Known as the Gothic Quarter or the Old Neighbourhood, the Barri Gotíc is a wealth of fascinating and impressive historical sites, including medieval churches, Roman walls, and architectural wonders from every century all the way back to the 1100’s. The history of Barcelona is around every corner, and the streets follow the lines of the original Roman roads. Restaurants and cafés are plenty, but carry on to Carrer de Montsió to visit the café Els Quatre Gats, where Picasso and other bohemian artists gathered.
Metro: Jaume 1: L4; Liceu: L3
Palau de la Mùsica Catalana
Sumptuously decorated Modernist architecture at its most opulent, and one of the most visually startling music halls in the world. Stained glass in vibrant colours are brilliant, breathtaking tile work covers the columns, and reliefs and sculptures are practically bursting from the walls and ceiling, depicting scenes of famous composers and mythical muses. Winged horses and charging Valkyries surround the balcony and stage, where some of the greatest names in music have performed over the years.
Sant Fransesc de Paula 2, Tel. 93 295 7200, www.palaumusica.org
Open: Box office 10am-9pm except Sunday, Tours: Sept-July 10am-3.30pm daily, August 10am-6pm
Admission: E10 (English tours on the hour)
More than 3,500 permanent pieces make this the largest collection of Picasso’s works. Special focus is placed on his formative years, rather than his infamous Cubist period. The crown jewel of the museum is the Las Meninas room where 58 of Picasso’s sketches and oil studies of the Velázquez masterpiece are housed. Guided tours in English are available on Thursdays at 6pm and Saturdays at noon.
Montcada 15-23, Tel. 93 256 3000, www.museupicasso.bcn.cat
Open: 10am-8pm Tue-Sun.
Admission: All exhibitions E9; E5.80 reductions; Temporary exhibition only E5.80; Under 16 years free; Beginning April 1st, free admission every Sunday
Metro: Jaume 1: L4
Santa Maria del Mar
After surviving nearly 630 years worth of earthquakes, vandals, anarchists, fire and weathering, the Santa Maria del Mar has expertly survived and maintained its original beauty. This Catalan Gothic Basilica completed in 1384 after only 55 years of construction with simple, clean lines and an exquisite 15th century rose window highlights the era’s architectural characteristics. The basilica has a traditional Mass schedule, and frequent musical performances.
Plaça de Santa Maria, Tel. 93 310 2390
Open: 9am-1.30pm, 4.30-8pm Mon-Sat; 10.30am-1.30pm, 4.30-8pm Sun.
Metro: Jaume 1: L4
When people reference ‘The Cathedral’ this is what they are talking about. Although the Gothic cathedral is still undergoing renovation and construction, it all began in 1298. A true testament to the history of Barcelona, the cathedral’s construction has been interrupted over the last 700 years by war, anarchy, plagues, and economic troubles. Dedicated to Sant Eulàlia, a thirteen year old girl martyred in AD 303 for her refusal to deny her Christianty. Much of the cathedral’s expansive interior portrays scenes and symbols of Eulàlia’s short but honoured life. In addition to traditional masses, the Cathedral also holds a free organ concert on the second Wednesday of every month, as well as a mass sung by the boys choir on select Friday or Saturday night. Check the website for specific dates and details.
Pa de la Sau, Tel. 93 342 8260, www.catedralbcn.org
Open: Those who purchase a combined ticket are allowed into areas otherwise closed to tourists because of worship hours. Combined ticket hours: 1pm-5pm Mon-Sat; 2-4.45pm Sun. The church is open before and after these hours, but tourists are prohibited from several areas.
Admission: Combined ticket E5, Church and cloister free, Museum E2
Metro: Jaume 1: L4
The Sardana is Catalonia’s national dance, and while it may not be fast-paced, it is steeped in tradition and represents the solidarity of a people. Danced in a circle with its participants holding hands, the Sardana dancers perform while a band of 11 members, a cobla, plays traditional Catalan instruments. The dance itself is intricate, and involves tiny, weaving steps all with hands joined together. It’s perfectly acceptable to join in if you feel you can blend, but always enter to the left of a man. Performances are held every weekend in front of the Cathedral.
Pla de la Seu, in front of the Cathedral, www.fed.sardanista.cat
Performance times: Jan-Aug and Dec noon-2pm Sun; Sept-Nov 6-8pm Sat, noon-2pm Sun
Metro: Jaume 1: L4
Parc de la Ciutadella
A true old-fashioned park with a bandstand, the Barcelona Zoo, the National History Museum, and a lake for boating. A popular spot for tourists and locals alike, picnics on the grass are a relaxing break from the tapas bars and cafes. Surprisingly spacious, street musicians and dog-walkers add a little life.
Passeig Picasso, Tel. 93 413 2400
Open: 9am-sunset daily
Metro: Arc de Triomf: L1; Barceloneta: L4
Anti-Karaoke at Sidecar Factory Club
When in Rome…or in this case Barcelona, where costumes and sparkles are nothing out of the ordinary, Anti-Karaoke has garnered a cult following by locals and tourists alike. Look for feather boas and fishnets at this colourful performance where the performers are anyone and everyone—from the bartender to a Swedish exchange student. You might hear Celine Dion or ZZTop, and all are welcome, especially if they aren’t afraid to really belt it. A top hat might also help your chances.
Plaça Reial 7, Tel. 93 302 1586, www.sidecarfactoryclub.com
When: Monday nights before midnight
Open: 6pm-4.30am Mon-Thurs, 6pm-5am Friday & Sat.
Admission: E5, with one drink included