Dear Gypsy brothers & sisters, there are not many cities so far I have completely fallen in love with. (If you are interested which ones I will tell you at the end of this article).
Don’t get me wrong, I am quite a traveller. Not so much like my friend Kurt, who has out-paced me on the 50 must-see cities of the world. But I do know a few cities: vibrant and young ones with modern architecture like Amsterdam, London, Berlin, or San Francisco. Beautiful ones with old center and beautiful architecture like Vienna, Budapest, Prague or Paris. Little medieval ones like St Paul de Vence, Bamberg, Steyr or Siena. Nature paradises on the sea like Dahab. Crazy party ones like Aya Napa. Or for the rich only, like Ft. Lauderdale.
But where can you find all this together in one city?
Only in Barcelona.
These are the reasons why Barcelona is my TOP city:
Gaudi and art nouveau architecture
In Vienna we have an artist called Hundertwasser, and he has (re)designed one house, one spa and one waste incinerator. Barcelona has got not only Gaudi, but Lluís Domènech i Montaner, Josep Puig i Cadafalch and Josep Maria Jujol. All together they have (re)created more then a dozen houses, palaces and a monastery. Everywhere in the city you can feel the influence of the art nouveau artists. And above all, Gaudis masterpiece: a cathedral that is still under construction (until 2024) – La Sagrada Familia.
Camp Nou is the biggest stadium in Europe and offers seats to 98,787 visitors. And FC Barcelona is simply more then a club, for everybody. You can feel it when you see people with trikots in the metro and on the streets, even when there is no game. It’s THEIR club, and the only real rival is imperial Spain, Real Madrid.
Crazy colorful street festivals
Barcelona became a metropole only 150 years ago, by connecting 3 cities around Barcelona with the old city in an ambitious project. Streets, parks and houses were planned from scratch, and the little cities became part of the big Barcelona. But the inhabitants have preserved their traditions, and their social contacts within the neighborhood. Within a month, we had already seen 2 street festivals nearby, mostly organized by local schools. Meanwhile, we can’t count them anymore: Big puppets, creative coaches, Samba-bands, children shows. And during the carnival, all the city transforms into a big madhouse with dozens of processions of local groups. Sometimes it feels there are more people inside the processions than outside watching.
Traffic system and public transport
OK, Barcelona is a metropole, but 11 metro lines for 2 Mio. people in the greater area? For sure you won’t mind that you can reach every corner of the city, and the airport within max 30 minutes. The funny thing: it’s also valid for cars. After a reconstruction of the streets in Barcelona at the end of the 19th century, nearly all streets are two lanes in one direction, which makes driving in one direction pure fun. Something I have never seen before are square blocks with truncated corners. A genius system: the truncated corners facilitate the turning of cars and coaches without blocking the traffic behind.
Art on every street
In Barcelona you will find art everywhere: on the walls, on the street, on the lampposts – even the public water taps are pieces of art. This city is one creative masterpiece, and everybody seems to contribute to it.
There are not many cities where I found as many street artists like in Barcelona (and that in the wintertime, imagine it’s summer!). They are everywhere: on the beach, in Park Guell (especially), in the metro, on the streets. Of it’s not legal – but the police is turning a blind eye .. luckily.
5 km Beach
The whole length of the city – a beach? In Barcelona, yes. 5 kilometers of fine sandy beach, mixed with cafes, bars and surf-spots. Barcelona is the first city, where I was offered an ice-cold Mochito and beer from 2 guys within 10 minutes.
Tapas, veggies, sweets and fish – in Barcelona you will not go home hungry. Here you find an unbelievable variety of food, hundreds of nice restaurants, and a dozen markets throughout the city.
Old and new melting
The architecture in Barcelona is a mix of old buildings, from roman times until the 20th century, with a lot of young and contemporary elements.
History is now
The catalan people are very aware of their history and enemies. In which city you would see a big museum of some houses that where destroyed in the 16th century by a foreign army?
Where Squats are legends
Can Masdeu – a former leper hospital which had been abandoned for some 53 years before its eviction. The squat became famous in 2002, when squatters in lockons and on tripods nonviolently resisted the eviction. Most Sundays there is an open house and from 100 to 300 people come up to participate in activities related to ecology, activism, and self-sufficiency.
PS: My favorite cities are Rome, Prague, Dahab, and Barcelona.