Short story long and not the other way around: summer vacation in Barcelona. This was the fifth time and I’m not looking forward to go back. At least not till the city clears out and Catalonians gets some deserved rest.
Imagine living in a never ending treasure hunt. This is how Barcelona looks like now. It is filled with lost people clinging to maps and looking around trying to find La Rambla, Park Güell (which is now charged as well as all the little unimportant shit all over the city). Maybe it’s the season to blame, maybe the excitement of cognition was lost back in 2010 when I visited Barcelona for the fourth time, maybe it’s just me, but the city does look tired and worn-out.
However, if you never been there and you are planning to go. Please, do. A week would be just enough to explore, relax and assimilate with the mañana pace of being.
Do not run around trying to visit all the sights in one day. First thing you arrive to Barcelona, get yourself a 10 journey ticket. It can be used for 10 journeys, you may use it at once if you are traveling with a group of ten people or share journeys with your partner and get 5 journeys each, or be egoistic and spend all of them yourself. Barcelona is rather big, so it is better to map it zone by zone, for example dedicate a day to stroll around El Born, do a little window shopping at Gràcia, where you will also find Woody Allen’s hotel and lovely place for lunch El Toc de Gràcia 12,50 Euros for the starter, main and desert. Get up the mountain Tibidabo to enjoy the panoramic view and get a few spins on the carousel (2 Euros per person). Bear in mind that the funicular (7 euros both ways) and the park closes at 6pm. If you miss the last funicular you will have a choice to climb down (aprox 2 hours) or wait for a bus. In our case we were damn lucky and got a ride back to the centre by the local, who also works in the park and shared some stories of people jumping off the mountain and couples having sex in unexpected places.
If you are sea, sun and love person do not get stuck Barceloneta, it is probably the worst place and locals will agree. Take a train from Plaça de Catalunya station to Sant Pol de Mar (around 8 Euros per person). It is rather rare that someone will check your ticket so you may as well get a ticket to the first stop (if you feeling adventurous). Sant Pol de Mar is an hour away from Barcelona. The town is quitter, has beautiful tiny streets and nice places for lunch where you can spoil your-self with local delicacy. On the shore of the beach there is this pricy restaurant which works till late and has an outside terrace. The staff is friendly, easy going and has no arrogance which may be felt inside Barcelona.
Do not expect high customer service only because you are a tourist. Catalonians takes no bullshit and it looks like no one cares about tips (no longer). Just be a human being, greet staff in their own language (i.e. Hola), ask if they speak English and you are settled. This is basic human behaviour and respect to other culture. This may sound rather natural to some people, but there are such a kind as Americans (hopefully not all the nation) who expect everyone to dance around. Well not in Barcelona.
Leaving out the politically incorrect talk, here are some basics of Spanish language learnt over the lunch with a local:
- Hello – hola
- Sorry – perdón
- Thank you – molto gràcies
- Bye – adiós
- No – no
- Yes – sí
Some easy words but you would not believe the wonders they do.
If you are on short budget but dyeing to taste fresh sea food La Paradeta Born is the place for you. Do check the opening hours and make sure you are there just before 8pm as the place is rather popular and there is always a queue outside. Do not get scared when you see the prices by kilo, skilled staff will weight food for you, all you need to do is to tell them the number of people and choose the fresh (still moving) food straight from the counter, then order your wine and sit down. Your table number will be called out and you will have to take the food from the kitchen. It is an interesting experience, the food is delicious and you only pay 20 Euros per head (more or less).
Another place we visited was 4Gats that has delightful selection of cheeses for starters and soft melting roasted duck with potatoes and orange garnish. A piano man plays the usual selection of popular jazzy tunes all evening long and the atmosphere is exactly like you see in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. However it is rather expensive place but affordable. Perfect for celebrations or romantic dinners.
Harlem Jazz Club was a little bit disappointing. The place it-self has no charm whatsoever and the band played plastic tunes. The wine was disgusting and we still had to pay 3.5 Euros for 30min performance.
Before the trip I asked a friend of mine to enlighten me with some local places to visit and she replied with couple of advices in accordance to the place we stayed (hotel Melon District). Gigs pretty much every day here (one of the most famous venues in Barcelona) Sala Razzmatazz. Nasty Mondays party/session at another good venue Apolo. Set de Born specialises in salads and good cold meats. For good & affordable food near the beach visit Can Bigotis. If weather isn’t good relax at Thermal Arab Spa.
Take a walk through Jardín Botánico near Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Parc de Montjuïc. It is a little oasis, an escape from the city rush. And whiles you there spend 5 Euros to see the The Barcelona Pavilion, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Brunch and Cake, one of touristic cafes that I loved. They serve food with a twist, e.g. a toast with brie cheese and fresh strawberries.
And it is an absolute shame we did not have time to have an overpriced drink at the Sky Bar, Grand Hotel Central. Open for non-guests from 8pm till 1.30am. If you do that, do not hesitate to pop me a message and let me know if I missed out.