“It will be your favorite city in the world, trust me.” “You won’t want to come back to Turkey.” Those are some of the remarks that I heard prior to my visit to Barcelona. Honestly, I am one of those people with that strong urge to travel; in fact, it is more than just a simple urge, it is more like this obligation, this mandatory compulsion that forces me to see different countries any time I get the chance. However, for some odd reason, I was kind of laughing at the idea of Barcelona being my favorite city in the world. I suppose this was somewhat related to the fact that regardless of what almost everyone had said about Paris, it was a bit of a disappointment to me, so I had this idea that if everybody loves Barcelona so much, maybe it is not that fantastic. But I was never more mistaken in my life. Barcelona, although still not my favorite city (that title is and always will be reserved for Munich), comes close to being the most beautiful city I have ever seen, and since I have had the opportunity to see quite a lot of places, I suppose it would be a fair judgment for me to make.
The journey from the gigantic airport—one of the most handsome I have ever seen—to our hotel on Passeig de Gràcia actually said a lot about Barcelona and what I was about to experience there. It would in fact be a rather au natural experience, with no makeup to cover any flaws or hideousness, because there really are no flawed parts or ugliness in Barcelona. The gorgeous, tall trees overshadowing the widest roads create a sort of shelter for tourists who want to take a break from the hot weather—not that the weather was unbearably hot when I was there, but some short breaks from the sun were nice while shopping on Passeig de Gràcia, the city’s most luxurious street.
Unlike most European cities I have seen, Barcelona actually has uphill roads and some inclinations; however, it somehow manages to keep things neat and beautiful, creating the illusion that the roads are actually pretty flat and level. The thing that I love doing the most when I am visiting a new city is to get up very early in the morning, around 6:30, and go out running with my mom. This gives us the chance to explore the city before anyone else in our group and see the most fascinating places at dawn, the most fascinating time of the day. The first thing you usually notice when you get up that early in the morning is the silence and the lonely streets, but Barcelona tends to surprise you on this point: the streets are populated by café owners who come in early to be prepared for their very international visitors, municipal workers sweeping and cleaning the pavement, residents who share our love of running, young travelers leaving the most amazing hostel, and the delicious aroma of fresh bread coming from the bakeries.
Running through the Passeig de Gràcia, La Rambla and then the enchanting medieval area, Barri Gòtic (which definitely should be visited, and while you are there, make sure to cover your legs if you want to see the cathedral), we eventually reach the lovely Barcelona Post Office. You must wonder why anyone would describe a post office as lovely, and I probably would wonder the very same thing had I not seen the amazing architecture of this building. But then again, almost any building in Barcelona is lovely, and the impact of the neo-Gothic architecture is phenomenal. Once we get to the post office, there is a clear view of the harbor. While we enjoy the vista, we remember that there is still one more place to conquer, La Barceloneta. That is the district that includes the magnificent Playa de la Barceloneta, the city’s mesmerizing beach. I must admit this one thing, however: although the sea view and the surrounding cafés and buildings, especially the W Barcelona (which is popularly known as the Hotel Vela and looks very similar to the Burj el Arab in Dubai), are beautiful, the sea itself is not as great as our Aegean Sea, and not really as suitable for swimming as you would imagine. However, one incredibly striking aspect for me again was that the beach is always so clean, despite the extremely high number of visitors that it has throughout the day.
Now I am going to take you up atop the hills, the hills where Parc Güell is situated, but before that we will visit a few other examples of the work of the architectural genius Antoni Gaudí, one of Catalunya’s most famous sons. Luckily for me, our hotel was situated right next to Casa Milà, and within two minutes’ walking distance from the oddly alluring Casa Battlo, both designed by Gaudí. Casa Milà hosts a small but luxurious café, thus giving you the opportunity to enjoy the view of both the architecture and the avenue full of tourists. While the café is pretty, I strongly advise you not to dine there, as the waiters are not as pleasant and welcoming as in other places in Europe and Turkey. In fact, although the cafés on the main street are quite nice, I suggest you explore the ones hidden on the smaller side streets. (However, do not leave Barcelona without trying out the sea paella at Divinus.) By the way, if you get hungry during the day visiting all these places from Parc Güell to La Sagrada Familia—yes, the legendary cathedral with its endless construction work—all you have to do is grab some extremely delicious (I am not exaggerating) sandwiches from La Baguetina Catalana, which happens to have a shop on every corner, every avenue and even on small streets. As for Parc Güell, it would take me pages more to describe it. Let me just summarize by saying that it makes you feel like a god, giving you the chance to view every part of Barcelona, from the harbor to Montjuïc (Mountain of the Jews) to the Parque de la Ciudadela.
It really is not fair to try and describe Barcelona in so few words, so I highly recommend that you go and see the city if you have the chance. It will cast a spell on you that will make you want to come back again. Plus, Spain is really not as expensive as the rest of the Europe, so go and check out some hotels or hostels online right now to see if you can manage an escape to the city of Gaudí.