There’s no doubt about it, travel can be expensive, especially in the big European cities, but some of the best sights can be had just for the price of some shoe leather and in Barcelona you’d be well advised to make sure you look up as often as possible.
The history of Barcelona stretches out over 2,000 years and there are buildings in the city that span the entire period. Many of them can be entered and viewed for a price, but if you are short of pennies there is much satisfaction to be had from just wandering the streets, poking your nose in doorways and always looking up.
Many of the buildings are famous landmarks and well known tourist attractions. However, just as many are simply places that you walk past on your way to somewhere else, that also happen to have been designed and built with elegance and style.
Of course there is the breathtaking Sagrada Familia Cathedral which has been under construction since the mid-1880’s. Designed by the famous architect Antoní Gaudí, it’s construction is entirely financed by donations and entrance fees and is scheduled to be completed in 2028 (ish). My tip for visiting – don’t rely on their website. We planned to visit on our last evening, after a busy day, and arrived well before the stated closing time, only to find that the admission time was not the same as the closing time. Still – there’s plenty to look at from the outside and inside the crypt, which was still open to the public when we got there.
Somewhat older (and quite completed) is the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia – also known as the slightly less wordy Barcelona Cathedral. The spires of this 15th century church dominate the Gothic quarter of Barcelona and it is the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona.
One of the best-known and most loved buildings in Barcelona is the Casa Milà – more widely known as La Pedrera. Designed by Gaudi and built as a private home for a wealthy developer, this building has no right angles. On the death of the developer, the property was sold and later transformed into apartments, some of which are still occupied today. Again, it is possible to tour parts of this building (including the magical rooftop), or just admire it from the outside. Our serviced apartment was diagonally opposite this stunning building so it was our first sight in the morning and the last one at night.
Another of Gaudi’s masterpieces and a remodelled version of a previously built house, the Casa Batlló, is also located in the centre of Barcelona. Its striking facade is topped by the roof which is shaped like the back of a dragon and is meant to represent the beast from the legend of St George. The facade of the building is a series of undulating sandstone lines and balconies, with the central section depicting cascading water lilies made from glass and ceramic mosaics.
Clearly, there are horses for courses – they say that if you are a tourist, you shouldn’t look up when in New York City as it will make you a target for pick-pockets, but if you don’t look up in Barcelona you will simply be missing out.