Our pilgrimage coincides with upgrading plans for Camp Nou

Barcelona is an awesome city – and football fans the world over are drawn to Camp Nou, the city’s famous stadium.

Join our pilgrimage:

We were fortunate that our visit to Europe biggest stadium came as plans were being announced for a dramatic upgrading designed to create a futuristic and exciting facility.

See how the camp will look after the work, which is scheduled to start in 2018:

Expected to cost €420 million, the new Camp Nou will have covered seating for 105,000 spectators and a new, steeper first tier to improve the view of the action.

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As well as the hallowed turf that has hosted numerous senior international matches, the stadium currently includes a memorabilia shop; training pitches; a chapel; and the FC Barcelona Museum, which is said to receive more than 1.2 million visitors a year.

During our visit, we were in awe at the FC Barcelona trophy-room, which contains shelf after shelf of silverware – every trophy, or a replica of every trophy that the club has ever won.

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Naming rights sponsorship for the new stadium is expected to bring in €200 million for the Barcelona club – which will cover a third of the cost of the renovation.

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Beautiful Barcelona is a lot more than just Gaudi

At the mention of bold and colourful Barcelona, thoughts turn to the architecture of Antoni Gaudi.

The instantly-recognisable fingerprints of Gaudi are all over this wonderful city, not the least being his unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia church.

But, there is also a lot more to the face of Barcelona, where the old and the new blend to create a remarkable atmosphere.

The city’s streets boast eye-catching traditional buildings, sometimes almost side-by-side with modern structures that, in turn, draw inspiration from the past.

For example, the history, beauty and culture along the Ramblas – Barcelona’s famous tangle of tree-lined malls and alleys – is something to behold. Here are some of our favourites:

House of Umbrellas

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You’ll marvel at the colourful Casa Bruno Cuadros, which used to be an umbrella shop and has particularly delicate wall decorations.

We were told that this prominent building is known by locals as the Casa dels Paraigües (House of Umbrellas)

It was built in 1858 and remodelled with the current facade in 1883 by Josep Vilaseca Casanovas.

Army headquarters

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This striking building stands at the bottom of the Ramblas, in front of the Christophe Colombus Column.

In its Mediterranean surroundings, the army headquarters is one of several stately buildings in the in the Portal de la Pau square.

Cines Comedia (main photo)

Originally built in 1887 as a grand residential mansion in the heart of Barcelona, this building was converted into a theatre in the late 1930’s.

The architect for the conversion was Rodriguez Lloveras and the first performance in 1941 lasted for four days and celebrated the end of the Spanish Civil War.

In 1960, the theatre was converted into a cinema and three decades later, it became a five-screen complex.

Externally it hasn’t changed and is still an imposing building on a prime location in the heart of Barcelona. Internally it’s five screens have the latest technology.

Casa Lleo i Morera

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This modernist building was designed by Lluis Domenech i Montaner in 1902 on Barcelona’s top shopping street, Passeig de Gracia.

Casa Lleo i Morera contains the upmarket store of luxury clothing and assessors brand, Loewe.

La Boqueria Market

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Although not in a stately building, Barcelona’s La Boqueria Market, or Sant Josep, dates back to 1217, when tables were apparently installed near the old city gate to sell meat.

The markets lead to a series of quaint alleys, such as this one that leads to  Bacardi Palace, a Colonial property built in the 1850s and housing centrally-located apartments.

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The influence of Casa Milà

Many of the modern buildings in Barcelona clearly show the influence of Antoni Gaudi.

The wavy lines of this structure certainly stand out from its surroundings.

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However, to the untrained eye, this design appears to owe much to one of the city’s most famous buildings, Gaudi’s famous Casa Mila – popularly known as La Pedrera.

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At Barcelona, even the cemetery is an art gallery

Soon after leaving the airport at Barcelona, – at the very gateway to the city – you are faced with a sight remarkable even in eye-opening Catalonia.

Winding up the side of Montjuic Hill, overlooking the sea and looming above the Barcelona cargo port is a huge cemetery – much of it built in the sepulchral style with coffins above ground stacked up to eight high in big communal graves.

Cementiri de Montjuic covers an astonishing 56 hectares on the seaward side of the hill, below the 375 year old former fortress, known as Castell de Montjuic.

Opened in 1883, the cemetery contains about 150,000 burial plots, niches and mausolea.

It is a striking sight and has become an attraction for visitors, much like the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise in Paris, France and Highgate Cemetery in north London.652px-Montjuic_Cemetery_Barcelona_IMGP9429

In each case, the necropolis has become an invaluable gallery of what is referred to as ‘funerary art’.

At Barcelona’s Cementiri de Montjuic, architects, sculptors, stained-glass artists and other craftsmen contributed, through the years, to creating beautiful examples of funerary architecture and sculpture.

There are magnificent neo-Gothic mausoleum; eye-catching statues; large family vaults reflecting many architectural styles; and the walls or sepulchral niches, where the coffins rest above ground.

As you walk through the Cementiri de Montjuic, it is like strolling through a miniature city cloaked in silence. In fact, much of the cemetery is built to replicate the layout of Barcelona’s Eixample district.

Famous people at Cementiri de Montjuïc include former president of the Catalan Government, Francesc Macià; musician and composer, Isaac Albeniz; architect, Ildefons Cerdà; founder of FC Barcelona, Joan Gamper; and renowned painter and sculptor, Joan Miro.

At the administration office by the main entrance, you can get route plans to help you see the notable historical and artistic sections of Cementiri de Montjuic. It is open daily from 8am to 6pm.

Photo above of Montjuic Cemetery, Barcelona, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and photographer  Nikodem Nijaki.  The main photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons and photographer Jordiferrer 

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