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Debonair takes you through the Spanish city’s top five cultural wonders
The bustling and enchanting Mediterranean coastal city that is Barcelona has to be near the top of any traveller’s Bucket List. The Catalan capital’s endless culture, quirky architecture and glorious and troubled history are all sewn together in an urban tapestry that epitomises the Spanish proverb that states, “Liberty has no price.”
Founded by the Romans around 15AD as a colony named Faventia, Barcelona has passed through various rules, from the Crown of Aragon through Catalan Revolutionaries, through to the Franco era and subsequent democratization: each of which has left its mark on the culture, layout and structure of the Spanish city, especially the famed walk along Las Ramblas.
Today, much of the city’s aesthetic is quirky and enchanting thanks to the work of Antoni Gaudí, the Modern Catalan architect whose approach to the Art Noveua movement in architecture left Barcelona with some of the most instantly recognisable facades and buildings in the world. Both the Sagrada Familia and the Park Güell convey the Gaudi aesthetic in all its glory.
Barcelona’s artistic heritage is also a proud one. Both Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso, two of the most important artists of the modern era left their Spanish mark on the world during a time of great tumult. Picasso’s Museum in Barcelona is essential viewing for anyone seeking to understand the identity of the Cubist artist and the city from which he drew much inspiration.
Barcelona itself is an immeditely recoginsable brand thanks largely to the fame of its local football team, FC Barcelona, and the players they boast including the GOAT (greatest of all time) Lionel Messi. A trip to the 90,000-capacity Camp Nou stadium to see arguably the best team on the planet play the beautiful game is an absolute must.
So, pack your bags for a Spanish expedition: we’re off to Barcelona!
#1. Sagrada Familia
One of the only churches to survive the destruction of the Spanish Civil War, the vast and spectacular Roman Catholic Basilica has become the symbolic image of the city itself.
A year after the foundation stone was laid in 1882, Gaudi took directorship of the building and completely scrapped the neo-Gothic design plans for the cathedral, and instead replaced them with the radical three façade feature he came up with.
Gaudi stuck with the project for more than 40-years until his death in 1926, at which point the building was only 15 per cent complete. It’s expected to be completed, with the Glory façade finished, by 2026 — a century after Gaudi’s tragic death.
Familia fact: Gaudi’s body is actually buried at the site of the Familia in a tomb in the underground level of the building.
When complete the basilica will include 18 towers, each of which is symbolic. 12 towers represent the apostles, four stand for the evangelists, one represents the Virgin Mary, and the tallest, of course is a bricks and mortar symbol of Christ.
#2. Watch FC Barcelona at Camp Nou
One of the most famous stadiums on Earth, home to one of, if not the most famous football team on Earth: Camp Nou.
An astonishing feat of sports stadia engineering, Camp Nou holds 99,345 spectators, making it the largest stadium in Europe. It boasts incredible views from each seat.
Standing at the top of the stadium on a big game night feels like there is nothing else that exists in the world outside of this sporting cauldron, this planet unto itself.
#3. Walk Las Ramblas
As urban boulevards go, Las Ramblas is among the most famou sin the world. It’s a cultural must-do in itself.
The 1.2km street that cuts through the heart of the city features an abundance of bustling market stalls selling souvenirs, the world-famous florists stalls, with statues and monuments of Galileo and Christopher Columbus lining the path from Port Vell to Plaça de Catalunya.
There are also a number of performing artists lining the thoroughfare, from the human stature The White Painter to buskers who draw huge crowds.
#4. View the city from Park Güell
Like so much in Barcelona, Park Güell wears a familiarly quirky Gaudi face.
The garden complex, which is essentially a series of trencadis (ceramic covered) buildings linked through the park setting, took 14 years to build and was finally completed in 1914.
It miraculously survived the destructive wave of the Spanish Civil War and the World Wars.
For the century since its completion, Park Güell, with its ceramic serpents and reptiles coiling along stair rails and wall tops (there are no straight lines in the park), has become a tourist hotspot and a interactive way of getting to experience the full range of Gaudi’s architectural repertoire
#5. Live through Picasso’s art
The most extensive collection of Picasso’s life’s work is housed in the Palau Aguilar in the Gothic Quarter.
Known and revered as the man who introduced Cubism to the world and who became one of the vanguards of modern art, Picasso’s legend is manifest in his obscure, form-defying portraiture that forces the spectator to view the world in a different way.
The gallery is laid out so you’re taken on Picasso’s artistic journey from pre-adolescence, through Blue Period, through Cubism.