Barcelona by Bicycle

Barcelona by Bicycle

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Barcelona by bicycle
Cyclists at the Cascada fountain in Parc de la Ciutadella. Photo: Budget Bikes Barcelona

I can’t believe I’m pedalling down Barcelona’s magnificent Rambla, crossing intersections, turning left and right, cheekily zipping past pedestrians. Truth is I’m not a brave cyclist but I’m putting my faith, rather blindly, in our leader, frantically following so I don’t have to negotiate the traffic alone. By night Megan Pearson manages a bar, by day she leads small groups on a Barcelona by bicycle tour of Gaudi’s Barcelona – showing them that Barcelona is possibly the best city in Spain to explore on a bicycle.

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Originally from Amsterdam, she’s fallen in love with the city’s back lanes, cycle paths and the story of the architect that’s so closely interwoven with the Catalan capital.

barcelona by bicycle
Exploring Barcelona by bicycle is one of the best ways to do it. Photo: Pere Vivas / Triangle Postals

Barcelona by bicycle

Barcelona by bicycle
Another wonder of Barcelona by bicycle. Photo: Pere Vivas / Triangle Postals

One of the first places we pass is the Hospital de
 la Santa Creu, which should really be at the end of the ride, as this is where Antoni Gaudi died after he was hit by a tram in 1926, unknown and sadly mistaken for a homeless man.

It’s a leisurely 13-kilometre cycle and we take our first break at the palm-lined Rambla del Raval, one of the smaller ramblas or streets, a trendy up-and- coming area where the cafes are good value.

This is where sculptor Fernando Botero’s black cat statue finally found a home.

From here it’s a short ride to Placa Reial, a lovely 19th-century square with interesting street lamps designed by the young Gaudi.

Here Les Quinze Nits restaurant is good fun but be prepared to queue.

Nearby in the square of Sant Jaume stand, Barcelona’s two political powerhouses: the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya (the seat of Catalan government) and the City Hall.

This is often the scene of political demonstrations and we’re briefly introduced to the idea of the Catalan independence movement, its flag and Sant Jordi (St George) and the dragon, all influences on the architect’s work.

La Ramba

barcelona beach
Discover the beach in Barcelona. Photo: Pere Vivas / Triangle Postals

Riding down the famous La Rambla, our group of five blocks a bus but it patiently waits to overtake.

In fact, the traffic seems quite tolerant of cyclists, much to my relief.

At the end of the great boulevard stands a huge Christopher Columbus statue, a reminder that it was King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella who funded his discovery of America.

Barcelona is a city of 3 million, one that has been transformed by tourists in the last two decades.

It all started with the Olympics in 1992 and now almost 8 million visitors come annually, making it the fifth most popular city in Europe.

Thanks to the Olympics, these days, Barcelona’s treasures are accessible to all travellers and there are many ways to explore Barcelona, including plenty of attractions with wheel chair access in Barcelona too.

The beach, almost four kilometres long, was created then and is a great addition.

The broad cycle path is flat and smooth and we build up speed as we head for the Parc de la Ciutadella where the student Gaudi contributed to the design of the extravagant Cascada Fountain.

The park is the heart of the city, a welcome green space that is much used by Barcelona residents, many of whom live in small apartments.

Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia

gaudi's barcelona
Gaudi’s Barcelona is one of the delights of Barcelona by bicycle. Photo: Pere Vivas / Triangle Postals

Barcelona by bicycle
Barcelona’s modern side. Photo: Pere Vivas / Triangle Postals

Unexpectedly we turn a corner and come upon the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece.

Construction began in 1882 and Gaudi became involved the following year, transforming the building with his radical gothic and art nouveau fantastical notions.

The cathedral attracts about 3 million visitors a year whose entrance fees mainly fund the construction. Officials say it will be finished by 2026, 144 years after it was started, but many remain skeptical.

Despite the scaffolding, crowds and buses, the Sagrada is breath-taking and certainly one of the best places to visit in Barcelona. But I feel it doesn’t look all that different from my first visit 25 years ago.

