If you read one of my latest blog posts then you will most likely be aware that I am now living in sunny Barcelona! (Although as I write this it is currently pi**ing it down with rain). I won’t be here for too much longer though as my graduation date is fast approaching so I will be heading back to the UK- albeit temporarily.
I first came to beautiful Barcelona on holiday in July of this year only to return permanently a few weeks later (this seems to be a recurring pattern in my life). Luckily for me, my job allows me to work from home so I have had plenty of time to take in all the magnificent sites this city has to offer whilst simultaneously pushing my iPhones data storage to the extreme- I have taken ALOT of photos!
There is a very specific vibe to be felt when roaming around the streets of this magnificent city. A mixture of history and modernism coats every street in a particularly elegant way. Plus wherever I go, the smell of fresh bread and coffee seems to follow me around and as we all know, carbs are the food of the gods. I figured pretty early on that this was a sign that I should eat a lot of bread and drink a lot of coffee… so I did. (I came to regret this later on when I couldn’t fit into my jeans after 5 weeks of wearing Harem pants).
Anyways, if you’re thinking of visiting one of the most beautiful, lively and culturally vibrant cities i have ever seen in my life, here are 5 things I would definitely suggest you add to your itinerary:
The magic fountain…
Sounds like something out of the hit musical ‘Frozen’, I know. But seriously, the magic fountain at Montjuïc is beyond beautiful, particularly at night when it is colourfully lit up in all its glory. The fountain is actually the main feature of a collection of fountains and ponds which stretch across an area from Palau Nacional to Plaça Espanya and dates back to 1929. Interesting fact-2,600 litres of water are pumped through this fountain every second. But you’re probably going to forget that fact pretty quickly when you’re sat watching the magnificent music and light show that accompanies it from Thursday-Sunday 9pm onwards. Show times are subject to change so take a look at https://w110.bcn.cat for more information. La Sagrada familia is another tourist hotspot that I’m sure you’ve already heard of. Although construction of the Church began in 1882 it has evolved into a huge architectural and engineering masterpiece thats still not quite finished. The UNESCO World Heritage site is definitely worth a visit, if you can get past the thousand of other tourists dancing around the place, its absolutely astonishing inside. Las Ramblas is another go-to hot-spot but to be honest I’m not too sure why. Despite it being in the heart of the city and boasting a very lively promenade filled with live performances, human statue art and a number of museums, bars and restaurants. I found myself walking along only to be heckled by about a million street-sellers trying to persuade me to flash the cash for everything from fake Prada handbags to whistles that made me sound like a tropical bird. And I won’t go into details with what happens after sunset but lets just say that there are a lot of shady-looking woman hanging who don’t seem to own very many clothes…
It’s art, darling.
I may be 25 and living out of a suitcase but you tell me theres an art show going on and I will jump at the chance to pretend to be some suave business executive scouting out expensive pieces for my Manhattan apartment. (We ALL do it, don’t kid yourself). There is something very therapeutic about walking around these shows though and in Barcelona in particular it doesn’t matter where you go, you will find art work in some way, shape or form. The city is in many ways considered to be the ‘home’ of art and why not, considering Spanish Catalan architect Gaudí pretty much pimped out the entire place with his distinctive style. Check out the Picasso museum at Montcada where some 4,251 pieces of the artists finest works are on display and you’ll gain a real understanding of his deep relationship with Barcelona. Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) – Montjuïc is also highly recommended for authentic Catalan art as is Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) for a more contemporary approach. If you’re not too keen on art galleries then just take a stroll around the city and you’ll find some incredibly intricate and creative graffiti on almost every wall!
