Hello WordPress world! It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything here–fieldwork/summer vacations/LSATs have completely derailed my blog flow, but I’m baaack! So without further ado, here’s the lowdown on me and Catherine’s exploits in Barcelona.
We landed in Barcelona around noon and headed to our Airbnb, which was nestled in a hilly neighborhood within walking distance of Parc Güell. After gathering our bearings, we decided to take advantage of our prime location and check out Parc Güell. The hills were no joke (cue PTSD from Lisbon’s torturous hills), but there were outdoor escalators on the steepest legs up to the park. At the entrance to the park, we found a small little restaurant called Güelly Sandwichpark. We popped in to grab some snacks and were greeted by the sweetest couple, who encouraged us to tag their wall. Of course we obliged!
We then perused the selection at Güelly and our eyes were quickly drawn to the cinnamon rolled pastries on display. What better way to toast our arrival in Barcelona than with traditional Spanish churros? We took our order to-go and headed into Parc Güell.
We didn’t spend too much time at the park since we planned to return later during our stay in Barcelona. The views were great, though, and I highly recommend picnicking there.
After resting a bit at our Airbnb, we headed out to the city. My friend Jane had recommended a Catalan tapas restaurant called Bar del Pla, which was close enough to our sightseeing destination for the evening, the Picasso Museum. Both are located in the neighborhood Barrio Gótico, which is the Medieval quarter of Barcelona. We headed to Bar del Pla and got a few tapas.
Pictured above is WAY TOO MUCH CHEESE. I never thought that those words would come out of my mouth, but they might as well have rolled out a whole wheel of cheese and plopped it in front of us. 9 euros apparently gets you a lot of cheese here…
We put away as much as we could, said no más, and then headed to the Picasso Museum which was only a few blocks away.
Of course, taking pictures of classic works of art is generally frowned upon, so instead, enjoy this picture of me and Catherine outside!
The Picasso museum was definitely worth visiting. I have a pretty limited knowledge of the art world, so I always just associated Picasso with the crazy abstract cubism that you so often see highlighted in pop culture. I was surprised to see that this wasn’t always his aesthetic, and that he started out painting more realistic scenes just like everyone else. I appreciated being able to see his roots and beginnings, and how his vision and identity as an artist transformed over time.
We signed up for a free Runner Beans tour of the Old City. This tour was focused mainly on Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter (Barrio Gótico) which dates back to the medieval times. Our tour started out at a square called Plaça Reial. Standing in the plaza is a lamppost that was Gaudí’s first commissioned work from the City of Barcelona.
We were led to Plaça del Pi next, where we admired the beautiful 14th century church pictured below. We learned that the church had been destroyed by a fire centuries ago, and the rose window is actually a replica of the original.
Another aspect of Plaça del Pi that our tour guide made sure to point out is the sgraffito façade that adorns many of the buildings. Sgraffito is a method of applying different colors to a wall and then etching designs in the plaster.
Our tour guide also directed our eyes to this flag, which is the Catalan flag. Brief rundown: Barcelona resides in the region of Catalonia (Catalunya), which has been trying to secede from Spain for centuries. This version of the flag is a pro-independence flag. There is a legend that the red stripes from this flag originated from King Charles the Bald dipping his fingers into the dying Count of Barcelona’s wound and smearing 4 stripes on his shield as a gesture of gratitude. Odd way of thanking a man *shrugs*.
We made our way to La Seu, a 15th century cathedral cloister. Thirteen geese are kept in the cloister as a way of paying homage to the cathedral’s patroness saint, Eulalia. She was burned alive at the stake by the Romans at the tender age of 13 for her religious beliefs.
Our next stop on the tour was the Call, also known as the Jewish Quarter of Barcelona. This is where the Jewish population lived during Medieval times in the city. The entire Jewish population that resided here was massacred in the late 14th century. The building below, Synagogue Major, is believed to be an ancient synagogue from that time period.
The architecture around Barrio Gótico was very ornate, as you would expect of Medieval buildings. Gargoyles like the ones in the picture below were included in Gothic architecture to ward off evil spirits.
The streets are very narrow in Barrio Gótico. Below is a typical street in the neighborhood.
We ended up in Plaça Nova and our tour guide asked us to guess which artist was responsible for the mural on the College of Architecture below. Looks like something a parent would be forced to hang on the fridge, but it was actually drawn by none other than… Picasso! Which just goes to show what kind of crap people will eat up once you’ve made it. Good job, Picasso. Minimal effort.
We ended our tour at the Fossar de les Moreres, a square built on a mass grave of the Barcelonians who died in a siege during the War of Spanish Succession. The red monument below has a constantly burning flame at the end of it to commemorate the dead. I promise it was actually burning when I took this!
