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Catalan Carousing: 7 places to visit in Barcelona, Spain

If you’ve never been to Barcelona, it should definitely be firmly on the agenda for your next European trip. Few other cities on the continent can match it for its sheer verve, stunning architecture, vibrant nightlife, Catalan cuisine and cosy beach-side restaurants.

Barcelona is a city that has sought to maintain its independence from the rest of Spain, with its own culture, music, cuisine and unique take on the language. While Catalans are warm and welcoming to visitors, they are also a proud people with a fierce sense of their own destiny.

1. Park Güell

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The best place to start your exploration of the Catalan capital is with a celebration of Barcelona’s favourite son, Antoni Gaudí. The famed architect is hailed as the greatest ever exponent of Catalan modernism – incorporating themes of nature and religion – and developed his own individual style that none have been able to replicate, although many have tried.

A good starting point for an expression of Gaudí’s work is Park Güell – so named for the Spanish entrepreneur, Eusebi Güell, who commissioned the architect and funded this truly unique vision. Park Güell is a naturalistic park made up organic architectural elements, colonnades, enigmatic sculpted structures, striking tiles and gardens. The original vision when Gaudí and Güell began work on the project in 1900 (it was completed in 1914) was for it to be a naturalistic park where people could live as part of an innovative urban space. 

2. Sagrada Família

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Another masterpiece by Antoni Gaudí is the Sagrada Família Basilica. No trip to Barcelona is complete without a trip to the breathtaking landmark. Construction of the Sagrada Família began in 1882 for which Gaudí quickly became its chief architect – transforming the project with his own style by combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms.

The architect devoted the rest of his life to the project and at the time of his death in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete. To this day, finishing touches are still being applied. Nevertheless, the exterior is stunning – with its delicate fairytale spires. Inside, the expansive, coloured windows let in a kaleidoscope of light and the hush created by the soft acoustics make for a preternatural experience, while the intricately composed columns gave the interior the otherworldly sense of being in a magic forest. 

3. Besta Restaurant

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Now that the cultural stuff is out of the way, it’s time to explore some of Barcelona’s earthly delights. Barcelona’s top eatery is generally regarded as Besta Restaurant. But be warned, it’s very popular and you will need to book well in advance to secure a table. 

A match made in heaven, Catalonian Carles Ramón and Galician Manu Núñez blend their regional backgrounds together to create unique flavours from seasonal ingredients that make up a varied menu of Catalan cuisine.

4. Mr Porter Restaurant

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Another notable mention in the eatery stakes is Mr Porter Restaurant, with its speciality of lobster and beef steak. For something with a definitive local flavour, it’s also well worth sampling some Jamon Iberico ham, a famous Catalan delicacy.

Whatever you choose, wash it all down with a big jug (or two) of sangria. It’s refreshing fruitiness is the perfect way to settle in for a long, lazy lunch.

5. La Roca Village

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If it’s a little shopping you’re interested in, check out La Roca Village, which boasts more than 130 luxury boutiques. Once your suitably sated and shopped out, it’s time for a little recreation and relaxation. Go for a little amble along the beach. Before long, you’ll most likely encounter an open-air self-styled wellness centre, replete with oversized cushions and mats – harking back to the decadent delights of Morocco.

Here, you can be pampered and get a gentle massage in Arabesque-style luxury – a refreshing drink in hand – with the soothing swish of waves lapping the shore of the Mediterranean.

6. Picasso Museum

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It would be remiss not make mention of Barcelona’s other favourite son and one of the world’s foremost painters: Pablo Picasso. Contrary to popular belief, Picasso was not, in fact, born in Barcelona. He was born in the northern Spanish port town of Malaga. But it’s in the Catalan capital where he has been honoured with the Picasso Museum (Museu Picasso de Barcelona), housing over 4000 of his works – the largest collection anywhere in the world. It is the ultimate homage to the great artist. Here, you can while away a fascinating afternoon marvelling at the creations of this master painter.

The museum follows Picasso’s progress as an artist in chronological order. Starting out with superb classically painted creations in a naturalistic manner, which gradually evolves into his distinctive avant-garde cubism style that the art world has come to identify him with.

7. Palau de la Música Catalana

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Spanish guitar is, of course, immensely popular in Barcelona. As you explore the city’s attractions and hotspots, you are likely to encounter a busker displaying his (or her) musical talents as they strum up a storm on their guitar street-side. The Gypsy Kings seem to feature prominently on the playlists but it’s a vibe that blends in well with the city’s soulful ambience.

But there are also opportunities to catch live shows at any number of venues. One of the best – and most picturesque – places to experience a live show is the Palau de la Música Catalana. This stunning locale is worth a tour by day in its own right, but why not trip the light fantastic by taking in a night-time live flamenco dance show. This beautiful Barcelona theatre, and the performances held here, have consistently received rave reviews from audiences. Vibrant, with an explosion of vermillion, dance and music, it’s a life-affirming slice of authentic Spanish culture that will stay with you long after you have farewelled the Catalan capital.

2022-06-28T18:28:17+00:00 June 28, 2022|Travel|