Exploring the city center

Barcelona Travel Blog

 › entry 3 of 11 › view all entries
Mercat de la Boqueria
I woke up at around 9u30am. Normally I wouldn't sleep that long on a holiday, but I had to change my plans a bit so I could recover soon. That's why I decided to take things a bit slower.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the hostel. The night before I didn't take it in that much, but now I could and it looked lovely. It had plenty of bathrooms, very clean, a huge and well equipped kitchen and a simple but ok breakfast. There was a different staff member around now, but he was also very friendly and helpful, and the atmosphere was laid back and nice.

As I walked out the sun was shining brightly. That was a bonus. I checked about 20 different weather reports before packing, but they all had different forecasts. And they varied from 18°C and storm to 28°C and sunny.
Yummy :) Mercat de la Boqueria
It seemed that the later were right :)

I started my day by walking back to Placa Universitat and then to Placa Catalunya. It was good to do it again in daylight so I could memorize the route better and take in the surroundings more clearly. Catalunya seemed a lot less confusing now, and I wondered how I could have found it so hard to orientate the previous night. Yet still, it's a pretty big square. From there, I had planned a walk down la Rambla and through the old quarters of Barcelona. So that's what I started doing.

Soon I found myself in the Mercat de la Boqueria, which is heaven for anyone who loves food.
Mercat de la Boqueria
You can find everything here from cookies and chocolate, over fresh fruits and fruitshakes, to tapas bars and live fish. I got myself one of these lovely strawberry-pineapple shakes to start the day (tip: buy one at the back of the market. The ones in front are more expensive while they are in fact just the same!) and walked around the building for quite some time. I wish we'd have these huge fresh produce markets in Belgium. We have markets alright, but nothing like this. It is one thing I really like about Spain: the wealthy supply of all sorts of food, fresh and tasty and all around you. And the wealth of regional dishes that comes with it.

After exploring the market I walked further. I liked the little Esglesia de Betlem, with it's lovely colorful towers on the side, wandered around Placa de Sant Josep Oriol and the Esglesia de Santa Maria del Pi.
Sad fish... Mercat de la Boqueria
That was, unfortunately, undergoing restoration. Stacks were covering up the huge glass window above the entrance, that makes this church so famous. Inside, to be honest, apart from some construction workers, there was not much to be seen.

I walked further down the Rambla to see Placa Reial and the Gran Theatre del Liceu. I didn't like the Placa Reial that much. It is not ugly but it is just like the Rambla very touristy and crowded. So I didn't stay long. Instead, I bought some postcards and made my way to the Monument de Colon and the waterside. By the time I got there, I was really exhausted and had to sit down for a while to rest. But all in all, I started to feel better and I felt very lucky for that.

It was sunny so the Rambla del Mar made a pleasant walk.
Mercat de la Boqueria
Again, it was very busy here and not really "romantic". What I mean is, there is the pedestrian walk, the little boats, the water and the views,... Maybe one would expect it to be a quiet place to sit down in the sun and enjoy the weather and a rest, but it is not so laid back and quite. In fact, it is full of people and noise, and it doesn't look that beautiful either. I don't want to say the Rambla del Mar is not a nice place to hang out, but it is not the kind of place I like to spend a lot of time...

Past the Maremagnum I ended up in front of the post office. Just in time, as it gave me the perfect excuse to sit down again and write my postcards. I like to explore cities on foot because that way, you get to see more than just the highlights. I know some people prefer to take the bus or metro from highlight to highlight to safe time.
Mercat de la Boqueria
But I rather spend some days extra and cover most areas by walking around. I think it gives a better opportunity to sense the atmosphere, say "soul" of a city, to meet people and to see places that may not be an attraction, but might be just as interesting or beautiful. But this time, walking was a lot harder, as I got tired so fast. So I had to sit down a lot to recover.

After posting the cards I entered the Barri Gotic and took a quick glance into the Esglesia the Sant Just i Pastor. After that I went to Placa Sant Jaume to have lunch. I went to a place called Can Conesa, mainly because it came recommended by the Lonely Planet. It was filled with locals so i thought that was a good sign, and the sandwich I had was tasty indeed.
Mercat de la Boqueria
It was not the best I've ever had, but it was ok... It started to rain a little just as I walked outside. The perfect timing that was, for a visit to the Cathedral.

The outside of the building was in stacks as well, but the inside was very beautiful. I payed for the special visit, which allows visitors to see all the parts of the church. If you indeed want to see everything, the special visit is cheaper than paying for separate tickets. I loved the choir and the overall look of the Cathedral. It was very nice and it took quite some time to see everything in there. It had a certain flair around it and the light inside was beautiful. The roof wasn't so spectacular though, and as I expected the view wasn't either. If there's something that every Spanish city I've visited has in common, then it's the fact that they don't look beautiful from up above.
Mercat de la Boqueria
If you take Paris, for example, it looks so organized and clean. All is white and structured, as far as the eye can see. Spain from the air is the complete opposite. I don't see it as a disadvantage, but it's definitely a typical feature. So I didn't expect Barca to be different, and it wasn't.

After walking around the areas around the Ajuntament and the cathedral, I decided to visit the Picasso Museum. I was looking forward to this visit a lot, and wasn't disappointed. I bought the Artiket, which allows entrance to some other museums as well. The Picasso museum was a lovely start though. Very different from what I expected, but in a good way (see the review). This is a very nice museum in a very nice area of the city. The road it's in is, in my opinion, the most beautiful street in Barcelona.
Mercat de la Boqueria
Or at least, it is the most beautiful one I have seen. Very small, old and authentic. So is this whole neighborhood. During my stay, this area would quickly become my most favorite, I have returned here many times.

