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An airfare glitch scored my best friend and I nonstop tickets to Barcelona for a steal. With only four days to cover the City of Gaudi, here's what we would recommend to others for a fun and face-paced visit:
- Park Güell: Designed at the beginning of the 20th century, the park is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Works of Antoni Gaudi.” The park is free, however there is an entrance fee to visit the parts containing mosaics and the artist’s home, la Torre Rosa. We spent a morning hiking and checking out the views within the park as well as from the summit.
- The Fairies’ Forest: A few of my friends from Argentina are based in Madrid and flew down to spend the weekend with us. They visit Barcelona often enough to know their way around and took the lead in planning the evening agendas. The first night, we started at the most magical bar in the city, El bos de les fades, or The Fairies’ Forest in Catalan. Low-hanging branches and floral vines embrace visitors to a dark room of waterfalls and princess castles. After empanadas and cocktails, we moved on to chupitos (shots in Spanish), a bar offering 500 shooters -- most which are set on fire before consumption -- at two euros a piece.
- Casa Batlló: Another Gaudi masterpiece was once a private residence and just a few blocks from our hotel. The home contains no straight lines or right angles and is locally known as Casa dels ossos (House of Bones). Panoramic stained glass windows filter a spectrum of light into every room. The exterior is decorated in a mosaic of colorful broken ceramic tiles and the roof is arched and ornamented like the spine and scales of a dragon’s tail. A cross, representing the sword of Catalonia’s patron Saint George, plunges into the back of the dragon at the building’s corner.
- Cinc Sentits “Five Sense” Lunch: The most memorable meal was a nine-course Catalan tasting menu with wine pairings. In addition to the delicious cuisine, the staff treated us like princesses and taught us about each dish’s ingredients and origin as well as the wines matched up with the food. Indulging on Empordan foie gras, organic beef from the Pyrenees and fish caught along the Mediterranean coast was an exciting and unique way to sample a wide variety of culture’s traditional fare during our short trip.
- Sagrada Familia: Gaudi’s best-known work is the never-ending construction site known as Sagrada Familia. The Roman Catholic cathedral incorporates Christian symbolism with scenes from nature and pops of Modernisme glamour and isn’t expected to be completed until 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death. The Nativity scene above the main entrance was the only part of the church finished in Gaudi’s lifetime. After touring the church and climbing between the spires, visit the crypt to pay homage to the architect. He spent his final days in a hermitlike existence, completely devoted to the project, and found his final resting place in the sepulcher.
Where to stay: We were at a luxurious hotel on La Rambla, the lively, tree-lined pedestrian walkway intersecting the city, just a few blocks from the Mediterranean in one direction and the Raval neighborhood in the other. The rooftop terrace, with a pool deck and open air bar, at Hotel 1898 is the place to be for sunset as the entire city is washed with golden light and music of street performers drifted into the twilight. After long days of sightseeing, the subterranean spa was the ideal book to refresh us in time for nights on the town.
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