Monday 24 June 2019 – Sunday 30 June 2019 Barcelona
Barcelona, the capital of Spain’s Catalonia region, is known for its art and architecture. The fantastical Sagrada Familia church and other modernist landmarks designed by Antoni Gaudi dot the city. It is located on the coast between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besos, and bounded to the west by the Serra de Collserola mountain range.
We arrived at an Aires in Colonial Guell just outside Barcelona in the small community of Santa Coloma de Cervello. The Aires was perfect for our stay as it had water and waste facilities and was within walking distance to the train station into Barcelona. And it was free! We stayed there for 6 days with the only issue being the European heatwave. However, we survived and had a wonderful stay in this beautiful city with its many attractions.
On the first morning on our way to the train station we decided to pass through this tiny cooperative which also has an information centre.
The town began construction in 1890 because it became apparent that it was more economical to build an entire estate in the countryside than to build a factory in the city. So, factory owners began to construct what was referred to as ‘worker colonies’ – large estate comprising of a factory as well as housing for the workers, schools, hospitals, markets and shops. The mastermind behind this was Eusebi Guell, a successful businessman and social innovator. He requested his friend Antoni Gaudi to help him design the Colonia Guell and a church.
For Gaudi this was an opportunity to practice some of his most innovative techniques and designs – many of which would later be used in the construction of the world famous Sagrada Familia. The church has leaning pillars and catenary arches and one nave. Guell decide to withdraw funding in 1914 with only the one nave constructed and it was consecrated a few years later.
In 2005 the Colonial Guell was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The architecture is fascinating, and you can really see the influence Gaudi had on this little village.
We then headed into Barcelona for a Free Guided Walking Tour. Today’s tour began at Placa de I’Angel. We headed off beside some of the Roman wall that remains in Barcelona. These columns are 9m high and were built in the first century BC. There is very little of the walls remaining dotted throughout the city. The highlights of the tour:
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia also known as Barcelona Cathedral was constructed from the 13th to 15th centuries. The roof is notable for its gargoyles, featuring a wide range of animals, both domestic and mythical.
The cathedral is dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona, co patron saint of Barcelona, a young virgin who according to Catholic tradition, suffered martyrdom during Roman times in the city. Daniel, the tour guide, told the story of how she was exposed naked in the public square and a miraculous snowfall in mid-spring covered her nudity. The enraged Romans put her in a barrel with knives and glass shards and rolled it down a street. When they opened the barrel, a white goose appeared, and this is why there are 13 geese kept in the Cloister today because she apparently was 13 when she was martyred.
The main door with the huge Gothic arch above contains the stone sculptures of Christ who keeps watch over the entrance and the 12 apostles occupy either side of the door. Inside there are monuments and chapels to more than 140 saints.
The Chapter Hall Museum used to be a soup kitchen for the poor. Today it’s home to the baptismal font of the original 11th century Gothic cathedral. This cathedral is free if you visit before 12 and after 5.30 and is definitely worth taking a look. It is a very beautifully decorated cathedral.
Monument to the heroes of 1809 is a monument which portrays five martyrs who were executed following an attempted uprising against the French troops during the occupation of Barcelona in 1808. The sculptures look quite real and show the people who were condemned to the garrotte, shortly before their execution at the citadel. They were accused of attempting to free Barcelona from the French forces of occupation who had made the city their stronghold during the War of Spanish Succession. The plaque bears the name of the insurgents.
El Pont del Bisbe (Bishop’s Bridge) was built in 1929 links the Palau de la Generalitat to La Casa dels Canonges (Presidential Palace). Despite it being one of the newest buildings in the area it is associated with legends relating to the gruesome skull and dagger motif which decorates the underside of the bridge. Some say that, rather than being a stone carving it is in fact a real human skull! Others say that is the dagger which transverses the skull is ever removed then the city of Barcelona will be destroyed. On a more positive note, another legend states that if you make a wish while walking backwards under the bridge and looking directly at the skull then that wish will come true. I prefer this legend.
