Barcelona is undoubtedly the most effortlessly elegant and sophisticated city I have ventured to. It is the splendid capital of the prosperous autonomous community Catalonia, comfortably nestled on the Mediterranean coastline between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs.
On glorious sunny days a dazzling clarity breathes life into the city as crowds of locals swarm to the warm, golden sands of La Barceloneta and its picturesque promenade to take a leisurely stroll with little-legged dachshunds in hand and clutching excitable, stumbling, clumsy children clad in brightly coloured roller skates.
At it’s heart, astounded visitors will delight in the sheer sophistication of its chic inhabitants as well as the splendor of the fabrication of its buildings, whether this be the Gothic mansions of the Barrio Gótico, or the modernista masterpieces of the likes of Gaudi and Puig i Cadafalch. In addition to this, Barcelona is home to restaurants unassumingly serving innovative and sensational dishes, panoramic views due to being peppered with small hills and an abundance of quirky barrios to find a square to languidly sip a caña or a café solo and observe passers-by.
In my view, Park Güell somewhat resembles Charlie and the chocolate factory on the grounds of the almost nonsensical childlike imagination that clearly inspired the pavilion building and the rest of the site with its remarkable shapes and glittering, colourful mosaic pieces.
Originally envisioned as a miniature city for the wealthy in landscaped grounds the project was a flop, but not before Gaudi had conceived the city with its picturesque walkways, plaza and two gate houses. I adore the enchanting magical feel of the artificial shapes of the park as well as the unparalleled, intricate mosaics visitors are able stumble upon, I’d certainly recommend climbing up to the top of the site to delight in the breath-taking panoramic view of the city's urban jungle as if stretching out to meet the ocean.
Originally envisioned as a miniature city for the wealthy in landscaped grounds the project was a flop, but not before Gaudi had conceived the city with its picturesque walkways, plaza and two gate houses. I adore the enchanting magical feel of the artificial shapes of the park as well as the unparalleled, intricate mosaics visitors are able stumble upon, I’d certainly recommend climbing up to the top of the site to delight in the breath-taking panoramic view Bof the city's urban jungle as if stretching out to meet the ocean.
Casa Batlló is simply a wonder, it is known by the locals as Casa del ossos (House of Bones) because of its skeletal structural quality, undeniably the exterior of this magical building is a sight to behold with its jewelled broken ceramic tiles on the façade and arched scaled roof, the house is nothing but a superb creation of the imagination.
Once entering within visitors may delight in the stain glass noblefloor, inner intricate archways and grand dome-shaped suites. Perhaps my favourite part of my ewas unexpectedly popping out on to exterior alcoves, terraces and balconies sprouting with charming multi-coloured chimneys, turrets and terracotta roofing, the viewer gets a sense that a frivolous absurdity was involved in its creation and the over-all effect is simply delightful. For both sights, make sure to book in advance before your visit and plan to arrive at Casa Batlló in the morning or at generally quieter times as the small, twisting building can sadly become quite cramped at times with a small army of boisterous and eager photo-snapping, selfie-stick armed tourists.
Despite being home to the gorgeous Ciutadella Park and the prestigious Picasso museum this delightful, kooky area prides itself on architectural beauty, puzzling narrow streets and café littered plazas that could compete with the gothic area yet is it just far enough removed from the beaten track to maintain appealing tranquility, quintessential charm and dignity.
El born is notable for its little treasures, delightful plazas littered with cafes, the stunning concert hall Palau de la Música Catalana, its altogether laid-back, bohemian atmosphere and the gorgeous boutiques with their traditional shop-signs kept and preserved ( as pictured). Perhaps my fascination with this corner of town stems from its respectful appreciation and nostalgia towards the past, its individuality and maintaining of a high degree of local life despite the hordes of tourists that flock to the city each year.
VILA DE GRACIA
Next on my list is the charming district of Gràcia, its populates are known to be exceedingly proud of their roots and are an eclectic bunch due to the area being popular with artists and a bohemian crowd and yet, Gràcia is a traditional barrio with a large elderly population which makes for an amusing and odd mix - and entertaining people-watching whilst sipping a beer on slow Sunday afternoons perhaps
The district is blessed with many an attractive square, at times it’s perimeters and thoroughfares appear a tad decrepit and dilapidated but it remains lovable all the same and this shabbiness marries well with the creative and electric ambience that permeates the area. Personally, I became infatuated with its streets that are lined with beautiful boutiques, selling exquisite clothes crafted by independent local designers, traditional craft and art shops, fabric stores and quintessential catalan bodegas serving marvellous delicacies such as crispy pork belly served on succulent fresh scallops on a bed of sensational cauliflower cream (mouth-watering). One of my favourite little shops to rifle through was a stunning handmade print shop Antoniona located on Carrer d'Astúries (pictured).
Plaça de la Virreina, Gràcia
BITE TO EAT
Gravin in El Born is a charming Italian restaurant serving up a divine spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams) and other delectable treats in a gorgeous traditional back drop, expect candle lit-ambience, beautiful wooden paneling and garlic hanging off the walls in this quaint quintessentially Italian set-up.
La Pubilla, my all time favourite restaurant located in the heart of Gracia offers traditional catalan small dishes with an innovative twist and a superb wine list, don't be thrown off by the seemingly modest premises, expect to be wowed by their pig-tail and langoustine ravioli sprinkled with caviar and toasted pine nuts or their sumptuous cockle and mussel stew laden with green beans in a rich white wine sauce.
Portions are small for those who are a fan of more substantial dishes (myself included) however what is offered is bursting with flavour and once sat happily with a glass of crisp white wine in hand, you will soon be quite content I assure you.
Quimet y Quimet is a delightful tiny tapas bar located in the theatre district of the city, serving up cold montaditos, little enticing toasted canapés topped with juicy sardines, gorgeous razor clams or fragrant pâté.
With its walls lined top to bottom with an impressive display of wines, this cosy enchanting spot is a wine lovers dream, yet they also serve some very palatable beers and pale ales to quench your thirst also.
If you're anticipating resting your aching limbs after a hectic day of sight-seeing and indulging in some tapas in a relaxed setting, you will be sorely disappointed. This bustling bar can undoubtedly become quite chaotic, expect to shout your order across the vicinity, (those wanting to practice their language skills this could be your most difficult challenge of the trip, clarity and volume are both essential). I have to also mention the seating arrangements, or lack of. There is no seating available, only a few small tables to perch on and expect to be jostled by fellow eaters, make sure to keep a firm grip on that glass of Rioja, I warn you now.
Caelum this remarkable little café selling delicious sweet treats to accompany an earl grey tea or coffee, or traditional biscuits to take home is undeniably a fascinating establishment well worth a visit on your travels about the Gothic Quarter.
Centuries of culinary catalán tradition are exquisitely displayed in their bay window display tempting passers by. Once inside tea-sippers will be inclined to taste the spread on offer ranging from jams and jellies of roses and jasmine, traditional cakes, Tocinillo de cielo, Turrones, figs in syrup and other delicacies. Also I encourage you to brave the slightly hazardous staircase downstairs descending into an underground chamber with its magnificent stone walls and flickering candles that offer a somewhat medieval dining experience.
Mama's Café is a quaint little coffee shop off a little side street Calle Torrijos in the district of Gracia and is perfect for those seeking a small reprieve from the chaos and commotion of the city centre and some nourishment. This hideaway was a favourite during my stay in Barcelona when I would sit and indulge in some sketching perched on a stool in a quiet corner as well as a piece of the incredibly rich flourless chocolate cake (pictured) which is lovingly sprinkled with a little icing sugar snow and served with a healthy dollop of cream, simply divine.