Archives for category: Barcelona

orchestera in the gothic quarter

demonstration outside of barcelona city hall

cat in gracia

owl in diagonal

museo de arte contemporaneo

street art in placa del angels

view of tibidabo from parc guell

view from hotel arts

shop front in raval

view from parc guell

view from parc guell

barri gotic statue

el born street


the sardana in the gothic quarter

one of the things i love about catalan culture is the fierce pride that transcends each generation and is palpable throughout the streets of barcelona. on a sunday evening outside the gothic cathedral you can find dozens of people from all walks who have dropped their shopping bags to join in on the sardana, the national dance symbolising catalan unity.

a description from

Sardana dancers link hands with raised arms, forming circles which grow bigger and bigger as more people join in. Traditionally, couples can join in at any point, but cannot cut in between a man and his partner on the right. When the circle gets too big, the dancers form more circles. People of all ages and ranks in life join hands and dance as if to emphasize that whatever their differences, they are first and foremost Catalans. The spirit of unity generated by the sardana is truly impressive. An extremely disciplined dance, the sardana calls for exact movements and expert timing, provided by a leader in each circle. For this reason, unless you think you’ve really got the knack, it’s generally inadvisable for visitors to join in – one wrong move can put the entire circle out of step.

people dancing the sardana in barcelona

it’s quite moving to watch…and makes you want to be part of the club. what other culture do you know where people will spontaneously join in on the national dance?

el born

el born shop

el born

el born farmacia



parc guell

parc güell in barcelona draws an eclectic mix of dreamy-eyed gaudi fans, pachouli-scented nomads, family troupes, aspiring musicians and artists, gaggles of students and annoyed locals. there are caverns where you can stumble across a string quartet or funk band playing an impromptu set, a vast terrace where you can spend hours people watching or admiring the gaudi mosaics, and a mirador at the highest point of the park, where this picture was taken, where you can get a panorama of the city.

the first time i went up to the top, there was a group of about a dozen french students carfeully dishevelled and casually draped on the rocks around the cross. the pack leader was strumming bob marley songs on his guitar and they all steadily broke into a chorus of ‘no woman no cry’. minutes later, dusk washed over the city in a soft pink glow from the sea to the sagrada familia.


i’m no art critic. my evaluation of a work is less intellectual assessment, more visceral reaction. when i go to an exhibit, i usually sweep the whole space to get a sense of the collection, then go back to the individual pieces that i was drawn to for a closer look. after that, i’ll read the narrative for context. counter intuitive, but it works for me.

so here’s my review of german artist thomas bayrle’s exhibition ‘i’ve a feeling we’re not in kansas any more’ at the MACBA: whoa.



a cross of politically-charged conceptual art and pop art, your perceptions of reality are tested by photo and 16mm film collages, digital animations, cardboard sculptures, paint ‘machines’ containing millions of little figures and, best of all, a vast wallpapered room of colourful patterns that morph into anatomically correct cartoon figures upon closer inspection (and the entire ramp in the MACBA foyer is wallpapered with potato counters in maoist china).



the sheer volume of detailed works made me wonder how he ever slept. every single piece drew me in. it was mesmerising. and left me feeling like a bit of an underachiever…

check out a rather more sophisticated review of the exhibition here and read the narrative from the exhibition (if only to see the editor’s notes that the museum apparently missed in tracked changes oops) here.


you booked two months in advance. the city break twinkles on your calendar…a shiny, flickering beacon getting you through the arse end of wet, cold, grey winter. then what happens? you get to barcelona and it rains. all weekend. and it’s an average of 5°C colder than london.

but fear not, intrepid traveler! barcelona is not all beaches, park strolls and sangria in the sun. i would take a million rainy days in the catalan capital of culture. this little agenda only scratches the surface of what you can do.

8-10:30am: sleep in

you’re in barcelona, just relax. it’s not going anywhere. in fact, no one’s up and nothing’s open anyway.

