Going for Catalan Gold
Text Ilona Marx Photos Adriaan Louw Illustration Roman Klonek
Olympic gold for life. Hardly any other place in the world has done so well out of Olympia as Barcelona, the host of the Games in 1992. Whereas before, Barcelona was primarily known as a large, somewhat shabby portside city, it awoke from its slumber, cleaned up its act, as well as its beaches, added a promenade and some spectacular architecture – and, right on time for the arrival of the Olympic torch, it presented its new metropolitan self in all its Mediterranean glory.
After that, there was no hipper place to spend a long weekend. But every hype has its downsides: tourist hordes, pickpockets, a chronic lack of taxis. One decade later, the millennium gong had sounded and Barcelona would almost have fallen victim to its own popularity if it weren’t for the ingenious and hardworking Catalans and their independent nature. Well aware that mainstream tourism can be lucrative in the short term, but devalues the attractiveness of a destination in the long term, they continued to aim for more individualistic travellers. Barna, as the locals call their city, has stayed cool – and true to what the discerning clientele have grown to love about the city port: hotels, restaurants, galleries, shops and bars that are anything but run-of-the-mill. The added fact that big names in contemporary architecture like Richard Meier, Santiago Calatrava, Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel and Sir Norman Foster have also added their signature to the city, would have thrilled the architects who previously defined the cityscape: for example Antoni Gaudí and Mies van der Rohe. Inspired by the Bread & Butter, which Barcelona played host to between 2005 and 2009, the fashion scene also grew in significance. The energy that coursed through the veins of the city every six months during the trade fair is legendary. Nowhere were the parties as excessive, the people dressed as creatively or the fashion show locations as spectacular – the whole experience heated up by the warmth of the Spanish sun, which, even in January, provides Barcelona with temperatures of around 18 degrees. And with Brandery, a young trade fair, and the show event 080 BCN, which has developed into a local fashion week, the Catalans really are making the most of their creative potential.
J’N’C editor-in-chief Ilona Marx has visited the metropolis with 1.6 million inhabitants around two-dozen times – but was once again astounded by the vast array on offer. Faced with the abundance of exciting locations she was truly spoilt for choice. As was her travel companion, the photographer Adriaan Louw from Cape Town. Life in the tiny alleyways in the Born, Gótico or Raval barrios changes dramatically according to the time of day. During siesta the city sleeps, behind darkened shutters, and then suddenly it opens its eyes, and it seems as though all the previously hidden shops, galleries, and bars are beckoning you in. So we followed the call and compiled our pick of city’s twenty most inspiring places to be.
PLUS CHECK THESE OUT
Barcelona Reykjavik The hip hippie baker – wholemeal bread in all its varieties! www.barcelonareykjavik.com
Passadís del Pep The insider tip for traditional Catalan cuisine – tucked away in a dark entrance passage. www.passadis.com
Kensington 177 Beautiful design classics – and not overpriced for a change. www.177kensington.com
Casa Mariol Come here for homemade vermouth. A meeting place for wine connoisseurs away from the crowds. www.casamariol.com
Sofia Gidlööf A piece of Sweden in Born. Scandinavian furniture design from the sixties and seventies. www.gidloof.com
E & A Gispert Unusual and delicious. They still roast nuts in their 150-year-old oven. www.casagispert.com
Number Shoes Small in number, but definitely big in style. www.numberbcn.com
Mutt Good selection of art, photography, design, illustration and architecture books. www.mutt.es
Hofmann Delectable patisserie and homemade chocolates. www.hofmann-bcn.com
Casa Leopold Traditional restaurant in the working-class district of Raval. www.casaleopoldo.com
Le Swing High-end second-hand. Big selection of French design from the seventies. www.leswingvintage.com
Teresa Carles Vegetarian food in Spain? Yes, it does exist! www.teresacarles.com
El Pla A real gem in the Gótico district. A treat for the eyes and the tongue! www.elpla.cat
The Outpost Strictly men-only! Probably the nicest menswear store in town. www.theoutpostbcn.com
Paris Vintage Hidden away in an apartment in Eixample: treasures from bygone days. www.parisvintage.net
Cuines Santa Caterina Embark on a culinary round-the-world trip in this restaurant in a refurbished market hall. www.cuinessantacaterina.com