Barcelona Basics


In Barcelona you don’t feel pressured into ‘seeing the sights’. The atmosphere is more relaxed than in other major cities and that’s part of its charm. But there is plenty to see if you are in the mood and four Barcelona basics you shouldn’t miss.

Here are the basics, along with two of my own Barcelona favourites

The Rambla.

Throngs of local shoppers and students, dazzled tourists and hard working buskers  (plus some extremely talented pick pockets) animate   this world famous boulevard that links the airy green Plaza de Catalunya and the statue of Christopher Columbus near the seafront. It’s a short distance but a slow walk. There’s much to distract you on your way… magazine shops, bird stalls, flower shops and the famous ‘human statues’ that click into life at the drop of a coin.  To the left and right of the Rambla lay the city’s two oldest districts –the newly trendy Raval and the treasure-laden Gothic quarter.

The Boqueria market

Although I’m the first to observe that a tomato is a tomato, this market off the Rambla is endlessly interesting. It throbs with life, some of it edible. Go early and join the local workmen tucking into their fried eggs and sausage breakfast; go later, and settle for a coffee or an orange juice.  Mid-day, it’s time to elbow up to a counter for tapas. Alternatively, just wander around, pricing truffles, candied insects and pigs’ ears.

Some Art:

Though not a native son, Picasso did live and study in Barcelona long enough to make the city his own. The collection of works that he gave to Barcelona is housed in some splendid mediaeval buildings in the Gothic quarter. If the queue is too long, visit the Textil Museu almost opposite especially to enjoy the display of contemporary fashion (a great Balenciaga collection). Then stop in at the renowned El Xampanyet a few steps away from the Picasso Museum a glass of cava (the local champagne).

Some Architecture:

Gaudi’s indescribable church- the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia -has been under construction since 1882; check on how it’s coming along. Or visit Gaudi’s fantastical edifice, La Pedreda (‘The stone quarry). Once an apartment building, now a cultural centre, this is a particularly good option now as it is often open for musical evenings. Friday and Saturday, 9pm to midnight.

And to add to the list, two of my own Barcelona favourites:

A Taste of Chocolate:

Barcelona’s hot chocolate separates the true chocolate lover from the amateur.  A twisted sugar-dusted donut, the churro, is the classic accompaniment to a cupful of sludgy, melted chocolate topped with whipped cream. To be sure of the best, I go to one of the xoclateria on ‘Chocolate Street’ (Carrer Petrixol.). You can get your gift shopping done here, too.

Catalan Folkdancing:

Every weekend, in the plaza outside Barcelona’s 12th century cathedral, ordinary Barcelonese of all ages join together in a Sardana, the Catalan folk dance. They link hands in a circle (their handbags, coats, and parcels are in a heap in the centre), and perform the slow intricate steps to the music of an 11-man band.   Anyone can join in but it’s fun simply to watch them and listen to the music. 6:30 to 8:30pm Saturday and noon-2pm Sunday.

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