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newty1977

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B-A-R-C-E-L-O-N-A !!!!

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15.05.2006

Advantages:
Multicultural, pleasant and warm

Disadvantages:
None

Recommendable Yes:

Detailed rating:

Value for Money

Sightseeing

Shopping

Nightlife

Ease of getting around

Family FriendlyExcellent

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Barcelona is Spain's 2nd city, after the capital MADRID, but is one of the most popular of all European cities, experiencing a mushroom of interest following the Olympic games that were hosted in the city in 1992.

The city is however the CAPITAL of the Catalonia region of Spain, which is one of 17 autonomous communities in Spain. It has the 2nd largest inhabitant rate in Spain with almost 7 million residents.

Barcelona is located on the North East coast of Spain and is approximately 2 hours from London and Luton by plane. It is a little over 1 hour from Paris, Geneva and Lisbon, 45 minutes from Nice, 2 hours from Rome, Amsterdam, and Brussels, and between 2-3 hours from Berlin, Munich and Prague. As a European destination, it's very easily accessible for all with a major hub airport.

In fact, it is so easily accessible from the UK that a mate and I are going to fly over only in our clubbing gear one weekend in September, large it up and then fly back the next day !! hehehe … should be fun.

~~~~~~
Airport:
~~~~~~

Barcelona airport is a very modern and clean airport with two main terminals A and B. The airport is not too expansive and very well signposted within. There are a number of retail outlets beyond customs, from small bars and restaurants to boutique outlets and fashion stores selling labels such as Paul Smith, Hugo Boss, Nike, Prada, Gucci, and Calvin Klein.

The airport is located to the south of the city, but is not typical of some International airports, whereby a transfer into the heart of the city could take upwards of 30-minutes. In Barcelona you can reach the heart of the city within 10-15 minutes, although this is quite dependent upon traffic.

A taxi from the airport to the heart of the city will cost between €20-€25, which is around £15-£20

The airport welcomes a host of International carriers.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The 3 "F's" ~ Facts, Figures & Football:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Local Language: The local language in Barcelona is Catalan, but Spanish is widely spoken. Catalan is a language in it's own right and is actually quite similar to Italian, as well as Spanish. My mate Dino, whose Father is Italian, has often managed to get away with speaking in Italian in Barcelona. Shame I don't get away with speaking Scouse !! Mind you, I don't get away with that in England, so the only place I would realistically get away with it is in Holland or Belgium amongst Flemish speakers, but it's just all Double Dutch then !!

* Currency: Euros (Exchange rate: €1.46456 = £1.00)

* Climate: Mediterranean ~ April to October are generally moderate to warm months, with the remainder being somewhat cold. I was on business in Barcelona at the beginning of December 2005 and I couldn't believe I needed a coat and scarf!

* Peak Periods: The more popular hotels within Barcelona consider that all months with the exception of December to February can be considered as popular for corporate business. Leisure travellers generally travel in droves between May and September each year, so if you are looking for a bargain, the end of April or beginning of October can often be a good idea, with fairly good weather still to be enjoyed.

* Olympics: The Olympics were staged in Barcelona in 1992, upon Montjuïc hill to the south of Barcelona, with the port and harbour close by. This is where the Olympic stadium is situated and is now home to the city of Barcelona's 2nd football team Espanyol.

* Football Teams: As mentioned, Barcelona has two football teams.

FC Barcelona play at the fabulous "Nou Camp" stadium located to the south west of the city, near the Avenue Diagonal (Close to the Rey Juan Carlos and Princess Sofia Hotels), and holding a capacity of circa 110,000. FC Barcelona were crowned Spanish Champions last Wednesday, one day before I visited, and with two games left to play, beating their great rivals Madrid to the "La Liga" Championship.

