Our first stop of the morning was to the Montjuic Castle ‘Castell de Montjuic’, set atop Barcelona’s highest point at 173 metres. To get there we took the Green Line metro to Parallel and then transferred to the Montjuic funicular tram. It’s then either a steep, 15 minute climb through the gardens to the castle or a leisurely ride on the Montjuic cable car. We opted to walk, and found it to be an easy path to the top through the Jardins de Massein Cento Verdageur. Crossing the drawbridge, the moat converted garden is a delight but there’s not a lot to see inside the castle, just a few exhibits of costumes, armoury and weapons.
Outside there is a small cafe and walking along the ramparts there were spectacular views across to Barcelona’s port and city. Next, we followed the ‘Carni del Mar’ footpath down from the south side of the castle. This path was reasonably well signposted and led to the Botanical Gardens and the Montjuic cemetery ‘Cementin de Montjuic’ both worthy of a short visit. The Gardens contain many local Mediterranean species and document the natural heritage of Catalonia.
Not far from there the 1992 Olympic Park can be visited, easily spotted by the Calatrava’s Communication Tower, gleaming white in the autumn sunshine. Most of the site offers free access including the Olympic Stadium which was originally built in 1929 but was enlarged and refurbished for the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. Continuing downhill through yet more gardens, we finally arrived in Placa d’Espanya after an enjoyable morning self guided walking tour.
We still hadn’t visited Barcelona’s top tourist attraction, so after three and a half days in the city, we thought it was time to go. Situated in the Calle de Mallorca, Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Basillica (church of the Holy Family) is still unfinished, construction began in 1892 and the predicted completion date is now 2026, the centenary of Gaudi’s death, but whether this new deadline will be met remains to be seen.
The iconic basilica is surrounded by huge cranes, and we found it impossible to take photographs without the cranes featuring in the picture. It’s very crowded around the church, entrànce queues snake around the building with average waiting times being two hours unless pre booked tickets have been purchased.
Tour buses are parked wherever space permits and street vendors try to sell cheap church souvenirs, umbrellas and sunglasses to the vast number of tourists visiting the Sagrada Familia. We found the best place to take photographs was around the side, in a small park.
We examined our map and set off on foot for the Passeig de Gracia, this is Barcelona’s exclusive shopping boulevard, a beautifully wide, tree lined avenue with high end retailers housed in the most wonderful old buildings. Along here stands ‘Casa Batiko’ a modernist building by Antonio Gaudi. We enjoyed coffee and cakes in one of the attractive pavement cafes before continuing to Placa de Catalunya for a final walk along the sandy beach and a meal before returning to the hotel to collect our luggage and then to board our flight back to the UK.
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