My Barcelona Review
Hello friends, happy Friday! I realized that I'd forgotten to tell you about my long weekend in Barcelona a few weeks ago, so today I simply must share some photos and my impressions, both good and bad, and then end my review with a bullet list in case you have plans to see Barcelona in the near future and need a few tips.
First, from an architectural perspective, there are many beautiful buildings to see from the residential districts to the old town, and of course, the Gaudi buildings, which will leave architecture and design lovers speechless. We saw the Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà and part of Park Güell but there are many more.
Next, the beach is beautiful BUT it was also gritty with lots of trash, and dozens of men bothering you nonstop to buy cocktails, cotton blankets, beer and water. They literally swarm your blanket every 5 minutes for the entire time you are sitting there. I felt exhausted by this. It was just too much.
The same took place at Gaudí's Park Güell - the "free" part of the park at least. Men selling things on blankets everywhere. You go to a park to be with your thoughts and with nature, not beat off peddlers. We didn't get into the side where you could see the works of Gaudi because you must book tickets online in advance during busy months and no one told us this. I wish our hotel had briefed us that these tourist attractions required tickets purchased in advance online. I was mega disappointed because as a fan of Niki de Saint Phalle's work, after seeing her inspiration from Gaudí in her Grotto in Hannover, I had to see the Gaudi park in Barcelona.
Then the Sagrada Família was also a spot where we got turned away. That building is just insanely gorgeous on the outside, I was dying and nearly in tears that I could not go inside. The same thing - you had to bring tickets you'd purchased in advance a day or two prior online. Around the church peddlers were swarming and I felt like someone was going to pickpocket me any second. We felt really upset that these major tourist attractions were not better organized. I expected Barcelona to be more like Paris but with all the selling and pressure from peddlers, it really was more like Tijuana.
When it comes to the peddlers, let me note that I am compassionate to a point. Yet, I felt like Barcelona has lost all control. These people are mostly peddling to survive but it creates a terribly stressful atmosphere if you are there to relax on holiday and you are constantly being targeted. I know how much Barcelona relies on its tourism economically, so I believe tourists need to be heard on these issues. I've been all over, from Casablanca to Istanbul, Milan to Stockholm, and of course Mexico, Canada and to nearly all of the 50 Unites States. I'm not a diva who expects perfection at all. But the city needs to regain control. The peddlers at the tourist points, in the park, on the beach, at the Gaudi buildings... they were mosquito's - it was the equivalent to going to the souks in Marrakesh and having aggressive sellers begging you to buy from them. You expect this in the souks, not at a public beach.
The next point is that there is a real sewer problem in Barcelona - we barely ate outside unless it was on a rooftop because you could smell the sewers. Also, lots of public urination so when it's hot and humid... Some parts of the city were overwhelming.
Other than those few annoyances, Barcelona had lots of positives. But I suggest going off season if you want a more relaxed environment that's a bit more authentically Spanish. I imagine the city is different in October versus in the middle of July when we were there.
The food in this city is delicious - not so much the sweet stuff but the salty. We ate at some lovely places. I had the best Sangria ever. I enjoyed delicious tapas. I took a lot of photos of beautiful, historic buildings. I climbed to the top of the Gaudi Park (stunning views from up there) and made silly videos on my phone. I walked over 50km in 3.5 days, so I came home feeling really fit.
Out of everything about Barcelona, what I loved most was the weather, the tapas and the Sangria. The weather was super hot with a nice breeze and plenty of rooftop spots to run to for cool breezes and yummy drinks (but only if you know of them, they aren't obvious), ask around. I really love the rooftop culture here and vowed that someday I need to have a rooftop terrace with lots of plants and parties!
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I must wrap up by adding that I loved the Picasso museum (Museu Picasso), his early works were stunning. Picasso exhibited extraordinary artistic talent right from the beginning, it was shocking really to see this and highly inspirational. My favorite had to be seeing his interpretation of Las Meninas, composed of nearly 60 paintings of the single painting by Diego Velázquez. It's the only complete series of Picasso that remains together in the world, so it was amazing to behold. I enjoyed seeing his blue period work as well since it was so somber and such a stark contrast to his rose period. I also liked seeing some of his early works on corrugated cardboard, it was magnificent to see how he could paint on anything and still amaze. Don't get me started about his ceramics. Yeah, he did some fantastic ceramics as well. I had no idea.
