Airport Rating *****
Reception of locals *****
I don't really like going to the same city twice. There's a feeling about seeing something for the first time that is difficult to replicate. Barcelona, however, is one of a handful of cities I've visited on more than one occasion, and it never disappoints.
There are very few European cities that tick the box of having a nice beach as well as being a city break, Barcelona and Valencia are two of the best that I have been to, with Barcelona offering more of a 'big city' feel.
On the two occasions I have been to Barcelona, I have been with two different groups of friends, and had two different experiences. On both occasions I managed to have long strolls through various parts of the city to get a feel for the place.
Walking through the city centre, buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi really do stand out. Each building is very distinctive, but he's most famous piece of work is located firmly in the Gothic Quarter, the famous Sagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family). In the middle of a large plaza, the Church is a large, imposing Gothic structure and definitely takes your breath away when you first see it. Construction began on the Church in 1882 but is still not completed, and won't be for at least another decade, a construction period of almost 150 years!
We decided to hop onto a short bus to the Olympic Village, located in the hills surrounding Barcelona. Built for the 1992 summer olympics, the complex has several sporting arenas as well as large open spaces that overlook the city itself. To get a good view of Barcelona, its definitely worth taking a trip to the Olympic Village.
At the centre of the Village is the Olympic Stadium that was built in the 1920's but renovated in the late 80's for the 1992 games. The stadium has a feel of an old school football stadium, but looks impressive nonetheless. The Village itself is nice and relaxing, and although not a lot to do in the way of activities, its a great place to take a walk and relax as well as seeing some unique sights (including the large mobile phone tower).
Back in the city centre, we decided to take a walk down La Rambla, the main street running through the city centre. We took the route from the city heading toward the port and as with many other popular city areas, the road was full of market stalls, street performers and large stories.
I was warned before hand that La Rambla is one of the worst destinations in Western Europe for pick pockets, so, like most crowded areas, I tend to keep one hand in my pocket covering my wallet and phone. In the other pocket I leave my salai upside down, nice little surprise for any would be pick pocket.
La Rambla is very nice, is it anything special? I'm not so sure, it certainly wasn't my favourite part of the city. There are so many other places where you can see older European buildings, expressions of Catalan culture or more traditional and unique shops. I even thought the street performers were more entertaining around the port as opposed to La Rambla.
Placa de Catalunya is generally considered the centre of the city, and like its counterparts in other European cities, it is surrounded on all sides by grande buildings, whilst the square itself is pigeon central. The square was built in the early 1900's and is well worth the visit to experience the buzz of the city.
The nightlife in Barcelona is some of the best in Spain (second only to Ibiza). There are a number of theatres, restaurants bars and clubs in both the beach area, the strip and the city centre. We found a bar that was open to playing different music, we gave the DJ a couple of hundred Euro's and decided to take over with Bhangra music. The look on people's faces walking past was quite funny, a few decided to come in and join us, most walked in and walked right back out.
Barcelona is famous for its Motorsport, hosting the Spanish Grand Prix of Formula 1 as well as races in the Moto GP calendar. Barcelona also has one of the largest go kart tracks in Europe and so we took the 30 minute drive outside of the city to try it out. Unlike in England, safety standards are more lax, which I'll admit makes it a bit more fun. As advertised, the track was very large, and the karts also seemed a lot quicker. With the amount of rain we get in England, most go kart tracks I had been to have been indoors so it was great to have a go on an outdoor track, although the rougher surface mean't the vibrations quickly begin to hurt your hands on the steering wheel. The whole experience lasted a couple of hours and it was a lot of fun. If go karting is something you enjoy, I'd definitely recommend having a go in this city.
The big attraction for me, and the thing I was looking forward to the most was the Nou Camp. Having seen a number of English, European, and a South American stadium, the Nou Camp was at the top of my list of stadiums to see. I attended a Barcelona v Malaga game, and needless to say, the stadium did not let me down at all.
We had seats right at the back, but this wasn't a bad thing as it allowed for a good panoramic view of the stadium. I remember climbing the steps, anticipation building and then reaching the top, looking over the pitch and then, speechlessness. This was more impressive than Wembley and the Bernabeu. You can see the surrounding city over the sides of the stadium, and you can literally walk right to the edge, health and safety was definitely thrown out the window here.
The atmosphere was good, although for a relatively unimportant league game, it was obviously not what you would expect in an El Classico or European game, but it was great to hear a rendition of El Cant del Barca (the Barca anthem) in person. Sight lines aren't great, which isn't surprising considering the stadium was built in the 1950's. The Nou Camp is the largest stadium in Europe, and unlike some other stadiums of comparable capacity, you could definitely get a sense of just how big this stadium is.
Barcelona is a city that offers variety. From beaches, to a vibrant city centre, the relaxing tranquility of the hillsides, to the entertainment in the port area there is something for every and the Nou Camp is a sight to be seen, even for non football fans.
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.