Barcelona has transformed itself from smug backwater into one of the most dynamic and stylish cities in the world. Summer is serious party time, with week-long fiesta fun. But year-round the city sizzles – it's always on the biting edge of architecture, food, fashion, style, music, good times and sleaze. Barcelona's enviable position between the mountains and the sea ensures year-round outdoor fun.
Most visitors will start off at the Ramblas before exploring the other sections of the city. La Rambla is a tree-lined pedestrian boulevard packed with buskers, mimes and itinerant salespeople selling everything from lottery tickets to jewellery. It's actually five separate streets strung end to end and covers the entire sightseeing gamut from sublime to seedy.
The noisy bird market on the second block of La Rambla is worth a stop, as is the nearby Palau de la Virreina, a grand 18th century rococo mansion with arts and entertainment information and a ticket office. Next door is the Mercat de la Boqueria, which has been voted Europe's best produce market. Just south of the market, the Mosaic de Miro punctuates the pavement, with one tile signed by the artist. The next section of La Rambla boasts the Gran Teatre del Liceu, the famous 19th century opera house. Below Placa Reial, La Rambla becomes decidedly more 'exotic', with strip clubs and peep shows. It terminates at the lofty Monument a Colom (Monument to Columbus) and the harbour.
9 Apr 2008 - Barcelona, Spain
Trip number eighteen to Barcelona but there are still places to see, though admittedly, most of my trips have only been for a day. However, in a city founded in 230 BC, named after Hannibal's father and which now also happens to be the capital of Catalunya, perhaps this is not so surprising.
It is possible to wander the Barri Gotic or 'Gothic Quarter' and become lost in the medieval warren of narrow streets gazing at structures dating from the city's golden age. I have done this before but today my intention was to explore the area more thoroughly. Circumstances initially conspired against me as the old Cathedral (14th and 15 century) in the Placa de la Seu was closed to visitors but by following one of the narrow streets to behind this is the Placa del Rei, the former courtyard of the Palau Reial Major, or the palace of the Counts of Barcelona and monarchs of Aragon.
This area is rich in interest and contains 15th century buildings including what is now the City History Museum full of Roman, Visigothic and later Muslim remains. Other Roman remains are nearby and for the first timer, the other areas of the Barri Gotic are also worth a wander. The streets to the north tend to be peppered with chic little shops, while those to the south become darker and seedier Travel Blogs from Barcelona, 17th Dec 2004
After this I headed to the harbour area to get a cable car across the harbour to the Olympic city on the hills of Montjuic which overlook the city. Wind conditions prevented the cable car from operating and I was thus thwarted but even if I did make it across I would not have had the time to see all of the attractions. Next time...
Barcelona - Museu Frederic Mares
Part of the Palau Reial Major is this museum which displays the junk of Mare's, a 20th century Catalan sculptor, travellor and collector.
The lower floors hold quantities of Mare's speciality, medieval Spanish sculpture. The upper floors hold an array of Mare's knick knacks, from toy soldiers and cribs to scissors and tartot cards.
Barcelona - Museu d'Historia de la Ciutat
The City History Museum combines large sections of the palace with a fascinating subterranean walk through Roman and Visigothic Barcelona. This subterranean aspect to the past has always and continues to fascinate me as I find it difficult to understand how ancient cities can get buried and built on even when the city is continually inhabited. This view of the palace is towards the exit of the museum. The entrance is behind me.
Barcelona - Roman Barcelona, Barcino
Part of the ancient street and shops can be seen with the main wall on the other side of the street. In the wall is one of the defensive towers which can be entered and is still high. Within the tower can be seen the building materials with odd slabs of stone with inscriptions on, cannibalised from other stuctures. In the picture can be seen parts of the drainage system.
Barcelona - Barcino's shops and fullery
I have better photographs of fullers on the Pompeii section. These traders processed raw wool; handling, spinning, weaving, dying and washing.
The tank which can be seen would have been used for washing by trampled the cloth in a mixture of water and soda or urine, both of which are degreasers.
Barcelona - Exiting the City History Museum
The musem is well laid out and has a number of interesting features. However, my biggest gripe is that a lot of the exhibits were only in Spanish and Catalan with no English translation.
As you exit the museum you re-enter the Placa del Rei. At the end of the square is where the second photograph was taken from.
15 Dec 2006 - Barcelona, SpainThis trip was actually a weekend break plus a 'reunion' of old chums from my university days. I don't actually catch up with them that often but when we do, on the last two occasions it has been away somewhere. Last time it was Cheltenham Spa and most didn't turn up until 4pm (about 4 hours late) for a one night stay.
