BARCELONA | THE GREAT ENCHANTRESS
By: Lilia Davis
Barcelona, the Great Enchantress, is precisely the title of the book by Australian writer Robert Huges and the title could not describe this city any better. Rich in history and bursting with modern culture, Barcelona is a vibrant destination perfect for any purpose anytime of the year.
In addition to the celebrated museums, art, architecture, recent years have seen the rise of a cava culture which deserves the attention it has received by food writers and exploration by visitors.
What makes Barcelona so special?
As a result of my short visit to Barcelona many years ago, I can never claim to know Barcelona completely but I did fall in love with the city which is like no other. Preparing this article, in addition to my own experience and rejecting commercial tour guides, I decided to ask each of the women who have graced our magazine with their presences, for their favorite places in their hometown.
Altogether their voices present a native’s tour of Barcelona specially created to recommend to our readers.
5 DAYS IN BARCELONA
DAY 1 | A DAY WITH PATRICIA FISAS
Tradition and Innovation
Barcelona has been recognized as the origin of the avant-garde of European design. It’s an exciting city, full of contrast, history, tradition and innovation.
It has a unique style that goes beyond aesthetics, and beauty is something that takes part in our understanding of life” says Patricia Fisas, a native of Barcelona and Vice President of Innovation of Natura Bisse Group, a three generation luxury cosmetics family business.
Patricia Fisas recommends the following places:
WHERE TO STAY:
43 The Spa at Hotel Arts Barcelona.
If you’re asking yourself where to go in Barcelona, the first response should be the comfort and experience of a Spa treatment upon arrival at one of the city’s best hotels.
The Hotel Arts is special, ”Its unforgettable 360 views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea are stunning. It’s the perfect place to disconnect while enjoying a Natura Bissé treatment” says Patricia Fisas.
It is also the setting for the famous sculpture of the Golden Fish, a monumental metal sculpture 56 meters long and 35 meters high, by sculptor Frank Gehry.
TAKE A WALK
While you are at Hotel ARTS take a walk through the nearby historic Palau de la Música, (The Palace of Catalan Music) Gran Teatre del Liceu, located in El Born Neighborhood in Barcelona. A historic concert hall designed by the Catalan modernist architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner. The interior is breathtaking.
WHERE TO EAT:
Barcelona is a synonym of sea water, it is not surprising that its seafood cuisine is one of the best in the world. “I like to try new restaurants and we have so many good ones in the city. One of my favorites is called ESTIMAR which means “to love” in Catalan.
It is owned by chef Rafa Zafra (former chef at El Bulli restaurant). They serve the best seafood ever–their sea urchin and oysters with green sauce are just delicious.“
Read more on Patricia Fisas + Natura Bissé | In Pursuit of Innovation in Beauty. By Lilia Davis
Day 2 | A DAY WITH TERESA HELBIG
One of the first things I remember traveling to Spain on Iberia airlines, is the uniform of the stewardesses, always impeccable, elegant and feminine.
Now, years later, it is a great pleasure to know that for the first time in history these uniforms are designed by a woman, none other than “the designer of the moment” and from Barcelona, Teresa Helbig. Here she includes her recommendations:
WHERE TO TAKE A WALK:
El Eixample District
This is the district where Teresa Helbig and her family maintain their base of operations in Barcelona. They occupy a modernist building built in 1905, which they have remodeled, located in the busy central neighborhood of Eixample, where they create all their collections. She feels “in her element there “, says Teresa.
Teresa recommends stepping into this ideal setting for the creativity that seems to flow in the Eixample it being a neighborhood crisscrossed by streets with elegant boutiques, bars and restaurants around the emblematic Plaça de Catalunya, where vendors sell antiques under a mirrored roof at the Els Encants flea market.
WHERE TO BUY FRESH FLOWERS:
Flowers by Bornay
Why don’t you start the day by buying fresh flowers for your hotel room or for your host in Barcelona? This recommendation comes from Teresa Helbig, our favorite Catalan Fashion Designer.
Flowers by Bornay has been recognized twice as one of the best floral art workshops in the world. It was mentioned in two prestigious international books.
Such as the “Formidable Florists “by Isabel Gilbert Palmer in which the workshop was described as” The Quentin Tarantino of the flower world”.
WHERE TO EAT:
Ristorante Il Giardinetto
You may wonder why Italian food in the middle of Barcelona is lauded by those who live there? This restaurant has become the place to see and be seen, as it has been closely linked to the most creative and effervescent side of Barcelona. It’s the point of reunion for actors, artists, architects, designers, writers.
It’s also well known for the alluring green interior ambience created by local architects and thus the only place in town with two FAD Interior Design Awards 2013. And of course, the food is fantastic.
WHERE TO SEE LOCAL ART:
GALERÍA MARC DOMÈNECH
You cannot leave Barcelona without at least visiting a local Art Gallery. Teresa Helbig recommends Galeria Marc Domènech is an active Barcelona based established private gallery showing paintings with focus on Cubism.
