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Barcelona: Bohemian Grandeur

There’s something about the electrifying mix of beach and big city that gets me every time. With this in mind, I had more than an inkling that Barcelona would be love at first sight. From its wide avenues, plazas of gorgeous detail-drenched architecture, international population and proximity to the Mediterranean, Barcelona didn’t disappoint.

The biggest impression this city left on me was its attention to detail. Everything from the ground we walked on, to the buildings we peered up at were covered in beautiful, intricate patterns and ornate decor. Gaudi’s footprint was certainly left on this capital of Catalonian culture and seeing his bizarre, legendary works was aesthetically fulfilling.

This city is buzzing with excitement, which with a population of over 4 million is no difficulty. It is the number one most-visited city in Spain, and the second-largest after Madrid. It’s well-regarded for it’s economic, entertainment, and cultural offerings and seemingly has it all: a Mediterranean climate, a bohemian feel and an undeniably energy.

Though I only spent a day and a half (thanks to a Ryan Air delay robbing me of a Friday!) I wrote a city guide on Barcelona too extensive for one post, so I’ll be splitting it into two posts in the following categories: At The Bar/In The Restaurant and On The Street.

[Note* All photos are mine, with the exception of the botifarra and pan amb tomquet shots in the “In The Restaurant” section.]

At The Bar:

L’ovella Negra/Calle de Los Sitges/5-08003 Barcelona/tel.933171087

Through the winding back-streets off of the main La Rambla, behind a wrought-iron door, is L’ovella Negra (Black Sheep). Touted as a “rustic tavern”, this watering-hole is indeed rustic, set in a windowless cave-like building with several crowded nooks of beer barrels doubling as tables. The main room is table upon table of young Catalonians and tourists surrounding centerpieces of huge jugs of beer and sangria, which they take turns filling and refilling their glass with. The strangest part was the lack of music in the bar, replaced by dozens of chattering 20-somethings.

We met up with some friends from Texas here, and with 50% of our group being Basque, ordered an obligatory jug or two of kalimotxo. Unfortunately they made it with a sweet wine, which really threw off the taste, so if you visit, stick with the advertised beer/sangria specials.

Cheap drinks, fun atmosphere and worth a stop if you’re in the area.

Ice Bar Barcelona/Drop down to Barceloneta Beach by the Casino de Barcelona Stairs, or by Carrer de la Marina. Between Shôko and Sotavento Beach Club.

Bars made entirely of ice (including glassware and light fixtures!) are found all over the globe—so what makes Ice Bar Barcelona so special? It happens to be the first of its kind located on the Barceloneta beach, in a super-trendy promenade of bars and beach clubs.

Donning futuristic-looking silver thermal jackets and gloves, we headed into the bone-chilling -5°C room. Ice benches covered in fur blankets lined the corners, gorgeous ice carvings scattered throughout, topped off by flat-screens playing Ice Age (a bit over-the-top!) Entrance fee (a little steep for my taste at 15 Euros) includes a drink and you can choose from a number of chilly Absolut-infused drinks or a (literally) ice-cold beer. Thankfully, I was prepared in boots and leggings and ready to stay in the ice bar for awhile, but the Vasco was less fortunate in his flip flops and shorts, making our total time inside less than what I desired!

We spent the rest of the night defrosting in the “hot” bar, which is in the same building, and seemed to be kept warmer than normal for those emerging from the frigid next-door. Old school R&B, a lively international crowd and a drink on the house made my stay here enjoyable and worth the extra pennies!

El Bosc de las Fades/Pasaje de la Banca 7/Barcelona, Spain 08002/tel.933172649

Located in a part of Las Ramblas, down a quiet alley near the wax museum lies a quirky, must-see bar: El Bosc de las Fades (The Forest of the Fairies). Admittedly a tourist attraction, it’s full without being unbearably crowded, and (thank goodness!) non-smoking.

Enter into a dark, windowless and decked-out forest scene complete with gnarled trees, babbling brooks and forest sounds playing in the background. It’s like the American concept of Rainforest Cafe without being so kitschy. Dimly lit lanterns hang from branches over tables of tree trunks with toadstools for seats. Definitely a fun rest-stop from the seemingly never-ending Las Ramblas.

In The Restaurant:

Antico Caffe/Calle Gran de Garcia, 152/08012 Barcelona

We spent a quiet morning sipping on coffee in this neighborhood cafe, tucked away from the touristic center. The menu is only in Catalan, so unless you can spot the similar words to Spanish, you’ll be playing a guessing game. Order the traditionally Catalan Pa amb tomàquet (toast with olive oil and tomato) or one of the variety of tomato and ham sandwiches at the counter. Croissants here are a must.

Palmero/Barnasit Calle Almirall Cervera, 4, Barcelona, 08003 

We ate lunch here with some friends who happen to be Barcelona locals. It’s within walking distance (10 minutes) from La Sagrada Familia, yet still relatively off the touristed track. I tried the most emblematic Catalonian dish on the menu: botifarra amb mongetes, or Catalan sausage with white beans. Really delicious, and something more to add to the list of favorite; keeping Spain unbeatable in the ham/pork category of world cuisine. 

Stay tuned for the continuation of my time in Barcelona!

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I'm Christine, a native Seattleite and current expatriate in southern Spain. I blog about living abroad, food, travel, and always encourage taking the unconventional path.

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My Spain Bucket List
Travel to Every Region in Spain
Semana Santa in Sevilla
Carnival in Las Canarias
NYE in Madrid
La Tomatina Festival
Hike the Camino de Santiago
Go to a Sidrería in Basque Country
Island-hop the Balearics in Summer
Las Fallas in Valencia
Pamplona Running of the Bulls

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