BARCELONA: THE OBVIOUS GEM
January 1, 1970
by Talita Soncini
I don’t know you, but for me, one of the most challenging things to decide when planning my next trip is actually choosing where to go. Relax in the mountains after a long day of adventures, sunbath in a beautiful sunny beach, indulge with the best of the local cuisine, admire good architecture and get immersed into the local culture, enjoying good music and a vibrant nightlife are things that any respectable bon vivant will find tough to choose from. We simply want them all!
For those who are greedy like me, I have good news: About a year ago I found a magical place where all of this (and probably much more) can be experienced together without spending more than one plane ticket. Barcelona, the Catalan capital is not exactly a hidden gem, but its potential in grabbing our hearts and soul by offering everything an enthusiastic traveller wishes, grows on every season. Whether you have already been there or not, let me tell you what I found so special about this place that definitely worth a second visit. Or third, or fourth… You decide.
BARCELONA IS CULT
It’s hard to go down Las Ramblas and not imagine personalities like Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro’, Antoni Gaudi’ and Salvador Dali walking exactly the same steps as you. Once home for those incredible artists and many others, Barcelona still keeps the bohemian feeling in the streets of the Old Town; we can almost smell it! If you have art in your veins, a visit to the biggest (and also the smallest, if time is not an issue) of Gaudi’s masterpieces is imperative.
The house known as “La Pedrera” and the “Casa Battlo’” will be enough to make Antoni Gaudi’ your favourite architect ever, if not already. Trust me: it’s better to have an audio guide when visiting them. The Sacred Family Cathedral, that started its monumental construction in 1882 and is expected to be finished 144 years later in 2026, has the most impressive and purest architecture I’ve ever seen – it’s just impossible not to smile (or cry in my case!) and to hold the “wow” that insists in coming out from minute to minute. The beautiful Parc Guell also deserves a good look and a long walk.
The Picasso Museum holds more than 4000 works of the Spanish artist and is the most complete of the world. If you’re a fan of the cubism movement, this is a must-see. If instead, you prefer something more modern, the Joan Miro’ Foundation must fulfill your expectations with plenty of the artist’s works divided into paintings, sculptures and ceramics.
And if after such an artistic journey you feel like having a cup of coffee and a quick snack, pay a visit to Els 4 Gats, the bar where Picasso and all the artists were used to hang out and feel yourself just as cult as them.
BARCELONA IS FIT
Barcelona might not be a beach destination for most travellers, but when in town, Barceloneta beach can satisfy your need of sand, sea and sun without lacking anything from the most famous beaches just around the corner in the equally famous Costa Brava. But with a plus: Barceloneta is used by its locals as fitness ground and offers you plenty of activities to keep you fit whilst enjoying the beautiful view of the port.
If you fancy some skating, rollerblading, cycling, running or even a gym session on the sand to burn all those tapas, Barceloneta is the place to go.
BARCELONA IS TASTY
Eating in Barcelona is rather easy. Whether you prefer a classy restaurant or a more local experience, every taste can be found and largely enjoyed around the city. The La boqueria market offers a wide range of colourful fruits, delicious tapas and local food for modicum prices and for that reason you have to be really quick if you want to grab seat, otherwise you will have to eat on your feet like most.
If having your tapas sat down is important for you, Las Ramblas and also the charming Plaça Reial has an infinity of nice restaurants where also the very desired paella can be enjoyed accompanied with a big (and cheap) jar of refreshing sangria. Have a sweet tooth and want something different of the classic catalan cream? Try the delicious (and fatty) churros with hot fondant chocolate. And then go run a few miles in Barceloneta!
BARCELONA IS BUBBLY
The nightlife in Barcelona is varied and for every taste. Barceloneta switches from fitness ground to party floor in the night time and offers its visitors the best in electronic music and fancy spaces with a lovely sea view – definitely a place to see and be seen.
If electronic music is not for you there is always something interesting happening in the Gothic Quarter, a more alternative part of the Old Town with lots of underground facilities to be discovered. Still in the Old Town but for more traditional tastes, the flamenco evenings with singers and dancers of this traditional rhythm can be a good option for those who love a bit of passion and drama. For the aspiring dancers, the rumba nights are a guarantee of fun and sore muscles the next day.
BARCELONA IS RELAXING
Tired of sightseeing and walking around? Relaxation can be found in Barcelona too. And in great style. In the Arab baths, a restored ancient structure, you can enjoy massages on hot marble slabs, steam and salt baths. For the sea lovers, the regular coastal cruises are a good option for watching the sunset with a glass of “cava” (the prosecco made in Spain) as company.
Unfortunately, it was impossible for me to discover all the secrets of this magical city, but maybe it’s better like that – so I have reasons to go back and experience the magic all over again. And again. And again. Whatever your travel choices are, Barcelona will surely be part of your best travel memories and I doubt you will only visit it once.