A weekend in Barcelona - A Discover Southern Europe e-book.

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A weekend in Barcelona

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A weekend in Barcelona


Before you go

10 Catalan for beginners 12 Barcelona for beginners 14 Welcome to Barcelona

16 DIVENDRES/VIERNES/FRIDAY 18 A first impression 22 Five unmissable panoramas 24 Culinary Barcelona 26 Wining & dining

28 DISSABTE/SABADO/SATURDAY 30 The illustrious Barri Gòtic 34 Siestas for beginners 36 The atmospheric El Born 40 La Rambla: to go or not to go? 42 The many-sided El Raval

46 DIUMENGE/DOMINGO/SUNDAY 48 The legendary Sagrada Familia 52 Sunday, 1pm: La hora del vermut 54 The often-forgotten Hospital de Sant Pau 56 Five stunning Modernism complexes 58 Still some time left?

62 FESTAS/FIESTAS/PARTIES 64 Visca Barcelona 68 Index Platja Bogatell.


70 Metro map

A weekend in Barcelona

I vividly remember the first time I set foot in Barcelona, on Christmas Day 2017. I had never visited Spain – let alone Catalonia – before, but had decided to spend my holidays here with my Catalan partner and in-laws. Coming from the brisky countryside of Belgium, celebrating the holidays in 15 degrees and just a light jumper was a nice change. The city itself was charmingly huddled with locals doing their final Christmas shopping and families enjoying a stroll through its stunning streets. The big herd of tourists that defines Barcelona during the summer had left the city months before, accentuating the authentic spirit of the Mediterranean metropole. Little did I know that in less than a year, I would myself settle in this fantastic place. When my boyfriend returned to his roots, exactly as I reached a crossroads on my own lifepath, I took a leap of faith and followed him southwards – a decision that I haven’t regretted for even a second. Love is the thing that brought me here, yet Barcelona’s joyful, sincere and ever-surprising character is the main reason why I may never leave again. The nice thing about arriving in a new city is that everything, even the smallest details, seems like an intriguing enigma: for example, the habit of not saying ‘hello’ but ‘adéu’ (goodbye) when passing an old friend in the street; or the amount of time they spend in the kitchen in order to eat two multiple-course, hot meals per day; or the fact that not one, but two of their Christmas traditions are related to poo (I’m not making this up, I swear). These quirks are what makes Barcelona unique. And if you opt to venture down a not-so-touristy street, you might just discover more of them yourself. That is what A Weekend in Barcelona is all about. It is an outsider-insider’s view on the city: an interesting journey beyond the impressive peaks of the Sagrada Familia and the flower vendors at La Rambla. If there is a way to discover the real Barcelona in just one weekend, this guide might just help you to do so. So, no time to lose. Crack the cover of this quirky travel guide and discover a Barcelona that most tourists miss out on witnessing. I sincerely hope that the beauty of the city – in the broadest sense of the word – will amaze you as much as it amazes me, every day. Bon Viatge!

Arne Adriaenssens Author


A weekend in Barcelona

BEFORE YOU GO ... allow us to point out some easy ways to get more out of your city trip to Barcelona. As is so often the case, the secret lies in the preparation. When should you go? What’s the best way to get there? Where should you stay? Which items are indispensable in your luggage? This particular piece of advice may not suit the Spanish mentality, but we’re convinced that the more you plan in advance, the more relaxed your city trip will be!

When to go? Let’s start by stating the obvious: there is no bad time to go to Barcelona! Located about 1,000 kilometres south of the United Kingdom, the city is always in a bit of a summer mood. Yet, in terms of weather, the best time to head to Catalonia is in spring or autumn, when the temperatures are delightfully soft. If you prefer 30 degrees and up, summer is the perfect time to go, but beware: the city can be packed with tourists during July and August, so prepare to queue everywhere you go. Another less8

than-ideal time to visit is during the last week of February, when the Mobile World Congress hits the city. As modern-day tech-gods such as Mark Zuckerberg travel to Barcelona for the event, hotel fares, unsurprisingly, tend to skyrocket.

Arc de Triomf.

thunderstorm every few weeks – but the sun usually shows itself for a good number of hours every day. Perhaps also bring a burglar-proof backpack or a bum bag with you. In the European capital of pickpocketing, you had better keep an eye on that phone and wallet of yours.

What to pack? Forgive us the optimism, but sunscreen and sunglasses are musthaves when travelling to Barcelona, regardless of when you go. The city may have the occasional gloomy day – or, in summer, an inferno-like

What to book? To avoid queues and the waiting time, it is wise to book a couple of activities in advance. To visit the Sagrada Familia or Park Güell, you need to make an appointment. The

A weekend in Barcelona

slots tend to fill up quickly, and it can be difficult to find a vacant slot within the last few days before your visit, so the sooner you book, the better. The same rule applies if you want to get your hands on tickets for a football match in Camp Nou: book these as early as possible. If you want to grab a bite in one of Barcelona’s famous

Michelin-star restaurants, you often have to make a reservation months in advance. In a regular restaurant, however, you can usually just walk in without a reservation. As Spanish people tend to eat a couple of hours

later than the Brits and most northern Europeans, your stomach may start to rumble long before the Spanish herds head to the restaurants. How to get there? Catching a flight to Barcelona is easy. From London, British Airways, Vueling, EasyJet and Ryanair offer over a dozen direct flights to Barcelona-El Prat Airport a day. From most other British and European airports, you’ll be able to hop on a plane to the Catalan capital just as easily.

Where to stay? Pretty much all major hotel chains are represented in Barcelona. If you crave a room with an ocean view, Hotel Arts and W Barcelona (both from €350 per night) are the places to go. Not only do these lush paradises offer exquisite service and plenty of facilities, but they are major landmarks of the city’s skyline, as well. Nonetheless, you can travel to Barcelona on a shoestring just as easily. In every corner of the city, you’ll find numerous hostels, guest houses and tiny hotels, where you can stay at a more affordable price.   9

A weekend in Barcelona


A weekend in Barcelona

CATALAN FOR BEGINNERS To fit in in Barcelona, you might want to speak a few words of Catalan. Of course, every local speaks Spanish as well, but making the effort to immerse yourself in the local tongue will be much appreciated. If you speak a bit of Spanish, Portuguese or French, some words might even sound surprisingly familiar.

Espigo del Bogatell.

Pronounce Catalan like a local

Parles Català?

Unlike Spanish, Catalan can be quite tricky to read. Many letters are pronounced in the most unlikely of ways. Yet, there are some ground rules for speaking Catalan properly. First and foremost, the letter ‘x’ is often (not always) pronounced as a ‘ch’. So, xocolata (chocolate) is pronounced [chokolata]. Also perplexing is the fact that Catalan has three different ‘L’s: the l, the ll and the l·l. The first, you pronounce as a regular [l], as in ‘love’. The second, the ‘ll’ is pronounced as [lj], as in the Slovenian capital ‘Ljubljana’. The third – and most peculiar – one, the l·l or geminate l, is pronounced as a ‘fat l’. To pronounce it correctly, you must place the tip of your tongue way higher on your palate and relax your tongue muscles as much as possible. Oh, you also don’t pronounce ‘h’, and ‘e’ is sometimes pronounced as an ‘a’. Don’t worry too much about all these rules, though. Even for immigrants living in Catalonia for many years already, the new native language remains a true tongue twister.

Hola Hello Adéu Goodbye Bon dia Good morning Bona tarda Good afternoon Bona nit Good evening Com estàs? How are you? Si us plau Please Senyor Sir Senyora Madam Gràcies Thank you No parlo Català. I don’t speak Catalan. Parles Anglès? Do you speak English? Ajuda’m! Help me! Demà Tomorrow Ahir Yesterday On es troba …? Where can I find the …? Carrer … … Street M’encanta Barcelona I love Barcelona Què podeu recomanar? What can you recommend? Vi blanc i negre White and red wine Cafè Coffee El compte, si us plau The check, please Un banc A bank l’Estació de ferrocarril The railway station Un hospital A hospital L’aeroport An airport


A weekend in Barcelona

Port Vell.


On holidays, nothing is as rewarding as immersing yourself into the local culture of your exotic destination – and that is no different in Barcelona. To be able to get the real Barcelona experience, learn to understand and adopt the following cultural peculiarities.

A day… Spanish clocks tick differently than in the rest of Europe: siestas in the middle of the day, meals at unholy hours, and very late evenings characterise a day at the Iberian Peninsula. This rhythm is what to expect while living like a local.

7.30AM Time to wake up and have a small breakfast – perhaps just a coffee or some juice.

9AM Offices and supermarkets open their doors and mark the official start of the day.

10AM The shopping streets awaken as well, and public life commences.

11AM Almuerzo – the second breakfast, likely a sandwich.


1PM La hora del vermut – a little break with a vermouth and some olives. Read more on page 52.

2PM Comida – a Spanish lunch contains in between two and four courses: first plate, second plate, fruit and dessert.

3PM Siesta – do it the proper way, as explained on page 34.

4PM Merienda – grab yourself a little snack while shops and offices open their doors again.

7PM Most offices close for the day. Metros, bars and parks start to fill up.

9.30PM Cenar – Spanish dinners are simpler than their lunches. Two light courses usually suffice.

12AM On weekdays, it is time for most people to go to bed. Children might have been asleep for a little over an hour already.

1AM On the weekend, the night just starts around this time, when most youngsters head out to party, often until 5am or beyond.

A weekend in Barcelona

SOS Spain We really hope that, once you are back home, the reading of this part will have proven to be a complete waste of time. Yet, should something go wrong during your stay in Barcelona, you’d better know where to go for help. Like in the rest of continental Europe, the general emergency number is 112. If you call this line, they can help you in English, as well. For ambulances, police or the fire brigade, this is the number to call. For moderately urgent health issues, you can head to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. Here, too, they usually have doctors and nurses who speak a bit of English. Upon arrival, a nurse will determine how urgent your

problem is, which will determine the duration of your waiting time. Beware that you might have to wait for three hours or more during busy times if your case isn’t pressing. The good news: in Spain, urgent healthcare is free for everyone. So, don’t worry about hefty medical bills while in Barcelona. If you enter the emergency room of a public hospital, you will always be helped, free of charge. Other medical treatments and dental care, on the other hand, can be a bit pricey as a foreigner if you don’t have private insurance. Plenty of police officers roam the streets in Barcelona. You will notice that they come in a couple of different uniforms (including one with short trousers for the beach police to wear in summer).

That is because three different police forces are active in the city: the Guardia Civil (the Spanish national police), the Mossos d’Esquadra (the Catalan national police) and the Guardia Urbana (the city’s police). As a tourist, you will most likely need the Mossos d’Esquadra if anything happens, as they handle pickpockets and small crimes, among other things. If your passport gets stolen or you need to reach the British authorities for any other reason, you can head to the British consulate (Avinguda Diagonal 477, 13th floor), which is open from 8.30am until 1.30pm on weekdays. Most other European countries and the United States have consulates in the city, as well.

Skyline from Eixample.

