I have been asked by a number of people about the little spot I call home: Barcelona. I suppose I’ve grown somewhat used to this city, and experiences that I’ve grown accustomed to would be still be interesting to people who have never visited the city before.
In light of this, I plan on writing a few little guides, if you ever happen to wander this way in your worldly travels, feel free to take notes :).
Currently as I write this, I can hear the traffic outside my apartment building balcony, the sky is the bright grey of autumn, and seagulls and pigeons wheel above the decidedly terracotta roofs. Conversations from the street below drift up through my window, and I can smell the neighbors cooking in their kitchen.
Barcelona is certainly a city of apartments. City dwellers here don’t tell directions by Compass points but rather “North” has become the mountains of the Collserola and Tibidabo, which ring the top of the city. On the left and right the city is wedged between two rivers and we sit facing the Medittereanean. With all these natural borders Barcelona has remained small, but crowded. Apartment prices are quite high, although if you have patience you can still find an architectural gem hidden in the many neighborhoods or “barrios”. The Sagrada Familia towers over the buildings and Gaudi’s Cathedral remains, by law, the dominant skyscraper. The Peregrine Falcons live in the turrets preying on the cities green parrots and pigeons. Divebombing them from above.
The city is easily walkable in one day, but large enough to offer suprises should you decide to stay for longer than a week or month. In in 1992 Barcelona hosted the summer Olympics, and the city had a facelift in preparation. The city’s coastline was scraped together to form the line of beaches that extend from the port to the Besos River and Barcelona’s fate as a summer tourist destination was sealed. Now it’s hard to imagine what the city must have looked like as you sip on Mojitos in one of the many Chiringuitos (beach bars) and watch the bathers “tomar el sol”. And if you’re new here, the view of beautiful european girls who all sunbath topless may take you by suprise. Beware though for it’s easy to get an eyeful of naked grannies who enjoy the sun just as much, and perhaps a sighting of the notorius naked tattooed man. The relaxed nature of the Catalan and Spanish people who call Barcelona their home is palpable and soon you will be wandering around topless too, in one of the only cities in the world where it is not illegal.
Barcelona has since become a bit of a “stag do” magnet, and roudy weekend tourists have made the cities officials a little skeptical of their lax laws and things are always on the cusp of changing, however in typically Spanish style, all changes happen slowly and so far, the city retains it’s tranquilo flavor.
The beaches although extremely popular are by far not the only claim to faim this city holds. Stuffed full of historical sites, cultural wonders, 5 star restaurants, Barcelona has many layers, tastes, sights and sounds. From the views on Montjuic over the clanking ports to the mosaiced routes through Gaudi and the other “modernistas” architectural wonders. From the leafy plazas in Gracia to the skateboard sounds echoing in the court of the MACBA.
I’ll take you on a walk through the neighborhoods, my top 5 stops, and my favourite shops, bars and restaurants. Stay tuned!