When you travel as much as I do, things are bound to go wrong. Lost luggage, food poisoning, and rental car damage are just a few speed bumps I’ve encountered around the world. Cancelled flights and missed connections are standard for everyone these days. But what happens when your final destination is, in the words of one airline representative, “not very popular”? That’s the question I found myself answering recently when I missed my onward flight from Barcelona to Riga. My airline didn’t have another departure scheduled for three days! Tempting…
After purchasing airport wifi access (is it too much to ask airports to provide this free of charge?), I managed to track down a new ticket with a different airline leaving the next evening. Then I found a great deal on a hotel for the night and hopped the next shuttle bus heading for the city center. I had less than 24 hours in Barcelona and I planned to make the most of them!
Checking into the hotel around 22:00, I dropped my bags and dashed out to photograph the fetching holiday lights I’d admired from the bus window. Brightly lit fountains danced in Placa de Catalunya and groups of people ambled along the riotously colorful streets. The December night air was warm and inviting.
Hungry, I popped into a crowded open-air bar for a few pintxos and a beer. On the stool to my left was a happily singing Spaniard and to my right an amorous young couple who laughed each time I snapped a shot of my plate. I wasn’t bothered: I had cheese croquettes to consume! Four plates in, the staff began furiously cleaning up the bar and I thought it was closing time. This was around 23:30. Silly me, it’s Barcelona; they were just getting ready for the late night rush!
Back at the hotel, I formulated my plan for the next morning. What to do with just one day in Barcelona? I knew I couldn’t see everything so I didn’t even try. Better to give one attraction its due than run myself ragged trying to conquer the city. To save precious time, I booked an online ticket for Sagrada Familia, the UNESCO-listed masterpiece of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, and planned my day around that.
After a good night’s sleep it was time for breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day, dear readers! Luckily, one of Barcelona’s top breakfast spots, Brunch & Cake, was within walking distance from my hotel. I went with the highly recommended waffle with smoked salmon, a delightfully savory and sweet combination. Brunch & Cake’s dishes are so elaborately presented that nearly every customer had their phone out to snap a pic before digging in. And even on a Monday morning in December, there was a line of people waiting for a table.
Sufficiently fueled up, I went on a brisk self-guided walking tour of the Eixample neighborhood which is chock-a-bloc with gorgeous architecture. Designed in the late 19th century, Eixample’s elegant buildings front leafy boulevards laid out in an easy-to-navigate grid. While I normally relish getting lost in the mazes of Europe’s old towns, today time was of the essence.
Two of Eixample’s most famous landmarks are Casa Batllo and Casa Mila, fantastical apartment buildings designed by creative genius Gaudi. My favorite of the two is Casa Batllo, with the distinctive facade resembling the exoskeleton of a dragon. Next time I’m in the city, I definitely want to see the inside!
The star of the neighborhood is of course the Sagrada Familia. Gaudi began work on the church in 1883 and continued until his death 43 years later. Construction has continued to this day, with a hiatus during the Spanish Civil War, and isn’t projected to be complete until 2026. While the church’s exterior looks to me like a melting sandcastle, the interior is magnificent to behold. Soaring vaulted ceilings dotted with jewel-like crests are propped up with dozens of thin columns. But it’s the light inside Sagrada Familia that is truly extraordinary. Gaudi factored the sun’s rise and fall into his design so that the light, which pours in through brightly colored stained glass windows, is constantly changing like a kaleidoscope.
Words can’t describe the effect, which was magical enough to almost drown out the thousands of other tourists there with me that day. Thanks, TAP Portugal, for giving me the chance to see it!
How would YOU spend one day in Barcelona?