Mediterranean Cool: What to do in Barcelona

BreakingModern — Barcelona is the Mediterranean capital of cool. This beachside town maintains a delightfully bohemian vibe that’s a distinct contrast to the more buttoned-up Madrid. Here you’ll find some of Europe’s most striking architecture, including a church nearly 150 years in the making.

There’s a whole world to experience in Barcelona. Whether you’re heading to Barcelona for MWC 2015 or just on a fun break, these five experiences are a must. Here’s what to do in Barcelona.

1. Explore the Barri Gòtic

Plan to spend a few hours getting hopelessly lost in the labyrinth of twisting cobblestone streets that make up Barcelona’s Barri Gòtic, or Gothic Quarter. There isn’t much to do in this medieval neighborhood, which is what makes it so charming. The deserted streets and looming architecture give the district a pleasantly haunted feel.

Try to find Les Quatre Gats, the site of Pablo Picasso’s first exhibition (and one of his favorite Barcelona bars), then grab a seat on the stone steps of the Placa del Rei to catch an afternoon performance by local street musicians. Finish the day with an overpriced beer from one of the sidewalk cafes in Placa Reial, Barcelona’s most popular square. The people watching is worth the surcharge.


2. Feel Like a Kid Again in Parc Güell

Commissioned as a stylish playground for Barcelona’s well-heeled upper class, Parc Güell looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. You almost expect to stumble over a sleeping troll in the park’s sloping paths, or see a unicorn dart past the vibrant mosaic walls. Gingerbread-like houses, dragon statues and forests of stone columns only add to Parc Güell’s magic. The highlight of the park is a large terrace lined with tiled benches that offer fantastic views of the city below.


3. Marvel at the Sagrada Familia

A construction project more than a century in the making, the Sagrada Familia was the all-consuming obsession of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí. When he was tragically killed in a train accident in 1926, he had already dedicated more than 40 years to this magnificent sand castle of a basilica. Construction continues to this day, with current estimates putting the completion date sometime in 2026. Maybe.

Even under construction, the Sagrada Familia is something to behold. The spires stick out of the skyline like clenched fists and hooded knights stand guard inside the mouth-like entrance. Inside, columns stretch to the impossibly high ceiling and stained glass windows illuminate an interior unlike any church you’ve ever seen before.

4. Grab Lunch in La Boqueria

In the past 800 years, the Mercat de la Boqueria has evolved from an open-air market to a cave-like hall of more than 200 stalls selling chorizo, chocolates and freshly squeezed juices. Piles of fresh fruit and vegetables are piled to the ceiling. Hocks of meat, garlic and peppers dangle from the stalls. If you ask politely enough in your best attempts at Catalan, vendors will cut you bite-sized servings of their delicious meats and cheeses. You’ll also find salt-cured fish, pickled peppers and hot potato balls at any of the tapas bars dotting the market.


5. Take a Day Trip to Montserrat

The aptly named “serrated mountain” is an hour’s train ride from Barcelona. For nearly a thousand years Benedictine monks have worshipped in a monastery that appears to dangle from the dramatic cliff side. The discovery of a statue nicknamed the Black Madonna in a nearby cave made the monastery a hotspot for pilgrims. Today pilgrims and tourists alike climb up the mountain (or take the cable car) to touch the Black Madonna’s royal orb, the only part of the statute not behind glass.

For BMod, I’m .

Featured/First Image Credit: Parc Güell, Barcelona” by Umberto Nicoletti via Flickr Creative Commons

Second Image Credit: Sagrada Familia – Barcelonaby Juan Pablo Colasso via Flickr Creative Commons

Third Image Credit: Shadows” by Marina Del Castell via Flickr Creative Commons

Helen Anne Travis

Author: Helen Anne Travis

Helen Anne Travis covers travel and lifestyle at BreakingModern. Follow her on Twitter @Helen_Anne.

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