11am: pre-culture caffeination

head to the plaça dels angels in raval, home of the MACBA (museu d’art contemporani de barcelona) and the CCCB (centre de cultura contemporània de barcelona), for coffee and a bite to eat to tide you over until lunch. the catalans don’t really do brunch or big breakfasts with the exception of tortilla and the odd pastry. any of the cafes opposite the MACBA are good for a café con leche. try l’original, which is a lovely experience in itself with its creative interior and friendly service.




noon: get your contemporary art fix

walk across the plaza to the MACBA. it’s only about 7 euros for access to all the exhibitions. i just saw the MACBA’s latest exhibitions — joan rabascall, thomas bayrle and cildo meireles — which i’ll review in my next post. the main floor holds the ‘collecció’ but the next three floors are worth it if only to experience the light and air of this stunning white building.

placa dels angels, 1






3pm: time for tapas

next stop: cerveceria catalana. the absolute most authentic, high quality, dream-about-for-days tapas in barcelona. i would move there just to eat at this restaurant once a day. the crowd’s a combination of sophisticated catalan couples and families, local ex-pats and tourists wise enough to take the rambla (slightly) less traveled.

cerveceria catalana
carrer de mallorca 236
tel   +34 93 216 0368          
hours: 7:30am-1:30am every day


if you’re not sure what to order, here’s my usual: una tortilla, pan tomaca, pimientos de padron, brochetas de gambas (shrimp skewer on a piece of bread) and a solomio (small piece of succulent steak on a piece of bread). and of course, una cervesa. if you have any room left, go for the crema catalana and a cafe con leche after. you won’t be sorry.


5pm: art fix, part 2

take a taxi up to montjuïc to the fundació joan miro. the ride’s no more than 6 or 7 euros and is a stunning journey winding through magical gardens and lush green parks (save a walk through the area for a sunny day). the museum is relatively small so you can see both the permanent and new exhibits in about an hour (approx 8 euros)…but if you like miro, you’ll want to spend several hours pouring over every detail of his masterpieces.

fundacio joan miro
parc de montjuïc s/n
tel   +34 93 44 39 470



6.30pm: birds-eye view of barca

if you’re brave enough, take a left outside the museum and walk 5 minutes to the teleferic de montjuic (cable car) for a 15-minute ride that gives you a sweeping perspective of the the city and the harbour. if the view doesn’t take your breath away, the height will. gave me palpitations, but in a good way. very worth it. the teleferic closes at 7pm, so get there at least 5 minutes before.





8pm: dinner time

right across from the teleferic station is one of my favourite restaurants in barcelona — montjuic el xalet. beside the view, the food, wine and service is superb. it doesn’t open until 8pm, so if you need to kill some time, pop over the equally spectacular hotel miramar for an aperitif.

montjuic el xalet
avinguda miramar 31
tel 93 324 92 70

10pm: nightcap

end the day with a nightcap at the super chill hotel omm just off passeig de gracia in eixample. the lobby has a modern fireplace, bed-like sofas, well-crafted cocktails, attentive staff…what more could you ask for to zone out after all that culture.

hotel omm
roselló, 265

a few years ago in granada, i sat at a picnic table drinking the first of many beers in the afternoon spanish sun. the waiter brought plate after plate of tapas to complement our generous orders. the best of which was a towering inferno of pimientos de padrón…small green morsels bursting with flavour and glistening with olive oil and sea salt. and every fifth one lighting fire to your very being.

that culinary encounter coupled with my subsequent visits to the mecca of tapas, barcelona, have prompted a city-wide search for a taste of spain in the big smoke. these are my favourites based on quality, selection and atmosphere (oh, and availability of the little green galician delights).

54 Frith Street,
Soho, W1D 4SL


salvador and amanda
8 Great Newport Street,
Leicester Square
la bota
31 Broadway Parade,
Crouch End, N8 9DB
bar lorca
156-158 Fortess Road, Tufnell Park
jamon jamon
38 Parkway
Camden, NW1 7AH