If you have very little time to visit Barcelona, I recommend you this tour as you can see much of the important staff without losing time. One thing you have to know: visiting Barcelona one week before Xmas is great as there are very little tourists, but at the same time, you can have the bad surprise that they cancelled your flight as it happened to my friends! So, as their Wednesday’s flight had been cancelled, they spent only 2 days in Barcelona instead of 4, which means we had to be quick and efficient ! On Friday night, as they came, we stayed in Born and Gotico and on Saturday we spent the whole day going from one place to the other one.
The first step was in Sagrada Familia. We intended to visit it, but unfortunately it was too windy to go up, and we decided that it was a pity to pay the entrance, only to visit a small part of the cathedral. We hoped that the wind would calm down and we would be able to go later during the day, but it didn’t. So we had a look at the Xmas market that was just behind the Sagrada Familia and my French friends were really delighted when they discovered the traditional figurine of the Caganer. There are various versions of its origin, so I am not too sure of the reason of its presence on the nativity scene in Catalonia an Valencia. It is said that his excrements fertilize the ground, which means he is a symbol of prosperity and g[El Bosc de les Fades] ood luck for the following year. Originally it was a peasant squatted down defecating (yes, I am not kidding!!!). Sometimes he is reading a newspaper and he is generally smoking pipe. Nowadays you can find many modern versions of the Caganer, with popular people, like politics, sportsmen or even comics like Hello Kitty.Another Catalan tradition is the Tió, a little trunk that children beat with a stick on Xmas Eve. At the rhythm of the beats and traditional songs, Tió rewards the children “evacuating” sweets and candies which are the transformation of the food it has been eating every night since it entered their house on December 8th for Immaculate Conception. In order not to get cold during the night, it is covered by a blanket. It was traditionally burnt in the chimney on Xmas Eve. In some families Tió evacuates also small presents, but most often presents are brought by the Wise Men on January 6th.
Once we had seen all stands of this Xmas market, we walked up the Gaudi avenue with its plenty of restaurants and bars up to Sant Pau’s hospital, which was closed for repairs. As the old hospital of Pere Mata de Reus became too small, the construction of a new hospital at the same place was ordered to the famous Lluís Domènech i Montaner in 1901. It was officially inaugurated in 1930 with the name of Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau and was declared World Heritage Mundial from UNESCO in 1997.
From the hospital we walked up to the Guinardo Ronda and went along the Water park and entered the park Güell from its lateral entrance in Carmel road. The park was originally part of a commercially unsuccessful housing estate in a natural setting, commissioned to Antoni Gaudi by Eusebi Güell whom the park was named after. The site was a rocky hill with little vegetation and few trees, called Muntanya Pelada (Bare Mountain). Gaudí prepared the site of Park Güell between 1900 and 1914, showcasing his urban-planning concerns by building paths, arcades and viaducts that were fully integrated into Barcelona’s natural surroundings. The project counted with 40 detached houses, from which only 2 were built, not even by Gaudi, and as no one had been sold for 2 years, Gaudi bought it with his savings and moved in with his family in 1906. It is now a museum (Casa Museu Gaudí) devoted to the architect’s life and work since 1963. In 1969 it was declared a historical artistic monument of national interest.
At the top of Guell park you can find a terraced area where you get a wonderful view of the park and of Barcelona City. Here you will find the World Heritage curving bench made of multi-coloured tiled mosaic. Below the terrace is the hypostyle hall, an impressive space comprising 86 columns. As we made our way towards the exit, we went down the stairs, with its famous coloured dragon fountain. In 2007, I remember that some Spanish extremists damaged the dragon with an iron bar for which it remained some months in repair.
Going out the park from its main entrance, we took the Larrard Street with its souvenirs shops and we took a bus at Travessera de Dalt that drove us up to Paseo de Gracia, just in front of the Casa Batlló. We ate some really tasteful tapas in Ciutat Condal in Rambla Cataluña, a very well know place, where you need to queue some time to sit at a table. We walked until the Plaza Cataluña where they had set up a covered ice rink for the Xmas season. We took the pedestrian shopping street Puerta del Ángel, had a look at Desigual’s window, bought some Turron in a specialised shop and intented to visit the Cathedral, but as we had to pay, we decided to go on with our tour. We wandered around in the pedestrian streets of the Barrio Gótico where every corner hides some historical past.
On Sant Jaume’s square Palace of the Generalitat (the government of the Autonomous Community of Catalunya) faces the City Hall. We wandered on the pedestrian streets, took a hot chocolate in a ecological-type cafe and crossed the Plaza Real, a squared place with arcades surrounding a fountain and a street lamp designed by Gaudi at his debuts. This place was a representational palace of Spanish Royal family in the 19th century. From there you can catch the famous Ramblas, pass the Liceo Theatre and enter the Boqueria market, for the pleasure of your eyes and your palate! I strongly recommend you to drink some tasty natural fruit juice, like Mango and Goyava.
We then walked all the Ramblas down, until the Wax Museum and its peculiar bar, el Bosc de les Fades, a magic place where you definitely need to have a drink. At the bottom-end of the Ramblas is the Colom museum facing the harbour. You can cross a small bridge to join the Maremagnum, a mall with shops, 3D movies and Barcelona’s aquarium. You can also decide to walk along the harbour until Barceloneta, the historic fishermen area. We decided to catch the metro at Drassanes up to Fontana to visit Gracia, a popular area where young people drink alcool in its numerous squares, what the mayor unsuccessfully tried to cease removing benchs. We found a Basque bar with wonderful pinchos, slices of bread with all kind of food at their top. There are plenty of bars in Gracia where you can enjoy an animated night. Just remember that dinner does not take place until 9 or even 10pm in Spain.