Proper etiquette Tipping?  Don’t! Service is always included on your bill in Spain. Therefore, you only tip as a token of appreciation when the experience is so good that you want to give a little extra. In some touristy places, however, waiters will try to give you the impression that you should tip. Don’t let them fool you. Being loud?  Do! The people of Barcelona might not appreciate us telling you this, but it is quite okay to be loud in Spain. On bars’ terraces, big groups often enjoy beers and tapas together while loudly chatting and laughing the night away. Always be respectful, of course,

when in residential areas in the dead of night, but there’s no need to feel uncomfortable about raising your voice every now and then. Being late?  Do! Spanish people take punctuality with a pinch of salt. If you arrive within 15 minutes from the agreed-on time, you’re still considered to be timely. This doesn’t count for theatres, cinemas, doctors and public transport, however, where you are expected to be punctual. When meeting someone, try not to be early, though. Arriving somewhere early – especially at someone’s home – is considered to be a little rude.   13

A weekend in Barcelona

WELCOME TO BARCELONA “Cabin crew, prepare for landing”. You are almost in Barcelona, ready to explore and experience all that the city of Gaudi has to offer. You will likely touch down in Barcelona-El Prat Airport – Spain’s second-biggest airport, conveniently located mere metres away from the river El Llobregat, the border of Barcelona and the city of El Prat-Llobregat. Disembark, grab your suitcase from the conveyor belt and head to the arrivals hall. Then, all that’s standing between you and a nice city trip is your means of transportation of choice to take you to the city.

For the cruisers … As many cruises have the Catalan capital as its starting point or destination, and many others pass the city along the way, plenty of tourists arrive in Barcelona through the harbour. Therefore, the transport to the city centre is very well organised. Taxis take you from the boat to the city for a fixed price of €39 for a ride of approximately 30 minutes. Another option is to take the Cruise Bus (€3), which brings you straight to the end of La Rambla.


Barceona-El Prat Airport.

By taxi

By public transport

If you grab a cab in front of the airport, your trip to the city might get pricy. Depending on the day and hour you arrive, you may pay somewhere between 25 and 35 euros for a ride to Plaça Catalunya. All taxis in Barcelona charge the same price per minute and kilometre as it is regulated by the city hall, so negotiating on the price or looking for a cheaper ride is pointless. To reduce the cost significantly, you can book a ride through a taxi app. Mytaxi and Cabify are commonly used for booking official taxis, and Uber is also very popular. At any time of the day, more than enough taxis await you at the terminal.

Heading to the city by public transport is fairly easy and considerably cheaper. From both Terminal 1 and 2, you can hop on metro L9 Zona Universitària to the Torrassa station, where you can change to L1 Fondo, which takes you to the Catalunya station. To take the metro from the airport, you have to buy a special airport ticket (€4.60). From Terminal 2, there is also one train every half an hour that takes you to Passeig de Gracia in 25 minutes, a mere ten-minute walk from Plaça Catalunya. You can take this train with a regular ticket (€2.20) or a T-10 (a ten-ride pass, at €10.20). If you arrive at Terminal 1, there is a free shuttle

A weekend in Barcelona

bus that brings you to Terminal 2, which runs every six to ten minutes, 24 hours a day. At night, there are no trains or metros, but night buses leave for the city centre every 15 minutes. By Aerobus A third option is to hop on the Aerobus (€5.90), a shuttle bus that brings you from both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 to Plaça Catalunya in just 35 minutes. Along the way, it also stops at Plaça Espanya, Urgell and Universitat. During the day, there is a bus every five minutes, and at night, you might have to wait up to ten minutes. If you book a return ticket straight away, you get a small discount.

The ultimate airplane seat to Barcelona Make the most of your weekend and let the sightseeing begin before you even touch down. If you book a window seat on the left side of the aircraft (that’s an A seat), you can enjoy a spectacular vista minutes before you land. Not only do you see the city from up high; you can also see the ponds and beaches of the natural park of El PratLlobregat (the home of flamingos and wild horses).

© Jelien Moerman

View from Teleferico del Puerto (page 23).

A weekend in Barcelona


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A weekend in Barcelona

A FIRST IMPRESSION Once checked in and settled, you can finally start immersing yourself in the wonderful biotope of Barcelona. If you are only here for a weekend, make every second count and start soaking up the atmosphere straight away. As Barcelona is very vibrant and lively, the best way to start your journey is by strolling in between the remains of its rich history and chatting to some of its friendly locals.

STROLLING THROUGH BARRI GÒTIC Barri Gòtic (the Gothic Quarter) is the medieval heart of the city. It has the oldest buildings and the most fascinating history. You will find that this neighbourhood has many faces. First, you will see BARRI GÒTIC nothing but tourist-flooded streets and squares, but as soon as you turn around a corner, you will discover tranquil lanes and picturesque squares. In El Call, a former Jewish district dating back to the 13th century, you will find the narrowest and most authentic streets in all of Barcelona. So, just follow your intuition and dare to escape the tourist stream, and you are sure to bump into something surprising, stunning and spectacular. You will return to this neighbourhood later this weekend, so don’t worry about seeing it all already – but take your time and enjoy it.

Cathedral of Barcelona. © Jelien Moerman

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Start your trip at Plaça de Catalunya and enter Barri Gòtic through de Portal de l’Àngel shopping street to Plaça Nova, from where you can commence your quest.

A weekend in Barcelona

MNAC from Plaça Espanya.



Font Màgica.

The Venetian Towers.

Plaça Espanya and its surroundings were the face of the new Barcelona in the 1930s. The humongous, busy roundabout was constructed in 1929 for the World Fair in Barcelona. Apart from Arenas P L A Ç A E S PA N YA (a shopping centre built in the remains of a former bullfighting arena), most of the buildings and monuments here date back to this same period. On the adjoining Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina, you’ll still find the Fira, the exposition halls of the event. The two bright-red Venetian towers at the beginning of this avenue are relics of the legendary happening, as well. At the end of this road, the hill of Montjuïc rises up with the beautiful Museum of Catalan Art (MNAC) at the top. Get the stairs up or opt for the escalators to enjoy the stunning views in front of it. At its foot, you’ll find the Font Màgica (the magical fountain), where light and water shows take place every night. Next to them, there are four gigantic columns, representing the yellow stripes on the Catalan flag. They were originally designed by the modernist architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch and built in 1919. In 1928, however, they were demolished by the anti-Catalan regime of dictator Primo de Rivera. The pillars you see today were built in 2010 by the pro-independence government of Catalunya. Take metro L1, L3 or L8 to Espanya, where you can start your trip. Divendres/Viernes/Friday  |  19

A weekend in Barcelona

Parc de la Ciutadella.

MOSEYING THROUGH PA R C D E L A C I U TA D E L A 1929 wasn’t the first time the World Fair struck down in Barcelona, as, in 1888, the event came to showcase art, culture and innovation at the Parc de la Ciutadella. This park was built P A R C D E L A C I U TA D E L L A at the location of an 18th-century fortress to defend the city against the kings of Bourbon. With the World Fair, they turned the site into a lush park with modernist touches. The grand entrance to the exhibition was the impressive Arc de Triomf, which is connected to the park by a beautiful avenue. Inside the park, you’ll find plenty of surprises, such as a bombastic waterfall with golden elements, a life-sized woolly mammoth, and greenhouses and palaces from the fair. On the left-hand side of the domain, you’ll stumble upon the historic Catalan parliament, and at the back, you’ll find the city zoo.

Arc de Triomf.

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Take metro L1 to Arc de Triomf and enter the park the way they did in 1888. Zoo Barcelona, Parc de la Ciutadella. €21.40. Open daily from 10am to 5.30pm or 8pm (depending on the season).

A weekend in Barcelona

C L I M B I N G AT B U N K E R S D E L C A R M E L Another great way to get to know the city is to tower above it and look down upon it. You’ll get one of the city’s best vistas at Bunkers del Carmel. The remains of this anti-aircraft warfare BUNKERS DEL CARMEL from the Civil War attract plenty of people who want to admire the city with a drink and a tapa. Getting there is a bit of a hike, but the paths are well marked. What makes this spot so unique is its 360-degree panoramic view. The flipside is perhaps that Bunker del Carmel is all but a hidden spot at this stage. At dusk, hundreds of people gather here with drinks, snacks and – unfortunately, some might say – loud music. So, don’t expect a picturesque night by yourself, but rather a festivalesque evening under the stars. Take Metro L5 to Sant Pau/Dos de Maig and walk to the nearby Carrer del Telègraf, where a series of escalators and elevators will take you halfway up.

Bunkers del Carmel.

SHOPPING IN EIXAMPLE Meet a local When on holidays, it’s not always easy to find locals to chat to. The app Meetup, however, does what it says on the tin and allows you to find locals to meet up with in no time. On the app, you’ll find an overview of hundreds of (often free) activities in the city. Search, for instance, for a language exchange. These casual events are held in bars where people come together to practise the language they are learning. Plenty of them come to practise their English, which makes it the perfect occasion to get eye to eye with a real Barcelonès.

Barcelona counts way more amazing shops than your wallet can handle. In the modern Eixample district, you can go shopping in literally every street. A good place to go is Passeig de Gràcia, the place to be EIXAMPLE for impressive modernism and fancy designer brands. Here, you’ll find pricy boutiques next to off-the-rack high-street brands such as Zara, Mango and H&M. One street further up is the Rambla de Catalunya: the cosiest shopping street in Eixample, with a nice mix of clothing shops, cosmetic brands, shoes, books and plenty more. If the weather lets you down, move your shopping endeavours to one of the many beautiful, modern shopping centres. Gloriès, Diagonal Mar, La Maquinista and Arenas are great places to spend hours shopping. Maremagnum, El Triangle and most of the other malls, meanwhile, can keep you entertained for at least an hour. If you prefer shopping in a more historical setting, head down to Portal de l’Àngel in Barri Gótic or to the neighbourhood of El Born, which is packed full of concept stores and local designer boutiques. Passeig de Gràcia, Portal de l’Àngel, Rambla de Catalunya and El Triangle all adjoin Plaça de Catalunya. For Marmagnum, take metro L3 to Drassanes or metro L4 to Barcelonetta. La Maquinista, Arenas and Gloriès are all on the metro L1 line, at the stops Sant Andreu, Espanya and Gloriès. From that last stop, you can take tram T4 to Diagonal Mar. Shops are usually open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 9pm. Divendres/Viernes/Friday  |  21

BARCELONA FROM ABOVE FIVE UNMISSABLE PANORAMAS Although Bunkers del Carmel is a stunning place to sit down and gaze at the city, there are plenty other places in Barcelona from which you can look down on the Catalan Capital and see the Eixample grid in all its glory. Here are our five absolute favourites.

A POOL WITH A VIEW The public swimming pool of Montjuïc is one of the most impressive pools in Europe. Implemented in the slope of the eponymous hill, you can look out over the city while floating in the Olympic tub. To get the best views, climb the ten-metrehigh diving platform. Because of its unique setting, the swimming pool has already starred in an iPhone commercial and a Kylie Minogue music video, and hosted the 1992 Olympic diving competition. Piscina Municipal de Montjuïc, Avinguda de Miramar 31. €6.80 (discounts available). Open daily in June, July and August from 11am to 6.30pm.

IN THE KING’S GARDEN Hidden between the many parks of Montjuïc, you’ll find the lush paradise that is the Jardins de Joan Maragall. Not only does this park amaze with its Versailleslike water parties, but it is also the garden with the nicest panoramic views of Barcelona. Walk behind the central mansion, plant yourself on the steps and enjoy this stunning view, which even many locals don’t know exists. No wonder the King of Spain opts to sleep in the park’s estate whenever he travels to Barcelona. Jardins de Joan Maragall, Avinguda Estadi 69. Free entrance. Open on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 3pm.

