Barcelona: ARTchitecture

IMG_3524The worst of jet lag is over and it’s starting to set in that I’m in Europe. After not sleeping at all during my flights or layovers, I was tired to say the least when I arrived in Barcelona yesterday afternoon. After a quick nap, though, I was on my way. While I only had today and yesterday to explore, I got to see some of Barcelona’s notable architecture and explore some cool nooks and crannies of the city. For a little background, though, I’m traveling with a tour group for this trip around Spain, so some of the things I mention will be with the group while others will be things that I’ve done on my own. Additionally, I used Rick Steves’ Spain to help me prepare for what I explore alone.

IMG_3574La Sagrada FamiliaI’d probably say that this was my favorite place I visited in the city. This unfinished projected by famous architect Antoni Guadí celebrates the life of Jesus and the exterior facades depict different scenes from the Bible, like the Passion and Nativity. I bought my ticket online in advance, and while there’s a slight fee for doing so, I got in right away and didn’t have to wait in line at all, so it’s definitely worth doing in advance (and get the student rate as well). Stained glass filters the light into the building in deep, bright colors, adding to the avant-garde feel of this church. It’s good to take a seat for a few minutes to orient yourself, maybe read Rick Steves’ self-guided tour if you didn’t rent the audio guide, and have a chance to look up at the ceiling. I’ve heard that Gaudí was inspired by Montserrat, nearby famous mountains, and while I haven’t been, comparing the church to pictures of the mountain would suggest so. Spires seem to dribble up and parabolas and hyperbolas support the structure of this ornate and modernist church. If you step outside and follow the ramp, you may also visit the museum on the lower floor to learn more about the architecture.

I’m not usually good at giving very personal impressions on this blog, but seeing that this is also a study abroad thing now, I should probably try to do that. So, I was truly awestruck when I stepped inside. It’s very different from traditional churches you may see in, perhaps, Italy, but this masterpiece is simply a different type of church. And is absolutely worth the visit. I didn’t have time to visit Casa Batlló or Casa Milà, two of the houses he designed, or Park Güell, but I must say that anything by Gaudí is most likely worth the time and money. IMG_3546

Montjuïc–The tour bus stopped here for a little bit during our morning sightseeing tour, and it offers really incredible views of the city (although you do get a good some industrial looking buildings, but I might just be fantasizing about the view that you get at Park Güell). The windy streets of Montjuïc used to be racetracks but are no longer because they’re much too dangerous for zipping around. IMG_3528

Museu PicassoToday I visited this museum in El Born after lunch and some more exploring of the city. The line to get inside was over an hour, and there was a man who started out behind me, then was all of a sudden next to me, and before I knew it, he was six people ahead in line. To him I say, “Everybody has to wait, dude. Suck it up.” Infantile bickering aside, the wait to get inside can be daunting (and it may have been worse as the museum is free Sunday afternoons (but always free to university students)), but read a book, talk to somebody nearby, and wait. The permanent collections here showcase Picasso’s early work and are really delightful. I used Rick Steves again to learn more as I walked through the different exhibits, and I think my favorite part of the museum was the collection of Picasso’s paintings and analysis of Diego Velázquez’s “Las Meninas.” Steves says that Picasso really had an obsession with this painting, which was called one of the first truly realistic paintings out there.

Barri Gotic–I visited the famous Las Ramblas and La Boquería the night I arrived, so I found those a little overwhelming. I assembled a picnic out of some fruit, strawberry juice, and candy from the Boquería. While I was buying things, I kept thinking 3 euro is nothing, but then realized that a lot of 3 euro purchases add up, and my economical dinner probably wasn’t so much so (although I brought my picnic to the Plaça de Catalunya and talked with this Catalonian man for a while, and it was cool to hear his take on the city). Anyways, this morning I visited this Barri Gotic, which is near both the Picasso Museum and Las Ramblas, before visiting the Sagrada Familia. There’s a lot of charm to this area with its narrow alleys, street performers playing the harp, and little shops (though there are a lot of tacky souvenir shops if you don’t delve in deep enough). I got a café cortado from La Colmena, a nice little bakery near the metro station. Take some time to wander here: it’s really enjoyable.

Boquería Picnic
Boquería Picnic

Food: Being jet lagged, I didn’t spend tons of time trying to plan great, elaborate, Spanish meals. As I mentioned, yesterday I made a picnic from La Boquería. The market ranges from bustling to chaotic, and the vendors’ foods are typically more expensive closer to the entrance, so go towards the back and explore if you’re going to buy something here. Woki Organic Market has a location near the Sagrada Familia and is also good for making a picnic-style lunch for cheap: I got a croissant with grains, raspberry yogurt, an apple, and nut brownie all for just 5 euro. For little coffee shops, SandwiChez, with locations throughout the city, is good: urban feel, good coffee, nice space, but it seemed like it could just as well be in New York. In an attempt to wait the line out at the Picasso Museum, I went to Lilipep a little cafe that also sells comes books: offbeat vibe, seemed local, but I’m not entirely sure because I overheard both Italian and English. Finally, El Velódromo is a good, neighborhood bar open all hours of the day and serving tapas, Spanish wines, and other fare. I recommend their crema catalana. 

As far as other things go…

-Their Metro system is really good: some of the lines are really new looking and clean, and you have to press a button for the car doors to open. Tickets can add up (2.15 for a one-way fare), so if you plan on using it frequently, buy a bigger package to reduce the price.

-I like to explore places early in the morning before they really wake up, so I went for a run this morning. It was very quiet and it would’ve been nice to see some major landmarks, but the hotel is pretty far from any of the big sights to be able to see them without the crowds.

5 thoughts on “Barcelona: ARTchitecture

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