City Orientation Walk I (Self Guided), Barcelona

According to legend, Barcelona was founded by mythological Greek hero Hercules on one of his expeditions, when his boats were hit by a storm. The first 8 boats managed to escape without damage, but the 9th one was lost at sea. Hercules found his lost friends some days later, along a small hill, all safe and sound. The crew was taken by the beauty of the coastal landscape, and so they decided to stay. It was there, on that coast that Hercules and his men founded a city which they called “Barca Nona” or the “Ninth Ship”.

Somewhere around year 15 BC, the Romans established a military camp here, on the hill adjacent to the contemporary city hall. Back in the Middle Ages, Barcelona merged with the Kingdom of Aragon to become its economic and administrative center and, later on, became the capital of the Principality of Catalonia. During that period Barcelona established itself as an economic and political center of Western Mediterranean. The city's Gothic Quarter bears witness to the splendor enjoyed by the city between the 13th and 15th centuries.

Today, Barcelona is an important cultural hub and a true tourist mecca renowned, among other virtues, for its architecture. The works of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The abundance of world-class architecture, museums, historic venues, ample shopping and dinning opportunities, complete with the picturesque Mediterranean Sea, draw millions of visitors to Barcelona each year.

On this walk, we are going to visit some of the city's major landmarks, such as Columbus Monument, Guell Palace, La Rambla, Barcelona Cathedral, Picasso Museum, as well as pass through the historic Gothic Quarter, so as to get a general sense of the city. Overall, this tour covers 17 sights and takes roughly three hours to walk. To obtain directions to the sights in question, tap the sight's name on the screen and then tap it on the map at the bottom of the sight's information screen. The GPS navigation function will guide you to the chosen destination.
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City Orientation Walk I Map

Guide Name: City Orientation Walk I
Guide Location: Spain » Barcelona (See other walking tours in Barcelona)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles
Author: clare
1
Columbus Monument

1) Columbus Monument (must see)

The Columbus Monument is a 60m monument to Christopher Columbus found at the lower end of Rambla street in Barcelona. It commemorates Columbus's reporting to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella upon his return to Spain from the first American expedition.

The monument was built in 1888 for the International World's Fair held in Barcelona that year. The bronze statue of Columbus, crowning the monument, was sculpted by Rafael Atche. Originally, the statue was intended to point westward in the direction of the New World, but instead, it points east, reportedly, towards Columbus's home town of Genoa in Italy. Underneath the statue, there is an inscription reading: "Tierra" (land). Down below are the series of sculpted images of the people related to Columbus, important scenes from his voyage to the Americas, the places he visited, as well as the scene of him meeting King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in Spain.

Tip:
Take the time to go around the monument which has four groups of sculptures at the base, as well as a wine bar and a store selling some great souvenirs/gifts that aren't as mass-produced as what you'll find at the street vendors.
You can then take an elevator to the viewing platform from which you can enjoy a sweeping view of the area. For that, you must pay an admission fee.

Viewing Gallery:
Daily: 8:30am-8:30pm
2
La Rambla

2) La Rambla (must see)

La Rambla is Barcelona's main thoroughfare packed with colorful shops, cafes, restaurants and just as colorful leisurely crowd. It is by far more than just a street but a live manifestation of Barcelona's adventurous and independent spirit. The street runs for 1.2 kilometers from the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell to Plaça de Catalunya in the center of the city, and is particularly dense at the height of a tourist season. The pavement cafes and souvenir kiosks, lining the street, attract numerous city guests much as the local pickpockets, beware, so it's always good to keep one's eyes open, just to be on the safe side.

The prices here are a bit steeper than elsewhere in the city, but then again, excitement does come at a price, you know, and La Rambla sure gives tonnes of it. One of Spain's greatest poets, Federico García Lorca, once said of La Rambla that it's "the only street in the world which I wish would never end." Ahh...

Tip:
You have to walk on Las Rambla to get to the famous La Boqueria market, which has tons of places to eat and many great options. However, if you want excellent food at half the price and to be able to actually sit and enjoy your meal, go to Mercado de Santa Caterina, which is a 10min walk from La Boqueria.
3
Palau Guell

3) Palau Guell (must see)

Palau Guell (or Guell Palace) is a town mansion in the Raval district, created by Catalonia's #1 architect Antoni Gaudí for the industrial tycoon Eusebi Guell. Gaudí was commissioned to the project in 1885 and the palace was opened in time for the World Exhibition of 1888.

