BARCELONA. About our city.
Where is Barcelona?
Nowadays, Barcelona is part of the autonomous community of Spain: Catalonia. Together with Girona, Lleida and Tarragona they give name to this beautiful region where you can find from beach summery enjoyment in Costa Brava and Costa Daurada to hiking or even skiing wintery experiences in the Catalan Pyrenees.
Lately Catalonia it’s been one of the most visited places in Spain, the artistic diversity since the Romanesque churches to the modernist architecture as Gaudí, Dalí, Picasso or Miró, and with one of the oldest history in Europe, we may captive your curiosity and make you wanting to come back again! Some writers describe the area as the perfect balance within the tradition and the avant-garde, Barcelona has the reputation of being the most cosmopolitan, trend setting and modern city of the peninsula.
Due to our Romanesque background, the importance of the artistic culture is still really present. You will find several museums, exhibitions, public art, music and theater options, monthly local festivities in the neighborhoods with public concerts, activities and markets to explore and taste our cuisine.
One of the most significant characteristics are the popular traditions and all the history behind. If you’ve already been in Spain, you may be surprised to find different cultural activities. Avoid trying to find the Flamenco roots here, or even worse: bullfighting; it’s luckily banned! You will see some differences, from the language (Catalan), through the food (the well-known aioli it’s actually “all i oli” which means literally in Catalan “garlic and oil”) till the cultural festivities as the famous human towers -els castellers-, or also the fireworks of correfoc, the sardana dance and others.
The political situation now it’s pretty complicated. Corruption is present and the Spanish democracy is not working as it should. You'll see several independence flags in the balconies and demonstrations where people is claiming for the rights to vote and decide our future. Observe, read, ask and listen to create your own opinion.
April 23rd. Day of the book and the rose
Undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful dates to be in Barcelona is during Sant Jordi (Saint George). It's a unique Catalan tradition which transforms the streets into open air florist's and libraries. Based in the legend, the tradition says you have to give a book and/or a rose to your partner or anyone you love.
June 24th Eve. Sant Joan
If you are lucky to be there during the summer solstice, the shortest night of the year, on June 23rd evening, we celebrate: Sant Joan (Saint John) - the night of the fire. If you are not afraid of fireworks and can stand until late, you may spend one of the best experiences ever! People usually gather with friends on the beach to have some drinks and do fireworks.
September 11th. National Day of Catalonia
September 11th, La Diada (National Day of Catalonia). That day back in 1714, we lost our independence against Spain and that's basically why nowadays Catalonia it's an Spanish region. You will see many and strong protest of people who support the idea of getting our independent country back. There is also many other activities.
September 24th. La Mercè
The main Barcelona's local festivity is on September 24th, La Mercè. A few days before till the 25th the whole city becomes a huge open air venue full of free live music events. From the smallest stage hidden between narrow streets to a large festival. The last day, an astonishing music fireworks closes the festivity in front of the emblematic Montjuic fountain.
October 31st. La Castanyada
Although in the common English-speaking countries usually celebrate Halloween, in Catalonia the most popular autumn festival is La Castanyada. We cook roasted chestnuts, moniatoes, candied fruit and panellets: a kind of sweets made with a dough made with sugar, crushed raw almonds, egg and potato or moniato. Traditional panellets are covered with toasted pine nuts, but you can find them in coffee, chocolate, coconut or other flavors.
December 25th Eve. Caga Tió
Probably the most weird, mind-twisted and funny Christmas activity: Tió de Nadal. It's a Catalan tradition which is celebrated the days preceding Christmas till December 24th night. The Tió de Nadal is a small-medium log, standing up with two front stick legs and a smiling face painted on its higher end, enhanced by a miniature of the traditional Catalan hat -la barretina- and covered with a blanket so it won't be cold. Not kidding!
Beginning on December 8th (Immaculate Conception), kids feed the Tió every night. Children must look after the log, so it will defecate presents (sweets and small toys) on Christmas Eve. In order to do so, we softly beat the Tió with sticks while singing the traditional song: Caga Tió (shit log song, literally).
And, of course, we also organize and celebrate the well-known international live music and arts festivals as Primavera Sound (June), Sonar (June), Cruïlla (July), Grec Arts (mid-June to early August) or L’Alternativa Independent Film Festival (November).
