Once a month one of our locals flies the nest and writes up their wanderings to offer you a guide of some of Cuckooz favourite cities. This month, Bryony has flown the nest and landed in Barcelona.
Armed with my well weathered guide book (courtesy of cityx60 – some of the best insider recommendations of cool places to eat, see, drink and do; curated by creatives) I touched down in Barcelona for the first time in over ten years to soak up some much-needed culture and, more importantly, eat my body weight in ham and cheese. After a seven day stay in possibly the quirkiest airBnB known to man, it was more or less mission accomplished, as I happily delved in and out of territory unexplored, emptied my pockets and filled my belly.
And so, dear traveller, I give to you my list – the highlights if you wish, of a fabulous city, filled with new experiences.
Colmado Quilez – Rambla de Catalunya
One of my favourite spots in the city to harvest picnic supplies. Enter the deli and you’ll find walls piled ceiling-high with an endless supply of fois gras, caviar, paté… you name it. Their cheese and meat selection is beautiful. We sampled a high grade Comté and a particularly pungent Cabrales, (blue cheese made with sheep milk) which was so strong it was spicy, but delicious nonetheless. The city’s finest Iberco ham is cut whilst you wait, and if you’re after a fine wine to accompany, they also have a fantastic selection. Be prepared to spend a little extra cash mind – quality products don’t come cheap. However, if you’re on a budget, we found many of the local supermarkets sell freshly baked bread and a good selection of cheese, ham and cured meats.
La Nena – Carrer de Ramón y Cajal
After three days in the city, I found myself overcome with an insatiable urge for churros. Having frantically searched Google maps for somewhere which might suffice, I stumbled across La Nena in Gracia and wasn’t disappointed. The first noticeable thing about Barcelona as a tourist from London is the cost of everything. Thoroughly adjusted to paying a minimum of £3 for a decent coffee (and then some…) I was pleasantly surprised to discover a whole host of places where I could fill myself to the brim – wine included, for €15 or less. Greeted by friendly staff, I sat down and ordered an entire mug of melted chocolate (€1) to accompany my doughnutty delights and emerged a sated woman once more.
Suís & Bowls – Travessera de Gràcia
We stumbled upon Suís & Bowls by accident, though it quickly became our go-to breakfast spot. Serving up a host of tasty breakfasts for reasonable prices, with great coffee to boot, we definitely recommend you checking this place out when you’re in town. My shout goes to their avocado and eggs on delicious multi-seed toast, ‘The Italian’ with Ricotta, fresh tomato and basil, or, my personal favourite – pancakes with Nutella, strawberries and toasted almonds.
Cal Brut – Carrer de la Princesa
Truly a hidden gem, tucked away near the coast; Cal Brut is a rough and ready, intimate reggae bar serving up great drinks, tasty eats, good tunes and filled with friendly punters.
La Rovira – Carrer de Rabassa
Yet another happy accident on my travels, La Rovira is a friendly and unpretentious bar in the heart of Gracia which serves the most delicious toasted sandwiches I’ve had in my life. Wash them down with a pint of great craft beer and you’re pretty much set – they’ve got tons on tap.
Because no trip is complete without checking out at least one tourist destination… Parc Guell is a fabulous and free excursion for those put off by the Sagrada Familia crowds. Amble round the park in gentle sunshine in the morning, fresh coffee in hand and take in the sights of Gaudi’s naturalistic masterpiece. Whilst entrance to certain parts of the park require a small fee, most areas are freely accessed. Follow the sound of Spanish guitar – several buskers play thoughout the park, making for a serene and meditative experience away from the hustle and bustle of the inner city.
For those who are yet to see Gaudi’s monumental lifetime achievement, don’t even try to leave the city without at least sneaking a glimpse of the Sagrada Familia. First designed in 1883, construction of the colossal church has spanned over a century and still awaits completion. That said, the interiors of what has already been made flesh begs belief – Gothic, curvilinear Art Noveau forms, mesmerising stained glass and painstaking attention to detail inspired by natural forms.
Fundació Joan Miró
I first visited the Joan Miró Foundation when I was around ten years old. I remember being taken in by the child-like shapes, primary colours and surrealist sculptures out on the terrace. Fifteen years on, not a great deal has changed – I still find myself delighting in the colourful naivety of his paintings and immersing myself in his collosal, seven and a half metre high Tapestry of the Fundacio. Unlike many London galleries, there’s a serenity to be found at the foundation. The steep walk leading up to the museum is marked by babbling brooks, weathered statues and Teatre Grec – which whilst empty on our travels, I imagine on warm summer nights transforms into quite a magical place.
Undoubtedly the most beautiful part of the City, no trip to Barcelona is complete without first paying respects to the medieval and majestic rambling streets of El Gòtic. The quarter contains everything from the surviving remains of the Roman walls to bustling food markets and sprawling parks. Head to the Cathedral, check out some galleries around the Plaça del Pi or indulge in some vintage shopping in Calle Avinyó.