We departed from Toronto on an overnight flight with Air Canada toward Barcelona, where we would start our trip in Spain. Over the past few years, I’ve become increasingly intolerant of discomfort while travelling, so we opted to splurge on an upgrade to Premium Economy. Although we probably could’ve tolerated our economy seats, it was nice to have the extra legroom and amenities to allow for at least a couple hours of decent sleep. I still woke up feeling nauseous from turbulence toward the end, so was relieved when the nine hour flight was finally over.
Arriving in the Gothic Quarter
We arrived in mid-morning and caught a quick taxi ride from the airport to Hotel 1898, located on La Rambla. This busy boulevard in central Barcelona is a tree-lined pedestrian street filled with souvenir kiosks and lots of tourists (along with pickpockets).
The hotel was conveniently situated in the Gothic Quarter, the historic centre of the old city of Barcelona. This area encompasses the oldest parts of the city, including remains of the Roman wall and other notable medieval landmarks. We found it to be a great place to stay for a short first time trip to Barcelona, easily walkable to the metro and many other major landmarks.
The hotel itself was pretty nice, with a cool spa pool that we relaxed in several times throughout our stay. They even left me a surprise birthday cake in the room when we came back from our day out!
Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived so we popped over next door to Bar Lobo where we had our first tapas in Spain, including my favourite, the classic patatas bravas.
Exploring Casa Batllo
After checking in for a rest break in our room, we set off for Casa Batllo. This home located on Passeig de Gracia in the Eixample district was originally constructed in 1877. It was later purchased by aristocrat Joseph Batllo, who in 1904 commissioned Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi to redesign it.
The building is one of Gaudi’s most iconic works in Barcelona, featuring a “skulls and bones” design on the facade, where the skulls are the balconies and bones are the supporting pillars.
We spent about an hour touring around the building. Our tickets included an audio guide, but to be honest I found it somewhat boring so didn’t bother following along with it. It was still interesting to see the place with its unique design of colours and shapes that were apparently inspired by marine life.
The tour ended in the basement, where we were surprised to experience the “Gaudi Cube”, a 6-sided LED cube immersive space designed by artist Refik Anadol. I can’t seem to upload a good video of it so you’ll just have to take my word that it was the coolest thing to see at Casa Batllo!
A visit to Sagrada Familia
This was actually my second trip to Barcelona so I’ve seen Sagrada Familia once before, but we had to make a repeat visit for Mr. Chuckles’ first time in Spain. After our stop at Casa Batllo, we walked over to this famous unfinished Catholic church designed by Antoni Gaudi.
Construction on the church began in 1882 under architect Francisco de Paula del Villa. When Villa resigned, Gaudi took over as chief architect and transformed the project with his combination of Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. He devoted the remainder of his life to the project, and is in fact buried in the church crypt. At the time of his death in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete and it still remains under construction.
Since I last visited in 2016, I don’t think much has changed. I recall seeing different views from the top but I probably went up a different tower last time.
Feeling exhausted from jet lag, we retired to our hotel for the rest of the day and ended up ordering room service for dinner.
Next up, our first full day exploring more of Barcelona.
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