Sant Felip Neri’s Square harbours a relatively violent history. During the Spanish Civil War (1936 -1939), the square was continuously bombed from 9am to 11.20 am on the 30 January 1938 by Franco’s ally, the fascist Italian air force. The church was being used as an air raid shelter for children from the neighbourhood and others seeking refuge from the fascist terror. The bombs levelled the church, burying the children who had sought shelter in its basement leaving twenty dead. Forty-two people in total were massacred that morning and over a hundred wounded. The square was devasted and the only thing left was the church façade, which still bears the marks of shrapnel today. They have been left here as a reminder of the suffering the city of Barcelona endured through the war. In the centre of the square is an octagonal fountain, dedicated as a symbol of life. The café beside the fountain apparently was used as a scene in the Woody Allen movie Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona.
Placa del Rei (King’s Square) where the former Royal palace is located. The steps leading up to the entrance to the beautiful old building are reputed to be the very steps that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella greeted Columbus when he arrived home from his first voyage to the New World with all the plundered treasures.
Santa Maria del Mar (The Cathedral of the Sea) was built during the 14th century on a site which was once occupied by a Roman Amphitheatre and funded by the people of the area. Many of its decorative richness, the images and the Baroque altar were destroyed in a fire set by anti-clerical rioters at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. The church survived even though it was on fire for 11 days. Only the walls, columns and a few of the stained-glass windows on the upper level were spared.
The Barcelona Football Club has their coat of arms in one of the stained-glass windows in Santa Maria del Mar. The football club made a huge donation to the church and, in turn, got a homage in the form of this stained-glass window.
The simplicity of design and almost total lack of adornment give the church an atmosphere of serenity. Our guide recommended we read the novel The Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones as it tells of the story of the construction of the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar and really brings the medieval streets of Barcelona to life.
El Fossar de les Moreres is a sombre reminder of Barcelona’s turbulent history. The site has been a burial ground since medieval times and in 1714 citizens who died defending the city during the siege of Barcelona were buried here in a mass grave. The graveyard continued to be used until the start of the 19th century when a nearby cemetery was built. In 1989 they built this plaza and paved it with red bricks to represent the blood that was shed during the year long siege. In 2001 a simple red oxide coloured steel memorial was installed topped by a torch which burns night and day in homage to the dead. There is also a large marble plaque with an inscription roughly translated – (Not one traitor buried in the Fossar de les Moreres, even when our flags are lost it will be an urn of honour).
Viceroy’s Palace was constructed in 1550 as the official residence of the Viceroy in Barcelona. Since 1853 the building has housed the Archives of the Crown of Aragon. The Palace of the Viceroy was restored in 2006. The foyer area is amassed with beautiful green areas and the architecture inside is very impressive.
Placa de Sant Jaume (now called Placa de la Constitucio) has been the city’s political centre almost since its inception in 1823. Situated on the square are City Hall and the Palau de la Generalitat, seat of the Catalan Government. The square is located at the place where the main streets of Roman Barcino converged. This was the Roman forum, the centre of the Roman city where the Temple of Augustus once stood.
In this square and around Barcelona there are the Estelada and pride flags and yellow ribbons placed or painted in public places by private citizens and also by some government offices – in support of politicians and former members of the regional government of the Spanish Autonomous community of Catalonia, who are currently in prison or exile and who are accused of various charges including rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds. The accused politicians are under indictment for their central role in organising an illegal referendum in 2017 about independence from Spain. Their case is still to be heard and is a festering sore between Catalonia and the rest of Spain.
Homenatge als Castellers is a 26.5-metre-high stainless-steel sculptured tower in Placa de Sant Miquel and is a tribute to the emblematic human towers which are a traditional feature of public events in Catalonia. It was unveiled in 2012 during the Feast of Santa Eulalia. Each of the X-shaped sections of chicken wire represents a person. The tower is made up of six layers, each of which gets progressively smaller. The unattached tubes at the top of the sculpture represent the outstretched arms of the enxaneta (small child) who tops the tower. According to our guide, this human tower holds the record of the highest ever made and is recorded in the Guinness Book of Records. He then went on to explain that bullfighting, which is the number one sport in Spain, is outlawed in Catalonia and Castellering is the number one Catalan sport and we should see one if we could.
