Barcelona – A city that became known to the world after the 1992 Summer Olympics, is most famous for its architecture, art and history. It has mind-blowing monuments such as La Sagrada Familia, was once home to the famous Pablo Picasso and if you listen carefully enough, you can hear La Ciutat Vella (Old City) whisper of the past. While there’s definitely a tourist trail to follow and the city ‘must-sees’ to take in, there’s also something for those of you who like to venture off the beaten path. This is my list of top ten things one should do while visiting this spectacular city. However, no matter what your reasons for traveling here might be, one thing’s for certain– if you’re looking for a destination that’s rich in history, drowning in culture and booming with life, there’s no better place to fulfill your wanderlust than Barcelona.
10.) Graffiti. For those of you art lovers who don’t want to spend your limited vacation days trapped indoors, Barcelona has an endless amount of street paintings available to you. After indulging in some local cuisine, take full advantage of these free exhibits. Watch the ‘art galleries’ open as shops begin to close for an afternoon siesta. Many of these masterpieces are painted on shop doors, giving the tourist access to one of the best modern-day art shows in Europe. Year round good weather conditions make this city ideal for an afternoon stroll.
9.) Terrace life. Need a place to park it after visiting the endless amount of monuments, museums, and markets? You’ll happily discover that Barcelona is known for its sunny terraces that remain open from morning till night. Throw a stone and you’ll hit one, as there are plenty to check out, all in various neighborhoods throughout the city. Since it is seldom that it rains here, natives like to aprovechar (take advantage of) life outdoors. So kick up your feet and let the soothing sea breeze hit your face as you entertain your palate with a lovely Spanish rioja (one of Spain’s many wine regions), or let the delightful bubbles of a cold cava (Spain’s Champagne equivalent) tickle your tongue. Of course, you can’t go wrong with a coffee as you’re bound to get a perfect cup of java anywhere you go. For a caffeine boost that’s a little more refreshing, ask for a café con hielo (coffee with ice). If you’re feeling peckish, you’ll find that most places offer a good selection of tasty tapas to tide you over until the dinner hour. If you want to get a good feel for local life, these outside seatings are an excellent choice!
8.) Bread and Pastry shops. Paris ain’t got nothin’ on us! If you’re a carb addict who abstains most of the working year only to fall off the wagon during your holiday, Barcelona is a MUST! For those of you who don’t already know, Barcelona is a gastronomic wonder, most famous for its seafood and tapas; however, not so many people associate Spain with baguette and pastries. In the early morning hours, the city streets fill with the sweet, delicious aroma of fresh-baked goods. Leave your hotel early enough to meander through the narrow, maze-like streets of the old city and your nose will inevitably lead the way; flaky, buttery croissants, cream filled pastries, apple tartlets, warm rustic baguettes and gooey raisin cinnamon swirls, all waiting to be devoured. And if you’re worried about packing more than you came with – don’t. With all the walking you’ll be doing, you can enjoy every, mouth-watering morsel guilt free!
7.) Outdoor sports. Need more than Gaudi, Picasso and Dalí to get your blood flowing? While these things shouldn’t be forgotten during your stay in Barcelona, this city has more than enough fun activities for all of you who need your daily dose of exercise. Whether you hire a bike or roller blades, take a stroll on the boardwalk, or crave something more extreme like kite surfing, rock climbing or sky diving, this city has it all! You can even plan day trips to the Pyrenees and hike to Medieval villages for a more cultural experience.
6.) Nightlife. Talk about a city that never sleeps! It’s not uncommon for Spaniards to dine at 11 pm and go out at 1am, and why not when you’re enjoying the subtropical temperatures of the Mediterranean, sipping a fragrant Spanish white and delving into a hot paella on a hot summer evening? Rest is for the day, and partying for the night. This city has plenty of discotecas, catering to the pijos (posh) and commoners alike. Go dancing, or be equally entertained at a local bar. If you’re looking for something slightly on the trendier side, head down to Barceloneta and visit one this city’s better known clubs on the beach front, such as Opium or CDLC. If you prefer to stay clear of large, crowded dance floors, follow the other revelers to El Raval (one of Barcelona’s most diverse neighborhoods) or head uptown to explore life in one of the more exclusive districts, l’Eixample. Where ever you end up, you’re guaranteed a night you won’t remember!
