Every time I return to Barcelona, I am blown away by the city’s architecture.
The wonderful gothic buildings in the Casco antiguo - narrow, old streets, full of churches and cathedrals; the Eixample district, built in the late 1800s on the street grid design with its wide avenues and designer boutiques, and Barceloneta, or little Barcelona, the fisherman’s quarter by the sea, which houses many seafood restaurants and overlooks the picturesque harbour.
Gaudí, Barcelona’s most famous modernist architect, was born in Catalunya in 1852. Developing an avid fascination for colours, nature and geometry during his infancy, as an adult he decided to study architecture in one of the city’s most influential art schools where neo-classical and romanticism dominated.
He was still very young when he received his first commissions, his work oscillating between oriental and medieval reproductions. The bourgeois and the church would be his main clients throughout his life, yet it would be only after his death that he would receive the great critical acclaim that he so deserved. His masterpiece is undoubtedly the post-modernist cathedral the ‘Sagrada Familia’ or Holy Family, which is estimated to take another 100 years to complete. As well as this, dotted around the city are other examples of his work such as the Casa Batlló, a number of houses that line the Passeig de Gracia in the centre of the city, and Park Güell.
The Ramblas, Barcelona’s best-known street, is a great starting place for a walking tour.
I recommend you begin at Plaça Catalunya, the main central square, and head towards the port and the statue of Christopher Colombus or Colón.
The Ramblas are full of flower stalls, street artists, jewellery stalls and drinks terraces. La Boqueria on the Ramblas is an amazing covered food market full of colour and fun, a great place to have breakfast where you can sit at one of the bars and drink a café con leche with a croissant.
Catalan cuisine, like the rest of Spanish food, is rich and varied and relies very much on olive oil, tomatoes and beans as principal ingredients.
Popular dishes include stews, soups, decadent sauces such as tomato-based Romesco that accompanies meat, alioli, or garlic mayonnaise, ravioli, and of course, the infamous tapas.
In recent years, Barcelona’s restaurants have become extremely international, with many new trendy eateries springing up.
A number of restaurants serve ‘menu del dia’ at lunchtime, and costing on average seven Euros, it is an extremely good value three-course dish that includes bread, wine, and coffee.
Popular restaurants are El Glob Taberna, c/ San Luis, 42 Gracia, which serves traditional Catalan food, la Casa d’Antic, c/ Regomir, for a bodega style restaurant serving delicious light meals and endlessly popular with foreigners and locals alike, and the pizzeria la Veronica, c/ Avigno, for pizzas and salads in a vibrant red atmosphere.
Spanish tapas, the quintessential snack, have come to encompass more or less any hot or cold dish that can be served in small portions. They are so well suited to today’s style of casual eating that they have become popular outside Spain. In Barcelona, the Catalans would never dream of serving bread on its own, preferring to eat pan con tomate (bread, or toast, that is rubbed with ripe tomatoes, garlic, and then drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt).
Other tapas that are common in Barcelona are calamares, fried anchovies, snails, Spanish tortilla, butifarra (a spicy sausage eaten hot) salchicha or Spanish salami, cheese and olives.