The origins of this Catalan tradition of building human towers dates back to the 18th century. The individual groups (Colles) started competing in sporting events. The towers at that time resemble the ones of today, the basic structure of a castell, as they are called in Catalan, having barely changed. Such a tower always consists of three parts. The basis called a ‘Pinya’, a relatively large ring, onto which the weight of the load above is distributed, and which stabilizes the structure. This ring also softens the fall of the castellers, when the tower falls apart. Depending on the height of the tower, one or two additional ring-shaped floors (‘Manilles’) are put on top of the pinya. On top of this, the actual tower is built. The ‘tronc’, Catalan for trunk, consists of several levels with a specific number of people. Depending on the number and distribution up to 9 people can form a ring, each castell has a name of its own. Climbing to the top of the tower is only allowed for kids, because of their low weight. They form the ‘pom de dalt’, the tower dome.
After researching the event we found there was a Castellers performance at Placa d’Artur Martorell on the eastern side of Barcelona. So, on Sunday before we left, we caught the metro and witnessed this event in the local park. It was amazing! There were three teams of Castellers who were dressed in white pants with their respective team coloured shirt. About 15 minutes before the expected start they all donned a black piece of material with tassels around their waist- the tighter the better and then added colourful ties over the top of the black belt and some wore bandanas.
The paramedics arrived in the ambulance with first aid kits, stretchers and neck braces just in case.
When the moment arrived, the respective band (with flute and drums) played a traditional Catalonian melody for the process to begin.
People stated organising themselves by placing their hands together. One person, who was the leader blew a wooden pipe and shouted out the orders of the proceeding. The tower slowly and precisely took shape on the cement area in the park. It was fascinating to watch the tower grow as people climbed bare footed over the top of others using the bands around the waist, then shoulders and heads as levers. As the tower of people rose, it gradually became truncated until the last little person (about 6 years of age) with a helmet on climbed to the very top and raised their hands in the air. It was extraordinary to watch, and everyone cheered.
Even more amazing was the de construction without falling apart, climbing on people’s backs using the ties and toes for grips and then sliding slowly back down. At times we held our breath as you could see the bodies shaking under the pressure. Each team would make a different size tower and at times they even combined to support the other team. The lower level of the towers were formed mainly by men, the middle layers by women and teenagers and the upper levels by children and the last little one on the top.
During the tower building process, the band played a tune which apparently indicates the different construction phases of the tower and to stir up the emotions of the crowd. The band also accompanies the castellers upon their exit from the tower.
Whilst all this excitement was taking place just behind the scene there was a huge paella being cooked. It was a real party atmosphere with tables being decorated, refreshment stall and a feast to be consumed later in the day. It is really a very special event to witness.
Our walking tour highlighted many places with some great history and stories which led us to witnessing the castellers, visiting the Museum of History and places which required paid entry for free at particular times of the day and going on another tour to see the Illa de la Discordia (Block of Discord) and Gaudi tour.
Guided Gaudi Tour
Meeting once again in the Placa de I ‘Angel we went on a Gaudi Tour along the Passeig de Gracia to a row of four houses known as the Illa de la Discordia (Block of Discord). These buildings were the result of competition between three architects Antoni Gaudi, Lluis Domenech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch aiming to implement the major contracts of the wealthiest and most respected citizens of Barcelona.
At the beginning of Passeig de Gracia is Placa de Catalunya which connects the Eixample and the old town. The site was formerly an open piece of land located in front of the gates to the walled city. It is here where many of the battles to take the city occurred. It is now a very busy intersection where five avenues branch from to different parts of the city and everyone meets. A large number of sculptures are planted around the central paved area, seemingly at random. The most prominent of these is the monument Francesc Macia, honouring the former president of the Generalitat (the Catalan government). The sculpture was created in 1991 by Josep Subirachs, a sculptor who also worked on the Passion Facade of the Sagrada Família.
Casa Lleo Morera is the first of the four important buildings located at Passeig de Gracia designed by modernisme architect Luis Domenech I Montaner in 1902. It has been considered that Morera’s family wanted to leave trace of their lineage with the continuous references to their family name (which means mulberry tree in English) in the decoration. There are mulberry motifs on the door handles and around the windows. The façade also has feminine figures holding vases and showing several objects related to technological improvements made in that period, such as photography, telephone, and phonograph. The sculptures on this building are outstanding and intricate, but very different to Gaudi’s style.
