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Sara Colohan goes to Barcelona (Published in Tatler Magazine)
It took me a few days to realise exactly what it is about Barcelona that makes it such a special place - My conclusion is that it’s truly a ‘peoples city’ . Every plaza and every street has something breathtakingly beautiful about it but it’s not hidden away behind ‘No entry’ signs and red velvet ropes - it’s celebrated by everyday people doing everyday activities. Placa Reial is a great example of this practical open approach. An impressive cobbled square surrounded by coffee shops and wonderful restaurants including the popular Les Quince Nits. Every night huge queues of hungry patrons stretch across the square, waiting patiently for a chance to experience this restaurant’s great food and unbeatable value. I enjoyed my meal at Les Quince Nits, but I returned to the Placa for lunch the next day and ate at a neighbouring restaurant La Crema Canela and found it to be even better quality, although not as good value. So, if you don’t feel like a queue, you can just pop over to this other tasty option. Y ou can people watch from any of the restaurants and coffee bars around the square then take a stroll to Las Ramblas, not five minutes from Placa Reial and watch Barcelona’s most famous street heave and thrive nightly with street performers, hungry tourists and wonderful vibrant local florists. The energy of La Rambles is yet another example of Barcelona’s joy de vive.. Ask any local about Barcelona and they will spend an age telling you how beautiful the place is.
Unlike Paris, they don’t retain an ounce of snobbery about their love for their city. Gaudi, Barcelona’s most celebrated son epitomises this refreshing, fun and open approach with Place Guell, (3-5 Nou de las Ramblas) Parc Guell (Vallcarca) and La Pedrera or Casa Mila (92 Passeig de Gracia) all adding a unique sense of humour to the city’s architecture. All the above mentioned are a must, even to the most unlikely culture vulture!
I took valuable time out from my shopping holiday to visit each place and felt no remorse for doing so! I spent 10 days in Barcelona and managed to fill every day with exciting things to do. It took me a day or two to get my barings but soon realised that getting around was remarkably easy even for a girl with a defective sense of direction! I would advise anyone to take a few hours on the first day for a Barcelona bus tour. (Green, blue or red buses take you on different routes throughout the city approx Euro16) This is invaluable as you can hop on hop off as many times as you like, safe in the knowledge that there will be another bus along every 10 minutes. It really helped me get the lay of the land and I visited places I would not have otherwise ventured to like Placa Espanya and Museu Nacional D‘Art de Catalunya in Palau National, Parc de Montjuic. Montjuic is also the spot where you can catch the cable car across to the marina. There’s even a shopping bus - which will bring you to all the main shopping areas in the city! I didn’t know about that til the end of my stay but I still managed to make a healthy dent in my credit card none the less!! Shopping was my main focus on this trip and although I found lots of interesting shops throughout the city, I had the feeling Barcelona is no exception to the influx of High street stores bleeding the smaller boutiques dry. Zara, Pull & Bear and Mango being the main culprits. The impressive Placa de Catalunya is the heart of it all! Everything leads from this point and it is easily found due to the landmark El Corte Angles store on the corner.
I couldn’t get over the size of the underground Sephora store in the mall on the Balmes corner of Placa de Catalunya; it’s worth a visit. I found the best route for a days shopping was to take a trip down Las Ramblas from Pl de Catalunya and turn into C. de La Boqueria. Continue on walking towards the breathtaking Av. De La Cathedral in Barrie Gotic area where I spotted one of the best-located hotels in the city. Hotel Colon**** email@example.com Ph 93 301 14 04. (Dbl rooms from 150 euro) From here, you can walk to Avinguda Del Portal de L Angel, which is a pedestrianised high street shopping area. (By the way, this leads you back to Placa de Catalunya) If you haven’t had enough at this stage, continue over to my favourite area of the city El Born. This area is a wonderful part of the old city, with narrow souk style streets, cool boutiques, great bars and bustling clubs.
