Hailing from the Rocky Mountains, I always thought it would be odd to be in a warm place during the holidays, but this sunny sea-side city came as a welcome retreat from the other chilly cities we'd been visiting in western Europe as of late. Heading south meant longer days and more sun rays!
We spent much of our time in Barcelona visiting the famous architectural works of Antoni Gaudi, known for his incredibly unique Catalan Modernism/Art Nouveau contributions. Check out our experiences from La Sagrada Familia and Casa Battlo! If you have time, definitely make a day trip to Montserrat Monastery - a trip highlight for us. Another one of our favorite things to do in Barcelona was to wander around La Boqueria, a large public market off of the main avenue, La Rambla. Each day we would go get fresh fruit juices for just 1 euro. Although we were in Spain and the tapas were good, we took the opportunity to get our Mexican food fix. The receptionist at our hostel suggested a few restaurants to us and they did not disappoint. We ate all the nachos, burritos and guacamole! It had almost been a year since we had eaten guacamole (TOO LONG), so that hit the spot.
Our trip fell at an interesting time. As you may know, Catalonia is seeking independence from Spain. Two months prior to our visit Catalan had regional elections. The party in favor of independence won. But when the party leaders proceeded to declare independence, one was put in jail and another fled to Belgium. There was so much backlash that Spain decided to hold elections again, and they just happened to be while we were there. We walked past a voting station and saw them counting votes. The Spanish government was hoping for a different outcome, but the pro-independence parties won the majority vote again. As we walked the streets we would see many Catalonia flags and the "Si" flags, indicating the resident's pro-independence stance. It will be interesting to see how Catalonia's future unfolds and if Spain will allow democracy to run it's course.
Pleased with what we could see for free, we opted out of the paid portion of Parc Guell. Although we felt the cost was a little high, we were arrived just before the monumental core was closing. We enjoyed wandering the various trails of the park and overlooking the city at sunset.
Our last night in town we made our way over and up Montjuic Mountain. We didn't quite realize just how much is up here. We explored the 1992 Olympic sites, admired the exterior of the National Museum of Catalan Art (wishing we had time to go in and explore), collected seeds from trees for our ever-growing collection, and watched the sun go down outside the fortress on the mountain.
Know Before You Go!
- You don't have to pay to take the Montjuïc Cable Car (though you may already have a transit card that includes it). Being the thrifty and active travelers we are, we took the series of escalators leading up from the The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc (Font màgica de Montjuïc) and walked down along the Ctra. de Montjuïc.
- The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc (Font màgica de Montjuïc) show is overrated. If you’re already in the area, great. If not, we wouldn’t recommend going out of your way for it.
- If you're visiting during Christmas time, we hate to break it to you, but their Christmas Markets can't compete with most we have been to... in fact, they are probably at the end of our list. This is probably because we largely enjoy Christmas markets for the seasonal street-eats and the Christmas markets here seemed to be a bit more about handicrafts.
- We stayed at Hostal Solárium. Please note, we made our reservation through booking.com, but shortly before we arrived our booking was cancelled (without charge, thankfully). We didn't receive the message until we landed in Barcelona. Hostal Solárium requires a credit card CVV code, but we didn't have the option to enter the code when making our reservation. Luckily when we arrived, there was still a room available, and they honored the booking rate. Hostal Solárium is one of the rougher places we have ever stayed. Though, the receptionist was very friendly and the location can't be beat - right around the corner from the premier boulevard, La Rambla!