Domènech mostly shows artists from Spain, with close to 59 exhibitions and with 104 artists you can expect some surprises as well as seeing names the world is already familiar with.The highest-ranked artists to exhibit with Galeria Marc Domènech are Pablo Picasso, and American artist Sol LeWitt.
WHERE TO INDULGE IN A PASTRY:
Teresa Helbig takes you to a landmark pastry shop Inspired by French pastries. Established in Barcelona in the 1940’s by Russian immigrants. Sacha, which means Alexander in Russian, owes its name to Alejandro Barrenetxe.
Located in one of the loftiest parts of the city, Sacha is known by its beautiful shop windows that grab the attention of passers-by.
What to order? The shop offers a wide range of sweet and savory baked goods, but It is famous for its Viennese Sacher torte, strudel and puff pastry. Take a chance, and try its trademark fresh Figs and Cream torte.
Read more on Teresa Helbig | Barcelona Designer on Front of Fashion by Elsa Tovar
DAY 3| A DAY WITH SILVIA BELLOT
Barcelona is very open culturally, not only now, but has been for centuries. It all started in Roman times. When the city and its port were the entry point for different products and culture.
“Today it is still like that, everyone is welcome! This is one of the things I like the most about it, we are welcoming people, open to change. This and the fact that we have the sea and the mountains forming part of the city.” as expressed by Silvia Bellot, native of Barcelona and first woman Steward in Formula One.
Silvia currently resides in Florida, and her favorite places in Barcelona are below:
ANTONIO GAUDÍ | Sagrada Familia
Barcelona is full of outstanding architecture at every corner. Silvia Bellot recommends any building or location by Antoni Gaudí: La Pedrera, Casa Batlló, Park Güell, but especially the Sagrada Familia ”Because it is a project pretty close to my heart and very special to me in which my mother’s uncle and cousin have worked on as chief architects, as well as another cousin as a priest.”
WHERE TO EAT:
Located on Paseo de Gracia, it is a unique space with different bars and restaurants inside. An emblematic building created in 1889 and that was first a cafe theater to later become a dye factory, a car dealership and finally a car garage!” says Silvia.
LUNCH BY THE BEACH
Restaurante Pez Vela
Being in Barcelona, you are immediately attracted to the water. There are many restaurants to have lunch by the beach, but I like this one. Located on the beach of Barceloneta, at the base of the W hotel, you can sample typical dishes of Barcelona, seafood and of course the well-known (and favorite of Silvia Bellot ) “pà amb tomàquet” or tomato bread with Ibérico ham, paellas and rice dishes.
WHERE TO RACE CARS
Circuit de Barcelona
Circuit of Barcelona is home to the Formula One Spanish Grand Prix and the motorcycle Catalonia Grand Prix. With long straights and a variety of corners, the Circuit de Catalunya is seen as an all-rounder circuit. It is often used for off-season testing.
“This circuit is where I grew up and trained as a racing official. Here I have friends, mentors and family. Without them and their unconditional support when I was just a teenager I could not have become the First Female Sport Commissioner in Formula 1.”
LOCAL SINGER + CAVA
SILVIA PÉREZ CRUZ A combination of flamenco and contemporary sounds in one voice. Silvia Bellot mentioned Rosalia, the most successful singer export in the US, but she also recommends a local singer Silvia Pérez Cruz.
A live performance is a must, preferably, drinking a cava Raventós i Blanc. “This is the producer of cava and wine for which my father has worked for many years and which can be found in the USA. As you can see, it is not a very big producer that bets for quality instead of quantity” said Silvia.
Read more on Silvia Bellot| Opening the Roads in Forumula 1 by Lilia Davis
Day 4 | A DAY WITH ANA FABIANO
Barcelona is one of the top tourist destinations in Spain and rightfully so for all the delicious and stimulating artistic and creative works and life that live there. It is no surprise that the greatest chefs of the 21st century came from Spain and many of them from Barcelona.
“One wonderful attribute too is that “Cava Country” is located close to Barcelona. You can make a day trip easily from the city or a weekend jaunt”, confirms Ana Fabiano, Wine Expert and Ambassador of La Rioja.
WHERE TO STAY:
HOTEL CONDES DE BARCELONA
Located right in the heart of modernist Barcelona. Hotel Condes Barcelona occupies a 19th-century building on Passeig de Gracia. “I always prefer small boutique hotels that are often in historic buildings. This one is a gem of a place and also a fantastic location.”
And we couldn’t agree more. Hotel Condes is just 350 feet from Gaudi’s La Pedrera, and a 10-minute walk from Plaça Catalunya and La Rambla. Passeig de GraciaTrain Station, 650 feet away, offers direct links to Barcelona Airport.
MARKET TO VISIT.
El Mercado de La Boquería
You will never imagine that its name comes from “boc” (the goath), because goat meat was sold around here outside the then city walls from the 13th century on. Simply wandering through this market through all the food stands and bars makes it a fascinating experience. A favorite of Australian writer Robert Huges.
