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Barcelona - Am I the only one who wasn't blown away?

Barcelona - Am I the only one who wasn't blown away?

Old Aug 21st, 2015, 04:28 PM
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Barcelona - Am I the only one who wasn't blown away?

Barcelona was the final leg of my trip which included Madrid, Sevilla, Cordoba and Granada.

First let me say that, although I can't rave about the city, I'm glad I went. La Sagrada Familia alone is worth the trip. However, in my mind, I was expecting a much more beautiful city.

Barcelona is often touted as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe along with Paris, Venice and Prague. But I find this grossly exaggerated. Compared to Paris, which is consistently beautiful, Barcelona feels like an ordinary city with a few nice buildings scattered here and there.

My disappointment started on the first day. I made the mistake of staying in El Raval. I knew beforehand that this was not the most desirable neighborhood. But I thought to myself: "This is Europe. How can bad can it really be?" Really bad. Nothing could have prepared me for all the grit and seediness. Drug dealers outnumber tourists. There's one on every corner. The streets are littered and smelly. One ATM was so covered in goo and filth I could hardly read the numbers. Guidebooks describe this area as bohemian and edgy. Now I know this is euphemism for "slum".

Equally seedy and not far away is La Rambla, a tacky street lined with tasteless souvenir shops and mediocre restaurants.

The Gaudi apartments are beautiful but not breathtakingly beautiful. I'm sure they are very interesting in terms of ergonomic design but they just don't have that wow factor of Renaissance or Gothic architecture. Palau Guell is depressingly somber. Casa Batllo is great, but has a surprisingly ugly rear façade. Park Guell is slightly underwhelming.(The Gaudi sculptures are nice, but they could use a better surrounding. Too much sand.)

Another thing that Barcelona is famous for is its nightlife.
Coming from the hustle and bustle of Madrid, Barcelona felt sleepy in comparison.
Also, this was the only place in Spain where I encountered rude waiters. The city as a whole didn't feel as welcoming and inviting as the rest of Spain.

I don't understand why Barcelona gets all the hype over Madrid. Park Retiro blows Park Guell out of the water. And I know that Madrid isn't particularly noted for its architecture, but for me the Metropolis and Cibeles Palace are far more beautiful than anything I saw in Barcelona. Madrid as a whole felt much classier, grander and cleaner than Barcelona.

Am I the only one who felt this way?
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Old Aug 21st, 2015, 05:09 PM
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Probably not.
There are posters who don't think much of Paris, Venice, Madrid , Rome, Lisbon...
you name it.

À chacun son goût,
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Old Aug 21st, 2015, 05:09 PM
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I find Gaudi's work (all of it) absolutely gorgeous and inspiring and Parc Guell one of the most unique and lovely parks anywhere. In summer, Las Ramblas is fun with muscians and mimes, etc.

So, I do not see Barcelona exactly like you, but after two short trips, I have no huge desire to return. Madrid has an elegance and style that I enjoy much more.

Sometimes on a first visit, I love a place, but it looses the glow after a while. I was in love with some islands in the Caribbean - but by the fourth visit, kind of meh.

Some just get better and better - Venice is that way for me.

Others take longer to discover. It took about five visits to Rome before It found a place in my heart. Now, it is one of my favorite cities. Perhaps Barcelona will be like that if given a chance.

Sometimes, it depends on when you visit a place and what else you have seen. As a young person, before traveling in Europe, I loved NYC. Now, I hate the thought of going there. If Barcelona had been the first city you saw in Europe, it might seem different to you.

Interesting what appeals to each of us. Some people do not enjoy Venice. A friend was recently telling me how much they enjoy extremely modern buildings and strict organization, that they much preferred that to "old" places like Rome. We are so totally opposite in what we appreciate.
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Old Aug 21st, 2015, 05:20 PM
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Actually Madrid is more noted for it's nightlife.

Barcelona is hyped simply because of where it is situated-near the water and beaches and having some extraordinary architecture-which IS more avant guard than Madrid, which has more "classical" architecture. I also think that the hoards of tourists to Barcelona have taken their toll on the local populous.

However, I do think Madrid gets overlooked in favor of the more flashier sister city. But it also depends on one's own taste. I loved Madrid but have friends/relatives who couldn't wait to leave after two days and found it boring and "ugly".
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Old Aug 21st, 2015, 05:46 PM
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The first time I went to Barcelona it took me a few days to get into it - it was also my last stop after a few days in all the cities you mention. It was crowded and way more expensive.. and not as striking as, say, Sevilla. But I came to really like the cosmopolitan nature of the city and now I love being in Barcelona.

Staying in a bad spot can really color one's entire experience.. I hope you'll go back for a couple of days sometime and stay in a better neighborhood. Visit the other indoor markets, the lesser known sights, that aren't totally overrun...

