Barcelona brings to mind warm Spanish sunsets, the fragrance of paella and tapas wafting from nearby restaurants and stalls, or of brave elderly knights fighting off monstrous windmills to save a lady love. But Barcelona, like many cities, has a few charms and quirks of its own; if its unique art and architecture you’re looking for, then this is the city to see. From the works of Antoni Gaudi to Domènech i Montaner’s breathtaking musical masterpiece, Barcelona is sweetly spicy in her gorgeous art, too.
Barcelona’s history has a few disputed roots, including references to Rome and Greece’s great hero Hercules and Carthage’s Hamilcar Barca, father of Hannibal, who was said to name the city Barcino after himself. Barcelona was conquered many times over the next few hundred years, including by the Romans, the Arabs, and the Visigoths, before Spain was united and fortified by the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabelle in 1469. After the Spanish Civil War in the later 1930’s, Barcelona remained relatively prosperous despite the massive losses and desolation of the war. The city would find that the 1992 Olympic Games would bring much-needed energy and vitality back to the Barcelonian people.
Barcelona lies on a relatively flat area of plainland on the northeast side of the Iberian Coast. The city is 75 miles south of the Pyranees mountains and the southern border of France. Barcelona has a warmer Mediterannean climate with mild and wet winters and hot, dry summers. Temperatures in the winter range from 47° to 63° Fahrenheit (8° to 14° Celsius), and 67° to 84° Fahrenheit (19° to 29° Celsius) in the summer.
Considered to be one of the city’s must-see sights, La Sagrada Familia has continually been under construction for more than 100 years. This masterpiece of architecture was conceptualized by Antoni Gaudi, an outstanding architect in the Catalan Modernism movement, with the La Sagrada Familia as his magnum opus. The most popular monument in Spain with over 2.8 million visitors annually, this cathedral combined Gaudi’s love of religion and the natural curves found in nature, along with unique texture on the spires. Once finished, the cathedral will be exactly as tall as the nearby mountains in accordance with Gaudi’s belief that no man-made design should exceed that created by God himself.
Another unique Gaudi creation is the Palau Güell, which translates to Güell Park. Stunning and colorful mosaic tiling cover rounded sculptures and gingerbread-like gatehouses, making the park goer think of brightly colored sweets and candy. The Sala Hipóstila is comprised of 88 stone columns, some bending, some straight, but a fantastic and abstract photo opportunity. The park also contains the home where Gaudi lived in his last 20 years, the Casa-Museu Gaudí, and was intended as a model home for a series of 60 homes that would be available for sale to the public.
As the #1 Beach City in the World, dubbed by National Geographic, Barcelona does not disappoint. Beaches here are more relaxed than in many other parts of the world, as is typical for many European coastlines, and you will most likely find many topless or nude beaches in the mix. The sand here is not as sugary-white as in the Caribbean; it tends to be rougher and have shells or stones, so keep that in mind if traveling with little ones. The people here are friendly and will often invite you to sit with them and grab a bite to eat while you people watch on the sand.
Built for the Catalan Renaissance, the Palau de la Música Catalana is over 100 years old with its construction in the early 1900’s by Domènech i Montaner. This palace enlisted the assistance of some of the finest Catalan artisans of the period, and the ornate exterior and interior displays this skill proudly with striking sculptures, mosaics, and an exquisite stained glass dome skylight. When it was first unveiled, some found the design horrendous, but you will find few who agree with that sentiment today. The palace was entered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
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