Home to 1,600,000 people and probably the best football team on the planet as well as providing the inspiration for the most memorable Olympic Games songs ever, Barcelona is one of the great cities of the World. Lying on the Mediterranean coast just a couple of hundred kilometres from the French border, the capital of Catalonia offers a rich melting pot of cultural, architectural and gastronomic influences making it one of those destinations that really lives up to the hype.
Like any city, the outskirts of Barcelona are somewhat of an unattractive urban jungle but on entering the Ciutat Vella (the old town) it soon becomes clear why the mention of the word Barcelona conjures up an image of a bustling cosmopolitan, yet historic city where everyone seems to be an artist or a poet.
Architectural delights abound from the Gothic Barcelona Cathedral in the appropriately named Barri Gòtic area to the fusion of Baroque, Gothic and Islamic styles that inspired the fairy tale spires of Antonio Gaudi’s iconic legacies at Parc Güell, Sagrada Família and Casa Milà. For the nose and the taste buds, La Boqueria market off Las Ramblas provides an overdose of sensations with its colourful stalls filled with such a variety of produce from across the globe that Barceloneros claim that if you can’t find it there, you won’t find it anywhere. They also claim La Boqueria is the best in the world and who are we to argue?
For thrills, a ride on the cable car from the port to Montjuic is a memorable way to see the city below your feet…if you can keep your eyes open. And for a touch of magic the musically choreographed water plumes from La Font Màgica (The Magic Fountain) on Plaça Carles Buïgas add colour and spectacle to the after dark scene.
Great cities need outstanding eateries and watering holes and Barcelona has both in droves. The historic streets and narrow alleys of Ciutat Vella offer a dizzying selection of invitingly atmospheric bars and appealing restaurants that emanate teasing aromas that will have you salivating embarrassingly.
Despite being fleeced by a taxi driver the first time I arrived in Barcelona, I was immediately captivated by the city, especially the area around the old town. It’s one of those cities with such a wealth of treasures (historical, cultural and artistic) that you feel you could never become bored of exploring its arteries. Although historic in appearance it has an artistic contemporary soul and life on the streets, from the bustling vibes on Las Ramblas to the dealings and dances at the markets and fiestas on Plaça Nova, is as rich as the detail in the unique architecture that provides the city’s picturesque framework.
Barcelona is simply a city that will unlock the poet and romantic in those visitors who embrace its charms.
However, Barcelona has a dark side; most cities do. It is the place where I’ve witnessed the most blatant examples of petty crime, especially in the roads surrounding the busiest tourist areas. As long as caution and common sense are applied it shouldn’t present a problem.
Buzz Experience: The dark surreal spires of Gaudi’s Sagrada Família may be more famous but we actually prefer the wonderland of the rooftop terrace of Casa Milà with its trademark Guadi trencandís (fragmented mosaics) and Trojan warrior chimneys.