From Gaudi's Masterpieces to Tapas in the Gothic Quarter
This was the final Port for the Norwegian Cruise Lines 'Epic' repositioning cruise from Port Canaveral, FL to Barcelona with various stops
along the way. We had decided to spend some additional time here after the cruise, for several reasons, ie; I had been here repeatedly while in the Navy
and was interested in seeing how the city had evolved. Celeste had not previously been here, so both of us were looking forward to doing some
exploration of the city.
A quick Barcelona History Lesson: Barcelona is 5,283.5 sea miles from Port Canaveral and 153 sea miles from Palma de Mallorca. It is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Catalonia, as well as the second most populous municipality of Spain. With a population of 1.6 million within city limits, its urban area extends to numerous neighbouring municipalities within the Province of Barcelona and is home to around 4.8 million people, making it the sixth most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, London, Madrid, the Ruhr area and Milan. It is one of the largest metropolises on the Mediterranean Sea, located on the coast between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs, and bounded to the west by the Serra de Collserola mountain range, the tallest peak of which is 512 metres (1,680 feet) high.
Founded as a Roman city ( known as "Barcino"), 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 as an economic and administrative centre of this Crown and the capital of the Principality of Catalonia. Barcelona has a rich cultural heritage and is today an important cultural centre and a major tourist destination. Particularly well known are the architectural works of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner, which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean are located in Barcelona. The city is known for hosting the 1992 Summer Olympics as well as world-class conferences and expositions and also many international sport tournaments.
Barcelona is one of the world's leading tourist, economic, trade fair and cultural centres, and its influence in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities. It is a major cultural and economic centre in southwestern Europe, 24th in the world (before Zürich, after Frankfurt) and a financial centre. In 2008 it was the fourth most economically powerful city by GDP in the European Union and 35th in the world with GDP amounting to €177 billion. In 2012 Barcelona had a GDP of $170 billion; and it was leading Spain in employment rate in that moment.
- The only city in the world awarded a Royal Gold Medal for architecture by Royal Institute of British Architects.
- Barcelona is considered the “best beach city” in the world by National Geographic, but their beaches weren’t used for leisure until 1992.
- Home to the busiest pedestrian street in Spain - Las Ramblas.
- The City is older than Rome - but nobody really knows how and when Barcelona was founded.
- It is one of the world’s major cities where smoking cannabis is legal.
- It is the most visited city in Spain.
- It is the most populous city on the Mediterranean Sea.
- Host to the biggest and busiest cruise port in Europe.
- Barcelona is home to the largest metropolitan park in the world - Collserola Park which has a surface area of 84.65 square kilometers
- Has the first beach ice bar in the world.
- Home to the largest football stadium in Europe.
- Contains 68 parks, and is home to the largest metropolitan park in the world; El Parc de Collserola.
- Has more than 20 Michelin-starred restaurants.
- Is among the world’s most bike-friendly cities, with more than 180 kilometers of bicycle only lanes.
- Antoní Gaudí was not the original architect of Sagrada Familia, that was Francisco de Paula del Villar.
- Barcelona was the first city considered by Gustav Eiffel to be the home of his tower. It was declined by the Barcelona officials at the time due to not fitting the city’s landscape.
Frequently asked questions
- What are the International telephone codes for Barcelona: The telephone dialing country code for Barcelona is +34 and the city code for Barcelona is 93.
- What is the electrical current in Spain: Spain uses 220-volt AC, 50Hz electrical current with a two-pin electrical plugs. Visitors from the UK need adaptors and visitors from USA need adaptors and 110/125V transformers.
- Where is the Barcelona airport: The international airport in Barcelona is 20 km from the city centre and is called El Prat. The other international airports in Catalonia are Girona/Costa Brava and Reus.
- What are Spanish smoking laws: Since January 2011 new anti-smoking laws in Spain prohibit smoking in all enclosed public spaces including restaurants and night clubs, and also some outdoor areas, such as parks and children's playgrounds.
- Does Barcelona have city cards: Barcelona has a number of city cards for tourists and travel cards for public transport and tourist attractions. The most popular is the Barcelona Card.
- How to get to Barcelona beaches: All Barcelona beaches are on the yellow metro line L4.
- Is the Barcelona Public Transportation good: Yes, Metro stations are easy to navigate. Buses are plentiful. A well-organized train system takes you to surrounding communities and cities.
- Is Barcelona a safe city: Yes. Although Barcelona is a big city (the second-largest in Spain and the most visited city in the country) it is still considered a fairly safe place for tourists. However, as with any popular tourist destinations, such as Paris, pickpockets and bag thieves are the biggest concerns here. So be careful when walking around and taking pictures near major tourist attractions, such as La Rambla, Plaça Catalunya, and La Sagrada Familia.
