The Weekly Getaway: the colourful downtempo life around Barcelona
Home to Anthony Gaudi's surreal landmarks, a laid back atmosphere and lots of tasty Catalan dishes, Barcelona feasts the eye more than one could imagine as you find yourself immersed in art, taste and architecture.
Aside the ever popular quest for their independence, Catalans are an interesting bunch putting all of their energy in whatever they do. As you stroll around the city during your next city-break escape, take note of the below tips to keep away from the touristic path.
El Raval, Barrio Gotico and El Born
Home to the famous La Rambla, a wide street boasting lively stand-up impromptu acts and hoards of tourists. During the day it's nice to catch a glimpse of it, if only for the nicely set Mercado de la Boqueria. At night it gets even busier and more trashy thanks to the booze and other substances
Barrio Gotico is the old town of Roman influence, offering a picturesque walk through the medieval history of the city and the small alleys. Early in the evening, impromptu fiestas are set up so make sure you pass by. If you're after some authentic espadrillas (alpargatas in their original name) visit La Manual Alpagatera - they may not speak English at all but they sell stylish pairs for both women and men at just 12 EUR each!
El Born is almost adjacent to the port, this neighbourhood was revived in the last decade or so, now filled with many options for drinks and restaurants. During the day it also offers the attraction of Park de la Ciutadella, home to famous music concerts. Lively attraction and tasty eats at the Santa Caterina market. At night, Passeig del Born is a nice small square filled with many options - the place to go. For the sweetooth, go grab some of their confectionery at Farggi.
Barceloneta, Montjuic and the Olympic Complex
White sand, vibrant seafront restaurants and beach tourists flock this area to catch a glimpse of the sea or for a bite of the famous paella, a specialty in the area.
Famed as the ideal Olympic city for its reuse of the Olympic sites after the games, Barcelona has sustained a good use of the Olympic village that offers great 360 views around the city. Montjuic is definitely a must see destination with a diverse mix of nature art and fun. Those that love art would definitely have to stop at Fundacio Miro. The cable car up to the Montjuic top is also good but the walk down through the Palacio Nacional leading to Plaza Espanya is even better!
Gracia, Eixample and Diagonal
Gracia has a nice feel around this old village feel neighbourhood with small streets and rustic storefronts. For the brave ones there's also Parc Guell that albeit small, offers a pleasant break from the busy streets around the city.
Diagonal is one of the most central avenues of the city, featuring many options for shopping but also good eateries. Probably the busiest monument of the city, along with other famous Gaudi creations, La Sagrada Familia is a must. Interesting walk up to the top through the narrow and steep stairways of this gothic architecture church offering great views around.
One last stop at Casa Batlló is a must, to witness one of the greatest Gaudi creations. A colourful apartment block with a surreal curved designed roof!
- La Sagrada Familia - one of the most visited landmarks of the whole world, this is Antoni Gaudí's renowned unfinished church, featuring a museum and magnificent city views. The walk up can be tough if you're not used to low ceilings and narrow staircases but it's definitely worth it!
- Park Guell - colorful park for a great stroll around the mosaic buildings and Gaudi's museum
- Mercado de la Boqueria - on the busy and touristic street of La Rambla, probably the only spot you need to see. Great atmosphere in this lively market where you're surrounded by fresh produce and a colorful setting!
- Fundacio Miro - modern colorful art by the great artist Joan Miro
- Museu Picasso - classic stop if you're into art or not. A medieval mansion housing many important pieces of the Spanish cubist era
- Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art - modern and contemporary Catalan art from the 1940s onwards
- Montjuic - gorgeous hill overlooking the bay of Barceloneta, featuring Palacio Nacional, the Joan Miro Foundation and some Olympic sites
- Casa Bonay - located in Eixample, this hotel has been passionately shared on Instagram. Features beautiful and colourful aesthetics
- Margot House - located close to Casa Batlló, this is an elegant hotel more than what you could ask for
- Chic & Basic Born - budget (and a bit dated) boutique hotel that is however strategically located in the neighbourhood of Born and close to Park de la Ciutadella. Also features a sister outpost in La Rambla
Eat / Drink
- Boca Grande - high-priced restaurant in the fashionable district of Diagonal, serving delicious food to a very international crowd
- Villa Viniteca - located in the trendy neighbourhood of El Born, this wine specialty shop also features rare produce of cheese and cured meats. Sources wine from the best regions in Spain and abroad
- Cupcakes Barcelona - great place for brunch; try the blue spirulina smoothie bowl for something different!
- Gallito - nice lunch place in Barceloneta with a great view to the sea; great tapas and cocktails! Fresh tuna tortilla and fried kalamari with lemongrass mayonnaise are a must
- El National - fantastic decor and tasty food! Have your camera ready!
- Toto - old fashioned open kitchen style restaurant!
- Cecconi's - a must when in Barcelona, especially if you're looking for a classy Italian menu
* Special thanks to Thetis Georgiadou