Essential Barcelona for a Quick Trip

While I was studying abroad in England, one of my friends invited me to join her on a weekend trip to Barcelona, where (rumor had it) the sun still shined. I decided to come along at the absolute last minute.

We flew in on a budget plane (RyanAir) Saturday morning, spent one night in the city, and were back to London by Sunday evening. Below is my list of essential things to see and do, no matter how short your visit.

Sagrada Família

When I first heard of Sagrada Família, an unfinished basilica started in 1883, I wasn’t that interested. Modern? Bleh. But boy, was I wrong.

Prometheus72 /

Prometheus72 /

I stepped inside, and gaped. There is a feeling unique to cathedrals, where you’re suddenly small and yet your heart lifts and your chest swells. It’s a bit like looking at the night sky. When you see as many cathedrals as I have, it gets harder and harder to feel this. But walking into Sagrada Família was entirely different from anything I’ve experienced.

Because the architect Antoni Gaudí wanted his design centered around nature, it’s rather like discovering a forest of marble and white. The stained glass windows are pure color instead of pictures, and where they are complete everything is coated in vivid hues. It’s amazing.

If you are in Barcelona, do not miss this!

Marina99 /

Marina99 /

Walk La Rambla

La Rambla is a famous street stretching from Town Center to the harbor. As you walk, you’ll pass flower vendors, scarf vendors, bird vendors… a lot of vendors. There are interesting (and funny) shops everywhere.

About halfway down the street, there is an enormous covered market stuffed with cheeses, salamis, and other local products. It’s worth the crowd to weave in and out of all the sounds and smells! But do keep an eye on your purse.

The Rambla will take you all the way down to Port Vell, where you can say hello to Christopher Columbus (or his statue, anyway). If your feet aren’t sore yet, continue your stroll down Rambla de Mar for some lovely harbor views.

Alyssa Hollingsworth / Own Work

Alyssa Hollingsworth / Own Work

Gothic Quarter

Just off La Rambla is the Gothic Quarter, a beautiful district full of stunning architecture, yummy restaurants, and peaceful squares. Be prepared to get lost, because it is a labyrinth! If you don’t stress about finding your way, you will be able to truly enjoy a more leisurely look at the old city.

Take your time, and wander into the many little churches along the way.

Alyssa Hollingsworth / Own Work

Alyssa Hollingsworth / Own Work



Cultured Palate: Dishes from the American Northeast

Delicious food is located in the cities of the East Coast: New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia are all rich centers of culinary innovation. This region, from its big cities to small towns, has been serving some of America's favorite foods.

Cultured Palate: Dishes from the American Southwest

It’s easy to forget what a wealth of culinary tradition we have in the American Southwest. Hugely varied, the Southwest of the U.S. represents hundreds of years of culinary innovation.

Cultured Palate: Dishes from China

For many Americans, Chinese cuisine is the fried noodles and saucy spare ribs of our favorite take-out spot. In reality, though, these dishes tell us more about America than about China – American Chinese cuisine is its own unique food.