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.
Jack Morrison top of famed sculpture “Stairway to Heaven” at Monserrat Abbey. (I’m guessing that climbing might be illegal and perhaps inadvisable – but it does a compelling instagram…)
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).
Lauren Bullen and Jack Morris in Barcelona, Spain. The city is sandwiched between the Mediterraean Ocean and the Catalan Precoastal Mountain range and there are many places where you can take in beautiful views over the city. Image from Lauren’s feed, taken by Jarrad Seng. Lauren and Jack are an Australian couple who share a talent for photography and what appears to be an extraordinary life on the road, traveling the world. Apparently they met up with their friend Jarred in Barcelona and Monserrat this summer at the same time I was there. Collectively, their instagram feeds are full of places to daydream about.
Overlooking dreamy Barcelona by Jarrad Seng (@jarradseng).
- Norwegian Airlines is going to begin budget rate flights to Barcelona from the USA in 2017.
- Coincidentally, I read Labyrinth earlier this year. I’m not going to rave about the book but it was pretty good. (My friend raved about it to me… so, to each their own). But I will say it is worth a read if you are headed to Montserrat. It’s a historical fiction about this whole region and in particular, Holy Grail legends. Monserrat and the surrounding caves figures into these stories. If you read the book, the whole area comes alive a little bit more.
- This isn’t the first time I’ve written about cool garden-y places in Spain, click through to checkout all the other interesting places we’ve featured over the years.
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.
Parc de la Ciutadella
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.
Guell Pavilions and Gaudi Garden
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.