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Teleferico del Puerto.

H I G H - A LT I T U D E A M U S E M E N T PA R K If the thrill of height is not enough to get your legs shaking, you might want to climb Mount Tibidabo. At its top, you’ll find Spain’s oldest amusement park. The charmingly deteriorated fun park was built in 1889 and still combines stunning views with plenty of fun activities. If you are not in the mood to hit those rides, you can head to the free panoramic area, from where the view is just as impressive. Tibidabo, Plaça Tibidabo 3-4. €28.50 for the amusement park (discounts available), free access to the panoramic area. The panoramic area is open almost every day. The amusement park is open every day throughout August, from Wednesdays to Sundays in July, and at weekends and public holidays during the rest of the year.

A weekend in Barcelona

F L O AT I N G OVER TOWN When on a tight schedule, you can gaze at the city while on the way to your next destination. From the adorable cable car between Barceloneta and Montjuïc, you get amazing views across town. Make sure to have your camera ready, as the trip passes faster than you might think. Once up, you can visit other viewpoints such as the Jardins de Joan Margall or La Piscina Municipal de Montjuïc, or take another cable car to go all the way to the top: to Castell de Montjuïc. Here, you can walk around the fortress for free, enjoying the beautiful vistas of the city and its harbour. Teleferico del Puerto, Paseo Juan de Borbon (Barceloneta) & Avinguda de Miramar (Montjuïc). €11. Open 11am to 5.30pm (or, in the summer, 8pm).


Ayre Hotel Rosellón.

ON THE CITY’S ROOF A metropolitan city like Barcelona counts numerous rooftop bars, and it is hard to pick out just one. Yet, the view from the Ayre Hotel Rosellón’s roof is undoubtedly exceptional. While sipping your cocktail or nibbling on some tapas, you can stare at the mighty Sagrada Familia from up close. Even better: the prices are rather reasonable considering the view on offer. So, take the elevator up and find yourself a table next to the city’s most famous construction site.

Piscina Municipal de Montjuïc. © Wikipedia

Ayre Hotel Rosellón, Carrer Rosellón 390. Free entrance for café guests. Open daily from 10am to 12am.

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CULINARY BARCELONA Above all else, Barcelona is a city of scents and tastes. Not only does Catalonia rely on centuries of culinary history and experience; it is also the place to be if you want to taste a bite of the future. Barcelona is the birth place of one of the best chefs in the world, Ferran Adrià; counts 16 onestar, four two-star and two three-star restaurants listed in the MichelinGuide; and is the home of Disfrutar and Tickets, numbers 18 and 36 in the Restaurant Top 50. But you can find a myriad of tasty specialities away from the linen napkins and crystal glasses, as well. Find yourself a local restaurant and dive into their delicious assortment.

TA PA S N I G H T Alongside siesta and fiesta, tapas is one of those three Spanish words that everyone knows. And why wouldn’t we? Few things are as cosy as sharing a selection of delicious, small plates with friends or family. When in Barcelona, you should absolutely order some of the usual suspects, like patatas bravas (fried potatoes with a garlic sauce and a spicy sauce), calamares alla romana (battered, deep-fried octopus rings), fuet (a salami-like sausage) and montaditos (small sandwiches with tasty, Mediterranean toppings or fillings). Make sure to order some typical pa amb tomàquet, as well: toasted bread with garlic, tomato pulp and olive oil – a simple yet delicious tapa.

ESCALIVADA Few vegetables are as typically Mediterranean as the bell pepper and the eggplant. In Catalonia, they combine both into a very simple but finger-licking-good dish. Put both vegetables in the oven for an hour until they are nice and soft. Let them cool down and pull them into strings. Put some strings of both veggies on top of a piece of bread alongside an anchovy, and you’ve got yourself a brilliant tapa.


Patatas bravas.

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There’s no turkey and no oysters on the Christmas buffet in Barcelona. Here, the ‘abuela’ prepares a tasty stock, instead. Alongside some vegetables and bones, she usually adds meatballs and butifarra negra (black pudding). At the end, they take the bones, meat and vegetables out and throw in some big pasta shells. Serve with cheese on top, and it makes a much-loved starter. Afterwards, the boiled vegetables, meatballs and sausages are served separately – and then, just say ‘Bon Nadal!’ and go ahead and open those presents.


Pa amb tomàquet. © Wikipedia

Perhaps one of the most peculiar dishes on Catalan soil is a plate of calçots. At the beginning of the year, people grill this local variety of spring onion on the barbeque until it is entirely blackened. They then pull the black, outside layer from it, dip the rest in romesco sauce (a typical sauce made of almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, garlic, oil and spices), and eat it by hand. Typically, the onions are presented on a red roof tile. Afterwards, you will usually eat a meat course from that same barbeque. Calçotadas (as the lunching ritual is called) are only held from January until March or April.

FIDEUÀ If you want to try an authentic paella, Barcelona is not the right place. As the dish originates from Valencia, the paellas you taste in Barcelona are not necessarily any better than anywhere else in Europe. What they do know how to make is fideuà: a seafood dish with squid, shrimps, cockles and whole-grain vermicelli. The dish is heavy and is therefore only ever eaten for lunch by the locals. Yet, plenty of restaurants in the city serve it until late at night.


Fideuà. © Shutterstock

On Boxing Day, Spanish families come together again for one last heavy meal: canelons. While these big pasta tubes are mainly used in the Italian kitchen, the Catalans know their way around them just as well. They fill them with a slow-cooked beef stew and cover them with a creamy bechamel. Like the Italians, they add a royal layer of cheese on top before putting it all in the oven.


Crema Catalana.

What is a meal without a dessert? In Barcelona, you should try a Crema Catalana. Most people know this dish by its French name, Crème Brûlée, but it was the Catalans who invented it as early as the 14th century. The dish consists of a thick custard with hints of cinnamon and orange zest, topped with the iconic, caramelised layer of sugar.

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Wining A N T I C T E AT R E € Informal, hidden garden terrace in the centre of El Born, adjoining an avant-garde theatre. Simple drinks list and self-service.

El Born Carrer de Verdaguer i Callís 12 anticteatre.com

SUCURSAL ACEITERA €€ Cosy tapas bar and restaurant with some of the best patatas bravas in Barcelona. Sant Antoni Carrer del Comte Borrell 36 restaurantsucursal.com


SANT ANTONI GLORIÓS €€ Modern lounge bar with delicious southern-Spanish tapas and an amazing selection of drinks. Sant Antoni Carrer de Manso 42 sant-antoni-glorios.negocio.com

BAR MARSELLA €€ 200-year-old pub in the heart of El Raval with absinthe as its signature drink. In their days, Dalí, Picasso and Hemmingway were regulars here. El Raval Carrer de Sant Pau 65

E L X A M PA N Y E T € €

Authentic, atmospheric bar with tapas, wine and homemade vermouth. Very hidden, very local. El Born Carrer De La Mercè 17 tasca-el-corral.negocio.site

One of the busiest traditional bars in town. The ideal spot to mingle with the locals while enjoying a tapa and a vermouth. El Born Carrer de Montcada 22 www.elxampayet.es



Perfect place for a cup of joe. Their menu is rather limited, but great. The baristas tend to take their time but sure know their trade.

Barcelona’s most authentic cocktail bar. It has been around for 85 years, and they know their trade. Ask the bartender for one of the classics or a custom mix.

Barri Gòtic Carrer de l’Arc de Sant Ramon del Call 11 satanscoffee.com

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El Raval Carrer dels Tallers 1 boadascocktails.com

ZONA D’OMBRA €€€ Specialist wine store with plenty of uncorked bottles, up for degustation. Great place to ask for wine advice. Barri Gòtic Carrer Sant Domenec del call 12 zonadombra.es

PA R A D I S O € € € Beautiful yet quirky speakeasy, hidden behind a false door in a real pastrami shop. Sneak in for a great cocktail. El Born Carrer de Rera Palau 4 paradiso.cat

Dining LA ESQUINICA € Off-the-beaten-path (and hence tourist-free), cheap, finger-lickinggood tapas bar. Come early! At rush hour, you might have to queue for an hour or more to get a table.

Nou Barris Passeig de Fabra i Puig 296 laesquinica.com

E L S 4 G AT S € € The restaurant where Picasso held his first exhibition, and still a very creative space. Great food and service for being a famous place in the tourist centre. Barri Gòtic Carrer de Montsió 3 4gats.com

BAR DEL PLA € Local bar with one of the best Crema Catalanas in town. Very charming, authentic place. El Born Carrer de Montcada 2 bardelpla.cat


PA U C L A R I S 1 9 0 €€€ Modern Catalan restaurant, combining organic and Mediterranean cuisine in a myriad of exciting dishes. Eixample Carrer Pau Claris 190 pauclaris190.com

P U R R E S TA U R A N T €€€ Modern Catalan restaurant, in regards to both design and food. The tasting menu guarantees a unique dining experience. Eixample Passatge de la Concepció 11 purbarcelona.com

C A N C O R TA D A € € €

Cosy, grand café in one of Gaudí’s most famous masterpieces: La Pedrera. Great food, from breakfast to dinner and everything in between. Eixample Passeig de Gràcia 92 cafedelapedrera.com

Top-notch food in a spectacular 1,000-year-old masia in the green city suburbs. Very reasonable prices considering the exquisite quality and service. Horta-Guinardó Avinguda de l’Estatut de Catalunya cancortada.com



The perfect spot for a tasty, traditional meal after attending a play at el Liceu. Hurry up, the place fills up quickly. El Raval Carrer de la Cera 49 restaurantcanlluis.es

Stunning, high-end food market, showcasing the very best food and drinks from Catalonia and far beyond. Eixample Passeig de Gràcia 24bis elnacionalbcn.com

LA BODEGA BIARRITZ 1881 € Original tapas bar with the option to let the chef select the tapas for you. There are only tables for two available, so you can only enter as a duo; no more, no less.

Barri Gòtic Carrer del Vidre 8 bodega-biarritz.webnode.fr

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A weekend in Barcelona


Santa Maria del Mar (page 36).

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A weekend in Barcelona

THE ILLUSTRIOUS BARRI GÒTIC Barri Gòtic (Catalan for Gothic Quarter) is a history book of stone. Every corner, brick and alley tells a story about another passage of the city’s centuries-long history. Its roots date back to the third century AC, when the Romans built the settlement of Barcino in the exact spot where we now find Barri Gòtic. Centuries later, the Crown of Aragon turned Barcelona into one of the Mediterranean’s mightiest cities, which it would remain for some 900 years, until Aragon was defeated by the Spanish and dark times were awaiting Barcelona. Barri Gòtic is the sum of 18 centuries of wealth, war, colourful citizens and a hunger for innovation and progression. Don’t just walk past the metres-thick walls of the city’s oldest buildings, but let them share with you their fascinating tales.


Cathedral of Barcelona.

