5 recommendations for day trips close to Barcelona
Looking for things to do around Barcelona? If you’re planning a visit to the Catalan capital and want to get off the beaten track, we’ve put together 5 getaways for you. Discover hidden spots just half an hour from the city: unspoiled beaches, hot spring resorts, a Gaudí creation far from the teeming crowds of the Sagrada Familia, and the monastery where Columbus was greeted by the Catholic Monarchs following the conquest of America.more info
While Barcelona is a modern, cosmopolitan city, traces of its medieval past are very much in evidence. Buildings in the old quarter attest to a glorious past, thronging with Crusaders, Italian merchants, the nobility and a powerful clergy. Scattered in between Baroque, Neoclassical and Modernist constructions, a host of Gothic buildings are still standing, notably the Cathedral, the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar and the Palau de la Generalitat. But, what many Barceloners are unaware of is that old Barcelona also boasts a considerable number of exquisite Romanesque complexes which have survived to the present in excellent condition.
Romanesque in the Heart of Plaza de Catalunya
Few Barceloners suspect that one of the city’s leading Romanesque monasteries is sited hard by the central Plaza de Catalunya. I am referring to Santa Anna, a church and former monastery dating from the 12th century, featuring a cloister and a chapterhouse which still serves parishioners. The building was designed by the architect, Ramón Amadeu, but construction work continued for three centuries thereafter, making for a marked amalgam of various Romanesque and Gothic styles, although the former is more in evidence. To reach the church from Plaza de Catalunya, go along Calle Rivadeneyra (next to the Hard Rock Cafe) or Calle de Santa Anna.
12th-Century El Raval
Pressing on with our itinerary, take Calle Santa Anna towards La Rambla and walk down this colourful boulevard as far as Calle Hospital. Turning right along this street takes you into the heart of the multicultural El Raval quarter, graced with such striking buildings as the MACBA, the Palau Güell and the Biblioteca de Catalunya. This route leads into Plaça del Pedró, an important square in that standing in its centre is the Santa Eulàlia Fountain, regarded as one of Barcelona’s oldest monuments. Also in the square is the 12th-century Romanesque Church of Sant Llàtzer. The latter was once part of a leper hospital which operated from the 12th to the 15th century. Since being deconsecrated in 1913 and following a number of refurbishments, it has since been in use as a secular building.
Still in El Raval, the Calle de la Riereta leads into Calle de Sant Pau, which houses one of the finest Romanesque landmarks in Barcelona, the Monastery of Sant Pau del Camp. The building dates from the 12th century, although the precinct is thought to have been founded in the 9th century by Wilfred II, who is buried there. The monument also has a small, 13th-century cloister which is noteworthy for its storied capitals depicting hunting scenes, warriors, sirens, animals and plant motifs. Still standing in the monastery garden is the former abbot’s residence, built from the 13th to 14th century and extended in the 18th century. Before entering, be sure to look at the facade, as the doorway is flanked by two columns with Visigoth capitals, while in the tympanum we see Christ with SS Peter and Paul and an ancient inscription, which invite us to enter.
To Sant Pere de les Puel·les
After touring El Raval, we return to La Rambla along Calle Nou de la Rambla with its striking little palace, known as the Palau Güell, the work of de Antoni Gaudí. We forge ahead as far as Barcelona Cathedral, next door to which is the Chapel of Santa Llúcia, The chapel is located in the corner of the Cathedral cloister and has a doorway onto the street. It was built in late-Romanesque style in the second half of the 13th century and originally served as the Episcopal Palace of Barcelona. This is a good moment to visit the Gothic Cathedral, take a seat on one of the pews and relax.
The next stop on our itinerary is the Born quarter, one of the liveliest in the city, with a lot of cultural activities on offer. Well worth seeing is the Palau de la Música Catalana and El Born Market archaeological site. On the opposite side of Via Laietana you can take Calle de la Bòria as far as Plazoleta de Marcús, a small square where the Marcús Chapel is located. A 12th-century construction, it was sited alongside the old Roman road out of Barcelona. Many of the original elements on the facade have been preserved, as well as its Lombardic arches. Strolling further into the quarter you come across the last stop on our itinerary, the Royal Monastery of Sant Pere de les Puel·les, of which only the parish church has survived to the present. Founded in the 5th century, it has undergone major alterations over time, although part of the Greek cross structure is still intact, as are the Corinthian capitals surmounted by a 12th-century dome. The so-called “bird campanile” is also from the Romanesque period. This monument is key to an understanding of Barcelona in the Middle Ages.
Eager to discover Barcelona’s Romanesque past? Book your Vueling here.
Text and images by Aleix Palau for Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
Whoever lands in Barcelona for the first time is well aware of its fame as a design hub. For decades the city has been known for its openness to new trends and its links to modernity. It is precisely that flair for the modern that has led dozens of stores specialised in vintage objects and furniture to be opened in the Catalonian capital.
From a Scandinavian teak sideboard to Formica worktops, all manner of lamps, French garden chairs and furniture by anonymous craftsmen, veritable gems are to be had in these shops, which you should not miss during your stay in Barcelona.
