Spain Sightseeing Tour
City View, Barcelona, Spain.
Barcelona Port, Spain.
We reached Barcelona around 9 am on 11thSeptember,2014. We immediately started our city tour because we could not check in hotel too early .Barcelona is the capital city of the autonomous community of Catalonia in Spain and the country's 2nd largest city, with a population of 1.6 million within its administrative limits.It gave me a very good impression upon arrival.
Geographically, Barcelona is located on the northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula, facing the Mediterranean Sea. It is a major cultural and economic centre in southwestern Europe, 24th in the world (before Zurich, after Frankfurt) and a financial centre. It is dubbed as “Manhattan of the Mediterranean Sea”.
Founded as a Roman city, in the Middle Ages, Barcelona became the capital of the County of Barcelona. After merging with the Kingdom of Aragon, Barcelona continued to be an important city in the Crown of Aragon.
Besieged several times during its history, Barcelona has a rich cultural heritage and is today an important cultural centre and a major tourist destination. Particularly renowned are the architectural works of Antoni Gaudi(1852 -1926) and Lluis Domenechi Montaner(1850-1923), which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Barcelona has a long sporting tradition and hosted the highly successful 1992 Summer Olympics as well as several matches during the 1982 FIFA World Cup .It has also hosted, among others, about 30 sports events of international significance. We visited both the Olympic Stadium and The Camp Nou, the latter is the largest stadium in Europe.
Barcelona has a Mediterranean climate,with mild, humid winters and warm, dry summers. The most ideal seasons to visit the city are in September and October. Coincidentally we came at the right time. Barcelona won the 1999 RIBA Royal Gold Medal for its architecture, the first time that the winner has been a city, and not an individual architect.
The Gothic Quarter
The Gothic Quarter is the centre of the old city of Barcelona. Many of the buildings, whether they are gothic style or renaissance and baroque architecture, can date back from medieval times, some from as far back as the Roman Settlement of Barcelona. We visited the ancient Cathedral and some old buildings in the area.
Catalan modernista architecture left an important legacy in Barcelona. Several of these buildings are World Heritage Sites. Especially remarkable is the work of architect Antoni Gaudí(1852-1926), which can be seen throughout the city. His best-known work is the immense but still unfinished church of the Sagrada Família, which has been under construction since 1882, and is still financed by private donations. It is planned to be completed in 2026. Sagrada Familia if completed would be the most beautiful church in the world.
Barcelona has a well-developed higher education system of public universities. Most prominent among these is the University of Barcelona (established in 1450), a world-renowned research and teaching institution with campuses around the city.
Barcelona is the 10th-most-visited city in the world and the third most visited in Europe after London and Paris, with several million tourists every year. With its La Rambles, Barcelona is ranked the most popular city to visit in Spain.
World Heritages Sites in Barcelona
Barcelona is the home of many points of interest declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.The masterpieces of Antoni Gaudi(1852 -1926) are as follows:
1. Casa Vicens( 1883-1888)
2. Palau Guell(1886-1889)
3. Park Guell(1900-1914)
4. Casa Batllo(1904-1906)
5. Casa MilaLa (1906-1912)
6. Sagrada Familia(1882-)
The masterpieces of Lluis Domenechi Montaner( 1850-1923)were also declared by UNESCO in 1997 as World Heritage Sites.
7. Palau de la Musica Catalana(1905-1908)
8 .Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau (1902-1930)
City View of Barcelona, Spain
2. Plaza Espana
Plaza Espana is located at the foot of Montjuic in the Sants-Montjuic district.It is,also known as Plaza de Espana in Spanish, which is equivalent to English as “Spain Square”. The Tour Guide took us here because it is one of the most important Squares in Barcelona. Naturally it became our first place of visit in our city tour.
Plaza Espana is the second largest plaza of Spain, behind the Plaza de Espana of Madrid and ahead of Plaça de Catalunya of Barcelona.
The Square was formerly used for public executions, until the creation of the now demolished Ciutadella fortress in 1715, where the gallows were moved. It was built in 1929 mainly for an International Exhibition to be held in Barcelona. The Square has been in public used since then.
The importance of the Square is that it is the centre point of the city and also the junction of several major urban roads of the city. It serves as a major transport hub of Barcelona. The place is quite busy, busy at day and especially at night because of the fountain show. But, I didn't find it particularly beautiful.
