Barcelona – Jewel Of The Catalans


Soccer is possibly the only thing that comes to the minds of most people when they hear of Barcelona. FC Barcelona has certainly transformed this enchanting Mediterranean city to be synonymous with the sport owing to its numerous successes glocally. As for me (clearly not an FC Barcelona fan), Barcelona is best known for its architectural masterpieces by Antoni Gaudí i Cornet, arguably the best practitioner of Catalan modernism.

This summer, hubby was sponsored to attend a Thrombosis Management Workshop that was held at Palau de Congressos de Catalunya, Barcelona. Including this time, we’ve explored Europe four times in less than a year and in almost four different seasons. What a feat! I could never have imagined ever achieving this a year ago. As it was around the summer solstice when we arrived, the temperature was ranging between 18-26°C with low humidity. Nevertheless, what worked to our advantage were the longest hours of daylight that enabled us to explore more places in a day. Needless to say, travelling without the encumbrance of thick winter clothing, our luggage was so much lighter and easier to lug around.



Not surprising, the business class ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Barcelona on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines came up to a whopping RM16060 per person inclusive of taxes. Thankfully, it was all paid for by hubby’s sponsor. There was a two-hour layover at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, which ignited a sense of déjà vu having just been there in March this year. Above all, we were privileged to experience the ritzy KLM Crown Lounge – the part that I always enjoyed most during a transit.

KLM Crown Lounge



This trip was rather short-lived, in that we only got to enjoy three days and two nights in Barcelona. In spite of that, we were pampered with a stay at the extremely luxurious Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I that was just adjacent to the venue of hubby’s workshop – Palau de Congressos de Catalunya. A quick check at its website revealed that a night’s stay came to an astounding €209 (RM1059.50) inclusive of taxes.

Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I



Upon arrival at Barcelona–El Prat Airport, we were transferred to Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I (located 10.5km away) in a minibus. The journey that took slightly less than 15 minutes saved us the money on taxi, which would otherwise cost at least €40 (RM203).

Collblanc metro station

Within the city, we resorted to our usual and most convenient way to move about – Metro de Barcelona. The station nearest to our hotel was Zona Universitària (Line 3), located just 500m away (6-minute walk). It’s advisable to purchase the T-10 ticket especially when most attractions you’re going to explore are scattered throughout Zone 1 of the city. This ticket that is valid indefinitely within a calendar year, entitles you to a total of 10 journeys on the metro, train, tram and bus. The good news is that it comes at an affordable price of €9.95 (RM50.56).

Metro de Barcelona

If you’re planning to explore Montjuïc Hill, you might want to consider trying the Aeri del Port (Port Vell Aerial Tramway) or Telefèric de Montjuïc (Montjuïc Cable Car), which has a return ticket price tag of €16.50 (RM84.30) and €12.50 (RM63.90) respectively. Rest assured, you’d be guaranteed an unforgettable experience and a panoramic view of the city. Definitely worth every penny!

Montjuïc cable car


Sightseeing In Barcelona

We arrived in Barcelona two days before the summer solstice that coincided with the Nativity of John The Baptist (June 24) – the shortest night of the year. In fact, the rising temperature wasn’t really something to complain about considering we were granted more time to explore the city. A day before the summer solstice was celebrated as Nit de Sant Joan (Saint John’s Night or Festival of Saint John), which wasn’t to be missed as bonfires and fireworks were being lit throughout the night.

On our first day, we did a sightseeing marathon from 12pm till 10pm without much time given to rest. The reason for this madness was because hubby would be fully occupied with his workshop for the next one and a half days, which was all the time we had in this city. Quite a rush, huh? But, let me show you how much we’ve accomplished in a such a short duration of adventure.

Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família
Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family) Arguably the most famous of Gaudí’s masterpieces, which construction had halted or progressed very slowly after his passing. Entrance tickets range from €15-29 (RM76-147) and should be purchased prior to your intended date of visit, as you’ll never be able to get tickets at the entrance if you don’t book in advance.
Roman wall and defensive towers
Muralla Romana i Torres de Defensa (Roman Wall and Defensive Towers) Completed in the 4th century, remnants of the ancient wall can still be seen within the oldest part of the city – Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter), where most historical monuments are located.
Antonio Lopez Square
Left-Right: Oficina de Correos (Post Office), Oficina d’Accés a la Universitat (University Access Office) & Escultura Cap de Barcelona (Barcelona’s Head) as seen from Plaça d’Antonio López (Antonio Lopez Square).
Aquarium Barcelona
Aquàrium de Barcelona (Barcelona Aquarium) The largest aquarium in the world for Mediterranean fish species. It also houses the one and only oceanarium in Europe that has an 80-meter long transparent tunnel.
Port Vell Aerial Tramway
Telefèric del Port (Port Vell Aerial Tramway) – An aerial tramway that connects Montjuïc Hill with Platja de Sant Sebastià (Saint Sebastian Beach), traversing Port Vell (Torre Jaume I) as seen here.
Royal Barcelona Yacht Club
Dársena Nacional Marina – The site where yachts from Real Club Náutico de Barcelona (Royal Barcelona Yacht Club) dock, which faces the palm trees-lined Passeig de Colom (Columbus Avenue).
Basilica of Our Lady of Mercy
Basílica de la Mercè (Basilica of Our Lady of Mercy) This Baroque-style basilica was built in the 18th century and dedicated to the patron saint of the city of Barcelona – Mare de Déu de la Mercè (Virgin of Mercy).
Basilica of Saint Mary of the Pine
Basílica di Santa Maria del Pi (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Pine) Built in the 14th century, this basilica represents the purest form of Catalan gothic architecture and is one of the most visited churches in Barcelona.
Pine's Square
Plaça del Pi (Pine’s Square) Located in front of the Basílica di Santa Maria del Pi (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Pine) and just off the touristy tree-lined pedestrian mall of La Rambla, it is one of the most popular squares in Barcelona. True to its name, a large pine tree can be seen in the middle of the square.
Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia
Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia (Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia) Also known as Barcelona Cathedral, it is the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona and is dedicated to Eulàlia, the co-patron saint of Barcelona.
Gaudí Exhibition Center
Museu Diocesà de Barcelona (Barcelona Diocesan Museum) Besides the collection of art works by the parishes in the Barcelona diocese, this museum also houses the Gaudí Exhibition Center that displays the works of Antoni Gaudí.
Frederic Marès Museum
Museu Frederic Marès (Frederic Marès Museum) One of the most important sculpture museums in Spain with a beautiful courtyard, it houses the collection of the sculptor Frederic Marès and other Spanish sculptures from the 3rd to 19th century.
King's Square
Plaça del Rei (King’s Square) This is supposedly where King Fernando and Queen Isabel received Columbus following his first New World voyage. It is surrounded by Gothic structures such as Palau Reial Major (Grand Royal Palace) and Capella de Santa Àgata (Chapel of Saint Agatha), which best exemplifies the city’s medieval past.
Temple of Augustus
Temple d’August (Temple of Augustus) These four Corinthian columns dating from the first century BC was part of a Roman temple built during the Imperial period and functioned as a place of worship for Emperor Augustus. Entry is completely free.
General Archive of the Crown of Aragon
Arxiu de la Corona d’Aragó (Archives of the Crown of Aragon) Established in 1318, it is the oldest institution of its kind in Europe. Historical documents belonging to the counts of Barcelona and the kings of Aragon, Valencia and Majorca in the 9th to 17th centuries are stored within.
Saint Catherine's Market
Mercat de Santa Caterina (Saint Catherine’s Market) This market with an undulating, colourful roof was built on the former site of the Convent of Saint Catherine, hence its name. It offers customers a host of food stalls and restaurants which serve outstanding-quality produce.
Arch of Triumph
