After spending an amazing time in the Netherlands, I was fortunate enough to check out Barcelona before heading back to Madrid. I didn’t know much about Barcelona, but a quick google search and I realized who was king here. Gaudi. I booked my Airbnb just 2 minutes from the Sagrada Familia and started planning my last three days of vacation. Now, for those of you who aren’t interested in Gaudi, or modernism, perhaps this won’t be the post for you.
La Sagrada Familia
The most obvious thing to do first was to go see the Sagrada Familia. Aka, the very large unfinished and unique church that attracts thousands of tourists each year. I booked the tickets in advanced for 11 o’clock. Something that you must do before arriving. The tickets are almost always sold out for the same day, and you must arrive at the time you chose for your reservation.
I learned that the hard way. I thought that I would sleep longer than I did, but instead I was up and out at nine to get an early start. Since they would not let me in until 11 am sharp, I had a breakfast and walked around a little bit. Then I resorted to just sitting outside and admiring the church from all angles.
At around 9 o’clock it was like a ghost town. I almost didn’t believe it, but as I sat there I watched as groups of people slowly started to appear and fill the streets.When I was finally allowed to enter and join the queue, there were cameras inside the baggage checkpoint. I was interviewed on the camera about my thoughts on the newly implemented baggage check and security point before entering the church. As a citizen of the US I told them I thought it was great because it gives a sense of security. So I guess I might appear on some Spanish news station sometime soon.
The church is made up of three main sections.
- The inside, which you can walk around and explore the amazing quirks and shapes of the interior of the cathedral. You can also book tickets to go up into one of the two towers. However, if it is too windy, then they will not allow anyone up.
- The outside, which has so many things to look and and find, you could literally spend hours looking at the detail. I spent about 10 minutes inside the actual church and then went outside learned that the structures were influenced by nature. Gaudí was inspired by nature and many of the small details and style is reflected in that. The inside of the church is supposed to look like a forest flowers in the ceiling with giant tree trunks and the roof is supposed to be the shape of a leaf.
- First glance the church looks impressionable but the real appreciation comes from going to the museum and learning about the construction and every detail that made the project come to life.
If you continue walking around the center, there’s a little path you can take to see all of Gaudi’s works around the city. I had about 2 hours before my reservation for Casa Batlló so I started walking in that direction. I got a little lost following the map, but, because Gaudi’s work sticks out like a sore thumb, I found myself in front of La Pedrera without even realizing it.
Each attraction has an entrance fee. I also didn’t really know if I wanted to see La Pedrera, orif I had enough time. I had already paid more than necessary for Casa Batlló and the Sagrada Familia. I had to make a decision.
I said to myself, “Fuck it, when am I ever going to come back to Barcelona anyway.
If I’m to be quite frank, this was one of least spectacular works of Gaudi. The most interesting part about this building, is its unique rooftop. I also didn’t even take that many photos because I was less than inspired by any of the shots I could have take. I also rushed through the free audio guide. The tour takes you around the whole building and shows you rooms, clothing, and furniture from the time of Gaudi. At the end, just before entering the gift shop, there’s a touristic photo-op. With a purchase of anything, you’d get a free picture so I said “why not?” yet again. “
After leaving La Pedrera I was losing steam and about ready to collapse from all of the walking. But, I was so excited to see Casa Batlló that I pushed forward. Unlike La Sagrada Familia, I was allowed to enter before my appointment time. There were also very few people and no need for fast passes. I was in, with normal tickets, in less than 5 minutes. This house is so freakin’ cool. Just like in the museum in Tasmania, I was given an iPhone. This iPhone has the best audio and visual tour I have ever seen thus far. It shows you what the artist was envisioning and brings the house to life.
Just like La Sagrada Familia, the theme of the house is nature, specifically the sea. Many shapes and structures are reminiscent of sea animals and waves.
I was lucky enough to arrive during an event in which the inside of the house was “snowing”. It added more magic to the entire experience, even though I got some in my eye. The rest of the tour took me through the backside of the house and the courtyard. I sat out here for a good 20 minutes just enjoying the weather and taking in all of the things I just experienced. I almost didn’t want to go back into the house because I knew the tour was almost over. When my stomach started to beg for food I gave in and went back inside.
I went to Parc Güell on my last day in Barcelona. It was not the easiest place to reach and I decided last minute to go check it out so I hadn’t booked any tickets thinking “It’s a public park, surely it’s free”. I took the nearly empty metro to the stop recommended to my by the internet. I arrived at a place that looked completely residential and opened google maps to realize I wasn’t even that close. I walked up some stairs and a hill and asked people until I finally saw the metro exit I should have taken and some signs pointing me in the right direction. About 30 minutes later, I arrived at the top of the park. I must admit that the view from the top was worth all of the trouble I’d gone through.
I ended up chatting with a very nice old man during my unintentional hike who guided me on the best path to reach the park entrance. Unfortunately, I had not prepared with the correct shoes for the occasion. I was slipping down the steps of the park.
When I finally reached the enterance, I stood in line for the “Gaudi” experience only to realize the next available tickets were for 2 hours later. At that point I decided to leave, not wanting to pay another 7 Euro and wait 2 hours on my final day in Barcelona. Plus, I had a super great green-screen photo from La Pedrera with the exact photo I would have taken anyway.
Bye Bye Gaudi
There are more Gaudi places to visit in Barcelona than just these, for example Palau Güell, Bellesguard Gaudí, Casa Calvet… Etc. If you have more time I’d recommend you check them out and then show me pictures to make me jealous for not having the time to see them. Needless to say, you can’t go to Barcelona and not see one of Gaudi’s works. Gaudi made the city unique and you must make time to see and experience it for yourself.