Day 48, 49 & 50: Barcelona

SUMMary

We had three days in Barcelona. Barcelona was our last Spanish city and it seemed pretty big with many attractions so we gave ourselves three days instead of the usual two. We stayed in a hotel just outside the town center and drove/”bus” into town to visit the attractions.

This was the only place in Spain in our entire trip where locals warned us against street parking. It seemed that thieves breaking into foreign cars and stealing stuff was a daily and frequent occurences. At our hotel we left our car in the hotel secured parking and when we drove our car into the city we parked it in secured garages.

Map of attractions in Barcelona

Map of attractions in Barcelona

In Barcelona we visited the beautiful Magical Fountain of Montjuic on the first evening. On the second day we tried driving up to “Bunkers del Caramel” to have a panoramic view of Barcelona but could not reach the top as the road to the final stage was off limit to car.  We went on to visit Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Parc Guell an “oddly artistic” park. On the 3rd day we  went into the central city by bus and explored it on foot. We visited  the yet to be completed La Sagrada Familia,  Casa Mila, Casa Batllo and an old jewish quarter. On our final morning, as we were on our way out of Barcelona we stopped by the Central Market.

Font Màgica de Montjuïc

Font Magica de Mont Juic did not have a “show time” every evening of the week. Usually show times were on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. In summer (June to September) show times were added to Wednesday and Sunday. We arrived in Barcelona on Saturday and though the weather was “lousy” (rainy) we still proceeded to Font Magica de Mont Juic. If we had no luck with the fountain performance in the evening we still had the next evening (Sunday) for a second try.

Due to the wet weather, even though it was only 4 km from our “stay” to the fountain we “skipped” the bus and drove to the fountain. We knew that there would be “paid” parking in the vicinity and were ready to pay. Surprisingly we found free street parking. We did not understood the parking sign but a local who parked behind our car, assured us that it was free after 8 pm.

Free street parking near Font Magica de Mont Juic

Free street parking near Font Magica de Mont Juic

Though it was drizzling, the place was “jam packed” with visitors. We did not managed to squeeze our way to anywhere near the fountain but still had a great time enjoying the “performance” on an overhead bridge that led to the fountain. In fact the bridge provided a high vantage unobstructed view of the musical performance! And just before the performance started, the drizzle stopped.

Viewing the musical fountain from a bridge

Viewing the musical fountain from a bridge

The magic fountain started its first performance on May 19, 1929 during the Great Universal Exhibition. Over 3000 workers worked on the project and completed it in about 1 year. It was a spectacular display of colours, light, motion, music and water acrobatics, no wonder it was called the magic fountain.

Font Magica de Mont Juic

Font Magica de Mont Juic

On the bridge when we looked away from the fountain we could see the road Carrer de Tarragona, it was the road that led to the fountain. On both sides of the road were rows of fountains and they came “alive” during the show times too. All these added a level of excitment and festivities to the ambience of the night.

Lovely sight of Carrer de Tarragona

Lovely sight of Carrer de Tarragona

The huge magical fountain was located right in front of Museu Nacional d’ Art de Catalunya which formed a lovely backdrop. Near to the museum was a set of “step fountains” with sheets of “lighted water” cascading down the steps. Absolutely magical!

Museu Nacional d' Art de Catalunya

Museu Nacional d’ Art de Catalunya

Bunkers del CarameL

Bunkers del Caramel was recommemded to us when we had breakfast at Cafe – El Jardi De Can Toda near Park Guell. According to the the young staff at the cafe, it was the “best” place to have a panoramic view of Barcelona.  Unfortunately we were not told that the summit was not reachable by private car!

Since we did not know about the “car” restriction we drove all the way till the last stage when the road was barricade. It seemed that the last stretch need to be “tackled” on foot. We were ready to walk but there was no place to park our car and proceed. All the street parkings in the vicinity were restricted to residents! We backtracked going down the road but there was just no parking for non residents. After half an hour of searching we and left. We did managed to take a quick panoramic picture of Barcelona “not at the summit” but somewhere lower.