There are museums, towers, fountain and shopping centre around Plaza Espana. The most interesting sights are the magic fountain, the Venetian Towers, the Arenas and the Joan Miro Park.
The most famous ones are the fountain and two Venetian Towers. The fountain designed by an associate of Antoni Gaudi’s , Josep Maria Jujol , is considered as beautiful as the the world’s renowned fountains in Las Vegas. We only took some pictures at Plaza Espana and then proceeded to the next destination.
Barcelona at Night
3. Plaza Real
Our next visit in Barcelona was Plaza Real, meaning “Royal Plaza”. Its original Spanish name is Placa Reial. It lies next to bustling La Rambla and constitutes a well-known touristic attraction, especially at night. On arrival. I found out that there were full of cafes, bars , restaurants and night clubs. It is mainly a tourist centre.
Plaza Real was originally designed by Francesc Daniel Molina i Casamajó (1812-1867) in the mid of the 19th century in the contemporary neo-classic style.. It is simply a pedestrian square. The square is also the site of the Hotel Roma Reial and club.
Plaza Real is considered the most beautiful plaza of Barcelona. But, I personally don’t agree. However, it is surrounded by facades of the same height (4 storeys) and design. There is a fountain in the centre, surrounded by palm trees and special lanterns that had been designed by Antoni Gaudi(1852-1926) in his early days.
According to the Spanish Tour Guide, Plaza Real is also known for its many outdoor venues and is also a popular meeting place during the summer and the annual La Merce Festival in September, when open air concerts take place, and during other celebrations such as New Year ‘s Eve often being very crowded.
W Hotel Barcelona, Spain.
4. Catalonia Square
Catalonia Square, its Spanish name “Placa Catalunya”, is quite a large square located at the centre of Barcelona. The square is generally considered to be the place where the old city Barri Gotic and the 19th centuary-built Eixample meet. The Plaza is especially known for its fountains and statues, its proximity to some of Bacelona’s most popular attractions and for the flocks of pigeons that gather in the centre.
We only walked through the square. I saw the square was full of people. There were some sculptures monuments, restaurants, theatres and shopping centres.And of course, a lot of pigeons. The pigeons there were fantastic, they were so friendly and willing to come to you to feed off your hand or sit on your shoulders.
El Port of Barcelona, Spain.
Camp Nou Stadium
5.Camp Nou Stadium & FC Barcelona Museum
Camp Nou is the Catalan pronunciation whereas in English it is always referred to as the Nou Camp. However, this is a football stadium in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, which has been the home of Futbol Club Barcelona since 1957. Camp Nou Barcelona's motto, Més que un club, meaning "More than a club". Although I am not a football fan, I am quite happy to see such a huge stadium.
Apart from Park Guell and Sagrada Familia, Camp Nou was the third important spot in the itinerary during our one day city tour in Barcelona.
The Camp Nou seats 121,749 (1982) and thus is the largest stadium in Europe and the 4th largest association football stadium in the world in terms of capacity. It has hosted numerous international matches at a senior level, including two UEFA Champions League finals and the football competition at the 1992 Summer Olympics.
The construction of Camp Nou started in1954 as Barcelona's previous stadium, Camp de Les Corts, had no room for further expansion. Its seating capacity was only limited to 60,000.Therefore it could not meet the needs of football fans in Barcelona.
FC Barcelona Museum
The Bird's Eye View of Camp Nou Stadium Barcelona, Spain
The stadium underwent an expansion in 1980, in anticipation of the 1982 FIFA World Cup, which added boxes, VIP lounges, a new press area, new markers and an enhanced seating capacity of 80,000. In fact, the stadium’s capacity has varied greatly over the years, opening at 106,146, but growing to 121,749 for the 1982 FIFA World Cup.
The club sought to increase the seating capacity by 13,500, with at least half of the total seating to be under cover. The intention was to make it the fourth-largest stadium in the world (in terms of seating capacity), after the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the USA (297,000 capacity), the Rungnado May Day Stadium in North Korea (150,000 capacity) and the Salt Lake Stadium in India (120,000 capacity).