Pont del Bisbe. © Wikipedia

...or in short: Cathedral of Barcelona. This Gothic masterpiece is the main church of the city and is easily recognisable by its stunning 70-metre-tall tower. Although the first church C AT H E D R A L O F B A R C E L O N A built in this spot dates back to the third century, the current cathedral dates back to 1298. By 1448, the lion’s share of the temple had been completed, yet it was only in 1889 that the current façade was built. For the construction of the last three towers on the church’s west side, Barcelona had to wait until 1913. In addition to its lush decorations both on the façades and in the interior, the cathedral also has a few interesting surprises in store. You can, for example, take the elevator up to enjoy the panorama from the towers. At the back, you can visit the tiny monastery garden, in which you can always find 13 geese, one for each year of Santa Eulàlia’s short life. At its fountain, you will find an egg balancing on top of the spouting water. This tradition of the so-called ‘dancing egg’ is typical in Catalonia during the feast of Corpus Christi, a festival in the middle of June. Placita de la Seu. €7 (plus an additional €3 to visit the choir or roof). Open from 12.30pm to 7.45pm on weekdays, from 12.30pm to 5pm on Saturdays, and from 2pm to 5.30pm on Sundays.


The city hall at Plaça de Sant Jaume. © Wikipedia

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Plaça de Sant Jaume is the administrative heart of both the city of Barcelona and Catalonia as a whole. Facing each other at opposite ends of the square, you’ll find the city hall of Barcelona and PLAÇA DE SANT JAUME the government building of the region (Palau de la Generalitat). Ever since medieval times, the two institutions have been facing each other in the heart of the city. Through Carrer del Bisbe, Carrer de Ferran and Carrer de Sant Jaume, the square is directly linked with the cathedral, La Rambla and Via Laietana.

A weekend in Barcelona

Cathedral of Barcelona.

B E H I N D T H E C AT H E D R A L Although the streets behind the cathedral are some of the nicest in Barri Gòtic, they are significantly quieter than the rest of the city. This provides the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in their PONT DEL BISBE medieval atmosphere. To travel even further back in time, make a stop at the Roman Temple of Augustus, one of the last remains of the city of Barcino. Three humongous columns are all that has survived the last 17 centuries, but they are worth a quick visit (especially as you can enter for free). If you continue strolling through the streets, chances are that you will finally end up at the tourist-packed Carrer del Bisbe with its elegant bridge, el Pont del Bisbe. This selfie-worthy bridge connects the government building of Catalonia with the residence of its president. At the bottom of the bridge, you’ll find an engravement of a skull with a dagger. The legend states that once this dagger is removed, the city of Barcelona will be destroyed. Just circle the cathedral and try to always opt for the calmest-looking streets. Temple of Augustus, Carrer Paradís 10. Open daily from 10am to 7pm (to 2pm on Mondays and 8pm on Sundays).

Strolling through El Gòtic Not all streets are created equally – not even in the beautiful Barri Gòtic. If you decide to explore the neighbourhood on foot, you’d better make sure that you take all the right lanes. Walk from Plaça de Catalunya to Plaça Nova through Portal de l’Àngel. Here, walk straight ahead through Carrer del Bisbe and take the first street on your right to enter El Call. Walk through this ancient labyrinth until you reach Plaça de Sant Jaume, from where Carrer de Ferran will take you to the beautiful Plaça Reial.

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A weekend in Barcelona

Plaça Reial. © Wikipedia

REGAL AND LUSH Located mere metres away from La Rambla, Plaça Reial is not exactly a tranquil square to pass some time in. Nonetheless, it is a spot like none other in the city. Its typical Spanish façades with soft-yellow PLAÇA REIAL and white, tiny balconies blend in very well with the square’s lush lanterns by the hand of Antoni Gaudí. In its galleries, you’ll find numerous restaurants, serving traditional Spanish and Catalan dishes as well as tasty cocktails and nice ‘vermuts’.

THE FAMERS’ MARKET Historic buildings, focused painters and an idyllic farmer’s market: Plaça del Pi captures the entire essence of the Mediterranean in one square. The court yard in the shadow of the Church of Santa PLAÇA DEL PI Maria del Pi lies on the exact location of a former cemetery. Today, however, this place is all about enjoying the best things life has to offer. Numerous chocolate boutiques adorn the square; at the farmer’s market on the weekends, you can enjoy high-quality Catalan delights; and in the nearby Carrer de Petritxol, you’ll find the best ‘churros con chocolate’ in the city at one of the many ‘xurrerias’.

Entrance of Plaça Reial.

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Visit the farmer’s market from 10am to 9pm on the first and third Friday, Saturday or Sunday of the month.

A weekend in Barcelona

A CIVIL WAR SOUVENIR This little square is one of those last hidden secrets in the city centre. Most tourists don’t manage to find it, making it a lovely oasis of tranquillity. In stark contrast to that silence are the PLAÇA DE SANT FELIP NERI many bullet holes in the ancient walls. After the Civil War, Barcelona was in very poor shape due to the bombings and gunfire. While restoring the rest of the city, the government decided to preserve the damage in this one square as a memorial to all the victims of the Civil War and the children from the nearby school, who passed away when this very square was bombed. On a less solemn note, fans of the rock band Evanescence might recognise this square as the shooting location of the My Immortal video. So, take off your shoes and re-enact the legendary scene on top of the fountain. Plaça de Sant Felip Neri. © Wikipedia

TIME TRAVELLING Located at the historic Plaça del Rei, the History Museum of Barcelona (MUHBA) is surrounded by the city’s tangible heritage. In an interesting and modern way, it takes you on a journey from the Roman era to the MUHBA age of the Modernists. In addition to its main branch on Plaça Del Rei, MUHBA counts 15 other small museums, all located at important heritage sites. With one ticket, you can enter them all. Eight of them are in Barri Gòtic, and the other seven are spread around town.

Plaça del Rei. © Wikipedia

Plaça del Rei. €7 for all 16 locations (discounts available). Free admission on 12 February, 18 May, 24 September and every first Sunday of the month. Open daily from 10am to 5pm (and until 7pm from April to September).

N A R R O W, N A R R O W E R , N A R R O W E S T 2pm: Lunchtime For a nice and cosy lunch, we strongly recommend that you head to El Call. Here, you’ll find plenty of charming places to have a delicious meal. But keep your eyes open – some of the most picturesque alleys and most authentic restaurants can be tricky to find.

Dating back to the 13th century, the narrow streets of El Call are among the oldest still-existing parts of Barcelona. The former Jewish quarter stands out with its dark alleys – sometimes just a metre wide – and sober EL CALL use of grey stone. Today, however, many of these buildings house warm restaurants, cute coffee bars and unique shops. Our favourite spot to have a drink or a meal is Placeta de Manuel Ribé, where you can enjoy a great coffee at Satan’s Coffee, a refreshing tea at Caj Chai, and a satisfying lunch at Bistrot Levante. Enter El Call through Plaça de Sant Jaume, Carrer de Ferran or Plaça de Sant Felip Neri and let your intuition guide you. Dissabte/Sabado/Saturday  |  33

SIESTAS FOR BEGINNERS If you have ever been to Spain, you probably know that when the sun is at its highest point, the liveliness in the streets dies out. During these sizzling hours, Spanish people enjoy their traditional siesta, a beauty sleep that cuts their working day in two. Throughout the years, ‘siesta’ has become a synonym for the Spanish culture and its laid-back character – but what does this traditional nap look like? This beginner’s guide takes you through the ins and outs of the perfect, Spanish afternoon shut-eye. While many believe that siestas have been common in Spain since the beginning of time, they are a rather new phenomenon. It was only in the 1920s that high-up clerks started to rearrange their working hours, creating a longer lunch break in which they could take a nap. In the following decades, their subordinates followed their example, creating the now-legendary Spanish working rhythm. Why take a siesta? The question is rather: why not? Closing your eyes after lunch prevents stress, improves your memory and is good for your heart. Yet, the foremost reason for the Spaniards to take one is, of course, to escape the Spanish summer heat. As Spaniards usually work until 8pm, they like to stay up late as well. A siesta, then, helps them to compensate for those short nights. When is siesta time? Traditionally, Spanish people are off between 2pm and 4pm. They call these long lunchbreaks their ‘little weekends’. Once off, they first cook themselves a hot meal. Given the importance of proper lunching in Spain, this can even be a three- or four-course meal. When they are full, they settle somewhere comfortable and try to catch some sleep. Before closing their eyes, they usually have a cup of coffee. This might sound odd, but it actually makes total sense: as it takes about 20 minutes for the caffeine to kick in, the energy boost will present itself right when they want to wake up again – because a siesta is all but a multiple-hour sleeping break. A self-respecting Spaniard always limits it to 20 or 30 minutes only. If you stay horizontal for much longer, you will likely remain sleepy for the rest of the day. Where to take a siesta? Those working close to home usually opt for the comfort of their proper bed or sofa. Yet, as many people can’t head home during their break, it isn’t considered strange at all to take your nap in your local park or square. Lie down on the grass underneath a tree, make yourself comfortable on a park bench, or occupy the back of your car.

In need of a lullaby? To help you catch your sleep quickly, try Napflix. This quirky, free parody on Netflix only offers videos that are so boring that you fall asleep instantly. A one-hour video of a juice bottling plant, a traditional mass in Latin… the choice is yours!

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© Shutterstock

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A weekend in Barcelona

THE ATMOSPHERIC EL BORN Separated from Barri Gòtic by the busy thoroughfare of Via La Laietana, El Born is a district with a very different identity. You’ll no longer find traces of wealth and richness here, but instead, you enter a humble and authentic fisherman’s quarter. In the Middle Ages, the local seamen built this postcard-perfect neighbourhood stone by stone. Therefore, you’ll find more than one wonky wall along its narrow streets. Today, the district is one of the hippest in Barcelona. With concept stores, coffee bars and countless start-ups, there is something to discover behind every corner.


Palau de la Música.

Palau de la Música is a masterpiece by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, the architect of the magnificent Hospital de Sant Pau. It is hidden in the narrow streets of El Born. Unfortunately, that PA L A U D E L A M Ú S I C A makes it almost impossible to point your lens at the building. In its grand concert hall, every square centimetre is colourfully decorated to perfection; its crown piece is a humongous, illumined, stained-glass bubble that almost appears to be dropping from the ceiling, covering the hall in a soft and warm glow. Palau de la Música Catalana, Carrer Palau de la Música 4-6. €20 (discounts available). Guided tours every 30 minutes from 10am to 3.30pm.

THE COMMON-MAN’S BASILICA Built between 1329 and 1383, the basilica of Santa Maria del Mar is a perfect example of Catalan Gothic without any influences from other styles. The legend goes that this church, S A N TA M A R I A D E L M A R dedicated to Saint Mary of the Sea, was built by the seamen from the district themselves, and that no construction worker collaborated on it. In 2018, the story of its construction was turned into an eight-part series called Cathedral of the Sea (available on Netflix). Although the church is packed in between houses, its interior is very spacious. Plaça de Santa Maria 1. Free admission. Open daily from 9am to 1pm and 5pm to 8.30pm, Sundays, from 10am to 2pm and 5pm to 8pm.

Strolling through El Born

Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar.

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Telling you where to go in El Born is hard, as almost every street is undoubtedly stroll-worthy. Yet, we advise you to cross Via Laietana near Carrer de Sant Pere Més Alt and follow it to Plaça de Sant Pere. From here, continue through Carrer de les Basses de Sant Pere, Plaça de Sant Agustí Vell and Carrer dels Carders until you reach Carrer de Montcada, which leads to Passeig del Born, one of the most adorable squares in town. Don’t end your stroll here, though. Enter any of the streets and you will discover many more beautiful spots.

