The melody of Barcelona

The Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe song, Barcelona, is as relevant today as it was twenty years ago. It still captures the mood of the city.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, it was the first time that we met. Barcelona, how can I forget?

It’s the mix of the classic with the modern that gives Barcelona its flavour. The same way the operatic melodies of Montserrat Caballe combine with the stylised pop of Freddie Mercury’s voice in their song ‘Barcelona’.

I don’t know why I think about this song when I think of Barcelona now. It’s been weeks since I was there and I have only discovered the duet since then, as I did research into a city that I feel calling me back.

Perhaps the song is part of that: siren-like, it’s more like the city than it ever meant to be.

Montserrat Caballe, the opera singer and Barcelona local, asked Freddie Mercury to help her write an ode to the city in preparation for the 1992 Olympic Games.

She was supposed to be the guide, the local expert with the guiding hand. Instead, it was the excited foreigner who takes control and directs the action.

Her warbling, so controlled and so perfect, contains the restrained pleasure of a Spaniard who knows how much joy there is in Barcelona.

His almost-shouting is like an excited child who has just discovered it for the first time.

barcelona, spain, queen song,
barcelona, spain, queen song,

“Such a beautiful horizon, like a jewel in the sun”, Mercury sings.

In Spanish, she acknowledges that the charms of the city will be revealed and all are welcome.

“Ring the bells”, her harmonious words can be translated. “Open your doors to the world.”

It works, though. His enthusiasm is complemented by her grace without either tempering the other. And it’s this consummation of the two which captures the city for which the song was recorded.

barcelona, spain, queen song,

Barcelona’s  new and old

Take Antoni Gaudi, for instance. He may have been born in the region but his flamboyant architecture was as foreign as any British singer.

It was embraced by Barcelona and by one of the most traditional organisations in the world – the Catholic Church.

This was not just the new and the old… this was modernism and tradition and a pairing that defines the city today.

barcelona, spain, queen song,
barcelona, spain, queen song,

The doors of Barcelona have well and truly been opened to the world. It is the fourth most-visited city in Europe and the sixteenth in the world.

The Olympics did their job and there is no need to ring the bells anymore.

As an example: the Port Vell, the waterfront harbour entertainment district, went from a rundown industrial area before the games to a magnet for more than 16 million visitors last year.

barcelona, spain, queen song,

But the modern complex on the shores of Barcelona sits just metres from the historic quarters of the city, with their small winding alleys leading pedestrians in circles to squares built upon the houses of the holy cross.

On the steps of the King’s Square (Placa del Rei) it is said that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella welcomed back Christopher Columbus from his discovery of the New World.

barcelona, spain, queen song,

Little did the citizens of Barcelona know how, 500 years later, people would be leaving this square to return home and regale others of their worldly discoveries.

Little did they know that the welcoming bosom of an opera singer would be used by a blogger as a metaphor for a classical European comfort unweathered by the New World which had just been found.

barcelona, spain, queen song,
barcelona, spain, queen song,

Returning to the song and to Freddie Mercury….

In one line he sings the sentiments of most who visit Barcelona. I know he speaks for me. “And if God willing, we will meet again someday.”

Time Travel Turtle was a guest of accommodation website HouseTrip but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

28 thoughts on “The melody of Barcelona”

  1. The city I lived in for over 8 years and have been visiting for over 24 years. A great post highlighting the contrast between old & new. Barcelona is a must see on every travellers list. My tip is to visit the Plaza Sant Felip Neri and discover the tragic history of this corner of the Gothic quarter.

  2. Barcelona was a place I was initially wary of visiting – so many people had told me how wonderful it was that I was worried it could never meet the hype. But it did just that and more – one of the few cities I’ve visited where I could see myself spending a great deal of time 😀

    • It’s got that perfect mix of excitement around every corner so you can keep exploring… and a natural comfort that makes you instantly feel at home. I’m sure you’ll get back there and settle for a bit one day.

  3. I’ve been to Barcelona a couple of times and never get tired of it. A friend used to live there so I visited a lot – even seeing the Gaudi houses, Sagrada Familia or strolling down the Ramblas more than once never gets old!

    • That’s exactly it – it never gets old. It’s one of those cities you can live in for months and always be finding new things. Or keep going back to visit, and always discovering a different area. Or just enjoy the place you already know!

  4. The photos are just amazing and the song by Freddy Mercury: mind-blowing! I love it in combination with Las Fontanas at Placa Espanya!!! They don’t play it every time I noticed, but when they do, it’s fantastic!!! 🙂

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