Barcelona from the heights: five urban viewpoints with good views (and something else)

Appreciating the magic of a city like Barcelona means getting lost among its streets full of shops, historic buildings and people who walk quickly amid the noise of engines, endless works and the voices of some who chat animatedly.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
15 March 2023 Wednesday 23:52
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Barcelona from the heights: five urban viewpoints with good views (and something else)

Appreciating the magic of a city like Barcelona means getting lost among its streets full of shops, historic buildings and people who walk quickly amid the noise of engines, endless works and the voices of some who chat animatedly. The city vibrates, but sometimes, it is best to get away from the hustle and bustle to find a calmer, less stressful perspective, one that offers us the possibility of contemplating what we cannot see with the naked eye, the one that is from above and with the city at a distance. your feet.

In the heights we will discover the most hidden part of Barcelona, ​​the one that shows how the grids of the streets of l'Eixample are structured, how the triangular domes of the Sagrada Familia and the Glòries tower stand out from a sea of ​​buildings –one of the highest–, and in the distance appears the figure of the Three Chimneys of Sant Adrià, the rows of trees that purify the air, and the sea in the background, as if it were a painting, among many other daily scenes.

Barcelona has spectacular natural viewpoints, but there are also some in the heart of the city, which makes it easy to access them on foot or by public transport without having to leave the city. And some of them are more than just an observatory, they have been designed so that we can enjoy the city and its views.

The architects Jean Nouvel and Fermín Vázquez designed one of the most emblematic buildings in Barcelona, ​​the Glòries tower (formerly the Agbar tower). A 144-meter-high rounded-topped watchtower, which emulates a geyser of water that springs from the hot earth and ends in the sky in its glass dome. In fact, the visit does not begin at the top where there is a great viewpoint, 125 meters high, but in the subsoil, on the floor minus one, in what is called the Hyperviewpoint, a viewpoint that is not used to see, but to reflect on the the city's own ecosystem.

In relative darkness and silence, a soundtrack, created by Maria Arnal and John Talabot that changes daily according to the heartbeat of the city, accompanies the visitor on this tour. With big data in real time, digital pieces are created that vary according to the data obtained by a series of sensors distributed throughout the city. On one of the walls, on a spectacular 108 m2 screen, the different urban atmospheres are shown: sky, wind, sea and sounds in constant change and movement.

From here to the highest point in a few seconds in an elevator. The dome allows exceptional 360º views, from the WBarcelona hotel, the 22@ (where it is located), Tibidabo and Gran Vía. And above our heads a spectacular work of art by Tomás Saraceno, Cloud Cities Barcelona, ​​a sculpture suspended inside the dome and built from a structure of tensioned cables that emulates clouds in the form of drops of water. This structure can be explored inside, if you are in good shape and with suitable footwear, as if you were flying over the city.

Located in the heart of the city, near the Boquería market, Plaza Real and the MACBA, on the boulevard in the Raval neighborhood, this four-star hotel stands out above all the buildings in the neighborhood. It is elliptical in shape and has two basements, a hall and 10 floors. Upon entering, a spectacular lobby with an avant-garde design, certainly nothing discreet, with magenta sofas, dark floors, baroque lamps and walls decorated with ceramics are its calling card. And what is most surprising is the non-stop coming and going of customers, especially when going up to the terrace, where there is an incomparable panoramic view of the city's horizon.

Its elliptical shape allows you to obtain 360º views from Tibidabo to Montjuïc passing through the entire city. The terrace has some free binoculars that allow you to zoom in on specific points. And arranged around the railing, there are chairs and high tables where you can have a drink, it is not mandatory, but it is a good option to see a spectacular sunset. The bar serves delicious cocktails with or without alcohol.

The Urquinaona tower is a brutalist-style building, with an octagonal floor plan and polyhedral shapes at the top, it was built by the architect Antoni Bonet between 1968 and 1970. It is 70 meters high and has 22 floors, and the color and dark ceramic of its exterior were selected to resist urban pollution and the passage of time, since it is located in the square of the same name, a very busy point of people and traffic. This building is included in the architectural heritage of Catalonia as a skyscraper.

For a year now, its 20th floor has been open to the public on weekends and holidays, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., to enjoy the 360º views from its 22 windows. An audio guide –downloadable using QR codes– allows you to learn about the most important aspects of Barcelona, ​​anecdotes, buildings, neighbourhoods... and not only that, you can also see temporary exhibitions by local artists. And although it is not a place to have a drink, depending on the type of ticket you can enjoy a drink while the sun sets or a glass of cava with night views, unhurried and comfortably seated.

La Pedrera or Casa Milà is the last house built by Antoni Gaudí before he was run over by a tram, made for the textile businessman Pere Milà and his wife Roser Segimon. It is located on one of the corners of Paseo de Gracia, where the architect showed his incredible creative capacity, inspired by nature. And in addition to being able to see the house from the inside with the furniture that recreates the life of a family of the Catalan bourgeoisie at the beginning of the 20th century, the interior patios stand out, interconnected and painted with murals of flowers and butterflies, as well as an attic formed by 270 flat brick catenary arches, whose shape imitates the belly of a whale.

And as an extra activity, it is recommended to visit the mezzanine floor with virtual reality glasses, in which the vision of the real environment is combined with holograms of the history of Gaudí, the house and the Milà family, it is truly amazing.

The visit ends in one of the most magical places in the house, the roof, which is full of Gaudí sculptures that are nothing more than stairwells covered with the famous trencadis, ventilation towers and chimneys that rotate on themselves, following an interior and exterior layout that obeys the aerodynamic displacement of the smoke, which reminds us of a warrior and his helmet, and with spectacular views of the center of Barcelona, ​​Paseo de Gracia and other emblematic places in the city, such as the Sagrada Familia , the Montjuïc castle, the Tibidabo park and the Glòries tower.

A building from 1873 hidden in a narrow and secluded alley at the bottom of the Rambla, former headquarters of the General Credit Company of Barcelona, ​​today houses one of the most touristic attractions in the city, the Wax Museum . A museum completely renovated in 2020, with new figures and interactive experiences using new technologies in 28 spaces distributed over three floors. There are many places where the visitor can be photographed with their favorite characters.

The visit begins in the hall, inside a transparent elevator, on both sides and part of the ground, from which it is possible to observe the ascent, in real time, to the roof of the building, from which incredible virtual views of the skyline are obtained. from the city. The sensation is very real and never ceases to amaze us.