Barcelona, the capital of the Catalonia region of Spain, is a popular port of call on Western Mediterranean cruises. It is an amazing city filled with fascinating architecture, a vibrant atmosphere and its own unique culture.
One of the best ways to get an overview of the city is by taking the double-decker hop-on, hop-off tourist bus (HOHO bus). There are three separate routes with over 40 stops all around the city. The red and blue line are each a two-hour loop with commentary given through the complimentary headphones. The red line covers South Barcelona including most of the Gaudi sights (more on that later), the blue travels Northern Barcelona including the Gothic Quarter, and the green line, which operates seasonally, heads to the beaches.
Any trip to Barcelona should begin with a stroll down the world-famous Las Ramblas. This boulevard is about 1 1/2 miles in length and is situated between Plaza de Catalunya (where you can buy tickets and board the HOHO bus) and the port (note: it’s a large port and your ship may not be docked at the berth closest to La Ramblas). The promenade is a feast for the senses with its human statues, street musicians, flower venders, bird sellers, La Boqueria (the public market – well worth a visit), shops and restaurants!
Walking up Las Ramblas from the port, the area to your right is the Gothic Quarter.
The major attraction is the cathedral, (not to be confused with Gaudi’s cathedral) which was built between 1298 and 1450 and an excellent example of Catalonian Gothic architecture. Barcelona's Gothic Quarter is more about getting lost among the narrow, winding streets filled with shops, bars and restaurants. Eventually, you’ll stumble upon Placa Reial, Barcelona's most famous square. It is home to Gaudi's earliest known works - its two ornate lampposts. Rest at one of the outdoor cafes with a glass of sangria, or try a glass a cava (the sparkling wine produced in the Catalonia region).
Mention Barcelona, and the name Antoni Gaudi immediately comes to mind! The eccentric architecture of this modernistic artist has become a signature for the city! Four sights that shouldn’t be missed are Sagrada Familia (cathedral started in 1882 with work still in progress), Parc Güell (enjoy a picnic on the lizard-like benches), La Pedrera, and Casa Batllo (both of these funky buildings were built as private residences). Note: The lines are incredibly long so save valuable time by purchasing tickets in advance online.
Barcelona is full of fine museums and galleries, spectacular architecture, excellent shopping and delicious food and drink. If your cruise departs or returns to Barcelona, consider spending an extra two to three nights in the city, as there is just so much to see and do!