My mother and I have been to Barcelona once before, many years ago. Back then, unfortunately, it was just a day trip during during our vacation by the sea. We knew that this city deserved to be explored more closely. My birthday was a great opportunity.
Our trip had quite a few first time experiences, even though we have been traveling around the world for over twenty years. First of all, we managed to get plane seats in the first row (FYI, I don't mean first class!) without any problems, where is enough room for legs and, above all, my mom can take care of me easily. And secondly - we have never tried online check-in yet. Thanks bro, it worked! …they knew about us at the counter.
At the airport in Barcelona, we managed to catch a spacious taxi with a ramp for wheelchair users. The Travelodge Poblenou was clean and spacious. Our room was accessible, but I just barely got through the bathroom door with my wheelchair. Unfortunately, we discovered that the handles were missing by the toilet and you couldn´t take the shower into hands, but was fixed high on the wall. Well, we worked it out, but again and again... everyone interprets the meaning of the word "accessible" differently.
However, it didn´t ruin our excitement to explore Barcelona.
Another novelty was the necessity to buy tickets for the main attractions online. Even if a disabled person has free entry, they must have a ticket. We even had our visit to the famous La Sagrada Familia Cathedral on the exact time. It took us a while to find the right entrance for people with disabilities, but we found the street La Carrer de la Marina at last. La Sagrada Familia has three entrances and two of them are barrier-free. We were shown where the elevator is by the security guards after a security check.
And finally we were able to admire the wow beauty - of the largest (yet unfinished) Christian church in the world. It should be completed in 2026. The famous architect Antoni Gaudí was inspired by important Christian symbols and especially nature. The columns inside the cathedral evoke trees, and at other times you may see a turtle in the stone. We were fascinated by the reflection of the sun in the coloured stained glass windows, resembling a rainbow. You can learn a little about the history in the small accessible museum and the tour ends in the gift shop.
Our friend Eba, who lives nearby, recommended us to walk the so-called little Rambla, which goes directly away from the cathedral. You pass by restaurants with an outside garden in the middle of the street and also cafes, shops and ice cream parlors. Avenue de Gaudí has a quiet and relaxed atmosphere. It's a great contrast to the far more famous and busy Las Ramblas. Here, it's bustling with life. There are plenty of little stalls, street performers and living statues. By the way, on the Las Rambla you can also visit the amazing Mercado de La Boqueria. Fresh vegetables and fruit, different of meat, fish and seafood, extraordinary sweets and fresh tasty meals, just a feast for the eyes and nose. But also lots of people, so watch out for personal belongings!
Another interesting but little-known place is the Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau, at the end of the already mentioned Avenue de Gaudí. It is a former hospital, built between 1901 and 1930. Its unique Art Nouveau architecture is a highlight. This interesting complex of 12 buildings, which today serves as a museum and cultural center, has rightly been put on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
We had an interesting art experience at the Picasso Museum. We walked down Carrer de la Princessa and turned onto de Montcada street. In truth, it was a narrow unassuming street with an entrance and exit to the museum. The staff checked our tickets and directed us to the elevator. First we got to the exhibition by visual artist Carmen Calvo. Strange, very personal paintings.
We tried to understand Pablo Picasso's work and his point of view on the world in the second part of the exhibition. What struck me the most about him was that at the beginning of his career he painted very realistically and his unusual style of painting came with time.
Park Güell is legendary. Although the access is uphill, don't be discouraged and explore the wheelchair accessible route in this picturesque park. Twelve hectares of green space in the urban jungle are sure to be enjoyed. Gaudí let his imagination run wild here. You can get to almost all the main attractions, even with a wheelchair. The gingerbread like houses are not barrier-free, but the extravagant exterior is quite eloquent. Only the lower part of the Gaudi Museum is wheelchair accessible, but the tour is still pleasant on a hot day. The famous upper terrace is reeachable from both sides by stairs, but with help we got over them. We simply had to see the most famous colourful bench over 300 metres long. And the view!
