07.01.2014

CAPITAL OF CATALONIA: BARCELONA

CAPITAL OF CATALONIA: BARCELONA, Elif Bora | 07.01.2014

We were so excited to be going to Spain for the first time. We were going to discover what was for us an entirely new country. We realized almost immediately that we were not actually where we thought we were when the taxi driver who took us from the airport to the city center told us "This isn't Spain, this is Catalonia!" Our taxi driver explained to us that Catalonia existed before Spain was and that people from Catalonia identified themselves as Catalonian, not Spanish. And in point of fact we noticed that everywhere the Catalonian flag was flying instead of the Spanish one. We were never left in any doubt that we were in "the capital of Catalonia: Barcelona!"

We used the break provided to us by the second Eid holiday in Turkey to take 5 free days' holiday. For accommodation we decided to stay at the Praktik Garden: both because it came recommended and because we didn't have a ton of choices (I think the whole of Turkey was there at the same time we were!). It was a two star hotel and we stayed on the top floor, which was attic-like and all-in-all it was a nice and cozy place for us. Its location was great too, being only a 10 minutes' walk from the avenue of Avinguda Diagonal, one of the more major streets in the city. Of course in terms of price the hotel was perfectly acceptable as well and I'd recommend the same hotel to you as well. For me having my breakfast at random cafes around the city was a constant source of enjoyment for me. As a result I'd recommend, rather than having breakfast at whichever hotel you stay at, finding little breakfast spots around the city and try all the many different foods and tastes that the city has to offer.

A birds-eye view of Barcelona and MNAC

For our first day in the city, to get a birds-eye view of the city from its highest point we decided to take the cable car to the top of Montjuïc. Actually, I have to admit that we were more taken with the cute red appearance of the cable cars than with the prospect of the forthcoming views, but it came to the same thing anyway. The line for the cable cars took forever. We waited an hour and a half and then it took just 15 minutes to get up to the top. We were annoyed that we'd waited that long for such a short journey, so we tried to make the most of it by eating some ice cream at the top and taking as many photos as possible. Once we figured out that it's possible to get up to the top by taxi, we decided that our decision to take the cable cars was 100% the wrong one. Next we did take a taxi, this time to the MNAC which used to be a palace and now is a museum. MNAC was definitely one of best things to see in Barcelona. The waterfall in front of it with the whole palace provides for just magnificent water shows at night. We took tons of photos while walking back to the main square, enjoying every second of it.

Park Güell

This is one of the more touristic places in the city. It's a park that the Güell family commissioned Gaudi to design. There's a dragon mosaic at the entrance to the park which has become one of its most recognizable symbols.

"The Unfinished Church" Sagrada Familia

In 1882, the famous architect Gaudi began his work building this massive church, with its 18 towers and a design that takes into account how the work looks upon approach. Unfortunately, Gaudi died after finishing only about half of the work. Construction on the Sagrada Familia continues and is expected to be finished by 2022. Upon arrival we again realized that there was a long line to get inside, so instead we decided to sit in one of the cafes across from the church and admire it from a short distance. We're pretty sure we made the right decision as we spent a solid hour discussing the work and drinking cafe rather than waiting in line. From the Sagrada Familia, since the weather was gorgeous, we decided to take a nice long stroll all the way to the seaside. It took us an hour and a half to get there and we were absolutely destroyed by the time we did! The only good thing about the entire journey was the macaroons that we picked up along the way from a local bakery. They were huge, and just the smell alone of the hazelnuts was enough to put our hearts all aflutter. I have to admit, they were much better than the macaroons you get in Turkey, even now the taste of those macaroons still lingers with me.

Port Olimpic

All of my exhaustion finally left me when I saw the endless sandy beaches, with the young people of the city playing volleyball and swimming in the sea. The energy of the city went right through me all over again and really picked me up. After walking around the marina for a bit we were trying to figure out which of the cute little restaurants to go into, when a Moroccan waiter was able to persuade us to enter into his establishment. The menu was full of seafood and everything we ate was delicious. Ever dish: the bruschetta, calamari, mussels, grilled salmon, and crème brulee really couldn't have been any better. If you also would enjoy some of the pleasures of some of these delicious foods, I highly recommend you head over to La Taberna Gallega at Port Olimpic.

La Rambla

This street is one of the busiest in the world, and at night it becomes even more crowed just like Istiklal in Turkey. The ice cream that sold is on the list of the best places in the world, along with Rome. My favorite ice cream was cheese cake ice cream. Make sure that you don't skip La Boqueria market while you're walking around La Rambla.

Other places for food and drink that I'd recommend in Barcelona;

  • Boca Grande: Though the menu was relatively small, this place is important not for its food but for the most important part of any restaurant: the bathroom! Honestly you have to see this bathroom, apparently it even hosts parties all by itself some nights! The Fish & Chips and Tuna Tartare were excellent as well, as far as the food is concerned.
  • Hotel Majestic Roof: A great place to have a couple of drinks and look out over Barcelona from the hilltop.

Day tours

If you have time to see sights on the outskirts of Barcelona then I highly recommend you take one of the day tours that are regularly offered. The square in front of El Corte Ingles has an information center that will tell you all about when tours are offered. While they can be a bit on the pricey side, I promise you won't regret signing up. Tour buses leave from in front of El Corte Ingles around 8:30 in the morning. We ended up very satisfied with the tour of Girona and Montserrat that we chose. There was so much packed in that it's hard to explain with words, if you like you can browse through my pictures to see what we did. I especially liked Montserrat with the train and the funicular. For Christians the place is sacred because of its black statue of St. Mary.

Ultimately, these are the places you absolutely have to see in Barcelona

  • Port Olimpic
  • Sagrada Familia
  • Park Güell
  • MNAC
  • La Rambla
  • Avinguda Diagonal
  • Montserrat
  • Girona

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