Perhaps the most popular attraction in Barcelona is “La Rambla” or “Las Ramblas”. This is a pedestrian street mall that meanders from Placa de Catalunya, the central hub of the city, all the way to Port Vell at the edge of the Mediterranean. La Rambla separates the old city centre, Barri Gotic’ on the east side, from El Raval on the west.
Barri Gotic’ or Gothic Quarter is the old city neighbourhood and contains many buildings that date back to Medieval Times, along with some from the original Roman settlement. In the Cuitat Vella district of Barcelona is El Raval. The part of El Raval neighbourhood closest to the port is also known as Barrio Chino, or “Chinatown”.
This tree-lined walkway of La Rambla stretches more than 1km from the city’s centre to the port and encompasses, or is close proximity to many other famous landmarks and sites of the city. Small squares and streets connect to La Rambla and lead to famous sites and landmarks like the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia and Placa Sant Juame. City council and other government buildings are housed in this area. Other famous buildings like Gaudi’s Palau (Park) Guell and Rambla dels Caputxins.
The Christopher Columbus Monument and the Royal Dockyards are close to the Port Vell. A maritime museum especially devoted to the Mediterranean naval history is a well-visited historical venue.
One of the world’s most famous architects, Antonio Gaudi, born in Reus in 1852, contributed exponentially to Barcelona’s rare and surreal architectural benefits. He received his architectural degree in 1878. His constructions have an organic flavour and are characteristic of a brilliant mind and eye of a man with an incredible gifting. Parc Guell is no exception.
Eusebi Guell, a Catalan Count, was an entrepreneur who met Gaudi at the world’s fair in Paris. They became lifelong friends and Guell commissioned Gaudi to build countless buildings and structures in Barcelona. Parc Guell was originally built as an estate for the rich, but did not gain popularity as was hoped by the two. The location, for that time, was considered too remote and only two houses were built on the huge estate property.
Today, Parc Guell is a fantastic representation of the architectural brilliance of Antonio Gaudi. One of the houses, in which Gaudi actually lived for a while, has been converted to a museum in the park. The multicoloured mosaic tile seats on the stone walkway are breathtaking, as well as the view that it lends from its raised location. Large columns made of rocks feature natural stones and display Gaudi’s staggering imagination. The Gaudi dragon at the entrance is magical and somewhat hypnotic. It is famous in its own rite.
Although well worth the visit, Parc Guell is a large and rambling domain and deserves at least half a day’s time to take in its beauty and elegance. If walking steep hills for a long distance is a problem, taking a taxi rather than the metro might be a fair advantage when planning this excursion. From the metro drop-off point, there is at least a 200m trek, uphill and can be exhausting if one is not acclimated to such exercise.
Casa Batllo, or “House of Bones” showcases Gaudi’s reverent attitude toward Modernisme or Art Noveau which are types of art embracing architecture. This type of art/architecture combination was trending in the European countries between 1890-1910. It was considered a total art form and was also used in paintings, sculptures, cabinetry, along with other forms like silver, gold, and glass arts.
Commissioned by Luis Sala Sanchez, the house was an eclectic conglomeration of Gaudi’s classic imagination. For some time Casa Batllo was only occupied by Gaudi himself, since the house’s appearance seemed undesirable to buyers.
Casa Batllo was a remodel of a previously built house and became one of Gaudi’s masterpieces after he applied a genius touch to the six-story building. With an arched roof like the back of a dragon, the turret and cross structure is said to represent the sword of Patron Saint of Catalonia, Saint George. In 1900, Josep Batllo commissioned Guadi to redesign the house and make it suitable for him and his family in order to live in the fashionable area so as to draw attention to his industrial business pursuits. He lived there with his family until he died in 1934 and his wife remained in the house until her death in 1940.
The oldest remaining park in Barcelona is Parc del Laberint d’Horta. It was designed and built in the 18th century by Marquis Desvall for the nobility of the Catalan area. The castle that shoulders the park is the Palais of the family Desvalls.
The park is separated into a romantic garden and traditional park. Two small temples in the middle of the park are dedicated to Artemis and Danae. A statue of Dionysus, the god of wine, and several other eye-catching structures are found along the pathways of Parc del Laberint.
The park is not in the mainstream city, but is located on the slope of the Collserola. There is about a 500m walk to ascend the slope before entering the park.
Featuring over 400 species, the Barcelona Zoo is home to over 5500 animals. The zoo is part of the Parc de la Cuitadella. It is extremely botanical in nature due to the amount of flora needed for the animals to exist.
There are several galleries and houses for the different types of creatures including primates, reptiles, a newly renovated aviary, and a farm for the less spectacular animals such as cows and pigs. The aquarium allows for spectacular views of underwater sea life.
Barcelona is widely known for its historic industrial prowess in a variety of areas. The Parc de L’Espanya Industrial is located near the rail stations that conveniently connect to the ports of the city. Waiting in the park is an excellent alternative to waiting in the station itself for the trains. Lighthouses loop around a manmade lake and many sculptures, steps, and tall cedars adorn the area. Walking paths and the iron “Dragon of Saint George” are enjoyed by all who visit.
One could in no way enjoy the full effect of such a astonishing place as Barcelona without visiting the beaches. There are about 4km of beaches available to the patrons who wish to lull in the sun and sand, or kick up a board on the surf. The beach in its entire length is in convenient proximity to the subway.
All along the beach are handy, well-located showers, shops, and bars. There are random wheelchair ramps and lifeguards on duty for the swimmers. Buoys mark the swimming areas and the beaches are regularly cleaned. Spain has excellent environmental rules in place to maintain a safe and attractive quality of living space.
The beaches are sectioned out, each having its own special qualities to offer. However, one in particular is more special than the others. Playa del Mar Bella caters to the bold practice of nudity which is widely accepted if no radical displays or problems ensue. In general, totally undressing in Barcelona is acceptable as long as there are no public nuisances or problems associated with the nudity.