Espanyol also play in La Liga, the Premier division in Spain, but only by the skin of their teeth! I departed Barcelona on Saturday afternoon last week, and Barcelona were due to play at home to Espanyol that evening, with Espanyol desperate for the points as they were in the relegation zone with just 2 games remaining. All they needed was a local Derby away from home against the Spanish Champions, who would be crowned that evening in front of their home fans! They duly lost 2-0 and it was all looking desperate. In hindsight (Isn't it a beautiful thing?!), I should have remained in Barcelona until the Sunday and taken the opportunity to go to the match with my mate Ramzi, and avid Espanyol fan, coincidentally with no finger nails! I had decided before planning my journey to travel back to England on the Saturday, as it was the final game of the English Premier League Season the following day, and Everton were playing at home, which meant I am bound to go, as I have a season ticket!! Silly Scouse!

Anyway, as I was typing this review, I realised I didn't know the result of the final league games, so I have just checked and noted they beat relegation rivals Sociedad 1-0 at home to finish above them and stay in the league, which was last night.

Thus, I have just duly text my mate Ramzi in Barcelona (I love modern technology!);

Me ~ "Congratulations Amigo… U stayed up … Espanyol! Espanyol!"
Ramzi ~ "Miracle scored in 92 min !"

… Goodness, high drama there then I thought! …

Me ~ "Muy

Pictures of Barcelona in general
Barcelona in general Picture 3662403 tb
Gaudi Barca
Bien Amigo!" (Means, "Very Good Friend")
Ramzi ~ "Gracias amigo for support"

Love it !! I've done my bit for Anglo-Spanish relations there!! hehe

As I mentioned above, Espanyol currently play at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona, but they are currently having a new stadium built not to far from the "Nou Camp", which the locals reverse "Camp Nou" because "Nou Camp" is the English way of stating it in Spanish if you follow?! Translated, it means "New Stadium, which - to me - seems to make more sense than saying Stadium New, but there we go!!

During weekdays, you can pay around €10 to take a tour of the "Nou Camp", which includes a very extensive museum of football, charting the links to the English game and the various Scottish and English footballers that originally played for the famous Spanish club, along with the many successes the club has experienced on the field. I was actually amazed how dirty the stadium was itself, with a lot of litter, graffiti and smashed up seats around the stadium. Mind you, maintenance for 110,000 seats must be a nightmare!

* Sport: Barcelona is a very sport orientated city, with the famous Grand Prix racetrack located nearby at Montmelo. In fact, it was the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend!

There are numerous sports clubs throughout the city, and the Rey Juan Carlos hotel (featured later) has a David Lloyd Tennis Club located next door, along with a large extensive Equestrian and Polo Club. I actually spent half an hour watching a Polo game from the window of my 15th floor bedroom on Saturday morning when I was waiting for the hotel bellboy to come and move me from the junior suite to a standard bedroom because I needed a late checkout.

The city is also renowned for it's skateboarding, with many skateboarders descending upon the city each year, due to the multitude of parks throughout the city, as well as the world famous harbour. This overwhelming popularity of Barcelona among skateboarders lead to a new anti-skateboarding (and multiple other activities) law, which came in effect on the first day of 2006. Although it is still possible to skateboard in the city, skateboarders are sometimes given tickets…. And not to a gig, cinema or theatre production may I add, but a ticket issuing a fixed penalty, the amount of which I am unsure.

~~~~~~~~~~~
Getting around:
~~~~~~~~~~~

Finding your way around Barcelona is, like any major city, very easy, with a number of different options open to visitors. Although, I must admit, when I first visited back in 1998 having just graduated from University, I had no idea of how to get around … Lord knows how I made it around Europe and home! In fact, I do, it was my two other mates who I left in charge of all map and navigation duties. Otherwise, I would still be wandering aimlessly around some European ruin, maybe sat with long scruffy hair, unkempt facial hair, and a cap uttering in the local lingo "Change please!"

Barcelona has a very modern and easy to use metro system, but I have only ever used it once on my very first visit because every other visit has been for business and I have either walked or taken taxis.

If you can use the Tube in London, then the Barcelona metro system will look familiar to you, with only 6 lines (L1-L5 and then L11), each colour coded on the metro map; red, purple, green, yellow, blue, and light green. There are also 3 metro-like commuter lines (L6-8); dark blue, brown and pink. You may ask why there was a jump from L9 to L11, which is because L9 and 10 are still undergoing construction.

Some of the systems run over ground, which are - to my knowledge - the 3 metro-like commuter lines.

