Barcelona is the gateway to the land of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. It is a European city steeped in both ancient traditions and blazing new fashion and artistic trends. The ancient Romans conquered the area over two thousand years ago for the mineral wealth it contained. But they stayed on long after the local mines played out because of the beauty of the landscape and scintillating dances, songs, and food of the inhabitants. Barcelona remains today a city of allure for the artist, the sage, and the sybarite. Here’s why:
One of the longest main streets in any major European city, Las Ramblas is the place to go be see and to be seen. Sedate families stroll up and down this expansive boulevard in the cool of the evening, stopping every once in a while to listen to street musicians playing plaintive Andalusian love ballads. Young people eagerly seek out the trending clubs, coffee shops, and tapas bars, where authentic flamenco guitars and dancers still flourish. The outdoor stalls sell everything from churros to Moorish love potions.
Dating back to the 13th century, Castellers are young men who work in teams to form human pyramids that can tower as high as four stories. Why do they do it? The legend goes that a young man was so in love with a Barcelona girl, and the girl’s parents were so determined to keep him away from her, that one night he simply hired every beggar and tramp in town to get on their knees to form a pyramid high enough to reach his beloved on her cast iron balcony. He eloped with her, and ever since then young men have been practicing these acrobatic pyramids in the hopes that one day they may find their true love high up in a cast iron cage somewhere in Barcelona.
A short walk from the beach to the peaks
Barcelona beaches are warm and sunny seven months out of the year. The sand is a unique blend of quartzite and obsidian that gives the beach a streaked look that is almost hypnotic. While sunning yourself by the water you can gaze into the landside distance and see mountains looming up with caps of snow even during the most broiling day. So when you decide it’s time to cool off, just trade your Speedo for some hiking boots and start up the nearest canyon to reach the heights and look down on Barcelona. For those who want to avoid the exertion of mountain climbing, there are always the famous little gray burros that will take trekkers up into the mountains for a modest fee.
The sunsets are special
Don’t be skeptical. Great artists like Picasso, Michelangelo, and El Greco have come to Barcelona specifically to capture the lustrous enchantment of the sun diving into a blood colored sea. You can sit on your hotel balcony and see for yourself. Because of distant dust storms in Africa, the atmosphere around Barcelona is often hazy with sand and dust — which is what makes the sunsets so compelling and colorful.