Barcelona guide

barcelona guide

Barcelona, in many ways feels like someone with multiple personality disorder does. You never can quite foresee what side of them will manifest from day to day.

barcelona guide

The polar opposites, the endlessly changing landscape, the layers of history. It’s as if part of the ‘Somorrostro’ magic (what used to be a shanty town and where Carmen Amaya, the most famous flamenco dancer of all time was born) was left behind here by the gypsies and the city inherited some strange hypnotic force that tries to persuade its visitors, to surrender their GPS and annoyingly little folded maps, and instead allow the cities mysterious streets and beautiful architecture guide them. Barcelona is all about soaking up the atmosphere of the city, allowing yourself to relax and letting it present itself in a way that only ‘it’ knows how.

The beach for example with its cacophony of visitors seduces the young/the old/the families, creating a melting pot for the carefree. It’s is usually framed by a sea of avid runners and roller-skaters, racing through the crowds against a backdrop of overflowing restaurants that mark out the cluttered coastline for miles.
barcelona guide

One day it looks like a scene from a music video or even Woody Allen comedy, and then the next day it becomes so artistically eccentric you can half expect Fellini’s ‘Saraghina’ to appear from the shadows.

Then there is the magnetic pull of the Gothic Quarter. A shocking contrast to the tranquillity of the nearby port. This area is so shrouded in curiosity and intrigue that you can’t help but become intoxicated by it. The proximity of the cramped balconies is ridiculous, so close that the neighbours can practically jump across to one another without fear or doubt of falling. Vocal children, piano playing, graffiti, make-shift cafe’s littering the piazza’s – which are subsequently forced into the shadows by the imposing churches that position themselves as sanctuaries between the chaos.

The first time I came here I was completely star-struck after obsessing, unhealthily, over the film Perfume: A Story of a Murderer. I was gob-smacked that Tom Tykwer was actually able to pull off Patrick Suskind’s novel (to an extent) that I quickly researched the area it was filmed, packed a bag and was on the next plane out. The ‘barri’ is teeming with inspiration. Visually it’s stunning, the Art Nouveau buildings are practically hallucinogenic with their swirling façades, religious devotions dotted on each street corner, and redundant ancient oil lamps frame huge wooden doors with frighteningly heavy locks. You can’t help but fall in love with the romanticism of it all.

barcelona guide

Image MorBCN via Flickr.

Big streets, narrow streets, urban living, it’s a super metropolis that combines the city limits with all its modernity to the beautiful classicism of its cultural heritage. Luckily, the longer you stay in Barcelona the more the city will unveil it’s histories and delicacies and pockets of creativity. The easiest way to enjoy it is to be spontaneous. Try a glass of Rioja at a little bar that caught your eye, use a nearby church as shelter during the unexpected rain storm, or just allow yourself to get lost amongst the myriad of streets that are so small that no-one even bothered to replace the name sign.

Here is a small list of things that I’ve stumbled upon in the past or was told of by some very obliging and enthusiastic locals.
La Xampanyeria
By far the craziest place in town – a dive bar. It’s an old butchers shop, hidden behind a huge wall with streams of people pushing to get in. There are no chairs, lots of raised voices and if you are wearing white avoid it like the plague. The menus are a garish luminous yellow with three different offerings, Champagne – Meat – Cheese. The crowd is eclectic and helpful, you’ll often be asked to pass things along for others. It’s fun and vibrant and one of my favourites but maybe not for the faint hearted.
  things to do in BarcelonaImage Skene via Flickr
Llamber Gastronomica

A very highly stylised restaurant with mix of antique furnishings and high warehouse-like ceilings that are nice, if not a little contrived. The food however is a completely different thing – it is utterly divine. We were recommended here by the Sommelier at the W hotel whilst taking in its epic view over the city and very thankful for some insider knowledge. The food here is essentially tapas but with a culinary flair. Try the  monkfish with potato and ‘botifarra’ or the velvety veal cheek served with slivered almonds.

Parc Guëll
Was basically Gaudi’s attempt at creating a housing estate in a natural setting. In fact despite planning for forty houses only two were ever built. It encapsulates Gaudi’s vivid imagination, with its famous dragon covered in broken ceramic pieces. After a full day of wandering grab a bottle or two, some blankets and relax here at sunset – it’s truly wonderful and if you’re lucky you might see some practising flame-throwers or rhythmic gymnastics.

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