Barcelona by bicycle
Beautiful treasures of Barcelona. Photo: Pere Vivas / Triangle Postals

Then I had a panic attack while climbing its tortuous stairs and today I’m quite happy to view it from the street.

In the nearby Eixample district, on Passeig de Gracia, stand two of the architect’s most beautiful buildings. Redesigned by Gaudi in 1904, Casa Batllo is also known as the House of Bones.

Today it’s a privately run museum, with mind-bending interiors, and is well worth exploring.

Nearby Casa Mila, also known as Pedrera (the stone quarry), was built between 1906 and 1912 as an apartment and office block.

Disappointingly the facade is covered for restoration but the cultural centre inside is open.

More about Gaudi’s Barcelona 

By Sandip Hor

Gaudi's Barcelona
Discover the delights of Gaudi’s Barcelona by bicycle. Photo: Courtesy of Turisme de Barcelona

In the early 19th century, Barcelona, the capital city of Catalonia province in Spain, experienced a cultural renaissance that inspired building architects of the time to introduce fresh flairs in building design.

It was called ‘Modernisme’, the Catalan offshoot of Art Nouveau style.

As a result of this resurgence, the fresher part of city, which evolved as an annexure to the overcrowded medieval old town became studded with new-style buildings that generated a sensation in the modern architectural world.

Amid several other designs, the designs of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi became legendary.

gaudi buildings
La Sagrada Familia

They reflect his unconventional distinctive style, branded by freedom of shape, texture, riot of colours and use of innovative materials like broken tiles for mosaics and iron rods for ornamentation.

Some of Gaudi’s creations made it to the World Heritage listing.

The most illustrated among them are Palau Güell, Casa Mila, Casa Batlló, Parc Güell and La Sagrada Familia, a monumental church whose construction is still continuing since commencement in 1883.

Palau Guell, a residential house for wealthy businessman Eusebi Guell, was Gaudi’s first major work.

The building is illustrious for its elaborate style of columns, arches and ceilings, which became the hallmark of Gaudi’s later works.

Casa Mila and Casa Batllo

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Casa Mila facade

Apartment houses Casa Mila and Casa Batllo are renowned for its wave-like façade and rooftop chimneys and vents resembling abstract figures.

Balconies and window supports of Casa Batlló, which looks like skulls and bones keep onlookers mesmerised.

Many consider Casa Mila more of a sculpture than building. The fascia is a varied and harmonious mass of surging stone that, along with its forged iron balconies, bare the irregularities of the natural world.

Parc Güell is a garden complex that houses a series of dynamically designed buildings, including Gaudí’s house.

The colonnaded hall and the terrace with serpentine shapes are the most famous sites in this park.

The colonnaded hall and the terrace with serpentine shapes are the most famous sites in this park.

The bold and daring mood of Gaudi is best revealed in the construction of La Sagrada Familia, often regarded as Europe’s’ most unconventional church.

Based on the traditions of Gothic and Byzantine cathedrals, it’s undoubtedly his greatest work.

This architectural compendium comprising of towering spires and extraordinarily sculpted fasciae on all four sides reveal the best of his architectural ingenuity.

His technique of using natural light to endow the architecture with expressivity and grandeur was then unprecedented.

While hosting the Olympic Games in 1992, Barcelona once again played a critical role instigating various rejuvenating architectural plans in the city, but according to architectural aficionados nothing matches what Gaudi created a century ago.

For those on a tight schedule – I have only 36 hours – the cycling tour is an easy introduction to the city and the architect who has contributed so much to its dreamy splendour.

Discover Barcelona

Hotel Mirror is a smart small boutique hotel in Eixample. Doubles from $223 a night.

Casa Batllo; Casa Mila; Sagrada; book online to avoid the queues.

While in Spain, here are some things to do in Madrid, including visiting the Prado Museum. Northern Spain is a green land of fields, paddocks, Spanish villages and lovely beachside towns.

Best City in Spain On A Bicycle

gaudi barcelona

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