Featured photo for Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

It’s an age-old question I didn’t really want to answer, lest I color my parents’ own mind before they could decide their own preference.

“Which city do you like better, Barcelona or Madrid?”

It’s kind of like apple cider versus red wine, strawberry versus mint-and-chip ice cream, or lacrosse versus cycling. Sure, they are both part of the same genre, but otherwise very different nonetheless. In the case of Barcelona versus Madrid, it is a case of new versus old, trendy versus classical, ocean versus inland, Gaudí versus Prado… you get the idea.

The last time I visited Spain, I spent over a week in Barcelona—so I already knew the city quite well. Thus, this time with my parents, I was able to give us a running start on where to go and how to get there.

The list actually could be easily summarized by the Top Things to Do in Barcelona on Trip Advisor. These included:

  • La Sagrada Familia.
  • Parc Güell. Sadly, Parc Güell now has an admission fee as of a year ago for its most iconic parts, due to the overwhelming number of visitors there now.
  • Casa Balló.
  • Plaza de Catalunya.
  • Arc de Triomph.
  • Parc de la Ciutadella, including the Castell de Tres Dragons.
  • Palau Güell.
  • Barceloneta.
  • The Gothic Quarter.
  • La Rambla.
  • Montjuic.
  • The Olympic Stadium.

Strava maps of some of our walks can be seen here:


and here:


(The straight lines on the maps indicate when we took the excellent metro system.)

It was particularly interesting to visit the Arc de Triomph because there was a mass protest in support of the referendum on independence for Catalunya to be voted on during a special (and according to the Spanish government, illegal) October 1 election. I did not keep a close tab on the situation, but during my Camino de Santiago, I asked a Spanish native about what he thought about it. Below were his thoughts:

Politicians here are corrupt, there’s a growing gap between the rich and the poor, Catalunya is the wealthiest province in Spain, it has its own cultural identity and language much like Basque country, people in Catalunya want more representation, their parents were the ones who voted for reforms in 1978 but this is a new generation of people, those parents lived during the years of Franco, he himself lives in the province of Galicia but has cousins who live in Barcelona, there will be no revolution, the only solution is to negotiate, what would the US do if Texas voted to secede, blah blah, yada yada

In addition to visiting the above places, I also met with my friends Eli, who lived in Fort Collins for two years before returning to her hometown of Barcelona; Michael Wacker, my chief “rival” in the 2015 Trans Am Bike Race who also stopped by my place last year; and Michael’s girlfriend Marcella.

In fact, I got to visit with Eli and Michael independently twice, as I returned to Barcelona solo after the Camino. I did so to replenish my body with nutrients after the 607-mile trek, get a haircut at what turned out to be a very nice (i.e., super posh) salon, and meet with my friends.

I also came back to Barcelona because it is, quite simply, one of my two favorite big cities in the world. (The other is Paris.) I bet you can now guess what would be my answer to the Barcelona versus Madrid question.

Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia continues to be under construction in Barcelona, Spain.
"Honor" and "poder" at La Sagrada Familia.
Detail of the sculptures on the southern side of La Sagrada Familia.
The rooftops of La Sagrada Familia.
A woman looking at her smartphone underneat the Catalunya flag and "Sí" banner (for the upcoming referendum for independence) in Barcelona, Spain.
Torre Agbar as seen through trees from Park Güell in Barcelona, Spain, with the Balearic Sea in the backdrop.
Characteristic Gaudi architecture in Park Güell in Barcelona, Spain.
As of a year ago, you need to buy tickets to enter this part of Park Güell.
A woman with a man on a motorbike underneat the Park Güell sign.
Felix Wong, Michael Wacker and Marcella at Catalonian Restaurant Terra d'Escudella.
The exterior of Casa Batlló, designed by Antonio Gaudí, in Barcelona.
The mushroom-shaped nook in Casa Batlló.
Ceiling detail in Casa Balló.
Hallway in Casa Balló, with white archways.
Rooftop detail of Casa Batlló.
Demonstrators at the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona weeks before the referendum on independence.
A commuter biking past the row of red and white Bicing city share bicycles.
A teal and white trailer in front of a fountain and the Castell de Tres Dragons at the Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona, Spain.
A kid trying to catch a huge bubble in front of the Cascada Monumental at the Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona, Spain.
Folks playing beach volleyball, and a man doing pushups, at la Platja de la Nova Icària in Barceloneta.
Felix Wong with a blue-colored character (near the Catedral de Barcelona).
Palau Güell in Barcelona.
Font Màgica de Montjuic in Barcelona, Spain.
Statue of a Roman soldier overlooking Barcelona from Montjuic.
I got to visit my friend Eli in Barcelona a couple times.
Felix Wong doing pull-ups wearing a backpack in front of the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona, Spain.
Steps at the park across the street from the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona.
Casa Milà in Barcelona was the last private residence designed by architect Antoni Gaudí.
Felix Wong and Michael Wacker after having lunch in Barcelona.
Lots of birds at Plaça de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain.