“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber
I have been to the Catalan city two times so far, and I will gladly go back a third, a fourth, a fifth time. As long as the city keeps calling me back. That’s one of the things I enjoy about my travels: I get to know a place well enough to want to know more or just leave it at a one-time fling. It’s all about the passion, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re always in for a long term relationship — as any love in life. Why does Barcelona keep pulling me in? Apart from being a beautiful city, with an unmatched architecture style, these 8 places to visit in Barcelona are some of our favorites, because each one of them comes with a memory for me and my son — this was his first trip to Barcelona.
1. Museu del Modernisme Català
We found this museum on a walk we took after a very heavy lunch, at a 1950’s style American diner. Something like “let’s go up this street and then down again just to check it out.” It was completely empty and we roamed around the exhibitions for almost two hours. By then we had seen Casa Batlló and La Pedrera so my son was quite enthusiastic about the Gaudì aesthetics and soaked it in wherever we spotted one of his works.
2. Museu de la Xocolata
The greatest thing I loved about it is that the ticket was a chocolate bar! It displays replicas and works of art made of chocolate. It is nice to look at and a place to cross off the “seen it” list but that was pretty much it. If you’re a chocolate lover like I am it kind of turns you off if you look at the objects too close… chocolate is an organic thing… so is fungus… and well put two and two together…
3. Museu del disseny de Barcelona
A museum where you can touch and feel most of the exhibitions. We were so enthusiastic feeling different textures and experimenting and leaping (almost) from room to room (very few visitors here too) that we were kind of embarrassed when an employee came to tell us (softly) “you can’t touch the objects in this exhibition…”. What’s the emoticon for “child whose ice-cream just fell to the floor”? That was the look on my face.
Back then the museum was temporarily set at an old house. Today it was given a proper place — although I think I prefered the temporary setting.
4. Gran Teatre del Liceu (Barcelona’s Opera House)
I have to say the Ramblas are my pet peeve in Barcelona. Crowded, overpriced restaurants, every step of the way you stumble into a souvenir stand… You can tell it’s not my favorite place in the world. However, I had to at least walk down (or up) the Ramblas once to show him the area and as the route to the Barcelona Opera House. I am usually skeptical about guided tours, but I was pleasantly surprised with this one. The guide was passionate and told a story with such detail and knowledge that we wanted to shout “tell me more!”. This comes from someone who’s had bad experiences okay? Either lousy guides or no guides at all (not even audio).
5. Palau Güell
After leaving the Gran Teatre, we stumbled upon this Palace. For some reason I had missed this the first time — it happens if you’re rushing. The entrance was free that day, we didn’t wait a long time in line, and the employees were incredibly nice and organized (unlike the Picasso Museum that I still find slightly overrated), making sure there was enough time (and space) between groups but never rushing us out of a room.
6. Camp Nou
Probably the place where I took more pictures of my son without him complaining. Several angles, standing up, sitting down, facing the field, with his back to the field… Yes, it’s a football Stadium. But it’s Barça’s football stadium and he wanted to show everyone he had been at his (then) favorite team’s field. We almost saw a game there, but the available tickets were separate and in opposite sides of the stadium and I had to say “no” to very bright and hopeful eyes.
7. La Sagrada Familia
Yes, it’s always crowded but it’s also always changing because it’s still under construction, so it’s always worth the visit. This time I went up the towers. This time I had the time and patience to wait in line for the elevator that takes us up. Fun fact about me: I am afraid of heights. Not to the phobia point but still afraid. So up the elevator, amazing view, click pictures taken and let’s go down. Kindly they ask you “do you want to take the elevator down or the stairs?”. And before I could say anything my son yelled “the stairs!”. Oh, I did come down the stairs… like an old lady… one step at a time… Occasionally I stopped to take some pictures. And to allow people (some twice my age…) to pass me.
8. Barcelona Cathedral
The square in front of the cathedral became our regular spot; the hostel was five minutes away walking distance. We would stop there after dinner until it got dark (and too cold to bear), watched people go by, street vendors and street performers, and talked about silly things and life in general.
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