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I’ll just come right out and say it: There’s much more to Barcelona than Gaudi.
Sure, Parc Guell is a wonderland and Sagrada Familia is impeccably carved, but there are plenty of other Barcelona buzzwords that don’t involve an eccentric architect.
Hence my list of 4 Barcelona buzzwords that have nothing to do with Gaudi.
While the nicest beaches in the general Barcelona vicinity are probably found an hour south of the city in Sitges, the multiple beaches of the Barceloneta district will more than suffice if you are in need of a quick beach fix. A perfect blend of historic and chic, Barceloneta is the city’s answer to Venice Beach or Bondi, only with a lot more speedos and a lot less bikini tops.
Greased up rollerbladers share the boardwalk with girls on beach cruisers, each of them sporting the latest version of massively oversized sunglasses. Hip young couples take in an afternoon espresso at trendy beachfront cafes, as throngs of study abroad students litter the sand with various languages and last night’s stories. Meanwhile, just a few meters down the narrow Barceloneta streets, aging Catalan grandmothers hang the laundry to dry from their third story balconies, and siesta minded shopkeepers lock up for the unquestioned afternoon tradition.
A fascinating and incredibly agreeable district of town, it all takes place directly in front of the azure and inviting Mediterranean.
Tiny plates of food that require a large amount of time, to the uninitiated the entire tapas experience can be slightly overwhelming and perhaps even unrewarding. Not for the overly hungry or terminally impatient, a proper plate of tapas is meant to be meandered through and enjoyed slowly and thoroughly, preferably accompanied by intense conversation or serious self-reflection. It’s a unique scene where it is totally acceptable to take 90 minutes to eat a plate of 9 olives.
While not every tapas plate will be agreeable with every palate, Barcelona is an incredible city for posting up in a cobbled street of the old town and working your way through a tapas menu until you find that one tiny plate that makes all the time spent worthwhile. Mix with a pitcher of sangria and you have yourself an enjoyable little afternoon.
Tapas suggestions: Patatas Bravas, Paella (for 2), or Aceitunas con Alcachofas (olives with artichoke).
The best thing to happen to red wine since grapes, nowhere does a proper pitcher of fruity red wine like the city of Barcelona. Anyone fiending for some of the red stuff can find it along the bustling Las Ramblas section of the city, and at virtually every outdoor café in the old town. I personally think the best place to enjoy a jarra of sangria is with the sun on your shoulders in the Plaza Real, a plate of tapas beside you, and a to-do list that includes a long list of absolutely nothing at all.
Editorial caution: Introducing a good pitcher of sangria to a to-do list that includes nothing is a potent recipe for things getting weird…
The trademark dance of Spain, any visitors to Barcelona wanting to get an inside look at the sensual dance should hit up a traditional tablao. While there are a number of touristy dinner shows that are quite pricey, it isn’t hard to find a local little joint tucked away on the side streets of the old town where the clapping of hands and stomping of feet are considered completely legitimate instruments. Serious and intense, proper flamenco is comprised of 4 elements: Voice, Dance, Guitar, and an element known only as jaleo, which loosely translates to “hell-raising”.
While the massive dinner shows I am sure make for a great evening, there’s just something about a tucked away attic with low hanging ceilings, the rising heat of a festive crowd collectively beading on the brows of those in attendance. Mix with a pitcher of sangria or a midnight coffee (after all, this is Spain) and the night will be energized, alive, and young. Let yourself loose. This is the Mediterranean, this is Spain, this is Barcelona.