Panorama view of Barcelona near Bunkers del Caramel

Panorama view of Barcelona near Bunkers del Caramel

Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Another name of the “Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus” was “Temple of Tibidabo” a much shorter name. It was a temple built on the summit of Tibidabo, the highest mountain in the Collserola mountain range! From far we could already see the temple so we stopped our car by the road side to take a shot of the temple. Interesting near the temple was a tall/large “brick color” tower with a bluish green dome and a red roller coaster!

A far view of Temple of Tibidabo

A far view of Temple of Tibidabo

We drove to the temple following the route mapped out by our car GPS but just when we were about to reach the temple the road was barricaded and a “traffic control” guard told us to turn around and return the same road until we came upon a round about then turn right.

Route to Temple of Sacred Heart of Jesus

Route to Temple of Sacred Heart of Jesus

It was a multi storey carpark and we paid €2.75 for about the one hour we parked there. To get to the temple we had to go up to the highest level of the carpark and walk about 300 m up a curvy road to the temple.

On location we saw that the temple had two layers. The “lower” layer was a crypt with a flat roof  and the “upper” layer was a church with four towers at each cornes and a taller tower in the center. There were many statues (12 apostles)  distributed on the roof and “Christ” standing on roof of the central tower.

The Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

We walked up a stairs that led from the “lower” layer of the temple to the “upper” layer. The upper layer alone looked like a typical church and did not looked as majestic as the view the entire temple when seen from the “bottom” layer.

The Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The church was opened and visitors got to go in free. We too went in to have a look and stayed for just a few minutes.

The Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Park Güell

From our hotel we drove to Park Guell, just outside one of the entrances we saw a huge carpark of Park Guell.  Unfortunately we were told by the carpark attendant that only buses were allowed in! We enquired further and found out that the Park did not provide parking for cars! We searched along the road nearby but all the parking lots were painted with green lines which meant for resident only. Finally we found a “empty” piece of land with many cars already parked. We found a space and slotted our car in.

Empty land for "parking" near Park Guell

Empty land for “parking” near Park Guell

A local (lady) saw us and spoke to me in Spanish, unfortunately we did not understand so we smiled at her and walked away. At Park Guell ticketing counter, there was no more morning tickets for sale, the earliest next entry was at 1.30 pm later in the day!  We should have reached the park earlier before the tickets ran out. Searching for parking just took up too much time! So unfortunate!

We walked back to our car and went into a cafe/restaurant infront of the carpark for breakfast. There we met the cafe’s boss, she was that local lady who tried to speak to us earlier! This time with the help of her young assistant she explained that it was NOT SAFE parking our car at the vacant land. Many foreign cars that were parked there were targeted by thieves, The thieves normally came down in the early afternoon! Wow! So we were very LUCKY not to have gotten the Park Guell tickets for the morning session or we would return to a “break-in” car!

Breakfast at El Jardi De Can Toda

Breakfast at El Jardi De Can Toda

We sat at cafe – El Jardi De Can Toda outdoor table and ate our breakfast with our car in full sight. We had two set-breakfast (bread+meat and cafe latte) for €8.

In the afternoon we were back again at Park Guell, this time we parked our car at a paid garage, Parking Massens i Güell (co-ordinates: 41.408861, 2.156038) and walked about 700 m to Park Guell. We entered the Park via a different entrance from the one where we bought our ticket this morning.

One of Park Guell many entrances

One of Park Guell many entrances

Though the entry time of our tickets was for 1.30 pm, the entrance guard did not mind that we were half an hour earlier and he waved us in. The ticket costed €10 per person.

The buildings/structures in the park were colorful and unusual. We would not describe the place as spectacular, it was just unique and different.