Another very important reason for that, was what I became to call "my church". Without a doubt the one church that has had to most impact on me, ever. And therefore the most beautiful one I have ever seen: the Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar. It has an entrance right on the end of Carrer de Montcada (the Picasso Museum street), and blew me away from the first second I entered. The smell of the candles is all around, it is warm inside (in all meanings of the word), and lovely enlightened. Pretty dark usually, and more lit when there's a service going on. The interior is very simple, all build in one style (early gotic) and with very nice artwork.
Mercat de la Boqueria
There was something floating in the air (not just candle smoke), that made this place very special to me. On the last day I visited, to say goodbye, I defined it to myself as a place full of love. But that is not yet the right description. I guess it is just a place full of religion, brought to life every second of the day. I had never felt that anywhere before, not even in Chartres, the most religious experience I had before now. Chartres (France) is a mystical place, no doubt. I don't want to insult it by saying that the Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar means even more to me, but for some reason, it does. I think it is a very personal experience. I don't know if everybody feels the same about it, probably not. But for me, it has changed something. It has marked me, touched me with it's simple beauty and a part of me is left there.
Mercat de la Boqueria
It is the first time that I prayed, honestly prayed, since over more then 10 years. I am not a religious person, mostly very skeptical about religion. But here... I can not explain, and maybe I don't want to either. Because it was personal, and so very strong. And I will remind myself of it for the rest of my days, so I will not forget about it. And up to today, I still feel it. And to my pleasant surprise I find that I do some things different now, in remembrance of a promise I made, on my last day in Barcelona.

But enough of the personal stuff, as it is not very travel related, isn't it? It was a lovely first day in Barcelona. The Rambla was nicer than I expected, although very touristy and crowded. So was Placa Cataluya. The old quarter was simply lovely, and it felt so good to hear and speak Spanish again. It was also very nice to hear Catalan, and very interesting to try and learn.
Miró tiles on La Rambla

To be honest, I didn't know what to expect of Barcelona. I loved Andalucia, but I had heard and read that Barca is pretty different from the South. I can tell now, it really is. But it is also very much still "Spain". And I love Spain so much. It is in my blood since I visited it the first time. And I have gone back there about 6 times since. I know that number will only grow fast. It felt great to be "back", and to discover a new part of this country. My first impressions were very nice. My first dinner was not. I should have known better than to pick a place on the Rambla. I was so tired of walking I didn't bother, but the paella I had was rubbish. It didn't spoil my mood though. Today was definitely a teaser for the rest of the holiday, and made me look forward tremendously to the next upcoming days!
Pearl510 says:
Hiiii Aioh! Yeah so long since we talked ha! Do you mean the black paella? I had vegetarian paella but it was not the one with the ink. I don't like the little sea creatures so much, brrr. We will have to go back together right to visit the picasso museum and la pedrera? And to visit JC, because I didn't get to meet up. I told him I was coming some weeks before but he seemed busy with things, so I thought I shouldn't bother him with a meet up... It would have been fun though, but he didn't mention anything about meeting so I thought maybe it was not a good time. Think he would rather meet you than me hahahaha. And hey I think Barcelona has a sex museum too, lol. But I'm not sure ;)
Posted on: Oct 21, 2009
aiohdmg says:
Your blog is reminded me my last 1st time in BCN!! Yeah..Did you taste a dish of rice with squid ink. Umm..yummmy!!! I did it in Mercat de la Boqueria..

Hahaha..again again, i missed to visit picasso museum!! Poor aioh!! hahaha...i will do next time~~because Vango Museum was not bad but great experience i fail in love it! hehehe especial Sex museum with u!!!
Posted on: Oct 18, 2009
Biedjee says:
great blog, cool pix!
Posted on: Oct 17, 2009
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Yummy :) Mercat de la Boqueria
Yummy :) Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Sad fish...
Mercat de la Boqueria
Sad fish... Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Miró tiles on La Rambla
Miró tiles on La Rambla
Miró tiles on La Rambla
Miró tiles on La Rambla
Small streets in La Ribera
Small streets in La Ribera
Small streets in La Ribera
Small streets in La Ribera
Placa Reial
Placa Reial
Street artist on La Rambla
Street artist on La Rambla
Palau Guell
Palau Guell
Rambla del Mar
Rambla del Mar
Rambla del Mar
Rambla del Mar
Rambla del Mar
Rambla del Mar
The Cathedral
The Cathedral
The Cathedral
The Cathedral
The Cathedral
The Cathedral
The Cathedral
The Cathedral
The Cathedral
The Cathedral
The Cathedral
The Cathedral
The Cathedral - patio
The Cathedral - patio
The Cathedral - patio
The Cathedral - patio
The Cathedral -roof
The Cathedral -roof
The Cathedral - roof
The Cathedral - roof
Mercat Santa Caterina
Mercat Santa Caterina
Mercat Santa Caterina
Mercat Santa Caterina
Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar
Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar
Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar
Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar
Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar
Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar
Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar
Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar
Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar
Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar
Placa Universitat at night
Placa Universitat at night
Barcelona Hostels review
A perfect hostel
This was a lovely hostel, just what I imagined it would be. First of all, it is not a party hostel. I liked that, as I wanted to see a lot during t… read entire review
Barcelona Sights & Attractions review
The heart of Barcelona
At first I didn't bother to write about this square because it is noting of a must see, but on the other hand it is so big, so inevitable and such a l… read entire review
Barcelona
photo by: fivepointpalm