Barcelona remains stubbornly on my bucket list. One day… In the meantime, enjoy this guest post about Spain’s most famous city.
Think of Barcelona and you may immediately think of La Ramblas, Park Guell and the fabulous buildings designed by Antonio Gaudi dotted throughout the city – all complete with hordes of tourists all merrily snapping away and looking up. However, there’s much more to Barcelona than the Sagrada Familia, which you will probably be familiar, or even the tucked away beach, which you may not.
So, if you’re including Barcelona breaks in your next trip to your Europe, why not explore some of the secret corners of this fabulous Catalan city and discover some of its lesser-known sights?
The Liceu Theatre
If you do find yourself on La Ramblas, for example, check out the Gran Theatre del Liceu, halfway down. This opera and theatre house is far less ostentatious than those you can expect to find in other places such as Vienna. The exterior of The Liceu also blends in with the buzzing vibrancy of the La Ramblas, rather than retaining a sense of aloof separateness that other opera houses frequently suffer from. But inside, the lavish auditorium – one of the largest in Europe – hosts a fantastic range of performing arts as well as opera: take your pick from a packed and diverse programme incorporating ballet, music concerts, even childrens’ shows. A great venue to escape into and immerse yourself away from the gold-painted street performers.
Park Guell has recently decided to charge visitors an entrance fee, so although it is a wonderful place to visit, if tranquillity is your thing, this might be another incentive to see what else Barcelona has to offer. Head for Laberint d’Horta instead, and by its name you may have guessed that it is a garden labyrinth. Designed over two hundred years ago, this neo classical and gorgeously romantic garden is a nine hectare delight. Like the nature lovers and other romantics lucky enough to find it, you will be captivated not just by the maze, but by the scents, the sculpted lawns and atmospheric trees as well.
Finally, just like the desolate yet beautiful graveyards of Prague or the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, Barcelona has a sedate and ornate final resting place too. The Poblenou cemetery was the first necropolis in Barcelona and is an amazing blend of art, architecture and anthropology. It actually has two distinct areas, the original site and the extension which was added in the second half of the 19th century. Poblenou is crammed with cemetery houses, tombs and sculptures, as well as the final resting place of the ‘santet’ or saint of Poblenou, a boy who lived in the neighbourhood hundreds of years ago.
Barcelona is not only one of the most spectacular cities in Europe, it can also be one of the most surprising. Even in the most thronging areas, the city still keeps its secrets, whether you find them in quite rooftop cafes like L’Antic Teatre in El Borne or listening to some live Spanish music at the Jazz Si Club. So if you’re planning a Barcelona trip in the near future, it’s worth being prepared to dig for treasures beneath the gilded surface, as you never know what you may turn up…
Rebecca Hopper is an artist turned writer who likes to travel while she’s not working on a project. So far, she has covered much of Western Europe and is planning a trip to China in the New Year.