With the euro falling and mercury rising, now is the time to take that long dreamed about Eurotrip—and there is no better summer destination than the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean Sea: Barcelona, Spain, one of the most affordable cities in Europe.
With eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites and countless historic buildings, museums and monuments, Barcelona is nothing less than a cultural mecca. Because tourism drives the local economy, you need not worry if your Catalan—the official language of Catalonia, the province in which Barcelona is located—or Spanish is rusty, as English is well known throughout the region.
Despite pickpocketing horror stories, Barcelona is one of the safest cities in the world—especially if you avoid the culturally void nightmare known as La Rambla, an infamous pedestrian street (overrun by tourists and hustlers) connecting the city to the sea. A small and easily navigable city, the best way to see Barcelona is by foot. That being said, the Metro is a well-designed, clean and inexpensive method of transportation if you aren’t up for a long trek.
Whether you are a history buff or a party enthusiast, these Barcelona activities circumvent typical tourist traps and help you enjoy the city like a local or, at the very least, like an expatriate.
1. Dance Outside
With an average summer temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit, sunny Barcelona is best enjoyed out of doors. If you love music and brunch, checkout Brunch Electronik, an all-Sunday affair with booze, traditional and Catalan grub, flea markets full of knick-knacks like vinyl records and handmade leather goods, children’s activities and many DJ performances. If you are in town from May 28-30, 2015, make sure to purchase tickets to Primavera Sound, a citywide music festival featuring Alt-J, the Black Keys, Panda Bear and Ratatat. June visitors should look into Sónar, an electronic music festival with performances by Flying Lotus, A$AP Rocky and Skrillex. During June and July, you can see artists ranging from Bob Dylan to the Pet Shop Boys at Festival Pedrables. After the release of this year’s soulful To Pimp a Butterfly, Barcelona is eager to watch headliner Kendrick Lamar perform at Cruilla.
If performance art are more your style, try the month-long Grec Festival. The city’s biggest and most renowned theatre, dance, music and circus festival will be held during July.
If you’re visiting Barna—the city’s nickname—in August or September, be prepared for weeklong parties. Almost every barri—or, neighborhood—has a festa major celebration, but the most anticipated is held in Gracia the third week of August. The summer season ends with the city’s grandest party, Festes de la Mercè, a weeklong festival celebrating Catalan culture in late September.
2. Spend Money in El Born
El Born, the most eclectic and hip area of Barcelona, is a maze of cobblestone streets, cultural landmarks and chic boutiques. For authentic Made-in-Catalonia items, women should start on Carrer dels Flassaders, where you can find beautiful, handcrafted shoes at Mus & Roew, or gorgeous, sophisticated clothing at Javier Simmora. One street over, on Carrer del Rec, men will find quality threads made from sustainable materials at the ocean-oriented Two Thirds, and casually cool and comfortable clothing at Batallata. To complete your Barna outfit, pick out a pair of Maians, a local footwear brand, and put on a wooden pair of Ribot shades. For a contemporary souvenir, stop by art gallery Bencini, where you can find sculptures, paintings and whimsical lamps.
While you may not associate Japanese-Brazilian gastronomy with Spain, you’d be remiss to overlook the unique sashimi, tropical maki and flaky tempura at Ikibana. Revel in an explosion of flavors when you order the Bubaloo Morango, a roll made of temporized tuna maki, tuna tartar, palm heart, jalapeno poppers and—the most unexpected ingredient—strawberry. If you prefer a simple yet delicious bite, purchase a mouthwatering focaccia sandwich and a few sweet treats from Demasié, a bottle of inexpensive (and excellent) vino tinto—red wine—from a street market and enjoy a picnic in Parc de la Ciutadella.
3. Take a Contemporary Art Tour
Best known for the iconic architecture of Antoni Gaudí, Barna’s true character can be found on the doors, walls and streets of every barri in the city. To see the best Barcelona art, simply lace up your sneakers and walk out the door. Start with a walk through the Gòtic and Raval neighborhoods, where you will see fine street art. If unstructured exploring overwhelms you, consider taking a free graffiti walking tour.
4. Relax at La Platja
The city of Barcelona has 4.5 kilometers of sandy, white beaches—las platjas. If you don’t mind crowds and being heckled by persistent peddlers, built-up and bustling Barceloneta is the beach for you. If you prefer a leisurely atmosphere sans bros and hustlers, then Bogatell or Mar Bella are better options.
But, if you really want to bronze like a local, take the ferrocarrils train—or FGC for short—north, where you can escape the throngs of tourists in only twenty minutes. From Plaça de Catalunya, the city center, take the R1 towards Mataró. Though you can bake in peace at any stop past Badalona, nothing beats the pristine sand of Premià de Mar—only thirty-five minutes outside of the city center.
5. Enjoy Athletics
If you visit in May, you can catch the final matches of the 2014-2015 fútbol season. Shell out some euros for tickets to watch world-renowned FC Barcelona play in home stadium Camp Nou on the 6, 9 or 24th of May. Or, you can opt to save coin and watch their less famous Barça B team play on the 9, 20 or 31st (tickets start at 9€). Frequently overshadowed by FC Barcelona, the Reial Club Deportiu Espanyol de Barcelona also calls Barna home. You can watch RCD Espanyol play May 17 at Nou Estadi de Cornellá-El Prat. However, the best—and cheapest—place to watch a match is at a bar drinking a Moritz beer with diehard Catalan fans. The 2015-2016 fútbol season will begin in late August.
Aside from their love of cigarettes and postres—dessert—Catalans are a fit and healthy bunch who look damned good in teeny speedos and thong bikinis. Visit the over 19,000 acre Parc Natural de la Serra de Collserola and work up a sweat on one of many hiking trails. Make sure you look up before making your way back down, so you don’t miss the breathtaking views of the city below. For a lean and toned physique, attend a complimentary session of BeachFit Barcelona, an hour-long workout that combines running, strength-training and lots of laughter.
can be found bronzing and brooding on the Barcelona beaches with her Doberman Bama.