Where the City Goes into Pause Mode
15 April, 2015
In spring, Barcelona becomes a hysterical city. Any idea of making the most of a weekend or sightseeing in the city turns into a pulsating, 1,000-rpm power tour. Downtown fills with end-of-year student trippers skipping through the streets in search of the perfect souvenir, anachronistic sightseers clutching at maps trying to ascertain points of interest, Asians taking selfies, their outstretched arm included, tour guides holding umbrellas and loudspeakers and, willy-nilly, the odd local tramp who peeps out and then, unnerved, retreats with a bewildered expression. The collective hysteria is centred on the Gothic Quarter, but its shock waves reach the Barceloneta, the Born and the Eixample. Here, finding a quiet corner to recover one’s strength before sallying forth into the streets again seems to be an impossible feat. But, it is not – here are some of our favourite spots for going into pause mode:
If you’re the kind that goes for design, at Vinçon (Pg de Gràcia, 96) you’ll find an endless array of exquisite decorative items – all top drawer! You’d be hard put to enter Vinçon without getting lost in the corridors crammed with unusual designer items, but it’s certainly rewarding not to. If you manage to locate the staircase leading up to the first floor, you’ll be surprised to come across the lounge of an old Modernist house. Preserved in this extension to the store are the ceilings, walls, flooring and chimney of a house that once belonged to the renowned early-20th-century Catalan painter, Ramón Casas. On the far side of the floor you come to a terrace which is a must-see. The inner court of the building affords some unusual views of the back of La Pedrera, one of Antoni Gaudí’s architectural masterpieces. You will also be able to survey a typical inner court of a whole street block characteristic of the Eixample district, complete with washing hanging out to dry, colourful blinds and inviting terraces. Noteworthy are the centuries-old trees piercing the terrace paving and a fairytale house at the end of the store patio. And, while the pleasure of going into a store without a consumerist purpose is growing on us, we might as well make a foray into Servei Estació, at Calle Aragó 270, on the corner of another of Gaudí’s famous buildings, the Casa Batlló. This store is quite an eye-opener, what with its compendium of DIY items, party decorations, stationery… in short, yet another maze of tasteful objects where the first floor is well worth seeing. If you go up to the terrace, you will be treated to further views of an Eixample patio and, once again, a different angle on Gaudí’s outlandish building. Here, a selfie is de rigueur.
In the heart of the Gothic Quarter lies one of the city’s most touristy streets, the Calle Boquería. The ground floor premises of these beautiful buildings, along what was once one of Barcelona’s most stately streets, are now given over to souvenir shops, paella-and-sangría eateries and cheap hotels. In the old days almost all buildings had a patio at the back. Nowadays, this area has either been excised or is inaccessible. However, via the Hotel Petit Palace Boqueria you can gain access to one such patio which is now part of a network of public parks in the city, a veritable backwater of tranquility and a pleasant surprise for tourists and locals alike. Another palatial mansion that belonged to the 18th-century Barcelona nobility now houses the Antic Teatre, a creative, experimental centre of the scenic arts which stages innovative performances outside conventional theatre circles. While you’ll certainly find their shows surprising, the interior garden concealed on the first floor is even more so. It is part of the theatre bar, which is open all day and has neighbourhood prices, so having a beer while you’re sunning yourself without paying through the nose is really possible in this magical enclave in the Born quarter. It is located just a few metres from the Modernist and very modern Palau de la Música Catalana. Discovering this building is guaranteed to boost your endomorphins to the limit.
These spots, where the city stands still, are havens of peace and quiet that should be confided to once closest friends only, in order to preserve their tranquility in the long run. If the crowds eventually descend upon them, we will have to seek out other oases, although this will be an increasingly more difficult task to accomplish. But the endless city that is Barcelona is unlikely to disappoint.
If you enjoyed this route and are eager to see more, head over to Insòlitbarcelona, a website dedicated to unusual itineraries in Barcelona. What are you waiting for to discover these spots. Check out our flights here.
Text by Insòlitbarcelona
Images by Insòlitbarcelona
15 April, 2015