Our Mediterranean Cruise last fall included an overnight stay in our disembarkation port. But, for a city known for its rich history and delightful dining experience, we knew we had to stay longer to get a solid feel of the city’s local vibe and explore the more famous attractions in Barcelona Spain.
We already had terrific experiences in Tuscany and the French Riviera, but we knew the Catalan experience is something we shouldn’t miss. The extra two days were worth it! Not only did we check off some of the iconic sites that have long been in our bucket list, but we also immersed ourselves in the local Barcelona scenes. Here are some of the highlights of our Barcelona experience.
Barcelona – Catalonia’s Capital
Barcelona is the cosmopolitan capital of Catalonia, where human settlement dates back to Neolithic times. However, the city itself was founded at the end of the first century BC when the Romans set up a colony called Barcino. Remains of the Roman walls that protected the locality can still be seen in the city’s old town.
Fast forward to 1986 when two events catalyzed the development of the modern Barcelona – the Spanish accession to the European Community, and hosting of the 1992 Summer Olympics. Since then, urban regeneration has been accelerated, often supported through EU funds. Today, Barcelona has dramatically increased its international reputation as a tourist destination.
Barcelona’s Cuisine – Authentic Tapas
We all know that Spaniards love their food such that they usually eat more in a day compared to most people in North America. But they do take their time eating, spreading it throughout the day. An average day of Spanish meals includes breakfast (el Desayuno), lunch (la Comida), snack (La Merienda), dinner (la Cena), and the little meals (Tapas).
When we were planning our extended stay in Barcelona, we had our sights on trying out Barcelona’s famous tapas. We did just that, helped by a local host, and we had an incredible and unforgettable experience. We have dedicated a whole post earlier, relating our authentic tapas tour in Barcelona.
La Sagrada Familia and Antoni Gaudi’s Architecture
Barcelona is the city where the famous artist Antoni Gaudí i Cornet created his futuristic architectural works that became landmarks. Gaudi was the greatest exponent of Catalan Modernism, with his works having a highly individualized, one-of-a-kind style. He is known for his search for perfection in art, humanity, and society.
La Sagrada Família, an unfinished Roman Catholic basilica, is considered Gaudi’s masterpiece. More than 135 years after its cornerstone was laid, the construction continues and is expected to be completed in 2026. Being a UNESCO World Heritage site, this is a place you should not miss when you visit the city, even at it’s partially finished state. Check our a separate post on our experience visiting Sagrada Familia.
We promised ourselves to be back once this masterpiece gets completed. That should also allow us to explore a lot more exciting works of Gaudi around the city, which we did not have the time to do so during this visit. Among them are the following:
- Park Güell – A public park system composed of gardens and architectural elements
- Casa Batlló – A modernist building which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site
- Casa Mila – Another modernist building with unconventional rough-hewn appearance, and
- Casa Calvet – Designed for a textile manufacturer to serve as a commercial property and a residence.
We will make sure that we include these in our next Barcelona getaway.
Barcelona’s Art – Museums
During this trip, we visited three museums, the Museu Picasso, Fundacio Joan Miro, and the Museum of Montserrat.
We visited the Museum of Montserrat during the last day on-board our cruise ship. The day trip to the Montserrat Abbey was an onshore excursion that was part of our cruise package. The museum showcases a selection of the most outstanding artistic and archaeological heritage at the thousand-year-old Abbey.
We disembarked from our cruise ship at a much earlier time than we had planned to give us a head start for the day. After we checked into our hotel, we discovered that Museu Picasso was a perfect place to spend our extra time while waiting for our Tapas tour host.
The Museu houses one of the most extensive collections of artworks of perhaps the most dominant and influential artist of the first half of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso. He is well known for pioneering Cubism, alongside Georges Braque, who invented collage and made significant contributions to Symbolism and Surrealism. With 4,251 works exhibited by Picasso, the museum has one of the complete permanent collections of works. Noteworthy were the changes in his style during the different stages of his life.
On our second day, we went to Montjuic, the highest peak in Barcelona, also not too far from our hotel. Here we visited Fundacio Joan Miro, a museum of modern art that displayed the works of Joan Miró and other twentieth and twenty-first-century artists. When visiting Barcelona, it is recommended that you explore different art styles. The experience gives you a richer perspective.
A Superb Flamenco Performance
In the strictest sense, Flamenco is an art form of song, dance, and instrumental (mostly guitar) music that is associated with the Andalusian Roma (Gypsies) of southern Spain. Our visit to Barcelona coincided with the timing of a limited Flamenco performance at Palau de la Musica, another event we so desperately wanted to experience.
We went all-out for this unique experience and booked the best seats months before we left. The intense, passionate, fluid, and fast flamenco performance was the perfect cap to our tour!
Barcelona Filled Our Hearts, Souls, and Palates
Our experience of the local Barcelona flavors and art in various genres was a fitting finale to our trip. But there’s more to explore; we barely scratched the surface owing to our limited stay. We are planning another visit when everything is back to normal. Maybe 2026 will be perfect when Gaudi’s masterpiece is completed.
We hope we inspired you to explore Barcelona. We’d love to hear your stories if you already had the chance to experience this beautiful place. Please share your comments and stories below.
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