Boy George, Sting and Phil Collins wasn’t exactly the music I was thinking of when I booked a trip to Barcelona for some winter sun in January, but this was what was blasting out of the taxi’s radio as we were taken from the airport to our hotel in the Gothic District of Barcelona. For a man that appeared to speak next to no English when we were trying to explain where we wanted to go, albeit more than my Spanish, he was word perfect for “Can’t Stand Losing You” by The Police. For those of you wanting to know which radio station was blasting such classics, it’s called M80.
Our taxi driver and his choice of music wasn’t the only surprise that Barcelona threw up over our weekend there. I absolutely loved the city and can’t wait to go back another time. I appreciate I’m not the first blogger to cover Barcelona but hopefully these five things might encourage to look at one or two new or different places.
1. Eat and drink
Barcelona is a foodie’s heaven, wherever you turn their are restaurants, bars, food stands and markets. I’d been warned that Barcelona could be expensive but on the whole I thought it was fairly good value, especially if you stuck to the set meals. Even in January the weather was nice enough to sit outside without the need to wrap up in scarves and woolly hats.
We went out for a celebratory meal on our second night and I can’t recommend Pla highly enough if you’re looking for fantastic food, wine, service and atmosphere. Be sure to book ahead though, we were lucky to get the last two seater table in the restaurant on a Sunday night.
2. Get lost in Barri Gotic
Tight streets, stunning architecture, atmospheric squares and Catalan flags on every balcony sum up Barri Gotic or the Gothic Quarter. Rather than follow someone else’s ideas ditch the map and dive in to the maze of streets. Keep walking and you’re bound to stumble on to Las Ramblas or the mighty Cathedral that dominates the central square. We also came across some very talented buskers who really add to the atmosphere of the oldest part of the city.
3. Visit La Boqueria market
Right next to Las Ramblas is La Boqueria market, with origins dating back to the 1200s! As their website states the market is “a paradise for the senses”, with a huge range of colourful and tasty looking fruit, veg, meat and cake on sale. It has all the hustle and bustle of a city market you can imagine and it’s easy to spend a morning wandering around the stalls sampling what’s on offer. Go early in the day to avoid the tourists taking photos, i.e. me, getting in the way.
4. Imitate the street art
Not your normal way to spend time in one of the culture capitals of Europe but hugely fun all the same.
5. Hit the beach and marina
With over 4km of golden sand, blue water and beach side bars it’s hard to resist the lure of Barcelona beach when the sun is shining. In January, despite weather that would have packed Brighton to the brim, the beach was deserted. If you’re looking for a beach to yourself in winter I can’t recommend this one highly enough. If you don’t fancy getting sand between your toes then pick a hotel with a rooftop pool, there are loads to be had. Our hotel, Catalonia Avinyo, had a stunner.