It has attracted Bohemians from all over the world for years; and while you’re soaking up the atmosphere of Barcelona as you make your way home, you might find yourself in the middle of a peaceful march (true story).
Protests aside, be sure to clear at least one afternoon for a trip to the Picasso Museum before you stop by the bohemian cafe Els Quatre Gats, where the great artist had his first show. Though once a short lived hub of the art scene, it’s a bit of a tourist trap now, but still.
It ain’t just the art either. Notice anything interesting about the city’s architecture? You have Anton Gaudi to thank for a number of the main landmarks, particularly the ones that look a bit, well, Lovecraftian, for lack of a better word. The Catalan architect has left his stamp all over the city, including his work- in-progress masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia. I definitely wouldn’t recommend going up into the the towers if you’re claustrophobic. But, it’s totally worth “the buried alive around 500 feet in the air” feeling to get to see that positively insane roof up close. If it’s Gaudi you’re interested in, check out Park Güell too.
One thing you definitely need to do: take El Tramvia Blau down to the Tibidabo mountain and just take a day to hang around there. It’s great for some pretty awesome views of the entire city; be sure to bring a camera, is what I’m trying to say here. The amusement park on the mountain is the oldest in the city, retaining most of its original rides, and you might recognise it if you’ve ever seen Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Yes, some of us apparently like to base our vacations on places we’ve seen in the movies (guilty).
The shopping is fairly typical of most large European cities, but if you’re looking for local goods, check out the Bulevard Rosa, which specialises in local shops and designers. However, the real draw of the city is definitely the cuisine. Barcelona takes its food seriously, which is no surprise since it was the hometown of El Bulli’s Ferran Adria. La Boqueria has been described as “food stalls fit for a Michelin chef.” One thing though, when they say Spain moves at a slightly different pace than the rest of the world, they’re really not exaggerating. I was travelling with some German friends who were a bit used to eating at 6pm on the dot, so we ended up wandering the streets for about 2 hours with only tapas in sight.
Once you’re used to the pace, and the few hours in the day when everything shuts for a couple of hours for the famed siesta, it’s a fabulous place. The post siesta vibe of any Spanish city is vibrant and dynamic as the bars and restaurants fill-up with locals out to eat, drink and socialise – and nobody does it like Barcelona.
Have you been to Barcelona before? Share some tips with us in the comments section below.