Today our walking adventures around Barcelona took us to 2 markets, the Arena (which is now turned into a 5 story shopping mall), and the bodies exhibit.
Mercant de Sants
I had always wanted to see what this gorgeous looking building was on a side street whenever we walked on Carrer de Sants, but it was always too late and we were rushing to get home to put the kids to bed. I assumed from the shape of the building and the detailed designs on the walls that it was a church. Today, since we were just wandering, I decided to check out the building and confirm my theory. Well, turns out I was wrong. It actually turned out to be a large market with all sorts of stalls for meat, fish, fruits and vegetables.
There is also a large 2-story supermarket on one side, which includes a large variety of grocery items. I still was very much convinced that the building that is now used for the market was once a church, honestly you would think so too if you saw it. A google search proved me wrong again! The building was actually built, in 1913 specifically to house a market. Read more about it here.
The next market along our walking route was Mercat d'Hostafrancs. Although the front of the building looks colorful, the actual architecture is no where near as nice as Mercat de Sants. By the time we arrived ,most of the shops in this market were closing or cleaning up to close for the day. From what remained, we could see that It is very similar to Mercat de Sants. There is, however, an upstairs floor which houses a large store including items such as toys, baby gears, books, and school supplies.
Our kids enjoyed checking out the toys and looking at some of the books (though they were all in Spanish or Catalan).
Alright, enough of the markets, on to bigger and more exciting places.
Arenas de Barcelona
If you recall our post from a few days ago, we had seen an arena while in Placa Espanya, and remarked that after being in Nimes, France, and witnessing the 2,000 year old Arenes, there was no way this arena would be able to compete. Well we were right, but that's because it's not supposed to, it's a mall! The Arena of Barcelona was opened in 1900 for bullfighting, but in 1977 the practice of bullfighting was stopped, and after a series of disputes the building was renovated and re-opened in 2011 as a shopping center.
The shopping center is very impressive. There are 5 floors in total (not including underground parking). 1 floor is mainly dedicated to the movie theater, and the lowest floor is mostly occupied for food and coffee shops. The remaining 3 floors host a variety of shops. I think the most exciting part of this building though is the view of Placa Espanya, the Magic Fountain, and the National Museum of Catalan Art from the rooftop! As you walk around the roof, you get a great view of Barcelona with Sagrada Familia (fairly far in the distance), and the Sacred Heart church on top of Mount Tibidabo. There are also several restaurants for those who like to extend their stay on the roof and grab a drink or a bite :) Most of the restaurants looked very good, but if you decide to eat here expect to pay tourist prices.
Travel Tip: When you arrive at the Arena, you'll see the glass elevator to the roof, which costs 1 Euro per person. Like us, you may assume this is the only way to the roof, but it is not! Instead of the elevator, you can just go through the mall and take the escalators up to the roof, which is free! While the elevators would provide an unobstructed view of Placa Espanya, you are still behind a glass wall, and the views from the top are just as good. In our opinion, you should save your 1 Euro and just take the free escalators up. The mall isn't very crowded anyways.
On the rooftop, we also found Barcelona's Bodies Exhibit. We saw the Bodies Exhibit in New York City almost 5 years ago, before our son was born, and we were quite awed by it. We didn't think we would go to see it again though. With all the posters around the entrance, Kian got curious and started asking what they were and why they were there. He then said that he would be interested in seeing it. We briefly explained to him what he would see in there and asked again if he is sure. He said YES, so in we went.
The Bodies Exhibit
Although very similar to the one in NY, this exhibit was slightly smaller, which was actually great because our kids asked if it was all done as soon as we reached the last room.
According to the website, the exhibit will only be on display until October 12th, 2014.
Travel Tip: The price of admission for adults is 12 Euros (includes an audio guide), children under 7 can enter for free, but if they would like their own audio guide, it is an extra 3 Euros.
We were not allowed to take any pictures inside the exhibit, but I noted down five facts I did not know and found interesting. Did you know:
- There are 16 muscles on the tongue
- When we cough, air comes out at a speed of 140 km/hr (87 miles/hr)
- The stomach has to produce a new layer of mucous membrane every two weeks, otherwise it would digest itself.
- The maximum words a person can pronounce in an understandable way is 300 per minute.
- Kidneys filter all the blood in the body every 5 minutes.
Both kids, but especially Kian, enjoyed the exhibit and learned some new things. They both loved looking at the heart, and Kian wondered why we draw hearts the way we do since it barely looks anything like the real heart. Hannah liked seeing the bones and then trying to find the same ones on her own body, especially the rib cage, and Kian liked learning about the kidneys and how humans can actually live with only 1 kidney if need be. The human body is quite remarkable.
Overall, it was a great learning experience for both kids. They were too young to understand a lot of what they were seeing, but they definitely came out of it understanding a little more about the human body than they did going in. As for this specific exhibit, if you have seen another Bodies Exhibit elsewhere, there is no real point in visiting it again unless you really miss it!