3 April 2012
my city: barcelona by olga diez roman
We take you on a stylish tour of a city that serves as a hot spot for travellers and locals alike.
French born Spaniard Olga Diez Roman has been in and around design for over twelve years, representing reputable Spanish furniture manufacturers in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. In 2006, Olga came to New Zealand for a six month stint working for design company Matisse which went on to spark a love affair with our country that led to her permanent residence. Olga now resides in Auckland but returns to her native Barcelona every summer to rediscover some of her favourite spots. Here, she takes us on a tour of the Mediterranean city where the sun never goes down.
The 1992 Olympic games put Barcelona firmly on the map as a Mecca for hoards of young Europeans in search of a luxe lifestyle, good food, shopping, art and sunshine. Seven million tourists visit this fine capital every year, half of them for professional reasons, and the rest, not only to admire the revered architecture of Gaudi but also to enjoy the beach and embrace the all-night party life that this city has to offer. When you visit, you must go to these places:
Hotel Casa Fuster
This Art Nouveau hotel in the centre of Barcelona occupies one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Even if you don’t stay here, it’s worth having at least one drink at the bar, which often stages live music, transporting you successfully to another time and place. The hotel’s interior consists of grandiose pillars and large brooding rooms with opulent fabrics. And if you fancy a seat outdoors, make your way to the rooftop pool where the entire city’s skyline will be laid out before you. (Paseo de Gracia 132).
Ferran Adria, one of the world’s greatest chefs has done it again with the opening of his casual tapas restaurant. This place has a two-month waiting list (so make the reservation this side of the world before you depart for your European adventure) and is a popular haunt for both travellers and locals alike. With a cheerful and theatrical venue that offers Spanish tapas, try their take on the fantastic Jamon Iberico. This place is a whole new experience for one’s culinary senses, like only Mr Adria can do. (Av de la Meridiana, 358 08027)
Bar Mut restaurant
This is another one of my favourite tapas bars – the name is word-play for Vermouth in Catalan. Small and elegant, this place presents an impressive selection of more than 400 wines from all over the world. You must try their carpaccio of fried eggs and their beef fillet with foie gras cubes – both will leave you wanting more. (Pau Claris, 192)
When in Europe, you really cannot go past Zara for shopping. There are ten stores in the city. Or, if you are after something more unique, perhaps try walking through the Rambla de Catalunya or Puerta Ferrissa – both are incredible areas for shopping with a great array of shoes. If you are shopping for your kids, you must check out Suit Beibi – it’s a fantastic store, with the coolest and most original accessories, all courtesy of the excellent taste of owner Susana Lafarga. Be sure to check out the other two shops she owns in the upper part of town also. (Santalo, 60 and Benet I Meteu, 52)
BD Barcelona design gallery and other design stops
This dark and minimal contemplative space is the ideal canvas for this furniture company, whose work includes iconic designs by past masters Salvador Dali, Antonio Gaudi, and current ones like Jaime Hayon. (Ramon Turro, 126). If you have the time, also try and make your way to these stores: Pilma, Arkitektura and the very famous Vinçon in Paseo de Gracia.
Futbol Club Barcelona
For the football and sports’ fiends among us, a visit to this club to see ‘Barça’, one of the greatest teams in the world, is well worth a visit. Boasting the largest stadium in Europe, the club’s home Camp Nou has a capacity of 99,354 spectators – and the ambience of a match here, is mind blowing. Try and get tickets to a game, they run every second weekend during the season, and by the time you leave you’ll surely be infected with the contagious passion of the crowd, all shouting “Força Barça!”
Barcelona is a city that never sleeps. The city comes alive after the sun goes down. We eat late, and party late. The night scene has changed a lot over the years but some noteworthy places remain:
Along with its great name, here you’ll find delectable cocktails and a fantastic party atmosphere. This is well worth a look in if you around Raval – the old part of town. (Joaquim, Costa, 56)
Old and cosy, this club is a hotspot for concerts and is a hub for dancing almost every night of the week. It’s infamous for its famous “Nasty Mondays” parties…(Nou de la Rambla, 113)
Day Trip to Sitges
And, if you fancy a day tour out of Barcelona, visit Sitges, a nearby town. Only 40 minutes by train from the centre of Barcelona, this is well worth a trip on a sunny day. As the gay capital of the Europe, its vibrant and colourful beach village atmosphere is the perfect backdrop for enjoying paella or Esquiexada (a local gourmet salad made with cod and Romesco sauce). With beautiful modernistic buildings, along with a good mix of traditional village lifestyle and an international vibe, Sitges has a lot to offer if you are looking for something different from the bright lights of Barcelona. When there, dine at La Fragata (www.restaurantefragata.com) overlooking the beautiful 17th century church, or at Al Fresco restaurant (www.alfrescorestaurante.es/en/) in the middle of town. Both are great examples of Catalan cuisine.