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Barcelona Walks Recommended by Rick Steves

Hi All!

My husband and I are traveling to Barcelona for 3 days in early March. I've read through Rick Steve's Barcelona guide book and would like to do the 4 walks he recommends:

Barri Gotic
Ramblas Ramble
Eixample
El Born

Does anyone know whether we can squeeze multiple walks into each day or will we not have enough time to do all 4? I'm just trying to get a better sense of how long the walks will realistically take. We're also planning to visit Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, and Font Magica.

Thanks in advance for your advice!!!

Posted by
2967 posts

I don't know how RS plans for these walks, but as Barcelonian I can tell you a bit about visiting these areas:

Firstly to mention that La Rambla is just that, a ramble, it's about 2km long and you can stroll it in say an hour -stopping here and there, visiting for example La Boqueria Market, etc. La Rambla is in fact the border between Barri Gòtic and El Raval -the old "out-of-walls" part of the Old Town. Thus, we locals never would separate La Rambla as a walk per se, but make it part of any visit to the Old City.

If you like strolling, Barcelona is definitively your kind of city, and if you're staying only for a short period I'd probably spend most of it exploring and wandering about instead of visiting too many specific landmarks. You should indeed visit Barri Gòtic but there are other interesting areas to discover (i.e L'Eixample, Gràcia...). I've prepared a rough map with different proposals for anyone willing to walk their own foot so you can see the most relevant nooks and crannies of the central districts: http://bit.ly/BCN-DIYroutes and have this to get your bearings http://bit.ly/BCNhoods

These routes will take you through the streets you need to go in order to see most of the 'stuff' you shouldn't miss. Obviously it's just a map, not a travel guide, therefore it's recommended to take along a proper guide (ie. Rick Steve's) in order to be able to read about the sites/attractions you're going to be passing in my recommended walks.

EIXAMPLE
Most of the Eixample district is within the BLUE area (not all though!). The proposal for getting to know l'Eixample starts and finishes both at Plaça Catalunya and it's a good 13km (8 miles) -which you might shorten if you like-, however it's recommended to zigzag inside this area as it contains scattered here and there literally dozens of facades of modernist buildings and shops worth admiring: (see here a sample: http://bit.ly/eixamplebuildings ). L'Eixample ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eixample ) was developed during the last part of the 19th century and the bourgeoisies of the city quickly moved their residences to that district, hiring the star architects of the era to rival in ever more lavish buildings with ornamented facades and balconies. One of them, Enric Sagnier, is responsible for nearly 500 modernist buildings across the city.

Posted by
2967 posts

GRÀCIA
The yellow route covers what I would consider one has to see in the neighbourhood of Gràcia (http://infocatalonia.eu/w/9OM8W). Note that Gràcia was established in 1626 when a convent was built there: Nostra Senyora de Gràcia (Our Lady of Grace). Gràcia was an independent municipality until it was annexed to Barcelona in 1897 along with other villages in the plain of Barcelona. The expansion of the Eixample district in the 19th century eventually led to the northward expansion of Barcelona, connecting Gràcia to the growing metropolis. Be warned that Gràcia is not monumental, nor has major landmarks (with a couple of exceptions: ie. Casa Vicens http://infocatalonia.eu/w/HKwcQ), nor wide streets or parks or anything that one would consider distinct. Don't expect a wow factor. Its uniqueness is based in the ambience of 'small town' within a city, the sense that's a patch of the city where life goes at a slower pace, where one could even say that's a glimpse on how Barcelona was 100 years ago. Gràcia must be visited in the afternoon, 6ish onwards, to appreciate this, if I may, simpler life so characteristic of smaller towns. For me, aside the main tree-lined squares, the epitome of what Gràcia is all about are Carrer Astúries, off Fontana Metro station (green line L3) and Carrer Verdi. Both are fairly short pedestrianised streets, like all streets in Gràcia (short that is!) with small shops, cafes, grocery stores and lots of people going about their business, strolling, meeting friends... but even the lively strip of bars on Carrer Verdi give little clue to the week-long revelry that attracts an estimated 1.5 million party-goers in August every year (http://infocatalonia.eu/w/FZHgQ)

