Barcelona is the favorite city of both Blonde and Brunette and one reason is that, although there’s no shortage of interesting places with high admission fees, there is also a good selection of free (and legal) things to do. The nightly music and light shows at The Magic Fountains top our list of attractions.
On our last visit to Barcelona we stayed in the Sants-Montjuïc District where the fountains are located and went to the show several nights in a row. Even if you’re really tired after a long day of sightseeing you can probably find the energy to stand and watch a beautiful show for 15 minutes.
The fountains were built for Barcelona’s Great Universal Exhibition (love the pompous name) of 1929. But partway through the very accelerated (less than a year) process of building the fountains it was decided that they needed something special. So a self-taught engineer/science fiction aficionado, Carles Buigas, proposed the idea of illuminated fountains. Spain seems to have lost some of the hustle that back in 1929 made it possible for them to complete the project in less than a year with more than 3,000 people working on the project!
Every evening from the end of March through October there are 5 fifteen minute music and light shows. The first one is at 9:00 p.m. and the last at 11:00 but check the schedule before going in case that has changed. The music can be an odd mixture – Sarah Brightman meets Michael Jackson – but somehow it works.
The fountains are easy to reach on the metro. You take L1 or L3 and get off (so to speak) at Espanya .
A daytime attraction where you can stroll around and gawk at people and architecture is Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. If you have the option, try to do this on a Sunday afternoon. We were fortunate enough to be taken there by the parents of the man from the family Blonde was doing a home exchange with. The older couple really added to our enjoyment of the event. If they were your parents their bickering, his self-important posturing and bad driving and her eye-rolling would drive you to despair but we thought it was all part of the whole “Spanishness” of the experience and got many a giggle out of the whole thing.
Aside from the excellent people watching you can also just wander the small streets and get mildly lost. The area was once a Roman village and some stretches of Roman walls still exist.
On Sunday afternoons there are usually groups of people outside of the Barcelona Cathedral in the Gothic Quarter doing the traditional Sardana dance.
Supposedly anyone who wants to join in on the Sardana’s circle of dance has to be admitted. We didn’t test that with our rhythmless lack of coordination thus keeping the tradition alive for future generations.
We were told that the dance symbolizes the Catalan people standing (dancing, if you want to be precise) together in the face of life’s difficulties. Maybe that’s true (our research department is on holiday).
Our third favorite freebie is the beautiful Parc de la Ciutadella, specifically the fountain shown above. This was also built for an exhibition; the 1888 Universal Exhibition. Allegedly the fountain’s design is loosely based on the Trevi Fountain in Rome (although Blonde prefers this one that doesn’t have the crowds).Everyone’s favorite eccentric architect of Barcelona, Antoni Gaudi, was an apprentice who helped with the design of the fountain.
Prior to the Universal Exhibition of 1888 the land of the present day park had a fortress built on it to watch over the people of Barcelona. It was despised because to the Catalans it represented everything they hated about Madrid. Eventually the fortress was made into a political prison and then it was demolished to create a place to build for the Exhibition.
The park houses much more than the fountain. It borders the zoo, Parliament and the Museu d’Art Modern. A Zoological Museum and a Geological Museum are on the property. If you want to have the whole romantic, artistic sort of experience there are also small row boats you can rent in the lake (don’t try to row the boats in the fountain). The park also offers free wi-fi which is a nice touch of modernity. There are also walking and biking paths and, more importantly, a little cafe where you can get a beverage and a gelato.
To get to the park you take the Metro to L1 or C1 and exit at the Arc de Triomf station. We aren’t saying we know anyone who did this but you might want to be sure you get on a train going in the correct direction. Just sayin’.
Barcelona is a magnificent city full of Catalan ‘tude, food, history and beauty. We hope you will save some of your trip money by enjoying these free sights so you have more to spend on tapas, sangria or whatever strikes your fancy!