The next amazing building is Casa Amatller by Puig i Cadafalch, a contemporary of Gaudi. The façade of this house was inspired by houses in the Netherlands. The original building was constructed in 1875 and in 1898 the Amatller family had it refurbished. The architect incorporated bold rigid cornices highlighted with ceramic tiles. The façade is decorated with chocolate, antique glassware and photography. The angular gable with the serrated roof is a corner of a bar of chocolate and at the entrance is St. George (Sant Jordi). Underneath in the garage area is a café and chocolate shop which sells the famous Amatller chocolate. On the floor of the café you can see a circle, this is where Mr Amatller had his revolving floor to enable his car to turn around. Even though this area was the garage it was very well decorated with a magnificent staircase, terraced garden and sculptures.
Casa Batllo is a building designed by Antoni Gaudi in 1904 and is considered one of his masterpieces. It has been refurbished several times by Gaudi’s assistants Domenec Sugranes I Gras, Josep Canaleta and Joan Rubio. The local name for this building is House of Bones, as it has a visceral, skeletal organic quality. The ground floor has very irregular oval windows and most of the façade is decorated with a colourful mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles (trencadis). The roof is arched and looks like the back of a dragon or dinosaur. A theory about the building is that the rounded feature which finishes at the top in a turret and cross, represents the lance of St George which has been plunged into the back of the dragon.
Casa Mila is popularly known as La Pedrera or ‘The stone quarry’ because it resembles an open quarry in appearance. Its features forms drawn from nature and is the last private residential building designed by Gaudi and built between 1906 and 1912 for the Mila family who occupied the main floor and rented out the other apartments.
It is characterised by its self-supporting stone façade. The facade (which is a curtain wall) connects to the internal structure of each floor by means of curved iron beams around the perimeter of each floor. This design enables the internal walls to be demolished or added to without affecting the stability of the building. The wrought iron grills were made from scrap iron sheets, bars and chains and provide a decorative element.
The roof architecture consists of chimneys known as espanta bruixes (witch scarers), ventilation shafts and staircases. On the top floor of the building the square skylights were used as an inspiration for the helmets worn by the stormtroopers in the movie Star Wars.
Casa Batllo and Casa Mila are iconic works of civic architecture due to their constructional and functional innovations, as well as their ornamental and decorative solutions. They are total works of art which broke with the architectural styles of his day. They are innovative, very impressive and extremely detailed facades which have a lot of hidden meanings. Like everything Gaudi designed his buildings are identified as Modernism or Art Nouveau in the broadest sense.
Although the houses were built around the same time, between 1898 and 1906, and form part of the Modernisme, the buildings show how different the three architects were.
We then caught the metro to the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia an enormous unfinished Roman Catholic church designed by architect Antoni Gaudi. Even though it is unfinished it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in November 2010, Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the church and proclaimed it a minor basilica.
In 1882, construction of Sagrada Familia began and in 1883 Gaudi took over as chief architect, transforming the project with his architectural and engineering style, combining Gothic and Art Nouveau forms. Gaudi devoted the remainder of his life to the project and he is buried in the crypt. At the time of his death in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was completed.
Relying solely on private donations, construction progressed slowly and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. Then in 1936, revolutionaries set fire to the crypt and partly destroyed Gaudi’s original plans, drawings and plaster models. It took 16 years work to piece together the fragments of the master model. Advancements in technologies have since enabled faster progress and in 2010 construction has past the midpoint. It is anticipated that the building can be completed by 2026, the centenary of Gaudi’s death.
Gaudi’s original design had eighteen spires, representing in ascending order of height the Twelve Apostles, The Virgin Mary, the four Evangelists and tallest of all, Jesus Christ. The Church will have three grand facades: the Nativity facade, the Passion facade, and the Glory facade (yet to be completed).
The Nativity facade was built before work was interrupted in 1935 and bears the most direct Gaudi influence. It is dedicated to the birth of Jesus. The sculptures are ornately arranged and decorated with scenes and images from nature. It is divided into three porticos, each of which represents a theological virtue (Hope, Faith and Charity). The Tree of Life rises above the door of Jesus in the portico of Charity. Four steeples complete the façade and are each dedicated to a Saint (Matthias, Barnabas, Jude the Apostle, and Simon the Zealot).
The Passion facade was built according to the design that Gaudi created in 1917. It is especially striking for its spare, gaunt, tormented characters, including emaciated figures of Christ being scourged at the pillar; and Christ on the Cross. Each of the four steeples is dedicated to an apostle (James, Thomas, Philip, and Bartholomew). A bronze figure situated on a bridge creating a link between the steeples of Saint Bartholomew and Saint Thomas represents the Ascension of Jesus.
