Barcelona as a group: five fail-safe activities
Barcelona has seduced literary figures of every class, and from every period in history. Lorca confessed his love for Les Rambles, calling it ‘the one street on Earth I wish would never end,’ whilst García Márquez nicknamed the city ‘the gateway to Europe.’ In his youth, Vargas Llosa dubbed it ‘the most entertaining city in the world,’ and Juan Goytisolo commented on how exceptionally welcoming the city was. With his focus on class divisions, George Orwell perceived Barcelona to be ‘a town where the working class is in the saddle,’ and the American James Michener wasn’t exaggerating when he said that ‘to travel across Spain and finally to reach Barcelona is like drinking a respectable red wine and finishing up with a bottle of champagne’.
Whether or not there are any keen readers in the group, every single one of you should believe the hype of these quotes, as when it comes to the charms of Barcelona, they pretty much hit the nail on the head. But if anyone’s still a bit sceptical, then here are a few ideas for ways to find out for yourselves why Barcelona is so unique, whether you’re out at sea, up in the air, or have your feet firmly on dry land.
A dip in Eixample’s secret swimming pool
No one’s going to argue that spending the day on the beach with friends isn’t a great idea. In fact, it’s a fantastic plan. But what about an afternoon spent swimming off Barcelona’s inland beach? In the Jardins de la Torre de Les Aigües, a public park located in one of the neighbourhoods created when Barcelona was expanded, you’ll find a pool that’s open to visitors during the summer months. The star of the show is the tower from which these gardens take their name, standing in the centre of the pool, as a mute witness to the story of its construction.
It was once a water tower supplying the neighbourhoods that were growing up in the area in the nineteenth century, but these days it presides over a space dedicated to fun, with benches, children’s playgrounds, a sports court and a space for playing boules. Entry is 1.55 euros per person, max. Oh, and by the way. You can top off a day spent swimming in this pool with friends or family with a picnic thanks to the shade provided by some of the leafy trees.
Go-karting as a group: a bit of undercover competition
But, if it looks like rain, then it’s best to find something to do indoors. Undercover, literally. If you’re on a group trip and you’re feeling competitive, then in the nearby municipality of Sant Vicenç dels Horts—within the city limits of Barcelona—you can spend a legendary afternoon go-karting.
Just an hour away by bus is Karting Indoor Barcelona, which has the ‘Europe’s best indoor track’. With a 500-metre course that twists and turns and a selection of vehicles to choose from depending on the age of the driver, this circuit could be the perfect way to get your family’s (or friends’) adrenaline pumping.
Music, bicycles and beer, all at the same time
Sticking with activities you can do on wheels, in the centre of Barcelona there’s been something curious going on for a while now. It’s a trend that’s been imported from Holland. This is the Beer Bike, a different way of enjoying a bike ride around the city whilst you have a few beers with family or friends. It’s made possible by a massive mobile contraption with wheels and pedals, chairs, and a bar, with a driver making sure the riders stay safe. It can hold up to 18 people. For a minimum of an hour, you can watch the beach, parks, rivers and streets pass you by, whilst you enjoy cold beer or sangria and listen to the music pumping out of the speakers.
Bars with free tapas: a closely-guarded secret
There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that, in Barcelona, more to the surprise of foreigners than Spaniards, free tapas with drinks are the exception, not the rule. The good news is that we know where you can find these well-hidden exceptions, where you can enjoy a good group meal without breaking the bank.
The first two options, Cal Chusco and Moll de Rebaix, can be found in the coastal neighbourhood of La Barceloneta, located between the Port Olímpic, Ronda Litoral and the Mediterranean. The first is a classic spot for homemade grub, with its famous ‘bomb’—a croquette made of potato and mince with two spicy sauces—normally washed down with a beer. The second stands out for its generously-sized tapas, with fried fish, migas (crumbs), and Padrón peppers.
Next up we’ve got Restaurante Sésamo, located on the border of El Raval. It’s a vegetarian spot, but its tapas are incredibly succulent and flavourful. Its toast with figs and brie might satisfy the carnivorous members of the group.
Lastly, Gatamala is further away from the coast, in the heart of the lively alleyways of the Gràcia district. It’s a tiny space that attracts big crowds, which can be explained by the roasted patatas bravas served with a homemade sauce. Oh, and it’s just a few minutes’ walk away from the Park Güell with its salamander.
A picnic at the Bunkers del Carmel, the best viewpoint in Barcelona
Similarly, just a few minutes away from Park Güell is the best viewpoint in Barcelona: the Bunkers del Carmel. Used during the Spanish Civil War as a base for the Republicans’ anti-aircraft guns, today its extraordinary location, 260 metres above sea level, is enjoyed by throngs of visitors as it’s the perfect spot for a picnic.
To be specific, it’s at the top of the Turó de la Rovira hill in the neighbourhood of Carmel, easy to reach thanks to the bus routes (the V17 is the most direct) that connect it to the centre. From the top, you’ll spot the city’s most recognisable landmarks: the sea and the Torre Glòries, the Sagrada Familia and the Santa Maria del Mar Basilica, and the grid-like streets of Eixample, amongst many others.