This post was most recently updated on February 29th, 2016
I’m sitting here at my desk, looking outside and only seeing a sea of white. Winter storm Juno has just rocked the entire Northeastern United States, and here in New York, we were considered “lucky” to not have seen the worst of it. To me, luck would have been if the sun had somehow shown through and palm trees sprang out of the ground…
In an attempt to mentally escape this white desert, I pictured myself with a glass of sangria in hand on la Barceloneta. A perfect urban setting on the Mediterranean Coast sounds a lot better than having to layer my clothes four times before going outside.
Okay, so my mirage has now disappeared, but Barcelona is definitely where my mind is.
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Barcelona twice in my life; once in the winter, and once in the summer. The summer is by far my favorite because of the life that it brings to the city, its people, and each neighborhood. Barcelona is not even close to being authentic Spain, but that’s okay because it is a city that is not limited by national influences; in fact, I would argue that it is one of the most multicultural centers in all of Europe. If you want to see true Spain, get out of here and head towards Madrid and down to Andalucía; Barcelona has its own image and is proud to have it that way. The city is the sixth most populated in all of Europe and the second most in Spain; needless to say, Barcelona brings people of all cultures and ethnicities together. The majority of the immigrants come from Pakistan, Italy, China, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Morocco, to name a few; these countries span the whole globe and are not simply neighbors of Spain. This creates a melting pot where food, culture, and practices are intertwined.
There are many ways in which the city displays its rich diversity, but I believe the best way that it does so is in the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, more famously known as La Boqueria. This ancient market has been around since the early middle ages: 1217. You walk in, stunned by the array of colors that you see and the strong aromas you smell. Some of my favorite stands to see were the fruit stands that sold all different types of fruit juices, the seafood stands with a variety of catches, and the paella booths. To me, food is the main representative of a culture and a way in which people can come to understand each other; it is almost a diplomatic tool, and La Boqueria brings food and people together to be just that. During our stay in Barcelona, I can honestly say that I only ate Spanish food twice; the rest was ethnic food hailing from all of Barcelona’s different immigrant peoples. The traditional Spanish tapas concept, often used by the foreign-born citizens, appeals to the locals and is a method that works like clockwork. Restaurants such as Negro Carbon with Argentinian cuisine and Bouzu with its Japanese style have fully integrated this way of serving food and have thus combined their cultures.
Barcelona’s artistic and free-spirited essence draws me into the city. There’s a reason that the surrealist Salvador Dali, and the architect Antoni Gaudi flourished here; the community of Barcelona is very open to self-expression and innovation. Some of the shops that push this concept of modernity include The Outpost, for menswear, and 24 Kilates, for all your footwear needs. But the new style of restaurants really give fuel to the new movement; a gastronomy restaurant, Tlaxcal, changes the perception of Mexican food; if you want Mediterranean/Spanish cuisine, then head over to La Cova Fumada; for Japanese-Brazilian fusion, make your way to Ikibana Paralelo. The new look of the city certainly appeals more to a younger crowd, but can definitely attract people of all ages!
One of the most important aspects of the city is the great sports club, FC Barcelona. I am a huge fan of all sports and love to watch futbol at its best; Barcelona’s squad is always top tier. As for their underrated basketball team, the same applies; the basketball team is consistently one of the best in Europe and has sent multiple players to the NBA.
Finally, if you’re in the city for the first time, there a few places that you absolutely have to visit to grasp Barcelona’s culture. First off, walk down Las Ramblas, a shopping street filled with stores, stands, and carts, which serves as the border between the neighborhoods El Raval and Barri Gotic. Next comes the Sagrada Familia, a minor basilica designed by Antoni Gaudi, which has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the Park Guell (also designed by Gaudi) gives you an impressionable view of Barcelona; and lastly, up on a tall hill, overlooking all of Barcelona, visit Castell de Montjuïc to see how Barcelona has changed over the years.
If you’re like me, and you like a lot of culture in a warm, sunny setting, then make sure to mark your calendar for a trip to Barcelona this summer. Barcelona holds a history of over 2,000 years and features some of the liveliest people in all of Europe. You are guaranteed a good time when you get there! Barcelona is one of those ideal locations that lives up to the hype that the rest of create about it.