Paella, a Spanish dish where all the ingredients are thrown into one pan – it does not look like much but it tastes divine. Which brings me to the captivating and exquisite city of Barcelona. Much like the paella, it encompasses these cultures, tastes and sounds into one melting pot, apart from the fact that it looks better and promises much more. Barcelona has become a metaphoric epicurean vessel of architecture, art, style and culinary superiority, and has the proficiency of a 3 starred Michelin kitchen.
But be warned, an innocent stroll through Barcelona might play with your emotions. From a museum packed with Picasso masterpieces, past a Gothic basilica and onto the Mediterranean shores of azure waters and soft, white sands – there is something for everyone. For sun-worshippers, Barcelona was named the best beach city in the world in 2015 by National Geographic – a sizzling incentive added to the altar of allure. I travelled to Barcelona in the European summer of 2015 and it did not disappoint. It reminded me a lot of home (Cape Town) and around every corner was a different surprise and journey.
Barcelona has slowly perfected the art of combining modern themes with its older, more traditional historical aura, making it one of the fewer cities in the world that can mesh the two in a perfectly imperfect manner. Le Corbusier, the master of arquitectura, spoke highly of Barcelona: “Allow me to state here how much I love Barcelona,” said the architect. “An admirable city, a city full of life, intense and a port open to the past and future.” The Gothic Quarter, a famous element of Barcelona city, extends from La Rambla to Via Laietana, and from the Mediterranean coastline to Ronda de Sant Pere, with it being the centre of the Barcelona old city. The quarter built in the 19th and 20th century, boasts medieval buildings, remains of the Temple of Augustus and Plaça Sant Jaume, which comprises of Casa de la Ciutat (the City Hall) and Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya (the Presidential Palace). Such archaic landmarks are nestled amongst 5 star hotels such as Hotel DO: Plaça Reial and Mercer Hotel Barcelona, which are two of the 20-something 5 star hotels dispersed throughout the city.
Barcelona’s hospitality would not be complete without its succulent and lascivious culinary expeditions. Tickets, a gastro tapas bar opened by Ferran Adria and his brother Albert, with its vivacious interior and its delectable cuisine, is a treat for all your senses. If a Michelin-starred restaurant is what you are after, then Cinc Sentis is the one for you – with its take on perfecting contemporary Catalonian dining.
To spoil your eyes, Barcelona’s intricate and flamboyant architecture is one of its most appealing elements and draws people from far and wide every day. One of the main reasons for this is the work of Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi has taken over Barcelona with his influential Modernisme designs from the 19th and 20th century like La Sagrada Familia, Casa Milà, Casa Batlló and Park Güell. The city’s heart beats to its world-renowned architecture and continues to develop as time goes by.
Barcelona remains one of the world’s most interesting and diverse cities. Although it is a major tourist hub, it has politely stayed true to its Catalan roots whilst welcoming new traditions and savouring the old. Whether you are driven by the Catalonian arts, food or just the sunshine, Barcelona is more than willing to satiate anyone’s cultural lust and never leaving you unsatisfied. Around every cobbled street corner, there waits a different, gorgeous authentic encounter that Barcelona prides itself upon – from tapas to an 18th century old produce market (La Boqueria), it makes you want to feel and experience Barcelona over and over again until you can’t anymore. As prose writer Baltasar Gracián once said, “Barcelona, centre of the wise, model of purity, quarry of Kings.”
Photo in the article is from Barcelona Guide Bureau