Jael Vaquero is a student at Rowan University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Barcelona, Spain.
Choosing where to study abroad was really hard for me because I wanted it all: a big European city with green spaces, near the ocean, close to the mountains, and a temperate climate. While I know it’s impossible to get everything you want in a “must-have” list, I knew that somewhere out there, there was a magical place that fit all of my eclectic criteria. Eventually, during my research, the skies opened and a gold beam of light shone upon the word Barcelona on my computer screen. Fast forward a few months and I am now sitting in my balcony while writing this, completely in awe of how the Spanish sun is setting over the mountain tops, creating an iridescent pink-blue sky.
Barcelona is located in the Catalonia region of Spain and is the second largest city of the country. It is situated along the coast of the Mediterranean, which means that I am both near the sea and am blessed with sunny days every day. The city has dozens of parks and is surrounded by hills and mountains, which means that you could have a picnic one evening under a palm tree and wake up early the next morning to go on an intense hike. I’ve done a lot of exploring during my first month here and the following are just some of my favorite nature attractions of beautiful Barca:
Even though this iconic seen-in-every-picture-of-Barcelona landmark may seem like a tourist trap, it really is a must see. The park is filled with vibrant, Candyland-looking buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí and is surrounded by fascinating gardens and intricate rock pillars.
Parc de la Ciutadella
This park is truly an oasis in the middle of a bustling city. It has a grandiose fountain, dozens of palm trees, a lake where you can row in, and the Barcelona zoo. In the 18th century, the park actually served as a fortress, so the area is not only abundant in alluring sights but also full of rich history.
Only an hour away from Barcelona, Montserrat offers some of the most spectacular views of Catalonia. You can take a cable car up the mountain range and it drops you off at a beautiful monastery called Benedictine Abbey. From there, you can decide whether you want to hike up the highest points of Montserrat or just stay near the monastery and explore it’s ethereal attributes.
Okay so technically, La Barceloneta is a neighborhood, but it is home to Barceloneta Beach and the Port de Barcelona. On most days, the beach has clear blue waters and offers amazing sunsets in the evening. Since it hasn’t gotten particularly warm here yet, I’ve visited the Port de Barcelona more than the beach. The port is on the waterfront and has a boardwalk, which is one of my favorite places to sit and contemplate my life with a cup of gelato in my hand.
Montjuïc is a hill that is easily accessible from the center of Barcelona. It has picturesque botanical gardens, a park, and a castle on the top! The castle, apart from its historical importance, offers a 360 degree view of the ocean and the city all in one spot. It’s the perfect place to have a day trip and is actually where I spent my 21st birthday, in the midst of dreamland.