Have you ever been in love? Yes, I thought I had too. Until I arrived in Barcelona. It was love at first sight and I can still remember how my heart pumped when I sat on the bus on my way to the centre. Barcelona, the capital of Catalunya, the second largest city in Spain. My true love.
I was 25 years old and I needed a change. A big change. So when I got a job offer in Barcelona, I quit my job, packed my bags and left Trondheim. September 2010 was the month when I started the journey that was going to change my life forever. And for the better.
Falling in love with Barcelona
My most treasured belongings in the beginning was a map and my mobile phone. Getting lost was daily routine and the map didn’t help much because at that time I was really bad at reading maps, but Google Maps and “My position” were trusted companions. Getting lost was also how I learned to know the city and this is how I discovered its “hidden gems”. All my favourite places, stores, restaurants and bars were discovered on my “get lost”-strolls. For example, I came across Rosa Raval and later Rosa Negra, two Mexican restaurants with delicious food and without doubt the best mojitos in Barcelona. And yes, it’s totally fine to have a mojito at 1pm, especially if you are lost.
On my walks, I got to explore what was to become my favourite “barrios”; El Gotic and El Born. El Born is the district where you will find great bars, street cafes and art- and designer shops. If you are the hip and urban type, this is the perfect place for you to stay and hang out. You will meet so many colourful and amazing people and if you are very lucky, the old café-owner invites you in for a “coffee on the house” with his family. Even if you don’t understand the language, kindness and hospitality is the same in every language. And do not say no because that will really hurt his feelings.
Even though I am not religious, I can the see the beauty in churches, mosques, temples and other religious sites and the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen is located in El Born. Santa Maria Del Mar. Built between 1329 and 1383 by volunteers who carried stones from Montjüic, many kilometres away from the church.
The church’s interesting history and amazing architecture is breath-taking and the first time I saw it I felt an inner calm I’d never felt before. This was the moment I was sure; I was in love! I belonged in this city. Every time when I visit Barcelona now, and that’s quite often, I try to stay in El Born or at least very close to the barrio, and here is my insider tip #1: Get up and go for an early walk just in time for the cafes to open, around 8am, and the feeling you get when the city wakes up is a feeling that will never leave you.
The soul and charm of the streets of El Gotico and El Born
You will find much of the same in El Gotic as you will in El Born, but here is where you should hide the map and get lost for real because this is where you really can find the city’s soul. This old, charming part of the city mesmerized me from the very beginning and I spent many hours just walking around. As I kept walking, I found new streets to explore, new shops kept popping up and without knowing how, I ended up right across the street from Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, Barcelona’s most popular market, perfectly located on La Rambla. I am not a big fan of La Rambla, it’s too crowded and fussy, but the market is too amazing to miss! Fresh fruits, vegetables, high quality meat and cheeses, freshly pressed juices…
I can go on and on and in the beginning of my stay I probably spent hours walking around at the market, shopping, looking. And I still do.
Insider tip #2: It’s an old saying: “If you’ve never been robbed in Barcelona, you’ve never been to Barcelona.” Watch your belongings wherever you go! Pickpockets are everywhere and they are good, I’ll give them that!
The view from Parc Güell
The first apartment I lived in was located in Gracia, close to one of Antoni Gaudi’s masterpieces: Park Güell. A stunning park with architecture only Gaudi knew how to make, colourful flowers and a stunning view over the whole city. The first time I visited I was standing on the lookout point and I was thinking; “I live here! This is my home now. This is really my home!” while Freddy Mercury and Montserrat Caballé were singing “Barcelona! It was the first time that we met…” It couldn’t have been more perfect! Looking out over the city on an early morning, sharing the park with only a few people made me realise how lucky I was. And I knew I wasn’t going to move back to Norway after three months as planned. (This is where I would post a photo from Parc Güell, unfortunately all of my photos from there is on a hard drive that got lost during moving…. )
Camp Nou : The moment I had been waiting for
Off course I went to visit La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló and La Pedrera very soon, but for me the main event took place October 20th 2010 (20.10.2010), a date I’ll always remember: I was finally going to see Lionel Messi, Andrès Iniesta, Carles Puyol, Xavi and the rest of FC Barcelona play!
Champions League. FC Barcelona VS FC København. Guardiola VS Solbakken. My first time at Camp Nou. Nou Camp, in Catalan. When the players entered the field, I cried.
For me, this was a very emotional moment and even if you are not a soccer fan, you should not miss out on this experience. Just to be able to say: ”I went to Camp Nou and watched FC Barcelona play” is reason enough. So many are going to be so jealous! It is not about the game, but the atmosphere, the experience and the unity.
This post is based on my first few weeks living in Barcelona and I wanted to share my experience and my feelings about that time. Consider this as an intro because this won’t be my only post about my beloved Barcelona. I want you to fall in love the same way I did, I will do what I can to make sure that happens.