Sun, beach, paella, football, nightlife - there are many words that spring to mind as soon as you think of the sunny capital of Catalonia - Barcelona. People from all around the world visit this cosmopolitan city, whether it is to indulge in the amazing local culture, gather the Spanish sun’s adoring rays or experience the vibrant nightlife. This is by no means a travel guide nor an expert's view of the city. It is simply offering a different perspective - one of a business trip in early December.
December!? How bad can it be?
Surprisingly, not at all.
Following the long and tiring journey, anything on arrival in Barcelona would have been good. But the warm breeze greeting us while disembarking the plane, was a blessing from the skies! (Early December, remember?)
Being on a business trip, you need to get your priorities straight. Taxi to a famous cocktail bar it is! Dry Martini by Javier de las Muelas in Barcelona is much more than just a cocktail bar, it is one of the best in the world. Its unique heritage makes it truly a legend, achieving the proclamation by Drinks international as the 6th best bar of all time worldwide and best in Europe. Socialising with colleagues, we indulge in probably the best martinis I’ve ever tasted. 4 martinis later, hunger makes itself heard and plans for dinner start to take shape. One more for the road. Time to go.
Following a quick recommendation by some locals, we end up at a marvellous restaurant called Boca Grande. The cocktails at the bar while waiting for the table to be set were amazing, while the food that followed was spectacular. Being in Barcelona we wanted to avoid international clichés and solely indulge on what the local cuisine has to offer. And as always in Spain, it did not disappoint. With our hearts back in place, we wrap up day 1 and get ready for the next.
Early morning start and a packed meeting schedule highlight our second day, increasing our desire for a much needed lunch break. After a short walk on the famous Barceloneta Beach, we choose a hidden gem of a restaurant - Touché. Foolishly we arrive at 12:30, which threw the staff in disarray at the sight of people wanting to have lunch before 2pm. Ignoring that fact we sat down and bathed in the strong Spanish sun, completely forgetting that it's December. Being made fun of, I order myself a sangria, as after all we are in Spain.
The afternoon was fortunately filled with a few gaps, which my colleague requested that we fill up with some sightseeing. Trying not to look too touristy (but failing eventually), we quickly mark up a route to take on foot.
We make our first stop at Puerto Olimpico. This stylish marina located between Barcelona’s two famous beaches - Icaria and Barceloneta - presents a wide collection of sailing and motor yachts, enough to trigger an inner desire inside anyone for sailing.
Further into the city, we cross the famous Calle Ferran, which is buzzing with people seduced by its bars, restaurants and shops. Further up ahead was the famous gothic Barcelona Cathedral, which serves as a focal point of the old Gothic Quarter - Barri Gotic. As you walk around you find examples of gothic architecture and roman walls. With charming cafes and lively street performers in its small squares, this area is a must to visit.
Running short on time, we decide to go round the most central point in Barcelona - Plaza de Catalunya - and head straight to Casa Batlló by Antoni Gaudi. Casa Batlló, designed for a wealthy Barcelona aristocrat, is a thing of beauty. The "house" is now a museum and I highly recommend visiting this building.
Having witnessed Gaudi’s magical work of imagination, we head towards the pivotal point of our very short sightseeing tour - La Sagrada Familia. This piece of Gaudi’s imagination, being the most visited tourist attraction in Barcelona, doesn’t require any further commentary from someone like me. If you can only see one thing while in Barcelona - this is it!
Following up the delightful and fulfilling afternoon, we head off for some more work drinks and dinner at another local favourite - Restaurant 7 Portes, where all that Barcelona’s cuisine has to offer comes on show!
What more of an appropriate follow up than experiencing the famous Barcelona nightlife. With clubs on offer, such as Carpe Diem, Opium, Pacha and Shoko, it’s a shame that our night finished at only 3 am …
“Fully” recharged we kick off day 2 in the same manner, although this time I insist on tasting one of the best paellas in Barcelona, somewhere further away from the typical industry faces flooding in all the restaurants on Barceloneta Beach. A quick google search brings us to Restaurant Can Majo, where we are greeted by a very friendly host, who patiently allows me to practice my Spanish. The paella was simply stunning! The price also added a feel good factor in the end of it all.
With our bellies full, we head towards our last meeting, before endeavouring on our long journey back. The sun gently sets on the horizon, while we approach the airport. We look back on all we have experienced in this amazing city, with one thought in mind - we’ll be back.