The main airport is the International Airport El Prat of Barcelona, you can use the train (the underground is called "metro") from the airport, the bus (Aerobús) per 2 euros or a taxi.
Barcelona metro is based on 8 lines of underground trains and 4 (FGC) railways. You can use the bus, the exterior tram and all the buses with the same paper ticket or cash.
Transport tickets in Barcelona are made of paper, available in any kiosk or metro stations, and you have to tap on just when you enter. Timetable: Monday to Thursday from 5am to 24h. Friday dorm 5am to 2am. Saturday all day and night. And Sunday until 24h. TMB and FGC are the official logotypes and signs to locate the metro entrances.
Ciutat Vella: the Romanesque ruins and the medieval Gothic, the heart of the city. Its streets, alleyways and squares are an open book where you can read the history. You'll also find the maritime old fisherman's quarter: La Barceloneta.
L'Eixample: the modernist (Art Nouveau) neighborhood, famous for the squared design called Pla Cerda and where the main modernist features are located. Its broad, elegant, rectilinear streets show the urban movement of the city.
Sants Montjuïc from the castle in the mountain till the sea. A huge variety of theatres, museums and sports facilities have turned it into the middle class favourite for shopping and having fun.
San Martí: the renovated industrial neighborhoods, preserving some working-class and revolutionary history has been transformed into the most innovative and cosmopolitan seafront promenade of the city.
Or the laborer area of Gràcia, their plazas and cozy streets full of multicultural events and and the most cosmopolitan of artists, to music, theatre and cinema, but without losing its essence as a proud village that is different and wants to reassert its past.
Walk around and give yourself the chance to get lost in our streets, each building façades have histories behind, where the modern structures had been integrated into the oldest one offering a really interesting solution.
The main Mediterranean ingredients are the olives, oil and garlic. Most of our traditional gastronomy is made with a previous sauté of oil, garlic, onion and sometimes vegetables.
Again, Sangria is not really traditional in our territory, even though you going to be able to order it anywhere. Fun fact! According to the SAGE Encyclopedia of Alcohol, Sangria origins is not only coming from Spain, but Greece and England too. As an alternative, if you like wine, you can order local DO from El Penedès, El Priorat, L'Empordà or Molí dels Capellans.
Our vegetarian recommendations:
Horchata. Is a fresh drink made with dried and sweetened tiger nuts.
Granizado. Is a kind of slushy, a beverage made with ice and sugars.
Any kind of artisan beer, are usually cheap and good! Cheers is: “salud” in Spanish or “salut” in Catalan. Try some local as: Estrella Damm, Moritz, San Miguel, Voll Damm, Cap d'Ona, Cervesa del Montseny, Glops, Rosita...
Any Catalan sparkling whine: cava to festive celebrations. Authentic bubbles!
Vermut. Typical A sweet or dry fortified wine flavored with aromatic herbs alcoholic drink. We usually drink after work enjoying it in any bar terrace.
Pa amb tomàquet, literally: bread with tomato spread. It consists of toasted Catalan country bread scraped with garlic (optional) and lightly coated with of the flesh of fresh tomatoes. The final touch is always a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt on top. It’s a delicious appetizer, simple but surprising.
Escalivada: a mixture of smoky grilled vegetables peeled and cut into very thin strips served with olive oil and often served with toasted rustic bread.
Samfaina. Catalan and Valencian cuisine, similar to ratatouille, It is prepared with diced eggplant and zucchini fried on a base of garlic, onion and grated tomato.
Coca de recapte: kind of cake made of onion and capsicums.
Romesco: tomato and almond sauce originated from Tarragona.
Calçot. A unique culinary customs, celebrated from January to April. Similar to leeks, larger and milder than a typical green onion. We grill them over a flaming barbecue, serve on a terracotta roof tile, peel away the blackened outer layers, and then dip the tender bulbs into the romesco or salvitxada sauce.
Crema Catalana. Similar to the French crème brûlée, uses a base of milk (instead of cream) and is thickened with eggs. Cooked in the oven in a water bath; once out, the tops are doused with sugar and torched.
