Golden sunlight beaming off of the Mediterranean Sea’s blue waters create an ideal background for the Catalonian’s architectural masterpieces, which have existed in Barcelona for seven centuries. Known as “The City of Marvels,” Barcelona will enchant you in countless ways. Are you ready to depart and explore Spain’s second largest city? Now, join me to discover this beautiful city through this Barcelona travel blog: My trip to Barcelona — The city of wonders.
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In the Middle Ages, Barcelona was one of the most prosperous cities in Europe. Many large Gothic-style churches were built during this period, including the Cathedral of Barcelona. The renovation of numerous buildings and districts before the 1992 Summer Olympic Games totally transformed the city.
Barcelona is simultaneously the best preserved Medieval quarter in Europe and an exceptional feat of urban planning and design. The late nineteenth century is considered the primary development period of Antoni Gaudi’s architectural influence. Gaudi’s designs transformed Barcelona into a city like no other destination in the world. The Catalans often say that you can see the stamp of Gaudi whenever you walk along the streets.
Gaudi’s influence is widespread—Casa Vicens is known for its ceramic decorations, La Pedrera impresses with its unconventional rough-hewn appearance, Casa Batlló boasts Art Nouveau quirks, and La Sagrada Familia, a large Roman Catholic church, has come to symbolize the city.
Ninety-one years after his death, La Sagrada Familia is still under construction. Inspired by nature, the design of the church integrates Gaudi’s personal “crazy” style and embrace of the imagination with the arches and vaulted roofs of traditional Gothic architecture. The city hopes to complete the church in 2026, 140 years after the first day of construction. To take a panorama photo featuring La Sagrada Familia, cross to the park opposite the building—Placa de Gaudi—and find a position on the other side of the lake. If you angle your camera strategically, you may be able to “deceive” viewers into believing the structure is complete.
Get Lost in La Rambla
La Rambla is a magnificent, pedestrian-dominated avenue stretching from Catalunya Plaza to the Christopher Columbus Monument in Port Vell. Nearing two kilometers in length, La Rambla is undoubtedly the city’s most famous street, boasting an energetic atmosphere imbued with rich history. Numerous shops are accessible from the street, including flower shops, souvenir shops and bars. Boqueria Market, the Liceu Theater and Reial Plaza accompany this spectacular walk.
Whatever time of day you choose to visit La Rambla, you should drop into Boqueria market to recharge and re-energize. Tourists, residents working nearby and professional chefs from all over the world come to the market to enjoy a meal—perhaps trying the jambon thigh or pickled olives—or simply to experience the animation of the market that has existed since 1217.
La Rambla’s most interesting aspect is its mystery. From the main street, tourists can work their way along various winding and intersecting streets to explore the neighboring quarters of El Raval and Barri Gòtic. Walk freely and leisurely—no map needed. When I did this, I happened upon a secret garden in the Catalunya Library precinct, near the Boqueria market.
This garden will enchant you with its green space and corridors of trees. Rest on the benches and silently observe the local people immersed in reading their books, or close your eyes and enjoy the fragrance of the mandarin trees, or play a round of chess.
Barcelona is known as a land of sun, sand and endlessly long beaches. Not surprisingly, the city is also famous for its seafood. I ordered lunch at La Fonda del Olimpic restaurant and went to the seaport by bus to enjoy it. If I had had more time, I would have explored Barceloneta beach and viewed the artwork installed on the beach. La Fonda del Olimpic is a famous restaurant serving the best seafood in the city. The restaurant’s long menu and numerous dishes could confuse even the most educated gastronomers. Restaurant favorites include marinara mussels, squid, tagliatelle pasta with salmon, sautéed shrimp, fried shrimp with garlic and traditional paella.
Paella is a Spanish dish originating from Valencia. Paella combines all of the area’s local ingredients. The dish typically contains seafood, sausage and Patou chicken along with rice. The Catalunya also enjoy eclectic combinations of seafood and meat, fruit and poultry meat, and smoked jambon with caviar.
Colorful paella dishes are even better paired with a glass of red sangria, a cocktail special to Spain. Red sangria includes red wine, syrup (or honey, sugar, or orange juice) and fresh cut fruit (orange, lemon, apple, melon, pineapple, grape, peach, kiwi or mango) and brandy wine. Don’t let the fruit deceive you—sangria can be potent and contain high amounts of alcohol.
You also can order cava, which is produced using the same method as champagne, but with a different variety of grapes. Ninety-five percent of Spanish cava is produced in Catalunya. Cava grapes are grown in Penedès. Of course, cava tastes best when enjoyed in its birthplace. As for me, I hope to find a cooking class to learn how to cook paella so I can treat my family and friends in my homeland of Danang, which boasts its own selection of fresh seafood.
Viewing the sunset in Park Guell
When I saw the film L’Auberge Espagnole, I was deeply impressed by the images of long, colorful, mosaic tile benches lining the sidewalks of Park Guell. During this trip, however, Park Guell gave me an interesting experience even beyond my imagination.
I climbed up Three Crosses Hill in Park Guell with Maria and David, my two local friends. The hill offers the best panoramic view of Barcelona’s blue sky and sea and green parks and open spaces. I spent hours enjoying the magnificent view from the summit. La Sagrada Familia Church stands imposingly next to the square-shaped housing blocks of Eixample District. A towering statue of Christopher Columbus stands at the end of La Rambla, pointing to the “New World.” As I stood on the hill, I had a strange feeling, as if I myself had just come upon open and unclaimed territory as he thought he had 500 years ago.
My desire to visit Park Guell had originated from my time as a student in the Erasmus exchange program. It was a wonderful opportunity to visit my dear friend, Maria Angeles Castillo in her homeland and enjoy a wonderful sunset together in Park Guell.
You can fly with Vietnam Airlines to Barcelona from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and Air France also have transit flights from Vietnam to Barcelona.
What you should do in Barcelona
+ Wawas Barcelona (El Born Cultural Center) is where you can find lovely souvenirs, handwritten recipes for paella or bags with ceramic decorations resembling Gaudi’s architectural structures.
+ The Picasso Museum in Barcelona is popular spot for Spanish fine art lovers. The museum boasts the largest collection of Picasso’s paintings. MACBa is also a vanguard museum of modern art.
+ Language: Sixty percent of Catalan people want Catalunya to become its own country, and prefer to speak Catalan. Accordingly, if you familiarize yourself with some simple phrases, for example “Bon día” (Good morning) and “Adéu” (Good bye), you will receive friendly smiles from the local people.
Spotted by Locals (www.spottedbylocals.com) is a useful tourist information channel that promises unique experiences thanks to advice from local people. Official tourism information can be found at www.barcelonaturisme.com
Tapas is an appetizer or snack made from sausage, jambon, smoked meat and fried seafood. Popular tapas dishes include patatas bravas (potato with spicy ketchup), calamares fritos (fried squid), boquerones (anchovy), chorizo (pork sausage), berenjenas gratinadas (grilled aubergine with cheese) and battered, fried baby squid.