A unique, cosmopolitan beach-front city with an undeniable pulse, it was only a matter of time before Barcelona found itself on Nubian Drifter’s list of destinations (especially since it served as backdrop to one of our favorite films, L’auberge Espagnole). Expansive yet easily accessible, the capital of Catalonia is filled to the brim with bustling streets, quirky and moody artichecture, electrifying nightlife, delectable cuisine and friendly people.
Moving through the city one can easily see how painters like Dali and Miro developed their artistry, as Barcelona oozes a sort of surrealist sensibility. Perhaps this is most evident in its artistically beautiful and fairly bizarre architecture. From Antoni Gaudi’s colorful, organicly structured Park Güell, Casa Batllo and Sagrada Familia, and the narrow, labyrinthesque streets and Gothic architecture found in the former Roman village, Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter), to the whimsically oversized Cat [of Botero] Sculpture in the gritty El Raval quarter, it is obvious that this city is bubbling over with a fantastical type of creativity, the type by which one can easily be inspired.
A fairly walkable city (which boasts an easily navigatable subway system for those with limited time to spare), Barcelona is best enjoyed on foot. With little shops and café’s tucked away on tiny streets and in unsuspecting corners, the only way to stumble upon such gems without the knowledge of a local, is simply by happenstance.
Las Ramblas, albeit touristy, is a magical strip of peculiarities: there is a dramatic atmospheric change as you stumble from one part of the city to the next, eerily reminiscent of the film The Wizard of Oz. In accordance with this yellow-brick-road ethos, along the way you’re greeted with live human statues painted in silver, gold and bronze, and a zoo cart filled with pigeons, turtles, mice and other creatures. It’s a shock to the system, but a few more minutes of meandering down the ‘brick road’ and you find yourself sucked in to it all, wondering what to expect next.
Eventually you come to the waterfront (home to an amazing aquarium), which, as you’d expect, is a magnificent panorama: a collection of archways announce looming wooded hills to the right, an expanse of sea lies ahead and to the left, and the city bustles behind. Any remnant of tiredness from the walk dissipates, or morphes into excitement, and so you continue on your way, eventually landing at Barceloneta beach. Here is where you chill out and relax. A beach is always a well-warranted excuse to have a beer, laze about and watch the sun set, and to prepare yourself for what’s next to come.
At sundown the city comes alive! Restaurants are filled, bars are packed and, afterhours, the clubs couldn’t be more lively. If you didn’t know, be warned: Barcelona is (in)famous for its booming, unrelenting nightlife. So if you found yourself active most of the day, it would be wise to retreat for a catnap— to begin your night fatigued would be unwise, and most unforgiving.
Start around 8 or 9pm. Enjoy a hearty, Catalan meal or sample a variety of Tapas. Take a walk to let your food digest, and then make your way to a bar for drinks. If you like shots, the Chupito Bar is the place to go: with over 200 shots at about €2 a pop, each with its own unique presentation (i.e. lighting the bar on fire, or having the shot drinker don a costume), this place is sure to ignite your inner party flame. Once you are good and sauced, stumble over to one (or two or three) of a countless number of clubs to dance the night away. If you do it right, you’re guaranteed to see the sun rise, and perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to enjoy walking back to your residence through a silent city, seeing wonderfully vacant sites along the way.
After a recovery day, you might find it nice to get out of the city on a day trip to one of the beaches, or to Montserrat, the sacred mountain range, or to Sitges, the Spanish town renowed for its film festival and carnival. You might even make time to visit Fundació Joan Miró, the museum of modern art built to honor the artist, located on a hill called Montjuïc.
With its undeniable beauty and eveloping atmospheric charm, this Mediterranean port lends itself to be a place you’ll likely never forget, one to which you’ll vow to return at different junctures in life to experience its magic once more, but on a completely different, metamorphosed level. Happy Travels! —VJ