The Glory facade, on which construction began in 2002, will be the largest and most monumental of the three and will represent one’s ascension to God. It will also depict various scenes such as Hell, Purgatory, and will include elements such as the Seven deadly sins and the Seven heavenly virtues.
The Sagrada Familia is a beautiful creation with so much detail it requires a fair amount of time to take it all in. The sculptures are intricate and because each façade tells a story it was fantastic to be on a tour where the guide could explain the meanings of each. I hope it will be finished in time for Gaudi’s anniversary as it would be a fantastic way to celebrate his talent.
Other highlights of Barcelona
We also spent a day visiting Park Guell on a guided tour. Park Guell was designed as a utopian private estate located on a rocky hill away from the inner city. The intention was to provide sixty blocks of land for luxury houses but unfortunately only two houses were built, neither designed by Gaudi. In 1904 Gaudi bought the show home and moved in with his family and his father in 1906. Gaudi spent over 20 years of his life here before moving to his abode in Sagrada Familia. It is now the Gaudi House Museum (Casa Museu Gaudi).
It is a public park composed of gardens and architectonic elements built from 1900 to 1914 and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984. In the design of Park Guell, Gaudi unleashed all his architectonic genius and put to practice his innovative structural solutions that would become the symbol of his organic style.
Roadways around the park to service the intended houses were designed by Gaudi as structures jutting out from the steep hillside or running on viaducts, with separate footpaths formed under these structures with columns like tree trunks supporting the roadway. The curves of vaulting and alignment of sloping columns are designed in a similar way to his Church of Colonial Guell.
At the main entrance to the municipal garden is Gaudi’s multicoloured mosaic salamander, known as ‘el drac (the dragon) perched in the middle of a double flight of steps. The steps are full of details such as gargoyles, a fountain in the shape of a snake’s head and a tripod that appears to be formed by three snakes in front of a circular bench. On either side of the stairs curving up to the top are beautifully tiled walls.
Inside this area are two pavilions that formed the porter’s lodge of the estate. Both have roofs of great originality, clad with trencadis (tile shard mosaic). The pavilions are referred to as ‘The Gingerbread Houses’ from Hansel and Gretel. As you enter from the top of the staircase, they certainly convey this idea, a magical scene from a fairy tale and breath taking.
At the top of the stairs is the Hypostyle Room, a covered area with eighty-six striated columns and the undulating roof area connected to the main terrace above. The interior of the room was conceived as a covered space which could serve as a market for the estate. The ceiling is formed of small domes built using the Catalan vault technique, clad with tile shards and with soffits laid out like a keystone. On the roof are four colourful mosaics depicting the four seasons (winter is covered under the reconstruction). The columns slope to enable the tank blow to feed the springs. A remarkable feat of engineering for the times.
The Hypostyle Room leads into the garden area which was one of the zones of the residential estate that never eventuated. It is now a plant nursery and public gardens with colourful flowers in abundance.
From here is the focal point of the park the main terrace. It is surrounded by a long bench in the form of a sea serpent. The bench is encrusted with ceramic shards of all colours, some randomly arranged, some in patterns. In order to dry up quickly after it rains, and to stop people from sitting in the wet part of the bench, small bumps were installed by Gaudi. Apparently, Gaudi had a workman drop his pants and sit in soft plaster to record the correct anatomical curve – foreshadowing the science of ergonomics by half a century. From here there is a great view of Barcelona and the bay, the Sagrada Familia and the Montjuic area.
Another area on the other side of the main terrace is the former farmhouse, The Casa Larrard which was the residence of Guell and his family. In 1931 the Baldiri Reixac municipal school was installed in the building. The fenced area surrounding the Casa Larrard are very decorative with mulberry leaves and flowers.
All these areas of Park Guell are connected by a gravel roadway which has 59 stone balls (one for each rosary bead) along the edge to delineate the road from the pedestrians.
Though never fully completed, it still remains one of Gaudi’s most colourful and playful works. The overwhelming beauty of the park envelopes you as soon as you step inside it. The amazement of seeing Gaudi’s creations is incomparable. The play of colours that characterize every corner of the park creates an aura of absolute amazement as it merges with his many unusual creations.
