The mountain of Montjuïc juts over Barcelona’s port on one face, and on the other side overhangs the Placa Espanya. With this location, it is ideal for playing.
The mountain became the central mark of the World Fair of 1929 and the 1992 Olympic games. It’s beautiful and green, still forested and covered in parks.
Montjuïc is popular with pedestrians and cyclists of all kinds because of its extensive and green paths. Barcelona has recently started working on installing walkways and escalators to connect visitors to the harder-to-navigate sections.
Tibidabo is the mountain to the north of Mountjuic, and though neither is really a mountain so much as enormous bluffs, they are quite imposing and the best places in the city to visit for fine views and clean air.
Tibidabo is not as developed as Montjuic, but it has the same clear air and beautiful overlooks. From here, you can see the mountains of Majorca, 130 miles away, or the entire city of Barcelona and the sea. It’s an excellent day trip, especially if you have a family. The main attraction of Tibidabo is the amusement park of the same name located on the mountainside.
Pedralbes is the 5th Avenue of Barcelona. The streets are lined with stylish modern apartment homes, 19th century villas tucked back behind ornamental fences, and modernista mansions.
The magnificent Palau de Pedralbes and its wide park were constructed as a gift from the city to the grandfather of King Juan Carlos. Today, the palace is the home of the Ceramic and Decorative Arts Museum.
You’ll also find the Finca Guell here, designed by Gaudí for his patron Eusebi Güell. The house is not open to the public, but you can get an excellent view of the modernista gate and gatehouse, both originals by Gaudí.
In 1850, Ildefons Cerdà developed a new plan for Barcelona’s burgeoning expansion. Outside its complex of medieval streets, Cerdà planned an open grid structure of perpendicular streets, a checkerboard of city blocks allowing for residences, communal gardens and yards, and everything that makes a city.
While Cerda’s dream of residential blocks built around a central yard shared by all the houses never happened, he did create a modern, light-filled area for Barcelona to expand into.
For years, the small neighborhood of La Ribera stagnated. Bordered by the Old Port and the Parc de la Ciutadella, it includes the even smaller neighborhood El Born. Historically the home of merchants, and the gothic basilica Santa Maria del Mar, near which sailors once had their own neighborhood.
The plans for New Barcelona are centered here. You’ll find entire blocks of old dingy apartment buildings being razed to make room for new shiny buildings, open squares and boulevards, and amenities designed to make life more livable here.
El Raval is known for having a dense multicultural mix, and may be the most multicultural neighborhood in Europe. A stroll around the streets will convince you this is true, with Pakistani fabric merchants competing for space with South American spice stalls, both next door to more traditional stores selling wines.
Barcelona celebrated its true golden age during the Gothic period in the 1200s through 1400s, though it went through a silver age during the modernista period of the 1800s.
When the city grew during those years, the streets spilled over the Roman walls (traces of which still exist), streets running like streams of water down to the port and back into Las Ramblas, through areas like Ronda Sant Pere and Calle Rec Comtal, then looping back around to the sea. Unfortunately, most of these old byways are long gone. But the buildings that once lined them often remain, making up the most complete Gothic quarter in Europe.
You’ll find Gothic architectural treasures housing government offices, churches, and guild houses. Even the main cathedral of Barcelona is one of these Gothic treasures.
In 1992, the Olympics were held in Barcelona, Spain, exposing most of the world for the first time to the vibrant, wealthy city that had grown here over the years.
Port Olímpic was built specifically to host the Olympics, and became the most successful and popular section of the Nova Icaria project. In this bright, modern area, it was almost too easy to forget how ancient Barcelona really is.
The remote monastery of Montserrat itself is imposing. Sharply-drawn brown brick looms somberly over the grounds, resembling nothing so much as a venerable university or hospital. But the cliffs of the mountains behind the monastery are incredible.
Rounded by time, they jut sharply and challengingly up out of the earth, the corners and cracks filled with greenery and rubble. It’s easy to seeh why the Benedictines chose to put their monastery here. One can do nothing but believe in God when looking on the mountains.
With caged lizards, enormous rose and flower bouquets, decorated Chinese buildings, working artists, street cafes, mimes, prostitutes, horse-drawn carriages, and living statues, Las Ramblas is a vibrant and living part of Barcelona.
Prices here are steep, but if you want to have lunch at an outdoor cafe with atmosphere, this would be where to do it.