In January 2014, Barcelona's board of directors rejected the option of building a new stadium and will instead remodel the Camp Nou to bring capacity up to 105,000. The project is expected to cost around £495 million (€600 million) with work beginning in 2017 with a completion date of early 2021
The facilities now include a memorabilia shop, mini-pitches for training matches, and a chapel for the players. The stadium also houses the second-most visited museum in Catalonia, FC Barcelona Museum, which receives more than 1.2 million visitors per year
During their glorious history, the club has brought many world class players to the stage of football. Among them were Hungarian Laszlo Kubala(1927-2002) in the fifties and sixties, Dutch Johan Cruyff in the seventies, Argentinian Diego Maradona in the eighties and the Brasilians Romario and Cristiano Ronaldo in the nineties.
La Roca Village
Sardana Memorial Barcelona, Spain.
6. La Roca Village
Chic Outlet Shopping Village
After visiting Park Guell , We went to La Roca Village.This is one of the 9 Chic Outlet Shopping Villages run by Value Retail in Europe. Apart from La Roca Village Barcelona. There are 8 others in Europe scattered from London, Dublin,Paris,Madrid,Milan,Brussels,Frankfurt and Munich.These villages provide big discount as lower as 40% to visitors. Charming individual boutiques, alongside restaurants and cafés, cluster around open-air promenades in beautifully designed, distinctly European village settings, offering superior service and genuine hospitality.
The selection of brands includes Anya Hindmarch, Bally, Calvin Klein Jeans, Diesel, Diane von Furstenberg, Escada, Matthew Williamson, Missoni, Mulberry, Paul Smith, Smythson, Temperley London, Tumi, Yves Saint Laurent and many more in these Villages throughout Europe.
Nike Factory Store
Torre Agbar Barcelona, Spian.
La Roca Village
Upon arrival, I found out it was similar to the Factory Outlet in US.We went to our favourite brands such Coach,Guess, and Nike. But, unfortunely there was no much discount given by Coach. All the lady handbegs were very expensive. My wife was quite disappointed, eventually we managed to purchase Coach begs at a discount prize on board Oasis of the Seas.
The building of La Roca is a traditional Catalan market town with plenty of trees to provide shade from the sun.Visitors certainly would feel very comfortable and quite relaxable while shopping there.
The Village has over 100 boutiques hosting Spanish and international luxury brands including Coach、 Guess、Nike 、Burberry、 Versace and Zegna. Well-known Spanish brands are Farrutx、 Loewe、Hoss Intropia、Custo Barcelona、Adolfo Dominguez、 Bimba & Lola、Lupo、TCN、Sita Murt、Pretty Ballerinas、Roberto Verino…etc. International renowned brands are Coach、Guess、Furla、Escada Sport、Maje、Michael Kors、Sandro、G-Star、Hugo Boss、Polo Ralph Lauren、Spazio Dolce& Gabbana、TAG Heuer 、 Swarovski …According to the Spanish Tour Guide, La Roca Village and its sister Village Las Rozas Village offer the only up-market luxury outlet options in Spain. La Roca Village was the first of the Villages to open in Spain.
We spent about two hours there. I only bought a pair of Nike sport shoes.
Antoni Gaudi's House
Palau Guell Barcelona, Spain.
7. Park Guell
On the 2nd day of the onshore excursions, we visited Park Guell before embarking on board the world’s largest vessel, Oasis of the Seas. On arrival, we found that it was quite a small park. According to the Spanish Tour Guide. it was designed by Antoni Gaudi(1852-1926),a renowned architect under the face of Catalonian Modernism. The Park together with the Sagrada Familia has represented Antoni Gaudi’s(1852-1926)architectural achievements which were to be visited by every tourist in Barcelona. There are more than 25.000 people visiting Park Guell every day.
The magic of Antoni Gaudi(1852-1926), starts at the main entrance to the Park where visitors are greeted by the multi coloured mosaic lizard on a fountain which has become an Icon of Barcelona. Inside the Park people can visit the house where Antoni Gaudi(1852-1926) lived for many years.
We were informed that Park Guell was built between 1900 and 1914 and was officially opened as a public park in 1926. It is the reflexion of Antoni Gaudí’s(1852-1926) artistic plenitude, which belongs to his naturalist phase .
Columbus Monument Barcelona, Spain.
Originally Park Guell was a commercially unsuccessful housing project, the idea of , Count Eusebi Guell (1846-1918),a wealthy businessman,after whom the park was named. The site was a rocky hill with very little vegetation and few trees, called Bare Mountain.
