4 Ways to Enhance Your Visit to Barcelona
I am now a resident here in Barcelona of 14 months standing. This is enough time to get tired of the places where all the tourists congregate, and to wonder why they miss the multiple other treasures within easy reach.
So in the spirit of spreading you all out a bit and sharing more of the beauty of the city, can I recommend the following?
1. FIND AND ENJOY THE OTHER ‘RAMBLAS’
The once great La Rambla – running from Placa Catalyuna down to the port. it was the essence of Barcelona – a street where interesting shops, cafes, people, tress and benches all achieved their optimum mix. Now it is the Barcelona version of Leicester Square.
But all is not lost. There are many Ramblas in various wonderful accessible neighborhoods that still have all the original spirit in abundance. Check out the following, and remember – the two best times are before 11:00 for shopping and early morning coffee, then after 20:00 for socializing, eating, strolling and people watching.
Rambla Poblenou (nearest metro Poblenou). This has the added advantage of running all the way to the seafront, and is the ideal evening stroll before or after a meal in any of the numerous restaurants. Be ready to venture into the side streets in search of something more than tapas.
Carrer Rogent El Clot (nearest metro El Clot) A long pedestrian shopping street with trees and shops and restaurants. A far more interesting shopping and coffee experience than its big brother in the old town.
The ‘Classic’ Rambla – but going up! If you still want to see the famous old town Rambla, then I strongly recommend putting your back to the sea and walking up La Rambla starting on the mountain side of Placa Catalyuna. You will immediately leave behind 80% of your fellow tourists and be able to appreciate the street better. If you like it go further and be richly rewarded.
2. PICK YOUR BEACH
Apparently beach life began in Barcelona only after the 1982 Olympics. Before then this was an industrial town with no thought for leisure. Well now we have 5km of beaches running from the caricature that is Barceloneta beach with its crowded youthful desperation to prove a good time is being had by all, to the far more relaxed beaches as you walk north along the promenade. Take the time to explore and you will find your perfect spot. There are family beaches, nudist beaches, gay beaches, and sporty beaches – all clean, and all with showers. Actually the further north you go, the clearer the water. By the time you get to Poblenou, 3km away from Barceloneta, you are in a different, more friendly world
3. GO TO THE HILLS TO PRAY OR PLAY ..
Barcelona is actually quite small. I reckon the interesting core is no more than 5km from the hills to the sea, and then 5km again along the sea front. The hills can be a neglected piece of a visit. Park Guell gives you a hint, but it is the equivalent of the Rambla above – a place where most tourists go, and then return back to the seafront.
I recommend to take the metro/train to Tibidabo (your ticket covers the whole trip including change to L7). As you come out of the station, look up the avenue. Either walk or take the fantastic little tram, and pass the amazing mansions that merchants once and now doctors own – all towers and showmanship. Keep going up. Take the funicular railway ever upward to the Tibidabo amusement park. Whether for the views, the 1950’s feel to the place, or to pray in the oddly placed Church of the Sacred Heart, surrounded as it is by roller coasters and amusements, this is a great trip that stretches live your boundaries of what you think the city is.
Also just off the Avenue Tibidabo is one of the best and most engaging science museums in Europe – called CosmoCaxia. Worth visiting for so many things but I mention the walk around and through aquarium where you get to look at the Amazon rain forest from a fishes perspective. Long live great design!
4. SANTA CATERINA MARKET IS BETTER THAN LA BOQUERIA MARKET
Less than a kilometer away from La Boqueria market is its still real younger sister. Its possible, but I have to believe unlikely, that you would prefer a well dressed mannequin surrounded by tourists taking photographs, to a flesh and blood woman wearing the same clothes and moving in her normal environment. For the first to to La Boqueria. The rarest thing there has become someone actually buying food to take home and cook as against a day glow visitor with their matching fruit juice. Santa Caterina is a living food market. Actually I hope not to many of you go there, and when you do, but something other than a take away. How about a real souvenir of catalan gastronomy?