We love hanging out with some friends and have a “pica pica” together. Means when everyone shares little dishes instead of a main dish per person, well-known as tapas. Have some olives, pa amb tomàquet, escalivada, fresh tomatoes and enjoy, as we say: bon profit!
Attention: the normal time to have dinner is different than the rest of Europe. If you want to experience the real athmosphere, have some dips at six in the afternoon and wait to have dinner until 9 in the night. The clubs usually open until 6AM, and people don't enter before 2AM, from 12-2AM we usually have some pre-drinks.
Be aware that we also love to do "siesta", especially during weekends. You'll find some of the local shops closed from 2 to 4PM as midday break. We usually have lunch around 2-3PM in the afternoon, sometimes earlier on weekdays.
It's also normal to overtime in the restaurants, even if we already finished our meals. It's called: “sobre-mesa” or "sobre-taula"in Catalan. It’s not weird, and some restaurants often invite the clients to have some free herbs shoots!
Catalan is one of the two official languages in Catalonia. Like any other Latin language and as a result of geographical proximity, is similar to Spanish, French, Portuguese or Italian.
Good morning - Buenos días - Bon dia Good afternoon - Buenas tardes - Bona tarda Bye - Adios - Adéu Please - Por favor - Si us plau Thank you - Gracias - Gràcies (or merci -like French-) You’re welcome - De nada - De res Sorry - Perdón - Perdó
During summer, it gets really hot and you will love to rest in our beaches for sure! Although, we recommend you to avoid the main Barcelona beaches as much as possible. They are not bad, but they're usually very crowded.
As we’ve already said, Catalonia is divided in four different provinces: Barcelona, Lleida, Girona and Tarragona. This last two located outlining the shore. From Barcelona up to France is called Costa Brava, the central coast, and underneath is named Costa Daurada.
According to the National Geographic the best beaches are located in: Cap de Creus, Tamarit, Tossa, Begur, Sitges, El Garraf... We recommend you going to Sitges also, a town about 35 km southwest of Barcelona, the town and the beach are gorgeous and it just take 30 minutes by train.
If you have more days and don't want to miss Dali Museum, on your way to Figueres you can’t miss Cadaqués town - is not easy to access, but we bet it will let you speechless!
If you like soccer (football for us) going to Camp Nou, the FCBarcelona stadium, it's a must. It's the largest European football stadium with more than 99,000 capacity. The club offers a tour but the real experience is to see a live match. If you have the chance to get tickets, go for it, you'll see one of the best football clubs and you'll feel an incredible atmosphere!
We will list all the topics and “tourist places”, but it’s true that if you’re coming for limited days there are certain places that you can’t miss: Sagrada Familia, the National Museum of Art of Catalonia (MNAC), the Magic Fountain of Montjuic, the Olympic Port, Guell Park, Batllo House, La Pedrera, Las Ramblas walk, Gothic neighbourhood or La Boqueria market.
If you have extra time and energy visit the Catedral, Picasso Museum, Poble Espanyol, Guell Palace, Palau de la Musica, the Tibidabo and all their lockouts or the modern museum MACBA. To have a quick idea of Barcelona you can always pay for a tour or walk around with the free tours offered.
If you are planning to visit this amazing city in 5 days or more, do not miss our personalized post here.
BARCELONA CARD allows you to use unlimited transport and access to several attractions as Picasso, MNAC, MACBA and other museums. Or you have also the option of HOLA BARCELONA card for 5 days unlimited transport.
Like any city in the world, when it becomes popular there's an exponential growth of mass tourism threatening cultural identities and creates new environmental concerns. That's why we would like to insist and support the responsible and sustainable tourism.
Booking local hostels and restaurants, buying in little stores, avoiding illegal and cheap touristic stays, respecting public goods and areas, traffic signs and nocturnal noises. Our resident neighbors are the soul of the city.
We're conscious that it may be unnecessary to remember this facts. But, unfortunately, it's exactly what it's happening nowadays.
We absolutely invite you to come and enjoy our social, natural and cultural activities and, of course, our night live too! We just ask you to cooperate, empathize and promote a better tourism and the best local experience.
Finally, we wold like to thank Ester's aunt, Anna, for all the support and photos supplied, as we currently live in Australia and we won't be able to update the post until late 2020.