By Judy Harrison
Barcelona is a jewel that gleams brightly on the Mediterranean and offers visitors a sumptuous variety of cultural attractions, beaches and fun. Barcelona was also the correct answer to Resident’s most recent Mystery Destination Contest, won by Susan Permutt, who earned two roundtrip tickets for international travel on American Airlines for guessing the destination and submitting the winning 75 words-or-less essay on why he/she loves Barcelona.
Intriguing Barcelona is an easy city to fall in love with. One of Europe’s most dynamic and stylish cities, it’s at once incredibly old and modern. Much of this cosmopolitan city is defined by the colorful, eccentric architecture designed by Antonio Gaudi. From Roman ruins to medieval buildings, fantastic parks and museums, beautiful beaches, exciting night life and nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, you will want to experience it all.
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, a state in northeastern Spain which enjoys its own culture, history and language. Catalan is the preferred language of the residents although Spanish is also spoken along with some English.
A convenient way to become acquainted with fabulous Barcelona is to begin with the Barcelona Bus Turistic, a double-decker bus which has forty-five stops at the most interesting and attractive sights, including mountains and beaches. As you travel around you’re sure to enjoy the exuberance and friendliness of the people. At the start of your vacation you may want to purchase a Barcelona Card which provides discounts for transportation and various admission charges.
La Rambla is the most famous street in Barcelona. It’s a broad pedestrian boulevard which is well known for its liveliness. La Rambla is known for its costumed street entertainers, flowers, market stalls and cafes. A highlight is walking over the amazing colorful mosaic in the pavement, created by Joan Miro. The famous Miro Mosaic graces these pages, and was the clue for last month’s Mystery Destination contest.
Barcelonita is a 15 minute walk from La Rambla. This is Barcelona’s waterfront, a beach hot spot, considered to be one of the best urban beaches in the world. Barcelonita began to flourish when the 1992 Olympics gave new life to the waterfront. Major works of art line the beach, including a massive gold fish (pais d’or) by Frank Gehry. The trendy cafes near the boardwalk are where people drink cava (sparkling wine) and enjoy seafood dishes. You may even see artists drawing and painting as you relax, have fun and savor the exquisite beach.
Nearby is the Barcelona Zoo, home to the Komodo Dragon House, L’Acquarium, one of the largest aquariums in Europe. There are also games and activities for children. Park de la Ciutadella is in this area with a lovely lake and rental rowboats.
The very unusual architecture of Gaudi, called modernista, enchants visitors. His most exemplary work, La Sagrada Familia, is his final masterpiece. He began working on it in 1883 and the completion date is between 2020 and 2040. This is a monumental church with many towers. It represents the birth, death and resurrection of Christ. Visitors can climb the towers to see the amazing panoramic views of Barcelona. Casa Mila is another work of Gaudi with a façade which has been compared with waves of the sea, an illusion created by not utilizing straight lines and right angles…something like a sand castle. Also famous are his La Casa Battlo with its awesome pillars and Park Guell, an incredible public park. Gaudi’s many other intriguing eye-catching fantastic designs can be seen all over Barcelona.
For your shopping pleasure, you must experience the unique boutiques in the trendy El Born district (think SoHo)! It’s located east of Le Ribera, part of the old city which dates back to the 12th century. While in this area, you can have fun just wandering around Barri Gotic, an intact medieval center of the city with narrow, winding streets. It’s now a lively neighborhood with art galleries and bars surrounding the ancient market place. The Maremagnum provides a unique shopping experience with the “Boutiques Independents” program, offering space for emerging designers to exhibit and sell their clothing.
There are museums to interest everyone, ranging from the Chocolate Museum to the Barcelona FC Museum (sports), to the Picasso Museum (showcasing his early works), to the Miro Museum (paintings, sculptures, tapestries and sketches), to Meseu d’Art (avant-garde contemporary art) to the Catalan National Art Museum (Romanesque and Gothic paintings and sculptures to mid 20th century works, housed in the Palau National). Most museums are closed on Mondays.
The cuisine of Barcelona is an innovative twist on traditional Spanish and Catalan dishes. Currently popular are Tapas dinners, enjoyed by going from one bar to the next and sampling the various house specialties.
The pleasant climate allows visitors to enjoy the many festivals and events of Barcelona year-round, but the abundance of special celebrations occurs mostly from Spring through Summer. Sant Jordi is on April 23rd, similar to Valentine’s Day, when roses and books are exchanged by happy couples. Sonar is a three-day annual music festival. Festes de Gracia is a Catalonian celebration of the Assumption on August 15th with parties in the streets through the night. The Festes de la Marce is in September and is the biggest 4 day party of all with many fireworks displays.
Night life in Barcelona begins after 10 PM and is still going strong at 3 AM. Music, dancing and cocktails are enjoyed at the many clubs, but the city itself is part of the enthrallment. Buildings and monuments light up the night sky. You must visit the magical fountains (La Fontana Magica) in Placa d’Espanya featuring lights and water acrobatics set to music.
As a European hot spot, Barcelona delivers excitement, charm, culture and a fabulous fun vacation for New Yorkers looking for a city that has it all!
Barcelona International Airport is just 2 miles from the city. American Airlines has direct flights from JFK to BCN. Business class provides comfortable lie-flat seats and all amenities to make your flight enjoyable. Your vacation will linger on a little longer as you blissfully drink specially selected wines, champagne or your favorite cocktail or soft drink Dining in the air, you will have a complete meal from nuts to dessert with luscious entrees such as Boursin crusted Beef Fillet, Chipotle Miso Cod, Red Thai Curry Chicken or Cheese Tortellini with Romano Sauce. Breakfast is also served with the option of an express breakfast served 45 minutes prior to landing, allowing you to sleep. A pre-arrival beverage is served –sparkling or still water with a fresh citrus garnish. You’re sure to arrive well rested and well fed but missing Barcelona, your new favorite city.
American Airlines has daily non-stop flights:
JFK to BCN
Depart 5:15 PM Arrive 7:10 AM
BCN to JFK
Depart 10:15 AM Arrive 1:20 PM
Further information about Barcelona can be found at: