Barcelona: 4 Unique Experiences you might miss

Barcelona and Catalonia are proud of their uniqueness.  Color and energy define this city and region.  Why follow a straight line when curves are more fun?  Barcelona treasures its past and looks forward with inspiration.  It is a city with soul.  The most famous of all Barcelonans was certainly its iconic architect, Antoni Gaudi, whose vision continues to inspire the city almost 90 years after his death.

FC Barcelona's Camp Nou (photo from Oh-Barcelona)
FC Barcelona's Camp Nou (photo from Oh-Barcelona)

Gaudi was a devout and conservative Roman Catholic, who designed radically non-traditional buildings.  While his structures often seem light-hearted, they are built using complex and formal geometry and innovative technologies. His greatest inspiration was not the works of other architects, but the works of nature which for him were the creations of his God.  His life and work encompassed both the conservative and the radical, the scientific and the imaginative, quiet meditation and exuberant display and traditional forms with modern decoration.  So it is with Barcelona.  The ancient culture and language of Catalan are honored in a city that lives each day looking forward to a bold future.  So what should you do if you find yourself in Barcelona?

There are the obvious choices: viewing Gaudi’s immense Sagrada Familia. Walking La Rambla. Taking the funicular up Monjuic. But there is so many other choices. Children, art lovers, sports fans, shoppers, gourmands and active tourists have too many choices.  One day is just not enough…and two probably won’t cut it either.  There is a lot of information available about Barcelona.  I wanted to tell you about 4 experiences that might be your best choices, especially if you’ve already been to Barcelona and want to try something a little different.

Book the FC Barcelona tour – Few cities are as passionate about sports as Barcelona.  Camp Nou is the home stadium for FC Barcelona and is the largest in Europe.  If you can get tickets to a match DO IT.  FC Barcelona is the most honored team in all of Europe so the whole experience is a show when you are surrounded by the locals!  The most interesting part of the FC Barcelona tour is visiting all parts of the stadium. There are two kinds of tours: the basic tour of the public areas and the Plus tour with behind the scenes areas. You should rent an Audioguide headset that explains the areas in English.  Even if you are not a soccer fan, the stadium tour is an eye-opener.

If you are familiar with FC Barcelona you will also want to visit the museum which includes displays regarding the history of the club.  Audioguides are recommended in the museum as well.

Poble Espanyol - Spanish Village (Photo by Amadalvarez)
Poble Espanyol - Spanish Village (Photo by Amadalvarez)

Tour the Spanish Village on Montjuic – El Poble Espanyol was an open-air museum built for the 1929 World Exhibition to represent the 15 different regions of Spain. Because it was so popular it was not closed after the Exhibition closed.  Today, it is an opportunity to view the architectural styles of many regions in a compact outdoor museum that will appeal to all ages.  Craft workshops are open where demonstrations of glassmaking, leatherworking, engraving, jewelry making and other crafts can be viewed.  The village offers a variety of children’s activities and attractions. Barcelona’s most popular Flamenco show is within the Village.  And if you want to eat or drink there are restaurants and two nightclubs. For Spanish visitors this is one of Barcelona’s most popular attractions and you can enjoy it with an Audioguide which explains the details in English.  Admission is around 10 Euros for adults with discounts for children and seniors and in the evening.

See Gaudi’s lesser masterpieces– While the 4 designs by Gaudi (Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, Casa Mila and Casa Batllo) in Barcelona offer the most famous masterpieces by the architect, there are a number of other buildings that offer a broader perspective on his works, demonstrating a wider spectrum of influences that will intrigue those who want to explore his inventiveness more deeply.

Gaudi's Casa Calvet (photo by Mary Ann Sullivan)
Gaudi's Casa Calvet (photo by Mary Ann Sullivan)
  1. The oldest of his important works is Casa Vicens, built starting in 1883 for a brick and ceramic magnate in a style strongly influenced by Moorish design.  Interior not open. (7 KM from port)
  2. Just off La Rambla is the Palau Guell built 1886-8 for Gaudi’s friend the industrialist, Eusebio Güel.  It was his first large scale work and displays the direction of his imagination at the beginning of his career.  Tours are 10 Euros.
  3. Casa Calvet was built between 1898-1900 in a more traditional style than most of Gaudi’s designs.  There is an excellent gourmet restaurant on the first floor where the Calvet family offices were housed. (3.5 KM from port)
  4. Casa Bellesguard was another impressive home built by Gaudi (1900-08).  It is influenced by the Catalan Gothic Palace that once stood in the area with a striking tower and a strong vertical impression.  Interior tours are not available. (11 KM, 20 minutes from the port)
  5. Colonia Guell is an industrial zone in the suburbs of Barcelona (19 KM from the port) that features a crypt that was originally intended to be topped by a church.  It was recently renovated an reopened to the public.  The style is among the most organic of all Gaudi’s works (1908-16).

Travel to the Salvador Dali House-Museum in Portlligat, Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres and Gala Dali Castle in Pubol– If you are a fan of surrealism, modernism or Salvador Dali and you have visited Barcelona before, you might consider the 2 hour trip to Figueres to see these 3 fascinating sites.  To see all 3 sites you will need to stay overnight, but you can probably see 2 in one day.

Dali Theater-Museum in Figueres (Photo by Kuxu76)
Dali Theater-Museum in Figueres (Photo by Kuxu76)

The house-museum is a series of buildings connected by narrow hallways and built on different levels. It is an extension of his personality, both personal and public.  It is what you would expect…completely unpredictable, unusual and vibrant with unique creativity.  The labyrinthine home was built over a period of 40 years beginning in 1930s.  Dali lived there until his wife Gala’s death in 1982 when he moved (taking his wife’s remains along) to the castle in Pubol.  Reservations (11 Euros) for the house are a must as a very limited number of visitors are admitted on a scheduled basis.

The Gala Dali Castle at Pubol features the tombs of Salvador and Gala, their cars and the place he designed to honor his wife.  Bought in 1969, it was a wreck of medieval construction.  Dali used the crumbling condition to create an inventive space to display his memorial. It is a testament to his love for his wife. Admission is 8 Euros.

The Theater-Museum in Figueres is called the world’s largest surrealistic object in the world.  The items in the museum were specially designed for it.  Opened in 1974, it was built on the ruins of a 19th century theater that was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War.  Tickets are 12 Euros and include admission to the Dali Jewel exhibit, which is also in Figueres.


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