For many travellers, photographs are the best souvenirs from any trip. From the stunning images of beautiful buildings and expansive landscapes to the candid family shots that become treasured mementos, photography plays an important role in any holiday.
When you’re visiting a visually interesting city like Barcelona, your photography takes on a whole new importance. Barcelona is a city of contrasts: Winding cobblestone streets lined with ancient Mediterranean-style buildings lead to some of the greatest examples of Modernist architecture anywhere in the world. From bustling city streets to sandy beaches, the colours, shapes, shadows and scenery of Barcelona enchant even novice photographers.
The question is, where do you begin? While you can certainly bring your camera and start snapping away, there are a few ways you can capture the best possible images of Barcelona — and a number of sites you simply do not want to miss.
Barcelona’s Most Photographed Sites
Perhaps the most photographed sites in Barcelona are the four major sites associated with the Modernist architect Antoni Gaudi: Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, La Perdrada and Parc Guell. Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, is the most visited attraction in Barcelona and perhaps one of the most photographed buildings in the world.
The best time to take photographs of Sagrada Familia is during the early morning hours, before the crowds arrive, or in the early evening, when the light creates interesting shadows and illuminates different areas of the cathedral, highlighting its unusual red tones. If you want to take photos of your family in front of the building, capturing the entire structure and the people could prove difficult.
For a photo in which you can see the entire building and your traveling companions, begin by filling the entire frame in your viewfinder with the structure, and then have your photo subjects move into the shot in front of you, until you’re happy with the arrangement. This way, you’ll avoid a photo in which your family is too far away to identify while still capturing the building’s grandeur.
And capturing that grandeur requires taking some detail photographs in addition to those of the whole building. Look for clues as to Gaudi’s natural inspiration for the building; for example, vines, animals and reptiles carved into the surfaces. Once you are inside the building, unless you’re part of a guided tour, stay away from the tour groups while exploring. Moving in the opposite direction of the large groups ensures you’ll capture photos without other people in them.
Gaudi’s Park Guell is also an ideal location for photographs. A municipal garden built into a sloping hillside, the main terrace area is surrounded by a bench carved into the shape of a large serpent and covered with mosaic tile. While the park features a number of stunning architectural elements, all worth photographing, one of the park’s best features is the view from the hill’s summit. From this vantage point, you have panoramic views of the city, which are best captured at sunrise.
While you’re in Park Guell, pay close attention to the details. Gaudi’s mosaics appear throughout (shoot without flash to avoid unfortunate glare in the photos), and you may even spot a few of the non-native parrot species that call the park home.
The works of Antoni Gaudi are not the only places worth photographing in Barcelona. Some of the other highlights include:
Las Ramblas, for colourful photos of people, street vendors and daily life
- Olympic Park and Stadium, for shots of the Olympic torch (left over from the 1992 Summer Olympic Games)
- Montjuic, for city views and unusual sculptures
- Old Barcelona, for cobblestone streets and architecture dating back to the 11th century
- Poble Espanyol (Spanish Village), an unusual collection of reproductions of important buildings from around Spain
- Graffiti found throughout the city
One of the best ways to “see” Barcelona and take incredible photographs is to hire the services of a photography guide. Under the tutelage of an expert, you can take a “photo walk” throughout the city and learn better ways to use your camera while you’re guided to some of the most scenic spots. For example, with a guide’s services, you may spot the detailed shadows created by a lamppost on the side of a building or the beautiful piles of colourful fruit lining the edges of a public market you may otherwise overlook.
When you plan your stay in Barcelona and start developing your itinerary, consider the places you’d like to photograph, and how you can best capture the possible angles and light. You may discover a photographer’s view of the city helps you see things you might have otherwise missed — and enriches your experience in this fascinating city.