5.) Chocolate. Can you say Churros con chocolate? It’s no question that the Spanish love their chocolate. They spread it on their toast, eat it in their cereal, fill their croissants with it and even dip their filled croissants in it! They’re absolutely loco for cocoa! They’re so mad about it, they even drink it! And this is no ordinary drinking chocolate. It’s thick enough for your churro to stand up in and your face to get stuck in. Some definite slurping is required, sipping impossible and spills are to be expected. This is an absolute sinful dessert that should be eaten with a devilish smile and no remorse after a long day of sightseeing. To make it extra naughty, ask for it “con nata” (with whip-cream) and watch as it oozes over the sides. MMMM…Nothing like sugar, cocoa and fried dough to keep you going.
4.)Markets. If you love markets, you’ll love Barcelona! La Boquería is without a doubt the most famous market in the city, displaying an array of colorful fruits and vegetables, artisan breads, pastries, cheeses, wine, seafood, cured meats, olive oils, and much much more! This is an ideal place to discover why the Mediterranean diet has made its stamp on the world. Browse, sample, smell, pick, and gawk at the abundance of fresh products available to you. Go early in the morning and not only will you avoid the crowds, you’ll also experience the Catalan culture first hand. While you elbow your way through little old ladies and restaurateurs, you can easily pick up some useful bartering skills, learn the local prices, as well as put some of that Spanish you learned way back in school to use! While La Boquería might be the most well-known market here, it’s not the only one! Market life is alive and kicking in Barcelona with some 40 neighborhood markets to talk about. Other markets include Santa Caterina in the Born, Sant Antoni in the Raval, and Mercat de la Barceloneta.
3.) Oh, the wine! Most of you might immediately think of rioja when you hear the words wine and Spain. But did you know that Catalonia alone boasts more than 10 wine regions? Most famous for its super delicious cava, (a sparkling wine made in traditional Champagne style) it also holds bragging rights to Penedés, Monsant, Terra Alta, and the now largely popular Priorat, just to name a few. The best news is wine is cheap here, so you can drink twice a much! While prices vary, you can easily find a great bottle for 5 to 10 euros. Pick up some of those tasty baguettes and cheese at the local market and you’ve got the makings for a picnic lunch at the beach, or on a bench in a nearby square! MMMM….Gracias a Dios por el vino español!
2.) Restaurants. It’s no secret that Barcelona has some of the best cuisine in the world, and how could it not with all those delicious and fresh Mediterranean ingredients? MMMM….garlic, wine, saffron, tomatoes, bread, olives, cheese, seafood…you could really spend your entire trip eating, and most people do! It’s also home to world-renowned chef Ferran Adrià, the father of molecular gastronomy, with such restaurants as EL Bulli, Tickets, and 41 Degrees. Whether you’re in for a culinary experience, or just want to enjoy some tapas in a typical Spanish restaurant, you really can’t go wrong and you won’t have to spend a fortune to eat like a king! Dining out in Barcelona can be quite inexpensive, not to mention it’s an “anything goes” type of city. So if you’re a foodie who just wants to enjoy some finger licking grub sure to excite the taste buds, you can do it in your most casual, and comfortable cloths. Note: Elastic waste bands and loose-fitting attire are recommended!
1.) Beaches! One thing to say about Barcelona is that it’s definitely a beach town. People flock from all corners of the world to stretch out, sip a cold beer and soak up some vitamin D. Although beaches can be crowded, especially in the summer months, there’s no denying the Mediterranean’s hypnotic beauty. With azure waters that warm up in June, July and August, there’s no better place to spend the day baking in the hot sun. If the sea isn’t refreshing enough, there are chiringuitos (small beach side bars that serve beverages and food) that line the shore where one can sip or guzzle anything from a soda to a mojito. If you want stunning beaches with crystal clear, turquoise water reminiscent of a swimming pool, the famous Costa Brava is just a stone’s throw away. And let’s not forget about Spain’s Islands! Formentera, quite possibly the most striking of the Balearic Islands was the backdrop of the ever risqué Julio Médem film, “Sex and Lucia.” While perhaps the most beautiful, it’s not the only one worth noting. Other Islands include Mallorca, Menorca, and Ibiza, all just a hop skip and a jump from Barcelona.
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