Posted by
2967 posts

OLD TOWN
The red and orange routes cover the district of Ciutat Vella (Old City) which comprises the neighbourhoods of Barri Gòtic, El Raval, Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i La Ribera and La Barceloneta (http://bit.ly/BCNdistricts)

The RED route departs from the Columbus Statue and takes you through the Maremagnum Port Complex, the Barceloneta -the late 1700s neighbourhood created at the beachfront as a results of the citizens of La Ribera being displaced due the construction of La Ciutadella military citadel after the city fell to the Spanish king Philip V in 1714 (fortunately these days most of this citadel does no longer exist). Then a bit of the beach front and then towards the area of El Born in La Ribera neighbourhood, then Sant Pere i Santa Caterina and the Barri Gòtic neighbourhoods. Over 2000 years of history are packed within these three neighbourhoods and gather the most important buildings in the history of Catalonia some of which still are, from the remains of the Roman Temple of August to the medieval Palau Major where the Catalan kings have resided for centuries or the Palau de la Generalitat -roughly our equivalent to 10 Downing St or 1600 Penn Ave in DC- where the office of the president of Catalonia is located. The overall distance is 10.5km (6.5 miles) but this route is an extended one as is by far the most dense given the sheer number of things to see and to do, and all these alongside numerous shops, bars and other worthwhile visiting establishments, so plan for a good 6-8 hours at a relaxed path. Note this is a very dense area so don't be fool when planning your timings by the relatively short distances when looking at your map. This route includes, among many other: La Catedral de Santa Eulàlia, Santa Maria del Mar, La Ciutadella, Plaça Reial, Plaça Sant Felip Neri, Plaça Sant Jaume, Temple d'August, Plaça del Rei, La Rambla, Palau de la Música Catalana, Columbus statue, El Born, the beaches at La Barceloneta, Museu Marès, la Muralla Romana, etc...

The ORANGE route includes the neighbourhood of El Raval, once extra murs ('outside the walls' of the Old City), as well as a bit of Sant Antoni which technically is located in the lower corner of the Eixample district. El Raval had traditionally been the poorest area of the Ciutat Vella since the Middle Ages, where the outcasts and those not accepted by society (or wealthy enough to live in the city) used to live. This was, as I said, outside the walls of the city and when the city suffered attacks these lands were not under the protection of the city defenses. Oddly enough, this piece of land was an important one, as it was the 'garden of the city' and provided most of the fresh vegetables and fruits consumed by the citizens of Barcelona. One of the oldest hospitals in Europe was located here, the original Hospital de la Santa Creu, founded in 1401 by King Martí l'Humà and belonging to the Knights Templar Order. Today it hosts the Biblioteca (Library) de Catalunya as well as the prestigious Elisava School of Design. Both the interior patio of this complex of buildings and the library are while worth visiting. Today, El Raval is the most multicultural area of the city and for the past two decades has suffered a radical transformation that's slowly modernising the area. The lower part of El Raval, around Plaça Salvador Seguí, is where the Red Light District of the city is located. This route is 6km (3.7 miles) and contains several interesting landmarks such as the above mentioned Hospital de la Santa Creu, the ancient church of Sant Pau del Camp, Palau Güell, the Drassanes (royal shipyards), Palau de la Virreina, church of La Mercè, Sant Antoni market and La Boqueria market among other.

Posted by
552 posts

Well that's very thorough! You should be able to fit that into your schedule, Kelly.

Most of Rick's walks are 40-60 min. We've done three in one day in Rome, two in London. Barcelona is really a bit smaller than those sprawling cities. It's all about building up your 'vacation legs' (not to mention other parts that can get chafed when you're on your feet all day... o_O ).

I would budget at least a half hour on either side of these walks for getting to the start point and making it to the next destination. Plus any time you'd spend in museums or Gaudi buildings. I would want 2+ hours to enjoy all sides of Sagrada Familia, same for Parc Guell (plus some picnic time?). The Font is an evening adventure, right? Maybe choose a restaurant in the area, take the cable car to 'The Mont' and make it your sightseeing for the middle night?

Posted by
12172 posts

I liked the Bari Gothic walk given by the TI from their Placa Sant Jaume office. Rather than multiple walks, I thought it was good to start the day with a walk then spend the rest of the day seeing sights in that neighborhood.