I have asked a few people of what they think about firstly when it comes to Barcelona. The answer is either Camp Nou or Gaudí. For a soccer dummy like me, Camp Nou is obviously off the table. And Gaudí… you just cannot avoid Gaudí in Barcelona.
Apart from the iconic Sagrada Família, Gaudí has an indelible mark on Barcelona’s architecture and style. The city itself also resembles its most famous artist’s creations, Barcelona is anything but boring and conventional.
But beyond Gaudí, the capital city of Catalonia has so much more to offer. I came to Barcelona mainly to see with my own eyes Gaudí’s legacy, yet the non-Gaudí side turned out to leave me quite impressed.
Barcelona is scattered with his structural masterpieces, and one way of setting up your itinerary in 2-3 days in Barcelona is to follow Gaudí’s trail, that is, if you are an art aficionado. Some of the famous names to appear on the list should be Sagrada Família (but of course), Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, Parque Güell and Palau Güell. They are some of Gaudí’s creations that are open to public and conveniently located within the city.
But let’s talk about the qualms first. What annoyed me most in Barcelona was the exorbitant entrance fee. Just.absolutely.fucking.expensive. It was outrageous. Many people may find it weird to pay an entrance fee to visit a church (Sagrada Família), and I don’t blame them. Given that SF is a wonder on its own even if merely for its architectural triumph, I am willing to pay a ticket to get in, although I must admit that it is ridiculously costly (15~20 euro). Catedral de Barcelona also requires donation to get in at specific time of the day (2 euro). Other Gaudí’s sites, unsurprisingly, make tourists pay quite a hefty amount to visit (normal fee): 12 euro for Palau Güell (with audio guide), 21.5 euro for Casa Batlló (with audio guide), 18 euro daytime ticket for Casa Milà, 7 euro for a selected part of Park Güell. Now I understand the importance of entrance fee for the restoration and maintenance of a place of interest, but when I put it in perspectives, for example a normal ticket for Louvre is 12 euro, or a 2-day valid ticket for Colosseum-Palatine Hill-Roman Forum is listed at 15.50 euro, I simply felt angry. Luckily I was visiting Barcelona with the bf and the boy loved me so much he was willing to pay the fee for me, because had I been there on my own (aka. on a budget) I’d never have been able to muster that much money to visit those Barcelona’s highlights.
The first Gaudí’s house we visited was Palau Güell and boy we were lucky enough to get in for free! On our first day in Barcelona we casually passed by this mansion and I realized that it was actually Palau Güell:
“a mansion designed by the architect Antoni Gaudí for the industrial tycoon Eusebi Güell. It is situated in the Carrer Nou de la Rambla, in the El Raval neighbourhood of the city of Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Works of Antoni Gaudí”.”
What we did not know was that because it was the first Sunday of the month, tourists could visit the mansion for free. I am all for freebies, so queue I did. After waiting for half an hour, we could get in Palau Güell with a free audio guide. I’m glad that we got the guide, as it tells us where and what to look. It made the experience all the more meaningful.
To be honest, I thought that the mansion was okay. It is eccentric and different alright, but it feels very weird: kind of suffocating, alienating and intimidating. It has some very interesting features, but I just didn’t like it. And were I given a chance to live in this house, I’d politely decline. I quite enjoyed the roof with its quintessentially Gaudí style and vision, but that’s about it.
Dark, cold, intimidating:
But at least these are cool:
After finding out about the horrific entrance fees to Casa Milà and Casa Batlló, I frantically tried to search for sage advice on Google as to which Casa I should visit. Opinions are quite evenly divided between 2 and both of them have their own special flairs, so I had to look at the situation rationally. As I am still a student, I can visit Casa Batlló for about 18 euro WITH audio guide, while for the other, the entrance fee is slightly cheaper but an accompanied audio guide would cost me 5 euro. After Palau Güell, both the bf and I were convinced that without an audio guide, normal folks like us would be much less likely to understand and appreciate Gaudí’s genius design. Casa Batlló it is, then.
And how was it? Terrific, indeed. I still think that 21.5 euro for Casa Batlló is very, very expensive, but I’m glad I went there. Gaudí’s creativity is unfathomable. I don’t wanna spoil the details of his amazing design here, so I’d just share some photos. Just keep in mind that everything he designed was there for a reason. They may look weird, strange, different, but they all served their functions in a very artistic way.
Rooftop and other funky stuffs:
Casa Milà is not faraway and the exterior is very impressive.
Park Güell is another nice landmark for Gaudí’s fans. Both the bf and I enjoy walking, so we decided to walk all the way from our hotel (near Sagrada Família) to the park. It was quite a long and steep hike, as the park is located on a hill. We could imagine that it’d be hard, tiring, and annoying in the summer to visit Park Güell… all the more reason why you should visit Southern European countries in winter xDDD
I enjoyed the free part of the park, as it is, well, very Gaudí and unlike any park I had been to. I was annoyed with the fact that you had to pay 7 euro for the best part of the park (where Gaudí’s Sala Hipóstila and the world-wide famous multicolored mosaic salamander etc. are located). I really really wanted to see the salamander (el drac) but 7 euro? No thanks.
City view from the park:
Is there anyway to enjoy Barcelona in a less costly way? If you are not in Barcelona for Gaudí, the city has lots to offer. Taking a stroll along the beloved La Rambla–the Champs-Élysées of the city is definitely a must. A walk through The Jewish quarter and Gothic quarter is always rewarding. Keep an eye out for street arts, statues, and even apartment and office buildings–they have their own special charm!
The 3 free things I enjoyed most in Barcelona were, however, visiting Parc de la Ciutadella, playing with the geese in Catedral de Barcelona and strolling along the beach.
Parc de la Ciutadella had to be one of my favorite parks ever, and it’s mainly thanks to the incredibly gorgeous Cascada–the fountain. It was built between 1882-1888 and heavily inspired by the Trevi Fountain in Rome. If you can’t make it to Rome, this Casada is the closest thing you can get and boy it is not a cheap imitation but truly is breathtaking. The Quadriga de l’Aurora on top of the arch is gorgeous, which reminds me of Berlin’s famous Brandenburg Gate.
The park also has a calming, pretty lake:
As mentioned earlier, you have to pay (in the form of donation) to visit Catedral de Barcelona at a certain time of the day, but if you plan in advance, you can totally enjoy this beautiful, huge, and of course, old, basilica for free (check the time table here). While it is everything of the above, what captured my heart were, however, the geese in the cloister. They were the main reason I wanted to visit the basilica actually.
THE GEESE. THE GEESEEEEEEE.
Barcelona is a coast city, so make sure to hit the beach where you can enjoy the sunset in silence or check out the numerous clubs along the sands.
Don’t forget to grab some empanadas on the way x)