“European markets are in many ways the equivalent of a museum experience. They are tuly an essential stop for foodies. This historic market is exceptional and always has been.”
The Picasso museum is very rich in regard to work from the formative years in the life of the artist; up to the Blue Period. The Museum also houses an important representation of works from 1917, and the series Las Meninas (1957). “Picasso’s work and legend is iconic throughout the world. The Picasso museum in Barcelona is a must as well as its location in beautiful Barcelona.”
El Born Neighborhood
There are many “Cava” bars to explore in Barcelona but I love this one for the vast selection.It includes special bottle purchases that are easy and enjoyable to sip there in the shop, and in the very cool and artsy BORN neighborhood. This relaxing visit will satisfy one’s Barcelona and Cava wanderlust and stimulate your senses. It is worth the hunt.“
Read more on CAVA + Ana Fabiano | A Bubbling Affair. by Lilia Davis
Day 5 / A DAY WITH LILIA DAVIS
Modernist and Traditional
Barcelona is a city that I never dreamed I would visit. As you get off the airplane at El Prat airport in Barcelona, you immediately sense a difference in the look and feel of openness in this enchanting city. Driving through the city for the first time I noticed a traditional architecture living in harmony with the contrasting modernist resting in deep layers of history and art. You also feel the breeze and reflected light from the sea in the air. It hooks you right away, inviting you to explore it the minute you arrive.
WHERE TO STAY
When you walk through the doors of this hotel, you will see beautiful ornamented ceilings and bronze lamps that refer back to the Golden Age of the Catalan capital, but with the facilities of a modern hotel. History aside, the location in the Gothic Quarter in the centre of Barcelona is more than perfect- you can walk everywhere from here.
A DAY/EVENING WALK
The Gothic Quarter
If you like history, this is one of the prettiest areas in the heart of the city where you can discover the preserved remnants of early Barcelona. But What to do in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter?
Wear a little of Barcelona in your feet and grab your Castañer espadrilles, or Camper shoes or Manolo Blahnik summer sandals, and take a spin in style. You can take a walk along La Rambla, a lively stroll full of restaurants and terraces where you can sit and watch people come and go.
WHERE TO WATCH POLO
REAL CLUB DE POLO DE BARCELONA
This is more than a club. It is a 120 year old sports facility which has a vivid history through the sports and lifestyle of Barcelona. Horses and leather saddles are a familiar scent in my family. A visit to this place can bring memories to anyone that has experience in the world of horses.
This place is special to me, as it is where I enjoyed my first glass of local Cava. This is also the venue for the 109th International Jumping Competition CS1O the most important competition in the international equestrian calendar coming up in October 2021.
Fun fact: The Real Club de Polo was one of the first clubs in Catalunya to build Pádel courts in 1992. A racquet sport invented in Acapulco México by Enrique Corcuera in 1969. Thus creating a tremendously active new culture of pádel practice and venue for maximum level competitions such as World Padel Tour.
WHERE TO HAVE CARAJILLO COFFEE
Restaurant 7 Portes
There are many cafes in Barcelona where you can have a late afternoon carajillo, a typical Spanish coffee drink with alcohol, which is one part brandy (or rum) and one part espresso. But you should visit this Barcelona institution- and it has been open for close to 200 years old.
Originally named “Cafe de las 7 Portes” in1836, a Café housed in a building that originally had seven doors, thus its name, which became a meeting place for journalists, intellectuals and politicians. This restaurant has the added treat of visiting an outstanding art collection hanging from its walls.
Try the Barceloneta Main Room, with iconic design and art including a painting of Picasso and art by Matisse welcoming you.
If you would go to only one more museum before you leave Barcelona, visit this sweet and original museum located in the former Sant Agustí monastery.
A fun fact: “… according to the ordinances, chocolate was present on the menus of the 18th-century military academies: “For breakfast each cadet and company officer shall be given one and a half ounces of chocolate with a quarter of a pound of bread…”. I can easily adapt that menu for my breakfast!
WHERE TO GO THE MOUNTAINS
Not in my guide yet, but – ah, however, one thing I leave in my bucket list for my next time to revisit the glorious city is: a motorcycle ride to the Pyrenees. A whole chapter all together.
The Mountains, and Las Montañas, not surprisingly, is the title of Spanish pop singer Sandra Delaporte’s (and our magazine cover) most recent music album inspiring her love for the Mountains. Sandra Delaporte was born in Madrid, but has deep family roots in Barcelona, where she spent a lot of time growing up and still does. “My favorite Spanish food is cocido montañés, a dish made in the Cantabrian Sea.”
She recommends a trip to the mountains any chance you have have, because “… for me, the mountains are a place, besides being very inspiring, …. I really like the feeling of being small in all that environment and feeling all that beauty in its purest form and all that emotion.” says Sandra
Read more on Sandra De la Porte + Titanas | An Ode to Freedom by Lilia Davis
Barcelona will always be in my heart. Enjoy your next trip to Barcelona with this personal tour and we invite you to leave room to discover more places on your own. All I can say is that this enchanting city is in a category all of its own. LRM