Barcelona is a unique mix of urban life overlaid with Mediterranean charm. It’s a city best explored on foot, without an agenda. It’s easy to float from café to tapas bar to wandering the tight, labyrinthine streets in the medieval Gothic Quarter and the vast promenade, Las Ramblas, the long tree-lined pedestrian avenue.
It rained during our visit, precluding exploration in parks or along the waterfront, Port Vell, which has a long, seaside promenade. The most vivid memory of my last visit to Barcelona thirteen or so years ago was having a late seafood dinner on a patio overlooking the sea. Oh well, maybe another time.
Barcelona is full of Modernista buildings, mostly in the Eixample neighborhood, north of the old town. In the 19th century, when the city boomed with wine, cotton, cork and iron industries, overcrowding became such a problem that the medieval walls were torn down to make way for the new, gridded neighborhood. Wealthy citizens commissioned Modernista architects to give them a proper home, and some of the best examples remain.
To get out of the crowds, head to Montjuïc, a fortress-topped hill housing the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), the Miró museum (celebrating Catalan artist Joan Miró), a contemporary arts and cultural center and a botanic garden. We reached it via tram and walked to the museums. Almost all points on the hill offer sprawling views.
Aside from the architecture, the best part of this rainy trip was the food. My favorite meal, paella, and the countless tapas were worth the trip!