The Sagrada Família is the most visited monument in Spain, the largest unfinished Roman Catholic church on Earth, and the crowning glory of architectural visionary Antoni Gaudí. Do you need any more reasons to visit? In the 136 years (and counting) in which the Basilica has been under construction, an extraordinary level of detail has gone into the mammoth design, so much in fact that a guided tour is mandatory to fully appreciate it. Family-friendly, entertaining and insightful, Enchanting Barcelona’s tour is the ultimate way to experience Spain’s longest-running building project, without overloading you with unnecessary info.
Despite the decades of planning and over a century of work, somehow Gaudí forgot to factor in the perfect angle to photograph the church. Fortunately, the architect behind the Sagrada Tour, Nancy, has found the best elevated view for the perfect family selfie. This little known spot is unfrequented by even locals, even has a bar/cafe, so you can escape the crowds for a refreshing beverage and a spectacular view - heavenly!
A downside of the Sagrada Família’s popularity is the eternal presence of hordes of fellow sightseers, but Nancy has solved this problem too. Once within the site’s boundaries, your tour will be conducted via audio guide, allowing you to wander through the building’s many marvels at your own leisure and pace. The information you will receive covers only the most fascinating insights about the church and its history, leaving you feeling knowledgeable, but not overwhelmed, unlike many other tours. Learn how Gaudí’s twin dedications to nature and God influenced his work and helped create the iconic basilica we see today.
Once you’ve been brought up to speed with the most important aspects of the immense monument, and been given a chance to wander through it’s interior ‘forest’ of columns, rejoin your tour guide for the next stage. Now is your chance to ascend one of the Basilica’s lofty towers, and see just how high Gaudí’s dreams soared, as you witness the incredible intricacies and work behind the spires and mosaic-decorated roof. A full appreciation of the enormous scale of the project, and the artistic talent that has gone into every inch of the building, is impossible to comprehend without seeing this side of the Basilica. What’s more, a breathtaking view of the entire city is waiting to reward those who scale the tower, a sight usually reserved for birds and the Sagrada Família’s construction crew themselves.
Finally, with your feet firmly back on the ground, Nancy will offer to show you one last treasure housed in this religious masterpiece. This is the old schoolhouse that the philanthropic Gaudí insisted be built to educate the worker’s children. For many visitors, the unassuming building might be passed by unnoticed, but Enchanting Barcelona ensures that you see everything worth visiting within the nonpareil Sagrada Família site.
Enchanting Barcelona’s Gourmet Tour will captivate you and your family as you explore the very heart of Barcelona’s old town. Our guide, Nancy, introduced us to giants and dragons as you sample some of Catalonia’s best-loved produce; olive oil, chocolate and of course, wine.
Where else to begin your journey than on La Rambla? Whilst every tourist quickly becomes acquainted with this vibrant street during their stay in Barcelona, most never learn much about it. Fortunately for Gourmet Tour’s attendants, Nancy is well-placed to set the record straight on this, and teach you about the development of Barcelona from Roman settlement to modern city. Learn the fascinating history of Classical Barcino and gain an understanding of the city’s long and turbulent past, as you pass by some of its many monuments.
The narrow, winding streets of the Gothic quarter are a reminder of Barcelona’s Medieval days, and it is among their labyrinthine paths that you will find your first stop. Since Spain is the world’s largest exporter of olive oil, it is only fitting that you visit a cozy shop specializing in high-end extra virgin olive oil products. Try a selection of this Mediterranean favorite as you learn about both the production process and the many uses of this healthy condiment.
As a tourist, it’s easy to pass-by oblivious to Barcelona’s interesting and remarkable features, unless you know what to look out for. This is one of the great advantages of the strolling in between stops with a guide that can wow you with her impressive knowledge of the city’s architecture, traditions and urban myths. Discover how for centuries, illiterate visitors navigated the city (predominantly in search of brothels) using signs and signals to guide them. She will also reveal to you the gigantes de la ciudad - the giant figures that delight children street festivals throughout the year.
What’s more, if olive oil is Spain’s biggest export, then wine has to be its most well-known, and you will be given the chance to try three of the best at the next stop. As you sniff, swirl and savor the exquisite vintages, Nancy will explain the intricate wine-making process in detail, making your appreciation for the beverage all the greater. To accompany, a selection of cheeses are provided to accentuate the subtle flavors of the locally sourced wine.
Finally, finish your expedition with a sweet treat: chocolate tasting. Observe the chocolatier at work whilst you nibble on his exquisite cocoa produce, and peruse the many varieties of chocolate on offer. Unorthodox combinations such as spicy pepper or saffron may be found here alongside unbelievably smooth dark 70% cocoa bars. There’s undoubtedly something for everyone though, as the shop offers a plethora of different candies to rival Willy Wonka himself.
El Raval is the colorful, slightly sketchy, yet endlessly fascinating younger brother of the better known Gothic Quarter. It consists of a densely populated and multicultural swathe of the city, overflowing with distinctive cafes, restaurants, museums and boutiques. For a trip to an authentic and multifaceted barrio that, unlike the rest of Ciutat Vella (Old Town), has not yet been overrun by tourists, cross La Rambla and delve into the Raval.
To understand El Raval, one must first become acquainted with its history. Waves of immigration in the late 19th Century brought thousands of laborers to Barcelona, many of whom ended up living in overcrowded tenements in El Raval close to the factories. The part of the Raval near the port, quickly became known as the city’s red light district, catering for the many sailors who docked in the port. Since the 1980s however, major rejuvenation projects have transformed the neighborhood, making it significantly more user friendly by creating light squares, cultural hubs and perhaps most famously, the Rambla del Raval.
That’s right, La Rambla isn’t the only leafy boulevard of cafes and restaurants in Barcelona. In the Rambla del Raval some of the best cocktail bars and al fresco seating in the city can be found beneath its palm trees, along with the famous larger than life Botero cat sculpture - possibly the only feline in the otherwise dog-crazy Barcelona. This picturesque plaza is just one of the many hidden gems awaiting the intrepid explorer. Along its winding streets and busy squares you can find treasures such as the MACBA - the city’s main collection of modern art, and the magnificent Palau Güell (because Gaudí also loved El Raval!).
The district is also the ideal central place to stay when you visit Barcelona. Modern hotels such as the Hotel 1898, Le Meridien or the elegant Hotel Espanya loom over the surrounding buildings and offer stunning views from their rooftop pools, BUT you don’t have to be a hotel guest to enjoy these terraces. What’s more, the barrio also boasts not one, but two markets - including the world famous La Boqueria Market and the soon to be re-opened Mercat de Sant Antoni. Both sites are the perfect place to cool off with a freshly squeezed juice, or find tender jamón ibérico and delicious cheeses.
Whilst any trip to Barcelona is incomplete without visiting El Raval, any review of the neighborhood is similarly unfinished without a word of warning. Despite decades of revival, the area is nevertheless still has pockets of unsavory characters such as pickpockets and prostitutes, many of whom operate in daylight. Avoiding narrow, poorly lit alleyways and keeping a close eye on your possessions at all times will keep you and your family safe in the Raval. On the other hand, this advice is no different from recommendation for any large city and as long as you use your better judgement you have enjoyable time!
Sara Siddeeq: Born and raised in Buckinghamshire (England), Sara is a recent graduate from the University of Leeds. She primarily works in digital marketing and PR, however she is also a journalist in Barcelona, contributing to over half a dozen websites in the city alone.