Disclaimer: I was in Barcelona before the attacks on Las Ramblas.
‘Go to Barcelona,’ was one of the constant pieces of advice (both solicited and unsolicited) I received traveling. It makes sense when you arrive here since you can do anything, from visiting museums, from trying new foods, to even going to the beach inside this huge, bustling city.
Castell de Montjuic offers an impressive view of the city in addition to exhibits on Barcelona’s proud history (the youth discount I received was nice, too). Antoni Gaudí did build unique buildings and I was fortunate to see both the curves of Casa Batlló and the tree trunks of concrete supporting the soaring ceiling of the Sagrada Familia. There’s plenty of opportunities as well to just walk on shady streets and grab a ubiquitous fruit juice from a place like the Mercado Boqueria.
Given that one (non-Spanish) person enthusiastically called Barcelona ‘the greatest city in the world,’ my expectations may have been unreasonable. The prices and the crowds (it’s no wonder there’s ‘Tourists go home!’ graffiti) can be off-putting. Most of the disappointments I felt were my own fault, though. My overconfidence (or ‘desire to improve’ — take your pick) with Spanish meant that I felt inadequate when I couldn’t understand much of a free tour in Spanish (fortunately, our guide would give me a simpler explanation, in English if necessary, whenever I swallowed my pride). Another mistake was focusing on the price of things (entering some Gaudi structures costs almost 25 euros each) without considering the big picture (there is no public money provided to maintain those Gaudí buildings). Finally, cooking for myself, in an effort to save a little money, meant that I missed out on the tapas and nightlife culture that really does make Barcelona unique. It certainly wasn’t my favorite place but it would be a shame for fear of terrorism (or of spending too much money) to prevent people from forming their own opinions.