You’re Sure to Find it in Gràcia
One of the highest concentrations of retro furniture stores is in the district of Gràcia. What with its array of long-standing establishments, neighbourhood cinemas, artists’ studios and designers’ workshops, the district has become one of Barcelona’s main leisure and shopping areas. Strolling through its picturesque squares and narrow streets, Gràcia oozes charm throughout and is one of the best spots to experience the city’s genuine ethos. It was here that Alzira (C/ Verdi, 42) opened over ten years ago. Mónica, its owner, personally restores all the pieces of furniture on sale and the store has become a landmark in the sector, with a selection ranging from industrial trolleys to dining-room tables with tapered legs, psychedelic lamps and French crockery. Make sure you also see her collection of brooches from the 20s through the 70s. A short distance away, hard by the celebrated Plaça del Diamant, is La Mueblerí (C/ Topazi, 17), a veritable temple of furniture, where Aurora and her son import select pieces from various countries to merge them with traditional Spanish furniture. On sale in this former workshop converted into a store is a wealth of vintage school maps, sun wall mirrors, chairs of all kinds, doctor’s glass cabinets from the fifties and mid-century furniture. They also restore furniture and have an online sales website. Coco, their Jack Russell, would love you to stop by.
And, before leaving Gràcia, make sure you drop in on Topitos Furniture (C/ Torrent de l’Olla, 30), featuring one of the best selection of lamps in town, on display in a small space. David is a lighting lover and the treasures he has on offer include Lumica designs, mushroom lamps in sixties colours, opalines from the forties and lamps from Manises. Additionally, perched atop the garden tables and other furniture you will find a careful selection of bronze and ceramic animal figures, crockery and glasses in many colours and all kinds of decorative objects.
Vintage Stores in El Raval and El Born
And, from one tasteful quarter to another. El Born is one of the liveliest districts in Barcelona. Wending your way among restaurants, ebullient terrace cafés, historic buildings and droves of tourists you will come to Gidlööf (Passatge Mercantil, 1), a must-see for enthusiasts of things Scandinavian. Here, the Swedish textile designer, Sofia Gidlööf, and the Barcelona architect, Gium Costa, have crafted a space where 20th-century furniture and other items from northern Europe are on display alongside their own designs.
Still in the city centre is a charming lane near La Rambla which reveals a hidden gem in the form of El Changuito (Passatge de la Pau, 13), a shop specialising in retro garden furniture, vintage mirrors and lighting. The premises are spacious and the displays well curated; indeed, you can easily get lost inside it for a while. From El Changuito you can head into El Raval, one of Barcelona’s most multifarious districts. After a short walk you will come to Fusta’m (C/ Joaquim Costa, 62), a priceless store owned by Lidia and Oriol where original furniture and objects rub shoulders with vintage remakes. Oriol, a carpenter by trade, also makes super, customised furniture.
Now, all that’s left is to find the piece you were looking for. Why wait to seek it out in Barcelona? Check out our flights here.
Text and images by Aleix Palau for ISABELYLUIS Comunicaciónmore info
Appetising In Barcelona
Going out for an aperitif is unquestionably all the rage in Barcelona. Here, it is a pre-lunch ritual, revolving around that heart-warming beverage with herbs and its supporting cast of gastronomic classics such as olives, crisps, mussels, banderillas(pickled appetizers on a cocktail stick), gildas, anchovies and a host of other tasties. A number of cutting-edge gastro varieties have also come into their own, as have a reworking of the classics.
The long-standing, traditional slew of bars for indulging in this not so hidden pleasure has been augmented by new proposals, making Barcelona a veritable paradise for revelling in this “gastro sport”. You can practically tour the city by going from one taproom to the next, although we decline all responsibility for any ensuing hangover or blowout you are likely to experience. We now turn to a selection of venues for giving yourself over to this pleasure on the palate.
Running for just over two years, this bar has managed to elbow its way in among the respectable venues in town. One of its secrets is its broad selection of vermouths – there are up to 40 options to choose from – particularly those they make themselves. Another key to their success is their tapas, notably the papas bravas, a genuine delicacy.
Located at 22 Calle Montcada, in the heart of the Born, this is a classic among classics, where tourists and locals mingle in uncanny harmony. This small wine cellar with its classical air is usually packed, so you are advised to get there early if you want a seat. Their anchovies are the best in town and their ham is sheer delight.
Vermuteria el Tano
A real classic in the Gracia district, with appropriate decor included – casks, old-fashioned fridges and countless objects from the past. They have a magnificent array of cold tapas to accompany your vermouth or beer. This bar has a grass-roots atmosphere, continually livened up by the congenial service dispensed by Tano, its current owner.
This tiny bar on Calle Consell de Cent harbours an intense pleasure – that of savouring a glass of well pulled beer. Manel, the most prominent figure in this bar, takes great pains to serve up a fine vermouth – they are sourced in Reus, the classical purveyor and most noted vermouth-producing town. He also has excellent munchies, like the French fries with mussels and olives and a touch of pungent sauce, which is finger-licking delicious. The family has grown in recent years, so die-hards of this venue have two other alternatives in the Sant Gervasi district, namely Mitja Vida and Dalt de Tot. And, here you can also pick up an aperitif kit wrapped in a simple, original design.
As mentioned above, some spots have splashed out on new trends in tapas, and this wine bar, with Albert Adrià at the helm, has endowed the appetizer ritual with an avant-garde flourish. His vermouth – La Cala – is homemade and his tapas are both innovative and top-notch. Interestingly, this innovation strikes a contrast with the classical decor in the bar.
Gran Bodega Saltó
This unusual bodega is located in Poble Sec, another district to bear in mind if you’re into appetisers. On entering, newcomers are struck by the decor, featuring old barrels clashing with a host of interspersed , ill-matched objects cramming the display cabinets and the area at the back of the tavern. It is well worth visiting, but not only for its outlandish decoration, as here your aperitif and tapas are accompanied by live music.
Ready to explore the bars of Barcelona in search of the best vermouth? Check out our flights here.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS