Barcelona's Casa Mila by Gaudi
Language and Currency
What is Barcelona Like?
What is the Weather Like?
Where Does the Ship Dock?
Where is the Shopping?
What is There to Buy?
What is There To Do?
Is There Anything of a “Don’t Miss Quality?
Are There Any Great Restaurants or Bars?
A valid passport is needed by all visitors but no visa is required for stays of less than 90 days.
The official language of Barcelona is Spanish, but some English is spoken (or at least understood) in the tourist areas. The official currency is the euro. Dollars are not widely accepted, but Visa, MasterCard and American Express are. Use the abundant ATM machines to withdraw euros rather than exchanging dollars (or other currencies).
One of the Many Structures Designed by Gaudi That Populate Barcelona
Barcelona is a huge city (1.5 million in the city itself with another surrounding 4 million) full of active people and tons of things to do. It is usually a port of embarkation or debarkation and is well worth staying an extra night or two either before and/or after your cruise. Barcelona is architecturally stimulating and the entire experience of Barcelona's bustling streets, various barrios and diversity is reason enough to spend several days enjoying its beauty, dining, shopping and sights.
Barcelona's Architecture is Stunning
One thing that stands out about Barcelona is its abundant art, unique architectural flavor, rich history, stylish and beautiful residents and the enormity of its opulent culture. Walking the shopping streets (especially Passeig de Gracia) is an adventure in high fashion, spectacular architecture, ornate artwork and a flavor all its own.
Just One of Barcelona's Wonderful Beaches
Barcelona is blessed with perfect Mediterranean weather and is great to visit from April to October when you will be greeted with warm and balmy weather conditions. One runs the risk of hot weather in July and August, however, being located on the coast the daily afternoon on-shore breezes tend to keep it quite comfortable.
Docked in Barcelona
Ships dock right in the outer harbor of Port Vell. It is only a 5-minute taxi ride over the bridge to the foot of Las Ramblas (one of the major tourist spots.)
Port Vell Cruise Terminal
While it is a good distance on foot, it is quite possible to walk into Barcelona's main tourist and shopping areas from the ship by simply following the sea wall all the way in. The airport is approximately 30 minutes to the northwest of the docks and while train service is available, it requires at least one connection and isn't advisable. Taxis are widely available and reasonably priced, however be sure to negotiate your fare before making the commitment to secure the taxi's service if they are not metered. Many ship's offer a shuttle from the port itself to the foot of the statute of Columbus by the inner harbor, which is an excellent place to start sightseeing or exploring Barcelona. Finaly, the local city bus stops right at the Port Vell cruise terminal.
One of Barcelona's Shopping Streets off of Placa de Catalunya
First, head to Las Ramblas, a long pedestrian street chock full of restaurants, markets, department stores, shops and boutiques. One of the main shopping attractions along Las Ramblas is La Boqueria, a wonderful open air market that dates back several centuries. It is considered as one of the most colorful in Europe and is well worth a visit. If you negotiate the entire length of Las Ramblas, it terminates at a large square (Placa de Catalunya).
Gothic District Shopping
Turn to the right and then right again at the first street and you will find a major shopping street intersected by many smaller shopping streets. This is one of the entrances to the Gothic district and all throughout the Gothic district you will find quaint little boutiques, specialty shops, souvenir stands, restaurants, bars all offering all types of unique goods and services..
Barcelona's Passeig de Gracia Shopping Street
Also, if you cross to the other side of Placa de Catalunya (kitty corner) of the square from the top of Las Ramblas to the foot of Passeig de Gracia (large wide avenue) and continue up the street until you hit a major intersection with Avinguda Diagonal (a major avenue that runs diagonal with all of the other street approximately eleven blocks up from Placa de Catalunya) you will enter a fabulous shopping area where high fashion, designer and exclusive boutiques are the norm. Go one block to the left when you hit the Avinguda Diagonal and then turn left again at the next block (Ramblas de Catalunya) to continue back down to Placa de Catalunya. You will find more restaurants, bars and high profile department stores, designer shops representing just about every designer label in the world, and boutiques.
Typical Barcelona Shopping
Men's and women's high fashions, designer clothing, shoes and all leather products, accessories, antiques, local crafts and souvenirs, great Spanish wines and local foods. You name it and you can buy it here. There are some great mosaic pieces and unique collectibles on the road that leads to Park Guell.
Barcelona's Las Ramblas
Las Ramblas comes alive in the afternoon and evening and on the weekends as the local population comes out in full force for the restaurants, bars and shopping. Known for its tree shaded pedestrian ambiance, Las Ramblas is a great place to get to know Barcelona. Made up of 5 separate streets, Las Ramblas is crowded with mimes, magicians and other street entertainment amid its outdoor vendors selling everything under the sun. including live birds in cages at the bird market, fresh meats, vegetables and fruit among other things at the interesting Mercat de la Boqueria and many unique sights. WARNING: On Las Ramblas and also in the Gothic District around the Barcelona Cathedral there are gypsies (and other street urchins) that make their living stealing from tourists. Be especially careful with your personal possessions when in these areas. Beware of women trying to pin flowers on you or what appears to be two youths passing a soccer ball back and forth. Both divert your attention by personal contact while one of the group steals your wallet (or other valuable) and takes off like a rocket. Pick Pockets are rampant and the local police will not do anything if you are victimized, as they know you will not be back for the trial even if they do catch the culprit. Do not wear expensive jewelry, cameras or any other personal possessions that you do not want to risk losing. Do wear a money belt and make sure that your wallet is not an easy target. This is in no way meant to discourage you from enjoying Barcelona, as it is a wonderful city. You must be cautious with your possessions, however.
