A Surreal Journey into the Capital of Catalan
In a word, the capital of Catalonia is surreal. Dreamlike, whimsical, daring. It’s no wonder the likes of Dali, Miró and Gaudi sought to create their works of wonderment here.
After the 1992 Olympics, Barcelona went through a rebirth, and is now one of the hottest destinations in all of Europe. Swinging nightlife, sultry beaches, the sound of the language (hint: it’s not Spanish) collides to create a sensuous, sublime city.
You might arrive into the Franca train station. First built in 1929, it is Barcelona’s most beautiful. With marble, bronze and crystal, the décor, compare to design elements around the rest of the city, is far more traditional and opulent. What makes the station different is that it is made of two buildings surrounding the rail tracks in the shape of a U.
Exit the station and be immediately captivated by the city’s energy. Sounds of Spanish guitar echo through the monumental walls of the station, while the aroma of coffee and churros vie for your attention.
Want an overview of the city before hitting up all the highlights? The Barcelona Bus Turistic is your barca-lounger. The bus has a whopping 44 stops along its route. You can choose from two different 2-hour routes or a 40-minute quickie. Plus, you’ll get a discount book with over 100 euros in savings. Spend your savings on Las Ramblas and the elegant Passeig de Gracia.
There’s so much more to Barcelona than La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell and the Joan Miro Museum. When you get off the bus, explore the charming squares, dark passageways of the Gothic Quarter and the beaches, thriving with bombshell Catalonians. And remember to leave your “Spanish” in Madrid.
Barcelona will allow you to enjoy a day at the beach in the morning while admiring Gaudi architecture in the afternoon. In the evening, hit up a cava bar to celebrate your surroundings. Cava is the Spanish version of Champagne. Delightful and bubbly, just like the locals. One of the best places in Barcelona to try some is El Xampanet. Operated by the same family since the 1930’s and close to the Picasso Museum, you’ll find marble tables and walls adorned with colorful tiles. For the brave, try the typical, accompanied snack: Anchovies in vinegar.
Being in Barcelona will leave you with a smile as stretched as Las Ramblas. While strolling the maze of boulevards, keep a mindful eye on your belongings while playing card games with a street vendor. Located between the Gothic Quarter and El Raval, using a Barcelona Card you can arrive via the Catalunya metro station, one of the city’s oldest and most iconic. Meet an old or new friend in front of Font de Canaletes, a popular gathering spot in the center of it all.
From the Barcelona Sants station, you can take off on numerous day trips using RENFE services or perhaps even a quick trip on an AVE high-speed train. The tiny fishing village of Cadaqués, just about two hours away by train to Figueres and taxi/bus to Cadaques has the requisite craggy coastline and vistas that when sundrenched, turn to colors only seen in one’s imagination. Which is probably why many painters came to be inspired, including native son, Salvador Dali. The artist spent his summers here, using the gorgeous backdrop as his inspirational turn to Surrealism.
You can see more than the rest of Spain while in Barcelona. Like Paris. Really. Enjoy an overnight journey on the lavish Elipsos Train Hotel. Equipped with modern touches and seats as wide as those found in first-class on an airplane, you’ll have no problem have dulces sueños.
From the land of “Allez” to the land of “Ole” in a single night. Perhaps you really are a jetsetter.
Contributed by: Mick, Rail Europe French Bilingual Staff, studied in France and became a nomad backpacker in Europe.