What Is the Magic of Barcelona?
June 14 2016
Barcelona seems to be one of the mythical places that seduces me to return, and return again. The summer is shining between the buildings of the big cities in Europe, and I can only think of escaping to the Barceloneta, sitting on the sand with a €5 mojito, and reading a book. But, what makes the magic of this place? What sets Barcelona apart from those other European hotspots?
It’s a paradise for food lovers. Whether you love seafood and fried calamari, or you prefer to enjoy the sweetness of xurros and xocolata, Barcelona is a place where you are going to eat — and eat well. I have my favorite spots around the city, and they include a variety of culinary traditions: vegan Indian, Argentinian empanadas, Spanish bocas and cañas. You can always enjoy a pizza in an open plaza and spend the night talking to the locals. The smell of bakeries in the morning, and the greasy air of restaurants next to the beach at night. A reason to visit, but also a reason to return.
It’s not just the art legends like Picasso and Miró who made their home in the city, whose appreciation remains today with museums and collections of their works. The monumental exhibition of Catalan art, or the musical pleasures of opera and symphonies in Liceau. I am talking about architecture, music, fashion, sculpture, and cinema. You immerse yourself in a world of colorful facades, a dream with a giant mammoth (hidden inside Parc de la Citadelle) and a fat cat (Fernando Botero’s Gato sculpture in Raval). A walk around Las Ramblas or a visit to any of the museums always leaves you craving for more. Lost treasures are easy to be found in the many second-hand libraries and souvenir stores around the center, especially in the Gothic Quarter.
The beauty of the Barceloneta is controversial. While locals are tired of loud, drunk tourists, Barcelona is more than clubbing and drinking. It’s actually possible to enjoy the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea, to walk or skate along the beach, and exercise in the public gyms. You can rent a bicycle and explore the Passeig Maritim. Even if you’re far away from the beach — for example, in the Mount Tibidabo — you can smell the salty air and get your mind lost in the blue tones of the sea. Barcelona is a port city and, naturally, its seductive nature is like the life of sailors and travelers, of exotic and mixed origins. The overwhelming presence of the sea reminds you of that.
From T-shirts to new books, from crafted chess games to book markets, you’ll find beautiful things and original products everywhere you look. Even if you’re not fan of shopping, and if you prefer to save money, you’ll be tempted at every corner. Of course, Barcelona is a fashion, trendy, and hipster city with a lot of designers, mostly located around the central neighborhood of El Born. Mainstream brands and luxury items are easy to be found around Plaza Catalunya and Passeig de Gracia. For the budget-conscious, window shopping is great in Barcelona and you can easily walk around and imagine how your life would be if you had all the money you wanted and that unlimited credit card. Yes, Barcelona is a place of dreams.
Even when they are famous for organizing protests against Airbnb, Uber, or for fighting the negative effects of tourism, people in Barcelona are nice, communicative, and welcoming. Everywhere, you will find free smiles and good moods. People are used to controversy here, and that leaves them open-minded. However, some topics are sensitive in Barcelona; for example, their autonomy as their own region and their relationship with Spain, religious beliefs, and more. Beware of these political issues, but feel free to interact. Random conversations are part of the magic of this place.
You can probably say that food, art, beaches, shopping, and people are found in every beach city; but that still doesn’t explain the full magic of Barcelona. For me, the real secret lies in the combination of these elements. Or maybe I am wrong. Maybe it’s just Gaudi’s architecture, and the city’s stunning skyline, the influx of people, and the crazy languages you’ll hear. But I’ve visited many times, and I always have the need to return. With each trip, Barcelona is more and more a place I’ve started to feel like home. So I’ll continue to look for that magic — again and again and again.
Have you ever been to Barcelona? If so, what’d you think? If not, would you like to go? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!