A visit to the magnificent building La Pedrera - Casa Milà absolutely amazed us. The author is none other than Antoni Gaudí. However, if you buy a ticket online as disabled, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get into the building. You'd better try to get your ticket on the spot. If you're in Barcelona for more than one day, you might be able to arrange your visit for another day if it's already full booked for today. Why? They have a narrow, historic elevator where every wheelchair can't fit. The staff allowed us to try it out first. We bought our tickets afterwards at the ticket office, which is on the side of the building. Unfortunately, there are a few steps down, so I had to wait outside. I kind of didn't understand why they don't take care of tix for disabled at the main entrance, which is barrier-free. Well,... Everyone was kind and smiled at us.
The La Pedrera building is really worth it. It has several floors and the stairs were only used by the servants, because the architect wanted the people living in the building to be able to meet in the elevator and talk to each other. The rooms are furnished with historical furniture inspired by modernism. Among other things, we liked the attic space, which resembled the skeleton of a whale. Visitors can see how Antoni Gaudí thought. How he tested whether his architectural ideas could become reality. Using mirrors, suspended chains and gravity.
The biggest attraction of the building is the roof. The wheelchair user can get up here by elevator, but there is not much space to move around. The jagged roof with its unusual decoration of chimneys and ventilators is full of steps. But it's still must see. If you have an assistant with you, he or she´ll be happy to take pictures of the views.
Another well-known building is the Casa Batlló and also bears the legacy of the exceptional architect Antoni Gaudí. It is just 500 metres from Casa Milà on the same street. It is said that locals call it the "House of Bones". The interior has a rather empty feel. But typical Gaudí elements are evident at first glance, such as coloured glass, mosaics and tiles. My favourite part was the outdoor garden terrace, which I would call a patio. Everything is meant to evoke the underwater world.
Interesting - we were surprised to see people standing in front of the entrance saying that you can buy a ticket from them. They say it's a bit cheaper than at the box office and we don't have to queue. Once inside, my mom and I found out that the main attraction "Blue Room" has to be paid for separately. That means we get to the original ticket price... Well…
But the "real" underwater world can be experienced in the huge aquarium in the harbour. If your kids love Finding Nemo, this dark but colourful place shouldn't be missing in your itinerary. Big shrimps, cute seahorses, jellyfish moving in a soothing rhythm, but also stingrays or sharks. I shouldn't forget penguins of all kinds. But you have to take the elevator to see them. There's also a nice restaurant if you get hungry.
We wanted to find a beach called Nova Icaria, which should have everything needed for disabled holidaymakers. We were particularly interested in the walkway to the sea. A section of the beach was reserved for the disabled. They had sun loungers and a covered area so there was a shade whenever you needed it. We visited Barcelona with my mom in May, so there was no opportunity to try their beach wheelchair. The sea temperature was only for the brave. (It was a bit sad that when I punctured the wheelchair wheel on the last day of our holiday, they didn't have a pump.)
My empty wheel was a bit of an anabasis. Luckily, the beach medic had the pump and I could move a bit again. Then the wheel was out of air again and luckily there was a boatyard and their compressor nearby. The guy found the nearest bike shop called Bikiki. There, however, they told us that we had to go to the pharmacy where they sell wheelchairs and spare parts and that we had to get a tube of the size we needed. The nearest pharmacy didn't have one, but the pharmacist phoned to the other pharmacies and finally one had my size. We took a taxi for half an hour to the city centre. The pharmacist spoke fluent English and was waiting for us with the tube in her hand. She advised us a car repair shop nearby that they could replace the tube. The mechanics only spoke Spanish, but we managed to communicate through Google translator. They said they had never done a similar repair, but would try. Ten minutes later they came back with my repaired wheel. Phew, all the tension of that day was over. Hooray!!! This is what adventure can look like...
Barcelona gets into your heart once and stay there forever. It's just beautiful. My mom and I wish everyone could come here at least once. Oh, and don't neglect to visit the Mirador, a strange building that can be seen from almost everywhere and its shape resembles... well, you know what. The locals call it "big dick". You can buy your ticket in the little square house next to the huge glass building. A visual exhibition, interesting projections, and then an elevator with a glass ceiling to an unforgettable view. Don't miss it...
Enjoy your trip and feel the beauty of Barna.