Today’s post is written by Charlie from world of travel photography, if you would like to know more about Charlie, please scroll down to the bottom of this post where you can find his details.
You may have heard about Barcelona in the news quite a lot recently. Since summer 2 major events have taken place which haven’t exactly painted the city in the best light, which is why I feel so passionate about writing this post. First there was the, quite frankly sickening, terrorist attack back in August and more recently the unrest about Catalonia (the region in Spain where Barcelona is located) voting to become an independent state and attempting to break away from Spain.
Both of these events however do not define this beautiful city that I have come to call my home and I feel as though the other side of the story needs to be told.
Firstly let me start by saying this isn’t going to be a politically driving post, this is just me showing you why I love it here and why, if you haven’t already, you should plan your next escape to this little corner of the world full of so much culture, fun and things to do.
Let’s start with a little background information
You can think of Spain as less of a country as a whole and more of a union of smaller regions which came together to form what we know as Spain today. In total there are 17 autonomous regions within the country which have varying degrees of independence from the central government in Madrid.
Catalonia is one of these autonomous regions.
You might think that in Spain the language everyone speaks is Spanish right? Well while this is true for 99% of the population there are also 3 other main languages spoken, the largest of these other languages is Catalan which is from Catalonia. In total 17% of the entire country of Spain speak Catalan (as well as traditional Spanish, or Castellano to give it its true name) so you can see that Catalan culture is well and truly alive and kicking.
This strong connection to their roots makes Catalans and the city of Barcelona a melting pot of traditional Spanish culture and Catalan culture. If your thinking ‘well Catalan can’t be that different from Spanish’ you’re wrong. It’s not a dialect, it is its own language entirely. I speak Spanish and can only just about understand the odd word of Catalan here and there.
The fact that the people of Barcelona identify so strongly as Catalan rather than solely Spanish is the reason the independence movement has gained so much momentum recently, but like I said this isn’t a political article so let’s move on to one of my favourite things about the city.
Barcelona is known the world over for its stunning buildings, mostly thanks to the 19th century architect Antonio Gaudi who used the city as his playground for creating his masterpieces. His most famous piece being the Sagrada Familia, a unique church that takes pride of place in the centre of the city.
The Sagrada Familia
It’s impossible to come to Barcelona and not see some of his creations. They are dotted all over the city, each one unique but at the same time distinctly ‘a Gaudi’.
Casa Batllo, another one of Gaudi’s creations
And finally we come to Park Guell. Gaudi designed it as a place for the local community to enjoy his unique style of architecture whilst looking out over Barcelona with a clear view all the way down to the sea.
The cities’ easy going vibe and eclectic mix of nationalities
Barcelona is anything but unwelcoming. As you walk through the narrow alleyways of the Gothic Quarter or down the famous La Rambla you will hear every language being spoken under the sun. The city is a metropolis in the true sense of the word, people from all over come to Barcelona to both visit and make a new life for themselves. Everyone is welcome here.
(PHOTO 5 Caption: La Rambla)
What sets this place apart from other big European cities is something intangible, its vibe. This is largely thanks to the fact Barcelona is situated on the coast and has a beautiful beach which for some reason seems to make everyone take life just that little bit slower. During the summer months people sunbath by the Mediterranean Sea, others can be seen playing volleyball and laughing with their friends. Then at night the beach turns into a chilled out bar under the stars, groups of friends sitting on the sand with beers and sangria in-hand chatting away late into the night.
Barcelona Beach found right on the cities’ door step
You can’t talk about Spain without talking about the food. This gets even more interesting when in Barcelona. The Spanish/Catalan mix really comes out when eating in this part of Spain. While you can still get a great Paella you’ll also find other traditional Catalan dishes with a Spanish influence on the menu.
Traditional Pa Amb Tomàquet Flickr Creative Commons Credit
Find a great little local cafe and order Pa Amb Tomàquet (toast with blended tomatoes and plenty of olive oil) for breakfast, or if you’re there in the right season some char grilled Calçots (a type of long thin onion that is cooked over bare flames and served with Romesco Sauce).
Calçots & Romesco Sauce Flickr Creative Commons Credit
I hope I’ve inspired you to visit my favourite city in Europe, if I have I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. If you have any questions about Barcelona drop them below as well and I’ll make sure I reply and help out as much as I can!
Thanks for reading.
Charlie is a travel photographer who shares his experiences and work over on his blog World of Travel Photography. Since a young age he has been passionate about travel and using photography to document the world as he sees it. Recently he has turned his attention to helping his readers get on the same path and turn their hobby of photography into part-time or even full-time work.