The Norwegian Epic arrived in Barcelona harbor very early at approximately 5:00AM. Our game plan was to wait until the last possible minute to disembark and let the crowds diminish. We had a hotel room reserved at the Alexandra Hilton Hotel, so there was no need to hurry. However, even though Norwegian had originally indicated that we could depart the ship as late as 11AM, the "Freestyle Daily" ship's bulletin made it clear that everyone had to disembark no later than 8AM - so our "remain flexible" rule was followed (ie; don't panic, find a new plan & go have fun!).
I had visited Barcelona numerous times while in the Navy, and Celeste had never been there. However, in the years since I had last been here, the city had grown considerably and in fact the harbor had been extensively expanded since my Navy days. The port area where my ship used to tie up had been converted to a marina (and other facilities) named.
We had made plans to remain in Barcelona for several days, and had selected the Alexandra Hilton Hotel: Curio Collection on Carrer de Mallorca as our place to stay. The hotel is just a few meters away from Rambla de Catalunya, which turns into La Rambla as you get nearer to the harbor. The hotel is also approximately 2 kilometers away from the La Sagrada Familia, which was on our "must see" list. Very nicely situated hotel, very modern, quiet & comfortable - the staff there are very polite and helpful & speak excellent english.
NOTE: The Rambla de Catalunya is a wide boulevard with a large island in the center of the road, which contains a number of of nice sidewalk cafes & pubs. It is one of the city's trendiest streets, with many international fashion shops, and is lined with lime trees. The street stretches from Plaça de Catalunya to Avinguda Diagonal, a distance of some 1.3 kilometres.
NOTE: Images are the property of Hilton Hotels
Image # 1 (left side) gives you some idea of the size of the Barcelona Harbor, it is comprised of; an industrial/commercial (freighter/cargo ships) area, a large area devoted to Cruise Ships, and a marina area ("Port Vell") for smaller vessels.
The Barcelona cruise port is currently ranked the largest Mediterranean cruise port with turnaround operations (roundtrip itineraries) and the World's 4th busiest port.
The building in the lower center of image # 1 (left side) is the Barcelona World Trade Center, shown in image # 2 (right side).
NOTE: Images are the property of Cruise Mapper
Our first destination (after dropping off our luggage at the hotel) was the Sagrada Familia. The Familia is located 2.1 kilometers north-east of our hotel, and we could walk there all the way on the Carrer de Mallorca.
The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família ("Expiatory Church of the Holy Family") is a large unfinished Roman Catholic church in Barcelona. Designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926), his work on the building is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In November 2010, Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the church and proclaimed it a minor basilica.
NOTE: Click here (or the image) to watch a video we made of this church and area. Please note that this video is the propery of Just Traveling Thru, LLC.
This is a Barcelona human tower-building tradition called "castells." It involves creating intricate human towers, sometimes reaching up to ten levels high, and is recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Typically castellers wear white trousers, a black sash (faixa), a bandana (mocador), and a shirt in a color characteristic of a given colla, often bearing the team's emblem. For instance, Castellers de Barcelona team wear red shirts while Castellers de Vilafranca wear green shirts and are often called "els verds" referencing their uniform.
A castell is considered a success when assembly and disassembly can be done in complete succession. The assembly is complete once all castellers have climbed into their designated places, and the enxaneta climbs into place at the top and raises one open hand. The enxaneta then climbs down the other side of the castell, after which the remaining levels of castellers descend in highest to lowest order until all have reached safety.
The building had a "street fair" kind of thing going on near the entrance, where groups of people were performing; castell demonstrations, throwing people into the air and catching them, vendors were selling souvenirs, etc. Our goal was to purchase tickets and go inside the building - but watching these groups perform was entertaining!
The Sagrada Familia is one of the world's largest Church buildings: from the entrance to the apse it is 90 metres, the five naves are limited by a 60 metre long and 45 meters wide transept. The four side naves are 7.5 metres wide each, the main nave is 15 metres - exactly twice as wide. The vault of the main nave is 45 metres high, and the side aisles are 30 metres high.
The interior columns are inclined and utilize "tree like branches". The weight is routed directly over the pillars in the ground - all this without bearing facade or exterior buttresses. The result of this ingenious solution is spectacular: the pillars and arches supported by them transform the interior of the temple into a stone forest of palm trees, lots of light streaming in through large windows and the vault.
Our hotel was a very short distance from the Rambla de la Catalunya; a wide boulevard with an area in the center for pedestrians and various sidewalk vendors such as small restaurants. We had walked by some of these restaurants during our hike around the city, and decided to have dinner at one of them on our first evening.
We had walked by the Glop de la Rambla earlier and really enjoyed the incredible food smells! So we decided to come back for dinner later. They are located at Rambla Catalunya, 65 08007 Barcelona and you can click here to go to their website.
NOTE: It appears that the El Glop De La Rambla sidewalk location on Rambla de la Catalunya is no longer open, they have moved to a new location.
Our morning's first adventure was a walk to the Casa Batlló, tt was designed by Antoni Gaudí (the architect of the Basílica de la Sagrada Família & the mosaics of Park Güell), and is considered one of his masterpieces. A remodel of a previously built house, it was redesigned in 1904 by Gaudí and has been refurbished several times after that. Gaudí's assistants Domènec Sugrañes i Gras, Josep Canaleta and Joan Rubió also contributed to the renovation project. The local name for the building is Casa dels ossos (House of Bones), as it has a visceral, skeletal organic quality.