A host of buses and some trams also run around the city, as well as the obligatory open top buses for jumping on and off and viewing the tourist attractions, but I have never used them!

Restaurants, Bars & Nightclubs:

This was my 5th or 6th visit to Barcelona, yet was the first time I had truly experienced what is considered to be typically Catalan cuisine.

I have absolutely no idea what the name of the restaurant was that my friend Ramzi took me too, and it was more like a dainty little café in truth, very typical of what you would find in many places on the continent, especially in France or Spain. However, there are many such cafés located within residential areas and back streets of the city, and of all my travelling of the world, one thing I have learned is to venture slightly off the beaten track in order to discover value for money and the real pearls of a destination. You must be careful that it's not a no-go area though!

The food was typically Catalan, with sausages and chips served on a platter ! Typically Catalan my eye I hear you all shout … sounds like some English meal that Jacques Chirac may have once commented upon enjoying … now, were they the words the French President used about English food me wonders?!

The sausages were very spicy and tasty and are allegedly very typical food locally, but we were also served with crunchy bread, similar to French toast, but in the shape of a large platter, accompanied with steamed onions, artichokes, sliced hams and meats, and vegetables. It was hardly gourmet stuff, but it was actually tasty food and the service was with a smile.

The ambiance was pretty relaxed and chilled, but with plenty of frantic conversation and hilarity … typical of such a small cramped environment in a café / bar. Five of us dined at 11.30pm, which was actually quite a rushed affair because "Not So Easy Jet" were late arriving (typical!) and even though the Spanish dine late, it's generally not this late or this early (if you are thinking of the kebab and curry house scenarios that occur all over the UK). However, as I was with friends, Ramzi and Jose (Spanish), Fabiano (Brazilian), and Frank (French), then it was pleasant and more than adequate for catching up! I am sure there is a joke in there somewhere … A Scouser, 2 Spaniards, a Frenchman, and a Brazilian dining out …

Ooooo … I know …

…..A Scouser, 2 Spaniards, a Frenchman and a Brazilian were dining out … the Scouser couldn't speak Spanish and looked bemused at the food, the commotion and the distinct lack of Spanish girls. The Scouser firstly tried to speak the International business language but English clearly wasn't his forte! Next he tried saying "Chicas", but Scouse Spanish didn't quite translate, so he tried to motion an hour glass figure with his hands …. Ahhh…. The party all nodded in response, as Ramzi beckoned the 50-year old waitress and reeling something off quickly in Spanish … Seconds later, the waitress returned to the table with a brandy glass!

I do however remember the name of the nightclub, "Luz de Gas", which is a theatre, converted during the evenings into a rather trendy Spanish nightclub. However, the name of the bar we went to before the nightclub is also lost on me…. Pay attention don't I?!!

Luz de Gas is very popular with the Barcelona Socialites and, it seems, the homosexual community! I was chatted up by no less than 3 guys, and absolutely no females (sob, sob!) … It must have been my new gangster hat! The club is located in the "Muntaner" district of Barcelona and is open until 6am in the morning … I vacated at around 5am … had to start work at 10.30am the next morning as well! Dohhh!

The Gothic quarter is a very popular area amongst students, and there are a hive on restaurants, club and bard in this area, if you want to take on more of an English style crawl from one place to the next, which doesn't fully appear to be the continental way!

I can highly recommend a restaurant in the Gothic area called Sikkim, where I dined with a colleague, Jacquie, back in 2001 … It has a very Indian/Asian theme, which may lead you into thinking it serves Oriental cuisine, but the restaurant embraces worldwide culinary influences and dishes.

The design of the restaurant is quite exotic, with a Buddha placed at the entrance, welcoming visitors … He's a nice chap actually, but I couldn't understand what he said, and he was quite lazy … just a fat chap sat there perched on a slab of concrete, arms folded… you know the sort! Hehehe (I'm mad!)

