Traveling around Barcelona, Spain during the One Planet One Ocean conference

Bill Dennison ·
11 December 2014

As part of the 2nd International Ocean Research Conference entitled 'One Planet One Ocean', I had the opportunity to travel around Barcelona. This was my first trip to Catalonia and Barcelona and I found it to be a fascinating city with amazing things to see, eat and drink. I will highlight some of the features of this vibrant coastal metropolis.

Barcelona hosted the 1992 Summer Olympics and you can see the tower that supported the Olympic torch as you drive into the city center from the airport. I recall watching the burning arrow used to light the torch as part of the opening ceremony. Barcelona is situated between steep hills and the deep blue Mediterranean Sea, with a highly developed waterfront. There are beaches, walkways, harbors, restaurants and bars along the waterfront and vistas from the hills.

Sagrada Família. One of the significant Barcelona sights is a church designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926). This amazing building is still under construction, even though the construction began in 1882. What impressed me the most about this building was the organic nature of the architecture. Gaudí created vistas, indoor spaces and natural lighting that emulate the natural world in many ways. From the outside, while craning my neck to see the multiple towers, I felt like I was looking up at a grove of tall redwood or eucalyptus trees. Upon entering the church, I felt as though I had entered the forest floor with the dappled light entering through the stained glass windows. In addition, the interior pillars that support the roof had nodes and branches, very reminiscent of tree trunks and branches. The cool air flowing through the church contributed to the feeling that I was standing in the shade of a tall, dense forest. The fountains along the wall for holy water were giant clam (Tridacna) shells, an overt tribute to nature.

sagada familia
The Sagrada Família. Multiple towers form the facade of the of the church (left) and the inside (upper right) has beautiful stained glass windows (lower right).

Park Güell. After my visit to Sagrada Família, I was inspired to see more of what Gaudí had designed and made a trip up the side of one of the Barcelona hills to visit a private garden for a homeowner which is now open to the public. There were some interesting features of Gaudí's design. Gaudí created an iconic covered walkway by excavating a natural rock wall, leaving a series of rock pillars supporting the roof. He also made a large flat area, something like a parade ground with an undulating wall. Underneath this large flat area, he created a large open covered space with pillars that served as a marketplace. There were some interesting sculptures on the property as well.

Park Güell with its iconic walkway (<em>left</em>) was designed by Gaudí. It has some interesting sculptures (<em>upper right</em>) and a covered space that serves as a marketplace (<em>lower right</em>).
Park Güell with its iconic walkway (left) was designed by Gaudí. It has some interesting sculptures (upper right) and a covered space that serves as a marketplace (lower right).

Maritime Museum and Columbus Monument. One thing that I always try to do when visiting a new city is to walk around the waterfront, particularly the historic waterfront, as this is usually the original entry point to the city. In Barcelona, this historic section of the city has a boat harbor, a Maritime Museum and a monument to Christopher Columbus. The boat harbor has a series of nice restaurants, walkways and public art displays. There was an interesting approach to a drawbridge, which was a moveable platform for the footbridge from the Columbus Monument to the outer harbor shops and restaurants on the breakwater. The Columbus monument commemorates his return to Spain following his first of four voyages to the New World. Columbus met with his sponsors, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain in Barcelona. The Maritime Museum was the site of our conference dinner, but I also fortuitously attended an awards event at the Maritime Museum on a different evening in which various awards associated with the Port of Barcelona were given. This event emphasized the importance that the business community gives to the continued development of this vibrant port.

port and columbus
The Port of Barcelona (upper left). One of its popular site is the Columbus Monument (right), built to commemorate Columbus' return to Spain from his voyage. His meeting with Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand in Barcelona can be seen depicted on its walls (lower left).

Food, drink and transportation. The diversity of fresh seafood, various tapas, good wine and excellent public transportation make Barcelona a very friendly city to visit. I enjoyed watching men playing dominos in the cafes, diverse groups of young people traveling on the metro, and lots of people walking dogs at all times of the day and night. The active night life did not seem to diminish the amount of early morning activity, making me wonder when people actually slept--we certainly did not have siestas built into our conference schedule. There were many sites that I did not have time to visit, especially the Picasso Museum, but I can attest to the value of visiting Barcelona. I am grateful that the conference organizers chose this venue.

About the author

Bill Dennison

Dr. Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr. Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.

Next Post > Ocean research perspectives gleaned from ‘One Planet One Ocean’ conference in Barcelona, Spain - Part 2


  • Colin 6 years ago

    Barcelona is my all time favourite European city. So much to offer in many aspects including culture, shopping, eating and drinking plus their famous football team! So much to see and take in, so savour every minute. Barcelona is also very easy to get around using their public transport network. If you have weekend spare, jump on a plane and go see for yourself. You won't regret this one minute.

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