Whether they're small weekend trips, or week-long holidays, here's a blog to help you do more than two vacations!

Spain

Gaudi and His Modernista Friends

Barcelona on top of Gaudi's La Pedrera. You can see La Sagrada Familia and Torre Agbar from here.

After having exhausted your day in Montjuic lapping up Barcelona’s city vistas, there is another standout venue on the ArticketBCN list; and who else to pay homage to, but Barcelona’s favourite son, Antonio Gaudi. His work La Pedrera (The Mines) sits in the heart of the Barcelona’s city extension, L’Eixample. And by heart, we mean that it will have views of the port, the mountains, and La Sagrada Familia on a clear day.

Barcelona on top of Gaudi's La Pedrera. You can see La Sagrada Familia and Torre Agbar from here.

The facade is a single sweeping one of stone, a feat in itself as the self-supporting wrought iron structure curves along the corner. Inside, take some time out appreciate the arches that form the spine of the building. It’s like being in a whale, I guess. On top, take a look at the chimneys; not sure if they were supposed to be like monsters, but they do look funny.  Or scary.

Fairy chimneys abound

The Museu Picasso is on this list, but be warned: Picasso’s blockbuster hits are not here, only token works from his Blue Period (his masterpiece Guernica, sits in Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid).  However, take a look around, and I’m sure you’ll find several works that will catch your eye made during Picasso’s early years.

MACBA and CCCB are right beside each other and both house an excellent collection of modern pieces from sculptures to film. I never really understood modern art (Centre Pompidou is the best in the world, yet its content is still lost on me), so I ended up enjoying the kids skateboard around the concrete playground on its entrance.

Inside Museu PicassoMACBA

Fundacio Antoni Tapies is a modest two-storey building, famous not just for the doodles of the artist that bears its name, but also a library that’s closed to the general public (how useful). There are several dancers on the lower ground floor, and they’ll talk to the visitors in between performances (when they’re not crawling on the floor or running around).

One museum not on the ArticketBCN roster that’s worth buying: an entrance to the Palau de la Musica Catala. All tour are guided, so you’ll always get the insider information on why, how and when the building was constructed. It was under the direction of Luis Domenech y Montaner (our guide quickly snapped: Gaudi alone did not build Barcelona) to honour the city’s much loved choir.

My favourite part was on how Art Nouveau came to Barcelona via Modernisme – the Industrial Revolution brought about the grime, pollution, and destroyed much of the city’s natural beauty (generally same everywhere). And how did art respond to this? They decorated everything to the nines – ornamentation, ornamentation, and more ornamentation. Ceramic tiles, blown glass, mosaics of flowers,  bursts of colours – all of which are a tribute to nature that was quickly withering on all corners of the city.

As a result, Palau de la Musica Catalana, stands abloom away from the city’s main avenues, regaling in all its Modernista finery. Its majestic stained glass skylight, adorned ticket boxes, and multitudes of sculptures inside and outside the premises all helped in gaining its UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1997.

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Barcelona Art Attack

Stunning views of Barcelona

Two years ago, I had promised myself to put up a bank account which I would Pondo de Barcelona, a way of forcing savings so I can visit the beautiful city sitting by the Catalonian side of the Mediterranean Sea. I never made it to the bank to put up that account, but several months ago, I was at the Philippine Travel Fair, saying “screw that, I’m going to Barcelona” (I used stronger cuss words not fit for print). So here starts a series of blog entries this year’svacation in Spain (First of my two vacations this year, the second one has yet to happen).

Barcelona has undeniable beauty that is everywhere – it’s on the very popular Gaudi landmarks that dot the city, on the lavish apartments of the L’Eixample, on the old yet celebrated crannies of the Gothic Quarter, and even on the gentrified alleyways of Raval. I will expound on how to get the most out of your stay in Barcelona in another post, but for this one, let’s keep it to where traditional beauty is housed – walking Barcelona’s museum trail.

There are plenty of museums along the city, but to stretch your euro as much as possible, consider buying the ArticketBCN – a pass for 7 museums valid for three months. The pass costs 30 EUR, but when you consider that entry to single museum cost 12 to 14 EUR a pop, it’s worth it if you on visiting at least three museums. Added bonus: queues are horrendously long at Museu Picasso and Gaudi’s La Pedrera; having an ArticketBCN leads you to the front of the lines and save you up to an hour of queueing per museum.

Spend a day indoors if it's raining

Let’s start with my favourite museum in Barcelona: Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. (read between the lines, it’s called National). Perched along the sides of Montjuic, overlooking Barcelona’s well-planned city residences, and surrounded by leafy avenues and the city’s Olympic Park, MNAC, is the crowning glory of all art labelled Catalonian. I almost skipped the most important part of the museum – its collection of Catalonian art taken from the cave walls and Romanesque churches around the region. They brought walls and caves to the museum!

Stunning views of Barcelona

But the real beauty of the MNAC lies on the building that houses all that art; built from a Renaissance style, the museum used to be the palace of Montjuic, and has now gathered art from all over the Catalonian region to display them in impressive fashion.

MNAC

Feeling a little bit of whimsy? A 20 minute stroll around Montjuic will lead you to Fundacio Joan Miro, a home of modern art honouring the colourful works of the Catalan painter/sculptor/ceramicist. While photography is forbidden on the inside, feel free to take photos of his playful sculptures on the second floor porch, all while taking in Barcelona’s breathtaking views.

Miro time!

There are five more museums on the ArticketBCN list, and will share them (and other suggestions) on another blog entry.