It’s another cold rainy day in England and as I can’t jump on a plane to some sunny place. So, I decided the next best thing is to write about one. Wrapped in a douvet, with Vicky Cristina Barcelona soundtrack on, here is my attempt at picking the best of one of my favourite cities. Buckle up, it’s gonna be a long one.
Having lived there for a year I got to know the Catalan capital pretty well and if there is one thing you need to know about Barcelona it’s that no matter what you are after you will find it there – the art, the food, the nightlife, the beach. Barcelona has it covered. There is no way I can actually include everything I love about the Catalan capital in one blog post, but here are some of my top favourites in a nutshell.
Being one of the most tourist-swamped places on Earth, there is no hiding Barcelona is an absolute heaven for art enthusiasts.
Miró’s legacy is noticeable too; his surrealistic sculpture Dona i Ocell (Woman and Bird) overlooks Les Arenes, a bullring revamped into a stylish shopping centre.
From the roof terrace you can spot the majestic palace in Montjuïc, the Tibidabo mountain, home to a popular amusement park, and even the modern ‘twin’ towers by the beach.
Yet my favourite wander-around spots are Gràcia, previously an independent village, today a vibrant district of Barcelona, and the beautiful Gothic Quarter where I would often get blissfully lost.
Culture and festivals are huge in Barcelona. As much as a lively European metropolis, Barcelona is also the cradle of the Catalan culture and traditions, and it’s a good idea to coordinate your visit with one of the amazing festivals such as September’s Festes de la Mercè, the celebrations in honour of Barcelona’s patron. Castellers (human castles), correfoc (fire run) and sardana (Catalan folk dance) are the most traditional attractions but there are also free concerts, parades and fireworks.
Big festivals occur every couple of months, and some of them relate to another big thing in Catalonia – food. Calçotada, for instance, is a huge annual event featuring green onions grilled in a newspaper and served withromesco sauce and a glass of red. Best eaten in Valls, Tarragona where the celebration was born and where it’s celebrated with a parade and street party.
It does feel like food is celebrated on a daily basis too. Once you get used to the crazy meals schedule (dinner at 10-11pm) you can truly immerse yourself in the food culture: try fresh fish from La Boqueria, go out for amazing tapas or stop by to grab some crema catalana (not to confuse with French crème brûlée), a dessert to die for if you have a terribly sweet tooth like me.
You don’t have to wait until a festival comes up to party, though. Every weekend is an excuse to celebrate in Barcelona. The night does not start until midnight and you will find yourself dancing until sunrise – or well past it. The variety of clubs and bars is overwhelming. ‘Stock exchange’ bars, shot bars, cava bars… Barcelona is where I first tried absinthe the way it’s supposed to be drunk: with sugar and on fire. Bar Marsella is an expert on this subject and apparently Hemingway, Picasso, Gaudi and Dali would go there to refuel.
I can’t emphasise enough how much more there is to Barcelona and even living there I know I merely scratched the surface. I think the only way is to keep going back and trying to explore a little bit more, and what I know for certain is that it will never get boring.