I took a plane to......
well, not to Ibiza as the song says, but not too far either ......this time I took a plane to Barcelona! Which is always great for a weekend-get-away. As I have been already a couple of times in Barcelona and have ticked all the major touristic sights in these visits like the Familia Sagrada - this time it was more a party trip for the annual music festival SONAR.
So let's talk about SONAR first, which happens in Barcelona every summer - it is a 3-days long festival of progressive music and multimedia arts. Through the website you can check full programs and purchase tickets - here you have various options for either all days or specific days and there is also a choice of various day and night tickets. Check out www.sonar.es
The festival takes place at the Fira Montjuic during the day and at the Fira Gran Via L'Hospitalet for the night gigs. I really enjoyed the laid back vibe of the festival and the big choice of various stages and halls. Tasty food was provided through creative Foodtrucks and a large bar supplied the drinks. With the so called cashless system, payment was made easy and quick, so there was at no time longer queues at the bar.
If you look for a different kind of festival I can really recommend to try out Sonar.
Where to stay.....
I stayed at the Olivia Plaza Hotel (www.oliviaplazahotel.com), which I have booked online through booking.com - with 180 EUR per room and night excluding breakfast not a cheap deal - but hotel prices in Barcelona have drastically gone up over the past month, especially for the summer season.
Good things first - the big plus of this 4* Boutique Hotel is its central location at the Plaza Catalunya. The affordable airport shuttle bus stops right in front of the hotel. Also nice is the small courtyard garden which is bordering an old Convent.
Now the lay down of the hotel - check properly which room category you have booked. My standard room was facing the inside lobby of the hotel - so there was basically no window or daylight - so although the room was nice and modern, it felt like a prison and air circulation was bad.
So this hotel is only good if you get a confirmed room to the outer hotel side with a proper window - however these rooms might be noisy as Plaza Catalunya is just right out there.
Where to eat.....
Breakfast - for a nice breakfast I would recommend a trip down to the Barceloneta Beach, which is basically the city beach of Barcelona. You can find here a number of small beach Cafes with a sea breeze to wake you up and afterwards you can have a walk along the beach or a dip in the sea.
For an alternative and very local breakfast I can also recommend a visit to the Mercado de la Boqueria in the middle of Las Ramblas. Have a toast and some juice there and later stroll through the market for a trial of further Spanish delights.
Lunch - if you have not been to Barceloneta for breakfast try it out for lunch - if you are into burgers go to Makamaka (www.makamaka.es) - the long queue in front of the restaurant speaks for itself.
Other nice lunch options you can find in the Olympic Harbour - which is also a hot spot at night and most of the restaurants there transfer into clubs at a later hour. I was at the Japanese restaurant Shoko (www.shoko.biz), which had excellent sushi on the more expansive side. For the night Opium (www.opiumbarcelona.com) is one of the famous places to party.
Dinner - usually the places around Las Ramblas and at the Gothic Quarter are very touristic and you can end up paying a lot of money for bad food. However a different restaurant and real nice place to go is Oceana at Plaza Reail (www.ocana.cat) - which is owned by a Drag Queen couple who entertain their guests by themselves beside some real nice food and creative cocktails. If you choose to sit outside you overlook the beautiful Plaza Reail or otherwise if seated inside you get the unique vibe and comical interior.
Where to have drinks with a view......
For rooftop drinks check out:
Hotel Pulitzer - Pulitzer Terrace (www.hotelpulitzer.es) for some nice bar food, drinks and DJ music.
For amazing views over Barcelona visit Skybar at the Grand Central Hotel (www.grandhotelcentral.com)- it is a more quiet place where you can enjoy exquisite cocktails with some chilled tunes or have dinner while floating above the city. Usually the venue is only open for hotel guests after 21.00 hrs, but call them and they might be able to accommodate you before that.
As said earlier this trip was not much about real sightseeing, but walking around I came across some nice places....
Of course to start with when you are in Barcelona you can not miss a walk down Las Ramblas, which hosts also some of the main touristic sights of Barcelona as the busy Mercado de la Boqueria or the picturesque Plaza Reail. If you avoid the peak times where hordes of tourists meet at Las Ramblas you can take a nice stroll down the tree alley and have a coffee break in one of the many restaurants. Las Ramblas is also a spot to buy some touristic souvenirs or get yourself portrayed. As in all touristic places in Barca, but especially here be aware of pickpocketers, who are really artists in their business.
Barcelona is of course famous for all the architectures of Antoni Gaudi Cornet (1852-1926) - off Las Ramblas in Nou de la Rambla, 3-5 you can find the Palau Guell (www.palauguell.cat), which was the first mission the young Gaudi received from the industrialist Eusebi Guell, who became later Gaudi's best friend. Palau Guell is the only example of domestic architecture that Gaudi completed and that has not undergone significant alteration.
Another nice Barcelona stroll is through the Gothic Quarter where you feel taken back in time....
At the seaside end of Las Ramblas you find the Moll de Bosch i Alsina where many Yachts are docked opposite the huge Magnemarum Shopping Mall and Aquarium - a nice place for lunch or an afternoon coffee.
Before your trip to Barcelona check out www.timeout.com/barcelona for the latest tips on restaurants, bars, sights and things that are going on in the city. I for example came across the recommendation for a Food Festival that was happening that weekend and where I got some real nice local food and wines.
Some last words.......
In the Gothic Quarter I discovered a nice store that is doing some stylish leather boots in all colors Pocahontas style.....one for all the girlies :-) The boots are not coming cheap, but for sure nobody else around you wears them and the quality of the leather is great.
Avinyo 8, Barrio Gotico
If too much walking is not your thing and you are looking for a different way to explore the city in the summer - rent a Scooter!
Carrer Pintor Fortuny 5
And some last impressions......