Trip 5 – Barcelona

Man has it been a long time since I wrote a post. There have been a gazillion things that have happened since I last blogged in early April. But, we’ll get to those things later on. Here is my trip to the amazing city of Barcelona. I mostly saw the city with my buddy Sean, though we had a few buddies back at the hostel that were traveling around too. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of all 5 of us.

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Since this city is so massive and has so much to see, I will break it down in a list much like a table of content (*nerd*):

A. Top Sights

B. Gaudi Sights

C. West Barcelona

D. Central Barcelona

E. East Barcelona

F. Walking Tour (if you read nothing else, please take a look at this section for the history/culture of Barcelona)

G. Nightlife and Hostel

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A. If you are only in Barca for a short amount of time, here are the top two sights you must check out:

1. La Sagrada Familia

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La Sagrada Familia is widely considered as Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece, his final project that he was obsessed with. Gaudi was very affected by the poor people in Barcelona, and he wanted to build something for them. He finally settled on building a church, as he took out all his money and poured it into constructing this great church. Unfortunately, the building was less than 25% complete when he passed away. Gaudi had only designed one facade, as it took 100+ architects to design the other two after Gaudi’s death. If you compare the facades, you will see that 1 man trumps 100+. As you can see from the picture, the building has not been completed yet, and they estimate that it will be finished by 2028. Once the second richest man in Barcelona, Gaudi’s influence over the city’s architecture is undeniable, and you can’t go anywhere in the city without hearing about the man and his legend.

2. Parc Guell

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This bizzarre-looking park was also designed by Gaudi, as he took on this project for his friends to live in. It’s quite a large park, so make sure you give yourself a few hours to walk through it and sit and look out at the view (my favorite view of Barcelona).

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B. In case you didn’t get enough of Gaudi, here are some other of his amazing architectural designs:

Casa Batllo.

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Casa Mila.

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Palau Guell.

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Gaudi’s first paid design. A street lamp in Placa Reial.

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C. Now that we have Gaudi out of the way, let’s break down some sights geographically. Starting on the west side of the city. Please note that the city isn’t actually divided into West, Central, and East. This is just my own breakdown of the city’s touristy sights.

1. Camp Nou

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This is where FC Barcelona plays, and if you take the tour, you get to go through the entire stadium and take a seat in the actual stands! If you’re a football fan, this will be heaven for you.

2. Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya / Magic Fountain of Montjuic

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This is my favorite spot in Barcelona. The museum is awe-inspiring when you see it for the first time. When you climb the steps and turn around, this is the view you get:

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Just below the museum is the Magic Fountain, which displays a water show at night where the water is lit up and music is played.

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3. Montjuic

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Situated on the south of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya is Montjuic. Montjuic is a hill that overlooks Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea, as it has a military fortress (Castell de Montjuic) that was formerly used as a lookout point. You can take a gondola up the hill, but I chose to walk instead.

D. In central Barcelona, you have:

1. Passeig de Gracia

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This is a long shopping boulevard where you can buy all the high-end luxury brands that you want. It is Barcelona’s equivalent of 5th Ave or Andrassy Ut. Also, Gaudi’s Casa Mila and Casa Batllo are situated on this street.

2. Placa de Catalunya

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Walking down Passeig de Gracia, you will come across this plaza, which could very well be the busiest plaza in Barcelona since it connects the shopping district to Las Rambla.

3. Las Rambla

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La Rambla is a pedestrian-only street with a ton of restaurants and shops. The southern end of the street used to be Barcelona’s red light district and drug district. Also on this street is La Boqueria Market, which had some of the best tapas I’ve had in Spain.

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4. Beach

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At the end of Las Rambla, you will come across Barcelona’s beach that leads you to the Mediterranean Sea. Around the beach area are shops, restaurants, museums, an amusement park, etc. You could easily spend a large portion of your day just walking around the beach.

It is also here that I had the best paella I’ve ever had. I’m not sure how accurate this is, but Barcelona boasts that it has the best paella in all of Spain.

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E. Finally, here are some things to the east of the city:

1. Arc de Triomf

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There’s a story attached to this: originally, Gustav Eiffel came to Barcelona and wanted to build something for the city. However, the city turned it down and said that the design was too big and would not mesh well with the city’s look and feel. Instead, the Arc de Triomf was built.

The rejected design? The Eiffel Tower.

2. Parc de la Ciutadella

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At the end of Arc de Triomf is a gorgeous park called Parc de la Ciutadella. It’s got some beautiful statues, lakes, gardens, and hiking trails. I saw more joggers here than I did the rest of the city.

3. Barcelona Zoo

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Parc de la Cuitadella is also right beside the Barcelona Zoo. I was told this was one of the world’s best zoos, and it’s certainly got its fair share of animals: zebra, camel, hippopotamus, elephant, cheetah, puma, lion, tiger, hyenna, vulture, etc.