A magnificent Modernist building, this is one of Gaudí's early works in Barcelona and is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, known as "Works of Antoni Gaudí". Designed as a multipurpose building, with flats, event and exhibition spaces, there were just 18x22 meters of floor space available to build it.

Some of the facade elements make it look like a Venetian palace. The interior is centered around the main guest room fitted with tiny observation holes, hidden in the ornate walls and ceiling, through which the owner could sneak peek at the guests, from the upper floor, prior to greeting them in person. The two large oval gates at the front, featuring iron-work in the form of seaweed, resembling a horsewhip, made it possible for the high-society guests to arrive in their carriages straight into the horse stables at the basement. From there, they could then climb upstairs.

Why You Should Visit:
Location just off the famous Las Ramblas and being less well-known means fewer tourists and a great way of saving time yet managing to see some nice Gaudí work right in the old quarter of the city.

Tip:
The roof terrace is the pièce de résistance, with colorful chimneys, decorated with broken tiles and mosaics, no two of which are alike! Altogether there are 20 chimneys, which also serve as ventilation shafts.
On a rainy day, the roof is closed, mind you, so you better check the weather forecast upfront so as not to visit here when it's wet outside.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-8pm
4
La Boqueria Market

4) La Boqueria Market (must see)

Located to the north of Las Ramblas and a couple of blocks south of Catalunya Square, the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, commonly known as simply La Boqueria, is extremely busy no matter what time you go, but the vendors are so quick and used to it and the market is so large that the crowds are quite tolerable. The first-ever mention of a marketplace here dates back to 1217 when the stalls were installed near the old city gate to sell meat; however, it wasn't until 1826 that the market was officially recognized.

La Boqueria is a great place to learn about Catalan traditional food, to take yourself on a tapas tour, to learn about and sample jamón (usually served with cheese), to buy the world's freshest saffron (sold in various-sized small boxes) and fresh-caught seafood (no fish Sundays and Mondays) or buy tasty culinary souvenirs to take home. There's also a sit-down counter/bar-like place, called Kiosko, that offers fresh fish cooked right there for you. And, of course, there's an abundant choice of olives and fantabulous fresh fruit!

Explore deep into the market where some of the better stalls are. Try a little of everything and you won't be disappointed.

Tip:
Keep in mind that there are lots of pick-pocketers in the area. Whether by yourself or with friends, it's a good idea to watch your belongings.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 8am-8:30pm; closed on Sundays
5
Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi

5) Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi (must see)

The church of 'Saint Mary of the Pine Tree' is a 14th century Gothic church on Placa del Pi located in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona. Its construction lasted from 1319 until 1391. Consistent with the Gothic style, the building lacks any form of ornamentation.

In 1936 it suffered great fire largely affecting certain parts of it which later had to be replaced. A distinctive feature of the building is a large-sized colorful glass rosette window (largest of its kind in Europe). Inside the church there is a statue of the Virgin and Child.

Why You Should Visit:
Very nice in its simplicity; a peaceful place to sit quietly and cool off while checking out the biggest colorful glass rosette in Europe.

Tip:
If you come here early or late, the admission will be free (otherwise there's a few euros charge).
For a few euros extra, you can climb the bell tower for a 360-degree view of the city but do mind the timing as it closes after dusk.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-8:30pm
6
Placa de Sant Josep Oriol

6) Placa de Sant Josep Oriol

Placa de Sant Josep Oriol is a cute little plaza in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona. It is named after Josep Oriol, a 17th-century priest who served community at the nearby parish of Santa Maria del Pi and dedicated his life to looking after the sick and needy. His statue tops one of the doorways overlooking the square but is somewhat difficult to find. The square is always packed with buskers, street artists and tourists drawn here by numerous cafes, restaurants and craft shops lining the adjoining streets, and thus making it a lively spot to hang out.

This is even more surprising, given that the square sits on top of the church’s former graveyard.

