Nestled along the pebbly coastline of the Balearic Sea, is a city often overshadowed by touristic tendencies and common popularity. Barcelona basks in the sunlight while the city’s lesser known attractions wait to be discovered by European travelers both old and new.
The metropolitan radiance of diamond shaped pedestrian walking paths alongside paved roadways, keeps the city fresh and young in a continent often defined by the past. A quick walk down Passeig de Gràcia or Carrer de Mallorca, and open eyes will stumble upon the quirky, mosaic style architecture of Antoni Gaudí. As the unofficial architect of Barcelona, Gaudí’s masterpieces adorn building façades with waves of blue and purple, reminiscent of the sea that lies not far from the city center. The subtle yet irreplaceable living artwork replaces the need for museums as the open-air gallery can please even the most finicky art connoisseur.
Strolling down Las Ramblas, the gleaming paper of postcards catches the sunlight as tourists spin the carousels to reveal sights such as the Sagrada Familia, Casa Battló, and La Pedrera. To avoid the tourists though, head off of Las Ramblas to the stained glass overhang marking the entrance to the Mercat St. Josep La Boqueria. A bustling market with scents of saffron wafting in the breezes, and succulent hanging hams being cut and prepared to feed locals, the Mercat combines all the staples of Spanish culture in one vivacious locale.
Wander the other way off Las Ramblas and the old city hides behind towering cement walls. Originally called Barcino, the oldest section of Barcelona is now known as the Gothic Quarter. The alleyways are a preserved labyrinth of the dynamic city, which memorializes its culture without losing its history. In between making sense of maps and being lost without even trying, visitors can stumble upon a quiet square called Plaça de Sant Felip Neri. Once rocked by an explosion during the Franco era, it is now better known as a location in the 2008 Woody Allen movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
While the city center offers an influx of art, architecture, and history, the waters along the Playa de Sant Sebastià offer an authentic look into the apparent work life balance of the energetic city. Sounds of the steel drum ring as a delicate sugary melody in passerby’s ears while an unexpected gust of wind is provided by rollerbladers and bicyclists sailing down the boardwalk. The abundance of green sea glass on the shore mimics the transparent, fluorescent color of beach bar mojitos. If sipping on sangria that matches the color of the setting sun sounds more appealing, outdoor restaurants flank the coastline. Indulge in classic Spanish cuisine such as tapas, which are snack like appetizers shared amongst tablemates, or paella, a saffron infused rice dish mixed with anything from mussels to chicken.
The appearance of Picasso’s and Gaudí’s on the same block as rumbling discothèques and overfilled cafés, depicts a society who understands the value of a dollar, and how to celebrate it. Within the sounds of Catalan rolling off tongues and flowing down streets, the Barcelonan people have cemented their modernistic role within a historically centered European society.