I felt the same way about Toledo on my first trip - it rained constantly, was packed with school kids on field trips, yada yada and I didn't fall in love. It happens.
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Old Aug 21st, 2015, 05:49 PM
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I also find visiting a city more than once often changes my impression of the place.
It took a couple of visits to Madrid and discovering areas other than the usual tourist
destinations to appreciate what it has to offer.( I'll be in Madrid this fall for the sixth time).
We loved Barcelona right away..been eight times.
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Old Aug 21st, 2015, 06:16 PM
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I'm with you. We've done a lot of European traveling, and Barcelona is one of my least favorites.
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Old Aug 21st, 2015, 06:32 PM
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We really enjoyed Barcelona when we visited for the first time a couple of years ago. It may have helped that it was the first stop of our trip and we were so excited to be back in Europe.
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Old Aug 21st, 2015, 07:34 PM
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I visited B a few times many years ago and have never felt the need or desire to return. Much prefer Madrid.
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Old Aug 21st, 2015, 08:18 PM
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The problem with most visitors to any foreign city is that they do not interact with the locals, and gain no real knowlege of the city, other then it's tourist attractions.
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Old Aug 21st, 2015, 08:25 PM
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I found a great deal to treasure in Barcelona, but I was also surprised by a seeming disconnect between what I saw and experienced and what many people seem to say about it. Fortunately, I didn’t travel there because of any overall image of the city – I went to see some very specific things, and I was glad I did, finally, see them!

I’m very glad that my experiences were not like the OP’s -- those would, I think, easily give anyone pause! My hotel was not perfect, but it was clean, felt safe, and met my needs quite well in most ways. I expected Las Ramblas to feel uncomfortable, and so was very pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed walking through them. Although I didn’t find all of Gaudi’s buildings to my taste, I adored many, and thought all of them utterly fascinating. I wasn’t seeking nightlife, but enjoyed that which I did experience. And I did not encounter a rude waiter anywhere in the city -- one or two were a tad less responsive than I would have preferred, but most were gracious and accomodating and very helpful. I did have a few moments that weren't ideal (e.g., an unexpected, if understandably, noisy celebration when I was trying to sleep), but that could happen anywhere. In general, my experiences in Barcelona generally met or exceeded my expectations and some moments were absolutely delightful.

So I found beauty there, but I did not think it a beautiful city – and yes, those are very different things, from my perspective.

As danon said, À chacun son goût.
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Old Aug 21st, 2015, 10:32 PM
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"Barcelona is often touted as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe along with Paris, Venice and Prague."


By whom?

Barcelona-boosters churn out all sorts of gibberish. But even the most deranged avoid coming out with nonsense quite as surreal as the poster claims.

Barcelona's a bog-standard, boring, endlessly sprawling Mediterranean port with a mildly - and tiny - picturesque Old Quarter and a few examples of one, quirky, 20th century architect. Cleaner than Naples (but so's my sewer), less Mafia-run than Palermo (but with far, far more street crime, since at least in Palermo, crime's organised to avoid pissing the tourists off), more picturesque in the picturesque bits than Marseilles (but boy: do all those endless straight boulevards go on forever) and more to see than Genoa - but in the league of places with stuff worth visiting, roughly on a par with Liverpool, but hotter and with better food.

Note that none of the Barcelona fans on this thread say anything remotely resembling the poster's allegations.

If real cities are a novelty for you, Barcelona's probably quite fun. But delude yourself anyone, ever, has - while sober - claimed "Barcelona is... one of the most beautiful cities in Europe along with Paris, Venice and Prague" and you're guaranteeing disappointment.
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Old Aug 21st, 2015, 11:56 PM
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Like Bedar I went to Barcelona many years ago. It was an all expenses paid trip from DH's employer.
I'm glad I went, and it was by no means as over-run with tourists as it is now, but I have no desire to return.
But there again I have no desire to visit Paris even once so I am probably not the best person to ask.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2015, 04:18 AM
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Parts of Barcelona can be awfully touristy, the Gothic quarter, Las Ramblas, and parts of Raval is still quite seedy. But then you're done with the bad things, a pity you stopped there;-)

Barcelona is full of excellent and very different districts with a much more local feel, and when you keep coming back to these places, the city grows on you each time.

I use to stay in medieval and vibrant El Born, a cradle of Catalan Identity and culture. Great tapas bars and restaurants and the best nightlife among the narrow streets and in and around beautiful Pesseig del Born: http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.c...s/el-born.html

The 14th Century Santa Maria del Mar Church in the heart of El Born is one of the finest Gothic buildings around anywhere. http://www.barcelonaturisme.com/wv3/en/page/423/.html

I love the laid-back Barceloneta-district just inland from the beach with the same name. Excellent seafood in many hole-in-the-wall places and cool bars. http://www.theguardian.com/travel/20...taurants-spain

And Montjuic is an adventure in itself, with the castle, the views, the musuems, the theaters, the Olympic sports arenas and the greens. http://www.barcelonaturisme.com/wv3/...-montjuic.html
The fabulous "theater city": http://www.barcelonaturisme.com/wv3/...el-teatre.html

And at the foot of Montjuic you'll find the great atmosphere Poble Sec district, few tourists and brillaint tapas bars and cafes all around. Two of my favourite restaurants in town are also close by, Xemei and La Perla: http://www.barcelonaturisme.com/wv3/...to-bodega.html

And the modern Eixample district is of course both elegant in itself, brilliant restaurants and more upscale nightlife: http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.c...barcelona.html
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Old Aug 22nd, 2015, 04:33 AM
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I had such a poor experience of Barcelona my first vist that I made it a point to go back, to give it another chance. Disliked it the second time too.