There are several attractions here worth noticing, namely:
- a bronze statue of Angel Guimerà, one of the classics of Catalan literature, created by Josep Cardona i Furró;
- the 16th-century building at Nº4 (commissioned by the Fivaller family) housing the Institut Agrícola Català de Sant Isidre;
- the del Pi Bar, one of the most iconic bars in Barcelona, set inside an 18th-century building at Nº1;
- a commemorative plaque on the wall of the of Santa Maria del Pi Church marking the historic and rather lucky escape of the builder José Mestres who fell from the top of the church and miraculously survived, without serious injury; and finally
- the ‘Square of the Unknown Soldier’ inscription painted on the northern wall of the church by a soldier during the Civil War in 1939. Under Franco’s regime, the inscription was painted over but in 2009 was restored back to its original form.
7
Placa de Sant Felip Neri

7) Placa de Sant Felip Neri (must see)

Placa de Sant Felip Neri is a romantic quaint square in the Gothic quarter, one of the hidden secrets of Barcelona. Tragically, it is also the place where, in 1926, the famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí was struck by a tram and sustained injuries from which he died two days later in hospital.

The square lies on top of a medieval cemetery. In 1752, a baroque church was built here. During the Spanish Civil War, 20 children sought refuge within its walls one day but were hit by a bomb before could reach cover and died. Today, the church still bears scars from the bombardment and is a silent reminder of that tragedy.

In today's peaceful life it is also difficult to imagine this square being ground for summary executions that took place here during the late 1930s, following the fall of Barcelona to the nationalist forces led by Franco.

Tip:
If lucky, you may spot some musicians here, who love this square because of its unique acoustics. A café is also located in the square.
8
Placa Nova

8) Placa Nova (must see)

Placa Nova in Barcelona is a treasure trove for art lovers to feast their eyes on. The place reflects the history of Barcelona in its entirety depicted in the historical passageway on the wall. Among other notable things here are the sand cast friezes, designed by Pablo Picasso, adorning the famous Architects’ Association of Catalonia building. There are also beautiful pieces of Gothic art and architecture around as well.

The exact year of origin of Placa Nova, one of the four main entrances to the Roman City of Barcelona, is not known, although historians lean towards 1358 as the year from which its documented record can be traced.

Tip:
Around August 16, the day of Sant Roc, the square hosts a festival reflecting many unique traditions and festive elements of Barcelona, making it one of the most unique celebrations of the city.
9
Catedral de Barcelona (La Seu)

9) Catedral de Barcelona (La Seu) (must see)

La Seu, or Barcelona Cathedral, is one of the most famous and celebrated religious sites in the city; a classic piece of 14th-century Gothic architecture.

Set upon elevated ground, it is considered Barcelona's religious center. Historical records say this site was previously occupied by a temple and then a mosque before the cathedral was built.

Second only to Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in terms of fame, the Barcelona Cathedral is definitely second to none in terms of magnificence. It represents a tasteful blend of Renaissance and medieval styles, complete with a tall bell tower - a classic sample of Gothic architecture.

Behind the high altar, inside the cathedral, there is a beautiful alabaster sarcophagus of its patroness, Santa Eulalia, who is also considered a co-patroness of Barcelona. According to historical documents, Santa Eulalia was burned at a stake by the Romans for her firm Christian faith that opposed Roman pagan beliefs. It is now a tradition for visitors to leave a coin here for Eulalia.

Why You Should Visit:
A very nice mix of church, mini-park, place to relax, place to pray...

Tip:
Free to visit before 1pm and after 5:45pm (weekdays), with different schedules for weekends and public holidays.
For a small €3 fee, you can take a lift all the way up and get a fabulous view over the rooftops of Barcelona.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 12:30am-7:45pm (lasy entry: 7:15pm); Sat / Festival Vigiles: 12:30am-5:30pm (last entry: 4:45pm); Sun / Religious Festivals: 2pm-5:30pm (last entry: 4:45pm)
10
Placa del Rei

10) Placa del Rei (must see)

Barcelona is known for its abundance of historic sights in general and those of Roman era in particular. The Gothic Quarter is one such place in which the most picturesque and oldest site worth exploring is definitely Placa del Rei (or King's Square).

Some historians reckon it was here, on the steps fanning out from the corner of the square, that in 1493 King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella received Christopher Columbus and his crew upon their return from the first successful voyage to the New World. The history associated with this particular building is truly spell-binding as you try to imagine the scene that might have taken place, right on this very spot, centuries ago.

Apart from this, there are other interesting sites here that the architecture buffs would find worthy of attention, including centerpiece of the plaza, a banquet hall called Salo del Tinell, constructed in 1362. Another site nearby is the so-called Lieutenant’s Palace. Adding much character to the location is King Martin’s Watchtower built in the 15th century. To the right is the admirable Royal Chapel of St. Agatha. There are also traces of Roman and early Christian settlement here, the underground ruins of which can be seen.

