Few places cram in so much charm, history and fun as Barcelona. The capital of Spain’s northeastern Catalonia region has aesthetic beauty worthy of the world’s top art galleries, from buildings and monuments designed by architect Antoni Gaudi to the prettiest plates produced in its dazzling number of Michelin-starred restaurants.
Yet it’s too alive to be confined within gallery walls (though it has some pretty incredible collections of art and artefacts).
From food markets vibrant with colour and the scents of seafood, olive oil and charred chorizo, to tapas bars and nightlife spots, there’s always a new corner or tucked-away square to discover.
Here’s our armchair travel guide to discovering – or rediscovering – this dynamic city without leaving home, from museums offering virtual tours to ways to devour its food from afar.
What to do
Tour some of the city’s best museums
The Picasso Museum, which houses some of the artist’s best paintings and sculptures through five adjoining palaces, has images of the collection online and has added a “walkthrough” tour of the buildings and their courtyards, dating between the 13th and 15th centuries.
Another virtual must-visit is the Joan Miro Foundation, whose rooms and gardens are dotted with the Barcelona-born artist’s bold, playful pieces. The hilltop museum has launched Miro at Home, with games and activities people (of all ages) can try at home, plus videos giving fascinating insight into Miro’s work and life.
Immerse yourself in contemporary art
Many museums and galleries are launching virtual tours, but the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona is taking it a step further with a “confinement diary”.
The gorgeously curated collection, with posts added to the website from Thursday to Sunday, includes artists’ works, observations and musings, and inspiration for creative projects.
You can also listen to podcasts, watch interviews with artists, read the museum’s publications, and follow a series of suggested virtual itineraries to discover the collection.
While over on Instagram, the museum is also showcasing a series on Artists in Quarantine.
Meet the locals
Tour company Withlocals has launched a series of live online experiences to allow people to immerse themselves in cities from home, while supporting small businesses and sole traders.
Barcelona-based classes and tutorials include a relaxed evening of tapas, wine and chatter, a guitar lesson, a consultation with an interior designer, and a jam session with a musical history lesson thrown in.
Go footie mad
Many Barcelona residents couldn’t live without their football. During the current crisis, the city’s beloved FC Barcelona has a series of quizzes, games and videos on its website to keep fans occupied while there are no matches on. You can relive top goals, watch interviews with star players and coaches, and go behind the scenes at the Camp Nou stadium.
Some players are also taking part in Fifa’s #BeActive campaign, promoting physical activity during lockdown with online exercise and activity classes.
Join the festival
Barcelona hosts events year-round, from huge music festivals to smaller, locally focused fiestas and cultural celebrations. With events and gigs postponed or cancelled, many organisers and artists are giving fans the chance to enjoy them from home.
Primavera, one of the biggest festivals held in the area, has released a back catalogue of past performances, including sets by Belle and Sebastian, Jane Birkin and Queens of the Stone Age. Some have never been streamed before, so pull on your wellies and coolest festival garb and have a little mosh around your living room.
You can also get in the mood for the city’s huge Sonar festival, due to be held on 18 to 20 June, with its official playlist. Expect techno, rap and dreamy ambient sounds.
Get a little Gaudi
Gaudi and Barcelona go hand in hand like rioja and tapas. Where else in the world can you be wandering down a street and glance up to see chimneys with faces and wavy-fronted buildings dressed in ornate mosaics?
Many of the architect’s striking and surreal creations can be viewed on virtual tours. You can wander through Casa Batllo’s rooms with columns, curved walls and colourful stained glass, before weaving around its sculpture-dotted rooftop, and explore Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, Sagrada Familia.
From its markets to its Michelin-starred restaurants, Barcelona has an abundance of bright, bold and beautiful food. Thankfully, you can find plenty of cooking inspiration online so you can recreate (or attempt to recreate) some of the city’s finest cuisine from home.
Watch Albert Adria, whose Michelin-starred Tickets consistently books out months in advance, share some of the restaurant’s tapas recipes, or head to the website the renowned chef shares with his even more highly regarded brother, Ferran Adria (behind the legendary el Bulli). One for the more ambitious cooks, it has tips for learning chef-y techniques like spherification, emulsification and “surprises” like micro biscuits and sparkly bonbons.
For something a little simpler, sizzle up a pan of fideua (like paella, made with pasta noodles), whip up some sunny pan con tomate (like bruschetta), or bring a little cheer with Jamie Oliver’s recipe for a classic, minty mojito.
Setting the scene
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of “Barcelona”, belted out by Freddie Mercury – a stadium filler that’s equally rousing when dancing around your kitchen with a wooden spoon. Then there are the songs by the same name more recently released by George Ezra and Ed Sheeran.
The city itself has an eclectic range of live music, from jazz played in tiny, velvety bars to flamenco shows.
Stream or download tunes from local musicians including Sopa De Cabra, a popular Catalan rock band, or Ojos de Bruno, known for a floor-filling fusion of flamenco and Catalan rumba. Or download a pachanga playlist for Latin-inspired beats that will have you dancing around the living room.
Barcelona has unsurprisingly inspired libraries of literature, too.
Immerse yourself in its cobbled streets and plaças with Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s gothic thriller, The Shadow of the Wind, dive into George Orwell’s classic Homage to Catalonia, largely unfurling around main thoroughfare Las Ramblas, or read Colm Toibin’s vivid depiction of the city through the eyes of a young Irish woman in The South.
Bring it home
Several Barcelona and UK-based stores offer delivery, so you can bring a little Catalan brightness into your home.
Eatapas has a selection of Spanish foods including cured meats, cheese and other tapas treats, and offers free UK delivery for orders over £60. Brindisa, the UK-based Spanish restaurant chain, also has a fine selection of regional produce and recipe suggestions – the next best thing to dining out.
Indulge in the surreal by browsing the Gaudi & Barcelona Shop, which sells colourful notebooks, ceramics and jewellery inspired by the architect’s signature style.
Barcelona Pride, due to be held in the city in late June, has an online store so you can buy a cool slogan tee or rainbow-brightened products from cava to socks. The website ships to the UK for a small delivery charge.
And football fans can stock up on FC Barcelona shirts (and all kinds of other gear) from the club’s official online store.
Don’t forget the fizz.
Cava, produced in the Penedes region of Catalonia just outside Barcelona, is just the ticket with a platter of salty sheep cheese and charcuterie (or even good old cheddar and ham – whatever you have in).
Spain’s answer to champagne can be just as fizzily, frothily delicious and is often better value for money. You can find bottles in most supermarkets, while several online companies are still delivering. Try The Fizz Company or Basco, which specialises in Spanish food and drink.
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