Many people cruising in the Mediterranean will have the opportunity to visit Barcelona either before or after a cruise or as a port of call. Barcelona awaits you with a fascinating history, culture and architecture.
Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is a cosmopolitan Mediterranean city that incorporates in its urban street pattern Roman remains, medieval districts and the most beautiful examples of Modernism and 20th century avant-garde art.
The Works of Antonio Gaudi
This is the city of Antonio Gaudi, and his ultimate project was La Sagrada Familia, arguably one of the greatest churches in the world. In 1883, Antonio Gaudi accepted the commission to continue the construction of the ‘Church Of The Poor’, La Sagrada Familia. Located to the north of Barcelona, this unusual building brought about a return to the teachings of Catholicism and Gaudi devoted the last 40 years of his life to the building that remains, even to this day, unfinished. Completed by Gaudi, the eastern facade is often referred to as the most ingenious sculpture of the century and all four of its facades have been designed to depict the life of the Son of God. The building surprises everyone with its originality yet the main interior is still an enormous building site.
The ceiling of the main church is composed of individual sections. The decorative elements contained in the many towers unite to take on the shape of flowers and fruit with subtle screw-shaped columns supporting the ceiling that creates an image of woodland.
It is only when comparison is made between Antonio Gaudi’s original plans and sketches and present day progress that it becomes apparent how each design element is today being painstakingly realized. Rather than false beautification, and in order to achieve realism, each of the statues and figures derives from photographs and plaster models posed for by ordinary people from the streets of Barcelona.
The Bario Gotico (Gothic Quarter)
The Gothic Quarter is the heart of old Barcelona, a medieval city built upon Roman foundations which has to be the first place to explore once you’ve discovered the adjacent Ramblas. This historic hodgepodge of narrow and, in many cases, pedestrian-only streets and squares is full of character and charm and home to hundreds of shops, bars and restaurants. The gothic quarter nestles between Barcelona´s famous boulevard Las Ramblas and Via Laietana, with Plaza Catalunya at the top and the port at the bottom. Portal de L’Angel, a modern pedestrian-only shopping street which starts in Plaza Catalunya, leads to the traffic-free square dominated by the Cathedral and to the Roman walls that once encased the city. From here all of the major attractions are easily accessible, including the Roman remains beneath the City History Museum. On the south side of the Gothic Quarter is the Plaza Real, a palm-lined square just off Las Ramblas whose bars and restaurants around each side are a relaxing place to stop and watch life during the day and at night when the square becomes a hive of activity.
Casa Milà, commonly known as La Pedrera is the largest civil building designed by Antoni Gaudi. The apartment block was constructed between 1906 and 1910. It was Gaudi’s last work before devoting himself to the construction of the Sagrada Familia. This apartment building does not use load-bearing walls, but rest on pillars and arches. On the outside, the undulating balconies look like a series of waves. Some people see the facade as a cliff-like rock with caves. During construction, people dubbed it a quarry, or ‘Pedrera’ The top floor, attic and the extraordinary roof are open to visitors. The apartment on the top floor gives an idea of how the interior must have looked at the beginning of the 20th century. Just like on the outside, the interior has virtually no straight lines. The roof is probably the most extraordinary of the building. It features a number of surrealistic colorful chimneys. Many of them look like warriors in a science fiction movie, others look more frivolous.
Also in this area, which is on or near the Passeig de Gràcia and Gaudí’s extraordinary Casa Batlló. The interior of what was recently described as the most expensive town house in the world is not cheap to visit, but the façade is a triumph of unfettered creativity, its curves and shimmering tiles placing it somewhere between the gingerbread cottage and a vast dragon ready to pounce. Other modernista tours-de-force in the same block are the crenellated, Arab-influenced Casa Amatller and the frothy, stucco Casa Lleó Morera.
If you have just a day to explore Barcelona or are fortunate to experience a longer time there you will not be disappointed.