This trip almost turned into a repeat of when I came here with Gavin back in December 2004. This time there were even more prostitutes hanging around. Not the usual sort however but a lot more transsexuals. Hookers with faces of varying manliness and overly made up. Some with fake breasts and others going for the 'flat' look. There were also the 60+ glamorous grannies that I witnessed last time around - when will they retire? At their age I suppose that these grannies are glad of the attention and are granting their attentions for next to free.
Barcelona - The crew
Christmas in Barcelona! Drinking on an empty stomach and in large quantities turned this night into a disaster. I lost the chaps at some point in the night and it took me hours to get back to the hotel and most of this is just a blur. I also lost my mobile phone but I suspect that that it was probably lifted by some sticky fingers.
25 Oct 2006 - Barcelona, SpainIt might be October but in Barcelona the sky is still blue, the sun is still warm and its great to get out of the dreary UK even for a short trip. Watching a bit of sport in a bar with a cold beer, a wander through the narrow streets, checking some sights that still haven't been seen and a fine meal all make for a nice day.
Barcelona - Mercat de la Boqueria - shellfish
Crabs, langoustines, lobster...now a picture of some more of the tasty fruits of the sea food on offer in the market.
20 Sep 2006 - Barcelona, SpainSeptember and just as Britain is going through the last dying weeks of summer, Barcelona is still hot so a trip at this time of the year makes the summer appear to last just that little big longer. October with its cloud, wind and rain are just around the corner.
18 Aug 2006 - Barcelona, SpainJust the usual wander around the city viewing different sites and different streets underneath the blazing hot sun. This year, for any visitor from the UK, the sun has been something of a stranger.
22 Jul 2006 - Barcelona, SpainAfter having previously written about the magnificent cuts of meat on offer in the Mercat de la Boqueria, I thought I would actually get some photos this time. I have never seen the likes of it on sale in the UK - without any great surprise. Why would a shopper overlook the best cuts of meat in order to opt for some head and lung?
Barcelona - Peasant food
When there are perfectly good cuts of meat on sale, why resort to sheep heads, lungs and tripe?
18 Mar 2006 - Barcelona, SpainNothing exceptional to report on this trip.
25 Feb 2006 - Barcelona, SpainNothing exceptional to report on this trip.
15 Dec 2005 - Barcelona, SpainThis particular trip caused a few fire works but I won't go into them here!
Barcelona - Castell dels tres dragons
Built between 1887 and 1888 in exposed brickwork, an unusual technique at the time, and is one of the first examples of Barcelona Modernisme. Its crenellated wall and its frieze of coats of arms give it a certain medieval appearance, which is highlighted by the eclectic combination of Catalan arches, large Roman windows and Arabic arches. It has housed the zoological museum since 1920.
2 Nov 2005 - Barcelona, SpainNothing exceptional to report on this trip.
18 Apr 2005 - Barcelona, SpainI'm beginning to feel like a resident! I have been to Barcelona so many times that I know the centre fairly well but as I've said before, there is always something different to see and even seeing something that has been seen before isn't always bad. Watching the scammers work the bottom of the Ramblas in the day always provides some entertainment.
Barcelona - Arc de Triomf
This was built for the 1888 Universal exhibition. The arch is built in reddish brickwork in the Moorish Revival style. The front frieze contains the stone sculpture "Barcelona rep les nacions" (Catalan for "Barcelona welcomes the nations"). The top of the arch is decorated with the Barcelona coat of arms as well as a representation of all 49 other Spanish provinces
2 Mar 2005 - Barcelona, SpainOne more trip, one more look around and another good feed. It might be repetitive but wandering the streets and seeing how people live is enjoyable in itself - whilst also immersed in my own thoughts.
Barcelona - Street act, demonic character
Again, if you have read my earlier entries, you will know all about the street acts that line the Ramblas.
17 Dec 2004 - Barcelona, SpainThis trip with my house mate Gavin included an overnight stay which if you have read this blog you will know is unusual. After leaving work early on Friday we made a mad dash to Stanstead airport and eventually got into Barcelona and into our first bar by about 9pm. Late by UK standards perhaps but early by Spanish ones.
What a great night out it was too! We visited a number of bars, some in the old town and others in the harbour area. The Ramblas offers a variety of entertainment and the further you go down to the harbour the more seedier it gets. Towards the bottom are hookers of varying attractiveness but the top of the ugly tree were the heavily made up 60 year old working girls - the word being used only loosely. I couldn't what the make up did though as they looked hideous glammed or unglammed. I suppose that kind of thing tickles some people's fancy and probably doesn't cost more than a few Euros anyway.