Park Guell

Park Guell

The visit would have been better if there were not so many renovations going on. There were several places that were “off limit”. The scaffolds and the construction railings  were here and there and they were always getting into the way of our pictures.

Park Guell

Park Guell

This park was supposed to be the reflection of Gaudi’s artistic plentitude where the architect perfected his personal style through inspiration of organic shapes. It was the artist forms of creative liberty and imagination free of rational rigidity or any sort of classic premises.

Park Guell

Park Guell

Looking around we did not know what “weirdness” (some called it “creativity”) to see at the next turn or corner or level. This was truly a place where an artist threw away all standard practices and expectations and did “whatever” he wanted. A frog here, an odd dragon there and another creature ahead all creaated in whatever mixture of colors the artist fancied.

Park Guell

Park Guell

After 1 hour we were done with Park Guell. Park Guell was definitely unique, different and iconic but was it worth the €10 entry ticket? We guessed €10 per person was still okay. The park was not exceptionally spectacular, it was not something to see before one died, it was just a place that was different, a place to come if one did not mind paying €10 and if one had the time.

La Sagrada Familia

On our third day in Barcelona we explored the town on bus and foot. First we boarded a bus at a bus-stop about 250 m from our hotel. We went up bus H12 and paid €2.20 per person (per trip) for a ticket on the bus. It was a half hour journey and along the way we saw the bullring of Barcelona which was converted into a shopping mall. After 22 stops we alighted at Gran Dia Marina.

On the bus to Barcelona - Las Arenas de Barcelona bullring

On the bus to Barcelona – Las Arenas de Barcelona bullring

After we alighted it was a 850 m walk to La Sagrada Familia.  The weather was gloomy so it was a pleasant and cool walk in this summer day. From far we could already see the towers of La Sagrada Familia and its construction cranes.

Walking towards La Sagrada Familia

Walking towards La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia was another “work” of Antoni Gaudi. It was also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was consecrated and proclaimed a minor basilica by Pope Benedix XVI in 2010. At La Sagrada Familia we took a walk round the exterior of the church. We saw a super long queue of visitors at the entrance and immediately decided not to go in. The ticket into La Sagrada Familia ranged from €10 to €32 depending on the extend of the visit.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

The exterior design of the church was pretty “random”. Certain section was pretty classical and yet some section looked like “ugly” holes in narrow conical shape towers. Some wall surfaces were flat and smooth and yet some surfaces looked like rough cave ceiling. Certain sections hda symmetry and many other sections were assymetrical. Just Like Park Guell, La Sagrada Familia was unique!

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

In the European world, there were so many churches/cathedrals/basilicas. How could one building stand out among the so many? We guessed by being the  tallest, the largest, the oldest, or the most costly etc etc allowed one church to be more prominent / popular then the others. As for La Sagrada Familia, it certainly took the trophy of the most unique or the weirdest or the ugliest (to some)!

Casa Milà & Casa Batlló

After La Sagrada Familia we walked down to Casa Mila (1.4 km away) and Casa Batllo (another 0.5 km), to see another two works of Antonia Gaudi. We were already familiar with Antonia Gaudi’s works. They stood out, different from their contemporaries.

Casa Batllo (topleft) & Casa Mila (bottom)

Casa Batllo (topleft) & Casa Mila (bottom)

Jewish Quarter in Barcelona Central

The last area we explored in the town center was the Jewish Quarter.There we visited the Barcelona Cathedral also called “Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia”. This cathedral was built from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries. Comparing the design of La Sagrada Familia and the Barcelona Cathedral we declared ourselves not fans of Antonia Gaudi’s works!

Barcelona Cathedral

Barcelona Cathedral

At the square in front of the Cathedral were a number of “tented” stores selling local crafts. It was nice to wander though the stores to see works of local artisans. Nice products but pretty expensive. Near the catheral was a famous alley “Carrer del Bisbe”. In the alley was a bridge that linked the buildings on two sides. This neo-gothic bridge was built in 1928 by Joan Rubió i Bellver, apprentice to Antoni Gaudí. 

