Barça to misinformed tourists and vagabonds alike, Barcino to the Ancient Romans, BCN to the airplanes that alight on the landing strip, The City of B’s to myself in private; but now it has been shared for all to see and use. It would be intolerably presumptuous to believe that this nickname would be unquestioned and ingrained in any future rumination of Barcelona, at least not without justification.
- Bars and restaurants are littered throughout the city. I don’t believe I walked more than two blocks without passing by (or stopping into) a bar. It would be unfair to state that all the bars were the same, but most seemed to have a similar menu. Similarity is nothing to complain about though – the food was surprisingly cheap, the alcohol even cheaper! Depending on which part of the city the bar is in, the price of a cervesa could reach as low as €1,10! On Carrer de Blai in Poble Sec, a spacious street that attracts a young, affable crowd, pinchos – small individual snacks of bread topped with a range of assorted meats, cheeses, fish, etc. – can be found for as low as €1. With a bit of searching throughout each bar, as well as deterring from the tourist haunts of the Gothic Quarter, a meal and a couple drinks in Barcelona can be extremely friendly to any wallet.
- Bocadillos are my go-to meal in Barcelona. Like a sandwich, bocadillos consist of an array of meats from salchichon to chorizo, nestled in between two slices of a baguette. The secret to an authentic bocadillo is to rub a tomato on the soft interior of the baguette, until all that is left in hand is the skin and pulp. Lightly drizzle olive oil over the baguette slices if you please, but the important thing to keep in mind is to add only one type of meat per bocadillo! This is so that neither one meat or another overpowers, allowing the flavors to stand alone as they are. Bocadillos are priced from as low as €2,50 to the upper range of €4,50, relegating it as a very budget-friendly meal.
- Backpacks are ubiquitous in this crowded city, especially in August when the locals leave on vacation, rendering the city in the hands of tourists and expats alike. Bulging backpacks are bedecked with hanging shoes, water bottles, yoga mats, and just about anything else that couldn’t fit in the interior. In Plaza de España, not a day had passed that I didn’t see a backpacker waving down a taxi or resting in the shade of Centre Comercial Arenes, a looming commercial center that offers a spectacular panorama of the city. The beaten path still runs through The City of B’s, with tourists and alleged vagabonds marching along the broad walkway of Las Ramblas. Not without good reason too, the city has a thriving nightlife and cultured history, fortifying a premier destination for all. If ‘clubbing’ is not your forte, Barcelona offers kilometers of vast..
- ..Beaches! Barcelona has superb beaches, the most famous being, Barceloneta, located at the end of Las Ramblas. If you follow the sand and sea along the paved walkway, you will soon stumble upon a plethora of volleyball nets. If you want to play, I recommend going there on a weekday in the morning because the nets will fill up quickly. I was honored to witness a game of volleyball that is played nowhere else that I’ve seen before: using the regular rules of volleyball, the only body parts that are allowed are the head, chest, and both legs. I was bewildered as much as I was fascinated. If you continue past the volleyball nets, you will reach the entrance of Poble Nou, a hip neighborhood that harbors an extensive street lined with restaurants that are frequented by locals. Make sure to stop by El Tio Che and order a scoop of their delightful ice cream, perfect for a day in the sand! When moving forward along the path, there is one entrance to the beach that I recommend to avoid if you are not one to bask in the sun with naked bodies… I made that mistake once, never again. Continuing along the path, you will reach a small park that is usually packed with people eating their lunches. If you would continue further (why stop now?), you will reach a skate park and an outdoor, public gymnasium, though rather sparse in equipment. Continue on a few meters more and you will have reached the end of the beach, a splendid time to jump in the sea after a long walk under the sun!
- Bare minimum clothing seems to be the approved dress code in this half beach town, half sprawling metropolis. Bikini clad women and shirtless men roam the streets. I feel apt to admit that ladies throw on low-cut shirts and gentlemen dress in tank tops further from the beach. Regardless, Barcelona is not for a prudish soul. The dress code is made difficult to discern between night and day, since partying attire is the same, if not, similar in the least. It has made this 2o year-old a very happy visitor to the city, as well as darkened my tan in the meantime. Little clothing is appropriate in this city though, with the strangling humidity and balmy climate, it is a wonder that people are able to withstand the tribulations of pants!
- Bustling streets add to the metropolitan vibe of this city. With every crevasse of the city seemingly occupied by humans, don’t expect to go anywhere fast! An endless stream of large congregations of pedestrians, reckless city drivers, stubborn bicyclists, rollerbladers, skaters, long-boarders, dog walkers, and more, constantly flood the streets at all times. Weaving in and out of traffic, as well as a couple trials of jay-walking, all become annoying and tiresome. Instead, get swept into the laid-back, slow lifestyle that the natives have emulated. Embracing this slow lifestyle is a great fragment of the charm to Barcelona. If not embraced, anger and frustration will surely be adopted, for the narrow alleys of the Gothic Quarter will attest for this. The Gothic Quarter is always crowded no matter the time of day. The streets are packed with people shopping during the day, whilst nightfall, the streets are packed with people attending one of the many bars that are scattered throughout. The Gothic Quarter is not an exception though – all streets are crowded day and night. Pedestrians, such as myself, gaze longingly after the bicycles that effortlessly weave through the crowds.
- Bicycles are the choice method of transportation due to the congestion of the city. The bike pathways in between the sidewalk and street are accurately marked, designating both oncoming directions their own respective lane. A recent addition, the city has also implemented a bike-sharing system called Bicing. With the swipe of a card, anyone is able to use a bicycle from any of the deep red bicycle stations. I have spent many a nights walking home after a few (too many) drinks, wishing that I was on a bike as riders whizzed past me. Next time that I have an elongated stay in Barcelona, I will make sure to participate in Bicing. Another option for those who do not wish to sign up for Bicing is to visit one of the many bicycle shops that rent bikes per hour. Biking around the city is highly recommended and these shops look to be a viable option for that action.
- Buildings (and structures) constructed by the likes of Antoni Gaudí, Joan Miró, and even Pablo Picasso are the main attractions in Barcelona. On the second day of living in the city, I was shown a building constructed by Pablo Picasso that is unbeknownst to even some locals living in the city. Now, the information has washed away with the cervesas on the night I learned that the building was Picasso’s work, but I still recall the very placement of the structure. If you would like to learn the location of the building and the history, I recommend taking a free tour, courtesy of Donkey Tours (http://www.donkeytours.es). From the famed Sagrada Família to the spectacular Casa Batlló, Barcelona is rich in odd creations of Gaudí. A visit to Parc de Joan Miró will bestow the eponymous artist’s audacious, phallic creation, Woman & Bird. Famed buildings and statues, as well as the architects and artists who created them, have been left unsaid because alas, there are too many to name and recall!
It would be uncanny to visit Barcelona for only a couple nights – there are just too many events going on! The city resides in it’s own galaxy; one wouldn’t journey all the way to the moon to leave a few days after! Stay for a week, embrace the city and it’s lifestyle, learn the culture, visit the attractions, drink with many of the tourists and locals alike, for there is no city like The City of B’s.