What inspired me the most about Picasso, and what I couldn't stop thinking about during my entire visit, was how he didn't have one particular style. In fact, you may not even had recognized his work from one period to the next had it not been signed and documented, there was no red thread. His blue period looked nothing like the early landscapes he painted or the portraits of his friends, nor did it look like the later work that most of us know the best.
I have the feeling that designers and artists are consistently told how important consistency is in their work in order for it to be somehow esteemed, valued even. You need to have a certain "look" to your "brand". I realize that this is, in most part, very true if you want to make money. But when I looked at Picasso's work, I realized how deceived I've been ever since studying marketing in college. What do I mean?
Modern day marketing and economy have changed the way creatives think about their work and how young creatives look at their body of work. It's a bit unfortunate. I rather like the idea of reinventing ourselves throughout the years, making what we want to make, being happy with the results regardless of whether it is selling well or not. I guess the best way to do it and make a living as an artist or designer in modern times is that you have your mainstream stuff to show the world, and late at night in your room you are doing the good stuff that sets your soul on fire that you know wouldn't sell. You make art for the sake of making art.
So that's my review of Barcelona. If you want some suggestions on where to eat, where to drink, etc. try the links below because they are very good. The first link is fantastic because I missed every spot in the guide and wish I'd seen this link before my trip.
- Goop Barcelona Guide
- We stayed at Casa Bonay in a room with a private terrace that had lounge chairs and a shower. It's loud on the weekends, so bring earplugs.
- We did a lot of lounging in Libertine with free wifi. It's located in the same building as Casa Bonay.
- Satan's coffee - The best cappuccino I've ever had in my life (sorry Italy). Also the best glazed donuts. Also located in the Casa Bonay complex.
- Chiringuito - At the top of Casa Bonay, there are two sides when you exit the elevator. To the left is for hotel guests only and where we basically lived when we needed to rest and refresh. To the right is Chiringuito, and is open to the public. Great spot.
- Hotel Claris. This looks like a gorgeous property to stay in, especially with their rooftop swimming pool, lounge area and bar. We stopped by the Claris to catch the views from the roof, relax on the lounge chairs, and enjoy some drinks. Great service and very welcoming.
- I didn't find the sweets in Barcelona the big attraction, but when we had a sweet tooth we went to Pastisseria Brunells and it was perfect. Authentic and family-owned right around the corner from the Picasso museum.
- Go to the Cotton House Hotel, even if you can't stay there, go have breakfast, lunch or dinner. You won't be sorry. You can also eat outside but I loved the interior of the restaurant. Stunning. Totally Instagramable too.
- There are not many interior design shops in the city, but I stumbled on one that was quite charming called Mica. I'm sure others exist, but they must be hidden because I roamed the streets and googled and Instagramed myself into a coma trying to find them but couldn't. But I don't think people go to Barcelona for interior design shopping. Lots of fashion and great stores for clothes though!
- I loved the leather handbags and shoes in the Beatriz Furest shop. Gorgeous. Highly recommend.
- My favorite food experience was eating at Flax & Kale. I wish this was a franchise and all over Europe. I've never eaten so pure, so whole, so fresh, so beautifully before. I give this place 5 stars all the way. Go go go! Also highly Instagramable!
- Nice Things (Spanish fashion label) has a nice outlet store (street address is Girona 38) with very affordable finds. I just loved their clothes! Someone highly suggested clothing store eseOese but I didn't get to go there, maybe you can.
- I loved the foodie shop Secrets del Mediterrani but even better was the secret little tapas restaurant in the back where we ended up totally pigging out and getting really tipsy on the best Sangria I ever had in my life. And the people are SO NICE in this place.
- Neighborhoods to roam: El Born, Gothic Quarter, Barceloneta, Eixample, Gracia (more of a local flair).
Have you been to Barcelona? What inspired you there? What did you learn? Do you have any suggestions on where to shop, eat or go? Any insider tips?
Photography: Holly Becker for decor8