 Bishop’s Bridge at Carrer del Bisbe

Bishop’s Bridge at Carrer del Bisbe

Mercado de La Boqueria

On the day when we left Barcelona, we made a trip to the central market of Barcelona. We had enjoyed the Central Market of Valencia so much that we were determined to visit another central market before leaving Spain. Mercado de La Boqueria was near the Jewish Quarter. We parked our car at a secured garage nearby and walked about 200 m to the market.

Mercado de La Boqueria

Mercado de La Boqueria

Mercado de La Boqueria was a beautiful array of color and aroma. The special thing about this market was that there were many cafe and bar “stores” in the market serving drinks and local food to customers and many of them looked like tourists. Unlike the Valencia Central Market, Barcelona Market was definitely very “tourist” oriented which probably accounted for the high prices of the products.

Stay

We stayed three nights at Eurohotel Barcelona Granvia Fira booked on Agoda.com. It costed €140 for three nights in a double room. That low price was an offer of a non-refundable booking. The stay did not come with breakfast and parking onsite was at €10 a night.  

The hotel was not in the central of the city so its price was not as high as though in the city. We selected this hotel as it would be very convenient to hop onto a bus and get to all the sights we planned to explore.

EuroHotel Barcelona Gran Via Fira

EuroHotel Barcelona Gran Via Fira

Eurohotel Barcelona Granvia Fira was a modern hotel. It was located in a “non residential” area. There were factories, big commercial buildings (Ikea, Decathlon, etc) and other hotels down the road. Generally the place was pretty quiet.

From the road level we walked into an  open reception hall and from there was a glass bridge to a central elevator.  Upward were rows of glass balcony-corridors leading to rooms and below were a open lounge, cafe and restaurant.

Our room was just on the second level. It was clean and comfortable and the ensuite bathroom was clean and modern too.

Double room at our stay

Double room at our stay

The hotel had a small swimming pool and a gym in the basement (car park level).  In all our three days/nights at the hotel we did not went down to enjoy the pool and gym.

Though free street parking was available just on the opposite side of the road by the hotel we did not park our car there. This was because the hotel reception was very hesitant when we asked about the safety of leaving our car on the street overnight. It was only in Barcelona that the locals had expressed concerns regarding crime as compared to all lthe other places in Spain.

Hotel Gym and swimming pool

Hotel Gym and swimming pool

Dinner near our Hotel Vicinity

Our “stay” came with no cooking option, so we had to have all our meals out. For dinner, the first evening we had “boring” KFC near Las Arenas de Barcelona bullring  (near the magical fountain. The second evening we found a very interesting “food” place just across the hotel after a corner turn. It was “Ace Cafe Barcelona”.

The cafe was located in a huge gated yard filled with cars and powerful motorcyles. Cars and motorcycles were zooming “louding” in and out of the yard.

Ace Cafe Barcelona

Ace Cafe Barcelona

It seemed that we had stumbled on a “Motor” Theme cafe. Clients/customers of the cafe came in their fancy cars and powerful motorcycles to eat and interact with like minded others. We came on foot! We sat indoor and had the whole place to ourselves. All the other customers preferred to stay, sit and mingle outdoor.

The food on the menu was just burger so we ordered two burgers, a cafe latte and a tea. The entire bill came up to nearly €24.

Dinner at Ace Cafe Barcelona

Dinner at Ace Cafe Barcelona

On the third evening we had our dinner at Ikea which was just 450 m from our hotel. It was just a 8 minutes walk so we did not bother about driving though there was free parking at Ikea. At Ikea we skipped the furnitures sections and went into its cafe immediately. We ordered a pork knuckle, meat ball, cafe latte and tea and the bill came up to €14. The food tasted better than our burgers at Ace Cafe Barcelone the previous evening and costed only half as much.

Accommodations : Barcelona

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