Last weekend I went to Barcelona with a few people from my university. It was more than a seven-hour bus ride away, but it seemed like a nice place to go for a weekend trip.

Barcelona is a city in the Catalonia region in Spain. Catalans are very proud of their language, their culture and their history. Recently, there has been a lot of unrest in this area because Catalans want the option of becoming independent from Spain.

Similar to the Scotland referendum, there will be a referendum in Catalonia on Nov. 9. However, Spanish officials have already deemed it unconstitutional.

Walking around in Barcelona, you can really feel the peoples’ sense of pride. Most signs are in Catalan and unreadable to anyone who doesn’t know the language. On many balconies you can see the Catalan flag displayed. I actually saw a confederate flag on one balcony and I took it as another symbol of secession.

On our first full day in Barcelona, we went on a tour of Gaudi architecture which litters the city. A little way into the tour, our tour guide announced that we would be entering the Red Light District of Barcelona.

The funny thing was that we were going into the neighborhood where our hostel was located. We had noticed a few sketchy people and some not-so-conservatively dressed women, but we just assumed that’s what Barcelona was like. Finally it all made sense.

After we found out we were staying in the Red Light District, we began to notice other things about our street, like the many women hanging around and the obvious drug deals. 

We stayed in this particular hostel because some of our classmates suggested it, but I will definitely be doing my own research for future trips.

Besides the little shock we received earlier on the tour, the rest of the tour was really interesting. We saw many of Gaudi’s buildings throughout Barcelona, the most breathtaking being the Sagrada Família Basílica.

I thought I was prepared to see it, but nothing can prepare you for how big and detailed it actually is. I couldn’t stop staring at the Nativity facade because the characteristics are so unique. It’s a lot to take in at once.

On our final day, a friend and I wandered around the gothic quarter, the oldest part of Barcelona. This area felt similar to many other old European cities with its narrow, cobblestoned streets and grey, aging buildings rising up on either side.

Hidden on one of these streets is the Picasso Museum. Entrance to the museum is free on Sundays after 3 p.m. so we dedicatedly waited in line with the other tourists to get in. I’m studying Picasso in my modern Spanish art class so I was excited to apply what I was learning to his artwork in person.

As night approached on Sunday evening, Barcelona still didn’t seem ready to go to sleep. All weekend the city had been celebrating a festival known as La Mercé, which marks the end of summer. There were concerts, art exhibits, and fireworks at all times of the day. At one point we got to witness a Castell, the human towers that Catalans are famous for.

Barcelona is too much city to explore in just three days. The first half of the trip we all agreed that we were unimpressed with the city. We missed the familiar streets of Madrid. As I got to know the city more, I realized there was a lot more to it. Just like Picasso, I was enchanted by the art and the energy of the city.