The candles, eastern scents and soft relaxing décor provide for quite a romantic ambiance. Shame my colleague was 40 and with a strong West Midlands accent! lol (No offence any Brummies who may be reading this … or 40 + ladies !! hehe)

In addition to the Gothic quarter is the harbour and La Rambla areas, which are excellent for - as you may imagine - seafood and are very lively and full of the hustle and bustle of tourists. La Rambla is one of Barcelona's most famous streets, which runs from east to west from near the old harbour, where a statute of Christopher Columbus points eastwards across the Mediterranean sea towards Genoa, his birthplace.

La Rambla is full of street entertainers and market stalls, which draw in the tourists, along with the Wax museum, world famous Opera house "El Liceu" (Yep, I'd never heard of it before either! Should I amend that to "allegedly world famous"? … Sod it, fine as it is), and a number of interesting buildings. Please do keep an eye out for pickpockets though, as this is one of their favourite haunts amongst the number of tourists and the hive of activity.

At the western side of La Rambla are many of Barcelona's department stores, which are excellent for shopping. The other really good shopping area is located in between the Barcelona Hilton and Princess Sofia Hotels on the Avenue Diagonal.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Barcelona Architecture:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The architecture of Barcelona is famous most notably because of the talents of one man, namely Antoni Gaudi, who lived and worked in the city before dying in June 1926.

Gaudi had a very Art Nouveau style and often decorated his architecture with colourful mosaic tiles, so his works stand out very clearly around the city, and are instantly recognisable throughout the world.

His most famous work is the construction of a church, Sagrada Família, started in 1882 and remains incomplete today. Construction continues on the church, which remains incomplete because Gaudi insisted that it should be constructed only with money raised through local donations rather than state, private or corporate funding. This was very typical of many medieval churches and cathedrals and Gaudi felt this was very important.

