BARCELONA BY THE LOCALS
Matthew Hall GOES BEHIND THE GAUDI ATTRACTIONS AND FAMILIAR TOURIST HAUNTS TO FIND THE BARCELONA THE LOCALS KNOW AND LOVE.
1 EAT & DRINK: 7 PORTES
A 180-year-old Barcelona institution, 7 Portes is all about its blue tiles, white tablecloths, and buttoned-up professional waiters. Oh, and quality Catalan food. The starchy wait staff don’t mean this restaurant is stuffy; it means this place is about quality, and for a reasonable price. An example of how iconic 7 Portes is: you will be eating at the same tables that have entertained locals like Picasso, Miro, and Dali, and fellow tourists like Robert de Niro and scientist Alexander Fleming. We sat at Charlton Heston’s table, ate an incredible paella, and drank a lot of wine. At lunch. Close to the beachside area of Barceloneta, make reservations by email or expect a long wait for a table. Passeig Isabell II, 14; www.7portes.com
2 SPORT: NOU CAMP
FC Barcelona’s home ground is a must-see whether or not you are a roundball fan. This is the workplace for Leo Messi, the best footballer in the world (sit down Cristiano Ronaldo fans, we’re in Barcelona, OK?) where you can join 99,000 fans (and, let’s be real, a ton of tourists) watching one of the best soccer teams in the world do their stuff while – put down your meat pie – eating churros and drinking hot chocolate. Buy seats online where FC Barcelona’s website has a slick online ticketing system where you can see what view of the pitch your Euros will buy you. Big games (versus Real Madrid and Champions League matches) are difficult to get into but midweek La Liga games usually have availability. The Camp Nou Experience – a museum tour (closed on match days) – is worth the effort for history and the context of FCB’S Catalan identity and why the team means a lot to the city. You will also get to see a lot of trophies. Carrer d’aristides Maillol, 12; www.fcbarcelona.com
3 SHOP: HOLALA
Barcelona shopping can overflow with giant Euro chains (high end and fast fashion) along fancy Passeig de Gracia while tiny designer boutiques hide away in the less lush Gothic Quarter and El Raval. There’s also Holala, a vintage superstore with a 40-year pedigree and customers that include Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano and our Kylie. Holala’s main store is found close to MACBA and CCCB – leading art and cultural centres – where serious retroistas will find racks of high quality vintage clothes and cool furniture sourced from across Europe, the US, Japan, and Australia. Amazing staff might also give you tips on bars and clubs if you ask (we bought a jacket AND got put on a guest list at a club for later that night). Plaza Castella, 2.
4 SHOP: PARTISANO
Barcelona has a long history of anti- authoritarianism – the Catalans are fiercely independent and there has long been a legitimate movement to secede from Spain. Political awareness is almost compulsory and protest and demonstrations are a part of life. Partisano is a small store selling cool and edgy t-shirts-with-a-cause that go beyond cliched Che Guevara images. You can also find vinyl by your favourite anarchopunk reggae band and merch from St Pauli, the German professional soccer club popular with hippies, punks, and associated reprobates. It’s the type of place that reminds you much of Barcelona is refreshingly anticorporate. Don’t expect the person behind the counter to smile unless your Catalan is on point. Carrer de les Sitges, 8.
5 STAY: CASA CAMPER
Originally from the Balearic island of Mallorca, Camper shoe stores (Camper translates from Catalan as “farmer”) are all over Barcelona. As well as walking the streets in cool Camper shoes, you can stay in a Camper hotel. Boutique luxury that isn’t stuffy, Casa Camper’s interior design is by Fernando Amat, one of the people behind iconic store Vincon (1941-2015, RIP) which should be enough for style nerds to book a suite for a week. If walking around the city is not your thing (although it should be) take one of the hotel’s free bikes. In fact, once you’ve paid for your room, everything at Casa Camper is free (except the restaurant and bar).
Another quirk: its water recycling system reuses shower and bath water for its toilets. Carrer de Elisabets, 11; www.casacamper.com
6 EAT: EUSKAL ETXEA
Basque pinxto (“pinch-o”) bars can be found across Barcelona but Euskal Etxea (try saying that after a bottle of wine), which translates as “Basque House”, is the best. Tucked away near the Picasso Museum, Euskal Etxea ranks so high probably because the restaurant is part of the Basque Cultural Centre – the staff care about their culture and their customers and are happy to share know-how on food. Just like the original idea behind tapas, grab a drink and plate, and take a pinxto – or three – from the platters on the bar. Repeat. Keep your toothpicks – priced between €1-€3 – they will be counted for your bill when you are done. Placeta de Montcada, 1; www.euskaletxeataberna.com
7 EAT: EL NACIONAL
There are thousands of amazing tiny restaurants in Barcelona so why visit fancy El Nacional, a place as big as an aircraft hangar that seats 700? Because this place offers five areas specialising in meat, fish, tapas, rice, and a deli that all highlight Spanish regional cooking prepared with ingredients from Spain, Portugal and the south of France. Don’t want to eat? Try one of the bars that showcase local beer, wine, cava and cocktails – and oysters. The space is unique, too. Prior to becoming a restaurant, the building was a theatre, a fabric factory, a car dealer and – before it became a huge restaurant – a garage. Passeig de Gràcia, 24 bis; www.elnacionalbcn.com
8 EAT & SHOP: ST JOSEP LA BOQUERIA
Located just off La Ramblas, La Boqueria is the geographical and spiritual centre of the long pedestrian mall that rolls out from Placa Catalunya all the way down to the statue of Christopher Columbus looking out to the Mediterranean Sea and the Americas. This working market is filled with stalls selling everything from flowers to all you need for a home-cooked lunch or dinner. You will also find foodie gifts and – this is important – hole-inthe-wall bars and cafes that attract loyal locals and tourists. Pull up to the counter and order breakfast or lunch. Be warned: Barcelona can swarm with tourists and La Boqueria can get overrun, especially on Saturdays. As an alternative, try Mercat de Santa Caterina in El Born which is usually less full of turistas. La Rambla, 91.
9 EAT & DRINK: BOCA GRANDE
A hip (not hipster) yet unpretentious bar and restaurant in the Eixample that hits with its ambience, attitude, and food (oh, and check out the toilets for their mirrors and Damien Hirst poster art). You will need to make reservations for dinner but lunch is an easier fit after you have checked out the nearby Gaudi-designed Casa Mila and Casa Batllo. If a table is hard to come by, drop by for a cocktail and some local celebrity spotting (it’s that kind of place). Passagate de la Concepcio, 12; www.bocagrande.cat
10 EAT & DRINK: BAR LOBO
Hidden a few blocks from Las Ramblas in El Raval, you could spend all day at Bar Lobo and still not eat the same thing twice. Light and airy inside, Bar Lobo also has tables on the square (like most Barcelona bars) and a menu that starts with breakfast and ends with well-priced dinner dishes. Traditional Iberian lunch culture dictates a three-course Menu of the Day and Bar Lobo keeps this tradition with a €12 deal. While Spain was once lean for vegetarian options, the opposite is now true in Barcelona. Even carnivores will want to try Bar Lobo’s fried artichokes. “Come with us to Bar Lobo – it’s where the locals go,” a random French guy suggested one night. We knew this already but he was still right. Pintor Fortuny 3.