Parks and recreation
If you didn’t get that witty play on words then you should probably stop reading my blog. Just don’t. Considering the population density and thus the sheer amount of land used in order to house everyone, Barcelona seems to have done pretty well in terms of city-greenery ratio. Roughly translated that means they’ve got plenty of parks, so I hope you’ve got some strong legs on you. Parc de la Ciutadella at Passeig de Pujades has fast become one of my favourites. Opened to the public in 1877, it is Barcelona’s oldest and biggest public park and holds numerous events throughout the year. But even during ‘quieter times’ you’ll still find it full of hundreds of people who all seem to have claimed their own little territory within this grand site. Take a left into the park and you’ll find groups of 30-someting woman practising yoga, take a right and you’ll find a bunch of free-loving hippies serenading each other with Spanish guitar. Its quite a romantic place to be, especially as the sun is setting and the crowd begins to unwind. Parc del Laberint d’Horta also known as the ‘Labyrinth Park of Horta’ is located in the former estate of the Desvalls family, next to the Collserola ridge. The historical garden extends over 9.1 hectares of sheer greenery and includes numerous sculptured depicting greek mythology, fountains and pools. For obvious reasons, the summer season is the best time to visit however I am sure it is just as spectacular during the winter. Prices cost 2.17 Euros for adults and 1.80 Euros for kids, see here for more details: www.barcelonaturisme.com. Finally, Mount Tibidabo, standing at 512 metres is one of the tallest mountains amongst the Catalan coastal range and boasts some magnificent views of the city. There is also, rather oddly, a theme park there, as if being that high up wasn’t scary enough. Visit www.barcelona.de for more information on prices and opening times.
Feed the soul
Mainly with Tapas. Quimet i Quimet in del Poeta Cabanyes is one of the oldest and most authentic tapas bars you’ll find in Barcelona. What you’ll also find there is a whole load of people standing up to eat (it gets very overcrowded) and huge families who seem to have invited everyone from their twice removed second cousin Javier to their great aunt Maria out for a spot of lunch. Don’t be intimidated by the enormous crowds though, just do what I did and shout out anything you can pronounce on the menu and then grab the nearest tapas to come at you, even if it might not be yours… La esquinica at Passeig de Fabra i Puig is another hidden gem where you’ll find possibly the cheapest tapas in town. The restaurant offers a set menu of tapas for just 1 Euro but be prepared for a long queue, especially on evenings and weekends. If you aint a Tapas kind of guy (or gal) then take a look here for 50 of the best restaurants in the city: www.timeout.com
Its true, you can’t come to Barcelona without trying the typical Spanish alcoholic beverage of Vermouth- a fortified wine flavoured with various botanicals. Honestly, I still don’t know exactly what’s in it as, being practically T-toal myself, whenever I have tried it I have usually (unashamedly) been hammered after finishing my first glass. Thus have never had the mental capacity to find out. But what I can tell you is that its verrrryyyy nice and it would appear that the locals agree- you’ll almost always see someone drinking it, regardless of the time. Bar seco at El Poble-sec is a great place to kick back with a glass (or several) or Vermouth. The bar is also part of the ‘slow food movement’, meaning they use only local, sustainable produce to make the dishes for their menu. Visit here for more information: www.bar-seco.com. Morro Fi at Carrer del Consell de Cent has its own homemade brand of vermouth, a ‘secret’ recipe which they refused to share with me even when I told them I was a very important business executive visiting Europe to invest in expensive fine art…. Finally, Casa Mariol, located just a 10 minute walk from Sagrada familia is practically in a league of its own. This place sells wine from the barrel so if you bring your own refillable wine bottles, they’ll replenish it for you. If you’re single or have recently broken-up then I would not suggest taking your many empty wine bottles to this place during daylight hours as you might get some slightly empathetic looks…
On a side note, don’t be fooled into thinking ‘siesta’ isn’t a real thing. On my very first week in the city, I decided to go for a jog at 3pm only to find that I had inadvertently walked onto the set of ‘I AM LEGEND’, except I wasn’t will smith and I didn’t have a dog. Turns out everyone really does go for a little nap in the afternoon, including shopkeepers. So don’t expect to be able to pop out for a pint of milk at this time unless you’re willing to walk to the nearest village and milk the cow yourself.