Our hotel was just a few meters from the Rambla de Catalunya, which as you walk towards the harbor, eventually turns into La Rambla the famous shopping district. The street name change takes place at the Plaça de Catalunya, and then La Rambla continues all the way to the Mirador de Colom which is adjacent to the Harbor.
The tree-lined central promenade of La Rambla is crowded during the day and until late in the night. Its origins as a watercourse are reflected in the paving design, which appears to ripple like water. Along the promenade's length are kiosks that sell newspapers and souvenirs, other kiosks selling flowers, street traders, performers, and pavement cafes and bars. Several notable sights are also located within the promenade, including a mosaic by Joan Miró and the Font de Canaletes, a fountain and popular meeting point.
Along the Rambla are historic buildings such as the Palace of the Virreina and the Liceu Theatre (Liceo in Spanish), in which operas and ballets are staged. The La Boqueria market opens off the Rambla and is one of the city's foremost tourist landmarks, housing a very diverse selection of goods.
After walking south through La Rambla we arrived at the harbor, and decided to take one of those double decker bus tours around the city - this would allow us to see a great deal more of Barcelona than by foot and we could leave the bus tour at Montjuic Castello.
Montjuïc Castle is an old military fortress, with roots dating back from 1640, built on top of Montjuïc hill, high above the Harbor of Barcelona. It currently serves as a Barcelona municipal facility. The eastern side of the castle sits on a cliff providing amazing views of the Barcelona Harbor, which gave the fortress a commanding view of ships arriving.
The castle can be accessed by the Montjuïc cable car, a gondola lift that has its upper station near the castle entrance. The Montjuïc funicular ascends Montjuïc from the Paral·lel station of the Barcelona Metro and connects to the lower station of the cable car. The castle can also be reached by the Port Vell Aerial Tramway from Port Vell.
The castle is surrounded by the Jardins de Joan Brossa, a beautiful large park which you can traverse by a cable car (Teleferic de Montjuïc) or by foot. We choose to ride the gondola, as we wanted to maximize our time in the castle.
The name "Montjuic" comes from Latin for "Jewish Mountain", and there was originally a Jewish cemetary in this area.
We saw dogs everywhere we went in Barcelona, sometimes in groups, most often singly. There was even a dog park next to the Sagrada Familia. Obviously people in Barcelona are fond of dogs, and because we are too, we decided to show these images!
Because we continually saw dogs everywhere we went, we took the time to look up the statistics. As you can see in the graph, dog ownership in Europe (according to STATISTA.COM) is very popular and Spain ranks considerably lower than we expected, especially since we were seeing so many dogs everywhere we went!
Why are dogs so popular in Barcelona?
Dogs are incredibly popular in Barcelona for several reasons. Firstly, Barcelona is known for its pet-friendly culture and its residents' love for animals. Dogs are often seen as cherished members of the family, and many people in Barcelona consider owning a dog as a part of their lifestyle.
Secondly, Barcelona offers a variety of dog-friendly spaces and amenities. The city has numerous parks, such as Parc de la Ciutadella and Parc de Collserola, where dogs can run, play, and socialize off-leash. There are also several designated dog beaches along the coast, where dogs can enjoy a splash in the sea.
Furthermore, Barcelona has a well-developed infrastructure to cater to dog owners. The city provides dog-friendly accommodation options, including hotels and apartments that welcome pets. Additionally, there are veterinary clinics, pet stores, and grooming services readily available, making it convenient for dog owners to take care of their pets' needs.
Lastly, Barcelona's mild Mediterranean climate is favorable for outdoor activities with dogs. The city experiences mild winters and warm summers, allowing residents and their furry friends to enjoy outdoor excursions and pleasant walks throughout the year.
Overall, the combination of a pet-friendly culture, ample dog-friendly spaces, supportive infrastructure, and favorable climate makes dogs popular companions among the residents of Barcelona.
- Barcelona History on the Britannica Website
- Info for all Spain and/or European Train Information on the 'Train Line' Website
- Barcelona Travel on the Travel & Leisure Site
- Visit Barcelona on 'Lonely Planet' Site
- 17 Things You Should Not Do in Barcelona on the 'Destination Tips' Site
- Google Search Results list for "Barcelona Restaurants"
- Discovering Barcelona on 'The Crazy Tourist' Site
- Google Search Results list for "accommodations in Barcelona"
- Things to do in Barcelona on the "Get Your Guide" site
- Just Traveling Thru European Travel Tips
- Just Traveling Thru Travel Planning Tips
- Visit our Youtube Channel
You should be aware that Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) varies where their ships go, as well as what ships they will reposition. To determine where NCL is sending what ships, you should visit their website. Our list of ports below, is based upon what the "Epic" did when we were onboard in 2019.
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