“This city is a sorceress, you know, Daniel? It gets under your skin and steals your soul without you knowing it” wrote Carlos Ruiz Zafón about the Catalan capital in his thriller novel ‘The Shadow of the Wind’. Barcelona is everything and more. For the lovers of food, wine, gin, art, architecture, sports, culture, travel and life, the city has so much to offer. Here is an eclectic mix of things to do in this overwhelmingly captivating city.
Bunkers del Carmel
This abandoned point on top of the Turó de la Rovira hill with fascinating historic significance during the Spanish Civil War, offers unreal panoramic views of the city. It is far less touristy than the other bird’s-eye-view options and a great spot to watch the sunset over the metropolis. A few beers and a picnic basket make for an unforgettable evening.
Eat. Drink. Repeat
Follow this mantra and you’re good to go. Get your paella fix everyday. Each establishment has its own delicious spin to it and a paella for two people is more than enough for four. Can Solé and 7 Portes are personal favourites recommended by the natives. Pintxos, cold and warm tapas served on toothpicks, (ranging between €1-3 each) are another great way to socialise and enjoy the food scene. Buy your drink, get a plate and stock up on some mind-numbing pintxos at Sagardi in Barri Gotic.
Vino tinto or red wine? Si. Cava or sparkling Catalonian wine? Si. Gin with lavender/thyme/orange? Si. ‘Si’ or ‘Yes’ being the operative word. Take our suggestion and leave your inhibitions behind when in Barcelona. The charm of the bars and bodegas will leave you weak in the knees and maybe with an affair to remember.
Ride a bicycle
I highly advise a bike tour in any European city. To experience the vibrant nature of Barcelona on a bike is quite something. Not only do you get a sense of the varied neighbourhoods and their geography, but also (if you have a spirited tour guide like Yanina from Fat Tire Bike Tours) the historic past and the political present of the resilient Catalans adding much more roundness to your visit.
Date an artist
The choice is yours – Antoni Gaudí, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso. These intriguing men from the past are bound to hypnotise you with their works of art that resonate with the life in Barcelona. Spend an afternoon soaking in some sunshine and sculpture at the majestic La Sagrada Familia or the whimsical Park Güell and Casa Batlló or head to the hill of Montjuïc to visit the Miró Foundation. Book your tickets online to skip the queues.
Or food markets of Barcelona are different chapters altogether in the volumes of Catalonia. The colourful sights and smells at La Boqueria are a treat for any gourmand. Fresh produce cooked in a unique way are found at Universal Kiosk and La Quim in the buzzing market. When it’s time for dessert, hop over to the famous crepe stall in the middle of La Boqueria for mouthwatering strawberry and chocolate crepes. For the delectable tasting and purchasing of cheese, ham, truffles and olives head to the less crowded Mercat Santa Caterina.
Take a class
If food is your answer to everything, then take a cooking class at La Boqueria or any culinary school to get to know better the bold ingredients of this sophisticated cuisine. But if the romance of the Catalan language tugs at your heartstrings then indulge in the learning of this beauty at one of the many institutes offering short and long courses.
Brunch in the Park
If you happen to be in Barcelona between June-September, reserve a ticket for this event. Brunch in the Park takes place every Sunday in Jardins de Joan Brossa at Monjuïc, with local and international DJs, food trucks, stores, bars and a whole lot of entertainment for families and friends. If this does not strike your fancy, hit one of the chic spots for Sunday brunch (Federal Cafe, Brunch and Cake, Flax and Kale) followed by a mighty siesta in the grass at the Parc de la Ciutadella.
Watch a game or a show
Football in Barcelona is a religion and the prestigious Camp Nou stadium is their place of worship. All the ardent football fans must not miss an opportunity to watch a game at the third largest stadium of the world. Check schedules weeks prior to your travel plans and you might just get lucky to catch a heated game between rivals FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. To celebrate an artistic passion of a different kind, the Flamenco performance at the esteemed Palau de la Música is the real deal.
Get lost in the Gothic Quarter
Narrow cobblestone streets, antique lights, small bars, kitschy boutiques and garage graffiti shape the wholesome character of the alluring Gothic Quarter. Authors and artists have spent their afternoons here finding inspiration. If nothing else you’re sure to find your next display picture for your social media account. If you want to skip the old for the trendy, the gentrified district of Poblenou is the place for you where the food, design and music scene is exploding.
When the locals want some sand and sea they avoid the man-made beach promenade of La Barceloneta. Instead they drive to the close-by beach town Sitges. If one has more time on their hands they can drive further up the coast to the Mediterranean jewel of Costa Brava and explore small towns such as Begur and the fishing village of Cadaqués (Salvador Dali’s hometown). Game of Thrones fans can skip the beach and do a day trip of the town of Girona where parts of the last season were filmed.
La vida nocturna (Nightlife)
The nightlife in Barcelona is for everyone and all night long. The concept of an afternoon siesta begins to make sense after experiencing the night scene in this lively city where bars are opened till 3am and clubs till 6am (that’s right). Start your night at Dux where they make a mean gin concoction, making your way to Numero Nueve for round 2. Hop over to Creps al Born to see the coolest bartenders whip up some potent cocktails. At some point after 1am you pass through a pastrami sandwich shop to enter the speakeasy Paradiso or go to the club district of La Barceloneta. At the club Carpe Diem, you quite literally seize the day and dance till sunrise.