Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

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

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

Aug 23rd, 2015, 07:59 AM
  #41  
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 5,934
Rien63

Thanks, haven't been to Casa Almirall, should be on the list for a risky Raval night in a not so distant future.
kimhe is offline  
Aug 24th, 2015, 02:07 PM
  #42  
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 17
I, too, prefer Madrid to Barcelona. I have been to both cities several times and if I had to choose between them for another visit, it would be to Madrid.

I prefer the selection and the quality of the restaurants in Madrid. I also have had rude wait staff in Barcelona, but to be fair I have had more than my share of indifferent waiters in Madrid. And, probably most importantly, I definitely prefer Madrid's museums, hands down!

It is really a matter of personal choice. I really don't like Venice all that much either - so why I have visited there a half a dozen times u=in the past 15 years ...
jack333 is offline  
Aug 24th, 2015, 09:40 PM
  #43  
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 516
I loved both Madrid and Sevilla from the first moment I arrived... and I'd love to go back to both.

I've not been to Barcelona, and after hearing and reading so many negative things about it, I'm not sure if I ever care to go. This thread is not doing anything to change my mind.
I've seen photos of the Gaudi architecture and it's not something I feel compelled to see in person, although I admit, it is interesting.

I would very much like to visit Girona and the northern part of Catalonia, and I've considered a trip where we'd stay in Girona, and take a day trip to Barcelona, just to say I went..

I also would want to visit Valencia, Malaga, and other Spanish cities I've not yet visited, before going to Barcelona.

The way Loacker felt about Barcelona was how my daughter felt about Paris. She was extremely disappointed and found the city "ugly", "dirty" and too crowded. She did like the museums and historical sites, but didn't appreciate the city itself.

I loved Paris, myself... though I have to admit that I liked Madrid more.
Madrid is a very underrated city. We spent a week there and I felt we only scratched the surface...
BumbleB6 is offline  
Aug 24th, 2015, 09:59 PM
  #44  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,380
We were not over-impressed with Barcelona but loved Valencia, Bumble. We were there for 4 nights but could easily have spend a week there. it's a lovely city with lots of day trip possibilities, and great food.

and not so many tourists that it is completely overwhelmed, like Barcelona.
annhig is offline  
Aug 24th, 2015, 11:50 PM
  #45  
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 5,934
This is actually a very well informed guide to a "perfect weekend in Barcelona" without even mentioning Sagrada Familia! (but Raval, Eixample, Barceloneta, Poble Sec, Tickets, Bodega 1900, Quimet y Quimet, Miró, Montjuïc, MACBA, Hotel Neri and Domènech i Montaner) http://www.cntraveler.com/destinatio...-weekend-guide
kimhe is offline  
Aug 25th, 2015, 01:02 AM
  #46  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 7,719
I've been to both, Madrid and Barcelona, several times, both on business as well as on leisure trips.
And when someone asks me whether he should visit Madrid or Barcelona I tell him to sample both.

Though I perfectly understand that art lovers gravitate towards Madrid - if only for the big three museums.

I never experienced a rough, sleazy or unsafe vibe in Barcelona (aside from the pickpocket problem).

But maybe that is more a matter of your personal comfort zone and experiences.
When you walk the narrow streets of Raval or Barri Gotic at night, it's easier to feel intimidated than on Gran Via, perhaps.

Barcelona is, in my opinion, more related to cities like Berlin while Madrid may be more like Paris.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Aug 25th, 2015, 01:21 AM
  #47  
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 6,203
Someone wrote:

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.
_____________________________________

I am sure this poster has canvassed Europeans from those who can see the Northern Lights from their bedroom to Istanbul and Americans who have been disappointed by the 1,000's of European castles. I know I stand outside my home and ask that very question.
_______________

As someone who has visited Barcelona numerous times over the past 45 years, there is a variety of reasons for my return. The art of Barcelona is in the streets. The museums are secondary in Barcelona. There is an insanity and its own definition of beauty to Guadi. I am always curious to see the progress and the interpretation of his ideas, even though I hate the Passion Facade. It is a monumental task that rarely occurs on purpose in the modern world. Moderisme infuses the city and gives it a unqiue personality.

I like the variety of the often silly La Rambla to the elegance of the Passeig de Gracia. I love that the statue of Columbus is pointing toward Libya, not the new world.

I love the views from Montjuic and Tibidabo but I cannot stand the cheesy El Poble Espanyol.

Whenever we go, I try to dance the Sardana, for it is symbol of their culture and defiance during the Franco regime.

And we always try to eat things that are different.
_________

We all travel for different reasons. I try to leave home, home. I only expect to be partially entertained and understand I must participate. And there are various ways to be awed and disappointed including artistically, intellectually, sensually, historically, and linguistically.

