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There are some cities in Europe you can keep visiting again and again. Today, TPG International Contributor Lori Zaino shares why you should plan a trip to her beloved Barcelona. (All photos are by the author).
Barcelona is a beautiful, sprawling city famous for having some of the most magnificent architecture in the world. Not just to be enjoyed by art lovers and history buffs, the city is also a cosmopolitan locale offering amazing shopping, innovative cuisine and of course, scenic sandy beaches lining the Mediterranean. Here are five reasons why you should plan a visit, listed here in no particular order.
1. You Can Visit One of the Most Beautiful Churches on Earth
You really shouldn’t go all the way to Barcelona and leave without visiting La Sagrada Família — just make sure you purchase your tickets ahead of time through the website to avoid long lines!
Saying that construction on La Sagrada Família will finish soon is pushing it, but the famed Cathedral is expected to be finished by 2026. Considering the emblematic structure has already been under construction for nearly 134 years, it’s exciting to hear the end is in sight (relatively speaking). The inside is actually closer to completion and features large stained glass windows that drape the interior in beautiful colors when the sun shines through them.
Once finished, La Sagrada Família will have a total of 18 towers and the final addition will make the structure the tallest religious building in all of Europe. Right now, you can get to the tops of two of the towers via elevator and enjoy gorgeous views of the city below — the amazing vistas rather overshadow the dreaded descent back down the claustrophobic spiral staircase. Whimsical details, like mosaic tiles of fruit and the constant reminder of nature found throughout the construction, make it clear that Antoni Gaudí, the monument’s original architect, really was a creative genius.
2. Gaudí’s Other UNESCO World Heritage Architectural Creations
If you’re looking to get your Gaudí on and seeing the impressive Sagrada Família just wasn’t enough, you can still visit the other two Gaudí houses and an amazing park on the hill that he designed as well. Gaudí’s architectural works in Barcelona — like Casa Milà, pictured above and nearby Casa Batlló, pictured below — have been named as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Casa Milà is actually designed on a constant curve, making for a great photo-op.
Casa Batlló seems to be almost skeletal with fishbone-esque balconies and a roof covered in dragon-like mosaic tiles.
Picturesque Park Güell opened in 1926 is filled with imaginative, naturalistic creations. Besides the elements you’d already find in a park, like green trees and colorful flowers, there are quirky structures made of mosaic tiles like the famous lizard, a gingerbread-style house and of course, the park’s iconic tiled benches. Park Güel is at the top of a pretty big hill — there are even escalators at certain spots as you walk from the nearby Lesseps metro station to help you reach the top! — and while it can be quite a workout to reach it, the views of the city and Mediterranean below make the climb totally worth it.
It costs about $8 per person to enter Park Güell and they only allow in a certain amount of people per day, so make sure to buy your tickets online ahead of time to reserve your spot — try visiting later in the afternoon or around sunset for less crowds.
3. The Funky El Born Neighborhood
If you’re tired of the congested, tourist-filled areas along La Rambla and the constant onslaught of chain shops along the Passeig de Gràcia, head over to the nearby El Born neighborhood. A trendier part of town, the small, winding streets feature one-of-a-kind boutiques, art galleries, bars and restaurants on every corner. The Picasso Museum, the Museum of Chocolate and Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral can also be found in this historic part of town.
This part of town is the perfect place to treat yourself to some delicious Spanish tapas — my favorite place is Llamber, a stylish spot with gourmet tapas — and some late-night bar-hopping. There are plenty of places open year-round where you can sit outside and enjoy a cocktail or some snacks.
4. The Beach at Barceloneta
Barcelona has it all: Culture, cuisine, shopping and my favorite, the beach! While its city beach, Barceloneta, isn’t the most beautiful in all of Spain, it’s wonderful to have the coast right there as well as the nearby marina, an area full of beachfront dining, shopping and nightlife options. Plus, this coastal path is perfect for a jog, bike ride or even roller skating if you’re up for it. Heading for a stroll along the beach is possible year-round as it’s often warm and sunny during the winter months, too.
5. You Can Use Points to Stay Here For Free
Barcelona has several properties where you can use points, but personally, I think the W Barcelona is one of the best spots in the city to spend the night — here’s my review of the property if you want to see why. While it’s slightly far away from the city center, the W is located right on the beach and features gorgeous views of the shoreline and the city from a unique angle. The rooms are sleek and chic, the breakfast is delicious and the gym is one of the largest I’ve ever seen in a hotel. Rates at the W Barcelona start at about 340 euros (~$383) per night or 25,000 Starpoints per night in May.
A Final Tip
Credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi Prestige never charge foreign transaction fees, making them ideal to use on vacations in foreign countries like Spain. Check out this post for more fee-free credit card options to help you save during your trip abroad.
Have you ever been to Barcelona? What are your favorite things to do there?
Featured Image of Park Güell in Barcelona courtesy of the author.
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