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And Now for Something Completely Different: An Alternative Weekend in Barcelona
Barcelona is one of the world’s most-visited tourist destinations, and for a good reason. This Mediterranean city boasts cultural life, a packed events calendar, architecture, and fantastic food. The Gothic Quarter, the Rambla, the Sagrada Familia cathedral, and the city’s waterfront all draw in the crowds. But if you’ve been there, done that and bought the T-shirt, take a look at this hand-picked list of cool and interesting things to do.
Flea Markets and Barcelona’s New Waterfront
Shopping is always an option, since the city center is dotted with boutiques, malls, and department stores. But if on your short break to Barcelona you’d rather pass the time somewhere other than the trendy designer shops of Passeig de Gràcia or Rambla de Catalunya, jump on the Barcelona Metro to Encants tube station and get ready to spend hours at the nearby flea market.
The Encants market is an open-air venue where goods have been sold and traded for more than five centuries. Today, more than 500 sellers offer all sorts of antiques, second hand clothing, collectibles like vinyl records, stamps, coins, and books, and pretty much everything that you can imagine. The market is open daily from 9.00 am to 8.00 pm (except on Sundays).
Once you’ve grabbed a few bargains from Encants, head back to the Metro station and try to locate the Agbar tower, Barcelona’s most iconic skyscraper and its own version of London’s Gherkin. Walk towards the tower and get on the ‘tramvia’, a tram line that runs between the huge Glòries shopping center and Diagonal Mar, which is the city’s new waterfront and one of Barcelona’s most happening districts. Luxury hotels, shopping outlets, parks, high-rise buildings, and swanky restaurants are all here. There are also a couple of quiet beaches a few minutes away from the Forum convention center.
Although many tourists make the most of the excellent wine available in Barcelona, don’t forget that the microbrewery revolution has taken the city by storm too.
You can now find a wide range of excellent craft beers at the city’s microbreweries and gastro pubs, which are often tucked away in neighborhoods like Sagrada Familia (check out venues like La Bona Pinta or Cervesera Artesana), the Gothic Quarter (Ale Hop, Cerveteca), and El Born (Cat Bar). For a great selection of Belgian beers, stop by Cerveceria Catalana, a cool venue in the trendy Eixample area that also serves tapas and is handy if you want to hit the local nightclubs later on.
A change of scenery at Tibidabo Mountain
Most people make a beeline for Barcelona’s legendary beaches to relax and unwind, but locals know of a more interesting escape from the crowds. The Tibidabo mountain overlooks the city and the sea, being the highest peak of the Collserola mountain range. Locals flock there to enjoy the outdoors, get some fresh air, go for short walks in the forest, or enjoy a picnic. There’s also an amusement park here that is ideal for families with children.
You can easily reach the Tibidabo by public transport. Bus T2A leaves from Plaça Catalunya (the city center square), but for a scenic ride up the mountain, get on the Funicular, a cable car that runs every 15 minutes and which departs from the Avinguda Tibidabo station. Once there, get ready to enjoy the most spectacular views of the city. This is a definite must-see for every visitor to Barcelona!
Barcelona is a city with plenty to discover. If you want somewhere that has more than just the usual tourist attractions, it’s the place for you.
Simon Ferguson is a travel writer based in North London. When not globe-trotting, he enjoys cooking, sleeping and walking.
Images by Procsilas Moscas, marimbajlamesa and stvcr used under creative commons license.
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