Ultimately, only two houses were built, neither designed by Antoni Gaudi(1852-1926),. One was intended to be a show house, but on being completed in 1904 was put up for sale, and as no buyers came forward, Antoni Gaudi(1852-1926),at Count Eusebi Guell’s (1846-1918) suggestion, bought it with his savings and moved in with his family and his father in 1906. The Park thus became a large private garden, which Count Eusebi Guell (1846-1918) allowed to be used for public events, while it began to appear in tourist guides to Barcelona as one of the attractions of the city.
In fact,the house, where Antoni Gaudi(1852-1926), lived from 1906 to 1926, was built by another architect, Francesc Berenguer(1866-1914), in 1904. It contains original works by Antoni Gaudi(1852-1926), and several of his collaborators. The Park was opened in 1922. It is now the Gaudi House Museum since 1963 .
Park Guell thus became a public park much appreciated by Barcelona’s inhabitants, as well as a major focus of attraction for visitors. It was recognized as an artistic monument in 1969 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site under “Works of Antoni Gaudi” (1852-1926), in 1984.
Gothic Church at Barcelona, Spain.
8. Sagrada Família
The name in English means: Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family. It is a large Roman Catholic Church in Barcelona, Spain, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). The Church has not been completed ever since its construction in 1882. Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and on 7th November 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and proclaimed it a minor basilica, as distinct from a Cathedral which must be the seat of a bishop. The congregation attended by 6,500 people. A further 50,000 people followed the Consecration Mass from outside the basilica, where more than 100 bishops and 300 priests were on hand to offer Holy Communion.
The architect of the Church was Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926),a talented Spanish architect , who devoted 43 years to the project, and at the time of his death at age 73 in 1926 , the project was only 15% and 25 % completed. Others continue the project until now it is 50% completed. The whole project of the Church is expected to be completed in 2026 so as to celebrate the centennial of Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Computer-aided design technology has been used to accelerate construction of the building, ,which had previously been expected to last for several hundred years. For instance, current technology allows stone to be shaped off-site by a CNC milling machine, whereas in the 20th century, the stone was carved by hand.
Antoni Gaudí's(1852–1926) original design calls for a total of eighteen spires, representing in ascending order of height the Twelve Apostles, the Virgin Mary, the four Evangelists and, tallest of all, Jesus Christ.
The Church will have three grand façades: the Nativity façade to the East, the Passion façade to the West, and the Glory façade to the South (yet to be completed). The Nativity Façade was built before work was interrupted in 1935 and bears the most direct Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926)influence.
The Passion façade was built after the project which Antoni Gaudi (1852–1926)planned in 1917. It is especially striking for its spare, gaunt, tormented characters, including emaciated figures of Christ being scourged at the pillar; and Christ on the Cross.These controversial designs are the work of Josep Maria Subirachs(1927-2014).
The Glory façade, on which construction began in 2002, will be the largest and most monumental of the three and will represent one's ascension to God. It will also depict various scenes such as Hell.
Visitors can access the Nave, Crypt, Museum, Shop, and the Passion and Nativity towers.
Construction on Sagrada Família is not supported by any government or official church sources. Private patrons funded the initial stages. Money from tickets purchased by tourists is now used to pay for the work, and private donations are accepted through the Friends of the Sagrada Família.
We spent around 45 minutes in Sagrada Família. It was really marvellous!
Park Guell Barcelona, Spain.
9. Montserrat Abbey
We went to Montserrat on the last day of our Mediterranean Cruise. This is a Benedictine abbey and basilica, located on the mountain of Montserrat, in Catalonia, Spain.The site is about 48 km from Barcelona. From afar,the mountain looks very strange because of its rock formations. These rocks resemble 12 disciples of Jesus Christ. It is notable for enshrining the image of the Virgin of Montserrat. We arrived at the abbey by 9 am. There were no crowds at this time and the abbey was very calm and peaceful.
Montserrat is English for "sawed mountain", is ideally located to play an important role in the cultural and spiritual life of Catalonia. Not only is Montserrat Abbey of significant religious importance but the natural beauty surrounding the abbey is simply breathtaking. The highest summit of Montserrat is called Sant Jeroni (Saint Jerome) and stands at 1,236 meters (4,055 feet) above sea-level.
Aeri Cable Car Station, Monsterrat
The Seaside and Beach of Barcelona, Spain.