F. Now that we’ve covered most of the sights, I wanted to spend some time describing what I learned during the hostel’s free walking tour, which is unanimously the best walking tour I’ve ever been on. It covered Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, which is the oldest region of Barcelona and the area that the Romans once conquered.

Let us rewind the clock 2,000 years when the Romans came to the city and took it over. When the Romans took over a city, they built temples at the highest point of the city to be close to God. At that point in time, the tallest point of the city was at 16.9 meters.

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So the Romans started putting up buildings like this:

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However, when the Visigoths took over, they started destroying all the Roman buildings and building on top of them. My tour guide told us this was an imprudent move, because the Romans had technologically sophisticated buildings and systems that would be unrivaled until after the Stone Ages, such as the aquaduct system that brought clean water into the city. It’s quite remarkable just how advanced the Romans were for that time period.

Referring to the two pictures below, you can see how the Visigoths built over the Romans’ buildings. The Romans built things to last forever, using big stones over smaller ones. In contrast, the Visigoths favored beauty and style in their buildings instead, using smaller stones, erecting taller buildings, and having more windows (to allow more “God” into the buildings).

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The Gothic Quarter is the oldest part of Barcelona, and you can easily tell that you are there because the streets are very narrow (picture below). This made sense back then because people only walked, so there was no need for streets to be wider. However, after the black plague hit Europe, they realized that streets needed to be wider to allow for more air circulation to flow through the city.

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Moving along in time, modern Spain was built on Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand’s marriage. At this time, Christopher Columbus had wanted the King and Queen to finance his voyage to the Americas, but the King repeatedly denied his request. You see, Columbus and Isabella had been very good friends, and some had speculated that the King was jealous of Columbus, so he finally decided to finance Columbus in order to send him away.

Whether Columbus and Isabella had an affair or not will never be confirmed, but here’s the thing: Christopher Columbus brought back many things to Spain: fruits, spices, etc, and the last thing on that list was syphilis, of which he died from. Now get this. The Queen and King also died from syphilis. Yeah, you be the judge.

The picture below featured the steps on which Christopher Columbus climbed to greet the Queen and King, where he told them that he had found “India”.

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Now a quick word on Catalonia. Catalonia used to be its own country before Spain conquered it. Today, it is still a part of Spain, but Catalonia remains very patriotic and proud of its Catalonian heritage. In fact, when you’re in Barcelona (the capital of Catalonia), they’re not really speaking Spanish; rather, they’re speaking Catalan. If you look at their metro station names, all the names don’t look quite Spanish, and that’s because they’re not. In Catalonia, the Spanish staple of bullfighting is illegal because it is deemed as brutal. Some speculate that it may not be long before Catalonia secedes from Spain. Who knows. Perhaps not quite the same, but there are parallels between Catalonia/Spain and Quebec/Canada.

I find this quite funny and random: the national sport of Catalonia is the human pyramid, where they have a race to see which team can build the highest pyramid. Unfortunately, there are no safety nets, so people often fall and get injured.

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This was the prestigious art school that Pablo Picasso’s dad sent him to when he was a kid. To get into this school, kids had to take a month-long exam. Picasso did it in a week.

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When Picasso was 13, his dad felt that it was time for Picasso to become a man, so his dad bought a prostitute for his son. Picasso’s work is very influenced by prostitutes because he spent much of his life living around them. His famous painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, features five prostitutes, as this was inspired by the real-life prostitutes on Carrer D’Avinyo in Barcelona (picture below).

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This is quite a cheeky one: back in the day, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro were both the top artists coming out of Barcelona, sparking a great rivalry between the two. Joan Miro’s designs were known to be quite simple and elegant. So to mock Miro, Picasso painted the following mural to show that anyone can paint simple designs.

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G. Let us now turn our attention to Barcelona’s world renown nightlife. The thing with Spain is that they party very very late. People eat dinner anywhere from 9-11pm and don’t even start drinking until 12-1am. We lined up at the club at around 2am, and upon getting there, we were quite worried that we wouldn’t get in because it would be too packed. However, at 2am, no one was even in line yet because it was so early!

Here are some of the awesome places we went to the three nights that we went out in the city: Opium, Catwalk, and Otto.

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The hostel we stayed at, called Kabul Hostel, was rated as one of the best party hostels in the world, with its own bar, lounge, and pool table and foosball table. They take you out every night of the week, have beer pong tournaments, happy hours from 12-1am every night, and get you free cover into the club every night of the week.

For instance, on Saturday, we tried to get into Opium, which is one of the most reputable clubs in the city. However, we couldn’t get in because we weren’t wearing leather shoes. The next night, however, we went with the hostel. Not only did we not get rejected for not wearing leather shoes, but we got in for free and didn’t line up at all. Kabul Hostel is definitely the place to stay.

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Oh and finally, I met two waitresses that worked at the restaurant beside Kabul Hostel. Their names are Vicky and Christina.

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…You know, after the Woody Allen movie called Vicky Christina Barcelona.

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