Anna Bonet, Travel Columnist, shares her top tips on travelling in Barcelona and gives us a yummy Patatas Bravas recipe at the end!
Out of all of the cities in the world, Barcelona comes out top.
Okay, maybe I’m a little biased. My dad’s family are from there and I have the benefit of visiting them regularly. But favouritism aside, Barcelona is incredible and definitely a must-visit.
Beaches, bars and a buzzing atmosphere, there’s not much not to like. Its culture is rich, the people are friendly, and the food is delicious. With only a stroll through the streets you soak up history, art and heritage. It has a wonderful mix of both grand tree-lined boulevards and narrow cobbled alleyways, as well as open parks, a magnificent harbour and the most intricately designed buildings. The famous architect Gaudí, the Gothic period and naturalistic artists of the 19th century have all had a massive impact on the city, making it uniquely beautiful.
The Barrio Gótico, literally translated as the Gothic Quarter, is the old part of the city and also my favourite area. No matter how many times I’ve been I still manage to get lost in the maze of streets and squares, but it is worth it for the multitude of charmingly old cafes where waiters still wear bow ties and serve you unbeatable coffee.
It’s great for retail therapy too. Aside from Chanel and your standard H&M and Zara, bohemian shops call out to your inner hippie, filled with wooden jewellery and the comfiest harem trousers.
Like in most places, there are times and areas to avoid in Barcelona. The very centre of the city can get overcrowded with tourists, which in the height of the summer heat is never a good thing. If you go in August, the beach is so packed you have to make the decision to either sit on top of someone or get there before the sun does. So I’d make Barcelona into a city-break rather than a beach holiday, but if you can’t resist a bit of sunbathing then hop on the train to one of the smaller towns up the coast. You could go to Barcelona’s beach, however, during the evening, as every week in the summer they have a late night open-air cinema on the sand, and it is as good as it sounds.
There are some tourist spots you can’t miss if you visit, such as the renowned Sagrada Familia, but once you’ve done the must-sees, wandering out of the very centre and exploring the quieter areas where the locals are actually about is the best advice I could give you.
The Good News: It’s doing remarkably well, despite the terrible economic crisis throughout the rest of Spain. Tourists are consistently visiting which means hotels, restaurant and shop owners are continuing to do good business.
The Bad News: Barcelona is situated in Catalonia, which is a region of Spain that is
doing a Scotland at the moment, that is, they want to be independent from the rest of the country. Each time I go, there are more and more angry Catalans speaking solely in their regional language and sporting the independence flag on their flip flops. This political instability means that there are anti-Spain protests and demonstrations left right and centre. But it isn’t at all violent, and in fact their passionate marches and speeches can actually be quite fascinating to watch as an outsider. Unlike in the UK, Spain won’t allow Catalonia to have an official referendum, so the issue is yet to be resolved.
A Taste of Barcelona: Student Style
When you think of Spanish cuisine, the first thing that comes into your mind is probably paella. Although I’d love to share our excellent family recipe with you, it requires a good amount of time and money to cook, as well as a specific paella-pan to make it in, so it wouldn’t exactly fit in with the Student Style theme.
But paella isn’t the only thing on the Spanish menus. They’re great meat-eaters, they love their fresh fish and they’re fond of tapas.
This week’s recipe you’ll find in any tapas bar you wander into. It’s for Patatas Bravas, which are effectively chips but with a spicy, garlicky, delicious sauce. Patatas Bravas aren’t just any chips though, they’re cultured chips, so you know where to turn next time you get a guilty craving.
- One medium sized potato, unpeeled, cut into small cubes
- Two garlic cloves, chopped
- A quarter of an onion, chopped
- A tablespoon of paprika
- Two tablespoons of mayonnaise
- Three tablespoons of tinned chopped tomatoes
- Five tablespoons of olive oil
-Heat one tablespoon of oil in a pan and fry the onion and garlic on a medium heat for 4-5 minutes, adding paprika for the last 30 seconds.
-After letting it cool slightly, add this fried onion and garlic to the mayonnaise and chopped tomatoes and blend until the mixture is smooth and set aside.
-Heat four tablespoons of oil in a pan and fry the cubed potatoes on a medium heat for ten minutes until they are golden.
-Remove any excess oil from the potatoes and scatter over the prepared sauce. Add salt or pepper to taste.
Anna Bonet, Travel Columnist
All uncredited photos are Anna’s ownbookmark me