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Posted by Laura Orange | File under : , ,

Not every neighbourhood is the same

One of the greatest things to do in Barcelona is to explore the city and get lost. Barcelona is very navigable with a quick and easy-to-use metro system, lots of cycle paths and rental bike shops; with the majority of the city being easily walkable as long as you are relatively fit. The main thing to remember when travelling to Barcelona is that not every neighbourhood is the same, so if you have seen one part of Barcelona do not be fooled into thinking you have seen it all. Barcelona has become a hot spot for city breaks ever since it held the Olympic Games in 1992. 


While this has been great for the city in terms of tourism, it unfortunately means that tourists, with only a couple of days to spend in the city, congregate around the city centre and ‘Las Ramblas’ – the main high street. While this is indeed a lovely area, it does not epitomise the rest of the city where there are other neighbourhoods of great charm and beauty. These include the cobbled streets, boutique shops and ethnic restaurants of the Gothic Quarter and EL Born, the greener areas of Arc de Triumph and Mont Juic and the local, neighbourhood bars and restaurants of Rocafort, Poble Sec, Sants and Sant Antoni.

More than Tapas:

While tapas are indeed a delicious form of cuisine and form a fundamental part of any Spanish holiday, Barcelona is a diverse city with an international mix of people offering plenty of other culinary options. Aside from traditional Catalan food, such as butifarra sausage and alubia beans, crema Catalan or pan con tomate, there are a number of other great ethnic restaurants all over the city. For example, there are some great Chinese buffet-style restaurants and Japanese sushi restaurants where you can eat really cheaply. There are also a number of Moroccan and other African influenced restaurants and bars. There also some great Latin American restaurants, particularly Mexican and Argentinean, as well as multiple Italian pizza places. 

One of the best ethnic cuisine restaurants in Barcelona is Restaurante Puerto Plata around the Gothic Quarter. This is a Dominican restaurant just off Via Laietana, near the Jaume 1 metro stop, that serve quite possibly the best Caribbean and Dominican fusion food in Barcelona. Although the restaurant is relatively small, it caters for large groups and usually runs a set menu for a fixed price per head. There are generally three courses included in this with all sorts of delicious food and drink options, including various rum samples. It is run by a burly gentleman who is partial to dressing up in drag and putting on a karaoke show mid-meals. With regulars from the Caribbean community often eating here there are also impromptu salsa dancing sessions over the course of an evening. This is a great place for a real taste of the craziness and diversity of Barcelona.

Tapas restaurants: The dingier the better

While there are more than just tapas restaurants in Barcelona, checking out one or two tapas restaurants is a must on your holidays in Barcelona. The key to eating well in Barcelona is knowing how to differentiate between authentic tapas restaurants and ones that have been purposely set-up for tourists. There is a temptation when looking for restaurants abroad to look for the cleanest and busiest restaurant with the nicest décor. In Barcelona, these are likely to be the more expensive chain restaurants purposely established as the perfect tourist trap, with tapas as the bate. While the food here is good, it not as authentic as it could be and is most likely geared towards more of a pan-international taste-bud, and will also be more expensive. 

If you are looking for cheap traditional tapas then the rule as far as décor goes is – the dingier the better! The best tapas bars don’t look much from the outside and are no better on the inside, they’re likely to have old wooden chairs, wooden or plastic tables, a middle-aged man behind the counter and another propping up the bar, behind which a row of tapas should sit beneath a glass window. There is also usually a kitchen out back for making the tapas fresh in the morning and for preparing hot tapas or more elaborate meals. These places, if any good, will be rammed between 2 and 4 p.m. and again around 9p.m. but will be practically empty the rest of the time, apart from the said-gentleman sipping a cortado (expresso coffee with milk) at the bar, chatting to the owner.


Barcelona is the capital of Cataluña.

You are right in thinking Barcelona is located on Spain’s Costa Brava, and that it is part of the Kingdom of Spain. Nevertheless, Barcelona is recognized as the capital of the antonymous community of Cataluña. Catalan culture is quite different from the more stereotypical Spanish culture of Andalucía in the South. For one, they speak Catalan as opposed to Castellano (Spanish from Spain), a much more guttural sounding language with linguistic elements of French and Spanish. Most Catalans prefer to speak in their native language as opposed to Spanish as they were banned from doing so for years under Franco’s regime. For example, shopkeepers and waiters are likely to speak to you in Catalan and will continue to do so even if you respond to them in Castellano and explain that you don’t speak Catalan. This is simply a matter of showing pride in one’s regional identity which people often misinterpret as rudeness, persevere and you might pick up some Catalan phrases. Aside from the language, there are many other uniquely Catalan elements to Barcelona; these include festivals and holidays, music, fashion and food. Embracing the Catalan culture and showing it respect will only enhance your holiday in Barcelona.

About the Author: Written by music journalist, travel writer and blogger - Jessica Kitt. Jessica is the owner of WorldMusicTravelBlog

Photos via Flickr Creative Commons