The bloggers’ travel guide to… Barcelona

One of the six finalists in The Bloggers’ Guide search for the best worldwide travel blogger on his home town

I moved to Barcelona as an English teacher almost ten years ago, and in that time there was no Wi-Fi, mobile phones were not classed as a “necessity” and it took me 10 days to find a job – but seven weeks to find an apartment.

I started writing blogging as an insight for those people who might want to do the same in the current climate, and also to point out things I think are interesting from an ex-pat point of view, but largely get overlooked in the usual tourist guide books.

Digital Life in Barcelona

www.barcelona-metropolitan.com – online edition of Barcelona Metropolitan magazine, useful for reviews of restaurants, events, exhibitions and anything else current in the city. I find the handy links to Catalunya Classifieds useful, where you can pick up all kinds of bargains.

www.lecool.com – is a must-have weekly e-zine straight to your inbox. The team give you the heads up for the coming week, always offering smashing content, and manage to pick up on events and cultural activities you would never otherwise find. Many of the tips and details are free, and it lives up to their goal of being clever, without being necessarily trendy – just really good.

www.barcelonayellow.com – a hugely comprehensive listings site also packed with useful information, hints and advice on Barcelona. It is also crammed with the essential practical information like weather forecasts. If you’re looking for something in Barcelona and it’s not on here, it’s not worth looking for!

www.bcn.cat – the city council website which is excellent in detail and functionality, with particularly impressive interactive maps, ideal for locating whatever you need. Very well translated into English, for all cultural events, one-off shows and other details

http://www.tmb.cat/en_US/home.jsp – the Barcelona Metropolitan Transport website, and specifically the Barcelona Metro. The metro is cheap, really easy to use and convenient for the slightly out of town places. The website has a route planner facility with advanced options for finding restaurants, theatres and other attractions. It also has recommended journeys for tourists themed according to taste – Modernism for example. ?

And I reckon these are the best bookshops in Barcelona

Local Knowledge :

Try all the great food. The Catalunya province has certain dishes that you can’t find elsewhere in Spain and seasonal food like calçots are a must-do if you’re here. Take a walk around the Boqueria market and get some “pata negra” cured Iberic ham (black hooved ham). It’s one of the best, and is fed only on acorns. They also have some chorizos from the same beast.

Perambulate. Go for a walk and just get lost, much of Barcelona is easily covered on foot, so go for a wander around the old town and follow your nose. You’ll find some great little corners and alleys with so much history. Don’t be afraid to ask directions, the locals are friendly and things have got a lot easier recently with the installation of map-posts and directional arrows, to help you along your way. Barcelona Guide Bureau has qualified guides offering a range of walking tours.

Visit Sant Pau del Camp church, the oldest in Barcelona, and often overlooked as an attraction, with so many other fantastic sites in the city. Built in 1127 it is the earliest Romanesque structure in the city. Part of the beauty of this church is the simplicity – the church is a typical Roman stone walled church and looks exactly the same on the inside as on the outside. No gold icons, no stained glass windows – Sant Pau del Camp transports you back a couple of centuries. A visit to the cloister, with the damp smell and the imposing square shaped patio built soon after the main structure gives even more history.

Go early! Some great museums have free entry on the first weekend of the month, most notably the Picasso Museum, free on every first Sunday. A quick word of warning – do not turn up in beachwear, or inappropriately dressed. I don’t mean as these are religious places, so you need to cover up, but it’s a real pet hate of the locals to see guys in trunks and flip flops with no tops, or Girls in bikini tops and a “pareo” waltzing along las Ramblas, or even worse stopping into Carrefour or Corte Ingles. Keep the beachwear for the beach!

Avoid August! The weather is usually too hot, and most of the locals leave the city to go to their country/beach residencies. Everything gets hiked up for the tourists. Best months are June or September – for La Merçe festival if you can! This week long festival embraces the city, and it still very much the people’s festival. Events happen all over the city, and “plaças” fill with stages and podiums, bunting and portaloos, and a particular highlight is the the fantastic “correfoc” or fire-run, where fire-breathing dragons run through the streets of the Gothic Quarter at night.

Feast your eyes. Barcelona has a whopping 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and it will come as no surprise to you that 7 of the 9 sites have been designed by Antoni Gaudi. – Barcelona’s most famous architect. Go and see Park G?ell located in the north of the city. Sited on a gradient and with an ornate and decorative entrance which was where the plans started for this urbanisation which never really materialised. Well worth a visit with fantastic views of the city.

Enjoy the diversity. Barcelona has a very high population of immigrants, and it’s amazing to immerse yourself in so many different cultures from around the world. You’re spoilt for choice for restaurants, shops with foreign produce and international companies – both small and big. ? See the Raval “barrio”, my neighbourhood , which historically has been a hotbed of crime, brothels, drugs and prostitution, but nowadays is vibrant and fashionable being host to a wide variety of art studios, galleries and trendy bookshops. Interestingly it is the most multicultural place on the planet (official figures released in 2006 showed the world’s highest number of immigrants condensed into such a small space)

Take advantage of the timetable – the pace of life in Barcelona is fabulously relaxed. Everything is so laid back and nobody is ever in an apparent rush. Things start and finish later here too like shopping, dining out, nightlife?. This can be quite lively! It’s often 1am before the doors open in Barcelona’s discos. However, most places don’t start to fill up until around 2 or 3am, which is when most of the bars and pubs start to empty too.

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