If you fancy staying around here, I stayed for 2 nights in H10 Montcada**** on Vie Laietana firstname.lastname@example.org Ph 93 268 85 70 (prices starting at 90 euro for a twin room)
You can easily walk to another great shopping street D’Avinyo from El Born. This street hosts more classic, funky boutiques the kind I crave when I travel to a new city. Make sure you don’t go on a Monday afternoon as most places in this area are closed. I made this mistake and had to go back the next day to scan all the beautiful shops I’d missed on my first visit. I found Avinguda Diagonal to be the main area for designer shops hosting Gucci, Calvin Klein (484 Diagonal) and Armani (490 Diagonal) but even more interesting are the designer stores that sell many different ranges under one roof. Check out Gonzalo Comella on 478 Diagonal with another store on No 6 Passeig de Gracia. Take time out to eat at the Cros Diagonal cafe (Diagonal 433 - Lourdes 111) you wont be disappointed. Passeig de Gracia is another street worth a look - I found a great little shopping mall called Bulevard Rosa (55 Passeig de Gracia)- It had lots of cute shoe, jewellery and clothes stores. Porta Ferrisa is a good street for a mix of high street stores and one offs. When asking for directions, just ask for the street with the H&M store!
Of course after a few days shopping I needed to unwind so I ventured to Barcelona’s most celebrated club CDLC (Carpe Diem 32 Passeig Maritim http://www.cdlcbarcelona.com/ ph 932240470) It has a great location, set on the beach you have the choice to dance or chill out by the crashing waves. Even with the impressive setting, I couldn’t relax in the place.. If girls in sunglasses dancing on tables and posh locals posing by the bar is your type of night out then you’ll love it! We left and took a stroll down the prominade and found a strip of bars and clubs which are free entry but pricey drinks (17 euro for 2 vodkas and sprite! Just like home!) if you do find yourself here, check out Kennedy s Style Club 14 c/moll de Marina but be warned, it’s a bit of a Temple Bar stag party area so don’t expect to last long !!
Alternatively you can try La Terrazza, Poble Espanyol http://www.laterrrazza.com/ for a more stylish fun type of night. Barcelona left me in no doubt that it deserves all the high praise and favourable comments that is bestowed upon it. I would travel back again at the drop of a Spanish sombrero and happily spend another 10 days shopping and sunbathing in this city that has an abundance of everything. Things to do: Shop in the morning, Go to the beach for the afternoon !! Use the Metro - its cheap, clean, safe and fast and remarkably easy to use. BTW. Taxis are considerably cheaper in Barcelona than home! Visit the Sagrada Familia Church, Calle Mallorca. I didn’t and I came home feeling like such a philistine for not even see the spires !! Visit Museu Dali, Figueres Trains to Figueres leave from Barcelona’s sants station almost every hour and the trip takes about 2 1/2 hours. But worth it if you love Dali and want to see his home town and amazing musemn. remembering every time to bring plenty of change for the street performers! Stroll on Las Rambla and visit La Boqueria fruit market, the stunning Gran Theatre de Liceiu and then just a little further on, on the same side of the street, there’s Gaudi’s Palace Guell which is a must for anyone who visits Barcelona. Go hear some jazz (it that’s your thing) in L’Hivernacle, Parc de la Ciutadella, Pg Picasso. This scenic park also houses the main Arc de Triomf in the city and a beautiful glass house style café with great coffee. For info : www.bcn.es/parcsijardins Visit the Ritz Hotel Barcelona for afternoon tea!
Essential numbers: Turisme De Barcelona http://www.barcelonaturisme.com/ 0034 93 368 97 00 Places to stay: 5 star *****Husa Rey Juan Carlos, Ave Diagonal 661-671 *****Majestic, Pl de Gracia 68.
Tried and tested: 4 star **** Hotel Catolnia, Balmes 142-146 http://www.hoteles-catolonia.es/ ****Hotel Cristal Palace Diputacio 257,08007 Barcelona.ph 34934878778 3 star *** Hotel Century 154 Park Valencia, 08011 Barcelona ph 34934534400 Hostal LeVante 2 Bajada de S. Muigel, Ramblas Y Placa Saint Jaume. ph 34 93 317 95 65 This place is great! E33 euro a night and its two minutes from Las Rambla.