A weekend in Barcelona

Centre Cultural El Born. © Shutterstock

A TRIP TO 1714 What used to be the market of El Born is now its cultural epicentre. When the city council renovated the old market in 1979, they stumbled upon archaeological discoveries as C E N T R E C U LT U R A L E L B O R N soon as they started digging. Finally, they uncovered a city district from the 1700s, stretching the entire width of the former market hall. In 2003, the building reopened as a free museum, where you can explore these archaeological finds. For independentist Catalans, this museum also has ideological significance: during the siege of Catalonia in 1714, the region lost its independence and became a part of Spain. The remains in El Born are, therefore, the last tangible memory the region has of its final years as a Catalan nation. Plaça Comerical 12. Free admission to the centre. Admission to the exhibitions: €3; guided tours through the ruins: €4. Open daily from 10am to 7pm (8pm from March until October). English guided tours available daily at 4.30pm from July until September. Dissabte/Sabado/Saturday  |  37

A weekend in Barcelona

THE BROWN GOLD The chocolate museum is a mecca for all your senses. Learn about the brown gold and its link with Catalonia, M U S E U D E L A X O C O L ATA and take the time to taste the delicacy afterwards – with or without churros. At the gift shop, pick up a delicious souvenir to take home with you, as well. Carrer del Comerç 36. €6 (discounts available). Open daily from 10am to 7pm, and until 3pm on Sundays.


Museu de la Xocolata. © oh-Barcelona.com

Right outside of El Born lies Parc de la Ciutadella, the green lung of the city. As the biggest park in town, it mainly serves as a public garden for all those living in small flats. Yet, as it was the P A R C D E L A C I U TA D E L L A location of the 1888 World Fair, there is plenty to discover, as well. Make sure not to miss the mighty Arc de Triomf outside the park. For more information, scroll back to page 20.

Parc de la Ciutadella. © Shutterstock

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Picasso Museum. © Shutterstock

PICASSO’S WORLD Besides Gaudì, many other world-famous artists used to frequent Barcelona. Like Dalí and Miró, the legendary painter Picasso lived in the city for many years. At the Picasso Museum, PICASSO MUSEUM you can explore the evolution throughout his work with your own two eyes, as you walk from his early works to his latest abstract paintings. You won’t find his most legendary pieces here, but the visit does provide a perfect insight into the mind of the genius. Carrer de Montcada 15-23. €12 (discounts available). Free admission on 12 February, 18 May, 24 September, every first Sunday of the month, and every Thursday from 6pm to 9.30pm. Open daily from 9am to 8.30pm (and to 9.30pm on Thursdays), except Mondays, when it is open from 10am to 5pm.

4pm: Merienda By 4pm, you deserve a snack. If you have a sweet tooth, you might want to try one of the many cheesecakes and pastries at La Mona Pastissos, near the chocolate museum. If the weather is good, buy some cake to take away and eat it at the cute, adjoining square, Carrer del’Allada-Vermell, where you can people-spot the day away.

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La Rambla. © Shutterstock

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LA RAMBLA TO GO OR NOT TO GO? There are two sorts of people: those who think that La Rambla is the cosiest spot in Barcelona and those who start sweating at the sheer thought of being in that humongous hurdle of people. Which type are you? We list the pros and cons of Barcelona’s busiest street so that you can decide whether to stroll through it or avoid it all costs. What we love about La Rambla La Rambla is a unique phenomenon. Although there is little more to do than stroll, look around and purchase some souvenirs, the 1.2-kilometre-long street is one of the city’s most-visited spots, not least because of the many attractions you find along the way. La Boqueria (the city’s most charming market), el Licéu (the grand opera house) and Plaça Reial (one of the lushest squares of Barcelona) all adjoin the famous boulevard. Furthermore, the intriguing Big Fun Museum, the Wax Museum and the Erotic Museum (with its Marilyn Monroe impersonator waving at you from the balcony) are great spots to spend an afternoon if the Spanish weather lets you down. Alongside the street, you’ll find amazing architectural pearls and buildings, where time seems to have stood still. Buy yourself a treat at the 200-year-old Pasteleria Escribà. One of Spain’s greatest pastry chefs, Antoní Escribà, nicknamed ‘the Mozart of chocolate’, keeps the family business up to date. What we hate about La Rambla La Rambla’s biggest problem is its massive number of tourists. At rush hour, it is next to impossible to walk at a normal pace due to the immense crowds dawdling, standing and pointing everywhere you look. On the many terraces, you’ll find countless nationalities sipping one-litre cocktails while eating questionable paellas. Next to the tables, loud waiters try to push menus in the hands of the passers-by, luring them into their restaurants. Apart from a stronghold for tourism and capitalism, La Rambla is also a playground for pickpockets. Take good care of your stuff, as thieves are always on the look-out.

Any alternatives? While most people refer to La Rambla as ‘the Rambla’, Barcelona actually counts at least four ramblas. Besides the famous tourist hotspot, you’ve got Rambla de Catalunya, Rambla de Raval and Rambla de Poblenou. All four are charming walking boulevards from the city pointing towards the sea, packed with restaurants, bars and shops along the side. We recommend Rambla de Poblenou, which brings you from the amazing Glories shopping centre to the delightful Platja Bogatell. On the way there, you’ll pass dozens of international restaurants with good food at fair prices.

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THE MANY-SIDED EL RAVAL On the other side of the always-busy La Rambla, enter El Raval, the third and last district of the old town, or Ciutat Vella. Compared to the other two neighbourhoods, El Raval welcomes significantly fewer tourists – and that is mostly to do with its questionable reputation. For decades, the district was infamous for its prostitution and criminality. Over the last few years, however, the tide has been turning, and the neighbourhood is experiencing a true revival. Yet, still today, you might be able to distinguish two different Ravals: the locals call them upper and lower Raval, referring to the gentrified part with lots of cute boutiques and pretty buildings, and the part which is a bit rougher around the edges. Nonetheless, both parts are absolute musts if you want to explore the real Barcelona.

GROCERY SHOPPING Mercat de la Boqueria.

The one building in El Raval that every tourist knows of is the Mercat de Sant Joseph, commonly referred to as Mercat de la Boqueria. This authentic market is located on La Rambla and M E R C AT D E L A B O Q U E R I A is the most atmospheric spot in town to purchase fruit, vegetables, meat, bread or just to sit down at a bar for a tapa and a beer. Even though the huge hall is usually packed with people, many of its vendors struggle to survive. As the market’s corridors are mainly filled with tourists who stay in hotels, traditional outlets like butchers and vegetable parlours don’t manage to sell much of their fresh products to them. Nonetheless, a stroll past the colourful stalls is an absolute must. The mouthwatering smells and delicious-looking products will sure leave you hungry. La Rambla 91. Free entrance. Open Monday to Saturday, 8am to 8.30pm.

THE OTHER MARKET Right outside of El Raval, in the modern Eixample, you’ll find the Mercat de Sant Antoni. After nine years of restorations, this gigantic market reopened in 2018. On the outside, its brightM E R C AT D E S A N T A N T O N I red metal walls with elegant, yellow decorations immediately catch the eye. On the inside, over 53,000 square metres of shopping pleasure await you. In addition to 52 regular market stalls, it also contains 105 clothing shops, 72 book stalls, a supermarket and even a fitness centre. Look up to discover its beautiful orange ceiling with its lightgrey metal skeleton as well.

Mercat de la Boqueria.

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Carrer del Comte d’Urgell 1. Free entrance. Monday to Saturday, 8am to 8pm (but try to go early in the morning, definitely not between 2pm and 4pm and you’ll get the best odds of most stalls being up and running).

A weekend in Barcelona

Mercat de Sant Antoni. © Shutterstock

F R O M H O S P I TA L T O L I B R A R Y In 1401, the progressive city government of ‘el Consell de Cent’ (the Council of One Hundred) decided to build a free hospital for the poor, centralising the services of six alreadyO L D H O S P I TA L D E L A S A N TA C R E U existing hospitals. They built the Hospital de la Santa Creu (the Hospital of the Holy Cross) in the centre of the new district of El Raval. The hospital would serve until 1926, after which all the patients were transferred to the modernist Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau (for more information, scroll ahead to page 54). Today, the building houses the national library of Catalonia, which you can only visit as part of a group. Everyone can, however, visit its courtyard for free. Its thick walls, fragrant orange trees and delightful balance of sun and shade make it a great spot to pass some time with a book or to have a siesta. The garden is also considered the border between the so-called upper and lower Raval. When you enter on one side and leave on the other, it is hard to believe that you are still in the same neighbourhood. Carrer de l’Hospital 56. Free admission to the garden all day. Groups can book a guided visit to the library for €25 for groups of up to 25 people. Both groups and individuals can enter for free on 23 April.

Strolling through El Raval Leave La Rambla through Carrer Nou de la Rambla, continuing up to Carrer de Sant Oleguer. Head down to the Rambla del Raval and continue through Carrer de l’Hospital. Enter upper Raval through the garden of the old Hospital de la Santa Creu and head to Carrer del Dr. Dou. Turn right onto Carrer d’Elisabets until you reach Plaça del Bonsuccés. Turn left to Plaça de Vincenç Martorell and continue straight. Turn left at the end and follow Carrer dels Tallers. Follow this one until the Plaça Universitat.

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Palau Guëll. © Shutterstock

THE GUËLL RESIDENCE Palau Güell is one of the few modernist buildings by Antoni Gaudí in the old town. It was finished in 1889 as the private residence of the architect’s biggest benefactor, Eusebi Güell. Although the building looks PA L A U G Ü E L L rather insignificant from the street, its interior is breathtaking. With plenty of lush materials in dark, elegant colours, the interior perfectly reflects the fortune of the Guëll family. Yet, the biggest surprise of all awaits you on top of the roof, where 20 colourful, unique chimneys encircle the central 15-metre-high spire.

Iglesia Sant Pau del Camp. © Wikipedia

Carrer Nou de la Rambla 3-5. €12 (discounts available). Free admission on 23 April, 10 June, 11 and 24 September, 15 December and every first Sunday of the month. Open daily from 10am to 5.30pm (and to 8pm from April to October).

1,100 YEARS OLD Dating back to the late tenth century, the Romanesque church of Sant Pau del Camp is the oldest in Barcelona. Back then, it was located outside of the city, which explains the I G L E S I A S A N T PA U D E L C A M P ‘del Camp’ (meaning ‘from the field’) part of its name. Due to the expansion of Barcelona in the 14th century, however, the church is now part of the city centre. Besides the church with its simple yet beautiful decorations, you can also visit the adjoining monastery and its tranquil garden and galleries.

Iglesia Sant Pau del Camp. © Wikipedia

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Carrer de Sant Pau 101. €5. Monday to Saturday, 10am to 1.30pm and 4pm to 7.30pm (until 7pm on Saturdays).