A guided tour of the park is the best way to explore this fantastic Catalan landmark. The knowledgeable guide took us around and showed us all the major highlights of the park. Because we had booked ahead it enabled us to catch the return shuttle bus to and from the entrance and we skipped the queue to pass through into the paid area. It is certainly a great experience seeing the beautiful architecture of Gaudi at his best.
Museu d’Historia de Barcelona (City History Museum)
The Barcelona City History Museum guards the legacy of times gone by, and of the people that lived in and created Barcelona.
As we passed through the museum, we were immersed in two thousand years of Barcelona history – a complex of ruins of Barcino – Roman Barcelona.
It conserves, communicates and exhibits the historical heritage of the city, from its origins in Roman times, through medieval and early industrial, all the way to the present day. The exhibits are displayed in chronological order and begin on the ground floor where several rooms show the prehistory of the Plain of Barcelona. We used a very detailed audio guide to lead us through the city ruins.
To enter the remains of the Roman city of Barcino, founded around 12BC by emperor Augustus we went underground via a lift. The underground section covers an area of about four thousand square metres. and was excavated between 1930 and 1960. We followed walkways and saw the remains of a laundry and dying workshop from the second century, a salted fish and garum (fish sauce) factory and a wine making facility from the third century AD. With the help of videos, diagrams, models, mosaics and small objects you gain an appreciation of the daily life in Barcino.
There are also ruins from a later period, including a church from the Visigoth period (sixth century) and the episcopal complex, built between the fourth and seventh century AD. The tour continues in Palau Reial Major, a royal complex built in the 14th and 15th centuries where there are displays which tells the story of Barcelona during the Middle Ages. The tour finishes at St Agatha Chapel and the Tinell Hall. The hall was used as a throne room and important guests were invited here. Christopher Columbus is said to have reported his discovery of America here to king Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
It was a very interesting visit and the way it is presented you get a real feel for the life of the people who lived in this Roman city and the engineering feats they conquered.
Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, often simply referred to as La Boqueria, is a large public marketon La Rambla. The first mention of the Boqueria market dates from 1217, when tables were installed near the old city gate to sell meat. Today’s markets were built in 1840. The market has a very diverse selection of goods with more than 200 traders. Some of the intricate and colourful displays of fruits and vegetables (bins of olives, bright strings of peppers), meats, glistening candied fruits, savory and sweet pastries, chocolates, marzipan figures, fresh-mixed smoothies, nuts, burritos, breads, and much more. These stalls must take traders a few hours to set up. It was quite crowded today although you could still move around easily between stalls. The tapas bars were very busy with a lot of people waiting for others to leave. It is a big place where you can mingle with the locals as they do their shopping. The traders are very friendly and helpful.
Parc de Montjuic is a 213-metre-high hill overlooking Barcelona harbour. Several thousand years ago, Iberic Celts settled here and the hill was later used by the Romans as a ceremonial place. For a long time, it played a strategic part in the defence of the city.
To get to the hill of Montjuic we caught the funicular from Paral-lel metro station. The line was opened in 1928. The funicular consists of two cars which must be operated from a control area as there is no driver on board. It took two minutes to reach the end of the line. A novel way to get to the next section of the hill.
The upper station of the funicular links up with the lower station of the Montjuic cable car, a gondola lift that continues uphill to a terminal near the Montjuic Castle on the summit of the hill and passing over the Montjuic gardens. The cable car was originally put into service in 1970, replacing a former upper stage of the Montjuic funicular. At the cable car midpoint, the line executes a 90 degree turn and the cabins pass through Mirador station where you can alight and walk down the remainder of the hill visiting the gardens on the way.
On the top of the hill is Castell de Montjuic first built in 1640 and enlarged through the centuries. The fortress is most famous for being the place of execution of Catalan president Lluis Companys under Franco’s rule, as well as a stronghold for Madrid backed troops who often bombed Barcelona from its vantage point. The castle is more a symbol of suppression than defence. To enter the fortress, you travel over the arched bridge through the entrance.
On the sea facing wall are guns and the view from the high cliff is spectacular. Catching the funicular and then the cable car was a great way to experience a visit to Montjuic and the fortress. The view of Barcelona and the port sprawled out in miniature is fantastic from here.
This ends our visit of Barcelona. We thoroughly enjoyed 6 days of exploring the spectacular sights, eating tapas and Catalonian feasts, watching the local sport of Castellers and being immersed in the Catalonian culture. We left Barcelona and drove to Andorra, a small democratic country between Spain and France.