This sun-kissed nation was calling my name and the first stop in Spain was the captivating seaside city of Barcelona, where you can get lost in the eclectic arts, culture and dining scene.
It had been 20 years since my last adventure in Spain, and this sun-kissed nation celebrated for its fine wine, paella and tapas, flamenco, football and architecture was calling my name and I couldn’t resist! My first stop in España was the captivating seaside city of Barcelona, where you can get lost in the eclectic arts, culture and dining scene.
Barcelona’s architecture is unlike most in Europe, as it was created and/or influenced by Antoni Gaudí, a forward-thinking architect renowned for his modernism and innovative style. “The straight line belongs to men, the curved one to God,” Gaudi once said, and this is reflected in his works that are mostly void of straight lines and full of curves and organic patterns. He also drew inspiration from nature, which is always fluid and in motion. While visiting Barcelona, you must see the following Gaudi creations, recognized as UNESCO world heritage sites:
Basilica de La Sagrada Familia
When you first see La Sagrada Familia, your breath stops for a moment as you take in all the grandeur of this incredible sight. La Sagrada Familia, meaning the Holy Family, is the largest, unfinished Roman Catholic Church in the world. As you stand there and look at its finite artistic detail carved into stone and stunning architecture and towers stretching into the sky, you feel like you’ve been swept back in time and are standing there with Gaudi himself overseeing the construction process.
About 70 per cent of the Basilica is completed and work is currently underway to finalize the six central towers. The final phase should be completed by 2026, a 144 years since its conception in 1882. Walking into the Basilica, you feel a sense of tranquility and astonishment, as its interior is something like you’ve never seen before with massive floor-to-ceiling columns, intricate design and sculptures, and unique stained glass windows that shine heavenly shades of colour throughout.
Casa Milà – La Pedrera
Can you imagine a building that mimics a huge wave set in stone? Gaudi worked on this concept and created Casa Milà, better known as La Pedrera, a two-block apartment building with an undulating façade interconnected by interior courtyards. From its attic consisting of 270 catenary arches to its rooftop terrace and courtyards, the unique architecture and art work depicting elements of nature is breathtaking, while at the same time serene and peaceful. Home to the Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera, this Gaudi building is an “important cultural center…for the set of activities it organizes and for the different museums and public spaces that it includes.”
Unlike anything you’ve seen, Casa Batlló evokes your imagination at every turn. Throughout this marine-inspired home, Gaudi infuses brilliant hues of colours and wave-like design. Located on the renowned Passeig de Gràcia avenue, Casa Batlló is popularly known as the house of bones – from its balconies resembling skulls to its first-floor ‘human bones’ columns. The most striking feature is the curved roof composed of colourful tiles resembling scales of a dragon. I recommend doing the augmented reality guide, which brings Gaudi’s visions to life as you explore the multi-floor home and rooftop terrace.
Camp Nou – FC Barcelona
If you’re a football fan, you will no doubt want to visit Camp Nou and watch an FC Barcelona game. The stadium is the largest in Europe and its capacity is 99,354. You can do the Camp Nou Experience – Tour and Museum, which gives you an inside look of the stadium, a chance to see FC Barcelona’s five European Cups and more. As a die-hard fan, it was a life-long dream of mine to watch an FC Barcelona game and I got this opportunity on my trip – an item has been checked off my bucket list!
Meliá Barcelona Sarrià
From the moment you enter, you are embraced with warmth and welcome at Meliá Barcelona Sarrià, as the friendly and accommodating staff go above and beyond to ensure your stay is seamless, comfortable and enjoyable. Centrally located in the financial district, this 21-floor elegant hotel is steps away from Diagonal and Passeig de Gràcia avenues and Camp Nou stadium, home of FC Barcelona. “It’s all about the experience at Meliá Barcelona Sarrià, we want our guests to feel at home,” says Alexis Mazorra, guest experience manager. “We have a great team in place, who provide excellent service for our guests to ensure their stay with us is unforgettable.”
Meliá Barcelona Sarrià offers diverse room options, such as executive and family suites, which are perfect for couples, families or business travellers. The gorgeous and spacious rooms offer a luxurious contrast of dark wood panelling to light décor elements. One of the highlights of your stay at this 5-star hotel will be the magnificent, panoramic views of Barcelona’s cityscape, mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, you can even see the sprawling Palau Nacional on Montjuïc hill.
The hotel is home to Cheeso Restaurant, Level Lounge and the Breakfast Room that offers an extensive international buffet – one of the best breakfasts I had in Barcelona, definitely worth it! Meliá Barcelona Sarrià is a business hub and has hosted important Spanish and international conventions and events. Its impressive Espai Sarrià Convention Centre offers 18 meetings rooms, one of which has the capacity to accommodate up to 400 people.
Foodie Heaven – Agust Gastrobar
Barcelona’s dining scene has grown and evolved since I was last there, and chefs and restaurateurs from around the world are calling Barcelona home and elevating its gastronomy levels to unparalleled heights. One such restaurant is Agust Gastrobar – “a space that takes you on a sensory journey” – under the helm of Jean Christophe and Hicham Houmidide. Dining at Agust was such an exceptional experience that we not only ate there at the beginning of our trip, but we went back a second time with a close friend, visiting from London, because it was just that amazing!
I would highly recommend the tasting menu, which was prepared for us by talented chefs Julio Escalante and Shu Zhang from Toronto. The eight-course tasting menu was incredible and each dish was better than the last – truly tantalizing your taste buds! The diverse range of dishes not only incorporate fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, but the chefs push the gastronomy envelope blending different cultures and cooking techniques to create awe-inspiring plates of culinary art. Further adding to the sultry ambiance was the impeccable service by Raquel and Fabio and fine cocktails created by mixologist Danilo.
Photos Courtesy OF DANIEL JOSEPH & Renu Singh-Joseph, iStock, Meliá barcelona Sarrià