A weekend in Barcelona

FULL-ON CONTEMPORARY The Museum for Contemporary Art of Barcelona (MACBA) and the Centre for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB) are the city’s most important contemporary museums and are situated mere MACBA AND CCCB metres away from each other. MACBA is by far the biggest and has a permanent collection with pretty much all the big names Catalonia, Spain and the world have seen since 1950. On the wall outside the museum is an original mural by Keith Harring. At CCCB, you won’t find a permanent collection, but their temporary exhibitions are always worth a visit. The centre’s focus is on the city and urban culture, and it displays work from all around the world. MACBA, Plaça dels Àngels 1. €11 (discounts available). Free admission every Saturday from 4pm to 8pm. Open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11am to 7.30pm, on Saturdays from 10am to 8pm, and on Sundays from 10am to 3pm. CCCB, Carrer de Montalegre 5. €6 (discounts available). Free entrance every Sunday from 3pm to 8pm and during the feast of La Mercè. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 11am to 8pm.

El Gato de Botero at the Rambla del Raval. © Wikipedia

CCCB. © Adrià Goula

CCCB. © Adrià Goula

THE OTHER RAMBLA Just 450 metres from La Rambla lies the Rambla del Raval, one of Barcelona’s other three ramblas (for more information, scroll back to page 40). Unlike the legendary eponymous street, the one in R A M B L A D E L R AVA L Raval is less polished and significantly less busy. The restaurants you find here are more authentic and offer more fair prices. You’ll also, however, notice the remains of El Raval’s rougher times: there are still plenty of homeless people on the streets, and some of the bars can appear a little seedy. Nevertheless, the neighbourhood is totally safe during the day and fairly safe at night. At the centre of the Rambla del Raval stands El Gato de Botero, a whimsical statue of a humongous cat by Fernando Botero (the artist who also created the funny horse statue in the arrivals hall of Terminal 2 at the El Prat Airport).

9pm: Dinner time In the evening, Spanish people usually opt for a light dish or a simple sandwich. In El Raval, you can get both at Bar Fidel. Their sandwiches are great, and so are their salads and small dishes. Start your meal with a plate of patatas bravas, as theirs are simply phenomenal.

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A weekend in Barcelona


Sagrada Familia (page 48).

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THE LEGENDARY SAGRADA FAMILIA Google ‘Barcelona’ and you are sure to stumble upon a wide selection of pictures of the Sagrada Familia. The masterpiece by Gaudí is by far the city’s biggest, most impressive and most iconic monument. It still isn’t completed, but that doesn’t stop it from welcoming 3,000,000 visitors a year. And rightfully so! While legendary buildings like these often disappoint once you visit them, the Sagrada Familia keeps amazing.

A SMALL HISTORY The construction of the Sagrada Familia kicks off in 1882 under the control of neogothic architect Francisco de Paula del Villars. When, after a year, he gets into a fight with the beneficiary of the S A G R A D A FA M I L I A project, he is fired and replaced by a young, promising architect called Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí transforms the classic design into a never-before-seen modernist temple. Initially, he estimates that the church will be finished in a decade. Soon, he realises that the construction will take way longer than that and that he won’t live to see the result. Therefore, he makes the completion of the first façade, the Nativity Façade, his main priority. He thinks that the odds of the church being completed are higher if there is already a fully-finished façade to look at. Together with the crypt, this wall is the only part that gets completed before Gaudí’s untimely death in 1926. In 1936, during the Spanish civil war, the majority of Gaudí’s plans get lost in a fire as the church gets bombed multiple times. Some say it might be better to stop the construction of it once and for all. Yet, after multiple protests by the people of Barcelona and plenty of fundraisers, the works continue. When the ceiling gets finished in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI comes to Barcelona to consecrate the basilica to be.


The Passion Façade, Sagrada Familia.

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The end of the construction works is finally in sight. Yet, there still is plenty to do. With the Nativity Façade and the Passion Façade being finished, the only side left to complete is the church’s main entrance: the Glory Façade. Furthermore, the six highest towers are yet to be built: four 123-metrehigh towers, which will symbolise the evangelists; one 138-metre-high, symbolising the Virgin Mary; and the 172.5-metre-high tower of Jesus Christ. And the clock is ticking. The works are planned to be completed by 2026, on the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death, 144 years after the first stone was placed.

A weekend in Barcelona

ON THE OUTSIDE From the outside, the Sagrada Familia is a New Testament from stone. Every square centimetre of the massive construction tells a passage from the Bible through art and symbolism. The story starts at the Nativity Façade, which illustrates the key moments of that mythical night in Bethlehem. Besides many traditional symbols, you’ll also spot other figures, like the turtle and tortoise carrying the main pillars. They represent the harmony between land and sea. The chameleons on the façade represent change. On the other side of the church, you’ll find the Passion Façade, a far more depressing tableau featuring the crucified Messiah, sculptured in a harsh, boxy style. The moments captured on this wall are just as bleak: the betrayal of Judas, the third lie of Peter, and the crucifixion itself. Yet, if you gaze up, you’ll see the resurrected Jesus sitting on top of the basilica. Above him, on top of the towers, you’ll see baskets with fruit; winter fruit, to be exact. Above the other, more joyful façade, there are summer fruits, representing the joy of the world. The third façade is still under construction but will fill the gap of 33 years between the birth and death of Jesus. It will talk about the glory that Jesus brought to the world. This façade will contain much fewer sculptures, but will feature gigantic, ornamental pipes above the portal, instead. Sagrada Familia.

The Nativity Façade, Sagrada Familia.

At the ticket office Basic admission ticket: €17 Admission ticket with audio guide*: €25 Guided tour**: €26 Admission ticket with audio guide and visit to the towers*: €32 * The audio guide is available in Catalan, Spanish, English, French, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, Hungarian, Korean, Swedish, Finnish, Dutch and Polish as well as Catalan, Spanish and international sign language and Catalan, Spanish and English audio descriptions. ** The guided tours are available in Catalan, Spanish, English, French, German and Italian.

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Sagrada Familia.

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Sagrada Familia.

ON THE INSIDE Inside, the Sagrada Familia gets flooded in colourful light through its stained-glass windows. Gaudí’s idea was to create a forest-like atmosphere with mystic, coloured lights and pillars in different shades and of different thickness. Its uneven ceiling mimics a canopy. The four, slightly-red columns that you see when you enter the basilica are of vital importance for the construction of the church. They will, in the end, carry the entire weight of the six highest towers. Underneath the altar, you can gaze into the crypt of the church, one of the two spots finished by Gaudí himself. Here, they still organise serene masses, a world away from the tourist crowds upstairs. After your visit to the basilica, enter its museum, as well (this is included in your ticket price). From here, you can look inside the crypt again and see the tombstone of its brilliant architect.

The tragic death of Gaudí From 1914, Gaudí worked full-time on the Sagrada Familia. Every waking hour, he spent redrawing, rethinking and completing his design. He was so focused that he no longer took care of himself and walked around with an unkempt beard and dirty, old clothes. On 7 June 1926, Gaudí was on his way to the Sagrada Familia when he was hit by a tram on the busy Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes. The tram simply drove on and the nearby taxi drivers refused to bring him to the hospital as he looked like a poor and homeless man. Eventually, a police officer escorted him to the Hospital de la Santa Creu, the medieval hospital for the poor, which would close one month later. It took two days before the hospital staff realised that it was Antoni Gaudí laying in one of their beds, but even then, he refused to be transferred to a decent hospital. “My place is here, amongst the poor,” he said. Three days after the accident, he passed away, after which he was buried in the crypt of his own masterpiece: the Sagrada Familia.

Antoni Gaudí. © Wikipedia

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SUNDAY, 1PM LA HORA DEL VERMUT While most people hold off on consuming alcohol until the late afternoon, Spaniards enjoy their first few drops before even having lunch. Every Sunday at 1pm sharp, bars and terraces fill up with people of all sorts, hungry for some olives and crisps and thirsty for a delicious vermut (or vermouth, as it is known in English). So, while embarking on the full Barcelona experience, you simply have no choice but to grab a chair and place your order. Vermut is a fortified wine with a generous bouquet of herbs and botanicals. Most of us mainly associate it with the Italians and their martinis, but Catalans have been using vermut for medical purposes for over a century now. As such, they have developed their very own variant of the sweet liquor, which is quite different from that distilled by their eastern neighbours. Yet, vermut is more than a drink; it’s the basis for an entire ritual. Accompanied by a small tapa and some good company, a glass of vermut brings communities closer together. In the days of yore, entire villages and city districts would head to church together on Sunday mornings and run straight to the bar as soon as mass ended. These days, church services don’t pull much of a crowd anymore, yet the traditional after-prayer drink has remained. Over the last few years, la hora del vermut (the hour of vermouth) has become more popular than ever. Some clever marketing courtesy of the distillers, featuring a young, hip crowd drinking a glass of the tipple, made it a hip drink in Spain and beyond. Today, many bars in Barcelona and beyond distil their own proper vermut, which you can only drink in their bar. Not only is it very tasty, but it is also surprisingly cheap. Bottles are sold for anything between seven and 12 euros. But don’t let the humble price fool you. Vermut usually has an ABV of between 14.5 and 21 per cent – so when enjoyed in the one-o’clock sun, this is not for the faint-hearted!

What to put in your vermut? Like a gin and tonic, a vermut only gets better if you garnish it. Yet you can’t just drop anything you like into your glass. An absolute must is an ice cube. Vermut should be enjoyed ice-cold, so expect there to be an iceberg towering above the surface of your drink. On top of that, you can add a green olive, a slice of orange, a lemon swirl or nothing at all. The latter option allows you to fully enjoy the pure flavour of Catalan craftsmanship.

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© Shutterstock

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THE OFTEN-FORGOTTEN HOSPITAL DE SANT PAU As big as the crowd in front of Sagrada Familia, as empty is the space in front of Hospital de Sant Pau. Most travel guides and blogs hardly refer to this complex, but that’s completely unjustified. As the biggest Catalan Modernist complex around, Hospital de Sant Pau promises hours of amazement. Though it was once a hospital for the poor, it is now one of the lushest clinics in the world.

A SMALL HISTORY With the immense expansion of Barcelona in the 19th century, the medieval Hospital de la Santa Creu (see page 43) was bursting at the seams. Luckily, the Catalan-turned-Frenchman Pau Gil didn’t forget about his home-town on his death H O S P I TA L D E S A N T P A U bed. In his will, the banker who lived in Paris left half of his fortune, approximately three million pesetas (comparable with 350 million euros in our current economy), to the Hospital de la Santa Creu to build a new hospital just outside of Barcelona. It was named after him: Hospital de la Santa Creu i de Sant Pau. Lluís Domènech i Montaner, the founder of Catalan modernism and the teacher of Antoni Gaudí and Josep Puig i Cadafalch, was contracted to design it. He strongly believed in the therapeutic power of beauty and came up with a design of colours, elegance and greenery, yet without jeopardising the practical functionality of the hospital. The works kicked off in 1902 and were overseen by Domènech i Montaner until his death in 1923. After that, his son completed his life’s work, although the financial troubles made it difficult to keep building such lush hospital wings. In 1930, the works were finally finished, and the poor were welcomed into this colourful, medical palace. When King Alfonso XIII of Spain inaugurated the hospital, he didn’t crack as much as a smile. After the ceremony, he told Domènech i Montaner’s son: “You are weird people, here in Barcelona. You build a palace for your poor and house your kings in a barn.”

