Ports in a storm : Barcelona
Blessed with sun all year round, occasional waves, unreal skating, sublime food and nightlife that doesn't really end - Barcelona is a port in a storm we would highly recommend visiting.
I’m writing this sweating. Shaken. Clammy hands. Lil bit rattled.
Not traumatised but certainly a little perturbed.
Despite leaving hours after I’d planned, I’ve arrived at the airport perfectly on time. Couriered on the back of a Yamaha, gripping on for dear life. Fanging down Calle Diagonal at precisely 111k’s an hour, wearing a pink helmet. She burnt 19 yellow lights (not technically a burn) and 7 red lights (definitely a burn) in 23 minutes. White knuckle rides, punctuated by shouts of “Que te jodan Cabron” whilst we skin elbows against buses. She assures me she’s driving more sensibility with a passenger, declaring with a roll of eyes, a bat of impossibly dark eyelashes and a drag of a cigarette;
“You should see me when I drive on my own”
It’s been like this all week, everywhere we wanted to go, every journey a terrifying but incredible holy shit I’m alive moment, face whipped senseless by hair.
Highly emasculating but wow, Barcelona is a hell of a mistress.
After a weekend turned into a 10 day vortex entry of high torchery, and to the relief of the office yet personal irritation it was time to go home. I’ve skunked meetings (sorry), dodged phone calls (sorry), missed commitments (sorry) felt horrible, felt amazing, not slept and ‘worked’ ‘remotely’ but fuck me it’s been worth it. By means of atonement I thought it might be a good idea to pen together this little piece to see you through stormy waters, and hopefully smooth sailing in Spain’s golden city.
Barcelona is pretty well served by the airport from anywhere you want to come from or indeed to go. Ibiza is also dangerous close. Just saying. If you are in the midst of a euro shred mission you can swing down on the train from San Sebastian which is long and tedious but there is a carriage with a bar which is always fun, usually daergourosuly good fun. You can drive, but the price of tolls & parking will force you to sell all your possesions on arrival. Avoid.
Public transport baby, Metro is golden, buy a multipass ticket to spend those hard earn euros on better times. At night taxis are cheap and plentiful. You can rent bikes which will will be fun and more fun with beers. The dream is to befriend a local with a scooter, we’ll leave that to you.
Uptown. Or ideally at the W, but most likely uptown. Downtown is cool but my god is it a shit show. Summer is hot, and incredibly busy. There are 934923874 tourists at any one time in Barcelona and they are all downtown and you want to set yourself aside from the pack.. Airbnb is great but hotels with rooftop pools, accompanied with poolside cocktail service (as always I would recommend a Whisky Sour) are leagues better and you must remember this.
Barceloneta. Down the beach. In summer a shit show beyond description. Avoid buying the Mojitos sold by unscrupulous roving sellers (the rum makes Arak taste like Evian) However do indulge in the one euro beers sold by the same. If you are blessed with waves on your visit then head over to Pukas or Box Barcelona on the beachfront and they will be able to get you dialled with all the paraphernalia you need to go shred!
Montjuic. Up those hills. Well worth a sunset cruise to see the city views. Engage sunglasses and Marlboro red on drive back down and reference Gosling in Drive. MNAC (Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya) is amazing. A visit is most highly recommended on Saturdays where after 3pm entrance is free. This fits perfectly on the Culture vs Hangover Redemption Index (C.V.H.R.I - the more culture absorbed on a hangover the better person it makes you) and we can confirm that MNAC scores exceptionally well..
Gothic Quarter and Downtown. Tall and narrow streets. Heckling vibes minor but present. The busiest most central zone but there’s plenty of back streets and bars to loose yourself in. Do check the Picasso museum and the two cathedrals to get your cultural hit.
Gracia. Uptown, and the best place to stay. Away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, Barcelona’s little hidden gem is nestled in the foothills slightly above town. But don’t tell everyone. It’s perfect. Little squares. Amazing light. Do it. Especially if you are with a significant other then it’s a no brainer.
Raval. Raval is your cousin who’s had more then his fair share of misdemeanours. Raval is the sketchy guy by the slot machine in a fun but ever so slightly hostile bar. Raval is Hackney / The Bronx pre gentrification. It’s really fucking fun but ever so slightly, a little bit, just a hint of, actually quite a lot sketchy - especially under the cloak of darkness . However danger is to be embraced and worst comes to worst you’ll end up with a good story so go.
