I spent a week in Barcelona this summer and now I have a new top five favorite European cities list. It now goes like this – Amsterdam, Paris, Venice, London, Barcelona. Rome fell (to number 6). I had no expectation to love it as I did. I’ve been to Spain a few other times. While I think it is a lovely country, the magical combination of food, landscape, history, architecture, culture and that intangible magic that happens when you travel just never fully conjured on previous trips. Barcelona was different and a week just wasn’t enough. I can’t wait to go back, enjoy more food and architecture, the beach, the weather and the wider region. One of those places is Montserrat, Spain which is in the hills above the city.
The Monserrat Abbey is less than 30 miles nortthwest of Barcelona. We briefly considered spending a day hiking the mountain to get to this storied abbey but opted out. I didn’t do enough research ahead of time to know that there is a cable car. A quicker alternative that in hind sight would have allowed us to squeeze in a visit. Now that I’ve looked into it though, supposedly the hiking is highly recommended and if you like to walk and have the time, it is the preferable way to go.
Regret for missing Montserrat Abbey didn’t fully set in until I discovered a few new instagrammers worth following. They are Lauren Bullen (@gypsea_lust) and Jack Morris (@doyoutravel) and their friend Jarrad Seng (@jarradseng).
One of the major works of beloved Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, Parc Guell is major tourist attraction in the city. Construction of the Parc began in 1900 and is an exciting example of the Modernisme movement. This style is similar to movements elsewhere known as Sezession, Liberty, Jugendstil or art nouveau. Modernisme, is however, unique to Catalonia.
This parc is adjacent to the Barceloneta neighborhood and is easily accessed by foot if you are exploring the city. This is a great place for respite from the bustle of the city, but its main feature is a fountain that you have to see to believe. The Cascada was primarily designed by Josep Fontsére but Antoni Gaudi was also involved (as he was a student at the time of construction). It is no coincidence that it is often compared the Trevi Fountain in Rome as it was designed to resemble it.
A new stop on the Route de Modernisme this garden, now owned by the University of Barcelona, was also designed by Antoni Gaudi. It is set to re-open soon (the website says early 2016 – but on my visit in summer 2016 it was not yet accessible). Check for details here to find out when this will be available for visits.