© Hospital de Sant Pau

The master and the student Alongside his apprentice, Antoni Gaudí, Domènech i Montaner is one of the biggest names in Catalan modernism. As such, it is not coincidental that both architects’ masterpieces are constructed just a kilometre away from each other. From the main building of Hospital de Sant Pau, you can see the mighty Sagrada Familia tower above the elegant Avinguda Gaudí, the boulevard that connects them both. While both projects might seem unrelated at first, the two architects were convinced that they, in fact, completed each other: Hospital de Sant Pau would keep the body healthy, and the Sagrada Familia would cure the soul.

© Hospital de Sant Pau

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© Hospital de Sant Pau

© Hospital de Sant Pau

A weekend in Barcelona

ON THE INSIDE A stroll through Hospital de Sant Pau is all you need to realise that Domènech i Montaner was light-years ahead of his time. Innovative concepts that we consider new-fangled to date were already implemented in his brilliant design. Domènech i Montaner strongly believed in the power of a healing environment. Therefore, he housed the patients in separate, colourful pavilions around a big, green patio. These buildings were quite sizable but were partially built underground and oriented with their shortest side to the garden to make the complex look homely. Domènech i Montaner also designed the entire hospital – the size of no less than nine Eixample blocks, or nine times the surface of the Sagrada Familia – diagonally to catch as much sunlight as possible. Yet, the separate pavilions also served a medical need. By separating the ill according to disease, the risk of them infecting each other was drastically minimised. By connecting all these pavilions through a network of underground tunnels, nurses and medical staff could still navigate the different pavilions without having to disturb the peace and quiet of the big, central garden.

AND NOW To date, Hospital de Sant Pau is devoted to helping those most in need in our society and striving towards innovation. With the city expanding significantly during the course of the 20th century, Hospital de Sant Pau is now located in the centre of Eixample. Half of the enormous, UNESCO-protected site is now open for visitors, while the other half is still being used as a hospital. In the newest wings, hundreds of patients get treated every day. The older pavilions, on the other hand, house a large number of innovative researchers, each trying to solve today’s medical enigmas. The walls of the new hospital might be white and soulless, unlike anything Domènech i Montaner ever taught us, yet the utopian philosophy of Pau Gil still lingers in its corridors.

At the ticket office Basic entrance ticket: €15 Entrance ticket with audio guide*: €19 Guided visit**: €20 (Discounts available and free access on the first Sunday of every month.) * The audio guide is available in Catalan, Spanish, English, French, German and Japanese and lays out the story of the complex and its philosophy in a simple yet fascinating way. ** The guided tours are available in Catalan, Spanish, English and French.

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GAUDÍ & COMPANY: FIVE STUNNING MODERNISM COMPLEXES With Gaudí as their most celebrated comrade, the Modernists gave Eixample its unique and enchanting character. The district’s most famous Modernism site is – of course – the Sagrada Familia, yet there are plenty more inspiring architectural gems to admire, often with shorter queues and not-so-steep admission fees.

OPEN-AIR MODERNISM At the turn of the 20th century, the rich industrial Eusebi Guëll asked the yet-tobe-discovered architect Antoni Gaudí to build him a lush garden district in the city’s suburbs. On his domain of 17.2 hectares, he wanted to build a fairytale-like, foresty garden with 40 houses. In the end, only two of them would get built: one for Guëll, and one for Gaudí himself. Stealing the show are, however, the mosaic bench, lizard sculpture and grand staircase. Since 1984, Park Guëll is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Park Güell, Carretera del Carmel 23. €10 (discounts available). Open daily from 8am to 8.30pm (5.30pm in winter).



Eixample counts so many Modernist gems that most people don’t even look up at them anymore. A palace worth lifting the gaze for, however, is Casa de les punxes (or, house of the spikes). Designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch, this building clearly illustrates the versatility of the architect. Today, you can visit part of it, while the other half is occupied by offices, shops and a bank.

At Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona’s most expensive street, you’ll find some of the finest Modernist buildings in the world. Among the most famous is Casa Batlló, a colourful masterpiece by Gaudí which, according to rumours, represents Saint George (the patron saint of Catalonia) as he kills the dragon. The hubbly, colourful roof would be the dragon and the chimney the sword. What makes this building even nicer is its unity with the neighbouring Casa Amatller, a house designed by the aforementioned Josep Puig i Cadafalch (like Gaudí, an apprentice of Lluís Domènech i Montaner). Though not as famous as many other Modernist temples in the city, Casa Amatller has one of the most precious facades in town, with mesmerising yellow patterns and tiles.

Casa de les punxes, Avinguda Diagonal 420. €13.50 (discounts available). Open daily from 10am to 7pm.

Casa Batlló, Passeig de Gràcia 43. €25 (discounts available). Open daily from 9am to 9.30pm. Casa Amatller, Passeig de Gràcia 41. €16 (discounts available). Open daily from 10am to 6pm.

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© Colonia Guëll

Rarely does an architect get total freedom from his beneficiary. Yet, when Gaudí designed Casa Milà, that was exactly what Pere Milà granted him. The industrial mogul had such confidence in the Modernist master that he gave him full financial and creative freedom. His only requirement was that the building would be unlike anything the world had ever seen. And that, Gaudí delivered! The façade of the building doesn’t count a single straight line, and instead of the Modernist staples of brick and glazed ceramics, Casa Milà is entirely constructed with dimension stone and iron, leading to the nickname La Pedrera, or the quarry. Inside, you’ll find a myriad of lush halls, and on the rooftop terrace, you’ll stumble upon a series of mighty, soldiershaped chimneys, gazing over the city. Casa Milà, Passeig de Gràcia 92. €22 (discounts available). Open daily from 9am to 8.30pm (and to 6.30pm from November until February).

Casa Milà.

THE GUËLL EMPIRE Casa de les punxes.

Park Guëll.

Casa Batlló.

The collaboration between Eusebi Guëll and Antoni Gaudí surpassed the creation of just their garden of Eden. As a man with deep pockets, Guëll asked Gaudí to design many more buildings for him, each more impressive than the last. Right outside of Barcelona, you’ll find Colonia Guëll, an artificial neighbourhood for the employees of Guëll’s textile factory and their families. At the centre of this district stands an intriguing crypt with colourful windows, cheerful mosaic and a funky shape, all in Gaudí’s unmistakeable style. In fact, the architect went on to design an entire church for the colony, but the construction of it was never completed. As he left no plans of the building, just vague sketches of how it could have looked, Gaudí’s vision for this church will always remain a mystery. For even more Guëll glory, head to El Raval and visit the family’s mansion: Palau Guëll (see page 44). Colonia Güell, Carrer Claudi Guëll 6 (Santa Coloma de Cervello). €8.50 (discounts available). Open daily from 10am to 7pm (5pm in winter) during the week and to 3pm on weekends.

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STILL SOME TIME LEFT? As always, your holiday probably flew by and it is now almost time to catch your flight back home. Our weekend together in Barcelona has been packed full of all that makes the city great and probably given you quite a good idea of what this vibrant metropole by the Mediterranean is all about. But what to do if you still have some time left? If you have cut some corners here and there, you might have explored the old town and the modernist gems in less than two days, but don’t fret! There is plenty more to do, see and explore in Barcelona.

HEAD TO THE SEA Your passage through Barcelona is not complete without having dipped your toes into the cold Mediterranean Sea. The city’s coastline runs from the historic neighbourhood of La Barceloneta to the B A R C E L O N E TA north end of the city and consists almost exclusively of sandy beaches. Those in Barceloneta aren’t always the nicest to catch a tan on, as they tend to be super-crowded and noisy. A kilometre further away, in the neighbourhood of Poblenou, the beaches are still animated but more pleasantly so. On sunny days, you’ll still have plenty of space to put your towel down while listening to the crashing waves and the numerous beach volleyball players behind you. Our favourite beach is Platja Bogatell, where you’ll find the perfect balance between rest and ambiance. Barceloneta.

To go to the beach, take metro L4 to Barceloneta or Bogatell.

W Hotel at Barceloneta.

SOAK UP S O M E C U LT U R E Culture lovers will enjoy roaming the numerous museums in the city. In addition to obvious choices such as the Catalan National Museum of Art (MNAC), the Museum for Contemporary Art of Barcelona (MACBA) and the Picasso Museum, you can choose from the Maritime Museum, the Joan Miró Foundation, the Frederic Marès Museum, the Gaudí Exhibition Centre and many more. Science lovers might want to stop by the Museum for Natural Sciences (Museu Blau) or CosmoCaixa, an interactive science centre for all ages.

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A weekend in Barcelona Museu Blau. © Óscar Palop


CCCB. © Adrià Goula

MACBA. © Wikipedia

Poble Espanyol. © Wikipedia

V I S I T A L L O F S PA I N I N J U S T A F E W H O U R S For the World Fair of 1929, modernist architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch wanted to build something truly special. His idea was to create a life-size village with houses and buildings that represent P O B L E E PA N Y O L all regions and cultures in Spain. In the end, Puig i Cadafalch didn’t design this village himself, yet the idea was realised and named Poble Espanyol (Spanish Village). With a total of 117 buildings, the domain represents all regions of Spain, apart from the Canary Islands and the small region of La Rioja (as the Canary Islands were too expensive for the architects to visit and La Rioja was not yet a separate region). The idea was to demolish the village after the World Fair, but the enthusiastic visitors who kept on coming have kept it open to date. Poble Espanyol. Avinguda de Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia 13. €14 (discounts available). Open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays from 9am to midnight, to 8pm on Mondays, 3am on Fridays and 4am on Saturdays).

Poble Espanyol. © Wikipedia

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Barcelona Supercomputing Centre. © BSC

VISIT THE CITY’S STUNNING SUPERCOMPUTER As much as Barcelona is a city of the past, it very much looks to the future as well. In a former church in the suburban district of Pedralbes, you can find one of Europe’s most SUPERCOMPUTING CENTRE powerful super computers. The Barcelona Supercomputing Centre focuses on research and development in plenty of fields, but it also allows tourists to visit this mighty computer in its ironically ancient setting. One of the centre’s workers leads you around and tells you all you want to know about this prodigal calculating talent. Carrer de Jordi Girona 31. Free admission. Visits can be scheduled from Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm.

DISCOVER BARCELONA 2.0 IN GLÒRIES To see the Barcelona of tomorrow, you can also head to Glòries, a modern business district at the border of the city centre. The eye-catcher of this district is the futuristic Torre Agbar. With its 130 metres, it GLORIÈS is the highest building in the city (at least until the Sagrada Familia is completed). At night, it is beautifully lit in red and blue. In its shadow, you’ll find the modern flea market of Encants and the Museum of Design. On the opposite side of the street, you enter the exciting Glòries shopping centre. The big construction site beside it is to be turned into a giant park in a few years. By digging a tunnel, the city of Barcelona aims to turn this former traffic-packed square into a green city garden. Torre Agbar, Gloriès.

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Take metro L1 to Glòries or hop on tram T4 or T5 to that very same station.

