In light of the tragedy in Barcelona last week, I thought I’d write about that wonderful city. As you read this, consider lifting a prayer for the people who were injured and the families of those who lost loved ones.
My daughter and I spent three days in Barcelona earlier this year. We enjoyed it so much that we promised each other that someday we would return. The most famous highlights in Barcelona center around the architect Antoni Gaudi (read more in this post), but the city has much more to offer.
We visited three of the city’s major cathedrals – Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, the Barcelona Cathedral, and the Santa Maria del Mar. The Barcelona cathedral was built in the 14th century, although the Gothic exterior decoration was laid over the original plain exterior in the 19th century.
The interior is beautiful, containing chapels along both sides and on the east end. The church is huge, with the ceiling vaulted over three center aisles and the outer chapels.
Each Sunday at noon, local dancers and citizens fill the plaza outside the church to perform traditional folk dances. We visited on Sunday and had planned to watch the dance, but we were disappointed to find out that it had been canceled due to earlier rain. We will have to wait for the dance until our return visit.
Santa Maria del Mar
The Santa Maria del Mar is a church in the Ribero quarter of Barcelona. It was built with money from the area’s wealthy merchants and the labor of the workers and fishermen. Stone was hauled from the nearby Montjuic. The church is rather plain on the outside, but the large interior looks majestic.
In order to support the continuation of the church, tours are conducted in English for a fee (8€ at this time). The tour lasts about 45 minutes and participants are invited to ascend to the roof. Information is on the church’s website. In addition, the church is open for visitors (no charge) when a tour is not available. My daughter and I opted for the free visit, since we were somewhat pressed for time. We were not able to climb to the roof, but enjoyed walking through the interior.
Fossar de les Moreres
As we left the church, we wandered around the area for a little while. The streets are winding and narrow, but they are clean and the people we met were pleasant. We happened upon a simple, but moving monument called Fossar de les Moreres. The monument is dedicated “To those who died defending the rights and constitutions of Catalonia in the siege of Barcelona (1713-1714).”
Also located in the Ribero quarter is Barcelona’s Picasso Museum. Our plan had been to go to the Picasso museum on Sunday afternoon when they have free admission (after 3 pm). We arrived around 2 pm, but found a long line. We were soon told that there were no more tickets available and only those already in line would be admitted.
Monday evening, we purchased tickets online for a Tuesday morning visit to the Picasso Museum. We had an entry time of 9:45, and walked right in when we arrived. We followed the suggested route through the small museum. The museum is very interesting, but different, because it focuses on Picasso’s earlier realistic drawings and paintings – a stark contrast to the later abstract works most of us are familiar with. (No photos allowed).
La Rambla is a pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined boulevard starting at the Plaça de Catalunya and ending at the Barcelona harbor. It is filled with souvenir vendors and artists selling their works. Booths are stocked with beautiful scarves and jewelry, flowers, souvenirs, plus an assortment of other goods.
Notable points along La Rambla include a mosaic by the artist, Joan Miro; the entrance to the market, La Boqueria; and, at the harbor end, the monument to Christopher Columbus.
La Boqueria is a wonderful market near the center of Barcelona. If you read my posts often, you know that I am a fan of European markets. La Boqueria did not disappoint. Fresh fruits and vegetables were arranged to show off their colors. Dried fruit and spices were also displayed colorfully. Meat, seafood, and especially jamon (ham) looked so appetizing, that I wished we had decided to cook a meal or two in the apartment we rented.
Monument to Christopher Columbus
When Columbus returned from his voyage to America, he reported his findings to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in Barcelona. The monument was constructed for Spain’s first Exposition Universal, or World’s Fair in 1888. Adorning the base and column are figures that were important to Columbus. There are reliefs showing him reporting to the king and queen. Symbols, creatures, and coats-of-arms representing other ideas and locations round out the decoration on the large sculpture.
From the Columbus Monument, the wide sidewalk curves around the harbor to the beaches. Along the way, there are more artists and vendors (some selling illegally with an eye out for authorities). Even more vendors populate the beach – most selling beach blankets or weak mojitos (an alcoholic drink).
The beaches are young, having been created in 1992 for the Olympics, and stretch for three miles. Looking to the northeast, we could see the harbor and impressive “W” Hotel. Looking the opposite direction we saw Frank Gehry’s Peix (fish) glittering in the sun.
Along the walk and throughout the beach are sculptures made by other notable artists – Roy Lichtenstein, Rebecca Horn, and others – and sand sculptures made by artists hoping to become famous.
Our time in Barcelona was short, but we enjoyed every minute of it. Does anyone want to join us on our next visit?