Arc de Triomf (Arch of Triumph) Built in 1888 as a gateway to the Universal Exhibition fair, which was held in Barcelona’s most central green lung – Parc de la Ciutadella (Ciutadella Park).
Agbar Tower
Torre Glòries (Agbar Tower) A symbol of contemporary Barcelona and standing at 474 feet, it is the third tallest building in the city.
Hotel Miramar
Hotel Miramar – This picturesque hotel resides in a restored palace that is perched on the slope of Montjuïc Hill and overlooks the Mediterranean Sea.
Montjuïc Castle
Castell de Montjuïc (Montjuïc Castle) Built atop Montjuïc Hill  in 1640, this military fortress sits at a 173-metre vantage point over the city of Barcelona. Entrance ticket costs €5 (RM25.40). Walking up to this castle is a great challenge, however, you can opt to take Bus 150 which plies the main roads of the hill.
Mayor's Viewpoint
Mirador de l’Alcalde (Mayor’s Viewpoint) A belvedere within Jardins del Mirador (Viewpoint Gardens) that allows a magnificent 180º view of the city.
Viewpoint Gardens
Jardins del Mirador (Viewpoint Gardens) Climbing up Montjuïc Hill is a daunting task that consumes the most calories, but you will be greeted by this beautiful park with an ornamental fountain at its centre.
Port of Barcelona
Port de Barcelona (Port of Barcelona) Once you’re on top of Montjuïc Hill, you can catch a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea as well as Spain’s third largest port.
National Palace
Palau Nacional (National Palace) A landmark building dating from 1929, it is home to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (National Art Museum of Catalonia). Its facade has a large dome that was inspired by Vatican’s Saint Peter’s Basilica.
Venetian Towers
Torres Venecianes (Venetian Towers) This pair of towers is located on the opposite end of Palau Nacional (National Palace) along Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina. It is only possible to enter this tower and climb its 200 steps to the highest point on special occasions.
Arenas of Barcelona
Les Arenes (Arenas of Barcelona) – A former bullring located near the Plaça d’Espanya (Spain Square) that was turned into a commercial complex. Its rooftop terrace offers a great 360º view over the surrounding area.
Park Güell
Parc Güell (Park Güell) – Located 10km north of Montjuïc Hill, we rushed to this park as soon as we descended the hill and walked up an incline of approximately 500m through Baixada de la Glòria, which fortunately had a series of escalators at its top end, thus rendering it less tedious than expected. Within this park, you’d be able to witness some of Gaudí’s architectural ingenuity.
Casa Milà
Casa Milà – One of Gaudí’s last buildings before he completely dedicated himself to Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family). This is a definite must-see when in Barcelona.
Casa Batlló
Casa Batlló – An iconic landmark and one of the most outstanding works of Gaudí. Its colourful facade resembles that of a natural coral.
Camp Nou
Camp Nou – Largest stadium in Europe, it is the home stadium of FC Barcelona. You will definitely love it if you’re a fan, as it’s open for a guided tour. Entrance ticket is sold at €25 (RM127.30).



What else can you expect from a Mediterranean city if it’s not its seafood? Having said that, I haven’t had opportunities to explore other Mediterranean cities, but what I can assure you is that the seafood in Barcelona was arguably one of the freshest I’ve ever tasted. Of course, you must also never forget the paella (Valencian rice dish), which many would regard as Spain’s national dish.

There are numerous seafood restaurants throughout the city that you can check out. During the summer, it’s commonplace for people to dine al fresco and that was exactly what we did. On the day of arrival, we had lunch and dinner at The Terrace that was located by the hotel’s pool and garden. The food was so mouth-watering that even the sweltering summer heat didn’t hinder us from enjoying every bit of our meal.

The Terrace

The highlight of our food adventure was the dinner on the second day, which was part of hubby’s workshop agenda. It was held at the Plaça d’Europa (Europe Square) within the extremely vast Anella Olímpica de Montjuic (Montjuic Olympic Park) and the entrance of which was through the 136-metre Torre de Comunicacions de Montjuïc (Montjuïc Communications Tower) resembling an athlete lifting the Olympic torch.

Europe Square

Besides its huge assortment of food and drinks, the most fascinating thing about the dinner was the sprawling arrangement of tables and seats in the open air. It was so conducive that everyone was just mingling around and having a great time. Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us!




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