A weekend in Barcelona

EXPLORE THE CHARMING DISTRICT OF GRÀCIA As Eixample took over the valley of Barcelona at breaknecking pace, the surrounding rural villages were endangered by this growing urban grid. Luckily, these authentic villages were preserved and Eixample GRÀCIA just settled itself around them. Therefore, you can still spot small, chaotic enclaves in the otherwise-rigid structure of Eixample. Gràcia is by far the most charming of them all. Its cute streets are restaurant-packed nowadays, and on its many squares you’ll find terraces aplenty. It’s also home to some of the nicest concept stores and design shops in the city. Don’t expect any major hotspots here, but just enjoy a relaxing stroll. With metro L4 to Joanic or Alfons X or L3 to Fontana of Lesseps, you’ll walk through Gràcia in no time.

Parc del Laberint d’Horta.

GET LOST IN THE LABYRINTH To really go off the beaten track, head to the Parc del Laberint d’Horta, an amazing garden outside of the city centre. This stunning park stretches out around a mystical hedge PA R C D E L L A B E R I N T D ’ H O R TA maze with statues and water features. Don’t expect a labyrinth in which to get lost for hours – but it sure is fun to stroll through it and try to escape as quickly as possible. The rest of the garden excels in its simplicity. Giant beds with just one type of plant give the park an almost-minimalist character. At the top of the hill, you’ll find a tranquil pond and a beautiful panorama across the enigmatic maze and the mighty city behind it. Passeig dels Castanyers 1. €2.23 (discounts available). Free admission on Wednesdays and Sundays. Open daily from 10am to 8pm (and until 6pm from November to March).

Parc del Laberint d’Horta.

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F E S TA S F I E S TA S PA R T I E S Castells (page 66). © Ajuntament de Vilanova i la Geltrú

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VISCA BARCELONA! Visiting Barcelona is about more than walking from one hotspot to the next. To explore the liveliness and pleasures that make the city unique, you must celebrate with its locals. Luckily, there are opportunities galore to do that. Mark these days in your calendar, as they are the ultimate times to head to Barcelona.

CAVALCADA DE REIS 6 January The Epiphany is a huge deal in Spain. In the grand finale of the festive season, kids receive the biggest presents of all, and families gather for the last, snowy celebration of the holidays. In Barcelona, a grand parade with the three kings and their magical entourage roams the streets and warms up the hearts of all ages the night before.

LLUM BCN POBLENOU Mid-February For one weekend in February, Poblenou, Barcelona’s busiest business district, gets lit up by the work of over 20 local and international light artists. Follow the lasers from one installation to the next while you stroll through the chilly Eixample.

C A R N E S T O LT E S 19 - 25 February (2020) The carnival of Barcelona is a rather intimate gathering. Many neighbourhoods organise small parades and parties and in the city centre, a sizable cavalcade marches through the streets. Yet, to experience the real Catalan carnival, you’d better take a train to Sitges, a picturesque coastal town 40 minutes west. Here, madness characterises the colourful carnival week with big costumes, tons of confetti and tens of thousands of party people. 64  |  Festas/Fiestas/Parties

Llum BCN Poble Nou. © Adjuntament Barcelona

SANT JORDI 23 April Forget Valentine’s day. In Catalonia, Sant Jordi is the day of unaltered love. Traditionally, girls receive a rose from their loved ones and boys a book. Therefore, the streets are filled with book and rose markets where hopeless romantics take their pick.

LA NIT DELS MUSEUS 16 May (2020) During the museum night, you can visit your favourite museums long after the usual closing time. Until 1am, the collections of most museums remain on display, often with atmospheric events and activities on the side.

PRIMAVERA SOUND 4 - 6 June (2020) Barcelona kicks off the spring with a vibrant, alternative festival with ocean views. The line-up keeps a safe distance from all that’s commercial, yet the festival welcomes everyone to its amazing bubble of beats.

PRIDE! BCN 20 - 27 June (in 2020) Traditionally, June is Pride month – a month during which the global LGBT+ community hits the streets to demand equality and respect. During the last weekend of June, Barcelona turns pink, as well, with a big parade, plenty of parties and a fair share of unconditional love taking over the city.

A weekend in Barcelona

SÓNAR 18 - 21 June (2020) Sónar is the annual gathering of all the big names on the Catalan, Spanish and international electronic music scenes. Together, they host a series of legendary sets, parties and showcases to entertain an international audience.


Sant Jordi. © Adjuntament Barcelona

23 June In Catalonia, summer solstice is celebrated with fire. All over the region, you’ll bump into bonfires and correfocs (traditional fire parades). Children aged seven to 77 enjoy themselves outside, lighting fireworks and firecrackers, filling the streets with festive bangs until the early hours.

GREC End of June until the end of August The theatre of Montjuïc’s Greek garden is the stage of a most-cosy theatre, dance, circus and music festival: Grec. All summer long, they host events in the historic hemisphere, as well as in many other theatres around town.

Cavalcada de Reis. © Adjuntament Barcelona

SALA MONTJUÏC End of June until the beginning of September In summer, the Castle of Montjuïc turns into the biggest cinema in the city. Multiple times a week, you can sit down on the grass and enjoy a film beneath the stars. The films are always shown in their original version with Spanish subtitles, so you don’t have to worry about Spanish dubbing.


Primavera Sound. © Adjuntament Barcelona

Mid-August No Festa Major in all of Catalonia is as popular as the one in the district of Gràcia. Its main attractions are the Festas/Fiestas/Parties  |  65

Barcelona’s public holidays (or: bad days for shopping) 1 January: New Year’s Day 6 January: The Epiphany 10 April (2020): Good Friday 13 April (2020): Easter Monday 1 May: Labour Day 1 June (2020): Whit Monday 24 June: Sant Joan 15 August: Assumption Day 11 September: National Day of Catalonia 24 September: La Mercè 12 October: National Day of Spain 1 November: All Saints Day 6 December: Constitution Day 8 December: Day of the Immaculate Conception 25 December: Christmas Day 26 December: Boxing Day

Festa Major

Castells during La Mercè.

66  |  Festas/Fiestas/Parties

Few Catalan traditions are as wide-spread as the Festa Major. In every town or city neighbourhood, regardless of its size, they throw an annual festival to bring the people together. These usually last between four and seven days, of which one is an official holiday for the people working in the town. For Barcelona, this holiday is during La Mercé. Traditionally recurring elements include a correfoc (a fire parade), castells (human towers), a parade of giants, parties, concerts and lots of food. In the summer, you can find a Festa Major somewhere in the city at any given day.

A weekend in Barcelona

Piromusical de la Mercè. © Wikipedia

spectacularly decorated streets. All year long, each street’s committee creates brilliant decorations to spruce up the roads with, hoping to win the title of Best Decorated Street.

DIADA NACIONAL D E C ATA L U N YA 11 September On 11 September 1714, Catalonia lost the war to Spain. They remember this day every year by celebrating it as their national holiday. Besides fireworks and concerts, the main event is the humongous independentist protest in the heart of the city. In 2014, a record 1.8 million people waved their banners at this peaceful protest. It always kicks off

at exactly 5.14pm (or 17.14, the year of the Catalan defeat).

LA MERCÈ 18 - 24 September (2020) On top of each district’s proper Festa Major, the city of Barcelona also hosts a big one at the end of summer. Correfocs, concerts at the beach, light festivals and markets entertain all demographics while awaiting the big magnum opus: the piromusical, or musical fireworks on the final night.

L A C A S TA N YA D A 1 November La Castanyada is a festival for the hungry, as all there is to do is eat and drink. Traditionally, the dessert of

the Castanyada dinners consists of roasted chestnuts, panellets (almond balls covered in pine nuts), moniatos (roasted sweet potatoes) and candied fruit. To help you digest it all, they serve a fine glass of Moscatell (Muscat) on the side. Salut!

F I R A D E S A N TA LLÚCIA 30 November - 23 December Although Barcelona is not a Christmas city per se, there are many fun things to do when the holidays kick in. At Plaça Nova, in front of the cathedral, you can shop at the Fira de Santa Llúcia. This Christmas market does not sell your average mulled wine and raclette, but offers the most beautiful pesebres: statues for your nativity scene.

Catalan Christmas and... poo Apart from decorating the Christmas tree and buying presents, the Catalans top off their Christmas celebrations with a set of unique traditions, weirdly enough all relating to poo. The first faecal reference can be found in the nativity scenes. In addition to your standard Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, Catalan households also hide a Caganer in it: a quirky figurine of a pooing man. Don’t over-analyse this tradition and its possible biblical explanations, though; its only purpose is for visitors to try to spot him as quickly as possible. Next to the nativity scene stands a smiling log named Tió. On the 17 evenings preceding Christmas, children put some food in front of this happy piece of wood for him to eat at night. Finally, on Christmas Day, Tió is all full and – you guessed it – poos it all out in the form of presents. Think your Christmas traditions are odd? Then you’ve clearly never spent a festive holiday in Barcelona.

Festas/Fiestas/Parties  |  67

INDEX SIGHTSEEING Arc de Triomf Barcelona Supercomputing Centre (The) Barceloneta (La) Barri Gòtic Born (El) Born Centre de Cultura i Memória (El) Bunkers del Carmel Call (El) Carrer del Bisbe Casa Amatller Casa Batlló Casa de les punxes Cathedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia Casa Milà CCCB Colonia Guëll Font Màgica Gràcia Hospital de la Santa Creu Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau Iglesia Sant Pau del Camp Jardines de Joan Maragall La Pedrera MACBA Mercat de la Boqueria Mercat de Sant Antoni


20 60 58 30 36 37 21 33 31 56 56 56 30 57 45 57 19 61 43 54 44 22 57 45 42 42

Montjuïc MNAC MUHBA Museu de la Xocolata Palau de la Música Palau Guëll Parc de la Ciutadela Parc del Laberint d’Horta Park Guëll Passeig de Gràcia Picasso Museum Piscina de Montjuïc Plaça de Sant Felip Neri Plaça de Sant Jaume Plaça del Pi Plaça Espanya Plaça Reial Platja Bogatell Poble Espanyol Pont del Bisbe Rambla (La) Rambla de Catalunya Rambla de Poblenou Rambla del Raval Raval (El) Sagrada Familia (La) Santa Maria del Mar

19/22 19 33 38 36 44 38 61 56 21 39 22 33 30 32 19 32 58 59 31 40 41 41 45 42 48 36

CONTRIBUTORS Teleferico del Puerto Temple of Augustus Tibidabo Torre Agbar

23 31 22 60

A WEEKEND IN BARCELONA – A Discover Southern Europe book Published by Scan Group Directors Thomas Winther & Mads E. Petersen

E AT I N G A N D D R I N K I N G Bars Dinner in El Raval Local specialities Ayre Hotel Rosellón Lunch in Barri Gòtic Merienda in El Born Pasteleria Escribà Restaurants Vermouth

Author Arne Adriaenssens

26 45 24 23 33 39 41 27 52

Copy-editor Karl Batterbee Designer Audrey Beullier Cover Photo Alfons Taekema Photography Pixabay Unsplash Pexels Pxhere Shutterstock

MISCELLANEOUS Airport transport Booking Catalan dictionary Emergency contacts Events Flying Hotels Packing Shopping Siestas

Executive Editor Linnea Dunne

14 8 11 13 64 9 9 8 21 34

Scan Group 15B Bell Yard Mews Bermondsey Street London SE1 3TY, United Kingdom Phone +44 207 407 1937 info@discoversoutherneurope.com www.discoversoutherneurope.com © All rights reserved. Material contained in this publication can not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior permission of Scan Group.


A weekend in Barcelona



A weekend in Barcelona