The pull of Barcelona is undeniable. The number of tourists has grown more than four times for the past 25 years. The record of 7,5 million of visitors per year makes this one of the most popular destinations in Europe (after London, Paris and Rome). In my previous post I talked about the tourist side of Barcelona.
Now I want to present to you the other side of the Catalonian capital, which is reserved only for real explorers. It is charming, sometimes childishly funny, other times serious.
A tasty start of the tour
It is best to start the day like the locals: at that inconvenient time when it is too late to have breakfast and too early to have lunch. That is the perfect moment to try some American-style pancakes with strawberries, banana, coconut flakes and maple syrup. Truth be told, choosing what to eat is really hard when your stomach is growling and you have a menu full of tasty temptations. Good thing is that there is no wrong choice in Bruch&Cake. Bad thing is that you are probably never going to be hungry enough to try all they have on offer.
Barcelona is actually full of cafes and restaurants that offer amazing food. There is literally something for everyone. For those of us who love healthy vegan and vegetarian food the city is paradise. That being said, I cannot possibly go without mentioning the Gopal protein burger and the Teresa Carles restaurant chain.
Encants market and the dance of the lights
This is one of the places you need to see after dark. The mirrored ceiling of the Encants market shines like gold as the street lights are reflected. This incredible modern structure is meant to dignify the lively commercial activity that went on here since 1928. Encants, the market for second-hand goods, existed even back in the 15th century. It has had varios locations but its name “Charm” (translated from Catalan) has always stayed the same. Anything – from antique furniture to vintage clothing – could charm you here.
If you love markets, you might also enjoy exploring Santa Caterina Market, famous for its authentic culinary experience.
You are bound to find a group of excited children and adults on the other side of the tramway. They are most likely singling, shouting, imitating animals or just making inarticulate sounds. All this cacophony just to see their voices turned into light. There are a few highly sensitive sensors placed around the square adjacent to the Museum of Design. They react to sound intensity, turning any voice or noise into colourful figures on the 550 LED lamps at ground level. Try repeating rhythmically some random sounds: that would drive the lights crazy as well as anyone nearby!
The bunkers of Carmel
The Rovira hill is a lovely place from which you can enjoy the sunset, the sunrise or just the stunning 360-degree view over Barcelona! You can see the basilica of the “Holy family”, located in the heart of the city; the Tibidabo hill and the lonely church on top of it; the straight streets and boulevards that lead straight to the beach and the Mediterranean sea, which slowly melts into the sky.
The bunkers of Carmel, situated on the top of the Rovira hill, are here since the time of the Spanish Civil war (1936-1939). They were built as a fortification that would protect Barcelona from the bombings of general Franco. There used to be meter-long canons mounted into the concrete and stone walls. After the war, they were removed and the place was abandoned. But its fantastic view has earned it some popularity. In recent years the spot is frequented by many local and foreign “explorers”.
I challenge you to find more “hidden” gems in town. Barcelona is full of surprises and it has what it takes to charm each and every one of its visitors. Do not be just a tourist, be a bold, brave and curious explorer!