Montjuïc Park starts at the Plaça d’ Espanya and winds up to the top of the hill and the 18th century Castell de Montjuîc which is accessible by cable car and offers a military museum, small restaurant, as well as panoramic view of the city. Also in the park is the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), Miró Museum, and the Olympic Ring, dating from 1929 but completely renovated for the 1992 Games. MNAC has collections of Catalan art from the Romanesque to more modern times. The church murals moved here from the Pyrenees are fascinating. Smaller museums nearby include Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya and Museu Etnológic. Just below the Castell is the famous statue of people dancing the sardana, a traditional Catalan circle dance. Locals dance the real thing in front of the cathedral in the Barri Gótic on Saturdays at 6PM and Sundays at noon. From Montjuïc, there is a cable car to the waterfront.
The waterfront is also divided into neighborhoods. Port Vell, the old port, features a marina, Maremagnum shopping center, maritime museum, aquarium, and Imax theater. A contemporary bridge leads from the bottom of La Rambla to this part of the city. Also at the bottom of La Rambla is the Columbus monument; take the elevator for a birdseye view of the city. La Barceloneta, further along the waterfront from Port Vell and at the end of the El Born neighborhood is the location of Barcelona’s beaches and restaurants and bars along the boardwalk. Beyond La Barceloneta is Port Olimpic, site of the 1992 Olympic village and now home to more restaurants, bars, a casino, and Frank Gehry’s large copper fish sculpture.
Barcelona is easily explored on foot, but there is also an extensive transportation system that includes metro, trams, and buses. Passes are available for unlimited travel on public transportation for periods of 2 to 5 days and there are books of 10 individual tickets at a discount. Taxis are reasonable. The national train system, RENFE, offers options for day excursions. There are several train stations in Barcelona; the main is Estació Sants. RENFE ticketprices can vary greatly for a destination depending on the class of seat and time of travel.
Barcelona Cards are available that allow unlimited city transportation and discounts to many attractions. A better option may be the articketBCN which offers admission to 6 major museums for one flat rate.
The restaurants in Barcelona are numerous and very good. Lunch is the big meal of the day, usually a 3 course affair; most restaurants post a menú del dia which is a reasonable fixed price for the 3 courses and often includes wine. Dinnertime doesn’t begin until 9 p.m. If you have had a big lunch, or don’t want to eat so late, an alternative to dinner is tapas, small plates of a wide variety of hot and cold foods served in bars and small restaurants. Tapas may be as simple as a plate of mixed olives and cheese. Other tapas include, but are certainly not limited to fresh sardines in garlic, other types of cooked fish, shrimp with oil and garlic, meatballs, chorizo (sausage), fried squid rings, spicy sausage, grilled vegetables including aubergine, potatoes in sauce, and a mixture of several types of peppers. If you are so inclined, be sure to try jamón ibérico, an air dried ham specialty of the region that comes from acorn fed black pigs.
Day excursions from Barcelona include Montserrat, Stiges, Gerona (Girona), and Figueres (Figueras). Montserrat is a mountain top monastery and shrine, home to one of Europe’s famous Black Madonnas and offers awesome views. There are numerous trains from Barcelona that connect with the cable car or funicular to Montserrat; inquire about combination tickets in the Espanya train station. Stiges is a resort town with some good museums; Gerona is an historic city known for its Jewish Quarter, El Call, dating to the 11th century. If you are a fan of Salvador Dalí, be sure to visit Figueres, his home town featuring a large surrealistic museum built by him.
One word of warning. Although Barcelona is a wonderful city to visit, you should take normal precautions against pickpockets. While that’s a good idea in any metropolitan area you visit, Barcelona does have a reputation for petty thievery. Don’t be scared of the city, but don’t make yourself an easy target either.
Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.