Barcelona- quick trip report

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Jul 9th, 2018, 06:33 PM
  #1
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Barcelona- quick trip report

We visited in May 2018. Stayed at Hotel Colon directly across from Catedral de Barcelona. Lovely hotel, great staff, good buffet breakfast. Very nice, small rooftop bar overlooking the square and Catedral. Here are my/our reactions:
- Las Ramblas: very overcrowded, touristy, cheesy trinkets (at least at Placa de Catalunya end). Visited early/late afternoon several days and had same experience each time. Lots of police everywhere--felt safe and had no incidents ourselves but witnessed 2 during daytime hours. Warnings about pickpockets should be taken seriously.
- Catedral de Barcelona- very dark (not surprising considering it's age). Ducks in the courtyard--probably once was beautiful area but now just looked tired and sad to us. Ducks looked well-fed and well-tended. Definitely worth going to for the rooftop walk! Rickety walkway but amazing views!
- Gothic quarter- fun to wander around. Easy to get lost, but just as easy to leave. Many nice restaurants. Interesting history and architecture. We took a walking tour which was very helpful.
- Sagrada Familia- very, very overcrowded, overwhelming, fantastic, amazing. Recommend having guide to explain what you're looking at because there's so much to see and so many people to wade thru. Make sure the guide will take you inside (ours didn't). Definitely something to see.
- Parc Guell- again, very overcrowded. Much hillside walking on uneven paths. Other than the famous iguana (which was covered with people taking pics), a few houses (one a very cramped gift shop) and a few photo ops, not worth the effort it took to get there or the money to get in (unless you're a major Gaudi fan). Interesting history, but this wasn't explained on site.. Crowd was so bad we almost couldn't wait to get out.
- Hospital de la Santa Creu I Sant Pau- Highly recommend!! NOT crowded. So much more than just a group of former hospital buildings. You don't need to be interested in medicine to appreciate the site. Wonderful architecture. Fabulous stained glass. Impressive approach to healthcare for poor. A UNESCO Heritage Site well worth visiting.
- Dali Museum/Figueres--Amazing! Fun! But once again, very crowded. About an hour outside city via fast train (take taxi r bus from station to museum--otherwise it's a long walk thru nondescript area) Great place for families with older children. Definitely worth visiting!!
- Montserrat- took a day tour. Mountaintop active monastery. Beautiful views. Great history. If you like visiting art museums, definitely check out this one--relatively small but wide-ranging collection. Boys choir is renown. Try to visit when they are singing (2x/day when we were there). Cafeteria and hotel on site.
-Guided trip of 3 countries in one day (Spain, Andorra, France)--stopped at interesting health spa.ski resort in France (nice), small village in Spain (just ok) and heart of Andorra (like visiting duty-free shopping mall--waste of time!!). Bus ride thru mountains was interesting but overall trip not worth it.
- Bottom line- we were in Barcelona for a week and would definitely go back (but maybe not in a major tourist month like May)!
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Jul 10th, 2018, 02:27 AM
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nice concise report - thanks
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Jul 10th, 2018, 02:55 AM
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Thanks for the report. We are headed there in September and it sounds like the crowds can be daunting. Perhaps we should use our Cinque Terre strategy, early morning wandering and afternoon siestas. Glad we booked a guided tour of Sagrada Familia and rooftop evening jazz concert at La Pedrera now...guess we better get there early. Our guide had better take us inside the S.F.!
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Jul 12th, 2018, 07:40 PM
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Thanks for posting your perspective. This helps me in my planning.
Question regarding the Sagrada Familia guide that didn't take you inside. Was it an official guide from Sagrada Familia?
On the official Sagrada Familia web site, they sell tickets for the "Guided Experience" which includes "Ticket for Sagrada Familia + Guided Tour" but wasn't specific about guided tour for exterior or interior. I'm trying to decide which of the many ticket options to buy. Too many choices!
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Jul 12th, 2018, 08:29 PM
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The OP mentions "Visited early" crowds. I'm curious how early. I've been to all those sites early and been virtually alone if you ignore the pigeons. Over the years I've visited May,June,July,August and September.

IIRC the Sagrada Familia opens at 9am. If you book that time slot it'll just be you and the others in that slot. They sell a limited number of tickets for each time slot.
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Jul 12th, 2018, 09:01 PM
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Agree with Traveler Nick. Get the earliest time slot, and you don't have to worry about the crowds

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Jul 17th, 2018, 04:05 PM
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I don't know if he was an "official guide" but he was with a major agency which was recommended by our hotel concierge. There were many guided groups inside SF when we were there, some using headsets, others just speaking softly. It felt very chaotic, inside and out.
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Jul 17th, 2018, 04:13 PM
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I definitely agree about booking a visit first thing in the morning. Lesson learned. This was our first experience with a guided group and we just assumed that the guide would be taking us inside the building and that the tour would somehow be planned to minimize impact of crowds. We didn't have any indication from anything we read in planning the trip that some guided tours would not include the interior--for us, that was the point of taking a tour. We were there at about 11 in the morning.
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