Barcelona - A City Of Divine Inspiration

Issue 77

New year, new travel plans and how better to start than an early January escape to one of the cultural heavyweights of the world, the Catalonian capital city of Barcelona.

With a history dating back 2000 years and rebirth from dictatorship rule in the mid-1970s, Barcelona is a diverse and fascinating city and I’ve got just 36 hours to explore it…

This city is vast and so our digs had to be central, we settle on a stay in the El Raval district in the medieval quarter. Until recently this was more of a no-go area, but recent regeneration schemes have altered its economic characteristics and attracted new investment. Such investment includes the construction of hotel Barcelo Raval, a 4-star, modern hub of hospitality with magnificent 360-degree views from its hip rooftop terrace, just steps from all the cities amenities.

We arrive mid-afternoon, transport options from the cities’ airport are plentiful but for quickness, we opted for a taxi. Greeted at the hotel with a chilled glass of sparkling wine (Cava) we stash our bags in our 10th-floor room with ‘wow’ views and head out…

Being food obsessed, we head straight for La Boqueria, the historic food market sitting right on Las Ramblas, the main boulevard running right through the city and tourist mecca. Operating since 1836, this market operates every day and with more than 200 traders it offers a vast choice of local and international gastronomic products.

But this place isn’t just for tourists, in fact, many residents shop here for their everyday needs, from fresh fish and produce to the famous cured hams of Spain, it’s all available here. But that’s not all…in addition to shopping there’s eating, and the markets pop-up restaurants offer gourmet experiences. Depending on when you visit the seats that surround each counter can be in demand. From tapas to seafood platters washed down with quality wines it’s an experience not to be missed.

The first evening we check out some of the city’s watering holes, Barcelona is big on beer and craft ale has really taken off. Do your research and you’ll find all kinds of places, we liked rustic Olgod a small bar in El Raval with Viking flair, a huge craft beer selection and live DJ. Another interesting option is bar Two Schmucks, funky and nicer than it sounds but with a busy day ahead we retired for the evening.

Up and out the following day, we fill up with continental eats and good coffee and head off to for some divine inspiration. Barcelona has an incredible arts scene, with over 55 museums it’s impossible to see even a portion of them in a short time. There’s so much creativity here, one stand out example being the legendary Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, the creator of the famously unfinished temple known as La Sagrada Familia. Previously I’d only seen the exterior of this architectural marvel, but nothing could prepare me for the spectacle that’s the interior, an experience I’ll never forget.

The scale of this place is incredible with Gaudi’s inspiration visible at every turn, it’s not hard to see that this place was built for worship. No matter what your religious beliefs, every corner here just amazes and if that’s not enough when the magnificent almost futuristic organ pipes burst into life the vibe is purely spiritual.

A short break and brisk walk later and we have just enough time for one more masterpiece by Antoni, the Palau Guell. Started in 1886 the palace was an early commission for Gaudi designed for tycoon Eusebi Güell, it’s now a museum for everyone to appreciate.

Now meandering through streets back to El Raval we take in Barcelona old and new, we stop for cocktails in a historic Plaza, there’s an abundance of places to eat and drink for all budgets here. Reaching our hotel we have just enough time for a quick refresh before heading out again, this time for dinner, our destination Bar Mono in the Gothic Quarter. According to Foodie Magazine, the people in charge here are the masters of tapas, playing with street food and more traditional dishes they’ve created a trendy but cosy environment, even the heated outdoor patio is cosy making a chilly January evening very enjoyable.

With wine in hand we rest our tired legs and reflect on a short but packed to the brim break and agree that we’ll have to return at least two more times to see the rest of the city, like I need an excuse…

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