Aeri Cable Car
Upon arrival, we took the Aeri Cable Car, a 5-minute ride to the Aeri top. It was really a breathtaking view all the way though the cable car could provide standing room only.I saw the design of the basilica was a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance style. It was built in 1900. After entering the basilica I saw the statue of La Moreneta( Black Virgin) in the alcove above the altar.
For those who have fear of heights, I would recommend that the rack railway is a better alternative. But, they have to buy a combined ticket from Plaza Espana Station at Barcelona for either train plus cable car or train plus rack railway.
La Moreneta (Statue Of The Black Virgin)
The abbey is famous because it owns the original sacred statue of the Black Virgin, La Moreneta,the patron saint of Catalonia. The Abbey started as the Hermitage of Santa Maria, the Mother of Christ, in 1025. Very soon there were stories of miracles worked by St. Mary the Virgin of Montserrat, and pilgrimages started to the site. A bigger chapel was built to be able to receive more pilgrims. It became one of the best known shrines in the Christian world and the most prestigious shrine in Catalonia.
Torre Calatrava of Barcelona, Spain.
In the Napoleonic Wars of 1811 and 1812, the French destroyed most of the Abbey, but the statue of the Black Virgin was saved because it was hidden somewhere in the mountain.
The rebuilding of the Abbey started slowly after the Napoleonic Wars and has continued to the present. Today the mountain of Montserrat is a place of worship to God and a place where many pilgrims go, and is the most famous religious site in Catalonia. For people of other religions, it is said that the mountain is a source of great energy, one of the best in Europe, and people flock to it for the experience.
The statue of the Black Virgin is called “La Moreneta” because of the black colour of her face. The statue is a wooden one from the end of the 12th century. The varnish on the statue has oxidized and because of the effect of candle smoke and the smoke of lamps, the appearance is now black.
Casa Vicens, Barcelona, Spai
After visiting the basilica, we went to see the museum. There are many works of art donated by rich Catalans. There are archaeological pieces from the Bible lands, gold and silver work from the 15th -20th centuries, and beautiful paintings from masters such as Caravaggio(1571-1610), El Greco(1541-1614),Alfred Sisley(1839-1899),Salvador Dali (1904-1989), Pablo Picasso(1881-1973), Claude Monet(1840-1926) and many Catalan artists from the early 20th century. There are also many paintings done by many artists with the subject of Saint Mary of Montserrat. This museum is among one of the best private museums in Spain.
There is a well-stocked cafeteria at Montserrat for lunch and a coffee bar. They also have the Montserrat Boy’s Choir, the Escolania ,which usually performs at 13:00 daily with the exception of Christmas holidays, July and some other festive periods during the year. The Escolania, Montserrat’s Boys’ Choir, is one of the oldest in Europe, and performs during religious ceremonies and communal prayers in the basilica. Montserrat music is very popular throughout the world and the Abbey choir boys have now recorded over 100 albums of choral music.
The Black Virgin
During the rule of Francisco Franco, Montserrat Abbey was seen as a sanctuary for scholars, artists, politicians and students; Franco's men were often waiting for wanted people a few miles down the road. The Spanish Civil War saw the violent suppression of the Abbey of Montserrat. Of the 278 priests and 583 religious men and women killed in Catalonia by groups of Republic forces, 22 were monks of the Abbey of Montserrat.
There are about 80 monks in the Abbey today. We were told by the Tour Guide that for many visitors a trip to Barcelona Montserrat Spain is the highlight of their visit.
Visitors seen Inside the Church
Visitors seen outside the Church
Brief History of Montserrat
The history of Montserrat is fascinating and started in 880 when a small group of shepherd children saw a bright light descending from the sky in the Montserrat mountains. In the same moment the children heard angels singing and the music filled their hearts with a radiant joy.
Overwhelmed by the experience the children ran home to frantically recall the experience to their parents. The parents were sceptical but knew their children were trustworthy and honest and so they went to where the children had experienced the visions to see if they could see what all the fuss was about.
For the whole month following the first visitation the parents were also witness to the same heavenly experiences and were left with only one conclusion. The visions were a sign from God.
A local vicar was brought to the scene and witnessed the same experiences as the children and parents. The visions occurred in the same location in a cave on Montserrat mountain. When this cave was explored by the religious elders of the community they found an image of the Virgin Mary. And from that moment on the cave became a holy sanctuary for religious pilgrims.