I have been to Barcelona several times since I started cruising. It’s not one of my favourite places, but there is so much to see and do there, and there are many great shore excursions offered that take you out of the hustle and bustle of the big city– that’s why Barcelona is my blog highlight today.
If you are visiting for the first time then you have to go to Las Ramblas, the tree-lined pedestrian shopping street that runs straight for 1.2 kilometres, connecting Plaça de Catalunya in the centre with the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell. Las Ramblas is always busy and full of atmosphere – you can shop, eat, drink, sit down and watch the world go by and even have your photograph taken with a cheeky street performer, or two. Just off Las Ramblas you will also find the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, and you MUST visit. This market is legendary and one of the best in Europe. The fresh fruits and vegetables on offer are arranged beautifully and are the first stalls you will come across as you enter. There is also a fresh fish section which is incredible and several vendors selling cured meats and cheeses. You could easily pass the day away walking along Las Ramblas.
Of course, Barcelona is famous for its Gaudi architecture and it is truly incredible! You can easily fit this, as well as Las Ramblas, into a day visit, but if you specifically came here to see the likes of the Sagrada Familia then see it you should. You can often book Gaudi specific tours, so check with your cruise line, and more often than not they will also include visits to Casa Vicens, La Pedrera, Parc Guell, Palau Guell, Casa Batllo and Casa Calvet. Many of these places are also included on the hop on, hop off bus tours, which is my next thing to mention.
I did the hop on, hop off bus tour 2 years ago simply because I wanted to something different in the city. Previously, I hadn’t been a massive fan of Barcelona, but this tour allowed me to see the city in a much different light and I would definitely recommend it. The pick-up point nearest the port is at the World Trade Center, all of the hop on, hop off buses have a pick up point here, so you can’t miss it. I opted for the red line tour with City Sightseeing, but they are all relatively similar. We passed many of the Gaudi buildings I mentioned above, Camp Nou, Estadi Olimpic, the Gothic Quarter, Ciutadella Zoo, the Poble Espanyol Museum and more.
On my last visit I went with something completely different and took an organised excursion to Montserrat – what a fantastic experience, the views were incredible! Montserrat is well known as the site of the Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, which hosts the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary and which is identified by some with the location of the Holy Grail in Arthurian myth. I didn’t get a chance to see Our Lady of Montserrat as the queue was huge, but the place is on my list to do again. I really would recommend a tour here if you have been to Barcelona before. Even the journey there was wonderful, part of which is done by train. It’s quite far from the port, so I wouldn’t recommend you try and go on your own.
I will be back in Barcelona in just a few weeks and my next stop is going to be the Barcelona Zoo. I must say, for a destination that I’m not besotted by, I have seen quite a lot of it!
A friendly note, too, Barcelona is a big city with thousands of people visiting every day, and like any big city there are pick-pockets in operation. Keep your bag closed and in front of you – Gents, don’t put your wallet in the back pocket on your trousers.
Enjoy exploring Barcelona via cruise ship!
Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credits: FèlixGP, Moyan Brenn, Rick Ligthelm, Ronny Siegel.