After a two-week break, Formula 1 is back. This time, we’re in Spain for the start of the traditional European leg of the season. Last year Max Verstappen became the youngest ever Formula 1 winner at the circuit. So, if you’re in Barcelona to see if the Red Bull driver repeats history, below is a destination guide for the vibrant city.
At a Glance
Barcelona is a magical city, there is no doubt about that. The capital of Catalunya, the municipality is home to 1.6 million people – the largest region on the stunning Mediterranean sea.
The city of Barcelona dates back to the Middle Ages, and Round 5 of the Formula 1 2016 season takes place just 25KM away from the city center.
Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has played host to Formula 1 since 1991, and since then has been the location for many testing periods for the teams. We have seen some incredible racing there in the past – in 1991 with Senna and Mansell- and the city, like the action on the track, is unlikely to disappoint.
One of my top tips for eating out is to avoid the front line of restaurants. For a taste of true authenticity, venture one or two streets back to a place without an English menu. Tapas restaurants are, unquestionably, the best. It is often found that the Sangria in the lesser-known quarters of the city is even more delicious. However, like any city, pickpocketing is pretty common, so keep hold of your belongings.
Quimet I Quimet is a gem. This tiny bar offers traditional Spanish style cuisine and some of the best tapas in the city. The specialties are ‘conservas’ – shellfish preserved in tins- which aren’t always to non-Spanish tastes, but the ‘montaditos’ – sculpted tapas served on bread- are nothing short of spectacular. It has been thoroughly recommended to try the salmon sashimi with cream cheese, honey, and soy, or cod, passata, and black olive pâté. My advice – get there early for any chance of a surface to put your drink on!
Felice is a restaurant specialising in dishes from the continent. Felice, led by Lamar and Desiree, are a Dutch couple who have a curious combination of tapas and Spanish cuisine merging with the Dutch. There you will find a real variety and quality of dishes, made with fresh products. Suitable for families with a lovely outside area to dine, this place is a real winner. Just don’t forget to try their tuna steak!
The nightlife in the city is amazing. The clubs don’t really get busy until 1 am, but if you go earlier, you can get in for free. Check the Gothic Quarter for smaller clubs, or El Raval for the bigger clubs. Either way, you’re in for a great night out.
Gothic Quarter: Here you’ll find scores of sassy little party spots hidden away in dark corners, such as the stylish Milk Bar, which has an excellent cocktail menu, and not forgetting the famous Sugar. In addition, there’s a selection of Irish and British pubs, like the friendly and flirty Flaherty’s, where you can mingle with some fellow tourists – head along to their Beer Pong tournaments on Thursdays for a laugh. Be warned though, the locals take such events very seriously! Plaza Real (Royal Square) is another great place to orientate yourself in this neck of the woods, with famous clubs like Jamboree, Sidecar and Taranto’s perennial faves with the backpacker crowd that congregates here.
El Raval was once a bit of a no-go for tourists, but now that has all changed. Today, it is one of Barcelona’s most bustling tourist hub with nightlife to remember. Bar Marsella is famously known as one of the oldest operating absinthe bars in Barcelona and has been serving guests since 1820. Nowadays, it is most popular with sangria loving students and boasts a lively and bubbly atmosphere, particularly after midnight when the environment really livens up. However, it has a certain nostalgic charm, paying homage to its ‘oldest bar’ status, which can be enjoyed on its quieter days. Attracting the likes of Picasso and Hemingway in the past, Bar Marsella is clearly a fantastic choice of a bar. Oh, and watch out for their shots of absinthe too.
Seeing the Sights
The beaches of Barcelona are spectacular. Oata Beach, north of the city, is quiet, pristine and very flat, with oodles of space on the beautiful golden white sand. It’s a half-hour trip on the train out of the city but worth travelling a little further afield for pure relaxation. Caldetes Beach is another firm favourite. If you’re looking for no-frills beach action, this is the one for you. Although it’s only a short ride north of the city center, Caldetes is comparatively deserted and helps you to unwind even more.
La Seu contrasts entirely to the beaches. At La Seu, you can marvel at the soaring spaces in one of the greatest Gothic cathedrals in Spain. Situated in the Gothic quarter, The Gothic Cathedral there today was built on the foundations of the primitive paleo-Christian basilica and the subsequent Romanesque Cathedral. Construction commenced in 1298 during the mandate of Bishop Bernardo Pelegrí and the reign of King James II of Aragon, the Just, and was virtually completed by the mid-15th century, under the mandate of Bishop Francesco Clemente Sapera and the rule of King Alfonso V of Aragon. The site is steeped in endless history that is bound to fascinate. It is well worth taking an hour or so to visit.
Lastly, PortAventura is one for the thrill seekers. This theme park boasts multiple records (King Khajuna – Europe’s tallest freefall slide of 31 meters and 55-degree descent) but rides for all the family too. Located an hour’s drive from the city, it is easy to get to. The park features different areas, each differently themed. This includes Mexico, Mediterrània, and China, to name a few. New to open at the end of this year is Ferrari Land, which has cost in the region of $100 million to build. As for the rides that you can go on right now, Shambhala: Expedición al Himalaya hits speeds of over 83 MPH and is not for the faint-hearted. I recommend it!
Getting around Barcelona is much more simplistic than one may initially think. Public transport is your best bet, if not wanting to walk by foot, and is very reasonable too.
Here is a link to all the information you need about transportation in the city- http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/transport/transport-in-barcelona.html
The verdict? Barcelona is a spectacular city – sun, sea, sand and architecture, there’s not much to not like.