I often get asked where my favourite city is. It really is a tough question to answer, as I almost feel like a parent or teacher: you can’t have a favourite (“As each one is special in their own way”). But, let’s face it, I’m sure every parent and teacher deep down has a favourite child (even if they aren’t willing to admit it!). So with that honest and decisive attitude in mind, IF I had to choose, it would be Barcelona.
As a girl who grew up loving the beaches in Australia, but who also loves the vibe of a big city, it’s no wonder Barcelona is my favourite city to visit. Having visited 5 times (and counting!), it’s a city that I love and almost feel at home every time I return.
Everyone has their favourite; Guy has Paris, but Barcelona wins out for me every time.There’s so many things to do in Barcelona, and so much to love. Here’s 10 reasons why Barcelona is my favourite city and maybe you’ll fall in love with Barcelona too!
La Sagrada Família
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This has to be one of my favourite monuments in the world! If you visit Barcelona, and don’t visit Sagrada Família, all I can say is, “What are you doing?” Many people say that Barcelona has one of the highest crime rates in Spain, and frankly, not visiting the Sagrada Família would have to be the worst crime of all. I can confidently say it’s the most unique and amazing church in the world (and I think I’ve seen enough to say so!). I don’t care what your religious beliefs are, or if you have any at all, you need to go to Sagrada Família and be awed by Gaudí’s visions and architectural genius, which today are carried on by his successors.
Construction began on this stunning church in 1882 and it is still a work in progress. No, I didn’t get the date wrong; it has been in construction for 133 years! Due to be completed in 2026, the 100-year anniversary of Gaudí’s tragic and untimely death, this church is a must-see for any visitor. There is so much beauty, detail and symbolism present in the design and architecture of the church, I could easily spend hours exploring and admiring the work.
What’s so interesting about ANOTHER European church, you say? Well, there are so many unique and intricate details, such as the insects and leaves on the door or the columns that were inspired by and designed to represent trees and a forest canopy. But the thing I absolutely love, love, love about the Sagrada Família is how the stained glass windows (which also have symbolism) are designed in a way that they completely wash the church in rainbows when the sun is at the right angle. I haven’t experienced or seen anything like this in any other church I have visited and get so excited to walk through, what seems like a huge rainbow kaleidoscope. The other thing I love is that, as it is still being built, each time I’ve visited I see new details or aspects. It’s an evolving monument.
The Gaudí collection
I call this the collection, as there are quite a few sights to see, and can be an expensive and timely activity to do. So for that reason, if you are short on time, or cash, perhaps pick one or two (in addition to the Sagrada Família) to see.
Park Güell is a lovely park (in case the name wasn’t obvious) that Gaudí designed for the Güell family in 1900. Gaudí was a big name of the modernisme or art nouveau and it is evident in this space. It’s like you are Hansel and Gretel and are visiting the witch’s gingerbread house. Thankfully, you won’t be eaten alive and the only fighting you’ll have to do is potentially against the hoards of tourists (especially in summer) for that perfect picture.
Caso Batlló is another of my top picks to see, as the exterior and rooftop is unlike anything else. The roof is a colourful mosaic that could easily pass for a dragon curling around its prey. The windows also have unique details, that appear bone-like and there is not one corner inside the apartment building, as Guadí preferred soft curves in his designs. An innovative artist ahead of his time, Gaudí used natural light and clever engineering to create a special building that needs to be seen to be fully appreciated. La Pedrera (Casa Milá) is also a great visit; especially to see the rooftop.
I’m such a fangirl of Gaudí and his artistic and innovative approach towards architecture and design, and visiting his buildings cemented my admiration for his genius.
One of the things I love most about Barcelona, is that it has beaches. Now, they aren’t the best beaches I’ve visited, but they aren’t too shabby either. And in the height of summer, there’s nothing cooler than heading out of the city and straight to a chiringuito on the beach to party or chill out to the sounds of the waves and funky music. I especially love the contemporary art and architecture along the coast of Barceloneta and Vila Olímpica.
Nestled in the mountains of Montserrat is a beautiful monastery dating back to 1025. At 1,236 metres high, the views overlooking the nearby villages are simply breathtaking and there are a number of trails for the walking enthusiast. It’s easy to visit in a day, however I would love to stay overnight to explore some of the more lengthy hiking trails and try some of the local produce. You can read more about Montserrat in a previous post here.
