Our New City Guide Series.
We get around here at Black Sheep. Not in a 'free-love' sense, but in our absolute passion to explore every corner of the globe, preferably on two wheels. In what is an ongoing series, we are taking you to the places you won't find in the brochure. Anywhere. Everywhere.
Barcelona has our heart now and will forever. The Catalonian capital is a thriving, bustling city, full of life and an eclectic and intoxicating mixture of people and passions. Emphatically Mediterranean. Long after the mindless, heartless atrocities that have occurred this last week, it will reign on as one of Europe's most popular and inspiring places to visit.
Like Rome or, perhaps Paris, to attempt to conquer Barcelona in just 48 hours is futile. To master a definitive city guide exhausting. But we encourage exploration. Local residents still confess to unearthing hidden treasures amongst the cities labyrinth of laneways and side streets. If you walk down the same Carrer twice, you'll be lucky. But getting lost comes highly recommended.
The perfect mix of old and new, Barcelona boasts a stunning medieval past, endless Gothic facades and beautiful modern architecture. It has the design clout to rival any of the more established European cities. And is both a cultural mecca and retail paradise. The flagship Zara store on Plaça de Catalunya needs a fold-out map of its own and is well worth a visit if only to behold the opulent former bank building it occupies. But it's the boutique stores and design-led, independent cycling and sportswear brands that piqued our interest.
Antoni Gaudi's fairytale flights of fancy are prevalent throughout the city, and one would find it hard to leave the town without having witnessed his extravagant imprint on Barcelona's skyline. The Sagrada Familía, the most famous of his dallies, is 130 plus years in the making and a swamp of eager onlookers. Save for Dubai, it is probably the only place in the world where the cities most popular tourist attraction is still under construction.
Our favourite area to avoid to the throngs of sun-seeking tourists is L'Eixample where you can live a little bit more locally amongst the laneways and smaller, more charming plazas. Once you can get your tongue around how to pronounce the area, what lay await is the best of this Mediterranean city – good food, great people watching and a laidback way of life of pinxtos (tapas with toothpicks) and chilled Rioja. By the time you leave, L'Eixample will be rolling off the tongue!
"Allow me to state here how much I love Barcelona, an admirable city, a city full of life, intense, a port open to the past and future.” – Le Corbusier
One of the best ways to see Barcelona is by bike. Most modern hotels rent bikes. But don't get hung up if they don't give you a helmet! Failing that, there are plenty of good companies which do day-long bike tours. Or better still, simply grab yourself one of the Vodafone-funded city bikes. But you may want to check you travel insurance policy first! The road users are incredibly safe but be wary of the bike you choose.
Parc de Montjuïc is nestled neatly above the city and more by accident that design its defining attraction is Montjuïc Municipal Swimming Pool with stunning panoramic views, which are well worth climbing the hill to experience. Conceived by Antoni de Moragas in 1992, the pool was used in the Barcelona Olympics for diving and water polo events. It's now practically derelict, so don't expect much in the way of change facilities or amenities, but its vista is hard to beat even by Barcelona rooftop bar standards.
While Gaudi’s architecture can be seen throughout the city, one of the less frequented spots is Parc Güell – partly because it was somewhat of a commercial failure. We remind you, this is the since departed architecture whose most famous structure is still being erected. But secluded above the city, Park Güell is a great reflection of all his architectural plentitude and is one of the most picturesque parks in the world. It also includes a museum, which was in fact Gaudi's long-time Barcelona residence, and gives you some insight to the pious and simplistic person he was.
A trip to Barcelona wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Camp Nou, home of one of the world's most famous and successful sporting teams. The economics of football these days mean this is every bit a tourist attraction as Sagrada Familía. If you're not lucky enough to be in town when Barca are playing at home then the stadium itself is pretty impressive, and the behind the scenes tours come highly recommended. Book yourself on the Camp Nou Experience and explore all the areas otherwise unseen by the public.
Barcelona knows how to shop and is home to countless Zara, Mango and Massimo Dutti stores, which all herald from Spain. But avoid these and explore the laneways of independent boutiques that pedal and promote culture and community and serve as fuel for the senses as well as the Catalan economy.
When the slogan for your store is DIY Attitude, you know the vibes are going to be strong. Laser Barcelona is a street-inspired casual clothing store with surf-skate-bike influenced garments and accessories. Like all of Catalunya, they're super friendly so don't be put off by their niche and eclectic facade. They collaborate with local artists, designers and tastemakers and are in the early throws of a collaboration with Catalan bike builder @legocicli
Or SVD for short. If it's fresh kicks or some fashion forward sportswear you're after then there is no better place in Europe. SVD are all about the exclusive and special edition sneakers – so much so the store is completely revamped almost every time you enter. And what a store it is. For anyone with a passing interest in design, the fit out is worth a visit alone. But it's the premium colabs and Nike LAB concession that will really stir your creative juices.
Dosnoventa is a handbuilt bike brand bike founded in Barcelona. They're at the centre of the European fixie scene and have built themselves a cult following sharing their unique lifestyle with the wilder world. They have managed to fuse bike riding with urban culture in an authentic, distinctly Catalan way. As well racing and riding, they're also big into collaborations and have just produced the best Giro Synthe mash-up on the market.
A range inspired by our travels from Brisbane, Australia, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Barcelona, Spain. Garments designed to be worn by everyone. Everywhere. Anywhere.
Released. Wednesday August 23. 7pm AEST