"This fits perfectly on the Culture vs Hangover Redemption Index (C.V.H.R.I)"
At all times, Estrella as a beer should be your go (Damm, although Galcia is aruguably better, Damm is local and fitting in pays untold dividends) Served anywhere and everywhere and all of the time. My favourites are the 1 euro ones sold with a certain Je ne sais quoi, ice cold at 6am on the streets. Delicious. For those numerous cocktail joints littered around the back street providing generous licks of your favourite poison. A sunset drink at the W is to be much encouraged but do pretend you are a guest, and enjoy the nauseating levels of self esteem that can bring. On weekends there are pool parties and you simply must go.
In terms of bars a favourite of ours revealed by our very own Guillem Cruells is Marsella. A favourite haunt of Hemmingway (we’re sold already), and in biz since 1820, Marsella exclusively sells Absinthe, served with a sugar cube, a fork and a bottle of water. You’ll see when you get there. For those of you out the loop, Absinthe is green, has hallucinogenic properties, is 60 -75% proof and was hailed as the unravelling of many fin de siècle bohemians . Marie Corelli encapsulates perfectly..
“Let me be mad, then, by all means! Mad with the madness of Absinthe, the wildest, most luxurious madness in the world!
Vive la folie! Vive l'amour! Vive l'animalisme! Vive le Diable!”
And we couldn’t agree more.
Downtown. Late, later then you think reasonable. As in roll up at 3 – 3.30 am. Once loaded with Absinthe. Apollo nightclub is a good go to especially on Mondays (so left of field we love it) are Nasty Mondays, ask no questions and go. Other than that, Jamboree is pretty all time – we’d advise you to hit the second room which is 80’s / 90’s and a fine time indeed. For more underground vibes check Moog, Club 4 (Thursdays), Sidecar, Razmatazz and Macarena.
Door Policy’s are remarkably lenient… We once, after a rash purchase from the most audacious of Hecklers on Las Ramblas, managed to take our new cross country skis (don’t ask) into a club with little more then a raised eyebrow....
As a traditional means of lining your stomach pre-absinthe. But in all seriousness Catalan food is really, really good. Fuet like salami, (but to save embarrassment do not compare in public) served with a Caña is incredible. To follow Pà amb Tomaquet, Mongetes amb botifarra, Calcots and Canelons are all thoroughly recommended by the house. In terms of venues to dine, Bar del Pla is sublime and is located in El Born. And I mean up there with the best of the best sublime. Arrive early to get a table.
Sometimes, kinda, sorta not really, maybe but most definitely novelty. But novelty is fun, and fun is king!. The warm waters of the med do sometimes glisten with the aquatic ramps inclined to the dance of slide. Get a good day and punting aloof under the reflection of the W will take novelty to whole new levels. However we wouldn’t recommend banking on it, treat it as an extra bonus on a cultural voyage of inner discovery. We’ve been very reliably informed that down the coast has serioussssssly good waves but our lips are sealed. Soz.
Yes. MACBA is the obvious point of call but the whole city is ultra skate-able. Also check Sants, Paralel, and Placa Universitat. Alex Amor (So elegantly pictured above) has some further pearls of wisdom though….
Ramblas. Ramblas is heckle central, where hecklers go to a hone their trade at a cheap but highly effective finishing school. Whispers of Hash Hash, Coke Coke, Girl Girl may sound enticing but unfortunately integrity is lesson that is not taught at Las Ramblas finishing school. Cloak and Dagger territory. Keep your wits about you
Tourists. Barcelona is full of tourists, which is ironic as you are currently towards the end of a guide for tourists. But wait! The large majority of tourists nestled in the soft bosom that is Barcelona you don’t wait to be associated with. Play it a little cooler. Less shouting in the street, definitely no football shirts. No shouting drunken English at waiters. Try not to be a football hooligan, most certainly not a Russian one which (as a Russian – impunity is great!) is most unbecoming. Learn a few words of Español, or even better, Catalan. Armed with a lil bit o’ Catalan on a Saturday night and the keys to the city are yours my friend. But seriously, make a little effort, learn a few words, ideally befriend a local (the Catalans are the nicest people under the sun) or two and you are in for a really good time.