It is a fascinating church and one of the most architecturally beautiful I have ever had the fortune to visit.

~~~~~~~~~~~~
Tourist Attractions:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There are a whole host of tourist attraction throughout the city, in addition to some of those I have already mentioned, such as the Gaudi church and other architectural works, the was museum, opera house, football and Olympic stadiums.

Like most large cities, Barcelona has a zoo whose most famous resident was an albino gorilla! I say "was" because it died a few years back of skin cancer … no doubt due to the blazing Mediterranean sun and being cooped up in a small pen all day long! Poor thing! lol

There are a plethora of museums and art galleries throughout the city, with a gallery devoted to Pablo Picasso's lesser-known works, a contemporary art museum, the national museum of art, a naval museum, among others.

Near the harbour is an Aquarium, which is touted as the 2nd largest in the Mediterranean area, but I'm not sure after which. Maybe it's "Oceanarium" in Lisbon that Koshkha so EXCEPTIONALLY reviewed recently.

The hill of Tibidabo accommodates an amusement park, which is 512 metres high in the uptown area of Barcelona. There is also a monumental church upon its summit, displaying curious mosaics providing an examples of religious art style particularly vogue during the dictatorship. Finally, there is also the Torre de Collserola, a telecommunication tower designed by Norman Foster. The tower has a windowed balcony that provides fabulous views across the city.

This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Hotels & Accommodation:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There are a whole host of Internationally renowned hotels in Barcelona, but there are also plenty of budget hotels and hostels to choice from, with some only costing £15-£20 per night.

On my first stay within Barcelona, we stayed in a hostel located just off La Rambla, off a small courtyard at the east end of the pedestrian street.

However, as I know the hotels, I will give you a quick list of properties and their styles;


* Rey Juan Carlos ~ 5-Star

DISTANCE FROM AIRPORT ~ 10-15 minutes in a taxi, without traffic / Cost = Approximately €20

The hotel is located at the top of the Avenue Diagonal, which geographically speaking is actually the southwest side of Barcelona, inland from the famous coastline to the east and the mountains to the west. The area is both a Commercial and Educational area, with many of Barcelona's multinational companies based along the Diagonal. Also, within a very short walking distance is the city's main University building and associated educational faculties.

You can see the Nou Camp from many of the bedroom windows within the hotel, which is ideal for business travellers.

* Princess Sofia Hotel ~ 4 Star

DISTANCE FROM AIRPORT ~ 10-15 minutes in a taxi, without traffic / Cost = Approximately €20

Located approximately 5 minutes walk from the Rey Juan Carlos along the Avenue Diagonal, this is the tallest hotel in Barcelona, with 19 floors and panoramic views across the city from the meeting room on the top floor.

The closest hotel to the Nou Camp, which is located right behind the hotel. The hotel is classic and traditional in style, and in my opinion looking a little tired and in need of a refurbishment.

* The Hilton Barcelona ~ 4 Star

DISTANCE FROM AIRPORT ~ 15-20 minutes in a taxi, without traffic / Cost = Approximately €20-€25

As you continue north along the Avenue Diagonal from the Princess Sofia Hotel, the Hilton appears on the right hand side. A modern hotel, providing guests with all business and leisure amenities.

* Melia Barcleona ~ 4 Star

DISTANCE FROM AIRPORT ~ 20 minutes in a taxi, without traffic / Cost = Approximately €25

Again, continuing along the Avenue Diagonal from the Hilton to the next major traffic junction and turning right, you will find the Melia Barcelona on the next block down on the left hand side.

The hotel is currently undergoing some refurbishment work, but is again popular for both business and leisure travellers. It is classically continental with usage of marble and brass throughout the reception area, but the bedrooms have been modernised through the current refurbishment.

* Eurostars Grand Marina Hotel ~ 5 Stars

DISTANCE FROM AIRPORT ~ 10-15 minutes in a taxi, without traffic / Cost = Approximately €20

Located down at the famous Barcelona harbour, this is one of the newest hotels in Barcelona, and is part of a larger complex known as the World Trade Centre, housing conference halls, offices and a small shopping parade.

A very modern hotel, with Ikea styled bedrooms ~ very comfortable.

* Le Meridien Barcelona ~ 4 Stars

DISTANCE FROM AIRPORT ~ 10-15 minutes in a taxi, without traffic / Cost = Approximately €20

The hotel is located on La Rambla, and is at the centre of a hive of activity. It has an ideal location for tourists who want to be at the centre of it all ! It's a modern boutique style hotel.

* Rivioli Rambla Hotel ~ 3 Stars

DISTANCE FROM AIRPORT ~ 15 minutes in a taxi, without traffic / Cost = Approximately €20-€25

As with The Le Meridien Barcelona, this hotel is a small boutique style hotel and is perfectly situated on La Rambla in the hub of the central tourist activity.

* Groupo Boulevard Hotels ~ 3 and 4 Stars

This is a collection of modern and traditional 3 and 4 star hotels all located across the city of Barcelona

* Hotel Cristal ~ 3 Stars

DISTANCE FROM AIRPORT ~ 25-30 minutes in a taxi, without traffic / Cost = Approximately €30

A very typically European style hotel, with emphasis on brass and marble.

* Gran Hotel La Florida ~ 5 Stars

DISTANCE FROM AIRPORT ~ 20-25 minutes in a taxi, without traffic / Cost = Approximately €30-€35

A very exclusive and opulent hotel located in the mountains! Expect to pay high prices.

* Hotels Arts ~ 5 Stars

DISTANCE FROM AIRPORT ~ 20 minutes in a taxi, without traffic / Cost = Approximately €30

Considered to be one of the world's best hotels, this hotel located on the waterfront has a very classically modern and contemporary style. I stayed here in December and I was very impressed.

There are many more properties, but hopefully the above has given you a flavour for what is on offer!

Thanks for reading (as always)
Newty!
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Comments about this review »

brereton66 19.03.2007 17:07

Great review and very helpful as I'm planning a trip to Barcelona soon.

Lyndsayep 28.09.2006 01:07

superb detail - sounds fabulous - definately moved up my wich list for our annual mini break - cheers!

suzi05 23.06.2006 00:11

what a fantastically informative review! Also, not just a load of facts, it was filled with personal experience which was a lovely touch! xxx

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This review of Barcelona in general has been rated:

"exceptional" by (55%):

  1. Lyndsayep
  2. suzi05
  3. Cosmopolitin

and 49 other members

"very helpful" by (45%):

  1. brereton66
  2. kazbo
  3. CMJT

and 40 other members

The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.

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