Oh, yes as a full blooded American I hate Disneyland and do not understand the unique experience shared by one billion other people.
IMDonehere is offline  
Aug 25th, 2015, 02:02 AM
  #48  
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 5,934
IMDonehere

As for Gaudi's standing in Europe, his "great basilica has been built, mostly, from the entrance fees from Europe's agnostic tourists: it attracts 2 million visitors a year, more than the Prado and the Alhambra".
"Why Gaudí's Sagrada Família is a cathedral for our times": http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...-for-our-times
kimhe is offline  
Aug 25th, 2015, 03:22 AM
  #49  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,645
We, too, were not as awed by Barcelona as we had expected - but those expectations are, I think, part of the reason we felt that way. We enjoyed the city but didn't love it, and that surprised us. We are from NYC, and love cities, so we were both surprised, but we are also very willing to return to see it with fresher eyes than on our visit 10 years ago. We love the Gaudi architecture, by the way, and found it thrilling to see it. We saw a lot that we enjoyed but also missed a lot that we'd like to return and see.

Some of the reasons why we were not as taken as we had expected might be:

-Barcelona is a large city and we were at the end of a 3-week trip, so we had less energy to get around. It was hard for us to figure out how to approach the touring.
-It was the middle of summer and very hot.
-We are not late-night folk, so adjusting to later hours wasn't easy and we also missed a lot of the evening culture & energy

We are both very eager to go back and revisit the city, and having learned that our energy flags, would now go earlier in a trip. We also know to manage our time differently, and spend time enjoying the night culture -- music, dance & food. And, planning the visit better so we are exploring different areas without having to walk for overly long stretches to get from place to place.

Just my thoughts - there's a lot to see and do, but approaching a large city is very different than visiting a smaller place, and requires more energy and more planning, I think.
progol is offline  
Aug 25th, 2015, 05:00 AM
  #50  
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 63
hetismij2,


'But there again I have no desire to visit Paris even once so I am probably not the best person to ask.'


Up until very recently I wanted to see Paris in the worst way, but the more I learn about it the more I think I may not like it so much after all, and not worth the expense. My time/budget are not unlimited. All the news I've been seeing lately about ever-increasing theft, pick-pocketing strategies in the Metro, Louvre, at the Eiffel Tower doesn't help matters. Maybe it's nothing to get hung about and others can enlighten me on the subject.


And while I know this is totally unrealistic, I can't seem to shake the image of Paris I have from all those late '50s/early '60s black and white films of Godard, Malle, etc. All the boxed joints on the Champs Elysees would surely put me off. It's the norm in most major cities now I know, but I'm a romantic, what can I say.
Rien63 is offline  
Aug 25th, 2015, 05:34 AM
  #51  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 2,081
The blessing to Barcelona's economy is tourism from cruise ships.

The curse to Barcelona's atmosphere is tourism from cruise ships.

The throngs of khaki-capris-with-fanny-pack tourists we saw when we visited Barcelona just a few years ago nearly obscured a delightful city. It took a bit, but we came away wanting to come back.

Catch the town at dawn or late evening, and there's enchantment there. Start touring at 10 a.m., and one is faced with a tourist tidal wave. To use rather ugly imagery, it's as though tourists have been vomited onto shore to make their way en masse up Las Ramblas.

But there IS a really intriguing city underneath all of that. It just takes some patience and planning.

Madrid does share elements with Paris in that it has many world class museums situated with huge parks and carefully mapped out avenues. We like it.

Rien63, we happen to love Paris, but I know what you mean about Paris of the 50s/60s. We saw the "Paris Vu Par Hollywood" exhibit in Paris in 2012, where Audrey Hepburn was plastered all over the area. I sighed and remarked about the glamour of that time. My husband, who had toured Paris in the mid-60s, said, "I remember bad toilets, rude waiters, and filth on the streets. I'll take the current version." In others words, movies and reality rarely match up.
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Aug 25th, 2015, 06:02 AM
  #52  
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 63
AlessandraZoe,


'Rien63, we happen to love Paris, but I know what you mean about Paris of the 50s/60s. We saw the "Paris Vu Par Hollywood" exhibit in Paris in 2012, where Audrey Hepburn was plastered all over the area. I sighed and remarked about the glamour of that time.'

Glad I'm not the only one, but we WERE sold a bill of goods here in the US. I think we still are to some extent, especially in those glossy travel magazines.


'My husband, who had toured Paris in the mid-60s, said, "I remember bad toilets, rude waiters, and filth on the streets. I'll take the current version.'


My knee-jerk reaction is to say, well at least that was the authentic version before globalism/tourism, etc., but experiencing that 'authenticity' firsthand as your husband did is a whole other story. Thank you for the reality check!
Rien63 is offline  
Aug 25th, 2015, 06:47 AM
  #53  
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 516
Re: the difference between Gran Via in Madrid and the narrow streets of the Barri Gotic in Barcelona - I actually spent most of my time in Madrid, wandering the narrow streets of the Barrio de las Letras and the area around Plaza Mayor... We did stroll Gran Via a couple of times, and I actually found that more "intimidating", though I liked that street, too.... It's just a different experience than strolling the maze of narrow streets and small plazas...
Apparently if I stayed in the Barri Gotic, though, I may like Barcelona just fine, because I do love narrow medieval streets.... and that's the thing I also loved about Sevilla.

