Gawking at Gaudi and Munching in Markets
Waking up early to a bright and sunny morning, we headed straight to Cafe Emma for breakfast, scoffing down a selection of croissants, fresh fruit and yoghurt before starting our walk to Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia; our first stop of the day!
It took around 20 minutes to reach our destination and we were instantly flabbergasted by just how ginormous the church was. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, originally designed by Gaudi, the S.F is still in the process of being built, with an anticipated completion date of 2026. Luckily, thanks to advice from friends and bloggers who had been to Barcelona before, we knew to purchase our tickets online beforehand.
We arrived to find a huge queue winding its way around the outskirts of the building, containing a sea of unhappy faces who clearly hadn’t received such good advice! Queuing can take 2 hours (or more!), so it’s definitely worth buying your tickets beforehand; either online from the S.F website or from any of the tourist information desks once you arrive in Barcelona. The entrance for ticket holders is at the back and we were able to slip straight through, only queuing for 10 minutes for our audio guides.
There are a couple of different options when purchasing tickets; you can just pay for entry and walk around the church independently or opt for an audio or human guide. There are information boards dotted around, so it’s possible to get by without a guide. However, the audio guide was much more descriptive and contained a lot of additional information – worth doing if you are interested in the history. With a human guide, you will only be able to choose from a few time slots throughout the day (for an English speaking guide), so it’s slightly less flexible. These also sell out quicker than the audio guides as they are more limited. We found no available slots across the four days we were there when looking five days prior to our trip. So, I’d advise booking well in advance if you are keen to have a personal guide.
One tip if you are on a budget / don’t like the sound of the audio guide (excuse the pun)… To the right of the church (as you leave through the back entrance), there is a free S.F Museum with photos of the building at various stages and further information on Gaudi. Within the museum, as you walk along the corridor, there is a small dark room to the right that can easily be missed. Inside, there is a tiny theatre which plays a short film on repeat about the S.F and its history. This contained a lot of the information that was in the audio guide and also some great computerised footage of what the finished building would look like. It would save you paying extra for an audio guide!
The inside of the S.F is just as staggering as the outside; maybe even more so. The interior is lit up with an array of brightly coloured windows, causing streams of blue, yellow, red and green lights to fill the space beneath. There are a series of thick pillars supporting the roof, with intricate decoration throughout. Where the pillars meet the ceiling, there are multiple zig-zagged shapes with smaller decorative circles inside. These were designed by Gaudi to represent life and nature, with the pillars representing tree trunks and the zig-zagged shapes representing flowers.
Different themes, including the nature theme, appear strongly throughout the building – one door even has a selection of leaves and insects carved in to it. Each side of the building has a theme too, with one side (the one that faces sunrise) containing hundreds of intricate carvings, describing the ‘birth of Jesus’ and the other (where the sun sets) containing much less detailed statues and figures, representing his death. The contrast of the red and yellow against the cool blue on the windows is also supposed to mirror the same effect. All in all, a fascinating place to visit and a must if in Barcelona! We both agreed it was the most impressive building either of us had ever seen and the two hours we spent there flew by.
After visiting the Sagrada and a failed attempt at walking to Park Guell, we decided to head in to the city to check out the renowned Boqueria Market. Everyone I spoke to about Barcelona before our trip recommended we visited this particular market, so we knew it couldn’t be missed! The market definitely didn’t disappoint; it takes a good 10 minutes to wind up and down the aisles. Each row is packed full of local produce, from cured and (sometimes unidentifiable) meats, fruits, chocolates, vegetables, fish and more.
There are also small bars/ restaurants towards the end where you can perch on a stall and enjoy some fresh, local tapas! We’d been advised by friends who had been before, to avoid getting food on the outskirts of the market as it’s much more expensive than in the market itself. If you don’t fancy a sit-down meal, there are lots of different ‘finger foods’ to try as you weave your way around – small cones filled with cured ham and fries, sushi, small chorizo sausages on sticks and sweet snacks. I was particularly pleased to find chocolate covered strawberries!
Another handy tip is that you’ll find the prices decrease as you get further in to the market. Pots of fruit and fresh smoothies and juices are very popular and are abundant throughout the market; you’ll find pots for €2 at the entrance, but half that towards the end! Gary bought a beer for around €3.50 at the beginning but we later found cheaper options in the centre at around €2 a beer. It’s definitely worth a visit for a cheap lunch if you are travelling on a budget.
We were absolutely exhausted after our trek around El Carmel and after 9 hours on our feet, decided to head back to the hostel for a siesta! Feeling rejuvenated afterwards, we headed to dinner at Ziryab, a middle eastern fusion tapas restaurant in the Gothic Quarter. We finished our night with a couple of cocktails in Milk and other nearby bars before deciding to walk home to try and burn off some of the huge meal we’d just eaten! Read all about the restaurants and bars we visited in my food and drink mini guides 🙂