William & Park | 8 Ways to Take in the Colors and Flavors of Barcelona
If New York is the city that never sleeps and Paris is the city of light, then Barcelona is the city of color—like your quirky, artist cousin from Portland with her blunt-cut bangs and nose ring who spends Sunday afternoon at the skatepark. Barcelona is that kind of technicolor cool. And whether it’s a stroll through Mercado de La Boqueria, touring the surrealist buildings of architect Antoni Gaudí, or oohing and ahhing at the spectacular Magic Fountain at Mount Jüic, you can’t help but soak up the vivid hues of Catalonian life at every turn.
As Spain’s second largest city, Barcelona has 1.6 million denizens and is the kind of cosmopolitan center that attracts tourists from all over Europe and beyond. Chatter on the street is a mix of Spanish, Catalan, English, French, and German. The city also benefits from the warm climes of sitting pretty on the Mediterranean Sea, which make it a great destination nearly all year round.
Sunshine, walkable neighborhoods, a lively art scene, and cheap tapas and vino every night. What more could a turista ask for? Here are 8 ways to explore the colors and flavors that make Barcelona unique.
The best way to get your bearings in Barcelona is a walk down Las Ramblas, the main drag in town that cuts through Plaça Catalunya and many of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods (Barri Gòtic, El Raval, l’Eixample, El Born). Like any tourist mecca, Las Ramblas has its share of souvenir shops, gelato stands, and silver-sprayed street performers who spring to life for a tip. One stop not to be missed is the Mercado de La Boqueria, where you can enjoy a late lunch by nibbling on tapas, sweet bakery treats, and fresh-squeezed 1-euro juice.
Exceptional tapas bars can be found all over the city. Cal Pep, El Xampanyet, and Ciudad Condal are local favorites. But to really do tapas right, head to Poble Sec where you can spend the entire night on Carrer Blai hopping from one tapas bar to another. Tapas range from 1-2 euros each and a glass of tinto (that’s red wine) to wash it all down is rarely more than 3 euros.
All the guide books will tell you to catch one of the weekend shows at the Magic Fountain of Mountjüic. As cheesy and touristy as a “magic fountain” may sound, the kid in you will be glad you saw it. The water works are so spectacular, it’s almost better than Disneyland. Stay for the late show and you’ll know all the words to the American pop songs playing on the loud speakers.
Just west of Las Ramblas in downtown Barcelona, El Raval has historically been one of the city’s seedier neighborhoods, once home to the city’s Chinatown and red light district. But revitalization efforts over the last decade and the district’s edgy mix of art and nightlife has transformed it into a hub of creativity. Spend an afternoon exploring its snaking streets and check out hip boutiques like Collective skate shop and Holala Plaza (which boasts Kate Moss as a loyal customer). Scope out the skaters hanging outside MACBA (Barcelona’s Museum of Contemporary Art) while you view one of their latest exhibits.
No trip to Barcelona would be complete without taking in the brilliantly imaginative architecture of Antoni Gaudí. A visionary before his time, you can’t miss his signature style: colorful tile mosaics, playful shapes, and Art Nouveau flourishes. You might even say his creations have a psychedelic quality to them; it’s rumored that Gaudí regularly ingested hallucinogenic mushrooms. Sagrada Familia and Park Güell are his most well-known works, but Palau Güell, Casa Batlló, and Casa Milà are also worth a look, time permitting.
Watching an FC Barcelona game at Camp Nou is probably the single most thrilling athletics event short of attending the World Cup. Barça’s roster includes some of the best footballers in the world—Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr., and Andrés Iniesta. Plus, the energy of the crowd never disappoints.
After a few days of indulging your senses, you may feel the need to detox and recharge. Flax & Kale, located in El Raval, is a restaurant whose menu is as delicious as it is healthy. Brunch is their specialty and their open face toasts and hardy smoothies could give any Brooklyn farm-to-table a run for its money.
SUNRISE TO SUNSET
The best way to end an amazing trip to Barcelona is making the trek up to the Bunkers del Carmel, a spot on Turó de la Rovira that offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the city. This little-known vista has become more popular in recent years thanks to the film Tengo Ganas de Ti and the proliferation ofInstagram snaps. But you also get a piece of local history—the bunkers there were built during the Spanish Civil as anti-aircraft batteries. The best time to enjoy the view is either at sunrise or sunset. If you go during the latter, do as the locals do, and bring a few cervezas with you to kick off the night.