And there are two streets in Paris I never want to set foot on again, and that's Rue de Rivoli and the Champs Elysees. I'd definitely like to spend more time in the Bastille-Marais area, where our hotel was. I also love the Île de la Cité.
BumbleB6 is offline  
Aug 25th, 2015, 09:11 PM
  #54  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 210
I wasn't overwhelmed by Barcelona either. I love art nouveau and I hate to hate but I really really do NOT love the work of Gaudi. I was expecting not to like that, and I wasn't surprised. Really do not like.

What I did love about Barcelona was serendipitously attending a concert at the Palau de la Música. Truly beautiful, and the concert turned out to be wonderful. What an absolutely LOVELY theater!

I wasn't in Barcelona long enough (3 days) so I know there are other charms that I haven't encountered yet. Las Ramblas and Gaudi are definitely not my thing, but I hope to return to see what else Barcelona has up its sleeve that has charmed so many others. It is an easy train ride from there to Provence so that alone I know is enough to bring me be back sometime soon...in fact I do remember a nice stop in Montpellier on the way to Arles...such a really lovely area.
LunaBella is offline  
Aug 25th, 2015, 09:43 PM
  #55  
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 7,923
I have been to Barcelona once.. sorry, not my cuppa tea. I too was disappointed as this was our first time to Spain .
Luckily we visited a small town called Tossa de Mar and fell in love with it..
The next time we went back to Spain we skipped Barcelona and flew to Mallorca, and stayed in a very small town there also.. Cala de Mar.. once again, loved it.

So while we loved our visits to Spain, Barcelona was not a factor.
We found it sad looking really.. a lot of graffiti and boarded up shops, and we found the food subpar.. but perhaps that's the result of mainly being in the touristy areas.. as in any city.
justineparis is offline  
Aug 25th, 2015, 10:05 PM
  #56  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 20,430
If I were teaching a course on travel, I would consider making this thread mandatory reading to illustrate the point that there are NO hard and fast criteria for travel! Some points I would highlight are:

- People travel for different reasons and with different expectations, they have different tastes, they encounter different things (whether by intention or by serendipity), they travel with different amounts of time and different levels of energy, etc.

- Preconceived notions of what one will enjoy might not match what one actually experiences -- but perhaps that is an insight that is only available to those who step outside their expectations.

-- Advance research might help one better match one's experiences with one's expectations.

What lessens would you add?
kja is offline  
Aug 26th, 2015, 01:51 AM
  #57  
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 6,203
Travel is about the place, not you.

Do your research, but leave your preconceived notions at home.

Leave home, home.

Learn a few words of the language, it is a lubricant for knowledge. (Except in Paris.)

Unless someone is about to get hurt, have a sense of humor and adventure about what wasn't planned or expected.

Read other things than a travel guide, such as the literature and history of a place..

Unless you have a lethal food allergy, eat what is not familiar.
IMDonehere is offline  
Aug 26th, 2015, 01:52 AM
  #58  
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 6,203
Some how I pushed the button too soon.

Practice relativism. (And please come up with a new joke that doesn't include relatives or Einstein.)
IMDonehere is offline  
Aug 26th, 2015, 06:42 AM
  #59  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 13,402
not sure what part of Barcelona people stay in to find it "sad with boarded shops" .
I suspect they have not seen the leafy, elegant Rambla de Catalunya or disigner stores and spectacular buildings on Passeig
de Gracia

I remember a poster who was complaining about graffiti and dirty streets
in Madrid
- they stayed near the train station( "to take day trips")and obviously never ventured to Serrano - Salamanca , Chamberi or other parts of the big city.

Some years ago, before our first visit to Barcelona ,most travel books
seemed to suggest one should stay near Ramblas .
Luckily, we stayed in a non touristy Les Corts and had a week to wonder around
different parts of Barcelona.
Been back eight times.
danon is offline  
Aug 26th, 2015, 07:09 AM
  #60  
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 6,047
Every major city the world over has its run down parts. Every major city the world over has commercial districts with instantly recognisable (and argueably bland) international retail and food chains and a lots of people packed into the same few streets. If you only visit somewhere for a couple of days, base yourself in a very busy and characterless district and don't venture much beyond these environs then it's highly likely you won't be seeing that city - wherever it is - at its best.

Also, seeking out a Disneyfied experience of nothing but picturesque boulevards means you are quite likely missing out on street art, new and up and coming independant cafes, restaurants, regenerated cinemas and theatres, and basically anything that might be an unexpected ooo look at that moment, because it isn't in the guide books. Having a tick list just makes this worse - because if you don't discover anything serendipitously, every single attraction you have pencilled in already has an 'expectation' attached to it.
RM67 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 01:21 AM.