If you’re in the mood to surrender to a city’s charms, let it be in Barcelona. Life bubbles in its narrow old town alleys, grand boulevards and elegant modern district in Spain’s most vibrant and famous city. While Barcelona has an illustrious past — from Roman colony to 14th-century maritime power — it’s enjoyable to throw out the history books and just drift through the city.
- Las Ramblas – A stroll down Barcelona’s main pedestrian drag is a freefall into sensory overload. This grand boulevard takes you through an endless current of people and action. As you navigate this one-mile strip, you’ll meander past a grand opera house, elegant cafes, outdoor artists, street mimes, and even a bird market. Be mindful of pickpockets (wear a money belt).
- Gothic Quarter – East of Las Ramblas is the Barri Gotic, which centers around the colossal cathedral. The narrow streets that surround the cathedral are a tangled but inviting grab bag of undiscovered Art Nouveau storefronts, neighborhood flea markets, classy antique shops and musicians strumming the folk songs of Catalunya (the independent-minded region of northeast Spain).
- Joan Miro - Modern artist Joan Miro lived in the Barri Gotic. His designs are found all over the city, from murals to mobiles to the La Caixa bank logo. If you enjoy his child-like style, ride the funicular up to Parc de Montjuic, and peek into the Fundacio Joan Miro, a showcase for his art.
- Pablo Picasso – The Barri Gotic was also home to a teenage Pablo Picasso. It was in Barcelona, in the 1890s, that Picasso grabbed hold of the artistic vision that rocketed him to Paris and fame. The Picasso Museum, in the La Ribera district, is far and away the best collection of the artist’s work in Spain. Seeing Picasso’s youthful, realistic art, you can better appreciate the genius of his later, more abstract art.
- Eixample – For a refreshing break from the dense old city, head north to the modern Eixample neighborhood, with its wide sidewalks, graceful shade trees, chic shops and Art Nouveau frills. Barcelona was busting out of its medieval walls by the 1850s, and so a new town — called the Eixample, or Expansion — was laid out in a grid pattern.
Over time the Eixample became a showcase for wealthy residents and their Catalan architects, who turned the flourishing Art Nouveau style into Modernisme, their own brand of decorative design. Buildings bloom with characteristic colorful, leafy, and flowing shapes in doorways, entrances, facades and ceilings.
Antoni Gaudi – Barcelona’s most famous Modernista artist, Antoni Gaudi created architectural fantasies that are quirky, curvey and crazy. His works of art are smattered here, there and everywhere around the city, but just like his work, you never know what or where you will see it. Gaudi fans also enjoy the artist’s magic in the colorful, freewheeling Parc Guell, a 30-acre hilltop garden once intended to be a 60-residence housing project, a kind of gated community.
- Sagrada Familia – Gaudi’s best known and most persistent work is the eternally unfinished Sagrada Familia, with its melting ice cream cone spires and towers. The Nativity Facade, the only part of the church essentially completed in Gaudi’s lifetime, shows the architect’s original vision. Mixing Christian symbolism, images from nature, and the organic flair of Modernisme, it’s an impressive example of his unmistakable style. The church is supposed to be completed in 2026, which marks the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.Your admission helps pay for the ongoing construction.
From art to food to markets, Barcelona specializes in lively — and that’s why it’s such a hit with vacation travelers. Amazing Journeys’ Jewish singles tour of Spain culminates with three days in Barcelona. We invite you to learn more about this spring 2012 tour by visiting: http://www.amazingjourneys.net/trip/spain