Tip:
History buffs will not want to miss the MUHBA (Museum of the History of Barcelona), which not only describes the history of Roman and early Christian times but goes underground to show Roman ruins from the earliest settlement. At the end of the tour, which begins sub-terranean on the lowest 2nd-century level and works its way up, visitors exit here, on this placa.

Tip:
A very relaxing spot for a drink – enjoy a cervesa, tapa, or a mojito here!
11
Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar

11) Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar (must see)

The Basilica of Santa Maria by the Sea is an imposing church, dominating Barcelona‘s Ribera district, a more authentic (and not so touristy) part of the city. The church was built between 1329 and 1383, during the heyday of Catalonia as a maritime and commercial power. It represents an outstanding example of Catalan Gothic architecture and is equally beautiful both outside (where it appears massive and severe) and inside (producing the impression of lightness and spaciousness). Inside, the basilica is a huge space literally filled with peace and tranquility, adorned with beautifully painted windows, stone carvings, statues of saints, and big organ. There are three aisles forming a single space with no transepts and architectural boundary between the nave and presbytery. The simple ribbed vault is supported on slender octagonal columns and abundant daylight streams in through the tall clerestory windows.

The most captivating thing about this church, perhaps, is just sitting here listening to the holly mass in Catalan. You don't even need to understand a word of it to feel divine. Even without touring the Basilica itself, it will be just as magnificent experience.

Why You Should Visit:
Very grand and very well preserved; offers a lift to the roof, small "art gallery", the crypt, beautiful stone carvings, choir gallery, and the most astoundingly peaceful courtyard with a large pond.
Lots of local cafes with outside tables so a lovely area to wander around.

Tip:
It is possible to take part in a guided tour up to the roof, which is actually very interesting and combined with some of the most exciting views over Barcelona.
Make sure you are properly dressed though, otherwise the guards at the entrance may turn you away.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9am–1pm / 5–8:30pm; Sun: 10am–2pm / 5–8pm
12
Picasso Museum

12) Picasso Museum (must see)

The ultimate place to observe early Picasso is the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. Opened in 1961, this museum showcases over 4,300 works of the great master at his early stage, reflecting the intimacy of his relationship with Barcelona, the city that shaped his personality and largely influenced his art.

Picasso always wanted to “imprint himself” through artwork in the tapestry of Barcelona. That wish fortunately materialized, courtesy of his colleagues and friends, particularly Jaime Sabartés, adorning the city with the works of one of the greatest artists ever lived.

Although most of the pieces presented here are Picasso's first attempts at art, the overall collection looks quite impressive. It spans the period from 1917 and includes one of Picasso's best-known series, Las Meninas. In 2008, the museum put on display a large collection of Picasso’s prints.

If you take interest in Picasso's work and want to see his progression from a very young age to adulthood, manifested in paintings, sculpture, ceramics and other forms, do visit this museum.

Tip:
And if you do visit, make sure to explore the museum shop as some of the items offered are quite interesting and not available anywhere else.

Opening Hours:
Mon: 10am-5pm; Tue-Wed, Fri-Sun: 9am-8:30pm; Thu: 9am-9:30pm (Mar 16–Oct 31);
Tue-Wed, Fri-Sun: 9am-7pm; Thu: 9am-9:30pm (Nov 1–Dec31)
13
Parc de la Ciutadella

13) Parc de la Ciutadella (must see)

This beautiful park in Ciutat Vella, the no. 1 district of Barcelona, has been in place since the mid 19th century. The name Ciutat Vella translates from Catalan as the "old city". There was a time when this park was the only patch of greenery in Barcelona - boasting both seasonal and annual plants - and, as such, enjoyed much popularity with the locals (and it still does, actually).

The park covers an area of 70 acres and incorporates a lake and a fairly large zoo, accommodating over 7,000 animals. Among them, once, there was a world-famous attraction, “Snowflake” - the albino male gorilla, who used to live here until his death in 2003. Another prominent sight within the park is the humongous Cascada fountain designed, back in the 1880s, by Josep Fontsere assisted by the then student of architecture Antoni Gaudi. Apart from that, the park is also home to the parliament of Catalonia.

Locals and tourists alike, enjoy spending time here, and especially those with kids. The park is well equipped for picnics and public holidays, plus caters for sports, such as jogging, cycling and boating. Boats and bicycles are available for hire here at a small price. The park itself is free to enter and is well worth a visit no matter how long you stay in Barcelona!

Why You Should Visit:
Escape and relax without leaving the city centre!

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