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Hidden Barcelona

28th November 2020

Barcelona, Catalonia’s capital in the north east, is one of Spain’s most famous cities – and rightly so. It’s popular amongst tourists for everything it offers, from beaches and museums, to a great foodie scene and incredible architecture. It also has a fascinating history which is quite often played out in the books set there – like one of my favourites, The Shadow of the Wind.

Tibidabo

So, let’s start with the best place to get some amazing views over the city. Luckily, there are a lot of places in Barcelona with an incredible vantage point right across the buildings and all the way to the Mediterranean. You can go to one of the oldest theme parks in the world, Tibidabo (I can’t say that without thinking of Ross from friends and his backpacking story!), the bunkers of Carmel – built during the civil war and used as part of Barcelona’s air defense against the fascists, or Park Güell, the amazing house where Gaudi lived which offers one of the best sunsets. My personal favourite, however, is Montjuïc. If you’ve read The Shadow of the Wind, it’s the prison at the top of the hill during Franco’s dictatorship. It’s a beautiful walk past the fountains to the palace and even further up the hill to the 1992 Olympic park. The walk isn’t too difficult and there are some outdoor escalators (which are a novelty in themselves) and which are surrounded by beautiful bougainvillea. On the way back down, I can recommend buying a can of estrella and sitting on the steps in front of the castle to watch the sunset. We almost missed it because we were distracted by the instagrammers and their boyfriends – particularly one poor guy and the positions he was getting into to take the perfect sunset snap of his girlfriend. Very entertaining but it shows you the views are worth it.

The Gothic Quarter

About half an hour walk away from Montjuïc is my favourite neighbourhood, the Gothic Quarter. Full of mysterious alleyways and enchanting squares, it’s easy to see why this is the location for the Forgotten Books Cemetery in Shadow of the Wind. The architecture and charm from this barrio is totally captivating. One of the oldest and most beautiful streets is Calle Avinyo. Nowadays it’s a unique shopping street, but in the past it was Picasso’s old stomping ground and where he went to art school. It’s said that his Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is based on the prostitutes that used to frequent it! An incredible square in this area is Plaça de Sant Felip Neri. The history of the square changes depending when in history it is and who was in charge. The main building is quite clearly damaged. Some say it’s from firing squads during Franco’s dictatorship, others shots from the civil war. But the truth is that the convent was damaged by a bomb during the civil war that killed 30 children. It’s a fascinating place to stand and get a snippet of Barcelona’s history.

Barraca Restaurant

In general, I’d say you can give Barceloneta, the beach in Barcelona, a miss. It’s quite pretty but it’s always really, really full. Up and down the coast surrounding the city there are plenty of beautiful and much less crowded beaches. It is, however, an amazing area for food. If you’re after paella (and who isn’t when they’re in Spain), restaurant Barraca is one of the best. Now, usually there is a rule amongst Spaniards to avoid paella restaurants on the beach as they’re usually a bit of a tourist trap, but this one has been vetted by a Valencian living in Barcelona for ten years. So I think we can trust it. My very favourite restaurant in Barcelona though, is Bar Bodega L’Electricitat. It’s a small, authentic, loud tavern-style bar that does amazing local tapas. It also sells its own wine and vermouth which is stacked in barrels at the back and it isn’t unusual to see locals come in with their empty milk bottles to fill them up with delicious (and very cheap) wine. If you like crab sticks, which I don’t, there’s apparently a very delicious and famous crab stick salad you should try. The owners also seem to have some sort of deal with a gypsy duo, who come in and play the most incredible flamenco music and do this, quite honestly, awesome hand clapping thing that we were trying, and failing, to replicate for days.

Bar Bodega L’Electricitat

Barcelona is an amazing city with so many things to do, places to visit and streets to see. It also has some great bookish tours (make sure you keep your eyes peeled for our blog on the best book based walking tours in the world coming soon)! And, seeing as most of us are not travelling right now, here are our recommendations for Ten Great Books set in Barcelona. Enjoy!

Charlotte for the TripFiction team

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