Barcelona, the city where I learnt to walk without looking at the ground. I had no time to waste watching where my feet were going, potentially missing another gothic piece of architecture, a magic fountain, or a secret bar. I was constantly on the look out for Gaudí’s hidden lampposts, my eyes were so captivated by the city that I developed a sixth sense to avoid tripping over cobbles and cracks in the road.
A city so poetic that it dedicated a church to the late co-saint Eulalia, a 13 year old girl who endured much suffering during the roman times, and created an enclosed cloister of 13 white geese to symbolise that she never got her full honour. (These geese can be seen today, free of charge, in the church grounds.)
The Olympic Stadium
The 1992 Olympic Games were held up on the picturesque hilltop of Montjuïc and can be visited free of charge today. Public sporting events are often held in and around the stadium, giving locals a chance to compete in an Olympic Stadium themselves. Montjuïc is scattered with cafes and ice-cream parlours overlooking the city from the south.
Bunkers del Carmel
Hidden just a short hike northeast of the iconic Parc Güell, the Bunkers give a more secluded (,and in my opinion the best) 360 degree view of Barcelona. Standing amongst the remains of bunkers built in the Spanish Civil War to protect the city from airstrikes, Turó de la Rovira has recently become a popular scene for shooting television adverts and short films.
La BoqueriaSant Josep‘s food and drink market located halfway along La Rambla has become a rebound tourist attraction in the city. Selling everything edible from fresh fruit to skinned rabbit, a 20 minute stroll through this market will have you captivated. The live fish quarter will have Spanish women dangling over their prized catches shouting at you to move along and stop taking photographs. The outskirts of the market is dotted with tapas delicatessen bars where (if there’s space) you can stop for lunch. My favourite stalls are the freshly-made smoothies, costing only 1€!
El Bosc de les FadesSituated at the bottom of La Rambla (by the Christopher Columbus statue), this Catalonian cocktail bar resembles a mystical rainforest. With running waterfalls, dangling trees, and the soundtrack of jungle creatures playing while you enjoy your drinks, you feel as though you’re spending a night in the Amazon. Great place to head as a couple after dinner, or with the girls as a warm up for your night out. Pricey compared to your average gótico bar, but well worth it.
Name translates as “The Forrest of Dreams” in Catalan.
This is the oldest bar in Barcelona, one where Gaudí (the architect who’s work scatters the city) used to drink, and by far the most historically and culturally interesting. In 2013 there were plans to knock the building down and construct a new, modern bar, but a petition was signed by enough people living in the city to keep the bar. With no background music played, the hustle and bustle of people enjoying a glass of absinthe and the presence of the staff who are lucky enough to work here, creates the atmosphere of this rustic bar.
Note: the only drinks sold here are beer and absinthe (with a sugar cube and water), but what else could you possibly need?
Bodega Biarritz 1881
Down a side street from the expensive and touristic Plaza Reial, this tapas/pichos bar epitomises the true essence of Catalonia. There are 2 options of seating: at the bar where the choices of food are displayed right in front of you to pick and choose, or at one of the 3 or 4 tables (or should I say wine barrels) running down the side of the restaurant. An intimate, friendly experience that wouldn’t be suitable for large groups as the restaurant only seats a maximum of around 14 people. The wine here is my favourite, and the Rioja goes down so easily, especially at only 12€ a bottle!
Makamaka Beach Burger CafeAfter passing this place daily on my beachside jogs, I felt I had finally deserved a visit (or 20) here. This vibrant, quirky burger bar (catering for vegetarians and healthy eaters too) quickly became my second home. Every visitor I had, I would bring to Makamaka and it always scored full marks. I love this place so much, I even bought the t-shirt that the staff wear as uniform, and considered it my lucky charm during my Spanish university exams.
Elrow / Row 14For anyone who likes a good party, the best thing I can recommend is to organise your trip to Barcelona so that you’re there for all of a Sunday. Close to the airport, Elrow hosts a 12hour party every Sunday (usually 09:00-21:00) and I can’t even begin to explain how much effort goes into each and every week. Dress-up Policemen handcuffing people to each other, a shower of inflatable toys at regular intervals, world class DJs every week, 20ft mechanical horses consuming the crowd- you get the idea, right? It’s like nothing you will have ever experienced before. Unless, of course, you’ve been to Elrow’s new events around Europe, which I am hoping will become more frequent over the next 12 months.
– Rent bikes: Barcelona is huge and the best way to see as many things as you can during your time there is to cycle. The city is very bike-friendly so use cycle lanes where available.
– Embrace the siesta: the Spanish don’t start partying until the early hours so you’ll need a break during the day if you’re going to last.
– look out on La Rambla for the Camp Nou stall to buy discounted tickets for tours & games.