5 free things to do in Barcelona
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Barcelona?
Is it the city’s long-standing connection with artistic heavyweights such as Joan Miro, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso? The distinct and diverse architecture ranging from Gaudi’s eccentric, unfinished Sagrada Familia to the fascinating modernist sites? Perhaps the first thing you think about is football and the wonderful side that graces the Camp Nou? For many the Catalan capital is all about the diversity that comes with having a metropolis on the shores of the Mediterranean, while for us Brits it is hard to downplay the lure of tapas bites and seven hours of sunshine a day. There’s not much that Barcelona doesn’t have going for it, and being just over two hours from London by plane it’s the perfect destination for a weekend break.
1. Get closer to Gaudi
Rarely has one man left his mark on a city as Antoni Gaudi did during his lifetime on Barcelona. Not just your regular local hero – calls have been made for him to be beatified – his architectural masterpiece La Sagrada Familia not only shapes the skyline but beckons visitors ever closer to its unusual façade. While it costs to climb the unfinished cathedral and two other of his famous local buildings, Casa Calvet and Casa Mila, tourists are able to freely wander around the delightful Park Güell. A UNESCO World Heritage Site it plays home to colonnaded pathways, fairytale sculptures, magical mosaics and offers an amazing panorama of the city and the sea beyond.
2. Marvel at the magic fountain of Montjuic
Designed by engineer Carles Bugas for the Universal Exhibition of 1929 the main fountain on Montjuic is as spectacular as the manpower needed to create it. It is recorded that 3000 workers spent a year building the structure and despite being badly damaged by the Spanish Civil War has recovered to become one of the city’s great attractions. The light and music performances between October and April take place on Fridays and Saturdays every half-hour between 7:00 and 8:30pm, and from May to September Thursday through Sunday every half-hour between 9:00 and 11:00pm. Make sure you take your camera!
3. Visit the Picasso Museum
Free to enter on the first Sunday of every month (make sure you arrive early), the Picasso Museum is a must-see for lovers of the Spanish cubist. Opened in 1963, on Picasso’s own express wish, it boasts an extensive permanent collection of more than 3,500 works which passionately pay homage to nearly a decade lived in Barcelona and a lifetime of regular visits. The Catalan capital inspired Picasso like no other with the man himself admitting “This is where it all began…this is where I understood how far I could reach.”
4. Take a stroll down Las Ramblas
The heart and soul of the city, Las Ramblas is a 1.2 kilometre-long tree-lined pedestrian boulevard linking Placa de Catalunya with the Christopher Columbus monument in Port Vell. An ever-vibrant thoroughfare of tourists, artists, market stalls, restaurants and bars it hosts not just the famed La Boqueria market but mosaics from local ceramicist Joan Miro. While it’s advised you do not get duped into eating a sit-down meal in any of the tourist trap eateries, the street still makes for a wonderful people-watching destination and introduction to the city’s colourful residents.
5. Hit the beach
The largest metropolis on the Mediterranean coast, Barcelona is blessed with 4.2 kilometres of sand within 10 minutes of the city centre. So whether you’re eager to top up your tan or indulge in some watersports, the beach is never too far away. Stroll down Las Ramblas to the old fisherman’s quarter of the city, where Port Vell meets the beach, to indulge in some of the best seafood restaurants in town or, if you’re looking for an energetic night out, head for the clubs which line the boardwalk of La Barceloneta – voted the third best beach in the world by a 2005 documentary by the Discovery Channel. With such temptations on their doorstep it’s a wonder the locals ever get any work done!
There couldn’t be a better time to visit FC Barcelona’s stadium. The reigning European champions are widely regarded as the greatest side to have ever played the beautiful game with a team of stellar individuals led by World Player of the Year Lionel Messi. Learn about their prestigious and eventful history by taking one of the famed Camp Nou tours or if you’re eager to get in on the action snap up match tickets and sample the atmosphere made by a 100,000 capacity crowd.
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