I can still clearly remember the day we visited MNAC (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya), which is housed in the beautiful and impressive Palau Nacional, sitting high on Montjuïc. It was a rainy summer’s day and we decided to get our culture on. We got absolutely drenched to get there, so we were not only happy to enter this grand palace-like building for the art, but also just to dry off and get warm again! I’ll be honest, the collections weren’t as memorable as the building itself, but it is certainly worth a visit for lovers of art and architecture. We were actually lucky enough to see the Tour de France at the time we visited, as the course happened to pass through Barcelona (and Montjuïc) that day. If art museums aren’t your thing, the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc is a sight to see in its own right, especially when it is lit up at night. Sadly, we didn’t realise there was also the castle and cable car higher up on Montjuïc Mountain. I guess it means we will just have to go back to Barcelona to see it!
The funky districts (los barrios)
I can’t help but love the different districts in Barcelona. In general, Barcelona is laid out really well. The streets are generally wide and pedestrian-friendly, with a beautiful and open feel to them. Each district has its own ‘feel’ and defining characteristics, giving the explorer a different experience in each one. My favourites though, would have to be the Gothic Quarter (barri Gòtic), with its narrow streets, gothic architecture, arty stores, and a really cool and gritty vibe, and contrastingly, L’Eixample – known for its shopping, restaurants and clean, modernist architecture.
Food, glorious food!
Whilst it might not be as famous as other culinary capitals, the food in Barcelona is good. The city has no shortage of restaurants for all tastes; from decadent desserts to cutting-edge Michelin-star eats.
My favourite thing to do, is to head to La Boquería, the colourful and bustling food market at Ramblas, and pick up deliciously fresh €1 fruit juices. They are so refreshing and the flavour combinations are on point!
There’s also the seafood. Now, I’m not a huge fan of seafood, normally preferring to eat the chips when it comes to fish n’ chips, however Guy is. We took a walk along Barceloneta to find some delicious restaurants where you get a decent amount of tasty (or so I am told) seafood for a small price. And whilst I may not enjoy the seafood, most restaurants here will have Crema Catalana (very similar to crème brulee) on the dessert menu – something that makes me a happy traveller.
If you are after some great value, make sure you keep an eye out for the ‘Menu del Día’ (Menu of the day), which is normally served at lunch. These are great value, offering normally three courses and a drink for under €20.
The ‘Arty’ scene
Speaking of Ramblas, in the height of summer, you can see street performers in elaborate and impressive costumes (just watch your valuables with all the crowds!). This strip is loud and busy at all hours and I love seeing the creative people and stores all around this area. Barcelona really embraces its art scene, and everywhere you turn, you can find incredible artistic expression throughout the museums, displayed on the buildings and streets and within the boutique stores.
So this isn’t going to be a highlight for everyone, but I can say with all confidence and passion, that Desigual is my all-time favourite clothing brand. Sure it’s a little expensive and it’s no Dior or other high fashion brand made with the absolute best materials, but it’s unique (kinda like me, some would say!). I love the vibrant colours and patterns they use and how different their range is. I can spot someone wearing Desigual a mile away and always make it a priority to visit the Desigual stores (yes, you read it right, storeS) when I’m in Barcelona (and any other major city in Spain). Barcelona has the top pick though, as the brand is from Barcelona and has lots of stores, including outlets, (woo hoo!) dispersed throughout the city. In fact, I normally break up my sightseeing with various Desigual stops!
I feel a little guilty using a point so ambivalent, but really, there is just a cool vibe to Barcelona that I have not experienced anywhere else. In Barcelona cosmopolitan meets bohemian. There is a stark contrast between the modernist movement and the gritty, gothic streets. Funky bars and restaurants are dispersed throughout the clean and wide streets. The architecture is pleasing to the eye and the beaches are the perfect summer escape. Fashion is gospel, but undefined and open to interpretation. Where art, music and food are the heartbeat of the city, and are always pushing the boundaries.
Now I’ve heard by many people that Barcelona is dangerous and one of the worst cities in Europe for pickpockets. And I don’t doubt it; there are a lot of shady people and it can be very crowded and touristy. My best piece of advice is to travel smart, keep your valuables extremely close and accountable at all times and always be aware of your surroundings. We’ve been very fortunate to not have any instances of theft in the five times we’ve been there (but that’s not to say that we haven’t been solicited for drugs or prostitutes around Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter!).
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Have you been to Barcelona? Did you love it or hate it and why? Comment below!
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