The On and Off Tour Bus
There are two different tourist double-decker bus routes that you can take to gain an overview of all of Barcelona. You will find the main station for both routes at the foot of the statue of Columbus on the way into Barcelona from the ship. The buses offer "on and off" privileges for a 24 hour period (17 euro for a 24-hour pass and 23 euro for a 48 hour pass), but be aware it takes about 2-hours for each route without getting off the bus once with the exception of changing from the red to the blue route. If you are only calling on Barcelona for the day, you may not have enough time to see some of the main attractions and take the buses. You can take these tours to gain an overview and then move on to Las Ramblas and the Gothic district to enjoy their unique flavor if you just want to gain an overview and essence of Barcelona. Here are some of the more interesting sights in Barcelona.
Barcelona's Sagrada Família by Gaudi
Without a doubt, in my mind, Sagrada Família, Gaudi's rendition of "what a church might look like if you were stoned out of your mind for years" is the number one sight in Barcelona. I mean no disrespect to religion, architecture, Spain or Barcelona, Gaudi, or people who get stoned, it is just that when you see this structure you will not believe that someone actually tried to create it on purpose. Gaudi lived in it for over 15 years during its construction, but I suspect there was something else going on. He died before it was completed (hit by a streetcar) and didn't leave any plans. Don't miss it. It houses a museum worth visiting, but be aware that it is a very popular attraction, so try to get there first thing in the morning.
The Barcelona Cathedral
Also, don't miss the Barcelona Cathedral. This is another example of Gothic architecture that will leave you wondering what the heck was going on when it was constructed. Located in Barcelona's gothic district (Barri Gotic) this cathedral is one of a kind. Be sure to take the time to visit it and tour its interior. It is well worth it.
Barcelona's Gothic District Shopping Street
Barcelona's Gothic District (Barri Gotic) is another "don't miss". Adjoining Las Ramblas, the Gothic District is a never ending maze of pedestrian streets that leaves one confused and amazed.
An Interesting Walk Bridge in the Gothic District
Narrow lanes meander throughout the district and offer one excellent shopping opportunities and sights. From Barcelona Cathedral just head towards the port area and follow whatever street you would like to discover the beauty of the Gothic District.
The Dali Museum
There are several museums of interest in Barcelona. At the foot of Las Ramblas (in the harbor) is the maritime museum that is quite interesting if this is one of your passions. The Picasso Museum (Museu Picasso) is also well worth a visit. The Gaudi Museum (Gaudí Casa-Museu) interesting museum on Las Ramblas is located in a weird house that Gaudi lived in for years. Next to the Barcelona cathedral is an excellent museum featuring Dali's works.
One of Gaudi's Many Structures Throughout Barcelona
The museum is interesting, as is the house and if you are a Gaudi fan, be sure to check out some of his other structures located throughout Barcelona. No visit to Barcelona would be complete for anyone interested in Gaudi without a visit to Park Guell.
The Main Structure in Park Guell
This park is a World Heritage site and is Gaudi's version of what a park should look like. It started out as an English garden park, but then evolved into a surreal environment all its own.
An Interesting Walkway in Park Guell
While this park is not the most important sight in Barcelona, it is well worth the effort to get to it. If you do not want to take the double-decker bus tour for two hours, but still want to see the park, I would suggest taking a taxi and then taking one back into the heart of Barcelona.
Barcelona Features several Quality Beaches
If you are a beach person, Barcelona's many beaches are well worth a visit. There is an excellent beach just beyond the breakwater heading towards the inner harbor from the cruise terminal. The beaches are all connected by a long walkway that would allow one to walk for miles. Each beach is separated by a jetty that allows the sand to fill into the beaches making for wide and sandy beaches to enjoy. Be advised that the beaches are all topless if that is of any concern to you.
Harbor and Barcelona Tour Boat
Also, there are tour boats that offer 1 1/2 hour harbor cruises that also go outside and cruise off the various beaches in Barcelona. You will find the wharf at the very foot of Las Ramblas Street.
Gaudi's Sagrada Familia
Yes, Don't miss Sagrada Familia an afternoon or evening on Las Ramblas and in the Gothic district when it is in all its glory.
El Cafe D'En Victor by the Barcelona Cathedral
Lots of them on Las Ramblas and also in the Gothic District but none stand out above the others. Enjoying a lingering lunch and a local bottle of wine while you watch the parade of people go by is what Barcelona is all about. We especially enjoyed the El Cafe D'En Victor right by the Barcelona Cathedral. You would think that such a location couldn't possibly be good, but we noticed all the local were there and it was crowded while no place else in the area was. We ended up dining there three different times (lunch and dinner) Whille it wasn't a "don't Miss", it is certainly a restaurant I would recommend if you wanted reasonable prices, excellent food, fair service and great people watching. The service aspect of the restaurant is the only major drawback, but the food is worth it. When facing the front of the cathedral go to your left and then down the first allyway. You can't miss it.
Also, we took Nancy Norris' recommendation for the tapas bar known as Ciudad Condal. We dined there twice and loved it both times. It is popular with local residents making it difficult to get a table outside (and inside during dining times. We ate at the bar both times and had a great time.
Restaurant la Terazza de Claris
One restaurant that I would give extremely high marks to if you enjoy gourmet dining is the "la Terraza de Claris" restaurant on top of the Hotel Claris. It offers al fresco dining in the "W" hotels style and a menu that is to die for. We had a very memorable meal here and would go back in a heartbeat. It is pricey.
Hotel Claris, Barcelona
While there are a thousand hotels in Barcelona to choose from, location and service is everything. When I stay in Barcelona, I look no further than the Hotel Claris. It is located away from the tourist crush just one block from the shopping and activities on Passeig de Gracia. The rooms are huge by European standards and the service is awesome. I won't stay anyplace else. While it is a little more expensive than most of the hotels in Barcelona, it is well worth it.
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