The next stop on our itinerary was the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, or MNAC for short. One of the highlights of this museum was the view from the rooftop. Drinking in this view of Barcelona—doesn’t get any better.
After getting our caffeine fix, we headed into MNAC to see some art because we are so ~cultured~. Heh, just kidding. Mostly, we just ran around and took weird pictures and made fun of art because we are hooligans.
So I’d be pretty pissed at Picasso if I sat for his painting and he presented me with the picture below. This is called “Woman in Hat and Fur Collar” and is a cubist painting of Pablo’s 17 year old mistress.
There were several floors to the MNAC and the exhibits were divided up into time periods. We didn’t realize this and spent SOOOOO much time in the Medieval exhibit, which was mostly religious art, such as the sculpture below.
Here’s a picture of the MNAC from the outside. It’s rather opulent.
With dinnertime approaching, we made our way back to Barrio Gótico to check out the restaurant options there. We hadn’t made any reservations, so a few of the restaurants that we scoped out were all full. Luckily, we stumbled upon a small restaurant called Viana Barcelona that was highly rated on TripAdvisor, and were able to snag seating. The restaurant filled up almost immediately after we were seated. Viana offers a selection of tapas, and we ordered and shared a few off the menu. EVERYTHING WAS PHENOMENAL. Seriously—make your way here if you find yourself hungry in the streets of Barcelona.
So, out of the dishes we ordered, the winner was definitely the ceviche. It was so very very fresh. But really, everything we put in our mouths at Viana was good. So good that we rated this meal a 10/10 meal.
We still had room for dessert (when do we not??) so we popped into a random gelato shop along Las Ramblas, which is the main drag in Barcelona. We were overwhelmed by the selection of flavors, until the gelatier told us we could combine as many flavors as we want in our cup! He was like the Willy Wonka of gelato.
Sagrada Família is probably the most famous building in Barcelona. Designed by Antonio Gaudí, and still a work in progress even after his death, this cathedral attracts hordes of tourists. You definitely can’t step foot inside unless you buy tickets in advance. Catherine and I, being the good tourists we are, did so well in advance. Buuut, being the terrible tourist we are, were very very very late to our allotted time. Like, 30 minutes late. Luckily the guards don’t seem to really look at the ticket time, and they let us in. Heh.
So, as I previously mentioned, the Sagrada is still being built. This impressive structure and Gaudí’s vision are expected to reach completion in 2026. When people commented on the long construction of the church, Gaudí famously stated, “My client is not in a hurry.” Of course the client he was referring to is God.
I was so glad that we had tickets to view the inside, because it was a completely different aesthetic from the outside. While the outside was heavily Gothic, the inside had this hippie trippy feel to it. Surprising that Gaudí was a devout Catholic who never partook in any mind-altering substances.
After wrapping up our tour of the Sagrada, we headed to our free Antonio Gaudí tour that we had signed up for through Runner Beans. The first stop was Casa Batlló, pictured below. This building has irridescent hues of green and blue that make it stand out from the other, more common colored buildings on the block. Also unique to this building is the source of inspiration for Gaudí’s design—dragons. If you look closely, you can see that the roof has a scaly texture, and the balconies look like human skulls. Could totally picture Daenerys posted up in there. I really loved this building; it was definitely one of my favorites of Gaudí’s work.
Next on the tour was Casa Milà, which was commissioned by a wealthy couple in 1906. This was Gaudí’s last work before his death. Its design was pretty controversial at the time. Personally not a huge fan, especially compared to the more vibrant Batlló.
There were a few other stops along the way of our Gaudí tour, but they weren’t very photogenic. One of the takeaway messages from our tour guide was that Gaudí was both madman and genius.
After our tour ended, we decided to head back to our ‘hood and do Parc Güell again. I hadn’t mentioned this previously, but Parc Güell was designed by none other than the man, the myth, the legend: Gaudí. This park is like none I have ever seen in my lifetime. It was really awesome how Gaudí was able to blend his architectural designs with the natural surroundings of the park.
Once we were done walking around the park, we headed back to our Airbnb to get ready for a night out on the town. This, believe it or not, was our first real taste of nightlife in Europe. Most nights during this trip we spent on trains, planes, or passed out from sheer exhaustion. We had tickets to see What So Not (a trap DJ) at a club called Razzmatazz. We had a good time overall once WSN came on, but the venue was pretty gross. Namely, it was filled with annoying American study-abroad babies and smelled like, to quote Anchorman, a used diaper filled with Indian food.
Thus ends Catdog’s adventures in Barcelona. I diiiiid have a 12 hour layover in Barcelona on the way back stateside, but I’ll touch on that later. Next up on the Europe blog series is the South of France, which Catherine will be guest writing for me—oui oui! Check out the Barcelona video montage below, and remember—appreciate the little things, always 🙂