One of the reasons I wanted to go to Barcelona in the first place was because I am quite interested in architecture, and looking at pictures of Gaudi's work, I thought it looked so dreadful that, given how much so many people like it, that surely the pictures were not doing it justice. Having now seen the real buildings, in the dimensions, I consider Gaudi perhaps the single most overrated architect in history.

However, I greatly enjoyed the work of Domenich I Montaner and many other aspects of Catalonian culture and aesthetic (mainly found in other parts of Catalonia, however).

Finally, of all the places I have visited in Spain, I found the food in Barcelona some of the most disappointing, especially given how much people gush about it.

The only area of Barcelona that I enjoyed was the Poble Neu, but I gather it is changing from when I visited (more than 8 years ago), so maybe the things I liked about it (few tourists, unpretentious) are what has changed.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2015, 04:37 AM
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Thank you for your responses. It was interesting to read about your experience.

People travel for different reasons. Personally, I like picturesque cities and walks. Which is why I have no desire to visit places like Frankfurt or Roterdam, for example.

I had a very romanticized of Bareclona in my mind, which failed to materialize. As Kja best put it,"I found beauty in Barcelona, but I didn't find it a beautiful city". The scruffiness and sleazy vibe detract from the city's charm. Some parts of Barcelona could easily belong in Mumbai.

Cordoba felt the same to me. The Mezquita is amazing, but this must be the ugliest city in Spain. But then again Cordoba is only famous for the Mezquita. So I knew what to expect.

Sevilla and Granada on the other hand were mindblowingly beautiful. Seeing Al Hambra lit at night, from the Mirador De San Nicolas was the highlight of my trip. And Sevilla is one of my favorite cities in Europe. (though the smell of horse poop still haunts me till now)

I guess I'm more of a fan of Spain than Catalonia.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2015, 05:35 AM
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Of course, it is all a matter of taste and you can debate forever which city is better than another. But many first-time travellers need some guidance, so I do not hesitate to express my personal opinion here.

And Loacker, you are certainly not alone. Some time ago, a poster asked whether he should go to Madrid or Barcelona because he had only time for one city.

Without hesitation, I wrote "of course, Madrid. First, it has far more attractions, second, it is the more beautiful city, and third, it is the capital and Barcelona just a provincial city".

This statement caused a veritable s...storm. Dozens of posters shouted me down, writing that they much more favoured Barcelona. I know both cities very well, and still, I am siding with Madrid.

Yes, Barcelona has seedy areas which are unknown in most European cities (really astonishing). And the Ramblas ARE tacky. And there are many ugly neighbourhoods, including Barceloneta which is praised a couple of posts above.

The main reason why Barcelona is so favoured by American tourists is Antonio Gaudi.

Here in Europe, Gaudi is not considered a great architect. In fact, Gaudi's buildings are considered as kitsch. Probably this is exactly the reason why they are so much admired by people who love Disneyland and are disappointed when they visit real European castles.

What else is to see in Barcelona? - Yes, the Miro Foundation is good. There is the maritime museum. The city's main attraction is probably Camp Nou. At least, it draws by far the most visitors.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2015, 06:05 AM
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A Madrid fan as well, not a question of one or the other, and here's a little intro to "ugly" Cordoba. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyfGdpF55Uk

"Cordoba is only famous for the Mezquita" is of course absurd, once the most advanced city in the western world, the Madinat al-Zahra, the second largest old town in Europe, wonderful Roman Cordoba etc. etc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%C3%B3rdoba,_Andalusia

And I come back again and again to Barceloneta not for beauty but for the atmosphere, laid-back bars and unpretensious and great value restaurants (and of course to pay a visit to the Carmen Amaya monument).
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Old Aug 22nd, 2015, 06:23 AM
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The problem with most visitors to any foreign city is that they do not interact with the locals, and gain no real knowlege of the city, other then it's tourist attractions.>>

mmm - finding a local in Barcelona was a bit of a problem, given the tsunami of tourists under whose weight it is slowly drowning. unlike the OP we stayed in a nice district up by Montjuic, but that brought its own problems as we walked a lot and made full use of the metro [which also requires a lot of walking due to the interminable correspondences IME]

We did learn a few things - we are not particular fans of Gaudi - and we too preferred Granada, Seville etc. we had some reasonable food and perhaps if we'd had kimhe as our guide we'd have enjoyed it even more!

Overall I'm glad we went but I'm not sure I'd bother to go back.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2015, 06:35 AM
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Kimhe I think you're confusing "interesting" with "beautiful".

Cordoba is very important and interesting but it's more of a one-tick town in my opinion.
It's not the type of town to linger in and enjoy the vistas.

Ruins or landmarks don't make the city. For example, the Taj Mahal is marvellous, yet I wouldn't want to spend any second in Agra.
The Acropolis is wonderful, yet Athens is a concrete monstrosity.

On the other hand, you've got places like Paris and Prague, which are a pleasure to walk around, without having to step in a museum.
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