and sticky Barcelona Metro system on most days, opting to walk around the city instead. Highlights of the trip included:
1. Visiting Montjuïc
2. In the footsteps of Gaudí
One of Barcelona's most famous residents, Gaudí was known for his unique architectural creations, and we were keen to visit some of his work whilst in the city. Park Güell is very cutesy and an interesting place to explore, with its gingerbread-like house reminiscent of something from Hansel and Gretel, and the famous mozaic lizard sculpture being possibly two of the most-photographed sites in the park. The only drawback is that with the park being one of the most famous visitor attractions in Barcelona, not to mention completely free to visit, you do find yourself surrounded by crowds of other tourists, which can spoil the magical feel a little. La Sagrada Familia is another infamous Barcelona sight; the unfinished church is still under construction after almost 100 years of hard work by Gaudí and his successors. The building is stunning, but may not be completed until at least 2027! Another extremely popular destination, entrance queues surrounded the building when we visited, so we decided regretfully not to go inside, but just admired the sandcastle-like architecture from outside. Make sure to check out the wonderful Nativity façade. My favourite Gaudí masterpiece was probably Casa Batlló, which evoked mermaids and crashing waves with its blue-green colour scheme, shimmering mosaics and sea-monster roof tiles. I was also fascinated by Casa Milà, a building with undulating walls that looks as if it was crafted solely from sand.