On our first full day in Barcelona, we really got around! After some wonderful advice from guest relations at the Mercer Barcelona, we set out to discover the architecture of Gaudi in one day.
Our hotel concierge helped us purchase tickets online for Parc Guell for 9:30 a.m. (important to be there early in the day to avoid the hot sun) and Sagrada Familia for 11:30 a.m. She explained that Parc Guell would take us about an hour to visit, and then the walk to Sagrada Familia would be about a half hour. Her timing was perfect, and by just following her advice (and directions on a map), we had a stress-free wandering day.
We took the metro to a station about 15 – 20 minutes from the Parc, and a long uphill walk to reach Parc Guell. We had considered the tourist hop on/hop off bus, but chose to walk this day instead and it worked out fine for us.
We really enjoyed walking through this small area, enjoying the mosaics and classic Gaudi sculptured buildings and a famous lizard! There is a wonderful view of Barcelona out to the sea with winding benches (and plenty of tourists taking the same photos that we did). Definitely worth the visit.
Next, we walked through residential neighbourhoods to Sagrada Familia. It was a bit of a long walk, but I really enjoyed seeing people living their lives here (rather than just sticking to tourist areas). When we reached the Sagrada Familia David and I were both in awe. I have seen many cathedrals in my travels, but this one was much taller and larger than I anticipated. The huge line up for tickets was also incredibly long and we were very happy to have our tickets (with the time we were to enter stamped on them). We didn’t totally avoid the line ups though, as we had to wait a while for our audio guides (little taped recordings you listen to through headphones at key stops in the cathedral – totally worth it).
The cathedral is incredible. Gaudi was a completely original thinker and nothing is traditional about this building. I think he was also ahead of his time – thinking about nature (the columns are meant to resemble trees, and other shapes evoke nature) and light (the incredible play of natural light and the light that flows through the stained glass windows was sensational).
Perhaps our favourite part of the visit was the long elevator ride up to near the top of one of the towers, the walk over a stone bridge to see incredible views and the tops of the towers up close and the very long and windy and circular staircase down (got a bit hot and dizzy and claustrophobic to be honest).
The Sagrada Familia is not to be missed – you see something different the longer you stare at any spot… a word or an image will jump out at you sculpted on the building. Really beautiful.
After that, we decided to walk down the Passaig De Gracia to walk by the other Gaudi buildings we wanted to see. The Casa Mila (La Pedrera building) was interesting (though the top half was covered for building work. We decided not to wait in the line to see inside. And, we also enjoyed seeing the interesting Casa Batilo. Gaudi’s buildings are completely original and we were glad to see them in one day.
After all this walking, we have decided not to bother with the hop on/hop off bus (since we’ve done a good chunk of it by foot already), but it does seem like a good option for getting around the city to all the tourist attractions. Today, we are off to explore the beach area!