72 hours in Barcelona

I just finished my first visit to Spain, spending just a few days in Barcelona, but wanted to jot some notes down before they leave my mind…

I just finished my first visit to Spain, spending just a few days in Barcelona, but wanted to jot some notes down before they leave my mind for good.

The City itself

I was instantly enamored with its beauty. Barcelona felt a lot like Florence Italy, but more like a real city. Don’t get me wrong, I love Florence, but it’s got so many centers of art in one place it’s almost an amusement park. Barcelona has beautiful buildings and great museums but it’s also a functional city filled with modern people living modern lives.

I loved the airport and I could not believe just how many scooters there were in the city. Every morning at least one scooter would roar up behind me and a woman in a $1,000 designer dress and helmet or guy in a $2,000 custom tailored suit would park it, jump off in an instant, and walk away, all in one fluid motion as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

The Metro rail system was great, a 3-day unlimited ticket got me everywhere and back again for only 20 Euro. The food was fantastic, even though I mostly stuck to unpretentious tapas bars or wonderful little bakeries.


I came to Barcelona to speak at Webvisions, a conference that started in Portland about 15 years ago. I’ve spoken at it many times in the past and always admired Brad and crew for having the ambition and taking the risks to turn it into a roadshow the past few years. The event was a lot of fun with tons of great talks about design and creativity to spark the imagination.

It reminded me I wish the tech industry was more like the academic world, where conferences happen in different cities every year instead of always in SF, Austin, or NYC. It’s good to combine a change of scenery while you’re opening your mind to new ideas.

My favorite slide of the conference, from Dan Saffer’s talk


My free time was limited to basically one 8 hour stretch right after my talk was done, which I packed with three big museums in a row (thanks to online reservation systems that work on phones). The Picasso museum was great at teaching more about Pablo’s life. I’d been warned the collection was meh and I can understand that response. It was mostly a collection of sketches and early drafts instead of finished or famous pieces (which are all obviously in other museums). I enjoyed seeing a new side of Picasso, especially the several rooms filled with R.Crumb-style crude nudes. Turns out, he liked drawing prostitutes more than I was previously aware.

I went straight after to the Fundació Joan Miró museum and it’s in a beautiful modern building with a wide range of Miró’s works. I found the whole thing refreshing but honestly surprising since I knew so little about him as an artist beforehand, but it gave a good clear picture of his career and progression from start to finish.

Finally, I went to see Sagrada Familia by Gaudi, and holy shit that was breathtaking. Below you can see a mix of images from outside, inside, from on top, and underneath. It looks like it’s getting close to done and I suspect they’ll hit their estimates of completion in about ten years. Consider that construction has gone on for 130 years—I think we’re lucky to be alive to witness the end.

It’s totally worth paying extra to go up in the Towers even though it was genuinely frightening to walk down without dual handrails or anything to keep you from falling if you slipped.

Until next time

My time was short, but I’ll return. I hope to spend more time along the coast and go out to see the Dali museum as well. Also next time I’ll go for some high end food. I hope to revisit during milder months because the heat was so bad it almost distracted from the beauty that surrounded everything.