At the Gran Hotel La Florida, I stood on the balcony of my room and looked out onto a playground of adventure. I was, after all, high above the city atop Mount Tibidabo. The tallest mountain in the Serra de Collserola, Tibidabo is occupied by the Sagrat Cor church and Tibidabo Amusement Park. Construction of the church began in 1902, but wasn’t completed until 1961. From my vista, the modernist city of Barcelona glimmers with the sheen of a new toy inside its plastic box.
At the top of my list of things to do is to visit as many of the Gaudi attractions as I can. Antoni Gaudí was a 19th century architect who created worldwide acclaim for himself and for the city of Barcelona with his stunning creations, my favorite being La Sagrada Familia. During the architect’s remaining years, he dedicated himself exclusively to prayer, fasting, and to the construction of La Sagrada Família. From the outside, the church looks like a greater-than-life sandcastle. Inside, however, is akin to being inside a magical snow globe, variations of light pouring in through water-colored glass.
Striding through the expansive city, Gaudi’s works are impossible to miss—trapping you mid-step as if the pavement were sticking to your shoes. Park Guell, Casa Batlló, Torre Bellesguard and Casa Vicens are the fantasyland dreams we’ve wanted to step inside of, and now, thanks to Gaudi, we can.
There is so much energy and passion felt in the streets, I almost forgot to pay attention to my stomach. If I did, I would have missed out on some of the freshest meals I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste. Avocado toast may have started in the trendy eateries of New York City, but no city does brunch like Barcelona. Makamaka Beach Burger Café is a true gem just off the boardwalk of Platja de la Barceloneta. Filled with young urbanites, Makamaka fills its seats by offering delicious sandwiches and tantalizing truffle and parmesan fries.
For dinner, don’t miss dining at Da Greco. In fact, you should make a reservation right now. Occupying two floors in a discreet building at the center of Paseo de Gracia, Da Greco serves up authentic Italian eats, with the best part being that a sample plate accompanies each dish so everyone at your table can taste each other’s meals. My top contenders included the risotto and white truffle tortellini. The interior of the restaurant is also reason enough for a visit, with baroque paintings and sculptures adorning the walls and spaces. Only one table was left empty, and that’s because it is a private dining table designated solely for FC Barcelona—the official soccer team.
To close out my wonderful holiday, I traveled back in time. Just 40 minutes from Barcelona by train is Tarragona, an ancient Roman colony in northeastern Spain’s Catalonia region. The city still contains many of the ruins in tact, which make for the feeling that someone may pass by you on a chariot at any moment. A short walk away from the train station, you are greeted with a massive amphitheater. Facing the Mediterranean Sea, the view is nothing short of breathtaking.
The rest of the city is equally exquisite, namely the Paseo Arqueológico (Archaeological Walk). The entrance gate dates from around the fifth century BC and the walk begins with cypress trees that welcome you to continue along the beautiful garden path. The ancient Roman wall, mostly in tact, was built in the third to second century BC with cyclopean stonework. I was walking across two thousand years of history—a cyclopean thought, I mused.
Catapulted back to the present, my thoughts fell in sync with the speed of the train and the rattling of the wheels on the track. I plotted the trips in my future and wondered how far into the past they will take me.