The number of drinks consumed soon increased as did the number of bars visited and then headed to the port which after you have passed the hookers, becomes respectable again. Drinks are expensive but large and we had a few more before getting bored and heading back up the Ramblas towards the old town - the Barri Gotic. In some parts there are a few shady 'characters' and where we went we were followed with plenty of 'psssts' and 'you want coke, you want hash?' This got beyond a joke - at least for Gavin. What we worked out is that when I walked ahead on my own I did not attract any unsavoury attention so it was obviously Gavin's dodgy look that attracted the underworld.
A few bars and clubs later we went back to the Ramblas and got attracted by the neon lights of a strip club. Attractive and mainly underfed Romanians were on stage going through their routine but after showing all their wares worked the crowd to try and get some stupid punters to buy them a drink or to go for a 'private' dance which was nothing of the sort. The so called private dance was just in a corner and the rules of 'no touching' still applied. Where is the value in that?
The dancers worked the floor to try and pull members of the audience on to the stage who although copping a free feel also got stripped by the naked stripper. All but one of the blokes was embarrassingly not standing to attention but the final bloke looked like a regular and was enthusiastically waiting for his turn. If it is live shows and audience participation you are after, apparently Club Baghdad is the place to go.
Barcelona offers plenty of innocent and seedy entertainment and the end of the night (6AM) saw us running up the Ramblas to evade a couple of Ghanian hookers. It was a long and eventful night but definitely a laugh a minute! What made this trip so good was the fact that it was completely unscripted and we had no idea of where to go or what to do. Everything was new and unexpected which meant that the hours just flew by.
10 Dec 2004 - Barcelona, SpainOne more trip but this time no photos. A wander with the guide book and a sample of some fine Spanish food was on the agenda. I went back to the Mercat de la Boqueria to dine at one of the fast food fish and tapas stalls which represent good quality and good value.
20 Nov 2004 - Barcelona, SpainYet another Barcelona trip and the chance for some November sun. The focus this time is on the market on the Ramblas which is huge, colourful and well stocked with many varieties of food.
Barcelona - Mercat de la Boqueria I
The Mercat de la Boqueria is a bustling covered food market about half way down the Ramblas is a place that sells all manner of fruits and veg but comes into its own for its particular cuts of meat (none of which are photographed from this trip). Fish and shell fish is a big seller here and some stalls sell freshly cooked fish which are delicious!
The fruit stalls such as this provide fresh juice and smoothie drinks for a healthy refresher.
Barcelona - Mercat de la Boqueria II
They don't get much fresher than this...live crawling crustaceans ready for the pot! Note the elastic bands around their claws to protect the straying fingers of careless shoppers,
Barcelona - Mercat de la Boqueria III
One of the entrances to the market is from the Rambla de Sant Josep.
13 Nov 2004 - Barcelona, SpainAnother day trip, this one to Barcelona. Despite being here before, the city is so large that one day isn't enough but with air fares being so low I know that I will be taking other trips here in the future.
Barcelona - Limbless begger or street entertainer?
Whilst I despise most beggars, this one can at least be excused and in Barcelona, limbless beggars are more common than they are on the streets of the UK. Or is he a superbly made up street entertainer?
Barcelona - Street act, headless musician
A mildly amusing street 'artist' which just creased the side of my mouth. He didn't get a lot of attention unlike many of the other artistic beggars.
6 Nov 2004 - Barcelona, SpainBarcelona is a large city with lots to see and do. Some of it has been described above and lots can be read about in the many pages that exist on the internet about it. What I want to do though is capture a few shots that I think are special and represent what a visitor might see in a visit to this city.
Barcelona - Street act, devil
The Ramblas is full of street 'art' and some of these 'artists' are nothing more than poorly made up con-artists who have no particular entertainment value. This chap though does impress as he makes a lot of effort with his two varieties of demon. When some money is paid into his box he also pulls off an entertaining 15 second act.
Barcelona - Gypos
These sorts are a lot more unsavoury and should be swept away by the police. They work the streets, sometimes in groups, begging with a look on their face that says they are living in misery. Well, if you look at the size of some of these you will see they are having no problems feeding themself. What is more disgusting is that they involve their children in this begging for sympathy. Its an excellent apprenticeship because the kids do the same and I have seen a number of young teenagers copying their filthy elders.
26 Nov 2003 - Barcelona, SpainAn era is about to end! I am leaving my company TXU / Powergen after 7 years service which is quite an exciting yet emotionally moving time as I have been working for them since leaving university and have experienced a lot of change, good times and experiences. The reason for leaving is because of some poorly judged deals that our energy trading director made that has made the company bankrupt. Never mind, he still left with a very good pay off - a reward for failure and incompetence.
Anyway, a large number of voluntary redundancies have been made so I have accepted; after all, the terms are excellent and next week I'm about to walk into another job! They may think they are getting a dedicated employee but my true intention is to work there for a year and leave to go travelling. Before all that though, I'm taking a five day break to Barcelona!